“But we need people — need people coming back, coming home. That’s what is going to do it. That’s what’s going to pull us through. But — just like my parents — what’s preventing them from coming home is insurance.
“I’m sure people around the country think, ‘Why do those people live there? They’ve got oil spills. They’ve got hurricanes.’ But you just look over that water and there’s something that grounds you here. It’s beautiful and the people here are beautiful, and that’s why we stay.”
Mississippi State Sen. David Baria of Bay St. Louis has introduced insurance reform bills in the legislature for the past three years; he can’t get them through committee.
Insurance companies say the vast majority of claims have been settled without dispute, and point out that they have paid tens of billions of dollars m in claims caused by the losses of Hurricane Katrina. Baria wants insurers to lower their rates, so more people might move back.
“There are those who would say the free-market system is designed to work that way and that what we should do is make the entire Gulf of Mexico region a large national park and no one should live there,” Baria says. “However for centuries people have raised their families and made their livings out of the Gulf of Mexico and its surrounding environs. And I don’t think you can write off an area by simply saying they have a lot of hurricanes down there so people shouldn’t live there.
“We’re willing to pay the cost to live here. We are tough and resilient people. We just want folks to be reasonable. And if insurance companies will come in here and fairly underwrite policy that will actually pay a claim when we have a claim, then we can make it work.”