The National Flood Insurance Program is a broken government program that serves as "an expensive subsidy for wealthy Americans," and the time is right for massive changes, experts at a libertarian think tank argued in a Politico op-ed on Tuesday.
Ike Brannon, a visiting fellow at the Cato Institute, and Ari Blask, a former research assistant at Cato’s Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, pointed out that NFIP's main problem is that it "doesn't really function like private insurance."
"(NFIP) does not assess flood risk for each property; instead, premiums reflect average historical losses within a property’s risk zone. Moreover, the floodplain maps determining a property’s risk zone are often several decades out of date. As a result, premiums may bear only a tangential relationship to the true risk of flooding. The cost of an NFIP policy averages about half of what would be a market rate," the duo wrote.
Congress attempted to reform NFIP in 2014, but the effort fell apart. Now $24 billion in debt, NFIP expires at the end of September, meaning action from lawmakers is coming soon.
The impending overhaul's outcome is important to Louisiana, which has an outsized reliance on NFIP. Over the past 40 years, Louisiana has accounted for about 10 percent of the program's flood policies but filed about 20 percent of the claims and received 34 percent of the total payouts by the flood program.
The most recent figures show NFIP covers 480,000 residential and commercial properties in Louisiana, representing $355 million in annual premiums.
To protect lower- and middle-income families from floods, the federal government needs to fl…
Brannon and Blask suggested that "government get out the flood insurance business entirely and leave it to the private market."
"While full privatization may not be politically feasible now, Congress could enact reforms that allow private insurers to compete with the NFIP on a level playing field and introduce a modicum of market discipline on the market," they said.
Private flood insurance would reduce premiums for 69 percent of single-family homes in Louisiana, with 42 percent of homeowners paying less than one-fifth the price of policies purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program, according to one July 2017 study.
Last month, The Washington Post, via FEMA records, found a home in Batchelor valued at $55,921 has flooded more than 40 times over the years. NFIP has paid out $428,379 in claims -- more than seven-and-half times the home's value. Batchelor is an unincorporated community in Pointe Coupee Parish.
As of July 17, FEMA said 29,629 August 2016 flood insurance claims have been filed in Louisiana. Of those, 29,485 claims have been closed, and $2.43 billion has been paid out.
Even when floodwater began to seep under the back door and Sandra Winfrey broke out the mop …