Federal Flood Insurance

Word today that President Obama has indicated his support for a Senate bill to reform and extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Here is WSJ coverage of the proposed changes, which would reduce subsidy for second homes, commercial property, and homes with a history of flooding, reducing the cost of the program by $4.7 Billion over the next 10 years.

I wrote the words below just as Hurricane Irene was bearing down on the North Carolina coast last August, that provide an overview of how the U.S. has done flood insurance for the past 45 years or so. Many fascinating issues about public v. private insurance, aggregate cost benefit analysis and distribution of the costs and the benefits, and the role of government in society. I also did a 5 part series comparing principles embedded in the NFIP to health care. I will write more about that later.


Flood insurance is provided in the United States by the federal government via the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), in two ways. First, the government directly provides coverage for some properties. Second, the government works in concert with around 90 private insurers who function as servicing contractors. In the second case, the profits from such flood insurance are private, but the losses are socialized as private insurance companies bear none of the underwriting risk associated with this insurance. How did this come to be the case?

As this American Academy of Actuaries monograph (July 2011) on the NFIP notes (p. 30):

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