Homeowners covered by the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. would have to take policies with rates up to 20 percent higher if they get offers from private insurers, under a proposal being shopped to lawmakers. Christine Ashburn, Citizens’ chief of communications, legislative and external affairs, said Thursday that the request for the 2022 legislative session is part of ongoing efforts to slow growth at Citizens, which has been adding about 5,000 policies a week. “I jokingly call (Citizens) Hotel California, because once you're at Citizens, you never really have to leave," Ashburn said Thursday during the Florida Chamber of Commerce Insurance Summit in Tampa. "With depopulation (an effort to move policies out of Citizens to the private market), specifically, no matter the price, even if the depop offer is cheaper than our premium, you can choose to reject any offer." Ashburn said just 18 percent to 20 percent of customers who are offered private coverage accept the changes. Ashburn said she is optimistic but acknowledged the request could be difficult to pass in an election year and after lawmakers approved legislation this spring (SB 76) that included steps to try to curb lawsuits against property insurers. Citizens had 725,942 policies as of Oct. 31, as it has seen heavy growth amid financial problems in the private insurance market. Ashburn said the state-backed insurer is “financially sound,” but that could quickly change with a couple of strong hurricanes. “Growing is not where we want to be,” Ashburn said. “We couldn't market this well if we tried.”

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