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Hurricane Season Could Send Fla. Insurance Rates Sky High

Welcome to hurricane season. The time of year when a torrential storm can bring a lot more than just ferocious winds and pelting rain.

Try higher insurance premiums.

If a once-in-a-century blockbuster hurricane were to hit Florida, the state-run insurance company, Citizens, wouldn't have enough money on hand to cover all the damage. It would have to charge everyone, whether you're a Citizens customer or not, a hurricane assessment fee.

It may be a worst-case scenario, but the state's out with a new online calculator to make sure you know exactly how you'd be affected. Industry expert Bob Lotane calls it a wise move.

"We have had these assessments before, in '04 and '05, but back then, we were rolling in some money and the politicians decided to pay that off to keep those assessments low, so we've kind of been shielded from the truth about what could go on here, so this calculator is a good thing," he said.

The calculator's designed to cut through the confusing complexities of the insurance game and give you a bottom line. All you've got to do is input your data.

In my case, I pay $967 a year for property insurance, I pay $1,104 in auto insurance. If I hit calculate, there it is - if a cataclysmic storm were to hit, I'd have to pay an extra 1$51 a year over the course of 30 years.

But I've got it easy - I don't live on the coast. If I did, my fee could easily be double that.

In this new letter, 25 state legislators call the potential fees "not fair" and "not fiscally sound." They want Citizens to shed customers now to avoid the fees later, but not every lawmaker agrees.

Republican Senator Mike Fasano helped defeat a bill that would have turned tens-of-thousands of Citizens customers over to private companies charging higher rates.

"There is a major difference," Fassano said. "One is regulated, one is not. At least tell the homeowner that!"

If enough people use it, the calculator may help drive public outrage over the fees. In the end, a major hurricane will mean paying big money. The only question is who pays it and when.

Now, for the good news - Citizens does have $19 million on hand. That's enough money to cover damages from two big hurricanes but not enough to cover that once-in-a-century storm we all fear.

If you'd like to see how much you'd owe in the aftermath of a major storm, follow this link for the calculator: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/assessmentcalculator/consumers/assessmentcalculator.aspx.


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