He left the fire to help children with brain injuries. He is now on the Florida insurance board

Last year, after a scathing Miami Herald investigation into a Florida program designed to provide medical care to children with severe brain injuries at birth, Charlie Lydecker resigned under fire as chairman of the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association.

Few were saddened to see Lydecker — and his fellow board members and executive director — leave as part of a major shakeup. The one who felt that this change is necessary, is the director of finance in Florida, Jimmy Patronis, who said bluntly: “NICA needs to do better.”

Lydecker is back, now on the board of another state-created organization, the Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors. It is the ultimate hurricane insurance for Floridians,

The person he chose: CFO Jimmy Patronis, with whom he has a close relationship.

Lydecker, a Daytona Beach, Florida-based insurance executive with a political background, resigned from NICA’s governing body in July 2021.

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Charles Lydecker

The change was triggered by a series of stories, called Birth & Betrayal, describing how the program raised $1.7 billion even though parents of severely disabled children had to fight for wheelchairs, nursing care, support and even medicine.

NICA was created by the Legislature in 1988. Its purpose was to reduce the financial burden on medical professionals by protecting them from large judgments and settlements when deliveries go wrong, often due to errors. Families who meet the program’s requirements – children must have suffered serious injuries due to lack of oxygen or spinal cord damage – can be barred from civil lawsuits and forced to receive NICA compensation.

But in the years that followed, parents complained that they were deprived of needed care while insiders – such as lawyers, media and financial advisers – benefited. Indeed, NICA spent more on professional services than it did on care and services for children with disabilities.

Lydecker’s departure came amid a complete restructuring of NICA. Every member of the program’s board has resigned, including Kenney Shipley, its 20-year chief executive. Parents of children who were forced into the program have criticized Shipley and the organization for saving money and protecting insurers as they struggle.

A few hours after the Herald’s series began, the state’s chief financial officer, Patronis, who oversees NICA, released his statement which is a sign of the restructuring.

Patronis wrote: “This program needs to be kind to these kids…. We can do better.”

And in a statement to the Herald in November 2021, a Patronis spokesman, Frank Collins, said Patronis had found a “modified” board with a “Mercy Seat” – indicating that the old board may not have this quality. He added: “The board has a new CEO who has the skills to fix broken organizations.”

Since the departure of the previous NICA board of directors and Shipley, parents have praised the program’s new leaders for making it easier to get help. Parents have said at board meetings that they are now being treated with compassion and respect that has been missing for a long time.

Lydecker’s term on the Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors began this month. He is chairman and CEO of Foundation Risk Partners in Daytona Beach, and also sits on the board of governors of several public universities. Lydecker did not respond to requests from the Miami Herald.

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Jace Perez, whose mother struggled with change at the top of Florida’s NICA program. Courtesy of the Perez family

Lydecker has made significant contributions to candidates, parties and political committees. Not counting donations from his company or other executives, Lydecker has given nearly $200,000 since 1996. He gave $85,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC in 2018, 2019 and 2021, and another $3,000 directly to DeSantis in 2018. In addition to $30,000 to Friends of [Attorney General] Ashley Moody PAC in 2021 and 2022. Donated $4,000 to Patronis in 2018 and 2021, and another $25,000 to a Patronis-affiliated PAC, Treasure Florida, in 2021.

He also contributed to Democrats, including $10,000 to Gwen Graham’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

When asked if Lydecker’s appointment to the Citizens was related to his political generosity, Collins, the Patronis spokesman, replied: “No.

Michelle Perez, whose 3-year-old son Jace is enrolled in the NICA program, said the boy was given a new bike by the management team here, and that it “didn’t take a year” to get it. This review was very difficult for previous leaders, who, according to parents, often asked them to jump through several hoops and wait forever for equipment or medical services.

Jace was completely paralyzed at birth and can’t walk or talk. He also had cognitive impairment, although his mother said it was unclear how severe it was.

“My stomach turned,” he said, when he learned that Patronis had appointed Lydecker to another governing body — one that affects nearly a million Floridians.

“Charlie Lydecker should not be elected to any position in public office,” Perez said. “They did not respect the families of NICA. How can you believe that they respect others, “added Perez, saying that Citizens lists respect and “accountability” among its corporate values.

Through his spokesman, Collins, Patronis said Lydecker was the right choice to be on the Citizens team.

“Mr. Lydecker has spent his entire professional career in the casualty market. It is true that Mr. Lydecker is an expert in the casualty market, but he is an employer who is responsible for making sure that he pays his employees, so that they can feed their families and pay bills,” Collins wrote. in a brief statement to the Herald.

Collins also credited Citizens for helping implement what he called “alleviating the barriers that keep many law-enforced citizens from losing their lives during hurricanes.” Such an agreement can protect policyholders when the insurance company runs out of money, such as following a hurricane or flood.

The Legislature created Citizens in 2002 to be the last resort insurance for Floridians who could not purchase homeowner’s insurance on the regular market. Citizens has expanded its coverage significantly in recent years as several home insurers have left the state or gone into receivership.

Property insurance rates in Florida have risen more than inflation despite three relatively quiet hurricane seasons. However, “losses” for the Florida home insurance industry exceeded $1 billion in 2020 and 2021, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Barry Gilway, Citizens’ president, CEO and executive director, said this is rising because of “a court that is out of control.”

Lawmakers tried to boost the industry in May by passing a special measure to deal with rising wages and fleeing companies. He created and passed a $2 billion recovery plan that would protect Floridians by ensuring that claims are paid even if private carriers fail.

Meanwhile, the average salary for homeowners and homeowners in Miami-Dade and Monroe is the highest in the state. The average cost of owning a home in Miami-Dade is $5,093; The average in Monroe is $6,729, according to a July report from the Office of Insurance Regulation, or OIR.

Insurance costs for Florida policyholders are now three times the national rate, doubling under the current administration from an average of $1,988 in 2019 to $4,231 this year.

The insurance market is still very fragile. Starting from Jan. From 1 to 30 June this year, OIR has sent 27 insurers to the “stability unit” of the “stability unit” for further evaluation. Among them, 14 shipments came from the request of the carrier to increase the amount of more than 15%; Another 10 deployments were prompted by the insurer’s decision to drop more than 10,000 residential policies, the OIR report said.

In appointing him to the Citizens board, Patronis called Lydecker “an insurance professional with over three decades of experience” in property and casualty insurance.

He said: “As a business owner, I know [Lydecker] He will bring more expertise and quality work to the Citizens Board. We are all aware of the unique challenges facing the Florida insurance market, and I am confident that Charlie will help the organization overcome these challenges, including fighting fraud and protecting policyholders. “

Carol Marbin Miller is the Herald’s deputy investigative editor. Carol grew up in North Miami Beach, and has degrees from Florida State University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has written about children, adults and the disabled for 25 years. Carol’s writings have had a profound impact on public policy and have inspired legislation, including legislation that has changed the government’s commitment to child welfare and juvenile justice systems.