Four consumer advocacy groups implored Gov. Charlie Crist today to veto a
bill that would allow large insurers to charge essentially unregulated
rates.

"This bill is an invitation for insurers to game the Florida regulatory
system and abuse consumers," said officials from the Consumer Federation
of America, Consumer Watchdog, Center for Economic Justice and United
Policyholders in a letter to the governor. "No price can be too high, no
discrimination can be found unfair if a policy is issued under these
terms."

Bob Hunter, insurance director for the Federation who occasionally
consults for state regulators, said deregulation failed in Texas where
he was the insurance commissioner. Insurers wouldn't sell policies or
they'd only sell policies "at very excessive rates," according to the
letter.

Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton), who pitched the Senate version of the
bill, told legislators last week to support the measure "if you really
believe in the free market [and] you really believe constituents should
be able to pick an insurance company of their choice even if they're
willing to pay more."

Florida legislators, who received nearly $2 million in insurance-related
contributions since the start of 2008, approved six home insurance
measures that were backed by insurers this year and two that weren't.
Included in the half dozen measures is the deregulation bill and a broad
property insurance package aimed at drawing insurers to the state and
reducing financial risks for Floridians if a major hurricane hits.

"Loosening the regulatory chokehold on private insurers and requiring
the residual market to pay its own way are positive moves," Cecil
Pearce, American Insurance Association's state affairs vice president,
said in a statement.