Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his political action committee have received millions of dollars from insurance stakeholders as he has overseen massive giveaways to the insurance industry, according to a new report. Florida homeowners, meanwhile, face ballooning insurance prices and are under increasing economic strain in one of the states hardest hit by climate change.
The governor’s committee and the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC raked in $3.9 million from the insurance industry since its formation in 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by Hedge Clippers, a campaign organized by the Center for Popular Democracy, “including more than $150,000 in one day from dozens of State Farm agents.” The governor’s inaugural fund was also backed by a combined $125,000 from two property casualty insurers, People’s Trust Insurance and a subsidiary of Heritage Insurance.
“DeSantis is not only failing to hold the insurance industry accountable,” reads the report. “Critically, he is failing to bring down rates for Florida homeowners.” The American Federation of Teachers and Florida Rising, a grassroots voting rights and organizing group, also contributed to the report, titled “How Ron DeSantis Sold Out Florida Homeowners.”
The new analysis is based on a review of Florida Department of State campaign finance records, aggregating donors to DeSantis’s PAC who reported employment in the insurance industry from January 2018 to December 2022. The report also used the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to assess insurance rate hikes since DeSantis took office.
The Intercept’s review of the campaign finance records reveals that the following insurance providers made five-figure contributions to the PAC during that time period: National General Management Corp., Allstate, Progressive, and American Integrity Insurance.
Under DeSantis’s watch, home insurance premiums have risen from $1,988 to $4,231 on average, putting Floridians under financial strain to pay for insurance that sits at nearly three times the national average. And this year, home insurance premiums are expected to increase another 40 percent, an issue that former President Donald Trump has hammered DeSantis over as the governor weighs a challenge to Trump in the GOP presidential primary.
“Ron DeSanctimonious is delivering the biggest insurance company BAILOUT to Globalist Insurance Companies, IN HISTORY,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social in March.
These increases come as DeSantis has rubber-stamped policies accelerating insurance company profits at direct cost to homeowners and Florida taxpayers broadly.
During a special legislative session in May 2022, lawmakers approved a $2 billion reinsurance fund, which is insurance for insurance providers that is typically purchased on the open market. The taxpayer-funded reserve was justified as a way to protect insurers from bankruptcy in the event of a cataclysmic event while simultaneously lowering insurance costs for consumers. Despite those promises, insurance premiums have remained exorbitantly high, with rate increases outpacing savings derived from the fund.
“The $2 billion giveaway program, which used taxpayer funds to subsidize industry risks, was called ‘Reinsurance to Assist Policyholders,’ but there is little evidence that it lived up to its name.” the report states. “Costs for policyholders rose after the passage of the taxpayer-funded subsidy.”
Seven months after the reinsurance fund was established, DeSantis signed another piece of legislation similarly rushed through a special session to gut litigants’ ability to collect legal fees from insurance providers refusing to pay out claims. The new law shields insurance companies from massive liability for blocking insurance claims, while simultaneously disincentivizing homeowners from pursuing claims in the first place.
“The issues in Florida’s property insurance market did not occur overnight, and they will not be solved overnight,” DeSantis said at the bill signing in December. “The historic reforms signed today create an environment which realigns Florida to best practices across the nation, adding much-needed stability to Florida’s market, promoting competition, and increasing consumer choice. I am thankful the legislature answered the call for meaningful reform.”
The report points out that DeSantis could have taken another path: “When insurers threatened to pull out of the state and massively hike rates following Hurricane Andrew, then-Governor Lawton Chiles devised a solution that included a freeze on rate increases,” the authors note. Meanwhile, states like Louisiana, Alabama, and California have formulated their own effective plans for keeping insurance costs low through a combination of insurance provider-funded grants and insurance premium discounts for homeowners who improve the resilience of their homes in climate-affected areas.
For some Florida residents, the exorbitant cost of insurance means choosing to live without coverage and risking potential damage from a storm or natural disaster. Tracy Brown, a community liaison specialist at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, was forced to discontinue her home insurance after the premium payments jumped to $1,800 per month in April 2021. “Our governor needs to know that the cost of living we had three years ago is not what we have now.” Brown told The Intercept. “For a middle-class person to live effectively, the cost of living has to be lower to live a life and not just live paycheck to paycheck.” On Easter Sunday of this year, Brown lost her home to a fire.