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State lawmakers push for more oversight of insurance provider

It seems that hardly a week goes by without another insurance provider being found guilty of wasteful, fraudulent, and exploitative business practices. With the stakes so high and matters such as a person's house, car, or health on the line, any malicious or negligent activity on the part of an insurance company has the potential to irreparably damage a person's life.

Now it appears that the largest property insurer of Florida residents has come under scrutiny by state legislators who fear the company has taken advantage of customers and state taxpayers alike. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is state subsidized and was formed as a hopefully more affordable alternative to private insurers' high Florida rates, now appears to be taking advantage of its privileged position in the insurance market.

All told, $6.2 billion of the company's assets has gone unaccounted for, and an investigation by Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation uncovered millions in excessive travel bills and conference expenses-indulgent expenditures that not only were passed on to premium-paying customers, but taxpayers all across the state.

Discouraged by the office's report, two state representatives last week have spoken out in support of establishing a new position-that of an independent inspector general-that would oversee the business practices Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. The proposal will seen be reviewed by the state government's Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

It may come to many as a surprise that Citizens' president has voiced his own strong support for the legislative oversight, asserting his hopes that a heightened accountability will help restore public trust and commitment to the property insurance provider.

The news of questionable business practices on the part of a state-subsidized insurance provider, one that was created in order to protect policy holders from profit-hungry private companies, is especially disconcerting. Although government oversight and regulation appears to be improving in Florida, residents should still be wary of providers' questionable practices-and should never hesitate to contact an attorney if they feel they have been unfairly treated.

Source: Florida Watchdog, "FL officials want watchdog on state-run property insurance," Marianela Toledo, Feb. 6, 2013

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