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Monday, March 30 2020
Demotech has affirmed 37 of the 46 Florida-based companies rated by the actuarial firm, as of March 26, according to information gathered from Demotech’s website. That leaves fewer than 10 Florida insurers that are still awaiting a decision on their financial stability ratings (FSR) from the Ohio-based ratings agency.
Demotech said it is continuing to review both public and proprietary financial information and have discussions about business plans with the yet-to-be-affirmed insurers.
In mid-March, Demotech affirmed a slew of companies (see chart) and this week affirmed several others, including Capitol Preferred Insurance Co., Gulfstream P&C Insurance Co., and Security First Insurance Co.
The companies that are still in discussions and will either be affirmed or downgraded, as of March 26, include: Avatar Property & Casualty Insurance Co., Centauri Specialty Insurance Co., Cypress Property & Casualty, Omega Insurance Co., Safepoint Insurance Co., Tower Hill Select Insurance Co., and Tower Hill Signature Insurance Co.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved Tower Hill Select and Omega merging into Tower Hill Signature on March 25.
“Demotech has downgraded a number of carriers. Another subset of the carriers that we review and rate have opted to be purchased so that investors can exit the Florida residential property insurance marketplace. A larger number have been affirmed based upon (or in spite of?) their year-end operating results. Another group continues to dialogue with us and share their thoughts on the marketplace, how their business model must adapt, etc.,” Demotech President and Founder Joseph Petrelli said in a statement to Insurance Journal on March 25.
Companies that have not had their ratings affirmed as of press time are not necessarily being downgraded, and delays in ratings affirmations should not be misconstrued, according to Demotech. Many companies have avoided ratings downgrades by being acquired (see chart), or injecting significant capital into their books, while others have been able to sustain their rating by providing Demotech proprietary or confidential information that is not in the public domain, the company said.
Florida Insurers Financial Stability Rating (FSR)
A” = Unsurpassed A’= Unsurpassed; A= Exceptional; S = Substantial; M = Moderate
In comments on its March 23 affirmation of Gulfstream P&C, Demotech Vice President Sharon M. Romano Petrelli said a delay in a rating affirmation should “not be made into something bigger than it is.” Gulfstream’s company business model kept them at the A level, despite increases in reinsurance costs anticipated in 2020 and litigation trends in the state. “The management team at Gulfstream has met or exceeded our financial metrics for the past several years,” she said.
Joseph Petrelli added that while Demotech reviews public information on all the carriers it reviews and rates, it also reviews holding company and affiliated entity financials when necessary.
“Gulfstream invited us to do so to better understand how they had positioned themselves to address the myriad issues facing the residential property insurance markets in Florida,” Petrelli said. “Given the breadth and scope of their capability to honor their commitment to policyholders, we needed additional time to digest their additional information.”
For Security First, which was affirmed on March 24, Petrelli said succession planning, managing claim litigation in a difficult judicial environment, and astute reinsurance purchasing are “three facets of the company’s enterprise risk management program that support” sustaining an FSR at the A level, “despite the projected increases in reinsurance costs anticipated in the near future.”
Demotech did not release a statement on the ratings affirmation of Capitol Preferred, which has a 36.5% rate increase request still under consideration by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The company’s CEO told regulators at a rate hearing in February that the company needed the increase because of reinsurance costs, assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse and first party lawsuits.
These long-awaited ratings announcements follow Demotech’s warning in January that it may downgrade as many as 18 of the 46 Florida domestic insurers it rates.
In a letter to Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance President and CEO Barry Gilway that was obtained by Insurance Journal, Petrelli outlined several factors in the state that were placing insurer ratings in jeopardy, including abuse of assignment of benefits agreements and first party litigation.
“The economics of the marketplace over the past several years have made it impossible for Demotech to sustain each of the Florida focused carriers that we review each quarter at a [FSR] of A, Exceptional,” he said.
Petrelli said that after Demotech reviewed the third quarter 2019 financials of carriers, it requested year-end projections of operating results for nearly half of the 40-plus carriers it reviews and rates.
“Having provided these carriers with ample time to implement revised business models, secure capital infusions, implement rate revisions, re-underwrite established books of business and utilize other enterprise risk management activities, it is apparent that few have returned to profitability,” Petrelli wrote.
Since then, several Florida companies have made moves. Anchor P&C ceased its operations and sold its policies to Homeowners Choice Insurance. Prepared Insurance was acquired by Lighthouse Property Insurance Corp. This week, the state approved the merger of the two Tower Hill companies.
Demotech would not disclose the names of the insurers it is still reviewing, but Petrelli said he expects it will announce several downgrades at the end of March. Petrelli told Insurance Journal this week that Demotech is in the process of having “thoughtful and focused” discussions with the management of the insurers not yet affirmed.
“If we are convinced that their action has addressed previous matters brought to their attention, and will facilitate their operational effectiveness in the ever-changing circumstances of the most difficult operating environment in the US, and provide them with the opportunity to make a reasonable profit, we sustain the Financial Stability Rating,” he said.
He also noted that some downgrades from ‘A’ FSR (Exceptional) to S (Substantial) are as much a reflection on the operating environment in Florida as they are on a carrier.
“It is the marketplace more than carrier-specific metrics that is driving the need for downgrades. If these carriers were focused on any other jurisdiction, they would be sitting in the driver’s seat,” he said.
Petrelli added that carriers that have sustained their ratings to date have shown Demotech “how they intend to fulfill their commitment to Floridians through their business model.”
Friday, March 27 2020
President Donald Trump declared Florida a disaster area Wednesday because of the new coronavirus outbreak, while another of the state’s largest metropolitan areas moved toward a near-shutdown.
The president acted a day after Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the declaration, becoming the sixth state to receive one because of the virus. The move makes the state eligible for federal funding for emergency protective measures and crisis counseling.
The declaration came shortly after the two major counties in the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough and Pinellas, moved to impose lockdown orders. Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused to impose a statewide lockdown like California, New York, Illinois and other states have done, saying the mostly smaller counties that have no or few confirmed cases should not have the same restrictions that the metropolitan areas are imposing.
State Democrats have called on the Republican governor to impose a statewide lockdown, but he said again that he doesn’t believe that all areas in such a large state need the same approach.
“There are parts of the state where you have more sporadic cases and to order someone to not earn a paycheck when them going to work is not having any effect on what we are doing with the virus, that is something that I think is inappropriate,” DeSantis said.
As DeSantis left a meeting with reporters in his office Wednesday, the governor noted that his pregnant wife and their two children felt ill in January, so he is now wondering if they had COVID-19. He said only when a test is available to see who had the disease with no or few symptoms will the nation know exactly how contagious and deadly it is.
DeSantis has ordered some statewide measures such as closing bars and gyms, and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery. State parks have been closed. Anyone arriving from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut or anyone who returned from there within the last three weeks must self-quarantine under threat of 60 days in jail, DeSantis has said. The state issued recommendations Wednesday that people 65 and older or with health issues confine themselves to their home. The state is approaching 1,700 confirmed cases and at least 21 have died.
In Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, commissioners on Wednesday ordered their nearly 1 million residents to stay at home except for essential activity like trips for groceries and medical needs. The directive takes effect at noon Thursday. It allows non-essential businesses to remain open as long as they follow Centers for Disease Control social distancing guidance of 6-foot (2-meter) separation. Parks and boat ramps will remain open. Residents are permitted to exercise outdoors if they keep the proper distance apart and gather in groups of 10 or less.
The county has had 50 confirmed cases and one death, according to the state.
Officials in Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, will meet by telephone Thursday to hammer out the final language on an order that would restrict residents to their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends, with exceptions to get food, groceries, medicine and other essentials. Businesses deemed essential could stay open, provided that a 6-foot (2-meter) distance was maintained during any interaction with customers. Residents would also be allowed to do recreational activities outside. The county has had 106 cases and no deaths.
Counties and cities throughout the state, especially in the major metropolitan areas of south and central Florida, have imposed restrictions on their residents and businesses. The highway into the Florida Keys has been closed to non-residents. Stay-at-home orders for Orange and Osceola counties in the Orlando area go into effect Thursday night. Smaller, more rural counties have generally stuck with the restrictions DeSantis imposed statewide.
The state did get some good news Wednesday when the Florida Senate released a report showing sales tax revenues before the coronavirus hit were higher than expected. Collections were nearly $49 million above estimates, and the state had seen an overall $141 million gain in revenue through February compared to the same period last year.
The Legislature last week sent DeSantis a $93 billion state budget that many lawmakers believe will have to be adjusted as tax revenues will plummet with the closure of the state’s theme parks, beaches and other attractions. The state does have $4 billion in reserves.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.