How Much Do Insurance Companies Profit After a Natural Disaster?

A still from “Business of Disaster,” FRONTLINE and NPR’s review of who profited in a issue of Superstorm Sandy.

When Superstorm Sandy done landfall in Oct of 2012, a ancestral healthy disaster killed some-more than 100 people and caused inauspicious repairs along a Eastern seaboard.

More than 3 years later, thousands of survivors are still not home — despite billions of dollars spent on liberation efforts.

Where did those dollars go?

It’s a doubt that’s proven surprisingly formidable to answer, as FRONTLINE and NPR found while stating Business of Disaster, a corner review that premieres currently both on-air and online.

Nearly a year in a making, Business of Disaster puts dual pivotal tools of a disaster liberation complement underneath scrutiny: a special housing assist Congress gives to internal governments after vital disasters, and a National Flood Insurance Program that’s run by a Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Unlike other forms of homeowners’ insurance, many inundate word is run by a supervision module combined decades ago, after a attention pronounced floods were simply too unsure to cover. Under a program, a supervision pays roughly 80 private word companies fees to sell policies and settle claims. The premiums from those policies are meant to cover losses, though when a disaster becomes too costly, it’s a taxpayers, not a insurers, who make adult a difference. In new years, a module has depressed deeply in debt. By a time Sandy struck, it was scarcely $18 billion in a red.

Each year, a companies take about a third of a premiums they collect as fees for using a program. The rest goes to settling claims. Those fees come to about $1 billion a year, according to a investigation. But as FRONTLINE and NPR found, last how most of that $1 billion translates into profit for a insurers is complicated. It’s a question that even a conduct of a inundate module could not answer in an talk with Laura Sullivan of NPR.

“I’ve never looked during a book of business to know their profits,” says Roy Wright, who took over as conduct of a NFIP in 2015, in a next mention from tonight’s documentary, adding that “you’d need to go privately to a companies to know those numbers.”

“That’s a large statement for somebody that is giving word companies some-more than in additional of a billion dollars a year, to not know what their distinction structure would be on that,” a astounded Sullivan says to Wright. 

The vital word companies declined to be interviewed, but FRONTLINE and NPR spent months operative to lane their distinction numbers down. What we found unfolds currently and tomorrow in Business of Disaster. With storms approaching to grow in magnitude and intensity, this corner review is a must-watch and must-listen for millions of homeowners — and it raises discouraging questions about disaster service in America.

Watch Business of Disaster starting Tues., May 24 during 10 p.m. EST on FRONTLINE (check internal PBS listings), and listen on May 24 on NPR’s All Things Considered and May 25 on Morning Edition


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