HARRISBURG, Pa., May 2, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller urged Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation to join the Wolf Administration in fighting for more flood insurance options for homeowners, as Congress considers reauthorization of the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) prior to its September 30 expiration.
"As part of Governor Wolf's consumer protection and education initiative, I have developed a one-stop shop webpage for homeowners to get information on what flood insurance options are available to them," Commissioner Miller said. "This includes the more than 40 insurance agents selling private flood coverage through the surplus lines market, and the more than 15 Pennsylvania licensed insurers offering this coverage, as well as the NFIP plans."
Commissioner Miller said over the past year and a half, her department has worked to encourage agents and insurers offering private market flood products to sign up for the website. She said her department's research has found numerous instances where homeowners were able to get comparable coverage through the private market at substantial savings over that available through the NFIP. In the first year of the website's availability, the number of private flood policies in Pennsylvania more than doubled, to over 3,300.
The federally-run NFIP has been offering residential flood insurance since 1968, with significant subsidies going to homes in high risk areas. Following overwhelming claims from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, the NFIP fell more than $24 billion in debt. Congress passed legislation, known as the Biggert-Waters Act, in 2012 phasing out the subsidies, causing premiums under the NFIP to rise annually for homeowners, until the cost reflects the actual risk their properties pose.
"Clearly, the intent of Congress was to grow the private flood insurance market when it passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012," Commissioner Miller wrote in her letter to Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation. "However, five years later, federal rulemaking that would implement the private flood insurance acceptance requirements in the Act remain unpromulgated and many other obstacles remain—some created by the NFIP itself. Many of these obstacles can be solved through the NFIP reauthorization process."
Specifically, Commissioner Miller recommends Congress consider these recommendations as it debates NFIP reauthorization:
- Require the NFIP reinstate its rule permitting a policyholder to cancel an NFIP policy mid-term (and receive a partial refund) when the consumer obtains a compliant private flood insurance policy to replace the NFIP policy.
- Require the NFIP consider a consumer that maintains compliant flood insurance – whether from the NFIP or from the private insurance market – to have met the continuous coverage requirements for purposes of qualifying for subsidies and/or grandfathered rates.
- Require lenders accept compliant private flood insurance policies as an alternative to coverage provided by the NFIP.
- Require the NFIP remove its non-compete clause for private insurers participating in the NFIP's "Write Your Own" program.
Commissioner Miller also recommended the NFIP be required to provide an annual notice displaying the cost of its coverage, the percentage and dollar change from the policy being superseded, and disclosing that flood insurance may also be available from the private insurance market. And, the commissioner recommends the NFIP be required to share its vast historical flood insurance data in a way that protects consumer confidentiality but also provides meaningful statistical information that the private insurance market can use.
"Providing this historical information will help private insurers better understand the risks they face from properties in a given area, so they can appropriately price their products, and through this increased competition, provide additional and less expensive options to homeowners," Commissioner Miller said. She added the insurance industry relies on historic data to establish risk and price its products, and at this time, only the NFIP has this data for flood insurance.
Commissioner Miller also is recommending Congress require that private flood insurance policies be assessed a fee to fund NFIP operations that do not relate to the payment of flood insurance losses, and which would qualify the policyholder for any and all non-insurance FEMA benefits provided to NFIP policyholders. These benefits include grants to raise a home in a high risk area on stilts, or to raise utilities located in the basement of a home so they are less likely to be damaged by any flooding.
"Congress has an opportunity this year to help homeowners across Pennsylvania have more options when looking for flood insurance, and to help many of these homeowners get coverage at significantly lower cost'" Commissioner Miller said. She noted in her letter she is available to work with Pennsylvania's Congressional Delegation to help their mutual constituents.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ron Ruman- Insurance, 717-787-3289
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Insurance