More than seven months before the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act is set to expire yet again, the lobbying push to renew it or let the post-9/11 law lapse is accelerating, with no consensus yet in sight.
The law heavily supported by the insurance industry and many in the business community provides federal reinsurance coverage in the wake of a terrorist attack. Renewal of the the law, in a measure known as the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, must happen by Dec. 31, 2014 to prevent it from expiring.
Lobbying groups and experts on both sides of the equation are increasingly pushing their respective cases, reflecting hope of an opening either way in a divided Congress.
The RAND Corp. is the latest expert organization to weigh in on the consequences of nonrenewal. In a recently issued report, RAND’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management and Compensation concluded that without TRIA, the workers compensation market could face turmoil.
The report cautions that researchers could respond to the expiration of TRIA by declining to offer workers compensation coverage to employers who face a high concentration of potential losses. What’s more, the RAND report determined that the absence of TRIA would force employers deemed to be at high risk of terrorism to obtain coverage in more expensive residual markets.
The RAND experts believe that the resulting higher cost could hamper income and economic growth, and leave workers compensation losses from a catastrophic terror attack essentially to be financed by businesses and taxpayers in the state in which an attack occurs. TRIA, RAND pointed out, spreads risk evenly across the country.
The American Insurance Association was quick to respond to the report. J. Stephen Zielezienski, the AIA’s senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement earlier this month that the report, which AIA and other industry and business groups helped fund, “highlights the importance of TRIA’s reauthorization to workers compensation coverage.” He added that “TRIA plays a vital role in helping to maintain well-functioning workers compensation markets” nationally.
Similarly, the Coalition to Insurer Against Terrorism, which represents businesses that buy terrorism risk insurance in a wide range of industries, cited the RAND study as a reason to renew TRIA, as Congress has done previously in 2005 and 2007.
“TRIA ensures that workers compensation insurance—which is so critical to the American worker—remains available for the business insurance consumers who depend on it,” CIAT spokesman Martin DePoy said in a statement issued when the RAND report came out earlier in May.
The RAND report follows the Marsh terrorism risk report in April that warned the cost of terrorism insurance will become volatile without TRIA, a law it said has helped stabilize and nurture the market in many ways.
Pro-TRIA lobbyists haven’t convinced everyone, however. Many Republicans in Congress, for example, either want a pared down TRIA law or resist renewing it at all. And then there’s the Consumer Federation of America, which issued a statement May 12 reiterating “great skepticism” over the need to renew TRIA.
CFA noted in its statement that the private sector already covers “the entire terrorism risk” facing all but nine cities. CFA argues that large commercial buildings and their insurers in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco are the only entities that “benefit significantly” from the program.
CFA is also trying to make its case that TRIA amounts to insurer and policyholder subsidies because it doesn’t charge premiums, unlike programs in other nations such as Germany, France, Australia and the United Kingdom. CFA’s other arguments against TRIA renewal: that with a $653 billion surplus, property/casualty insurers can afford to insure these risks without TRIA, and that TRIA hampers development of “a more robust private terrorism insurance market.”
Acknowledging the risk of significant coverage price increases in the absence of TRIA, the CFA proposes instead that Congress could consider steps such as a partial subsidy of the price increases, and closer monitoring of extreme price hikes in order to craft “a more targeted and appropriate risk-based program to provide assistance” if it so chooses.
What this amounts to: still more reports and policy arguments for a divided Congress to consider. The House has at least three pending bills that would address TRIA renewal in contrasting ways. In April, a bipartisan bill emerged from the U.S. Senate that would, in part, institute small increases in insurer copays and other measures to tweak the net cost to the U.S. government.
The debate continues unabated.