Regulators and legislators respond to Katrina Losses
As state insurance regulators mobilize to help consumers, a Louisiana legislator and a representative for Pan-American Life Insurance Company are offering details of the slow rebound in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The legislator, Shirley Bowler, R-Harahan-La., says she has concerns that state catastrophe funds and private solutions may not be enough to encourage insurers to write business in her area and, consequently, an optional federal charter could be a better alternative.
The reason, she explains, is an optional federal charter could make it possible for companies to more easily write business in many states, diversify their risks, and thus, be more willing to write business in states like Louisiana.
Bowler says that such coverage is critical for the area because of the devastation experienced in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. “We’ll be a long time recovering from this,” says Bowler, a state representative for the New Orleans suburb. “The loss of life is devastating,” she adds.
“My district experienced mostly wind-driven claims,” says Bowler. While her area was on high ground and did not experience flooding, “there is not one building that does not have roof damage,” she continues. Wind even ripped off brick siding from some homes, she says.
In spite of the devastation, she says that in the 3 times she has returned to New Orleans there are signs of improvement such as progress in restoring electricity. And schools in Jefferson Parish, adjacent to New Orleans, are slated to reopen on October 3. Bowler says several supermarkets have reopened.
But even so, there are still practical issues that area residents face. For instance, she says, that receiving mail may be a problem because of the number of requests to have mail forwarded. Right after the storm, she says she requested to have mail forwarded to Baton Rouge and has not received a piece of mail to date.
The issue is one that could impact insurers and state regulators as they try to get regular payments such as annuity, disability, workers comp and structured settlement payments to consumers who are now displaced or relocated.
Bowler says she has heard reports of insurance claims adjusters being displaced from hotels by disaster relief teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If this proves the case, it makes it more difficult for people to file claims because they need the adjuster’s opinion in order to make a FEMA claim, she explains.
Pan American Life, New Orleans, one of a number of life insurers directly impacted by Katrina, continues to make progress in reestablishing normalcy, says Tom Richert, director of marketing.
A total of 300 of 450 employees have been contacted, up from 150 employees last week, he says. Efforts continue through newspaper ads, contacted employees and the establishment of a new communications platform to reach employees that have not been contacted, Richert says.
A teleconference for 200 employees was held on Sept. 8 from new Dallas offices, he says. In addition, the company is in touch with the Louisiana insurance department and all rating agencies, Richert adds.
He says offices have been established in Baton Rouge, Dallas and Philadelphia, although he asserts that the company will return to its headquarters in New Orleans. “We are a New Orleans-based company and we will be back there. It is our home.” That home, according to Richert, did not sustain major damage. Electric power is restored and network servers were able to be moved to Pan-American’s temporary locations so that business continues normally, he says.