Questions about the financial status of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have increased since the 2005 hurricanes, which left the program with an unprecedented $17.4 billion deficit--a debt that resulted in GAO placing NFIP on its high-risk list in March 2006. Among the concerns are the subsidized rates NFIP must provide for about 25 percent of the policies, mostly for older buildings in high-risk flood zones. And although fully risk-based rates are supposed to reflect actual flood risk, concerns have been raised that they do not. This report evaluates (1) the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) process for setting full-risk rates to determine whether it produces rates that accurately reflect the risk of flooding and (2) the process that FEMA uses to set subsidized rates and their effect on the financial condition of NFIP. To do this work, GAO evaluated the NFIP rate model, examined data from FEMA, surveyed relevant literature, and interviewed other relevant agencies and risk-modeling firms.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Homeland Security||
Priority Rec.The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should direct FEMA to take steps to ensure that its rate-setting methods and the data it uses to set rates result in full-risk premiums rates that accurately reflect the risk of losses from flooding. These steps should include, for example, verifying the accuracy of flood probabilities, damage estimates, and flood maps; ensuring that the effects of long-term planned and ongoing development, as well as climate change, are reflected in the flood probabilities used; and reevaluating the practice of aggregating risks across zones.
|Department of Homeland Security||The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should direct FEMA to ensure that information is collected on the location, number, and losses associated with existing and newly created grandfathered properties in NFIP and to analyze the financial impact of these properties on the flood insurance program.|