Just days after Ron DeSantis signed legislation aimed at helping shield insurance companies from lawsuits without guaranteeing any relief to policyholders, Floridians are facing a new challenge in the state’s ongoing property insurance crisis. According to a new report from the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s insurance consumer hotline has reduced its operating hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, to 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Friday – only three hours five days a week. This reduction in hours comes after Hurricane Ian brought a surge in calls as the hotline deals with staffing shortages and consumers struggle to voice their complaints with Florida’s insurance companies—some of which are slashing payouts and projecting rate hikes.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Florida’s insurance help line open only 3 hours a day
“Florida’s insurance consumer helpline is often the first resort for homeowners looking for help battling their insurance company.”
“If they can reach it, that is. It’s only open three hours a day.”
“For months, callers to the helpline (1-877-MY-FL-CFO) on any afternoon have been greeted with a recorded message: ‘In order to better serve all of our customers, our updated insurance helpline hours are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.’”
“The cutbacks to the call line, which used to operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., are the product of a surge in complaints against property insurance companies since Hurricane Ian and staffing shortages at the Department of Financial Services, which refuses to allow its employees to work remotely.”
“The toll-free insurance consumer helpline has been in existence for decades and is enshrined in state law under the Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights. Under state law, insurers are required to inform homeowners of the Bill of Rights, including the hotline, within 14 days of receiving a claim. The helpline also takes calls about other types of insurance.”
“About one-third of complaints against insurance companies come from the helpline, the department’s director of consumer services, Greg Thomas, told a Senate committee on Wednesday. The rest come through the state’s website.”
“More than half of the positions to take calls and handle insurance complaints are vacant, Thomas said. And after Hurricane Ian hit the state in September, the office was “inundated” with complaints against insurers, he said. The “vast majority” have been over claim-handling delays.”
“That combination caused the office to cut back the hours the helpline would be available.”
“We can’t have a part-time insurance consumer hotline when we have a full-time property insurance crisis in Florida,” Rep. Hillary Cassel, D-Dania Beach, said in a statement. Cassel’s law practice represents residential and commercial policyholders in property claims against their insurance carriers.”
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