by Ana Maria
The day after Valentine's, Big Insurance delivered Katrina's families a bunch of dead roses. Big Insurance announced that it is refusing to sell us new homeowner policies here inside Mississippi's Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast region. Adding insult to injury, Big Insurance also informed us that it might not renew wind policies of its loyal customers either. The equivalent of more dead flowers.
Next up in this string of bad news, we learned that the government's wind pool insurance —the state's insurer of last resort—is increasing the rates for those customers. Yes, those wind pool customers are the ones whom Big Insurance discarded.
Let's look at Big Insurance's impact on one South Mississippi resident, Mr. Rex Chastain, who is retired military.
Chastain had hoped for some insurance relief in 2008, but instead finds his family "insurance poor."Geeze, Louise! How in the living heck are we to rebuild our homes, businesses, and communities if we can't purchase affordable property insurance? This bad news means that our recovery stops. The end. We cannot pass go nor collect $200.
Hurricane Katrina forced the Chastains, along with thousands of other South Mississippi residents, into the state wind pool, where residential rates jumped 90 percent in 2006. The wind pool is the insurer of last resort for 36,000 South Mississippians, who must carry a separate private policy to cover fire, theft and liability.
The Chastains' total homeowner insurance bill jumped 147 percent.
Of course, would that Mississippi to be aggressive in its approach to protecting its humble people against the Insurance CEOs to whom I fondly refer as two-fisted greedy gutted goons in Gucci suits. Unfortunately Mississippi's State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney sounds just like his predecessor, George Dale, whom voters rejected last year for being in the back pocket of Big Insurance. Here's Chaney's reaction to the bad news for Katrina recovery.
"If they quit writing wind for existing customers, that's really going to put more pressure on the economy," said Chaney, who added that he is working to keep private carriers in the six southernmost counties and bring in new business.How long did it take Chaney to memorize and spit out that George Dale talking point?!
How could other communities in any other part of our nation that would be able to thrive if these same financial straight jacket conditions were imposed on their homeowners and developers?
If this were the end of it, today's bad news would be just awful. But today's news gusts keep picking up speed where Katrina recovery is concerned. In the Mississippi State Senate, Katrina insurance bills may die without vote. Well isn't that just ducky! We're sitting here some 30 months after Katrina blew through with her zealous hurricane force winds and we have a bunch of blow hards in the state senate huffing and puffing a bunch of hot air zealously guarding the status quo.
Down here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the status quo means Katrina families cannot rebuild their homes, businesses, and communities. The status quo means that even the already r-e-a-l-l-y . . . s----l----o----w pace of recovery simply stops. How exasperating!
Add to this madness the ridiculous building codes that FEMA is imposing primarily in one tiny area of the Katrina ravaged-Mississippi Gulf Coast of Bay St. Louis, the hometown of Congressman Gene Taylor. Seems to me that this smells more like political revenge because Taylor is hell-bent on creating affordable home owner's insurance for his constituents and for rest of the 55% of Americans who live within 50 miles of our nation's beautiful coast lines.
To make this a more toxic recipe for ruining opportunity for recovery, let's remember that Governor Haley Barbour wants to swipe more Katrina funds to build a road for a Toyota plant. If Mr. Barbour likes roads so much, perhaps he should drive himself down here and plop a squat for a few days listening to one after another Mississippian talk about the tremendous hardship of life here some 30 months after Katrina. Housing, insurance preventing house building, insurance preventing business reopening, housing costs, did I mention the insurance crisis?
Last, but not least, in the Katrina rebuilding madness is the latest from FEMA on its formaldehyde-filled trailers.
"FEMA first received complaints about health problems and high formaldehyde levels nearly two years ago," said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss. "If FEMA would have taken the complaints seriously from the very beginning, this issue could have been resolved already... They must now act swiftly to find adequate housing for those living in trailers across Mississippi and Louisiana, instead of at the pace they moved when first receiving complaints."Today's rash of bad news makes it so obvious that Katrina recovery here in South Mississippi is intimately tied to our ability to obtain affordable insurance for our homes and businesses. The solution is now awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.
As you may recall, the U.S. House of Representatives passed overwhelmingly and with bi-partisan support Congressman Gene Taylor's Muliple Peril Insurance Legislation (H.R. 3121). That bill permits homeowners who are eligible for and purchase flood insurance the option to buy wind coverage as well. As with all bills since Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the reigns of Speaker of the House, this bill includes a provision to require that the bill's cost pays for itself. This is fiscally responsible and sound.
We now need to contact our two U.S. Senators to ask each to support, to push, to take the lead on this critical legislation so that we can get the post-Katrina recovery moving. Click here to Become a Partner in Insurance Reform!
This is where you will find a phone script you can use. Of course, you will also find a link to the phone numbers for each of your two U.S. Senators. When you are finished, please use the link provided after the phone script to contact all of your friends, family, and colleagues around the nation to ask them to join in our effort to help pass this critical Katrina recovery legislation.
Our phone calls from all over the nation—even our voice mails—can stir up these much needed hurricane force winds of change. This is how we create the resources that those of us inside the Katrina-ravaged region need for that vibrant recovery we desire. Who'd have ever thought that real insurance reform would be the new chocolate and flowers?!
© 2008 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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Friday, February 15, 2008
by Ana Maria