February 14, 2007 / 9:37 PM / 11 years ago

Florida names Robert Hunter to set insurance rates

NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Consumer advocate J. Robert Hunter will set property insurance rate reductions for Florida, the state office of insurance regulation said on Wednesday.

Hunter, the former insurance commissioner of Texas and now director of the Consumer Federation of America, will begin work immediately, the insurance office said.

The rate reductions are required under a new law that took effect on Jan. 25.

“I want to make sure consumers get the full benefit from the reforms,” Hunter said in a statement.

Insurers had raised rates for Florida homes and businesses as much as 100 percent last year after eight hurricanes pummeled the state in two years. The last, Hurricane Wilma, caused more than $10 billion in damages when it hit Miami in 2005.

The rate reductions may be easier for insurers to take because under the new law, Florida doubled its Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to $32 billion.

The fund will provide backup coverage for property insurers who want to reduce their risks from a major storm by paying someone else to take it. Normally this is done by private reinsurers, but since their rates have soared, the state has now taken on much of this exposure.

Working with the office of insurance regulation, Hunter will calculate savings from these changes. The state will then make sure property insurers file the correct rate change, the insurance office said.

((Reporting by Ed Leefeldt; edward.leefeldt@reuters.com; Reuters Messaging: edward.leefeldt.reuters.com@reuters.net; +1 646 223 6315)) Keywords: FLORIDA HUNTER/

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