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Floridians face fewer choices for hurricane insurance protection

"Batten down the hatches" may carry far greater meaning this summer and fall for Southern Florida residents as fewer and fewer insurers offer coverage for wind damage from hurricanes.

See the biggest insurance problems across the country

Over the course of the next year, USAA will exclude wind damages in home insurance policies in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties as they come up for renewal.

USAA will join three of the other top three Florida home insurers — State Farm Florida Insurance Co., Allstate Floridian Insurance Co., and First Floridian Auto & Home Insurance Co. — in refusing to offer windstorm insurance in South Florida.

"We're one of the last insurers to make this move," says Lynne McChristian of USAA. The company had not sold new home insurance policies that included hurricane protection in South Florida since 1996 and this change extends that practice to existing customers, she says.

Consumers will be forced to seek hurricane insurance from the pricier Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association (FWUA), the hurricane insurer of last resort in South Florida.

Uninsured reaches alarming number

According to the state's Department of Insurance, 18 percent of Florida residents, representing 2.1 million people, report that they have no health insurance, and of those, more than half say they haven't had health insurance in at least two years.

In most cases economic reasons are cited — consumers have lost jobs and are unable to afford private health care, or they consider the tribulations of dealing with health insurance not worth the cost.

The uninsured are heavily concentrated in certain regions of the state, where they are putting significant stress on safety net hospitals and clinics, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). The administration's 1999 report on Florida health insurance finds that Miami, where there is a large Hispanic population, has the highest rate of uninsured. Hispanics are also more likely than other minorities to be uninsured in the state: 28.6 percent compared to 19.6 percent of African Americans.

In addition, AHCA says that the type of job a person has can determine whether or not they have health insurance. Those working in agriculture, construction, and retail are all less likely to have insurance. Those who work in companies with fewer than 10 employees are five times as likely to be uninsured.

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