The question remaining, however, is the big one ostensibly why the meetings were called, whether Louisiana is going to want to keep boxing itself in and creating its own crisis. There are two reasons this “crisis” has happened: (1) the true risk-return ratio for insurance in the state has been underestimated on the risk side and (2) there is an inflexible law on the books, which no other state has, which fundamentally distorts the ratio by forcing insurers to offer coverage without an easy exit option for removing that kind of coverage while being able to write other kids of policies in the state.
Casting aside more dramatic and long-term scenarios, the state should, and can right now, do this: invite Allstate to jack up its rates as high as it would like to cover the risk its sees added that is making it want to drop wind and hail coverage. As part of its job, the Insurance Rating Commission will make sure the request represents a reasonable predicted profit level and that it doesn’t engage in collusion with other companies (who also may be invited to raise rates) to create the opposite problem, artificially high rates. If so, then competition will keep a lid on rates.
The lid, however, will be higher, perhaps significantly, than in the past. That’s good. This will have the effect of increasing rates paid by the state insurer, Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (it must price its insurance at least 10 percent higher than a basket of the rates of the largest private insurers) which will mean its policyholders will pay for more of their own claims and state ratepayers and taxpayers will have to pay less (because Citizens must pass on excess costs either to private insurer policyholders or to taxpayers to pay interest on bonds sold to cover costs of claims). That’s only fair, and will shore up Citizens much faster than anticipated.
Some people will whine about this as a result, about how they now can’t afford to insure or buy a certain property. That’s unfortunate to them, but entirely fair because they should expect to pay for the preponderance of the costs of their insurance and not try to shift the burden to those who choose to live in less-risky areas, or who don’t have to pay for any insurance.
The thing not to do is what Allstate proposes, subsidize their business by creating a state-run risk pool where taxpayers would bail out insurers who do make mistakes. Instead, let the insurer try to make up for the mistake by raising rates – which of course will cause it some harm by losing business to smarter, lower-cost providers, but that’s what it deserves for making poor decisions, instead of forcing the consequences on taxpayers.
You don’t need special sessions, or summits, or anything fancy to address the insurance “crisis” described here, which is neither an emergency nor difficult to manage, if Louisiana (rather against its historical populism) lets the free market (as best it can in a regulated industry) reign. Most public policies’ optimal solutions come from government getting out of the way as much as it should, and this certainly is one such instance.