Miss. Congressman Calls for Federal Probe into Insurers’ Katrina Practices

January 10, 2007

U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor has called for a congressional investigation into the post-Hurricane Katrina practices of private insurance companies.

Taylor, D-Miss., made the announcement Monday at a public forum in Ocean Springs.

“This is going to be a fight,” Taylor said. “These guys have dumped a lot of money in campaigns. They dumped $27 million in the presidential race, most of it going to the winner just a couple of years ago. But they’re wrong on this one.”

In a Jan. 5 letter to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, Taylor asked for hearings on “the denial of thousands of Katrina wind claims wherever insurers could blame flooding” and “excessive premium increases, market withdrawals, and other actions to force states to make concessions or to assume more coastal risks.”

“I have long suspected that State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide and a few other insurers agreed to aggressively deny Katrina wind claims as they had never done before,” Taylor wrote. “One company would not have been able to get away with blanket denials if the others had been paying claims.”

Insurance companies are not federally regulated, and hundreds of Katrina victims, including Taylor and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., are suing their insurance companies after their claims were denied.

Taylor lost his Bay St. Louis home in the storm, and Lott’s Pascagoula home was also destroyed.

“Thousands of homes were battered by four or five hours of hurricane-force winds before the surge inundation,” he wrote in the letter to Frank.

“Eyewitnesses across the coast reported widespread structural damage before the surge, with the surge and the winds of the eyewall finishing off heavily damaged buildings. There is no place in Mississippi that suffered surge flooding without first experiencing hours of destructive winds.”

Taylor asked residents at Monday’s meeting for help making his case, asking them to provide their insurance “horror stories.”

“I need some stories to tell the American public, to build sentiment with a reluctant Congress, that this is what we need to do,” he said.

Taylor has asked coast residents to provide pictures and documentation of their post-Katrina insurance stories in case Congress decides to investigate.

“What we’re asking for is a before photo, and an after photo,” he said. “What did your insurance tell you they’d pay on your policy? Did you have a hurricane deductible? Which in my book, kind of seals the deal.”

Taylor wants a national all-perils insurance policy, federal oversight of the property insurance industry and repeal of its exemption from antitrust laws, which he said allowed the companies to consult each other when determining how they would handle Katrina claims.

“I think they called one another and said ‘if you don’t pay, we won’t pay,”‘ Taylor said.

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Information from: The Mississippi Press,
http://www.gulflive.com, and The Sun Herald,
http://www.sunherald.com

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