Pee on My Leg and Say It’s Raining Part 2: Reuters Story Contains Glaring Omissions and Falsehoods

After I read yesterday’s Reuters story on the fight to reform the flood program I thought it strange it contained this paragraph which I knew to be inaccurate:

The Senate bill would extend the NFIP for five years and improve flood maps used in the program. But a vote by the full Senate on the bill has been blocked by lawmakers from Louisiana who are concerned that it would boost insurance rates there.

Fast forward to today and this Reuters story which contains almost the exact same wording for the reason for the hold on the senate version of NFIP re authorization:

The NFIP’s post-Katrina debt would be forgiven under a bill approved in October by the Senate Banking Committee. The Senate bill would extend the NFIP for five years. But a vote by the full Senate on it has been blocked by Louisiana lawmakers who are concerned it would boost insurance rates in their state.

The second story, concerning the release of the GAO report on the National Flood Insurance Program, boiled the report down the following:

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said questions remain about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s handling of flood-damage claims processed by private insurers under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The GAO urged Congress to empower the agency to examine both wind and water claims data related to hurricane damages. It also said state regulators need to strengthen licensing and training requirements for insurance adjusters.

Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus said the GAO report contains “sensible recommendations” and deserves further discussion in the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, where he is the ranking Republican member.

However, while Rep. Bachus is the ranking Republican member of the committee Mr. Drawbaugh evidently did not see fit to report on the reactions of the Democrats running the House Financial Services Committee to the GAO report they ordered. Curious.

I also found it equally strange that Mr Drawbaugh as did not report on the “inherent conflict of interest” in the current system of private wind insurers adjusting flood claims or the problems associated with damage related to multi peril catastrophes like hurricanes contained in the GAO report:

Insurance coverage gaps and claims uncertainties can arise when coverage for hurricane damage is divided among multiple insurance policies. Coverage for hurricanes generally requires more than one policy because private homeowners policies generally exclude flood damage. But the extent of coverage under each policy depends on the cause of the damages, as determined through the claims adjustment process and the policy terms that cover a particular type of damage. This process is further complicated when the damaged property is subjected to a combination of high winds and flooding and evidence at the damage scene is limited. Other claims concerns can arise on such properties when the same insurer serves as both NFIP’s write-your-own (WYO) insurer and the property-casualty (wind) insurer. In such cases, the same company is responsible for determining damages and losses to itself and to NFIP, creating an inherent conflict of interest.

Though we are not so called “professional” news reporters at the Insurance Issues Forum, I was able to land a copy of Senator Vitter’s letter to Senators Dodd and Shelby by contacting Gene Taylor’s office and simply asking for it. Since Mr. Drawbaugh did not see fit to speak with either of Louisiana Senators or HR3121 sponsor Rep Gene Taylor I guess it is understandable, though somewhat unprofessional that he reported a false reason for the hold on the Senate re authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. Concerns over “boosting insurance rates” was not the reason Senator Vitter had a problem with the Senate version of the bill, rather:

I believe any legislation reforming the flood insurance program must make an increase in the maximum coverage levels available to policyholders. As you know, your bill does not do this. The current coverage levels have not been increased since 1994. With inflation and increased home prices since that time, the current coverage levels are severely outdated. The bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last and this Congress increased the current maximum levels of $250,000 for residential properties and $500,000 for non-residential properties to $335,000 and $670,000 respectively. These reasonable adjustments in the coverage levels would bring more certainty and affordability to the insurance market.

Also, flood insurance reform legislation should allow policyholders new lines of optional coverage, including coverage for business interruption and full replacement costs of contents. Businesses in Louisiana continue to suffer as we recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and skyrocketing insurance costs and fewer providers offering coverage remain among the most significant barriers to full economic recovery. These new coverage options, which could be offered at market rates so as not to add any additional financial strain on the program, would go a long way in providing some stability and affordability to the insurance market.

Additionally, I believe Congress must address the overall insurance crisis along the Gulf Coast centered on the lack of coverage options and affordable rates for wind damage. Lack of available or affordable general liability coverage including wind coverage is now one of the single biggest obstacles to recovery. Rates have skyrocketed well beyond what seems necessary to cover the risk and are not abating. Either wind coverage should be added to the National Flood Insurance Program at market rates as the House-passed bill does, or we must take other action outside the flood insurance program to address the broader insurance crisis. This could include a catastrophic backstop, similar to what we have for terrorism risk insurance.

We stand ready to correct any factual inaccuracies we find in hard news reporting on this issue, which impacts so many along America’s coastlines. Reuters owes us a correction.


Pee on My Leg and Say It’s Rainin’: Big Insurance Shillin’ for Flood “Reform”

Welp folks, this Cowboy has been tellin’ anyone who’d listen that them insurance companies are a bunch of fancy crooks stealing from the common man many ways. This Cowboy run across one of them scams yesterday. Ole big business Bush and insurance waterboy Chris Dodd want to do us a “favor” and “fix” the flood program. All this Cowboy can say is when these big business lackeys want to fix somethin’ you best hold on to yer wallets boys ’cause the fixin’ is in all right. Against the people!

Lets look at the “favor” ole Dodd wants to give us.

Awash in debt, U.S. flood insurance under scrutiny

Tue Jan 29, 2008 1:47pm EST
By Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Swimming in red ink and scheduled to expire within months if not renewed, the troubled National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is about to encounter another round of criticism this week on Capitol Hill.

Congressional investigators are expected to call for closer scrutiny of how insurers handle homeowners’ damage claims from storms in which both wind and water play a destructive role, as they did in the hurricanes of 2005, said sources familiar with the preparation of a report set for release within days.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report is expected to focus especially on insurers that sell both wind and flood policies to the same homeowner, a situation the GAO previously has said poses a potential conflict of interest…….

This is where it gets good folks. Remember the insurance industry shills like Robert Hartwig and Chris Dodd say Gene Taylor’s bill will break the budget even though it calls for wind premiums to be actuarially sound. Who is breakin’ the bank folks? Well ole Dodd of course. He dumps the flood deficit (a big chunk caused by wind claims dumpin’) on the taxpayers.

The government is involved in the market because the private sector on its own does not adequately cover flood risk. Most homeowners’ policies cover wind damage, but not flooding. The GAO has previously criticized FEMA’s stewardship of the program and questioned how much money the agency pays private insurers for flood claims. Katrina and the other hurricanes of 2005 left the NFIP $17.3 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury.

A FEMA spokeswomen declined to comment on the report.

The Senate bill would not expand the NFIP to cover wind damage, as was proposed in a bill approved by the House in September. In another difference with the Senate, the House bill would not forgive the NFIP’s debt.

The Bush administration has threatened to veto the House bill. The insurance industry opposes expansion to cover wind.

Oh boy how does that “warm” rain feel folks? So them Reuters boys think that 17 billion can’t be paid back? Well they haven’t talked to Gene Taylor or looked back in history to see that we did it back in the 1980s.

All we want is a hand, not a hand out and this Cowboy and millions of folks like him stand ready to pay our way. What we ain’t gonna stand for is crooks like big insurance and their waterboy Chris Dodd prentendin’ like they is hepin’ us when they is really stickin’ it to us.