Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed legislation designed to encourage private insurers to offer flood insurance, but the industry is tamping down expectations that it will result in a viable market in the near future.

The legislation creates a statutory framework allowing private insurers to offer four different types of flood coverage ranging from standard coverage, which mirrors the current National Flood Insurance Program policies, to three other enhanced coverages.

The legislation also allows private insurers to file their own rates prior to October 1, 2019, after which they must be approved by regulators. The time period is so Florida insurers can develop state flood data that is currently not available under the NFIP.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty says it will ultimately benefit consumers.

Biggert-Waters Debate

Lawmakers first pursued the flood insurance bill with a sense of urgency in response to the federal Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform act of 2012, which was designed to address a $24 billion funding shortfall in the National Flood Insurance Program caused largely by hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Biggert-Waters required some flood premiums to rise, in some cases substantially, until they attained actuarial levels and for most subsidies to be phased out. It also called for new flood maps that also raised some premiums and expanded flood zone areas so that more people had to buy coverage.

Eliminating long-time premium subsidies on homes built before 1974 and keeping property owners from pass along those subsidies when they sold their homes meant that 280,000 Florida homeowners faced rate increases and other confronted difficulties selling their homes.

More than two million Florida residents are covered through the NFIP, and state’s policyholders pay $3.60 in premiums for every $1 in claims, factors some say favor the creation of a private market.

However, after there was a public uproar over the Biggert-Waters changes, Congress amended that reform law to limit rate increases, retain premium subsidies and allow subsidies to pass through to new owners when a house is sold. As a result he urgency over the need for a private market waned.

 

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