Government backstop likely to be key for insurance coverage of future pandemics
R.J. Lehmann, of the free-markets think tank the R Street Institute, said that not only should the industry not bear any of the risk for pandemic insurance, it also lacks the personnel to respond to a nationwide disruption like the one that COVID-19 caused.
Lehmann, who worked on the government-funded-only alternative the trade groups crafted, cited as an example the resources the insurance industry had to deploy to adjust the damages from Hurricane Katrina, the largest such response in history.
“Katrina pretty much maxed out the nation’s claims-adjuster capacity just for that one event,” Lehmann said. “If you were a claims adjuster, and you were in America, you got called to Louisiana and Mississippi.”
The adjustment for the coronavirus pandemic would be larger by orders of magnitude, Lehmann said. Alternatively, under a government-funded and administered program, payments could be sent out not just from insurance agents and brokers but via banks who process business payrolls and any other entity with a direct line to companies, he said.