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Democrats might just win Florida’s crucial electoral votes if they keep campaigning hard for a national catastrophe insurance fund, an idea opposed by Republicans. Democratic candidate Barack Obama made his pitch for a cat fund in an op-ed today in the St. Petersburg Times.


I talked about the differences between the two parties on disaster insurance in my Sept. 4 blog. But in my editorial in this coming Monday’s National Underwriter, I also noted that Democrats need to get the word out on this critical issue if they hope to take the state on Nov. 4.

It appears Sen. Obama is doing just that. In his op-ed article, he said that “Floridians know as well as anyone that the current property insurance market isn’t working,” noting that “in some cases, property insurance rates have spiked by as much as 600 percent.”

He went on to warn that the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which provides reinsurance to insurance companies in the case of a natural disaster, is “dangerously overexposed.”

“But disaster insurance isn’t just an issue facing Floridians. It’s an issue facing Americans across the country,” he added, arguing that Hurricane Katrina “cost each American taxpayer more than $800 in part because we lacked an efficient national solution. Natural disasters are a national problem.”

As a solution, Obama is pushing for passage of the Homeowners’ Defense Act, which, he contends, “would stabilize skyrocketing insurance rates and provide a common-sense federal backstop in the event of a major natural disaster.”

In its platform, the Republican Party last week called for a vague national catastrophe insurance “policy”–no doubt meaning an approach, not actual coverage of any sort, at least not with government backing. Their candidate, Sen. John McCain, has repeatedly said he rejects any national solution.

“Sen. McCain’s opposition to the national Cat fund shows that he just doesn’t understand how to offer relief to Florida homeowners,” Obama argues in his op-ed. “Earlier this year, he boasted about his opposition, saying that an ‘insurance policy is there, and it’s called FEMA,’ even though underwriting and paying insurance claims aren’t part of FEMA’s mission. Later, he claimed he was opposed to the bill because he was ‘not in favor of spending $200-billion a year simply for the state of Florida,’ even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the full cost as a fraction of that and the fund would benefit any state facing a catastrophic loss.”

Obama added that “most recently, [McCain] suggested instead creating a regional compact in which only the Gulf states pool their risk. But that gets the fundamental principle completely backward–the idea is to spread the risk, not concentrate it.”

Indeed. (To read the entire op-ed, click here.)

“Katrina showed us the consequences of an administration that doesn’t understand disaster relief, and we can’t afford four more years of the same,” Obama concluded, adding that “when a risk is so large that the insurance market and individual states can’t reasonably bear it, it’s the role of the federal government to step in, as we’ve done to insure against acts of terrorism.”

The battle for Florida is on, and insurance is right in the middle of it! Might this issue shift the state into the Democratic column?

What do you folks think?