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Citizens riles regulators, lawmakers with rate proposal

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida's state-backed insurance company, has re-thought the idea of increasing rates to levels higher than those allowed by law for all clients that sign at the beginning of 2013. The company has long been accused of treating homeowners insurance policyholders, among other insureds, as a number instead of people who desperately need their services.

In its latest move, Citizens was thinking about testing state laws by increasing rates for all clients that signed on with them after Jan. 1 of next year. The proposal was met by fairly sharp words from state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and a state senator who strongly cautioned the controlling board at the insurance company to rethink its plans. Atwater said it would create two different sets of rates for Citizens policyholders and that could make matters confusing.

The plan could have been problematic to many around Florida, considering that Citizens is the largest property insurer in the state. Even though the company has attempted to get rid of a lot of policies to avoid risk, their list of policyholders has exploded to about 1.5 million. In the last 28 months alone, Citizens has picked up 443,000 policyholders.

The non-profit was created by the state government in 2002 to help those that live in high-risk areas and therefore are considered uninsurable by private companies. Florida residents are responsible to make up for losses in the company via a statewide assessment.

Citizens employ 900 individuals, and its offices are located in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Tampa.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Citizens Delays Rate Hike for New Business," Brent Kallestad, April 30, 2012

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