Flood Insurance: Implications of Changing Coverage Limits and Expanding Coverage

US Government Accountability Office

Why GAO Did This Study

The National Flood Insurance Program [NFIP] was created in 1968 and is the only federal flood insurance available. It may be the sole source of insurance to some residents of flood-prone areas. Mainly due to catastrophic losses in 2005, the program became indebted to the U.S. Treasury and has been unable to repay this debt. Because of NFIP’s financial instability and management challenges, GAO placed the program on its High-Risk List in 2006. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 introduced many changes to the program and mandates GAO to study the effects of increasing the maximum coverage limits ($250,000 for residential buildings and $500,000 for commercial buildings) and providing optional coverage for business interruption and additional living expenses. This report discusses (1) existing flood insurance coverage, (2) the potential effects of changing NFIP coverage limits, and (3) the potential effects of allowing NFIP to offer optional coverage for business interruption and additional living expenses. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed data from NFIP’s databases of policies and claims, reviewed prior reports, and interviewed brokers, insurers, and representatives from consumer advocacy and industry organizations.

What GAO Recommends

GAO continues to support previous recommendations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that address the need to ensure that the methods and data used to set NFIP rates accurately reflect the risk of losses from flooding. FEMA agreed and has taken some steps to begin to implement them.


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