Gray Rohrer - April 21, 2023
'What we’re doing is having a little bit more transparency in reporting to the public.'
Legislation imposing larger fines and greater reporting requirements on property insurers cleared its last Senate committee hurdle and is headed to the floor in that chamber, but major differences remain with the House version of the bill.
The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee passed SB 7052 unanimously. It would increase fines for insurers that mishandle claims and the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) would have greater authority to conduct investigations into those companies.
“What we’re doing is having a little bit more transparency in reporting to the public,” said Sen. Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican sponsoring the bill.
The Senate version would also require insurers to submit their claims handling manuals to the OIR to ensure they meet with best practices and require insurers that receive claims to “evaluate the claim fairly, honestly, and with due regard for the interests of the insured based on available information,” as well as other strictures for handling claims.
The House version of the bill (HB 7065) doesn’t contain those provisions.
Insurers and groups in favor of the tort restrictions passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in HB 837, say those provisions are too strict, with vague wording that would reopen the floodgates of litigation.
Lawmakers moved on those lawsuit restrictions to bolster a beleaguered insurance market that saw the demise of seven companies since the start of 2022, large rate hikes and other insurers that pulled back from the Florida market in the face of massive losses.
“Regulations need objective criteria on which to seek enforcement action and these, respectfully, are very subjective,” said Kathy Maus, representing the Florida Justice Reform Institute. “This is asking insurance claims professionals to provide legal advice.”
Conversely, trial lawyers contend the House version isn’t strict enough and would allow insurers to reject valid claims with impunity.
The House version is up for a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on Friday.