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State Lawmaker%3A Storm Might Increase Value Of Optional Federal Charter System

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A New Orleans-area state representative says she has not received a piece of mail in Baton Rouge, La., since she asked the U.S. Postal Service to forward her mail there shortly after Katrina hit.

Rep. Shirley Bowler, R-Harahan, La., an active member of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y., says her problems with getting mail may be a sign of the enormous practical issues facing insurers who are trying to get annuity income payments, disability benefit payments and other regular payments to tens of thousands of displaced consumers.

Bowler says she is seeing signs of improvement when she returns to the New Orleans area.

Electricity is back in some areas, and several supermarkets have reopened. Schools in Jefferson Parish, a parish next to New Orleans, are slated to reopen Oct. 3.

But even in Harahan, which is on high ground and experienced no significant flooding as a result of Katrina, “there is not one building that does not have roof damage,” Bowler says.

“The loss of life is devastating,” Bowler adds. “We’ll be a long time recovering from this.”

After Katrina, one recovery effort may slow another recovery effort. In New Orleans, for example, there are stories of disaster relief teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency displacing insurance claims adjusters from hotel rooms, Bowler says.

If adjusters have a hard time getting in, that will make it more difficult for Katrina survivors to file property-casualty claims, because a property owner needs an adjuster’s opinion to make a FEMA claim, Bowler says.

In the long run, Bowler says, one way to encourage insurers to return to the Louisiana market might be to set up an optional federal charter system.

An optional federal charter system could make companies more willing to write business in Louisiana, by helping those companies with efforts to diversify their exposure by writing business in many states, Bowler says.