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The Tampa Bay Times launched its new name and the New Year with a three-part series on the Great Sinkhole Lottery, titled ”Cracks in the System.” Here, at last, is the “big picture” on what the cost of dubious sinkhole claims is doing to the availability and affordability of property insurance. It was a well-researched and balanced series on how and why people are cashing in on what may or may not be actual sinkhole damage—because they could.
Within two weeks’ time, two town hall meetings were held in Tampa related to insurance. One got a lot of attention from the media and the public, while the other not so much. In mid-September, at least 250 people came to voice concern over proposed sinkhole rate increases for Citizens Property Insurance. Last week, a town hall meeting was held to hear the public voice on rising auto insurance rates, and about 75 people showed up. Considering that both sinkhole AND auto insurance rates are rising by nearly the same amounts in parts of Florida, this difference in attendance is curious.
Come on. Did you really think Citizens Property Insurance would get approval to raise statewide sinkhole rates an average of 447 percent? I’ll bet they didn’t think so either. So why would our state-run insurance company ask for such an increase, you may ask. Because that is what their data showed. Insurance rates = insurance costs. Citizens’ documents from its rate hearing show it paid nearly eight times more in claims than it collected in premium. It also showed that sinkhole claims this year are twice what they were last year. How are they (we) going to pay those rising costs? A little bit at a time is the answer in the hope that it will all go away.