Five Million Americans Could Benefit From Congressional Flood Insurance Proposal
WASHINGTON, D.C. — SmarterSafer.org, a national coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations and mitigation advocates, today urged members of the House Financial Services Committee to back a proposal that expands consumer choice on flood insurance.
In letters sent to individual members of the committee, the groups wrote that The Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act (H.R. 2901) would allow more private insurers to offer flood insurance to the more than five million Americans who use the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is sinking under $24 billion in debt.
SmarterSafer’s letters come in advance of a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the bill, which has already received bipartisan support from more than 20 lawmakers. A copy of the letter addressed to Rep. Carolyn Maloney is below, and separate copies were sent to individual members of the House Financial Services Committee who have not signed on to the bill.
In a statement, SmarterSafer.org said, “In a partisan election year, lawmakers from either side of the aisle can support this legislation as a commonsense approach to fixing our broken federal flood insurance program. Fostering a more robust marketplace for private insurers will not only provide consumers with more options for purchasing flood insurance, but can drive down prices across the board. We urge members of the House Financial Services Committee to support this important bill so that homeowners around the country are able to make well-informed flood insurance decisions – ultimately lowering costs and better protecting lives and property.”
The Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act was reintroduced last June by Reps. Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Patrick Murphy (D-FL) and clarifies federal rules to allow private companies into the flood insurance market. Specifically, the bill would:
- Remove regulations that make it difficult for private companies to enter the flood insurance market.
- Give states more flexibility to individually regulate private flood insurance as they see fit.
- Ensure that policyholders will not lose their flood insurance subsidies if they switch to a private insurer and then decide to switch back to the NFIP.
In January, SmarterSafer released a series of recommendations to reform the NFIP, which include the efforts laid out in the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act. A complete set of SmarterSafer’s policy recommendations are available here.
SmarterSafer.org is a national coalition that is made up of a diverse chorus of voices united in favor of environmentally responsible, fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy that promote public safety. The coalition believes that the Federal government has a role in encouraging and helping homeowners to undertake mitigation efforts to safeguard their homes against natural disasters. At the same time, the coalition opposes measures that put people’s lives at risk at the expense of taxpayers. Measures such as subsidizing artificially low rates for homeowners’ insurance policies help to encourage construction in environmentally sensitive and unsafe areas. The coalition is working to ensure that Congress does not incentivize people to live in harm’s way in places prone to hurricanes and floods.
February 24, 2016
The Honorable Carolyn Maloney
1229 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Maloney:
SmarterSafer–a broad based coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations, and mitigation advocates–urges you to support the bipartisan Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act. This bill ensures that consumers have additional choices about their flood insurance coverage and are not forced to purchase coverage through the federal flood program.
For many years, the federal government has been the primary provider of flood coverage in the United States. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has provided critical coverage, but because of deep subsidies embedded in the program for decades, it has done so at great expense to taxpayers, it has harmed the environment, and it has provided the wrong market signals, actually encouraging people to build in harm’s way.
To combat these problems, Congress made changes to the program including phasing in risk-based rates for a segment of policies and clarifying that the private sector could write flood policies in addition to other reforms. In Biggert-Waters, Congress made clear that private flood coverage was permitted, and the Grimm-Waters bill did not change this commitment. Since the passage of flood reform, private insurers have started to offer flood policies. This should be encouraged; Consumers should be able to choose insurance policies that meet their needs and are not one-size-fits-all; federal flood policies do not provide choice—they have standard terms, coverage limits, and deductibles. Private insurance policies could have terms and coverage tailored to the interests of the consumer, as well as better incentives for mitigation and resiliency. In fact, private flood policies could allow property owners to purchase enough coverage to ensure they can rebuild after a storm, not constrained by NFIP limits or by the amount of a mortgage.
We urge you to support the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act to ensure that consumers have choice in their flood policies by clarifying that private flood insurance counts for purposes of the mandatory purchase requirements. This bill is one step towards strengthening protection for Americans in harm’s way. In addition to this bill, we look forward to working with Congress on reauthorization in 2017 and support reform of NFIP, with a focus on mitigation and resiliency; we believe it is important for NFIP to continue its mapping, floodplain management and flood risk mitigation functions. We look forward to working with you on the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act as well as NFIP reauthorization.
Consumer and Taxpayer Advocates