The Industry Responds

Confronted with the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history, the nation has responded with all its heart. And it is gratifying to see that the life insurance business is right up there in terms of contributions and other ways of bringing relief to the thousands and thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

You can check out what individual companies and associations are doing in the breaking news section of our Web site at www.lifeandhealthinsurancenews.com. The list of the life and health community responses to Katrina has been updated regularly since the giant storm hit and it grows longer with each passing day.

Many companies are donating at least $1 million to relief organizations like the American Red Cross and many in addition are matching contributions that their employees make to relief efforts.

Many companies are waiving premium payment deadlines on policies for anywhere from 60 to 90 days.

Some insurers have been directly affected by the storm, having been headquartered in New Orleans or other cities hard hit. Pan-American Life, for instance, has moved to temporary offices in Baton Rouge. Located only about a mile or so from the Superdome, Pan-American’s 28-story headquarters had windows blown out of the top floors and experienced some flooding, a spokesman told Jim Connolly about a week after the hurricane blew through. At that point about one-third of the insurer’s employees had been contacted.

Many insurance producers in the area were affected by the storm and are now without homes or offices or both. The associations that these producers belong to have rallied around their stricken members and launched relief and fund-raising efforts on their behalf.

For instance, the Texas Association of Health Underwriters announced a major fund-raising effort to help the 75 New Orleans members of the National Association of Health Underwriters, who at present are at least temporarily homeless as a result of Katrina.

The Million Dollar Round Table also has been active. It started a relief fund and is offering to match the first $50,000 in contributions. Additionally, the MDRT Foundation has set up a Katrina message board at http://mdrtmember.blogspot.com.

One of the most interesting efforts comes from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a fraternal insurer. The Minneapolis-based company has given $1 million to relief efforts and expects its members to raise another $2 million.

But it was the initiative that Thrivent announced shortly after the hurricane struck that was notable. It is entering a 4-year, $105 million agreement with Habitat for Humanity International, a group that builds homes for people with low incomes.

About $100 million in cash, volunteer labor and other resources will go to general housing construction programs, but Thrivent said that $5 million would be earmarked specifically for rebuilding homes in the stricken Gulf Coast region.

The life insurance business always has prided itself on being a good corporate citizen. The sheer volume and array of responses from every corner of the business show that this is indeed the case.

“Many insurance producers in the area were affected by the storm and are now without homes or offices or both. The associations that these producers belong to have rallied around their stricken members and launched relief and fund-raising efforts on their behalf.”