Nationwide Is on Your Side?

Thousands of property owners could be about to take another insurance hit in Florida. Nationwide, Florida’s fourth largest insurance company is asking for an average statewide premium increase of 71 percent.

The proposed rate hike is just the latest in a series of double and even triple-digit increases swamping Florida insurance customers.

Nationwide Insurance Company is asking the state to grant an average rate increase of more than 70 percent for its Florida homeowners. Insurance agent Doug Crowley writes Nationwide and several other companies’ policies. He says he gets calls all the time from frustrated customers who don’t know how they’re going to pay their next bill.

“We do feel their pain, like I said. It’s very important to be sensitive to the public’s need and what the public is facing out there in trying to pay these premiums.”

But short of trying to find his customers a better deal or making suggestions on how they can update their homes, there’s not a lot he can do.

The Nationwide rate increase request is the second for the company in the past two years. But it’s just one of many the state has granted for dozens of companies since the 2004 storm season.

State insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty says Nationwide’s request is by no means a done deal. But he understands insurers’ complaints that they’re being pinched by the rising cost of reinsurance, which is what the companies themselves have to buy to cover their own losses.

“We’ve seen this in a number of filings; we’ve seen both this year and last year. Right now we are very much victimized by the cost of global reinsurance. We really need to look for a national solution to our problems here in Florida.”

In the short-term though, more and more Floridians are likely to be priced right out of the market.

The state Office of Insurance Regulation has 90 days to review the Nationwide rate filing. The office will hold a public hearing on the request during that time.

Here’s how the Nationwide increase would affect area residents. The number following each area of a county is the actual proposed increase in premium by Nationwide.

Bay, Walton, Franklin, Gulf and Okaloosa Counties:
All areas South of the Intracoastal Waterway 44% increase
North of the Intracoastal Waterway 98% increase

Calhoun County, Holmes, Jackson Liberty and Washington Counties:
The entire county will see a 70% increase