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On the Rise

Private flood insurance writers, policies grow in Florida.
  • Timothy Darragh
  • June 2019
  • print this page

The number of private flood insurance policies is on the rise in Florida as the state prepares for another hurricane season beginning June 1.

But insurers still have a long way to go before they can match the number of policies in the state provided through the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program, according to Don Griffin, vice president of policy, research and international for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

The number of insurers eligible to write private flood insurance in Florida increased 45% from 20 to 29 since June 2017, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said. Private carriers have written more than 62,000 personal primary flood insurance policies in Florida, a 169% increase since 2017, the FOI said in a statement.

Insurers still have a long way to go before they can match the number of policies in the state provided through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program.

Don Griffin
American Property Casualty Insurance Association

That's an “admirable” sign of growth, said Griffin, “but it's still fairly low compared to the amount of NFIP policies in the state.”

As of Sept. 30, 2018, Florida had 1.77 million NFIP policies in force, or more than a third of all NFIP policies nationwide, according to the Federal Emergency Management Association.

Rising NFIP rates that make private flood insurance competitive is fueling the growth, Griffin said.

“It's getting to the point where they can write the policies and make money,” he said, adding the Federal Emergency Management Agency treated NFIP “almost like a loss-leader.”

The NFIP's 5.1 million policies cover a fraction of the market because the program works with frequently outdated FEMA maps, Neptune Flood Insurance Chief Executive Officer Jim Albert said in March. More than 25% of property flood losses occur outside designated high-hazard areas, he said.

The increase in Florida's private flood insurance marketplace reflects growth seen nationwide.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, more than 120 insurers wrote private flood insurance in 2018, up from around 90 insurers in 2017 and 50 in 2016.

The NAIC data also showed the total direct premium written in states and territories was about $644 million in 2018, compared with $589 million in 2017. In addition, states saw a 71% growth in private flood insurance written premiums from 2016 to 2018, with 15 states experiencing over 100% growth.

For the market to continue expanding, lawmakers will have to make coverage affordable to homeowners by providing needs-based subsidies. Insurers also need to educate consumers at risk for floods even if they don't live in a flood plain, Griffin said.

The 2017 hurricane season hit nearly every county in Florida, with Hurricane Irma resulting in more than $8.6 billion in insured losses, said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in statement. Hurricane Michael last year caused more than $6.3 billion in insured losses in the Florida panhandle alone, he said.


Timothy Darragh is associate editor, BestWeek. He can be reached at timothy.darragh@ambest.com.


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