NU Online News Service, May 13, 3:10 p.m. EDT

Industry officials today lauded the decision of the House Financial Services Committee to report out legislation reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, noting that the panel was acting against the background of historic flooding in the Mississippi Valley area.

They also reacted to the decision not to “depopulate” NFIP-direct policies now serviced by State Farm agents, and to a provision in the legislation adding business interruption coverage to the program.

Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association (AIA), says, “It is especially critical to get a long-term extension of the program in place so that this debate can move beyond Congress and residents in flood-prone areas can have the stability in the program they so desperately need to insure their homes and businesses.”

Matt Gannon, assistant vice president of federal affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), says that the flooding in the Mississippi basin added urgency to the need for a long-term extension program and touched upon the lengthy debate Thursday on a myriad of technical and special interest amendments.

Charles Symington, senior vice president of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA), says the IIABA is “especially grateful” that the committee rejected an amendment that would have removed the inclusion of optional business interruption and additional living expenses coverage because “these provisions will better safeguard consumers against flood loss.”

Phil Supple, a spokesman for State Farm, comments on the committee action regarding NFIP policies currently serviced by State Farm agents: “While we did not believe any amendment was necessary, it is noteworthy that this is not a ‘forced placement or depopulation-type amendment’, as earlier suggested.”

He says that, instead, “the committee adopted an annual notice to NFIP-direct customers making it very clear NFIP-direct policyholders have the exact same coverage and pay the identical premium as consumers who get NFIP policies from Write-Your-Own carriers.”

The committee rejected a proposed provision that would have mandated that 829,000 NFIP customers serviced by State Farm agents be pushed back into the private sector within 27 months.

The amendment was rewritten, and now it simply calls for a study of the issue, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the program, reporting back to Congress a year of enactment of the legislation.

Ben McKay, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America senior vice president of government relations, says the amendment is needed because the NFIP Direct program, a government program, increased in size by 800 percent over the last two years because of the decision of State Farm to exit the program, but leave its agents in charge of administering NFIP policies.

“The amendment is a step in the right direction,” McKay says, while urging House leaders “to consider additional language that will prevent the federal government from soon becoming the largest policy writer and servicing entity for flood insurance.”

National Association of Professional Insurance Agents Executive Vice President & CEO Leonard C. Brevik, says, “This vote demonstrates that there is broad, bipartisan consensus that the NFIP is a vital component of America’s economic prosperity that provides protection from flooding to homeowners and business owners.”