Federal flood insurance extension welcomed, but provides no solution

Published 1:29 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Congress has voted to grant a one-year extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which is a reprieve, but not a solution, to insureds on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and provides flood coverage through more than 90 private insurance companies that sell policies and collect premiums on the government’s behalf for a fee.

National Flood Insurance Program premiums go to FEMA. More than 5 million homeowners use the program as their primary insurance against flooding. Without the congressional extension, the program would have expired in September.

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The extension did not include U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor’s proposal to offer wind coverage, a program said to be $19 million in debt as a result of Katrina and 2008 floods.

A National Flood Insurance Program reform package stalled in Congress last year in a fight over adding wind coverage. The Senate opposed Taylor’s proposal. …

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, said that the one-year extension helps Gulf Coast communities and gave Congress “time to get serious about modernizing the program while continuing to allow those living in the flood plains access to flood insurance.”

Opening insurance markets to those who choose to live in or near coastal flood plains has vexed federal and state governments.

The Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association Reinsurance Assistance Fund, or Windpool, is a state insurer of last resort for those who cannot obtain private insurance. …

Subsidizing coast insurance premiums was necessary after Katrina, but at some point the Windpool must stand on its own and those who utilize it must pay premiums that support the basic soundness of the program.

From a federal and state standpoint, subsidized insurance cannot continue indefinitely, nor should it. But a one-year extension of National Flood Insurance Program gives Congress time to get past the elections and engage in a serious examination of how to move forward with a long term solution to a difficult, complex challenge.