Courtesy of the Miami Herald
Published December 12, 2005
Palmetto Bay Councilman Ed Feller wants the state
Legislature to eliminate an imaginary line that was put in place after
Hurricane Andrew. Drafted for insurance purposes, it marks the region east
of South Dixie Highway as being more vulnerable to wind damage than areas
Residents to the east pay higher windstorm insurance
Feller said the higher rates are not fair since
recent storms have shown that wind damage is more than just a coastal
problem. He wants the state to adopt an insurance reform plan.
''The wind doesn't stop at the highway,'' he said.
``The risk of damage probably gradually goes down as you get farther
inland, but that is mostly for flood, not wind. I don't think there's any
difference in the wind.''
State Rep. Julio Robaina said he agrees with Feller
and plans to champion the insurance reform cause in the upcoming
Legislative session. They are compiling data to try to prove that
windstorm damage has not been worse to the east.
Cutler Bay lawyer John Cosgrove, a former state
legislator who drafted the line while serving as chairman of the House
Insurance Committee in 1993, said it was a necessary compromise to keep
private insurers from pulling out of South Florida.
'Private insurers were trying to say ` We don't want
to write any business or homeowner in South Florida. We don't want to put
our money at risk,' '' he said.
Some private insurers indeed stuck around while
state insurers -- the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association and the
Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association, or JUA
-- took over many property owners within the line.
Both state insurers merged in 2002 to form Citizens
Property Insurance Corp., or CIPC, a state-run program for consumers who
can't find coverage in the private market.
The theory behind CIPC was that insurance companies
would be more inclined to write standard homeowner policies if the
hurricane risks were turned over to the state companies.
The program operates in designated areas in 29 of
Florida's 35 coastal counties and primarily applies to areas east of
Interstate 95 and, in some counties, U.S. 1.
By law, CIPC charges the highest rates available.
The purpose is to encourage homeowners to shop for coverage, but many have
''There are few private companies willing to write
business,'' said Cosgrove, who is running for mayor of Cutler Bay.
Insurers were already hard to find after Andrew hit
in August 1992. But after eight major storms hit the state in the past 15
months, more insurers dropped policies or stopped writing them.
Cosgrove said eliminating the line would only create
more problems. ''Once you open that line up, those private insurance
companies are going to cancel business west of that line,'' he said.
Feller said change is needed to make insurance
available -- and affordable -- to everyone.
Some state legislators have said they are looking at
a major overhaul of CIPC. They want to bring back private insurers and
possibly create a statewide hurricane insurance pool similar to the
national flood insurance program.
The regular Legislative session starts in March.