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Thursday, 02 June 2016 14:01
Policy of Insuring the Louisiana and US hurricane season
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It’s the kickoff for hurricane season and forecasters are predicting 14 named storms with anywhere from 4 to 8 storms growing into major hurricanes. Here on the Gulf Coast, we certainly perk up when this time of year rolls around.  For years, a good story in south Louisiana went like this:

 “I’m a Catholic, so I certainly know a good bit about suffering,” she would say.
 “Yeah, I’m a Louisiana homeowner,” he answered.
 “Oh, so you understand.”

Louisiana homeowners know a good bit about misery, particularly when it comes to being stuck with the highest property insurance rates in the nation. Year in and year out, the Bayou State is at the top of the list of states with the highest costs. No other state in the South comes close. 

But that’s not the whole story. Congress merely put its finger in the flood insurance dike with legislation that supposedly capped the skyrocketing rates of property owners in flood prone areas.  But what our minions in Washington didn’t tell us is that the rates will continue to climb dramatically in the years to come. Get ready for increases up to 25% this year alone. 

Because of the devastating hurricanes that seem to hit the Gulf Coast at least once a decade, the federal government has bailed out these southern states, literally and financially, time and time again. Some cynical members of congress have even suggested that it’s time for many Louisiana homeowners to relocate. But attitudes are beginning to change, because other oxen are being gored.  Mother Nature has given the Gulf South a pass in recent years, but she has caused havoc in other parts of the nation.

Oklahoma has suffered an unprecedented surge in both earthquakes and tornadoes, and is clamoring for federal help.  New York and New Jersey are still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy.  In Texas, hurricanes and flooding have cost some $28 billion in recent years. California witnessed rapid growth in both drought and wildfires, and earthquakes remain a constant threat.  A Wall Street Journal recent study concluded that almost every state in the nation is subject to some major disaster.

So is therehas a national plan that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars which and is both comprehensive and affordable been discussed? Yes. Such a proposal was unveiled way back 1995 at a catastrophe insurance conference sponsored by the American Insurance Services Group and held in New Orleans. I attended as Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner. 

The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties. We all agreed back then that there would be a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America unless a national disaster program was put in place. And that’s just what’s happening across the country now.

Here is how it would work.  Private insurance would take a small portion of the premiums collected and contribute to a state created fund.  The state fund would then be backed up by a nationally created fund that could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved.  Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk.  

Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that has less natural disaster exposure. That was the plan then. And the good news is that in reaction to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the tornados in Oklahoma and Missouri, a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now.

It’s taken almost 20 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving.  It’s just not a handout for the coastal states.  The whole country will benefit. And at a price that’s affordable.  Louisiana certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.

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Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com
 

Jim Brown

Jim Brown is a Louisiana legislator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner.  

Website: JimBrownla.com
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