One look around Panama City and you continue to see the vicious impact of Hurricane Michael. Blue tarps cover most buildings, walls have caved in on structures and debris continues to litter the sides of roadways.
As Governor-elect Ron DeSantis met with Bay County leaders Friday, he heard a consistent message – residents are ready to put their lives back together. The major obstacle to that? Insurance companies that are slow to pay claims.
DeSantis had a clear message for those companies — step up, now. “I’m concerned about insurance payments. I think that needs to be done very timely,” said DeSantis. “A lot of people are frustrated they’re not getting the money their entitled to under their policies. I want to make sure these insurance companies are doing what they need to do.”
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation estimates the damaged caused by the near CAT 5 hurricane resulted in $4.2 billion in insured loses. Two-thirds of the 131,000 claims throughout the Panhandle are residential properties. Most insurance companies purchase reinsurance to ensure they can pay claims. But getting the claims paid has led to increased concern that insurance companies aren’t moving as quickly as they can.
Gov-elect DeSantis’ concerns have been echoed by State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City native. He’s also pressuring insurance companies to speed up claims processing so that rebuilding can begin. “We have more complaints per capita for this storm than for Hurricane Irma. It’s unacceptable,” Patronis said in late November. “If insurers don’t step up, recovery will be delayed & Floridians will be even more vulnerable to fraud.”
The State reports that half of the filed insurance claims from the hurricane have been paid, with a third still outstanding. But more than two months after Michael’s destruction, many of those paid claims have yet to make their way to roof replacements and other repairs needed to help Northwest Florida recover from the biggest storm to ever hit the Panhandle.