As major home insurance carriers are increasingly pulling back their coverage options in disaster-prone areas, hundreds of thousands of people are moving to state-sponsored “last resort” insurance plans originally designed to offer a temporary fix.
According to reporting from the Wall Street Journal, such plans — typically used for those who have no other options in securing home insurance — are increasingly becoming the first or only choice for homeowners who have been left to pick up the pieces following their original carrier’s exit from their coverage area.
“The plans were designed to be temporary safety nets,” the Journal report reads. “As the private market shrinks, however, the plans are becoming insurers of first, not last, resort in some high-risk areas. In Florida, the Citizens Property Insurance last-resort plan is the biggest home insurer in the state with 1.4 million policies.”
Other disaster-prone regions including California and Louisiana have each seen policyholders for their respective last resort plans double within the past five years, with little indication of any impending slowdown.
“The California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan is piling on policies, adding what a spokesman called a historic 25,000 policyholders in August—more than three times the 7,000 monthly cap on new home policies Farmers Insurance imposed recently in the state,” the report said.
The result is that those who need it now have coverage, but it provides minimal protection at a generally higher cost when compared with more traditional, mainstream coverage options previously available.
“These plans were really only supposed to be a ‘break glass in emergency’ type of a product,” said Douglas Heller, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America told the Journal. “Now that the insurance industry is walking away from communities, we’d better have a much more robust and healthy public backstop.”
By their nature, holders of last resort policies tend to come with higher risk. That means that for these areas that are seeing ballooning rates of last-resort policyholders, a plan could require a bailout the next time a natural disaster strikes, an occurrence becoming increasingly common, especially in higher-risk areas.
Consumer advocates also claim that since most of these last-resort plans are trying to shrink, there is little incentive for them to “handle claims efficiently,” the report said.