First Dates, Debates and Flood Insurance

I was sitting in the St. Petersburg Community Church for the Disston Heights Civic Association, next to a girl. We were out on our first official date. It was the oddest first date I had ever been on not only because we were at the St. Petersburg Community Church and I am a confirmed agnostic who stopped going to church sometime in the late 90s, but also because we were there for a debate between the candidates running in the special election for congressional district 13 in Florida. Yes, it’s true. I brought a first date to a debate. I am that into politics now. The debate was between Republican David Jolly, and Libertarian Lucas Overby. (Democrat Alex Sink was invited but declined the invitation. After seeing her performance in the first debate between the candidates, I can’t really say I blame her much). I was personally interested in this particular match up because I was raised in a very Conservative household but in recent years had begun to sway more to the left on specific issues. I was curious if I would end up siding with the party I was raised to believe in or the party I had started following more and more as I continued to grow. 

The candidates agreed on many of the issues raised by the audience, such as the concerns Floridians had dealing with veterans’ benefits, the repealing or modification of the health care law, environmental issues, as well as a few other items. They traded a few barbs on foreign involvement, with Jolly (R) accidentally stating that he did not trust Cuba but had no problem with China, to which Overby (L) replied, “You trust China? I don’t trust China,” garnering a significant chuckle from audience members. The one issue that seemed to be the most important in the eyes of the constituents was that of flood insurance and its impact on the area. It was during this discussion that I knew I would never be able to vote for Jolly in any election.

flood1-535x580Flood insurance since the late 1960s, and until very recently, has been exclusively a faction of the federal government, the idea being that no private company would be able to provide more affordable insurance rates to people in need of flood insurance than the federal government. It was more or less impossible for an insurance company to cover all of the costs associated with a major flood. They had no choice but to offer it at a rate that was not cost-effective for the average citizen so the federal government stepped in and offered affordable flood insurance to the masses. That was until 2012 when the Biggert-Waters Act was enacted, and Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast, causing massive changes in the policies and raising the prices for many residents in Pinellas County.

Along with the worry on how they will be affected by the new flood insurance rates, there is also a lot of worry about how these changes will affect home sales in the area. People are worried about their homes having to go into foreclosure because of the impending price hikes by the government. The federal government may have put a hold on these rates going into effect for the time being, but potential homebuyers are waiting on the sidelines to find out what will happen with the insurance situation, causing a dip in the real estate market and reversing the growing housing market in an area recovering from the housing crash a few prior.

Ideally, offering flood insurance to private homeowners could become a more appealing option to private companies. This can be done by changing the restricting regulations placed on the homeowners by legislation. Currently, homeowners are required to carry flood insurance that would cover the entire cost of their home and property. So if their home is worth $250,000 and the property is worth another $50,000, they would pay a premium to cover the full $300,000. If the legislation were amended to require homeowners to carry a policy that covers only the balance of their mortgage, it would lessen the mandated burden on the individual homeowner. By removing the cash value mandate, and allowing the purchaser of the insurance to choose if he/she wants to insure the required balance of the loan, the replacement cost of the damage, or the entire cash value of the property, the ability for privatized companies to enter into the flood insurance industry will increase.

There are already a few private insurance companies who are providing flood insurance to their customers, even with the restrictive mandates. They are able to do so with the aid of new technologies that allow them to accurately assess what the premiums should be for any given property. They also have the right to deny people private flood insurance if the risks are too great, which then requires the homeowner to purchase insurance through the federal government. This ability, along with not working from a $24 billion deficit, allows them to keep the rates of flood insurance down for their customers, unlike the federal government.

Jolly (R) has been campaigning on the fact that he supports the complete repeal of Obamacare. Sink (D) states we need to keep the law as is, while Overby (L) wants to overturn parts of the law while keeping other parts of the law, such as not canceling policies for pre-existing conditions. Jolly says that the federal government has no place in the business of health care, which makes up 1/7th of the national economy (I do agree with him on this matter). In the same debate, though, he goes on to say he believes that in order to fix the flood insurance problem, the federal government must take on a wider role in the insurance game when it comes to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, et al. The candidate who is campaigning against big government in health insurance, and has even lobbied for the privatization of social security (another thing I agree with him on), actually stated he believes the federal government needs to step up and be more involved in the insurance business of the citizens of America.

Opening up the market to more private companies with the capability to sell flood insurance to their customers will only lead to lower costs to the individual homeowners. Only allowing the government to sell flood insurance puts the burden of an entire nation’s natural disasters on a small population of people who are required to carry such an insurance. Competition in the free marketplace will benefit the companies and offer consumers a choice on how they want to insure their property instead of hiking up their costs due to a disaster that happened in another part of the country in order to cover the costs for people who weren’t required to have insurance in the first place.
Jolly seems to believe that we need to increase government control on these disasters and this faction of insurance. My question to Mr. Jolly is: If the government shouldn’t be involved in the retirement of our seniors, or the health insurance industry, why would it be logical to allow them control of catastrophic property loss insurance?

Let me answer that question. It is not logical. If the private market, with less regulation and government enforced mandates, has a better chance to thrive, profit, and create jobs in health care and the retirement industry, then it will be more successful when insuring the citizens’ private property against natural disasters. It is unethical, and questionable, to say private industry is proficient when handling the care of the sick or the elderly but not those who are affected by a natural disaster.

After the debate I ranted to my date about this for some time, and luckily, for some reason, she wanted to see me again after that. She thanked me for broadening her horizons a little more and admitted that she never thought she would attend a debate, much less on a first date. She also said she was glad she had a chance to get to know the candidates beyond the multiple negative attack ads she saw on television between Jolly and Sink and that she is looking forward to seeing another debate between the candidates, which I like to think is her way of saying she can’t wait to hang out with me again in the near future.

Update: We are no longer seeing each other.

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