“We’re really constrained from taking into consideration those demographic issues,” he said in an interview. “As humane as it might be to look at those things, we’re simply unable to do that.”
Property owners like Donly said there is no realistic alternative for coverage in the private sector. “My rents are lower now than they were six years ago,” she said. “I can’t raise rent because of the economy. I’m bringing in less, but then I get much bigger bills, so we’re making less.”
Kirsten Llamas, of Pinecrest, said she received a $2,000 premium hike from Citizens just as her household budget was beginning to tighten. The recession forced her adult children to move back in with her and her husband, causing her expenses to increase significantly, and her 42-year-old home needs several repairs. She said she would drop her insurance, but can’t because she needs to take out a new mortgage on the home she owns outright.
“I am on Medicare so we are squeaking by, but [we] feel we [will] have to take a mortgage out on our house to pay for our impending expenses,” she said. “Should we die, our kids could not afford to take over our house and we can’t afford to sell it and move into a house at new house rates and taxes.”
Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who has spoken out against insurance rate hikes, said seniors call his office every week seeking relief from rising premiums at Citizens.
“Those on Social Security and our senior citizens, I don’t think they’ve seen a cost of living increase in four or five years,” he said. “They’re barely holding on, and we have those in Tallahassee that think that by raising premiums on homeowners that’s going to solve the problem. It’s not.”