Democrats wasted little time painting this week’s exit of Farmers Insurance from the Florida market as a Republican failure to address the state’s insurance troubles.
With homeowners losing property-insurance policies or facing major rate increases, Democrats said Republicans continue to prioritize “culture war distractions.”
“Farmers Insurance leaving the state is a clear indication that nothing the Florida Republicans have done has solved the insurance crisis facing us,” House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said in a statement.
But Republican state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis blamed “virtue signaling” by Farmers, which announced Tuesday it would end tens of thousands of residential, auto and umbrella policies in the state.
In a statement, Patronis criticized the company’s leaders for “playing politics” rather than “running a successful company.” Patronis highlighted that Farmers is a signatory to the United Nations’ Principles for Sustainable Insurance. A November 2022 Farmers news release said the principles are “an international framework for the global insurance industry to address environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities.”
Patronis said he has directed his staff members to put “their heads together” to hold the company accountable for the decision to exit the state and to determine if an investigation is warranted. He also surmised company officials will “get hauled before the Legislature to answer for their actions when the next legislative session begins.”
Patronis defended measures that the Republican-controlled Legislature has taken to try to address property-insurance problems. Among other things, lawmakers approved changes to limit lawsuits against insurers.
“The Florida Legislature worked in good faith to stabilize the insurance market --- and attract capital back to Florida insurance companies,” Patronis said.
But Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said in a Twitter post that the Republican solution to the insurance problem “is to call it woke.” And Democrats weren’t alone in questioning Patronis’ response to the Farmers decision.
“The approach of 'The beatings will continue until morale improves' is counterproductive,” tweeted former Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who has long been outspoken on insurance issues. “The more difficult it becomes for companies to leave, the greater their reluctance to invest more. Address the question of why are they leaving!”
Farmers, which will continue to offer policies in Florida through subsidiaries Foremost and Bristol West, said in a statement that its decision was needed to “effectively manage risk exposure.”
House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, echoed Patronis’ defense of insurance legislation that has also included helping make available reinsurance, which is crucial backup coverage for insurers.
“We understand the unfortunate decision to withdraw from the state was not based on the impacts of bipartisan reforms in recent years taken by the Legislature or the future of the state’s insurance market, but the company’s financials,” Renner tweeted. “While our reforms will take time to take effect, we put the right systems in place to strengthen our insurance market and provide Floridians with the access to coverage and peace of mind they need for their property.”