The Terrorism Risk Insurance act, or TRIA, expires on Dec. 31, 2014, unless Congress passes renewal legislation. At least one industry lobbyist predicts this will happen, but almost at the last minute, sometime in December.
The U.S. Senate approved a renewal bill in July by a wide margin, a measure that largely keeps the existing TRIA law – passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks – the way it currently works now. It has wide support of the insurance industry and many business groups. House Republicans have yet to pass their own version, but they’ve been divided as to whether to renew TRIA as is, increase deductibles or let it lapse all together.
The thing is, Congress doesn’t return to session until Nov. 12. That leaves limited action to address TRIA, and so a renewal may come down to the wire, said Jimi Grande, senior vice president for federal and political affairs at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
“There are still several viable paths for the outcome of TRIA,” Grande told Carrier Management via email. “The most likely would be the House passing the Senate bill since it has strong bi-partisan support and the House bill remains unpopular.”
But once Congress returns on Nov. 12, there will be limited time to address the issue, Grande explained.
“They will have a lot of internal party planning and strategic planning that first week or so. They then have a Thanksgiving break and return again for only about 9 legislative days in December,” Grande said. “It’s most likely the path for TRIA gets determined in that first window and passed in the latter.”
Many other groups including the American Insurance Association, the Insurance Information Institute and various business leaders and associations have been lobbying Congress for months to renew TRIA, a law that has already been extended a few times over the years without much fuss until now.
Warren Heck, Chairman and CEO of GNY Insurance Companies, has lobbied Congress a number of times for TRIA extensions. He told Carrier Mangement during the recent NAMIC annual meeting outside of Washington, D.C. that TRIA’s renewal, virtually as is, remains essential.
“It is really up to Congress and the House to do something that works for the country,” Heck said. “The Senate bill was passed and it is very acceptable to everyone. The House came out with a bill that would be very unacceptable to midsized and smaller companies, because it would force those companies out of the market.”
Heck’s said his point of contention with the proposed House bill is a plan to increase the reinsurance trigger from $100 million to $500 million over a five-year period.
“That would essentially push companies out of the market … in terrorism exposed areas, tier one cities like New York City and Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Heck, within this context, noted that GNY is the largest writer of coop/condo/apartments and apartment houses in New York City. The larger deductibles would restrict the writings of GNY, and other companies like it, quite a bit, he said.
“There is a lot of lobbying by a lot of groups – the real estate industry, construction industry, insurance companies, the banking industry,” Heck said. “Virtually every industry supports the reauthorization of TRIA to protect the economy. It makes no sense to have a program that would not establish that, particularly since the current TRIA program works extremely well, has enabled the economy to function and maintained pricing for commercial insurers at a reasonable level.”
Terrorism risk insurance became unavailable or very expensive after 9.11, but TRIA helped counter this, keeping insurance affordable and stabilizing the economy, its supporters agree.