Home Good to know U.S. : fewer hurricanes but higher premiums on the way

U.S. : fewer hurricanes but higher premiums on the way

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More than 4 million Florida homeowners, battered by property insurance rate hikes and disappearing coverage, are about to get hit again.

State regulators have approved $718 million in rate increases — despite five years of no hurricanes. They will widen an already $20 billion gap between what Florida consumers this decade paid for protection and what insurers returned by way of claims checks.

Florida insurers continue to claim they are losing money — the top 20 carriers reported losing $111 million the first half of the year after big payments to reinsurers for hurricane protection — but the Herald-Tribune found those figures also hide profits.

Payments to affiliated companies continue to tack on hundreds of dollars to the individual bills of homeowners, charges a consumer advocate says are inflated. Most Florida insurers need not publicly report those profits, but two that do posted earnings of $32 million despite telling state regulators their insurance operations lost $16 million and required double-digit rate hikes.

Most of the rate increases were approved behind closed doors, as insurers avoided triggering public hearings required for increases of 15 percent or more, and regulators granted increases higher than that anyway.

The rate increases will not be applied evenly, and many coastal residents will see increases of 20 to 50 percent — a difficult proposition in a sour economy.

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