Study Supports Case
for Flood Mitigation
as World Warms

Intensifying rainfall fueled by climate change over the past 30 years has caused nearly $75 billion in flood damage in the United States, according to a study by Stanford University researchers.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed light on the growing costs of flooding and the heightened risk faced by homeowners, builders, banks and insurers as the planet warms. Losses resulting from worsening extreme rains comprised nearly one-third of the total financial cost from flooding in the U.S. between 1988 and 2017, according to the report, which analyzed climate and socioeconomic data to quantify the relationship between changing historical rainfall trends and historical flood costs.

About 90 percent of natural disasters in the United States involve flooding, and much has been written about the flood protection gap.

“On average nationwide, only 30 percent of homes in the highest risk areas have flood coverage,” according to the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a Triple-I Resilience Accelerator partner. “Less than 25 percent of the buildings flooded by Hurricanes Harvey, Sandy, and Irma had insurance. Indeed, repeatedly after floods there is evidence of the United States’ large and persistent flood insurance gap.”

To make matters worse, a recent analysis by the nonprofit First Street Foundation found the United States to be woefully underprepared for damaging floods. The foundation identifies “around 1.7 times the number of properties as having substantial risk,” compared with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood designation.

Flood coverage isn’t included in most homeowners insurance policies, so many may not know they don’t have it if their bank didn’t require them to buy it before providing a mortgage. Until recently, flood insurance was considered an untouchable risk for private insurers to write, so FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was the only game in town.

In recent years, however, Congress adopted new laws to support the emergence of a robust domestic private flood insurance market.  Last year, regulators provided rules that allowed private carriers to offer flood policies outside of NFIP and to qualify for the mortgage flood insurance requirement. Carriers and reinsurers are expanding their use of sophisticated models to underwrite flood risk, driving the growth of private sector flood insurance.

Triple-I has more information about flood insurance in our Spotlight on: Flood insurance article.

Auto insurance rates decline across the U.S.

Auto insurance rates declined in 2020 for the first time in a decade, according to a recent survey by ValuePenguin.com. The survey results anticipate a 1.7 percent decline nationally.

A major factor in the decline are the pandemic-related discounts granted by insurers in 2020. These discounts have been valued at $14 billion, according to Triple-I estimates. Triple-I Chief Actuary James Lynch reported that many auto insurers are building these discounts into rates for 2021 and that driving declined by as much as 50 percent during spring lockdowns.

The estimate of just how much rates are declining depends on the metrics you use. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for December 2020 indicates that auto insurance rates declined by 4.8 percent nationwide compared with the same month last year. By contrast, the CPI showed the cost of new vehicles rising by 2 percent in December and by 0.5 percent for the full year 2020.

A comprehensive July 2018 assessment of the Missouri auto insurance market by the state’s Department of Insurance discovered even larger declines. It found that, when adjusted for inflation, the typical Missouri driver has seen a 17 percent decrease in auto insurance premiums since 1998.

Triple-I’s 2021 Insurance Fact Book Chronicles a Historic 2020

The Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), an affiliate of The Institutes, has released its 2021 Insurance Fact Book, an essential resource for anyone who needs up-to-date information on insurance.

This year The Insurance Fact Book has new content to address many of the past year’s events, in such areas as: insurer response to the pandemic; civil disturbances; and homeowners high-risk markets.

Highlighted in the “Emerging and Evolving Insurance Issues” section are five unique insurance risks that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic: business income (interruption) insurance; workers compensation; extreme weather; social inflation; and cyber.

“2020 provided a good illustration not only ofhow the disruption continuum is evolving, but also how the insurance industry is able to adapt and lead,” said Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Triple-I. “While the year began fairly normally, we very quickly encountered a global pandemic that still rages; a 2020 Atlantic hurricane season for the record books; and Western wildfires that burned their way through homes and businesses. All the while claims for covered catastrophes were paid in new and innovative ways, and many customers experienced premium rebates and returns from auto insurers, given the lack of driving during economic lock-downs.”

The 2021 Insurance Fact Book is a digital publication available for purchase from the Triple-I online store. It is available free of charge to Triple-I members. The Insurance Fact Book, issued annually since the Triple-I’s inception in 1960, helps inform the decisions of policymakers and business leaders and is an essential resource for journalists, researchers, and academics, among others. 

The Fact Book includes thousands of facts, figures, statistical tables, and charts documenting primarily the property/casualty insurance industry in the U.S. and worldwide. The publication offers details on auto, homeowners, and business insurance markets, with data on direct premiums written and the factors impacting the cost of these coverages. Additionally, there is voluminous information on the life/annuity insurance and reinsurance industries.

What the COVID-19 pandemic means for workers compensation claims

So far, the impact of COVID-19 on workers compensation has not been as great as first feared. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) reported that as of the second quarter 2020, out of every 100,000 active workers comp claims, COVID-19 medical claims accounted for only about 200, depending on the jurisdiction.

Still, the pandemic presents uncertainties and concerns for workers compensation, just as it does for many other sectors.

NCCI’s annual survey found that COVID-19 was the top concern of workers compensation executives going into 2021.  Executives worry about uncertainty surrounding the duration of the pandemic, the size and number of claims that could develop, recovery time for workers sickened by COVID-19 and whether there would be long-term needs or lasting adverse effects.

Executives also mentioned state compensability presumptions that have arisen during the pandemic. These presumption rules, passed by various states, say that COVID-19 infections in certain workers are presumed to be work-related and covered under workers compensation. This presumption places the burden on the employer and insurer to prove that the infection was not work-related making it easier for those workers to file successful claims.

The executives surveyed by the NCCI expressed concern about the variations developing across states and the complexity of legislation and regulations that adds to the challenge of the rapidly evolving environment. Several noted issues and questions related to reinsurance for presumptive claims. Others are anticipating that compensability presumptions for contagious diseases, such as those instituted for COVID-19, will be widely adopted and permanently enacted or even expanded, in some cases, to include other common diseases.

In many states, immigrants are eligible for workers compensation benefits regardless of their legal status. A recent blog post by a legal expert showed how a decision by the Supreme Court of Nevada reiterated that the state’s workers’ compensation statutes clearly and unambiguously protected every person in the service of an employer, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed. The high court affirmed the judgment of the state district court that denied judicial review to an appeals officer’s decision awarding permanent total disability benefits to an undocumented worker.

Expanded Triple-I
Flood Risk Maps Provide Richer Perspective

The Triple-I Resilience Accelerator’s flood risk visualization tool is being enhanced with:

  • National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) data on “take-up rates” by U.S. county from 2010 to 2021,
  • Differences between take-up rates inside and outside of flood zones, and
  •  in different proximities to flood zones.

These additions will expand the Accelerator’s visualization from covering only the current year to providing an historical perspective on how take-up rates have changed over time. 

Take-up rates and resilience

Insurance take-up rates represent the percentage of people eligible for a particular coverage who take advantage of it. In the case of flood insurance, they are calculated as the number of insurance policies in force in a certain geography over the total number of eligible properties for which insurance can be bought.

Understanding flood insurance take-up rates is essential to assessing and improving communities’ ability to rebound from damaging events. About 90 percent of natural disasters in the United States involve flooding, the NFIP says, and much has been written about the flood protection gap.

“On average nationwide, only 30 percent of homes in the highest risk areas have flood coverage,” according to the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a Triple-I Resilience Accelerator partner. “Less than 25 percent of the buildings flooded by Hurricanes Harvey, Sandy, and Irma had insurance. Indeed, repeatedly after floods there is evidence of the United States’ large and persistent flood insurance gap.”

But understanding that gap to a degree that will support meaningful action requires comprehensive, granular data only NFIP can provide. It also requires the data to be available in easy-to-use formats. This is where the Triple-I/NFIP collaboration comes into play.

Key considerations to keep in mind when looking at take-up rates are year-over-year changes; whether the rates are by city, county, or state; and whether they are for all homes or homes in flood zones alone. During the first quarter of 2021, Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator’s flood map will be updated with four options for users to visualize:

  • Annual take-up rates from 2010 to 2018,
  • 2019 take-up rates based on 2018 renewals only,
  • County-wide and flood-zones-only take-up rates estimates for 2020, and
  • County-wide share of dwellings in close proximity to flood zones.

Historical perspective

In 2019, NFIP started publishing historical data on NFIP insurance coverage, policies, and claims. NFIP’s decision to publish this data was a transformative point for industry practitioners, academics and those involved with flood insurance analysis. The Triple-I’s visualizations use NFIP’s full- and part-year data from 2010 to 2019 and our own estimates, based on this data, for 2020.

Dr. Michel Léonard, CBE, Triple-I vice president and senior economist says: “We’ve worked closely with NFIP to ensure that our visualizations reflect the most current, accurate information available on flood insurance take-up rates. In addition, we wanted to add to the discussion surrounding NFIP take-up rates by providing less common yet insightful ways to understand and visualize take-up rates, such as take-up rates for properties in flood zones only or the share of a country’s property in different proximities to flood zones.”

Flood coverage, as opposed to water damage from mechanical breakdown inside a house, isn’t included in most homeowners insurance policies, so many homeowners may not realize they don’t have it if their bank didn’t require them to buy it before providing a mortgage. Until recently, flood insurance was considered an “untouchable” risk for private insurers to write, so the NFIP was the only game in town.

In recent years, however, Congress adopted new laws to support the emergence of a robust domestic private flood insurance market.  Last year, regulators provided rules that allowed private carriers to offer flood policies outside of NFIP and to qualify for the mortgage flood insurance requirement. Carriers and reinsurers are expanding their use of sophisticated models to underwrite flood risk, driving the growth of private sector flood insurance.

 “We want to acknowledge and stress how significant the NFIP Policy and Claims data is to increasing our understanding of flood risk,” Léonard said. “Good data takes a lot of work, and NFIP’s commitment to making this data available is a perfect example of public-private partnerships delivering concrete value.”  

One Year. Two Forums. We’re Virtual in January and In Person in June

2021 is already looking brighter. Triple-I is presenting not one, but two, Joint Industry Forums in 2021! We’re kicking off the year with our virtual forum—Virtually Together: Insuring Our Way Forward—on Jan. 28. Then we’re making plans to gather in June in Washington, DC.

Registration for our first virtual Joint Industry Forum is complimentary. Plus, attendees to the virtual Forum receive a discounted registration for the in-person event.

Our virtual Forum focuses on the industry’s shared work to insure and protect. We have three sessions on tap for the day featuring dynamic industry thought leaders.

Trade Winds Navigation: More Rough Waters or Smooth Sailing Ahead?

Climate Change Risk & Resilience: Facing the Facts

CEO Perspectives

Confirmed Speakers (with more to be announced soon!)

• Tim Adams, President and CEO, Institute of International Finance

• Charles Chamness, President and CEO, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies

• Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Insurance Information Institute

• Peter Miller, President and CEO, The Institutes

• Frank Nutter, President, Reinsurance Association of America

•David Sampson, President and CEO, American Property Casualty Insurance Association

Register today