Bill offering consumer protections for Citizens policyholders passed

HB 931 sent to Gov. Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A new bill aimed at making the state's so-called Depopulation Program more consumer-friendly is on the way to the governor. 

Gov. Rick Scott (R) vetoed a bill packed with consumer protections for Citizens policyholders last legislative session.

Lawmakers reintroduced it this year and made some changes that they think will ensure the bill clears the governor's desk.

"This does provide a measure of protection for policyholders with respect to take-outs," bill co-sponsor and State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D), of Miami, said. "We are happy for what we got for Citizens policyholders."

What they got included one of the top questions into the Call Christina consumer protection hotline, which was how to evaluate the difference in price and coverage when it came to their current state-run coverage and the pitch they were getting from a private company.

Rodriguez said the new bill will help consumers make the decision of should they stay, or should they go.

WEB EXTRA: State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez on bill that offers consumer protections for Citizens policyholders

"It has to provide how much the premium is going to be, if there are any changes in coverage, and importantly it compares them," Rodriguez said. "We hope not to be surprised but our understanding, the bipartisan group of us in communication with the governor's office, is that the governor would sign this."

Call Christina: Citizens policyholders ask for help deciphering 'take-out' letters

You may recall Local 10 News viewers Called Christina after fielding letters from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation asking if they wanted to drop the state-run coverage.

As of January, the state-run company has shrunk to under 500,000 policies, the lowest level in more than a decade.

This comes on the heels of an aggressive campaign to reduce exposure by reducing the rolls.

Some complained the letters look like junk mail, and others spoke of a confusing process. Some just wanted to know how to evaluate the private insurer, or "take-out company," being recommended to them.

Sunrise retiree Ronald Smiley said he was tired of the number of take-out letters he had received -- 12 in 4 years.

Each time he had to sign an opt-out document to keep his Citizens policy. If you don't sign the opt-out letter, you are automatically transferred to the take-out company.

"To me, what it meant was that they were trying to get rid of me, out of Citizens," Smiley said.

While the bill that passed this legislative session did not include a limit on the number of take-out letters a policyholder receives, it does require Citizens to publish a periodic schedule when the take-out companies can approach Citizens with take-out plans.

The bill also offers privacy protections for policyholders. It ensures insurance companies cannot use poached consumer data from Citizens to directly solicit policyholders outside the take-out process.

If the governor signs the bill, it would take effect this summer. The Governor's Office said it is currently reviewing the bill.