Mr. Toomey asked Jerry Theodorou of the R Street Institute, a conservative-leaning Washington-based think tank, how seriously Congress should look at paying repetitive loss claims. “Indeed, this is a very serious problem,” Mr. Theodorou said. “The numbers speak for themselves, to have such a small percentage of policyholders accounting for close to 40% of the claims dollars paid.”
The flood insurance program — which is the main provider of flood coverage in the U.S. and has issued more than five million policies — has paid out more money to property owners and other expenses than it has collected in premiums from policyholders since Congress created it in 1968. It collects about $4.6 billion in annual revenue from policyholders in premiums, fees and other charges, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Flooding ranks as the country’s most common natural disaster. Scientists predict floods will happen more frequently in neighborhoods that face new risk from rising sea levels and extreme rainstorms due to climate change.
Regarding the second objective, there is no equitable sharing of costs between the public and private sectors. The private sector is only peripherally involved in bearing flood risk. The involvement of the private insurance sector is restricted to administration of the program, for which insurers are remunerated by the NFIP. The participation of private insurers in flood insurance as a risk-bearer is de minimis, writing less than a tenth the premium collected by the NFIP.
Instead of attaining the overarching goal of reducing economic losses caused by flooding, flood- related economic losses have increased. In the past decade, U.S. economic losses caused by flooding were $943 billion, close to five times more than the $211 billion cumulative flood-related losses in the prior decade. In this testimony, we highlight five issues standing in the way of the NFIP falling short of achieving its mission, and propose solutions to remedy those problem areas.
The American Academy of Actuaries presents this summary of select significant regulatory and legislative developments in 2021 at the state, federal, and international levels of interest to the U.S. actuarial profession as a service to its members.
The Academy focused on key policy debates in 2021 regarding pensions and retirement, health, life, and property and casualty insurance, and risk management and financial reporting.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing ever-changing cyber risk concerns, and analyzing the implications and actuarial impacts of data science modeling continued to be a focus in 2021.
Practice councils monitored and responded to numerous legislative developments at the state, federal, and international level. The Academy also increased its focus on the varied impacts of climate risk and public policy initiatives related to racial equity and unfair discrimination in 2021.
The Academy continues to track the progress of legislative and regulatory developments on actuarially relevant issues that have carried over into the 2022 calendar year.
Jerry Theodorou IT IS HARD TO CALCULATE. THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY WAS FACED WITH MASSIVE FLOOD LOSSES BUT FOUND THAT IT DID NOT HAVE THE DATA TO PRICE IT ACCURATELY. IT STARTED REDUCING AND EXCLUDING FLOOD FROM STANDARD INSURANCE POLICIES AND THE GOVERNMENT STEPPED IN TO CREATE THE PROGRAM. TO PROVIDE SOME LEVEL OF FLOOD INSURANCE. THERE IS AN INHERENT TENSION IN THE PROGRAM BECAUSE IT HAS TWO GOALS IN CONTENTION WITH EACH OTHER. THE GOAL TO PROVIDE AFFORDABLE FLOOD INSURANCE AND SOME DEGREE OF FISCAL SOUNDNESS. THEY ARE PAYING ABOUT $400 BILLION IN INTEREST, WHICH IS A BURDEN, SO IF WE FOCUS STRICTLY ON AFFORDABILITY, YOU WILL HAVE UNDERPRICED INSURANCE, NOT PRICED ACCORDING TO THE ACTUAL VOLUME. THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW WITH LARGELY IMPACT — OVERPRICED INSURANCE. FOCUSING ON FISCAL SOUNDNESS, YOU WILL HAVE THOSE EXPOSED. IT IS A LITTLE BIT OF A BALANCE. DO YOU WANT FISCAL SOUNDNESS? PROBABLY A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH, WHICH IS MY NEXT MONTH, OCTOBER 1, THE NEW BEATING WILL BE INTRODUCED TO MAKE IT MAKE THE PRICING AND THE COST OF FLOOD INSURANCE MORE APPROPRIATE FOR THE LEVEL OF RISK. IT IS EITHER OR. IF YOU LIVE IN A FLOOD ZONE, YOU PAY HIGHER PREMIUMS. IT IS NOT BLACK-AND-WHITE BECAUSE THERE IS A SPECTRUM FOR THE DEGREE OF RISK. IT WILL INTRODUCE MORE VARIABLES SO THAT IT IS MORE APPROPRIATELY CORRELATED WITH THE LEVEL OF RISK.
The most comprehensive proposal being floated so far is one from House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
That discussion draft would extend the program for an additional five years and limit the government’s ability to raise the price of flood insurance amid growing concerns about affordability (E&E Daily, April 14). Current authorization for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is set to expire in five months.
Jerry Theodorou, director of the finance, insurance and trade program at the R Street Institute, said subsidies mask the real costs of building and living in flood-prone areas and that the Peters-Barr bill would ensure that policyholders aren’t “undercharged.”
Theodorou said the Waters bill instead would kick the can down the road, and he criticized the measure for seeking to cancel the program’s historic $20.5 billion debt.