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McCain’s Opposition To Comprehensive Catastrophe Insurance

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“A Cat Fund” is shorthand for a national catastrophe insurance fund and folks who do not live in regions of recurring natural disasters probably haven’t heard much about it. Two U.S. Representatives from Florida, Ginny Brown-Waite and Vern Buchanan, introduced one such proposal early in 2007:

The Brown-Waite Buchanan bill encourages states to create catastrophic funds by providing a federal backstop for those states that voluntarily create state funds. The federal fund, to be named the Consumer Hurricane and Earthquake Protection Fund, or HELP Fund, will be housed in the Department of the Treasury and will provide lower-cost reinsurance to state cat funds. Under the Brown-Waite Buchanan bill, should a 1:200 year natural disaster event strike a state, the federal catastrophe fund would provide coverage up to a 1:500 year event.

Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Bill Nelson (FLA) have a different version, and there are lots of different approaches with some good and some awful.

Rudy Giuliani has pledged to support a smart approach to spreading the risk of natural disasters, but yesterday John McCain came out against the idea, which many speculate may cost him the endorsement of Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

McCain’s rebuke to the expectations of Michigan voters led to his shellacking in the Wolverine State. Now the Arizona maverick has rebuked Florida voters for looking for federal help on an issue of extraordinary concern to all Americans who live in regions the insurance industry would rather not cover. While there are certainly a spectrum of approaches to the problem of recurring natural disasters, McCain’s blanket rejection of any federal role outside of FEMA’s is the sort of political tin ear that underscores why Democrats say they fear his candidacy even as they realize he is the much weaker general election candidate than Giuliani or Romney.


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