What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Monday, September 24, 2007

Important Katrina Vote to Help Gulf Coast Recovery

by Ana Maria

“These people don’t necessarily need a good psychiatrist. They need a good contractor or someone to fix the ‘Road Home’ program and good leadership.”
Dr. Elmore Rigamer, psychiatrist
Catholic Charities of New Orleans
Want to help the Katrina survivors in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama? Great! This is it. The week we’ve been waiting for. Just got word that the House of Representatives is anticipating a floor vote on the Multiple Peril Insurance Reform package that Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) sponsored. This is where the rubber meets the road. The bill is H.R. 3121, and at the end of this piece will be a link to a sample email letter and phone script and an easy way to find your congressional representative’s email form and phone number.

From New York to California, insurance companies have been jacking up our policy premiums, denying legitimate claims, dropping coverage, and choosing not to write policies for new customers. Big Insurance policy scams place at risk the financial security that upon which American families and businesses depend when we need it the most.

Today, we can help to protect our financial security through giving Big Insurance notice that their gig is up. We're putting our financial security in good hands, our own.

In a riveting expose titled Home Insurers' Secret Tactics Cheat Fire Victims, Hike Profits, Bloomberg News reported
“Insurers often pay 30-60 percent of the cost of rebuilding a damaged home -- even when carriers assure homeowners they're fully covered, thousands of complaints with state insurance departments and civil court cases show.”

Paying out less to victims of catastrophes has helped produce record profits. In the past 12 years, insurance company net income has soared -- even in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

Highest-Ever Profits

Property-casualty insurers, which cover damage to homes and cars, reported their highest-ever profit of $73 billion last year, up 49 percent from $49 billion in 2005, according to Highline Data LLC, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm that compiles insurance industry data.

The 60 million U.S. homeowners who pay more than $50 billion a year in insurance premiums are often disappointed when they discover insurers won't pay the full cost of rebuilding their damaged or destroyed homes.

Property insurers systematically deny and reduce their policyholders' claims, according to court records in California, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Tennessee.

The insurance companies routinely refuse to pay market prices for homes and replacement contents, they use computer programs to cut payouts, they change policy coverage with no clear explanation, they ignore or alter engineering reports, and they sometimes ask their adjusters to lie to customers, court records and interviews with former employees and state regulators show.”
We buy insurance for financial security. Period. We’re not playing charity with the insurance company. Purely and simply it is a business transaction. Whether we are an individual or a family, a small business or large corporation, or any of the myriad of governmental bodies across the nation, none of us are handing over our money because of any other reason than for some kind of financial security.

Without it, we risk becoming financially devastated or ruined in the blink of an eye. We know this and pay over hundreds and thousands of dollars to protect our assets: health, life, car, home, businesses, municipalities and the like.

Yesterday, I posted an article from the Washington PostHurricane Katrina Exacts Another Toll: Enduring Depression.

In response to that article, LifeDirection the following comment. The commenter is a single mom, small business owner, home-schooler, tutor, scientist, consultant, and author who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In June, she had learned that she could pay off her debts quicker than she had realized. Then news of her homeowner’s insurance policy changes arrived.
It's September 2007, and my new homeowners insurance policy takes next month. My hurricane deductible went up from $1000 to $7550. Damn, how am I going to save that much extra money to self-insure against non-catastrophic hurricane damage? I'm already working one full time job and two part time jobs and ends barely meet now. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, again. This kind of stuff is what keeps my depression acting up. You think you're making progress, then bam, something else hits you.

I have an appointment with my psychiatrist this week. Thank goodness. I think I may need a medication change. Or maybe the change in feelings is good. I actually feel angry, frustrated and sad. I was numb since the storm until about 3 months ago. So far I've taken my feelings out in writing on my blogs. I fear becoming violent. The only thing that stopped me from getting in my car and driving to my insurance agent's office was I was still in my boxers and a t-shirt, and by the time I got dressed I had cooled off. I've never felt anger this way before. It scares me.
Here in Katrina Land, the link between our individual and collective mental health and our financial devastation is getting more and more attention. Dr. Daphne Glindmeyer, a New Orleans psychiatrist who is president of the Louisiana Psychiatric Medicine Association, concluded
"There's more depression, more financial problems, more marital conflict, more thoughts of suicide. And a lot of it is in people who never had any trouble before."
At least we’re getting some kind of attention to this problem. Others across the nation have had to bear alone their insurance-induced grief. In its article, Bloomberg opened with what had happened to a homeonwer in San Diego, California.
Julie Tunnell remembers standing in her debris-strewn driveway when the tall man in blue jeans approached. Her northern San Diego tudor-style home had been incinerated a week earlier in the largest wildfire in California history. The blaze in October and November 2003 swept across an area 19 times the size of Manhattan, destroying 2,232 homes and killing 15 people.

Now came another blow. A representative of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest home insurer in the U.S., came to the charred remnants of Tunnell's home to tell her the company would pay just $220,000 of the estimated $306,000 cost of rebuilding the house.

``It was devastating; I stood there and cried,'' says Tunnell, 42, who teaches accounting at San Diego City College. ``I felt absolutely abandoned.''
The stories are all over the country. State Farm pulling out of Oklahoma while Allstate jacks up its premiums. Allstate refusing to write new policies in California and Brooklyn, New York. And the lack of affordable insurance along with the failure of big insurance companies to pay on legitimate wind claims here in Katrina Land is well known.

What can we do about it? How can we stop this insanity? When will homeowners and business owners, municipalities and counties get a break from the insurance industry? When WE take action to stop the madness.

Luckily, today, this minute, this very second is our lucky break. Yes, you know shat that means. It’s political hell raising time.

Today we must contact every congressional representative to let them know that the financial security of our family requires that we pass the multiple insurance bill that will allow Americans who buy flood insurance from the federal government to opt to purchase wind insurance as well. Private insurers deliberately got out of the flood insurance business in the 60’s and that is when the federal government got in the business of helping families and businesses obtain some financial peace of mind.

Once again, it is the brilliant forethought of a Democrat to protect the financial health and well-being of American families and businesses. Congressman Gene Taylor and his staff drew up the bill that is providing us with this opportunity to salvage our financial security through allowing businesses and homeowners to buy ONE policy to cover both wind and flood.

It’s time to end the big insurance charade, which has proven many times that it isn’t such a good neighbors afterall.

Today’s the day to contact our congressional representatives with a simple message. Our families and our businesses need the financial security that comes from one policy for both wind and flood. Our families and our businesses need Congress to pass H.R. 3121, and we need this on a strong bi-partisan basis.

Passing this bill is what will help to salvage some financial and emotional stress here in Katrina Land . . . and help millions of American families and businesses throughout the nation, 55% of whom--including yours truly--live within 50 miles of our nation’s beautiful coastline, families and businesses that deserve to sleep well at night knowing that paying their insurance premiums places their financial security in good hands.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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