Insurance Market Is on Life Support After Wilma

Before Wilma hit, Gov. Jeb Bush was calling Florida's property insurance market near crisis. Now, some are describing it as on life support. Damaged or not, Wilma is likely to cost every homeowner in the state.

An insurance disaster assessment team spent Tuesday in the air over south Florida surveying damage.

In Tallahassee, Gov. Jeb Bush was out before dawn for his second day of touring damage. Before he left he worried about who will have insurance and what it will cost.

“You have a year where we may have a year with $20 billion of total damage. Combine that with last year when we had $22 billion, or more than that, and then you see the effects of Katrina and Rita. The property insurance market is dead right now.”

Even if you don't have a nickel’s worth or damage from Wilma, by the time all the damages are totaled, it’s likely to cost every homeowner in the state.

Government run Citizens Property Insurance was $516 million short when it came to paying claims last year. That cost is being passed on to every policy through a 6.8 percent one time assessment.

Jeff Grady at the Florida Association of Insurance Agents says a second assessment is almost certain.

“Citizens will have to assess again. Wilma was not something they needed. It may put them back in the red again, and customers in the state can expect more assessments.”

Experts say premiums will keep going up unless new approaches, such a national catastrophe fund or a wind pool run by government are enacted.

Citizens Insurance was already considering huge premium hikes in the most vulnerable areas of the state, and most insurers are expected to now review what they charge as well.