Commentary

Through insurance reform, Louisiana lawmakers could prove they’re listening

March 16, 2022 3:52 pm

Blue tarps cover roofs in Larose six weeks after Hurricane Ida. (Wes Muller/Louiisiana Illuminator)

After the catastrophic hurricane season of 2005, Louisiana leaders at the federal, state and local levels were aligned in the goal to ensure the state would be better prepared for future catastrophes. Flood protection would be enhanced, building codes would account for the increasing intensity of storms, and insurance companies would be quicker to respond and adequately compensate property owners for their losses.

The past two hurricane seasons have proven officials have not lived up to their word. Some claims of progress are valid in the first two areas, given the billions our government and the private sector have spent to build smarter and stronger. But hurricanes Laura, Delta and Ida revealed the major gaps that persist in property insurance reform. Many months later, thousands of homeowners are still displaced or living in structures needing repairs while their damage claims are needlessly delayed.

Members of the Louisiana Legislature have brought forward proposals to address a situation that can accurately be labeled a crisis. Now they need courageous colleagues who are willing to do what’s right rather than cave to the influence of the deep-pocketed insurance lobby.

A number of the measures target insurance adjusters, who were either difficult to reach or not equipped to make important decisions regarding homeowners’ claims.

Proposals from Rep. Chad Brown of Plaquemine and Sen. Jeremy Stine of Lake Charles would create an adjuster registry that would allow homeowners to search online to determine whether their adjuster is legitimate and qualified.  

Sens. Joe Bouie of New Orleans and Gary Smith of Norco want to limit the number of adjusters handling a property claim to three. Numerous horror stories have emerged after Ida involving customers who were forced to deal with a clown car of adjusters, none of whom could provide satisfaction. 

There are also proposals to require insurers to cover evacuation costs when leaving is strongly recommended – and not just mandatory. These bills from Rep. Laurie Schlegel of Metairie and Sen. Kirk Talbot of River Ridge could ultimately save lives when you consider folks who, without being able to tap into the insurance they pay for, wouldn’t have the resources to leave home.

   

Some of the proposals also benefit insurers by making sure their customers are well informed about their policy decisions.

Bills from Sen. Jay Luneau of Alexandria and Rep. Matthew Williard of New Orleans would make homeowners aware of surprise deductibles. After a storm, policyholders often find out they have to pay for a certain portion of their repairs out of pocket if their coverage includes a named storm deductible. If the cost of the deductible is out of reach for the homeowner, their insurance policy is basically pointless. The proposals would require the customer to provide written consent for named storm deductibles in order for their policy to take effect.

Lawmakers will also revisit auto insurance this session, following unfilled promises of so-called tort reform two years ago. Advocates claimed changes in the law would reduce rates 25%. Instead, they have increased almost 20%.

Here’s hoping the Legislature wakes up to the fact that our approach to insurance reform is forcing people to leave Louisiana – not just think about it but actually pack up and leave.

When you literally cannot rebuild your home, how are you going to stay? If you can’t afford to insure your vehicle, why stay?

When the people you elect to represent your best interests routinely act on behalf of power industry groups instead, why bother?    

Greg LaRose is editor of the Louisiana Illuminator. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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