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National Flood Insurance Program: Factors Affecting Actuarial Soundness
Douglas W. Elmendorf (fr); Perry Beider (au)
The vast majority of homes and small commercial buildings that are insured against flood damage in the U.S. are covered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS). Although the flood insurance program had been largely self-sustaining in the past, it had to borrow about $17 billion from the federal Treasury to pay claims after the catastrophic hurricanes of 2005. That borrowing has highlighted questions about the program’s financial health, including the actuarial soundness of the premium rates charged on policies that are not explicitly subsidized and the cost of paying claims for properties that have suffered multiple flood losses. This report explains how FEMA sets “full-risk” (actuarially based) premium rates for the flood insurance program. It then discusses various reasons for concern that those rates may not be adequate to cover the total expected costs associated with the program’s full-risk policies. The report also addresses other aspects of the NFIP, including the impact of insured properties that have flooded more than once and the U.S. market for flood insurance from private companies. The report provides objective, impartial analysis and makes no recommendations. Figures.
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