Government intervention in the insurance market is putting the financial burden of natural disasters on U.S. taxpayers, according to a report by Lloyd’s of London, the global specialist insurance market.
The report, which also says there are other “unintended impacts” of government-run insurance programs, calls for greater cooperation between government and private insurers to address disaster mitigation and recovery.
“The private insurance market has a crucial role to play in helping communities and economies recover from disaster,” said Sean McGovern, director, North America at Lloyd’s. “We need to go back to first principles and redraw the boundaries between government intervention and the private market. The cost to the U.S. taxpayer is huge and is not sustainable.”
Lloyd’s, which ranks first among surplus lines insurers in the U.S. according to A.M. Best, says the issue has gained more urgency as catastrophic losses have mounted and the U.S. economy has declined. In the first half of 2011 alone, economic losses from natural catastrophes in the U.S. totaled $27 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This year is on track to be one of the most costly on record for the insurance industry.
The Lloyd’s report, “Managing the Escalating Risks of Natural Catastrophes in the United States,” calls for greater cooperation between government, insurers and planners in the U.S. to ensure that a greater emphasis is placed on managing and mitigating risk. It sets out nine fundamental principles for managing natural catastrophe risk in the U.S.
The report says allowing a healthy private insurance market to price risk appropriately is important.
“Insurance is not sustainable if it is offered at rates below what is required by sound, risk-based actuarial practices,” said McGovern “When insurance is not risk-based, the wrong price signals are sent and there is little or no incentive to mitigate risk.”
McGovern said there needs to be a better understanding of the potential costs of natural disasters to those affected and to the wider economy and that both the insurance industry and the government need to help individuals and communities understand the steps they can take to mitigate the potential consequences of catastrophes and adapt to the future impacts of climate change. The report says this type of planning could significantly reduce the impact and costs of natural disasters.
“The extent of the challenge facing us is best highlighted by the unprecedented series of natural disasters that have occurred this year,” said McGovern. “Never before has it been more timely or necessary for us to work together to manage the escalating risk of natural catastrophes in the U.S.”
The report, “Managing the escalating risks of Natural Catastrophes in the United States,” is available at Lloyds.com/usnatcatreport.
- Lloyd’s nine principles for managing natural catastrophe risk in the U.S. are:
- The first step in protecting U.S. property owners from natural catastrophe losses is ensuring there is a healthy, private insurance market
- Government intervention in insurance markets should be kept to a minimum
- Risk-based pricing is the fairest and most sustainable solution
- Specialist international insurers and reinsurers add value to U.S. natural catastrophe market through additional capacity and expertise
- Government and insurers must respond to changing trends in the frequency and severity of losses
- The government has an important role to play in helping develop risk mitigation measures and rewarding adaptation to reduce the overall costs to the economy
- The insurance industry has a key role to play in helping build more resilient communities
- Good quality data and hazard mapping is critical to robust underwriting
- Lloyd’s believes in encouraging a responsible approach to risk in society