Alternative Programs for Protecting Insurance Consumers
GAO-02-175T, Oct 24, 2001
Before September 11, insurance coverage for losses from terrorism was a normal feature of insurance contracts. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have changed insurers' perceptions of their risk exposure. Both insurers and reinsurers say that they do not know how much to charge for this coverage, and because they cannot predict future losses, they may exclude terrorism insurance from future contracts unless the federal government provides some guidance to the industry. Several insurance programs in the United States and other countries ensure that insurance will be available to cover risks that the private sector has been unable or unwilling to cover, including losses from catastrophic events and terrorism. For government insurance programs, the question of long-term cost and program funding needs to be addressed before any program is established. Some federal insurance programs have a statutory intent to provide subsidized coverage, while others are intended to be self-funding. Regardless of statutory intent, if federal insurance is underpriced relative to its long-run costs and the federal government pays the difference, a government subsidy results.