California Senators Introduce Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act

March 22, 2011

Last week, Democratic U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both form California, introduced a new piece of legislation designed to reduce the cost of earthquake insurance for Californians and other individuals who buy earthquake insurance coverage from non-profit, state-run, earthquake insurance programs.

The legislation, dubbed the Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act, allows the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) and other non-profit insurance programs, access to federal loan guarantees in order to more efficiently and effectively capitalize for catastrophic earthquakes. Doing so would allow such programs to reduce the rates homeowners must pay, and empower more people to buy insurance in anticipation of the next major earthquake to strike California.

Senator Feinstein said, “The tragedy and devastation of the recent earthquake in Japan was a real wakeup call. “We cannot prevent an earthquake, but we must do everything we can to prepare for one by ensuring homeowners have access to affordable earthquake insurance coverage.”

“This legislation will allow homeowners to get back on their feet and recover more quickly in the event of a significant earthquake,” she continued.

Senator Boxer also spoke about the legislation, saying, she was, “…proud to join with Senator Feinstein to introduce legislation that would help homeowners in California access affordable earthquake insurance, which is critical to helping residents and communities recover and rebuild after the devastation of an earthquake.”

During the first five years the Act is in force, there is a potential savings of roughly half a billion dollars in reinsurance costs, which would be passed on to consumers as lower rates. The CEA could cut premiums by as much as 30% or reduce deductibles by as much as 50%, which would allow at least 700,000 additional California homeowners to afford earthquake insurance.

Even better, federal taxpayers won’t be footing the bill: the entire cost of the loan guarantees and the administration of the program will be covered by the participating state programs.

In addition, enacting the Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act, and increasing the number of people covered by earthquake insurance, will reduce the government’s cost of disaster recovery. This is because FEMA can’t may payments to people who have such coverage, which means every homeowner with earthquake insurance is one less that FEMA might have to supplement when a disaster-causing earthquake strikes.