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Jeff Brandes wants transparency in National Flood Insurance Program rates

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes wants FEMA to release data from flood insurance policies under the National Flood Insurance Program to determine whether or not the premiums assessed for policies are excessive or arbitrarily assigned.

In a letter to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation Commissioner Kevin McCarty Wednesday, Brandes argued there were 100,000 fewer flood insurance policies in effect this June compared to last May.

Homeowners face as much as 25 percent rate increases each year for non-primary residences and up to 18 percent rate hikes for primary residents.

Brandes wrote that those rates are codified into law “promising to further exacerbate the crisis of affordable coverage.”

Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012 that allowed for staggering increases to flood insurance policies in order to keep the failing National Flood Insurance Program afloat.

State lawmakers have scrambled to help Florida homeowners affected by the rate increases as 37 percent of all of the NFIP policies are held in the state.

The consistent idea has been to expand private flood insurance coverage to homeowners. Brandes has been working long and hard on making that happen but says the “fledgling market faces significant hurdles.”

“Floridians cannot wait on Washington to institute the federal reforms necessary to unleash the competitive forces of the private market,” Brandes said.

He said the NFIP data would add a layer of transparency showing not just homeowners how their rates are assessed, but also private insurers struggling to figure out how to write policies without previous damage data.

“We think the feds should at least release the raw data – has your house flooded in the past,” Brandes asked. “I should be able to find out if anyone on this street had a flood loss.”

Brandes hopes that the information gleaned from analyzing data if it’s turned over to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation could be passed on to members of Congress in an effort to affect relief at the federal level.

If the data isn’t available, Brandes asks that the OIR ask FEMA to provide it.

He also sent a letter to Florida’s congressional delegation Wednesday asking them to urge FEMA to cooperate. He cited a July 15 letter to FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery’s Deputy Associate Administrator Roy Wright in which Florida requested detailed claims and exposure information from the NFIP.

The purpose was to “assist insurers as they attempt to properly price the risk of private flood insurance policies.”

“The success of this marketplace depends on the availability to access their loss history data,” Brandes wrote to the delegation.

Brandes said he will continue to put pressure on FEMA, the NFIP, Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation and members of Congress until the data is released because “there’s just no transparency in the insurance business.”

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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