WASHINGTON – A government insurance backstop for floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters would be created under a proposal promoted Thursday by lawmakers. They said rising insurance rates are forcing many people to go without homeowners' coverage.
The legislation would establish a national catastrophe fund for property insurance similar to the program set up for terrorism insurance after the Sept. 11 attacks.
A few insurers have pressed for such a fund, as have several Florida lawmakers. They cite the skyrocketing cost of home insurance for many state residents, especially those on the coasts, since the busy hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005.
After big losses from hurricanes, some companies have dropped thousands of property insurance customers in Florida and other coastal states.
The lack of affordable homeowners' insurance is a major impediment to Louisiana's recovery after Hurricane Katrina, Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La., said at a news conference.
Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is supporting the proposal. "It is clear that the government has got to step in," said Frank, D-Mass.
Referring to the terrorism insurance program, he said, "We believe that we have reached a similar point with regard to what happens with floods and hurricanes. ... I believe that some federal backstop is necessary."
Under the terrorism insurance program, the government would cover the bulk of losses from a future attack up to $100 billion; the amount that the insurance industry would have to pay out has increased each year.
Lawmakers from Florida, Louisiana and New York, who appeared with Frank, insisted that the bill they are drafting is not only for the benefit of coastal areas.