A reader brought this to my attention: the government has just repealed the 2012 law that attempted to bring some sense to flood insurance rates, and has reverted to the taxpayer-subsidized scheme that brought us Sandy, and every other flood disaster of the past decades.
President Barack Obama is set to [did] sign into law a bipartisan bill relieving homeowners living in flood-prone neighborhoods from big increases in their insurance bills.
The legislation, which cleared Congress on Thursday, reverses much of a 2012 overhaul of the government’s much-criticized flood insurance program after angry homeowners facing sharp premium hikes protested.
The bill would scale back big flood insurance premium increases faced by hundreds of thousands of homeowners. The measure also would allow below-market insurance rates to be passed on to people buying homes in flood zones with taxpayer-subsidized policies.
Critics say Washington is caving to political pressure to undo one of the few recent overhauls it has managed to pass.
“While politically expedient today, this abdication of responsibility by Congress is going to come back and bite them and taxpayers when the next disaster strikes,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group. “Everyone knows this program is not fiscally sound or even viable in the near term.”
The hard-fought 2012 rewrite of the federal flood insurance program was aimed at weaning hundreds of thousands of homeowners off of subsidized rates and required extensive updating of the flood maps used to set premiums. But its implementation stirred anxiety among many homeowners along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and in flood plains, many of whom are threatened with unaffordable rate increases.
The legislation offers its greatest relief to owners of properties that were originally built to code but subsequently were found to be at greater flood risk. Such “grandfathered” homeowners currently benefit from below-market rates that are subsidized by other policyholders, and the new legislation would preserve that status and cap premium increases at 18 percent a year. The 2012 overhaul required premiums to increase to actuarially sound rates over five years and required extensive remapping.
The top leaders of both parties came on board, overcoming resistance from defenders of the 2012 overhaul like House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, whose turf was trampled along the way.
“Members on both sides of the aisle and a broad geographic distribution got involved. And when you get enough members involved, it’s going to get the attention of the leadership, and that was a major factor,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La.
If we as a country can’t even rationalize a simple insurance program, there’s really no hope for social security or medicare reform or any program that someone currently enjoys: farm subsidies, military bases, ethanol.