A Federal Push For Private Flood Insurance

Mar 16, 2016

Ever since the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was founded almost 50 years ago, Congress has been tweaking the federally backed program.

Most recently in 2014, the federal program that subsidized to homeowners flood insurance premiums expired, although Congress delayed some of the more drastic rate increases.

State lawmakers, led by State Sen. Jeff Brandes, have worked to entice private insurers to offer coverage and make premiums more competitive.

Now, Congress is looking to expand consumer flood insurance options. House Bill 2901 is a bipartisan effort from two Florida U.S. Representatives.

Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland teamed up with Democrat U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy from the Treasure Coast to sponsor the bill with the hope of lowering rising flood insurance premiums.

“My friend Patrick Murphy and I passed a bill out of committee that’s going to help consumers and homeowners with flood insurance,” Ross said. “But the only way we’re going to get this through is with bipartisan fashion. If it was all mine or all his, it would go nowhere.”

Instead, the Ross-Murphy Flood Insurance Reform Bill passed out of Committee with a unanimous vote of 53-0.

Ross said the bill gives homeowners more options by allowing private insurance companies to compete with the federal NFIP for customers.

“The private companies will help mitigate or lessen the damage to a home,” Ross said. “They have a vested interest in their capital at risk. So, they’re going to make sure that your basement, if you have one, is waterproof, that you have berms around your house. The federal government doesn’t do that.”

He considers the bill good transitional legislation but adds it’s not the final answer to flood insurance.

“This is a cultural change for us to be able to get the government out of the business of business and let the private sector come in,” Ross said. “Now, the best part about this is if you don’t like the private sector you can stay with the government at no penalty.”

The next step is a full vote in the House and then action by the Senate where Ross said it has bipartisan support. The bill would then need the president’s approval.