Dealing with Extreme Events: Challenges for Terrorism Risk Coverage in the United States
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (9/11) against the United States as well as other large-scale attacks worldwide raises the fundamental question as to what are the responsibilities of the public and private sectors in reducing the risks of terrorist attacks and who should pay for future losses should the terrorists be successful? In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, which inflicted more than 35 billion dollars of insured losses, many insurers warned that another event of comparable magnitude could do irreparable damage to the industry. Furthermore, they contended that the uncertainties surrounding terrorism risk were so significant that it was, in fact, an uninsurable risk. By early 2002, 45 states in the U.S. permitted insurance companies to exclude terrorism. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA), which provides for up to $100 billion of terrorism insurance, was passed by U.S. Congress on November 26, 2002 and signed into law by President Bush the following month. The Act, based on risk sharing between the insurance industry and federal government, expires on December 31, 2005. Currently it is unclear what type of terrorism insurance program will emerge in the United States after 2005. Given the developments since September 11th and the specific characteristics of large-scale international terrorism, we contend that government needs to continue to play an important role in concert with the private sector in providing insurance against losses from this type of extreme event. However, as we suggest in this paper, TRIA may not be the most desirable way for the federal government to assist the private sector in providing insurance against terrorism. As a sustainable terrorism insurance program is a key component of any national strategy for homeland security and that it is still on the agenda in the United States, this papers aims at providing a discussion on several alternatives. It suggests a specific national program for covering firms operating in the U.S. against terrorism when TRIA expires.
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