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Keeping State Farm

April 9th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

When state lawmakers return to the Capitol after their Easter and Passover break, they’ll be voting on whether to let State Farm customers decide if they want to pay higher rates to keep the company in Florida. Thousands of customers have written state officials, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, two bills are quietly making it through the process.

More than two thousand State Farm customers have written the Governor complaining they can’t find homeowners insurance cheaper than they would be paying State Farm, even if the company got a 50 percent rate hike. One of them is Debra Roberts.

“I have [shopped] a little bit,” Roberts said. “I have not chosen a company because all the rates are so high and a lot of companies don’t offer insurance for rental properties.”

Agents have prepared thick books for lawmakers, with quotes from their home districts, proving the point.  Citizens and other options are often higher. Legislation that has cleared two committees and is up for a vote after Easter would let State Farm compete on price without state interference. Lobbyist Mark Delegal is pushing the bill.

“It gives the customer the choice, to decide for themselves, whether they are willing to pay the price that the company offers, the market price and accept it, buy it, pay for it. Or choose not to and go shop elsewhere,” Delegal said.

The bottom line is that the plan gives State Farm Customers a choice that they no longer have.

State regulators say they will carry out whatever the legislature decides, but they caution.

“This particular legislation could certainly lead to higher rates for everyone if the ability of the OIR to regulate the top-end of the process is taken away,” Ed Domansky with the Office of Insurance Regulation said.
   
Governor Charlie Crist has not weighed in on the legislative plan to keep State Farm, and some letters to his office do say good riddance.

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