Lack of Cohesion Bedevils Recovery
...One night, the 42-year-old mechanic said, he drove to a highway overpass, where his cell phone got some reception, and speed-dialed the toll-free numbers for FEMA and the Red Cross for six hours straight, from 8 in the evening until 2 in the morning.
He could not get through...
Lacourt, the mechanic, said he has used up two tanks of gas driving around the region looking for housing assistance. A rumor of help in Laplace, La., turned out to be false. In Ocean Springs, Miss., FEMA officials working out of a former Kmart gave him FEMA's toll-free number again.
"That's completely useless," he said he told them.
"That's all we can do," he said he was told....
Same Insurance Claims, Different Results in La. Town
Silvia I. Cosenza, who lived in Gretna, La., until Hurricane Katrina roared through, says she's been caught in an insurance nightmare: Her flood claim denied because an insurance adjuster ruled that her neighborhood was not flooded.
That came as a surprise to Melmary Matheny, who lives across the street and has already received partial payment on her flood claim and has been told to expect another check soon.
What's the difference? Beyond the fact that different insurance companies handled the claims, neither knows.
"For sure, she flooded as much as we did," Matheny said. "Our whole entire neighborhood flooded...."
Homeowners Wait for Claims To Be Adjusted
...Victoria Glodd, 64, whose New Orleans home was submerged by Katrina, tried for weeks to get living-expense money she says is owed under her homeowner's and flood policies before getting a call back on Tuesday. Glodd lives in a motel room in Laplace, La., with a daughter and granddaughter and her 85-year-old husband, Leander, who needs heart medication. The Red Cross pays for the room for now, she says, while the family relies on a local church group for clothes.
She said that when she called Louisiana Citizens, the line was busy or a receptionist took a message that was not returned.
"Terrible, terrible, terrible," she said on Monday, sobbing. "I have a claim number, but that's all I have is a claim number...."
Calculating Malpractice Claims
...The debate hinges on the murky question of how insurance prices are set. In theory, rates are set by state regulators based on insurers' past losses, actuarial estimates for the future and a reasonable rate of return. In practice, prices vary most according to the number of insurers scrambling for business. When profits are high -- for example, when bond and stock markets are thriving and insurers are making money on investments -- premiums tend to fall as new competitors rush in and compete for premiums to have money to invest. When investment returns dwindle or big losses hit, insurers exit the market and prices rise, a point conceded even by insurance representatives....
Fueling frustration on all sides: a surprising lack of data available from the nation's patchwork system of state regulation. Two years ago, the Government Accountability Office studied the problem and said that although insurance losses "appeared to be the greatest contributor" to higher premiums, a "lack of comprehensive data . . . prevented us from fully analyzing the composition and causes of those losses." The study concluded that Congress "may want to encourage" state regulators to collect data on "the frequency, severity and causes of losses on medical malpractice claims...."
The Legal Storm in Katrina's Wake
SLIDELL, La. -- When Hurricane Katrina roared through Linda and Charles Spears's neighborhood one year ago, a neighbor said he saw winds virtually explode houses on their block long before Lake Pontchartrain began to rise. When the wind died down and the waters subsided, there was nothing but a slab where their house used to be...."
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