Category Archives: Floods

Miami-Dade, Fla., Sees Flood-Insurance
Rate Cuts, Thanks to Resilience Investment

Miami-Dade County, Fla., has become the latest jurisdiction in the hurricane- and flood-prone state to benefit from participation in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) – an incentive program that recognizes and encourages  floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The county’s new Class 3 rating will result in an estimated $12 million savings annually by giving qualifying residents and business owners in unincorporated parts of the county a 35 percent discount on flood insurance premiums.  

“This is a huge step forward in resilience for our county,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said after FEMA announced that Miami Dade had leaped ahead two rankings in the flood-risk rating. “It indicates that we have been able to demonstrate that we can create more resilience, more protection for our community.”

Miami-Dade County has invested $1 billion in stormwater infrastructure over the past 33 years since the inception of the county’s stormwater utility. Under Mayor Levine Cava’s administration, the county has planned to invest an additional $1 billion in stormwater infrastructure. In the past two years, the county has accelerated projects to upgrade Miami-Dade’s infrastructure and implement critical flood mitigation activities. 

Last year, 17 Florida jurisdictions achieved Class 3 ratings. In Cutler Bay – a town on Miami’s southern flank with about 45,000 residents – the average premium dropped by $338. Citywide, that represented a savings of $2.3 million.

Over 1,500 communities nationwide participate in the CRS program, but only Tulsa, Okla., and Roseville, Calif., have taken sufficient steps to achieve Class 1 status and have their citizens receive the greatest premium discount of 45 percent. Both of these communities previously experienced disastrous flooding. Tulsa spent decades developing and implementing stormwater management improvements before receiving its Class 1 designation in 2022.

About 90 percent of all U.S. natural disasters involve flooding. Whether related to coastal and inland inundation due to hurricanes, extreme rainfall, snowmelt, mudflows, or other events, floods cause billions of dollars in losses each year.

As reported in a recent Triple-I “State of the Risk” Issues Brief, flood is no longer an “untouchable” risk for private insurers. For decades, the federally run NFIP was the only place where homeowners could buy flood insurance. But improved data, analysis, and modeling have helped drive private-sector interest in flood risk.

That’s good news for homeowners who understand the evolving nature of this peril, especially as FEMA’s new pricing methodology – Risk Rating 2.0 – applies more actuarially sound pricing to make NFIP’s premium rates more equitable. As NFIP rates become more aligned with principles of risk-based pricing, some policyholders’ prices are expected to fall, while many are going to rise.

CRS provides one avenue for communities to help their citizens get lower rates while proactively reducing flood risk.

Milwaukee District Eyes Expanding Nature-Based Flood-Mitigation Plan

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) is mitigating flood risks using reforestation, wetlands restoration, and other nature-based solutions. MMSD has developed a roadmap for scaling up the project. Triple-I – in an analysis requested by the district – has determined such an effort would increase resilience across all the metrics it considered.

In a recent report – A Blueprint to Scale Up Urban Reforestation and Wetland Restoration in Underserved Communities Across the Greater Milwaukee Area – MMSD outlines its plan for the next decade, which includes:

  • Planting 6 million trees;
  • Restoring 4,000 acres of wetlands;
  • Capturing an estimated 350 million gallons of stormwater with trees; and
  • Storing up to an estimated 1.5 million gallons of floodwater in every acre of wetland.

The report included Triple-I’s analysis, based on its Community Resilience Ratings’ quantitative methodology.  Triple-I also stressed the benefits of community-based catastrophe insurance programs incorporating parametric insurance – policies that pay out a fixed dollar amount, no matter the property damage incurred – for mitigating flood risks.

“Community-based programs can incorporate a combination of parametric insurance and traditional indemnity coverage,” the report stated. “Unlike indemnity insurance, parametric structures cover risks without the complications of sending adjusters to assess damage after an event. Instead of paying for damage that has occurred, parametric insurance pays out if certain agreed-upon conditions are met. If coverage is triggered, a payment is made.”

MMSD serves 28 communities in the Greater Milwaukee area and has already committed substantial resources to reforestation, wetlands restoration, and other nature-based solutions, including green stormwater infrastructure projects.

“This commitment has positioned MMSD to build upon its past work to implement integrated nature-based solutions for stormwater management on a large scale,” the report says. “To keep up with growing flood risk, MMSD has committed to investing $294 million in watercourse and flood management projects over the next ten years…. This is a substantial increase and will likely require MMSD to find new ways to generate funding to pay for these projects.”

The report outlines avenues that include federal and state funding sources, as well as public-private partnerships and instruments like environmental impact bonds (EIB) that can help cities pay for innovative projects where traditional sources of financing may be harder to access. EIBs use private capital for investments in environmental projects and are repaid based on the project’s success in achieving its goals.

CSAA: When It Comes
to Fighting Climate Risk, We’re All On the Same Side

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

CSAA Insurance Group – a AAA insurer – is spurring innovation in the insurance industry through several initiatives tackling the dangers of climate risk.

“We’ve been on a journey to reduce our environmental footprint for a long time,” said Debbie Brackeen, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer with CSAA, in a recent executive exchange with Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. “We are seeking to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2025. We view this work as aligned with our mission: to help our members prepare for and recover from climate risk.”

CSAA has taken several steps to help achieve its goals, including:

  • Leading the first-ever Innovation Challenge on climate resilience with IDEO and Aon, along with several other sponsors;
  • Working on the California Innovation Fund in partnership with Blue Forest, a $50 million fund that CSAA contributed half that capital, focused on forest restoration and reducing fuel in a smart and sustainable way; and
  • Supporting the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at San Jose State University, which conducts work around predictive modeling, among other endeavors.

While this may seem like a new development, Kevelighan noted that insurers have long worked toward these goals.

“We’ve seen the ESG movement take a hold in the past few years, but it’s been in the DNA of the Triple-I and the insurance industry generally for a long time,” Kevelighan said. “More than half the battle is recognizing that the risk is increasing, while identifying solutions.”

Still, with the increasing consequences associated with climate risk, more work needs to be done.

“There were billion-dollar wildfire losses at CSAA in my first two years in the industry,” Brackeen said. “I wondered if this was normal. It ignited in me that, whatever we do in innovation, it will have to do with wildfire risk. However, what concerns me the most is that risks are becoming uninsurable. This is from the cumulative effects of several different types of losses, including convective storms.”

“We have to seek different types of innovative partnerships to address these issues,” Brackeen concluded. “In this fight for our industry, there are no competitors. We have to be on the same side of the table.”

Triple-I Town Hall Amplified Calls
to Attack Climate Risk

By Jeff Dunsavage, Senior Research Analyst, Triple-I

I’m pleased and proud to have been part of Triple-I’s Town Hall — “Attacking the Risk Crisis” — in Washington, D.C. In an intimate setting at the Mayflower Hotel on November 30, 120-plus attendees got to hear from experts representing insurance, government, academia, nonprofits, and other stakeholder groups on climate risk, what’s being done to address it, and what remains to be done.  

Triple-I’s first-ever Town Hall was designed as a logical step in its multi-disciplinary, action-oriented effort to change behavior to drive resilience. Capping a year in which headlines about “insurance crises” in several states garnered major media attention, Triple-I and its members and partners recognized the need for clarification.

“What we’re seeing is not an ‘insurance crisis’,” Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan told the standing-room-only audience. “We’re in the midst of a risk crisis. Rising insurance premium rates and availability difficulties are not the cause but a symptom of this crisis.”

Whisker Labs CEO Bob Marshall discusses innovation with moderator Jennifer Kyung, Vice President and Chief Underwriter at USAA.

While the insurance industry has a critical role to play and is uniquely well equipped to lead the attack, simply transferring risk is not enough. A recurring theme at the Town Hall was the need to shift from a focus on assessing and repairing damage to one of predicting and preventing losses.

Three moderated discussions – examining the nature of climate risk and its costs; highlighting the need of strategic innovation in mitigating those risks and building resilience; and exploring the role and impact of government policy – gave panelists the opportunity to share their insights with a diverse audience focused on collaborative action.

The agenda was:

Climate Risk Is Spiraling: What Can Be Done?

Moderator: David Wessel, Senior Fellow and Director at the Brookings Institution and former Economics Editor for The Wall Street Journal.

Panelists:

Dr. Philip Klotzbach, Colorado State University, researcher and Triple-I non-resident scholar.

Dan Kaniewski, Managing Director, Public Sector at Marsh McLennan, Former FEMA Deputy Administrator.

Jacqueline Higgins, Head, North America & Senior Vice President, Public Sector Solutions, Swiss Re

Jim Boccher, Chief Development Officer, ServiceMaster.

Jeff Huebner, Chief Risk Officer, CSAA.

Innovation, High- and Low-Tech: How Insurers Are Driving Solutions

Moderator: Jennifer Kyung, VP, Chief Underwriter, USAA.

Panelists:

Partha Srinivasa, EVP, CIO, Erie Insurance.

Sam Krishnamurthy, CTO, Digital Solutions, Crawford.

Bob Marshall, CEO, Whisker Labs.

Stephen DiCenso, Principal,Milliman.

Charlie Sidoti, Executive Director, InnSure.

Outdated Regs to Legal System Abuse: It Will Take Villages to Fix This

Moderator: Zach Warmbrodt, financial services editor, Politico.

Panelists:

Parr Schoolman, SVP and Chief Risk Officer, Allstate.

Tim Judge, SVP, Head Modeler, Chief Climate Officer, Fannie Mae.

Dan Coates, Deputy Director, DRS, Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Fred Karlinsky, Co-Chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Global Insurance Regulatory & Transactions Practice Group.

Panelists and participants alike appreciated the compact, action-focused, conversational nature of the single-afternoon event, as well as the opportunity to discuss areas in which their diverse industry- or sector-specific priorities and efforts overlapped.

If you weren’t able to join us in Washington, don’t worry. In his closing remarks, Kevelighan announced plans to take the program on the road with a local and regional focus, so stay tuned. You can contact us if you’re interested in participating in future Town Halls or other Triple-I events. You also can join the “Attacking the Risk Crisis” LinkedIn Group to be part of the ongoing conversation.

Attacking the Risk Crisis: Roadmap to Investment
in Flood Resilience

As part of its attack on the risk crisis, Triple-I recently participated in a project led by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to develop a roadmap for mitigation investment incentives. The Resilience Incentivization Roadmap 2.0 builds off research NIBS published in 2019 and focuses on urban pluvial flooding, though many of the principles can be applied to riverine and coastal flooding, as well as non-flood perils.

The roadmap draws heavily from voluntary programs that have seen success in the context of other risks – such as the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) FORTIFIED Home™ Standard and the California Earthquake Authority’s Brace + Bolt retrofit program.

“Pluvial urban flooding” refers to rainwater that can’t flow downhill fast enough to reach streams and stormwater systems and therefore backs up into buildings. Much of the inland flooding caused by Hurricane Ida (2021), Hurricane Ian (2022), and more recent flooding in California due to “atmospheric rivers” and in the Northeast would fall under this category. Common low-cost measures exist to protect buildings from such flooding, and the relative ease and affordability of such mitigations made pluvial urban flooding an appropriate initial target.

This project was a collaboration representing stakeholders in the built environment – lenders, developers, insurers, engineers, agencies, policymakers – with the goal of helping communities develop layered mitigation investment packages. Triple-I’s role was to represent the property/casualty insurance industry as a stakeholder and co-beneficiary of investment in advance mitigation and resilience.

Insurers have strong incentives to encourage policyholders to make improvements that reduce the risk of costly claims. In the case of flood risk – an increasingly expensive peril outside FEMA-designated flood zones – encouraging such improvements is preceded by a different challenge: persuading homeowners to obtain flood insurance.

About 90 percent of U.S. natural disasters involve flooding. Estimates of size of the “flood protection gap” vary widely among experts, but illustrations worth noting include:

  • Less than 25 percent of buildings inundated by Hurricanes Harvey, Sandy, and Irma had flood coverage;
  • Inland areas hardest hit by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in 2021 were in areas in which less than 2 percent of properties had federal flood insurance;
  • In 2022, historic flooding in and around Yellowstone National Park affected areas in which only 3 percent of residents have federal flood insurance; and
  • More recently, precipitation from atmospheric rivers affecting the U.S. West Coast has resulted in an unparalleled weather event not experienced in several decades, with much of the activity affecting areas with low flood-insurance purchase rates.

For decades, U.S. insurers considered flood risk “untouchable” because of how hard it is to quantify their risk. As a result, flood is excluded under standard homeowners and renters policies, but coverage is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a growing number of private insurers that have gained confidence in recent years in their ability to underwrite this risk using sophisticated risk modeling.

Consumer research has consistently shown that some of the most common reasons for not buying flood insurance include:

  • An erroneous belief that flood risk is covered under standard homeowners insurance;
  • If the mortgage lender doesn’t require flood insurance, it must not be necessary; and
  • The coverage is too expensive.

The roadmap provides findings and specific recommendations developed by its multidisciplinary team of authors in collaboration with broad and diverse participation of stakeholder group members. The NIBS Committee on Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (CFIRE) will host a webinar on October 18 to go over these findings and recommendations. In addition, CFIRE chair Dan Kaniewski will be a participant in Triple-I’s November 30 Town Hall: Attacking the Risk Crisis in Washington, D.C.

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Learn More:

Triple-I “State of the Risk” Issues Brief: Flood

Shutdown Threat Looms Over U.S. Flood Insurance

FEMA Incentive Program Helps Communities Reduce Flood Insurance Rates for Their Citizens

More Private Insurers Writing Flood Coverage; Consumer Demand Continues to Lag

NAIC Seeks Granular Data From Insurers to Help Fill Local Protection Gaps

Kentucky Flood Woes Highlight Inland Protection Gap

Inland Flooding Adds a Wrinkle to Protection Gap

It’s Not an “Insurance Crisis” — It’s a Risk Crisis

Ten states – Louisiana, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia – as well as additional plaintiffs, are suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over its new methodology for pricing flood insurance, Risk Rating 2.0. On Sept. 14, a federal hearing lasted six hours as the plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to halt the new pricing regime while the lawsuit plays out.

Many residents of these states are understandably upset about seeing their flood insurance premium rates rise under the new approach. There may not be much comfort for them in knowing that the current system is much fairer than the previous one, in which higher-risk homeowners subsidized those with lower risks. Similarly, policyholders who have had their premium rates reduced under Risk Rating 2.0 are unlikely to take to the streets in celebration.

These homeowners aren’t alone in seeing insurance rates rise – or even having to struggle to obtain insurance. And these difficulties aren’t confined to holders of flood insurance policies. Florida and California are two states in which insurers have been forced to rethink their risk appetite – due in part to rising natural catastrophe losses and in part to regulatory and litigation environments that make it increasingly difficult for insurers to profitably write coverage.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and the supply-chain and inflationary pressures they created – the property/casualty insurance market was hardening as insurers adjusted their pricing and their risk appetites to keep pace with conditions that were driving losses up and eroding underwriting profitability – topics Triple-I has written about extensively (see a partial list below).

“Rising insurance rates are not the problem,” says Dale Porfilio, chief insurance officer at Triple-I. “They are a symptom of rising losses related to a range of factors, from climate and population trends to post-pandemic driving behaviors and surging cybercrime to antiquated policies, outdated building codes, fraud, and legal system abuse.”

In short, we are not experiencing an “insurance crisis,” as many media outlets tend to describe the current state of the market; we are experiencing a risk crisis. And even as the states referenced above push back against much-needed flood insurance reform, legislators in several states have been pushing measures that would restrict insurers’ ability to price coverage accurately and fairly – rather than addressing the underlying perils and forces aggravating them.  

Triple-I, its members, and a range of partners are working to educate stakeholders and decisionmakers and promote pre-emptive risk mitigation and investment in resilience. We are using our position as thought leaders and our unique non-lobbying role in the insurance industry to reach across sector boundaries and drive constructive action. You will be hearing more about these efforts over the next few months.

The success of these efforts will require a collective understanding among stakeholders and decisionmakers that for insurance to be available and affordable frequency and severity of risk must be measurably reduced. This will require highly focused, integrated projects and programs – many of them at the community level – in which all stakeholders (co-beneficiaries of these efforts) will share responsibility.

Want to know more about the risk crisis and how insurers are working to address it? Check out Triple-I’s upcoming Town Hall, “Attacking the Risk Crisis,” which will be held Nov. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Learn More:

Shutdown Threat Looms Over U.S. Flood Insurance

FEMA Incentive Program Helps Communities Reduce Flood Insurance Rates for Their Citizens

More Private Insurers Writing Flood Coverage; Consumer Demand Continues to Lag

Shift in Hurricane Season’s Predicted Severity Highlights Need for Prospective Cat Risk Pricing

California Needs to Make Changes to Address Its Climate Risk Crisis

Illinois Bill Highlights Need for Education on Risk-based Pricing of Insurance Coverage

IRC Outlines Florida’s Auto Insurance Affordability Problems

Education Can Overcome Doubts on Credit-Based Insurance Scores, IRC Survey Suggests

Matching Price to Peril Helps Keep Insurance Available & Affordable

Triple-I “State of the Risk” Issues Brief: Flood

Triple-I “State of the Risk” Issues Brief: Hurricanes

Triple-I Issues “Trends and Insights” Brief: Risk-Based Pricing of Insurance

Shutdown Threat Looms Over U.S. Flood Insurance

Even as the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season proves to be more intense than originally predicted, federal funding for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is threatened by a potential government shutdown. Funding for NFIP will expire after September 30 if lawmakers don’t reach a deal.

Claims on existing policies would still get paid if NFIP isn’t reauthorized. But the program would be unable to issue new policies and would face other funding constraints. If it can’t issue new policies, thousands of real estate transactions requiring flood coverage could be derailed. 

Insured losses from hurricanes have risen over just the past 15 years. When adjusted for inflation, nine of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have struck since 2005. This is due in large part to the fact that more people have been moving into harm’s way since the 1940s, and Census Bureau data show that homes being built are bigger and more expensive than before. Bigger homes filled with more valuables means bigger claims when a flood occurs – a situation exacerbated by continuing replacement cost inflation.

Flooding isn’t just a problem for East and Gulf Coast communities. Inland flooding also is on the rise. In August 2021, Hurricane Ida brought heavy flooding to the Louisiana coast before delivering so much water to the northeast that Philadelphia and New York City saw flooded subway stations days after the storm passed. Floods in Eastern Kentucky in 2022 further underscored the need for more comprehensive planning on how to deal with these disasters and reduce the nationwide flood protection gap. California and the Pacific Northwest have been hit in recent years by drenching “atmospheric rivers” and, most recently, Hurricane Hilary, which slammed Southern California and neighboring Nevada, where it turned the Burning Man festival in the state’s northern desert into a dangerous mess of foot-deep mud and limited supplies.

Flood insurance is provided by NFIP and a small but growing number of private insurers, who have become increasingly comfortable writing the coverage since the advent of sophisticated modeling and analytical tools. Between 2016 and 2022, the total flood market grew 24 percent – from $3.29 billion in direct premiums written (DPW) to $4.09 billion – with 77 private companies writing 32.1 percent of the business.

Flood risk was long considered untouchable by private insurers, which is a large part of the reason the federally run NFIP exists. While private participation in the flood market is growing, NFIP remains a critical source of protection for this growing and underinsured peril.

Want to know more about the risk crisis and how insurers are working to address it? Check out Triple-I’s upcoming Town Hall, “Attacking the Risk Crisis,” which will be held Nov. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Learn More:

FEMA Incentive Program Helps Communities Reduce Flood Insurance Rates for Their Citizens

More Private Insurers Writing Flood Coverage; Consumer Demand Continues to Lag

Stemming a Rising Tide: How Insurers Can Close the Flood Protection Gap

Kentucky Flood Woes Highlight Inland Protection Gap

Inland Flooding Adds a Wrinkle to Protection Gap

State of the Risk Issues Brief: Flood

State of the Risk Issues Brief: Hurricanes

IICF Starts Ian Relief Fund

The insurance industry’s efforts on behalf of people struggling in the wake of disasters doesn’t end with paying policyholder claims.

The nonprofit Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) has launched the IICF Hurricane Ian Relief Fund to support those in need in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Funds will benefit Team Rubicon, a nonprofit providing emergency response and relief throughout affected areas, and SW FL Emergency Relief Fund, which provides critical support to nonprofits and people in areas experiencing immediate need.

Through these nonprofits, IICF will provide funds for recovery support, temporary shelter and basic necessities, along with non-perishable food, toiletry items and diapers for children impacted by the storm.

“The insurance industry is rooted in helping others at their time of need,” said Bill Ross, CEO of IICF. “As tens of thousands of Floridians struggle to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Ian, we as an industry are moved to support those impacted through charitable giving.”

With the help of the insurance industry, IICF has been able to raise $2.3 million over the past few years to benefit nonprofits responding to disaster and pandemic needs across the United States and the United Kingdom. To donate to the current effort, please visit https://give.iicf.org/campaigns/23664-iicf-hurricane-ian-relief-fund.

Lawsuits Threatento Swell Ian’s Price tag

Litigation costs could add between $10 billion and $20 billion to insured losses from Hurricane Ian, adding to the woes of Florida’s already struggling homeowners’ insurance market, says Mark Friedlander Triple-I’s corporate communications director.

Early estimates put Ian’s insured losses above $50 billion.

“Based on the past history of lawsuits following Florida hurricanes and the state’s very litigious environment, we expect a large volume of lawsuits to be filed in the wake of Hurricane Ian,” Friedlander said in an interview with Insurance Business America.

Most suits are expected to involve the distinction between flood and windstorm losses. Standard homeowners’ policies exclude flood-related damage from coverage, but differentiating between wind and flood damage in the aftermath of a major hurricane can be challenging.

Flood insurance is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, as well as from a growing number of private carriers.

Trial attorneys are “already on the ground” and soliciting business in some of the hardest hit areas, Friedlander said. “This will be a key element in the solvency of struggling regional insurers who are already facing financial challenges.”

Six Florida-based insurers have already failed this year. Florida accounts for 79 percent of all U.S. homeowners’ claims litigation despite representing only 9 percent of insurance claims, according to figures shared by the Florida governor’s office. Litigation has contributed to double-digit premium-rate increases for home insurance in recent years, with Florida’s average annual home-insurance premium of $4,231 being among the nation’s highest.

“Floridians are seeing homeowners’ insurance become costlier and scarcer because for years the state has been the home of too much litigation and too many fraudulent roof-replacement schemes,” Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said. “These two factors contributed enormously to the net underwriting losses Florida’s homeowners’ insurers cumulatively incurred between 2017 and 2021.”

Trevor Burgess, CEO of Neptune Flood Insurance, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based private flood insurer, said that in all locations pummeled by Ian, the percentage of homes covered by flood policies is down from five years ago. Friedlander told Fox Weather that, while more than 50 percent of properties along Florida’s western Gulf Coast are insured for flood, “inland…the take-up rates for flood insurance are below five percent.”

While Florida is at particularly severe and persistent risk of hurricane-related flooding, the protection gap is by no means unique to the Sunshine State. Inland flooding due to hurricanes is causing increased damage and losses nationwide – often in areas where homeowners tend not to buy flood insurance.

In the days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in August 2021, massive amounts of rain fell in inland, flooding subway lines and streets in New York and New Jersey. More than 40 people were killed in those states and Pennsylvania as basement apartments suddenly filled with water. In the hardest-hit areas, flood insurance take-up rates were under five percent.

Damaging floods that hit Eastern Kentucky in late July 2022 and led to the deaths of 38 people also were largely uninsured against. A mere 1 percent of properties in the counties most affected by the flooding have federal flood insurance.

“We’ve seen some pretty significant changes in the impact of flooding from hurricanes, very far inland,” Keith Wolfe, Swiss Re’s president for U.S. property and casualty, said in a recent Triple-I Executive Exchange. “Hurricanes have just behaved very differently in the past five years, once they come on shore, from what we’ve seen in the past 20.”

Hurricanes Drive Louisiana Insured Losses, Insurer Insolvencies

Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

Severe hurricane damage in recent years has led to major losses by writers of Louisiana homeowners’ insurance and to the insolvency of eight insurers.

Louisiana homeowners’ insurers had a combined ratio of 461.9 in 2021. Combined ratio represents the difference between claims and expenses paid and premiums collected by insurers. A combined ratio below 100 represents an underwriting profit, and a ratio above 100 represents a loss.

With earned premium of nearly $2 billion, the 461.9 combined ratio means the industry experienced a $7.2 billion underwriting loss in 2021. As Triple-I Chief Insurance Officer Dale Porfilio puts it, “It would take 24 years of achieving a combined ratio of 85 for homeowners’ insurance writers in Louisiana to return to positive profitability.”

In 2020, Hurricanes Delta, Laura, and Zeta all caused major damage, resulting in a large number of insurance claims. Through September 30, 2021, there were 323,727 insurance claims of all types for these storms. Insurers paid or reserved $9.1 billion for Laura alone. Additionally, Hurricane Ida, which occurred in 2021, generated 460,709 insurance claims of all types through June 30, 2022, with insurers having paid or reserved $13.1 billion for that storm.

Eight Louisiana homeowner insurers already have become insolvent, and at least 12 companies have submitted withdrawal notices to Louisiana’s Department of Insurance, a preliminary measure needed to leave the state. This has forced tens of thousands of homeowners to depend on the state’s insurer of last resort, Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

The market is struggling so much that Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has called the current circumstances a “crisis.”

Next steps

In response, the Louisiana Insurance Guaranty Association (LIGA) has begun to restructure its management of claims for policyholders of insolvent insurers using property estimating technology from Verisk, a global data analytics provider.

“Seamless coordination with independent adjusting firms has become critical as we work to help hurricane victims throughout Louisiana rebuild their homes and return to normal,” said John Wells, executive director of LIGA.

More work to be done

2020 Triple-I Consumer poll found that 27 percent of homeowners said they had flood insurance, which indicates a record high. However, this figure is greater than National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) estimates. As the Triple-I notes, homeowners may not understand what flood coverage is and how it works — specifically, that flood damage is not covered under standard homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies. Flood coverage is available as a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and from many private insurers

As storms continue to wreak major damage across vulnerable areas, homeowners and flood insurance are more important than ever.  But risk transfer alone is not enough.  

“Risk transfer is just one tool in the resilience toolkit,” says Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. “Our understanding of loss trends and expertise in assessing and quantifying risk must be joined at the hip to technology, public policy, finance, and science. We need to partner with communities and businesses at every level to promote a broad resilience mindset focused on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery.”