Insurance Agents Complain FEMA Creating Confusion

July 12, 2011

Insurance agents in states along the swollen Missouri River basin say federal officials are causing widespread confusion among property owners by pushing the sale of flood insurance policies that might not cover damage from the river flooding that began this month.

The insurance companies say that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the national flood insurance program, are still urging private agents to sell the insurance even though the policies contain deadlines that appear to exclude the Missouri River flood damage. The federal officials explain that some of the damage along the river might still be covered under the program’s highly complicated rules, but how much won’t be known until after the flooding is over.

“They won’t give you a clear answer,” said Larry Case, executive vice president of the Missouri Association of Insurance Agents. “It causes issues for agents because they get frustrated when they can’t give policyholders a definitive answer.”

The questions primarily affect property owners who waited until recently to decide on flood insurance because their property usually doesn’t flood. The extensive flooding this year — the worst since 1993 — is threatening thousands of acres that normally remain dry. The federal government has been encouraging more property owners along the river to make longer-term commitments to insurance.

“We’ve got to communicate with people that you can’t wait until the last minute to buy flood insurance,” said Brad Kieserman, FEMA’s chief counsel.

“The number of landowners who bought policies that may or may not cover the Missouri flooding is not known. Towns, homes and farmland in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri are under water or threatened by the flooding, which began earlier this month and is expected to continue for another two months.

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