Citizens to purge hundreds of thousands of policies

ORLANDO, Fla. - A coalition of business leaders, lawmakers and others is urging Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to move ahead with a plan to help the company get rid of 350,000 policies.

Under the proposed depopulation program, Citizens would offer $350 million in low-interest loans to private insurance companies that take policies out of the state-operated insurer.

Critics say the controversial program is being rushed and Citizens should slow down to study whether it will save money for customers.

Supporters say the program needs to be in place by December so Citizens can enter next year's hurricane season with fewer customers.

Walter Dartland of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast said he cannot predict if the program will lower bills for customers, but he said they will have options if they leave Citizens.

"The important thing for consumers is that they can go with the private company and they can get out of the private company if they're not happy. So what the consumer really wants is, one, a company that's financially stable that can handle my claims and, two, that will pay it when it's time to be paid," said Dartland.

He also said Citizens faces so much exposure right now, a big hurricane could result in assessments, or premium increases, of more than 40 percent for all homeowners.

Citizens will hold a public hearing on the proposal in Orlando on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

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