Here’s why Florida’s home insurance hotline is only open 3 hours a day

Here’s why Florida’s home insurance hotline is only open 3 hours a day

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s insurance customer helpline is usually the initial resort for house owners on the lookout for aid battling their insurance coverage business.

If they can arrive at it, that is. It’s only open a few hours a working day.

For months, callers to the helpline (1-877-MY-FL-CFO) on any afternoon have been greeted with a recorded concept: “In purchase to improved provide all of our shoppers, our up-to-date insurance coverage helpline hrs are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST, Monday via Friday.”

The cutbacks to the call line, which employed to run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., are the products of a surge in grievances in opposition to residence insurance plan providers due to the fact Hurricane Ian and staffing shortages at the Department of Fiscal Providers.

State lawmakers are knowledgeable of the shortage and could assign extra money this calendar year to the Division of Fiscal Services, led by the state’s elected main monetary officer, Jimmy Patronis.

The toll-cost-free insurance coverage purchaser helpline has been in existence for decades and is enshrined in condition law underneath the House owner Claims Bill of Rights. Below point out legislation, insurers are needed to advise householders of the Bill of Legal rights, together with the hotline, within 14 days of receiving a declare. The helpline also requires calls about other kinds of coverage.

Floridians can get in touch with the helpline to make a criticism against their insurance provider, solve an coverage dispute or inquire issues about their rights as an insurance purchaser. In between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, the helpline answered 222,249 calls, or far more than 600 per working day, department records exhibit.

About one-third of grievances against insurance firms come from the helpline, the department’s director of customer products and services, Greg Thomas, explained to a Senate committee on Wednesday. The relaxation arrive by means of the state’s site.

A lot more than 50 {a652ac39cb023ff8fd1cc85f4393f5b1bb70bf2f880b7bee35f712e4bd8633f7} of the positions to acquire calls and deal with insurance problems are vacant, Thomas mentioned. And soon after Hurricane Ian hit the state in September, the place of work was “inundated” with complaints against insurers, he claimed. The “vast majority” have been about declare-dealing with delays.

That mix brought about the workplace to slash again the hrs the helpline would be available.

“We had a decision both to not offer with grievances that we have been given or to carry on to solution phone calls all day very long,” Thomas said.

Democratic lawmakers claimed limiting the hotline to just 3 several hours does not even make it possible for doing the job Floridians to simply call during their lunch breaks.

“We can’t have a component-time insurance policy client hotline when we have a whole-time property insurance plan disaster in Florida,” Rep. Hillary Cassel, D-Dania Seashore, claimed in a statement. Cassel’s regulation follow signifies residential and industrial policyholders in property promises against their coverage carriers.

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Cassel also questioned the priorities of Patronis, a restaurateur who has collected just about $2 million in political contributions from insurance providers, executives and agents.

Patronis has encouraged lawmakers to change the legislation to make it more challenging to sue insurance coverage providers. Property insurers have blamed abnormal lawsuits for Floridians’ superior premiums, which are the highest in the nation at about $4,200.

The solution has not led to reduced homeowners’ fees so far. This week, Initially Group Insurance policy Co. requested an all round 44.8{a652ac39cb023ff8fd1cc85f4393f5b1bb70bf2f880b7bee35f712e4bd8633f7} amount raise, Kin Insurance plan Community requested for an over-all 61.5{a652ac39cb023ff8fd1cc85f4393f5b1bb70bf2f880b7bee35f712e4bd8633f7} rate enhance and American Strategic Coverage Corp. and ASI Most well-liked Insurance coverage Corp. are requesting close to-20{a652ac39cb023ff8fd1cc85f4393f5b1bb70bf2f880b7bee35f712e4bd8633f7} fee increases. State-run Citizens Residence Insurance accredited an common 14.2{a652ac39cb023ff8fd1cc85f4393f5b1bb70bf2f880b7bee35f712e4bd8633f7} raise on Wednesday.

In a information launch on Wednesday, Patronis reported he was holding a different “insurance village” in April for citizens to meet with insurance plan associates in Southwest Florida to help take care of remarkable Ian statements.

“My agency has been operating extra time to support policyholders,” he stated in a assertion.

The chairperson for the Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee, Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, claimed he wanted to see the helpline staffed up and speedily responding to shoppers.

He also said he’s talked about teleworking choices with the office. The section reported Wednesday afternoon it lets the helpline operators to telework “so very long as they fulfill basic specifications.”

“It’s 2023. A lot of people are operating from household,” mentioned Boyd, who owns an insurance plan agency. “Would we not be better served as a condition if we had the skill for people to work from property?”

The Division of Fiscal Products and services has just lately included additional staff members to deal with phone calls and issues, Thomas reported. That has allowed the helpline to be open for new several hours, starting off Monday: 8 a.m. to noon.

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