A seven-year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or TRIA is closer to passage in the Congress this week. This will be the result of a compromise between Dems and Repubs, and between the House and the Senate. In general, Dems favor the legislation to enable private insurers to write policies that cover acts of terrorism, which they believe insurers otherwise would not provide out of concern that such a policy would be too risky. Repubs are, in general, unsupportive of extensions for the bill in favor of private sector market solutions that they believe would be less expensive.
The insurance industry paid more than $30 billion in claims as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.Â Afterward, commercial terrorism insurance for businesses became expensive and even impossible to obtain. Congress responded by passing TRIA to provide a financial backstop for the insurance industry so that it would continue to underwrite policies. TRIA is set to expire on December 31.
House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank is leading the House charge to bolster TRIA. The Senate is seeking ways to continue TRIA in more modest ways. The White House supports the Senateâ€™s more conservative version of the TRIA bill.
CQ wrote today that Chairman Frank will accept the Senateâ€™s seven-year extension of TRIA, which is shorter than the 15-year extension he sought. The seven-year TRIA extension would increase the deficit by $3 billion over the next five years and $5.1 billion over the next decade, according to CBO estimates. Chairman Frank said he also would step back from requiring an expansion of the program to cover nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological attacks. On the other hand, Frank is committed to reducing the $100 million threshold that would trigger government coverage to $50 million.
The last thing we should want to do is to leave Americaâ€™s economy hanging without viable insurance coverage that can protect it against losses like those we saw in lower Manhattan on 9/11. However, there comes a time when industry will have to step up to identify the market â€“ or create one â€“ for providing the coverage necessary for confidence in todayâ€™s risk-laden environment. TRIA was created as a temporary fix to bridge the tenuous time between 9/11 and a more stable economic landscape that would allow the market to operate effectively in this new terrain. However, the question remains: What if the market sets a price so high for this coverage that demand never takes hold? We run the risk of creating an additional vulnerability in the form of a brittle economy that would likely suffer unnecessary cascading effects from a terrorist attack if the insurance coverage is not in place to buffer the financial impact.