Saturday, October 31, 2009

Public option yikes

After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992 some Floridians were having difficulty purchasing homeowners’ insurance. (The reason: rates are regulated, and at the regulated rates some properties are too great a risk.) So, the state government formed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is owned and operated by the State of Florida. ...

Today about 30% of homeowners’ policies are written by Citizens, which is the largest property insurer in the state. It’s about to get bigger too. The largest private insurer, State Farm, had a rate request rejected last year, and now is pulling out of the state altogether (for property insurance; they’ll still insure your car). ...

Everybody in Florida knows Citizens is a fiscal time bomb. Already, every Florida insurance policy (on homes, boats, cars, etc.) pays a surcharge that goes to Citizens, but Citizens still doesn’t have sufficient reserves to weather a major hurricane. When one comes, Florida taxpayers will be on the hook for the bill. ...

In Florida, the public option has meant a substantial socialization of insurance, subsidization of the public option by those who take a private option, and the creation of a fiscally-unsound public insurance company despite the subsidy. Now, we have an opportunity to do the same thing at the national level with health insurance. The results have not been good in Florida, and everyone in Florida knows it. Why would it be any different at the national level?
--Randall Holcombe, The Beacon, on public insurance in Florida. HT: Marginal Revolution

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