TWIA Not the Answer

Published September 23, 2008

Dear Editor:

Texas’s residual windstorm market faces a considerable challenge following the devastation of Hurricane Ike. Some insurance industry analysis are calling into doubt the ability of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) to withstand the influx of new claims. In the event funds run short, taxpayers could stuck with the bill for these claims, defeating the very purpose of the insurance backstop.

The growing problems with TWIA could lead to a call for reform or even expansion of the program. That would be a mistake … and a giant step backwards from recent reform.

Texas began moving in the right direction in 2003, when insurance regulators switched from a prior-approval system for approving rates to a free-market-oriented file-and-use system. The correct path to sustained growth in the insurance market is deregulation and the opening of Texas’s market to competition.

Residual markets like TWIA erode the private market and have generally pushed consumers towards the state-run companies, which were created to be insurers of last resort. In order for an insurance industry to grow and thrive, it needs to be able to adapt to new challenges and form under the fires of competition.

TWIA was never meant to be the chief provider of windstorm insurance for Texans. Scaling back the residual market would allow free-market forces to take hold, encouraging competition.

Matthew Glans ([email protected]) is a legislative specialist for The Heartland Institute.