Bubil: Questions for Jeb Bush about insurance


While Jeb Bush was in Punta Gorda fielding questions about what it is like to be back 10 years after Hurricane Charley, I put him on the spot with the topic of homeowner’s insurance.

After all, does anyone think they are not paying enough for insurance?

This was somewhat off-topic for the former Florida governor, who is still widely admired in Charlotte County for his repeated visits and support of the community in the wake of the hurricane.

Despite being surrounded by dozens of people at the Hurricane Charley’s restaurant Wednesday on the Punta Gorda waterfront, many of whom wanted to take selfies with the brother and son of a president (and perhaps a future commander in chief), Jeb graciously gave me several minutes to discuss insurance premiums, even as his press aide was trying to nudge him out of there and off to the airport.

Noting that homeowners seem to be paying ever more for windstorm insurance, and that many have taken steps to harden their structures against natural disasters, I asked the former governor if there was equity and fairness in the insurance market for homeowners who mitigate?

“There should be,” said Bush. “The best possible homeowner insurance strategy is to provide lower costs per thousand dollars of value to either people who buy a new home to code, or harden their structures.

“It should be market-based, and market-based means if you have a lower probability of loss, you should be paying a lower premium. This state has a version of that, but I think we subsidize a lot of the opposite.”

In other words, older houses that are tacked together, lacking tie-downs and storm shutters or impact-resistant windows and doors.

“To get to the best place, there should be major incentives to harden the state, both commercial and residential,” said Bush.

“Insurance is meant to cover large numbers of people or risk to be able to mitigate that. That is not what we do as much as we should. I actually think we’d have lower rates if we had a market-based approach, rather than having the government involved, and Citizens (insurance).

“One of the things I had to do when I was governor was to support these limited-capital companies because no private companies would come in. So we have some insurance companies that are undercapitalized, and that is not the answer to this. We need to figure out ways to get State Farm to come back in, start writing policies that are well-capitalized — companies that are of long standing, where their brand reputation drives their decisions, and goes way beyond Florida.”

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 16, 2014
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