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La. official to propose property cover bill


BATON ROUGE, La.--Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said last week he will propose a bill to increase the availability and affordability of property insurance in the hurricane-ravaged state through a new $100 million program in matching capital grants.

The grants would be available for insurers that help draw policyholders out of the state's market of last resort. Such insurers also could underwrite all other property risks--both personal and commercial--in the state.

Under the Insurance Capital and Surplus Match Incentive Program, an experienced property insurer that meets the minimum financial requirements would commit at least $2 million in new capital to write new property insurance policies. The state would match insurers' capital allocation dollar-for-dollar, according to a Louisiana Department of Insurance statement.Under the terms of the program, "participating companies must use the capital and surplus and the state matching grant to write new property insurance policies in Louisiana for a minimum period of five years. If an insurer fails to comply with the requirements of the program, the insurer must repay the remaining state matching funds on a pro rata basis," the department said. The program would be phased in, with an initial offering of up to $10 million. If fully utilized, the program would provide an additional $400 million to $600 million of property insurance capacity, the department said.

Mr. Donelon expects his proposed bill will be introduced after the Legislature begins its 2007 session on April 30, a spokeswoman said.

Insurer trade associations are reviewing the plan and expressed their support of the general concept.

The minimum five-year participation requirement, however, caused the Property Casualty Insurers Assn. of America concern because Louisiana requires any insurer that writes a risk for three years or more to continue to offer that policyholder coverage, in most instances, said Greg La Cost, assistant vp of the Des Plaines, Ill.-based association. That would require insurers to continue writing policies there, he said.

"This could encourage the creation of small companies that might not be financially stable," Mr. La Cost said.

In addition, the National Assn. of Mutual Insurance Cos. was encouraged by Mr. Donelon's "reasonable approach," said Tami Stanton, state affairs manager for the central region of the Indianapolis-based association.