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Jimmy Patronis Announces $5.5 Million to Support Florida Policyholders in 2024

This week, during the Florida Chamber Insurance Summit in Orlando, state Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced plans to bolster the service provide by the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS), Division of Insurance Consumer Services in the 2024 Legislative Session.

Included in the 2024 DFS agency budget request is approximately $5.5 million to strengthen the Division through increased staffing, field offices, and training to better serve Florida insurance consumers and short-circuit claims issues before they escalate, especially following disasters.

Patronis said the following:

Good morning.

Thank you all for having me here today.

Special thank you to Mark, Katie, Frank, Kyle, Alan, Carolyn, and the entire team at the Florida Chamber for all your hard work making this event happen.

It’s no secret that our state, and many others throughout the country, have faced the recent challenges of a hardening insurance market.

From catastrophic storms, wildfires, rising interest rates, and historic inflation, insurance consumers have really taken it on the chin over the last few years.

But we know a stable and effective insurance market is critical to the continued financial success of Floridians, so to help our policyholders, the Florida legislature has leaned forward more than ever to provide effective solutions.

Last year, with the Chamber’s help, the state of Florida passed historic insurance reforms to shore up loopholes in Florida law and protect insurance consumers, especially following a storm.

We have already seen the impacts of these reforms as more capital is coming into the state, and new carriers are looking to do business in Florida.

The reforms are working, but there is still much more work to be done.

Every year as your CFO, I have worked to pass vital reforms to keep policyholders first, and this year will be no different.

Today, I’m happy to announce that in the upcoming legislative session, my office will continue our efforts to protect and empower Florida policyholders by bolstering the insurance assistance services provided by the department.

First, let me tell you a little bit about the Division of Consumer Services…

The DFS Division of Insurance Consumer Services Division assists Floridians through our statewide toll-free insurance helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO, our informative website and online services, and our insurance mediation programs.

We recently expanded the helpline hours to weekdays from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. eastern.

In the past year, we received more than 70,000 calls on the insurance helpline, opened nearly 17,000 service requests, and processed over 27,000 mediation requests.

Following hurricanes, we dispatch Consumer Services insurance specialists from Tallahassee to set up insurance villages near impacted areas to assist policyholders face-to-face.

These villages included decision-makers from every homeowner’s insurance company that can cut checks and start your claim process immediately without hiring outside assistance.

During Hurricanes Ian and Idalia, we hosted 18 insurance villages, helping recover more than $24 million on behalf of policyholders.

This is a fantastic team that has done a lot with shrinking resources.

That brings me to the heart of this issue, and let me start by giving you a short history lesson…

In the 1980s, under State Treasurer Bill Gunter, the Division had 26 small offices scattered around the state.

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During the first term of State Treasurer Tom Gallagher, the smaller offices were consolidated into 11 locations, with Tallahassee being the main office, plus ten regional offices.

During the term of CFO Alex Sink, an effort was undertaken to reduce the size of the division and its footprint.

During her term of office, 9 of the 10 regional offices were shuttered, 21 insurance assistance positions were eliminated, and the remaining positions were consolidated into the Tallahassee or Largo Offices.

As you can imagine, this massive reduction in offices and staff has led to a void in insurance assistance in the state of Florida, and for years, we’ve had to do more with less.

I’m happy to announce that, thanks to support from the Florida Legislature, this session we will “Un-Sink” this agency and ramp back up the ability to provide Floridians with the best insurance customer services in the nation.

After more than 30 years in the restaurant business, I know how important it is to provide good customer service to the people you serve.

With the passage of recent insurance reforms, fewer consumers will need to rush to the courts to iron out common insurance issues.

And with 1,200 people moving to Florida daily, DFS must be right-sized to assist consumers with their insurance issues quickly and effectively.

Over the past few years, my team has worked to reallocate existing resources to re-establish a Consumer Services presence in Jacksonville, Orlando, Ft. Myers, and Miami.

This session, I will push for $5.5 million in funding to better serve policyholders with the following:

$636,000 for across-the-board $5K pay raises in consumer services. This would be extra competitive against the private sector.

$793,000 to add three more positions within the mediation program and six more positions for consumer services, specific to residential and auto insurance.

These positions allow for a designated DFS liaison at every insurance company in Florida to help short-circuit and expedite issues for policyholders.

$461,000 to establish a robust regional program staffed with insurance experts to provide real-time insurance village-type support.

$560,000 for more powerful technology to quickly resolve issues and answer questions on behalf of the policyholder.

$3 million in advertising dollars to promote the Insurance Consumer Helpline and Mediation Program.

I’m proud to work with the legislature this upcoming session to better support Floridians when disaster strikes and insurance issues arise.

With your support, we’ll provide the best insurance customer service in the country, further protecting our policyholders and detouring them from costly litigation and even fraud.

Thank you all for your hard work, and thanks again to the Florida Chamber for all you do to support our great state.

My door is always open, and I’d love to hear more about what’s important to you.

Thank you, and God bless!

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  • Florida Daily

    Florida Daily offers news, insights and analysis as we cover the most important issues in the state, from education, to business and politics.

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Ed Dean: Publisher

 

Ed Dean is a leading radio and news media personality including hosting the #1 statewide radio talk show in Florida. Contact Ed.Dean@FloridaDaily.com

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