By now everyone is aware of State Farm's recent 47.1 percent rate increase for Florida Homeowners insurance. I received a number of e-mails about it including one from State Farm which pointed me to two items. The first is their background information about the rate increase (here). The second is a link to a Time Magazine article on Florida which I will discuss in a separate post.
First things first.... Florida requires insurers to offer mitigation discounts. The idea was provide incentives to make one's home more wind resistant. These include shutters and roof straps which are supposed to reduce the loss to a home from wind. One of the rationales for the increase in SF's premiums was because the mitigation rebate program has become too successful in the sense that many people are now qualifying for it. According to the SF backgrounder..
A vastly larger number of properties are receiving the discount than could have been anticipated when the "My Safe Florida Home" program began. To date, more than 260,000 properties have qualified for the discount and we expect the number to grow to more than 300,000. In some cases, the discount exceeds 90 percent of the windstorm portion of the premium. These developments have triggered a significant and unanticipated decrease in State Farm Florida's projected revenue for 2008, 2009, and beyond. (my emphasis added).
I wonder if anyone is able to accurately price the mitigation credit? Probably not as the sum of the credits seem to haven eaten into the total wind premium. This would not be a problem if the remaining wind premium was able to cover the actuarial costs of a storm. This 90 percent ratio is an amazing fact and I wonder how much of it has to do with the (in)ability of SF to price these mitigation credits properly or whether state regulatory mandates exist which reduce the ability of pricing them effectively. Are other companies are having the same problem?
People tend to forget that the national State Farm company is a mutual (which means that the policyholders are the owners of the company)*. So, if SF asks for an ordinary rate increase, it is not "raking profits" off its customers as the owners are the customers. In addition, when it asks for an extraordinary increase (in terms of percentage), it is still not ripping off its customers as any residual profit is returned as a premium rebate. No one really seems to understand this as people are saying that the rate request is outrageous. However, it will be interesting to see how this is played out.
SF also puts in a nice dig at the state's expense by saying it (SF) has to be the responsible company since it does not have the ability to coerce people to pay later...
Unlike a state-run insurer (Citizens) or re-insurer (Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund) that can issue bonds, levy assessments, and impose taxes to fund losses after an event, State Farm Florida cannot charge customers after the fact. It needs adequate capital up front to have the resources necessary to pay claims in a timely manner.
*NB. I have an insurance policy with SF.