WASHINGTON–A new bi-partisan bill that would expand the National Flood Insurance Program to provide “all-perils” coverage for homeowners and small businesses could disrupt private insurance markets, insurance industry trade groups said today.
But another trade organization, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, welcomed the legislation, saying it will ensure there is a strong debate in Congress over the most appropriate course of action in dealing with the aftermath of weather catastrophes.
“The lack of markets and affordable windstorm coverage for both homeowners and businesses has reached crisis proportions in some states,” said Charles E. Symington Jr., senior vice president for government affairs and federal relations at the IIABA.
“Hopefully this legislation will spark serious policy debate in Congress on this important topic,” he added.
But the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the American Insurance Association were critical of the legislation, H.R. 920. The bill was introduced late yesterday by Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss. The bill has 12 co-sponsors, 10 Democrats and two Republicans.
Dennis Kelly, a spokesman for the American Insurance Association, noted, “Our concern has been that you run the risk of displacing the private insurance marketplace if you expand the NFIP to include wind.”
Rep. Taylor and other Gulf Coast residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina have had their wind damage claims rejected by insurers when storm surge has been involved in the loss. Carriers have cited flood exclusions in policy language. Mr. Taylor reached a settlement after suing State Farm.
Mr. Kelly said the NFIP program has already cost taxpayers “a great deal of money” and expanding it to include wind may continue that trend.
“Whether it is the federal government or the private market providing this kind of coverage, it has to employ honest risk-based pricing or it won’t work,” Mr. Kelly said.
PCI officials said the bill “may produce unintended negative consequences for millions of American insurance consumers.
PCI reiterated its support “for a comprehensive public policy solution that supports private market initiatives, stronger building codes and land use regulations, backed up, where needed, by state catastrophe funds and limited, high-level federal financial support for responsibly managed state funds.”
Ben McKay, PCI’s senior vice president, federal government affairs, said the biggest problem with the bill “is that it will create artificial subsidies, essentially raising rates for consumers in inland parts of the country who are not subject to the same kind of wind-damage risks faced by consumers on the coasts.”
Mr. McKay added, “Any efficiencies that might be gained by a multiperils policy would come at a cost to many consumers. We believe that this is both unfair and unnecessary.”
The legislation (H.R. 920) would raise the limits of coverage currently paid under the NFIP, and would mandate that “actuarially sound” rates be charged.
“The Multiple Peril Insurance Act would allow homeowners to buy insurance and know that all of their damage from wind and water will be covered,” Rep. Taylor said in a statement he sent to members of Congress asking them to support the measure as co-sponsors.
Republican co-sponsors are Reps. Bobby Jindal, R-La., and Walter Jones, N.C.
Other Democratic co-sponsors are Reps. Maxine Waters, Calif.; Charles Melancon and William Jefferson, La.; Jo Bonner, Ala.; Carolyn Maloney, N.Y.; Emanuel Cleaver and William Clay, Mo.; Al Green, Texas; Ed Markey, Mass.; and Mr. Lincoln Davis, Tenn.