Insurance crisis imperils a dream

Published September 27, 2006

I'm not going back. We don't own winter coats or a snow shovel. I want to keep my Florida home and my dream of a retirement spent in the sunshine.

But we are facing a real quandary as we look at our resources. Can we afford to live our dream?

Our dream is a small one. We want to live in our modest cottage as long as we are able to take care of ourselves. We want to have a few close and dear friends.

Occasionally, we want an evening out at the low-cost movie followed by ice cream cones. We want to see the fruits of our love, our children, become parents and raise families of their own.

We do not ask for luxuries or special attention. We are just ordinary people who want to enjoy the benefits of the years that we spent working and saving. Our children received a higher education without a penny of government assistance. As parents, we swell with pride that those children built lives for themselves.

As our Florida dream sinks with the setting sun, we wonder if anyone cares. We are not alone in this disaster. Everyone who lives in Florida, and all who own property in this state, risk the loss of their dreams.

What is this monster that steals our dreams?

Homeowner's insurance.

The cost of maintaining it, or even buying it, is our albatross.

Every person, business, municipality and entity is touched by this crisis. The young who want to own a home and the families that need more space are being affected. Rents and the cost of consumer goods are affected by this crisis.

Those in power seem powerless to fix this state crisis. Everyone knows it is a crisis, but who can we trust to do something about it?

The irony of this situation is that the very means that we use to protect our dreams is now the thief stealing them. We buy insurance to secure our assets and to provide income if we become ill or die. Our legislators and others in the government are either too ill informed or relying on the insurance industry to solve our problem.

Another irony is that I am an insurance brat. You've heard of Army brats? Well, you can call me an insurance brat. My family, working in the insurance industry, has provided the money that has fed and clothed me. I have held both a property and casualty license and a life license. The insurance company that has raised our rates fourfold is paying our monthly income. My father always said, "Work for an insurance company and you will always have a job."

What can be done to save our dreams? We have a real opportunity this year, since it is an election year. We must raise our voices and demand a detailed and complete plan for dealing with the crisis from each candidate running for state office this year.

We can also contact our federal congressional representatives to demand that the federal government take control of insurance regulation. Insurance companies do not want federal control of insurance regulation. They want it left up to the individual states.

We can also demand that a federal program provide flood, hurricane and earthquake coverage.

California provides earthquake coverage for its residents. We have a federal program to provide flood insurance - and that program should include all acts of God. If one program covered both floods and hurricanes, we would not have the question: "Was it flood damage or wind damage?"

We have the power of the ballot, with state and federal elections looming. Now is the time to arm ourselves with facts and to give our votes to candidates who will provide us with a detailed plan for handling this crisis. We must also be willing to tell the candidates that if they do not fulfill their promises, we will take action to remove them from office. We have to let them know we mean business.

Dreams do come true, and then they may be lost. I am not willing to go quietly into the night while my dream is stolen from me. How about you?

Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey.


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