How TRIA Would Handle Another 9/11: I.I.I.

By James Lynch | October 11, 2019

The Insurance Information Institute’s new white paper, “A World Without TRIA: Incalculable Risk,” shows how the market for terrorism insurance has evolved since the 2001 terrorist attacks – from the early days in which there was effectively no market (insurers avoided covering terrorism wherever they could) to today, where the market is stronger but by all accounts unable to shoulder the entire burden without government backstop.

The 9/11 attacks generated by far the most insured losses of any terrorism event. We wanted to see how the government program the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) created in its wake would handle financially a repeat of that awful day.

If that happened, the government’s net payout would be less than zero, as it would recover more from mandatory surcharges to insurance policies than it would reimburse insurers for a portion of their losses.

Meanwhile, the net payout by insurance companies would be nearly $20 billion. Repeating the exercise in the future, the insurer contribution would steadily grow, assuming the law was renewed with the same terms under which it is set to expire at the end of next year. The share borne by policyholders through the surcharge increases more dramatically.

These estimates come from a mathematical model created by the Reinsurance Association of America to increase understanding of how the law operates.

The RAA created the model around the time of the first reauthorization of TRIA in 2005. It is widely regarded as a credible look at how the federal program would react to various scenarios. It has been shown to organizations as diverse as the Federal Insurance Office, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the Government Accountability Office, ratings agencies and business groups with a stake in the program, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Our intention is to be inclusive so that all of the interested groups vested in the program understand the statute,” said RAA President Frank Nutter.

At the request of the Triple-I, the RAA created four scenarios, each replicating the insurance losses stemming from 9/11. The years modeled were 2019, 2020, 2029 and 2030. Losses were adjusted using the Consumer Price Index. Insurer premium – an important input – was adjusted by a 4 percent compound rate of growth, which is close to what the Congressional Budget Office projects as the growth in nominal Gross Domestic Product over the next decade.

The original program has been modified each time Congress has reauthorized it: 2005, 2007 and 2015. The program has a number of parts, and the RAA model shows that each reauthorization has increased the burden on insurance companies and decreased the burden on the government.

The Triple-I estimates that adjusted for inflation, 9/11 this year would generate insurance losses of $45.7 billion. According to the RAA model, the government would contribute $6.6 billion. It would front another $19.3 billion but recover $27.0 billion from a mandatory surcharge that would be placed on the insurance purchased in all lines of business that the program covers. Netting all that out means the government would pay less than zero. Insurers would be responsible for $19.7 billion, or 43 percent of the total insured loss.

By 2030 9/11 would be a $58 billion event. The government would contribute nothing. It would front $29.6 billion but recover $41.5 billion from policyholders due to the recoupment and surcharge. Insurers would be responsible for $28.4 billion, or 49 percent of the total insured loss.

The main drivers of the changes:

Beginning in 2020, the law makes the size of the industry marketplace retention a function of insurers’ aggregate premiums, so the marketplace retention grows as the industry’s premium does.

Also in 2020 the government’s co-payment shrinks to 80 cents per dollar insurers pay above their deductible, down from 81 cents in 2019.

The amount of losses subject to policyholder surcharges grows to $29.6 billion from $19.3 billion, shrinking the federal support.

The work “is a reminder under the current statute, policyholder and company retentions go up over time,” said RAA President Nutter. “In 2020 this becomes effective in a way that changes retentions of the private sector. It also shows a vanishing federal share.”

The RAA model can show the impact of any proposed changes to the program. It also has the ability to show how the federal program would handle specific major events, including 25-ton truck bombs, chemical or biological events, industrial sabotage and port bombs, using information from two major catastrophe modeling firms, RMS and AIR. It also can tailor results to individual cities; car bombs in New York and Baltimore, for example, will generate different levels of loss.

The modeling firms’ data show “just how big some of the [nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological] events are,” said Scott Williamson, the RAA vice president who developed the model. “The workers compensation exposure is really very large.”

Source: Insurance Information Institute

About James Lynch

Lynch, FCAS, MAAA, is chief actuary and vice president of research and information services at the Insurance Information Institute, a trade association for the insurance industry. He joined the I.I.I. in 2014. Previously he provided consulting services to I.I.I., co-authoring white papers and developing original research. He has written and spoken on a wide variety of insurance issues.

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