FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUPERINTENDENT MILLS AMONG REGULATORS AT SAN FRANCISCO SUMMIT TO DISCUSS NATIONAL CATASTROPHE INSURANCE PROGRAM
SAN FRANCISCO Just months after a string of hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast and Florida with billions of dollars in damages, four state insurance regulators have begun an effort to devise a national catastrophe insurance program that would greatly reduce the need for federal emergency aid and make disaster insurance more available and affordable for everyone.
New York States Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills, a co-host of the two-day summit which starts tomorrow, will be joined in the effort by co-hosts John Garamendi, Californias Insurance Commissioner, Kevin McCarty, Commissioner of Floridas Office of Insurance Regulation, and Michael T. McRaith, Director of the Illinois Division of Insurance. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) will also play a vital role, as will several other state insurance regulators and insurance companies such as Allstate Insurance and State Farm Insurance.
Although the meeting was in the planning stages before Hurricane Katrina struck in August, the ensuing damage from that hurricane and other recent catastrophes has added urgency to the mission of the summit. "We have repeatedly seen evidence that the financial consequences of these catastrophes cannot effectively be dealt with by existing insurance policies or federal emergency aid," said California Insurance Commissioner Garamendi. "One policy, national in scope, will be a more effective and affordable way to provide for those financially harmed by disasters and acts of terrorism."
In California, where the greatest catastrophe risk is posed by earthquakes, Commissioner Garamendi pointed out that only 13 percent of homes are covered by earthquake insurance a dangerously low figure considering the likelihood of a major temblor in the future. It is hoped that a new national insurance program would extend the benefits of coverage to more Californians.The summit, opening on Tuesday, Nov. 15, will bring together insurance regulators, industry representatives, catastrophe experts and consumer representatives to provide the basis for developing the national insurance program. They include AIR Worldwide, RMS, and Eqecat, three of the worlds top risk modeling firms with expertise in natural and man-made catastrophes; the Brookings Institution, which specializes in providing research, policy recommendations and analysis of public policy issues; the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, the California Earthquake Authority, and more.
"The current system of financing catastrophe losses after the fact is not working," said Florida Insurance Commissioner McCarty. "We need a comprehensive federal solution that pre-funds catastrophic losses, not funding after the event using the federal deficit."
To that end, the summit will take a hard look at potential catastrophes and their financial impact. Regulators noted that past efforts to devise a single catastrophe policy have failed for various reasons but the recent spate of catastrophes should draw additional support for proposed legislation that would stem from the Summit.
McRaith, Director of the Illinois Division of Insurance, said the talks are key to devising a rational strategy to pay for the aftermath of catastrophes. "On behalf of Governor Blagojevich, I welcome this discussion that will prioritize consumer and taxpayer interests, integrate responsible business models, and more clearly define private and public sector roles," Director McRaith said.
Mills, New Yorks top regulator, agreed. "It is imperative that we plan ahead in order to be in a position to respond nationally to the financial consequences of major catastrophes, accumulating funds in both the private and public sectors to pay for extraordinary losses," said Superintendent Mills. "This summit gives insurance regulators, the industry, and legislators an opportunity to begin a dialogue that will move us closer to that public policy goal."
The convening regulators hope to have the framework of a program developed by the close of the meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16. "The time for action is now," said Commissioner Garamendi. "Lets not wait until the enormous and inevitable bill from another catastrophe comes due."
Other state regulators participating in the summit include: Commissioner Walter A. Bell, Alabama Department of Insurance; Acting Commissioner Thomas Hampton, District of Columbias Department of Insurance and Securities Regulation; Commissioner Diane Koken, Pennsylvania Insurance Department; Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner; Commissioner Kent Michie, Utah Insurance Department; and Commissioner Jim Poolman, North Dakota Insurance Department. States sending key regulatory representatives include Virginia, Arkansas, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Nevada.