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A Path to Stability: Expert Pushes for Insurers to Adopt Total Replacement Coverage

A Path to Stability: Expert Pushes for Insurers to Adopt Total Replacement Coverage

In recent deliberations with the Federal Government, seasoned industry advisor John Trowbridge highlighted a significant gap in the current home insurance model.
During a session excavating the depths of insurance processes following the catastrophic floods of 2022, Trowbridge advanced the conversation towards a systemic solution for chronic underinsurance—a shift to full replacement insurance policies.

At the core of the issue, Trowbridge emphasized, is the prevalent dependence on clients to select their own sum insured. This widely adopted practice across the insurance industry often leads to imprecise coverage levels and exposes homeowners to substantial financial risk when calamities strike. The key anxiety for consumers lies in accurately anticipating reconstruction costs, a task that many find challenging and imposing. Trowbridge argues against the industry's attitude of absolving itself from verifying coverage adequacy, illuminating the dire repercussions faced by those enduring disaster with insufficient insurance.

In a written testament to the inquiry, Trowbridge stoutly advocated for broader availability of full replacement insurance options. A transition he posits would not overly burden premiums given the relatively infrequent nature of total loss incidents. "It should only make a negligible impact," he assured the investigative panel.

Trowbridge opened the floor to considering regulatory shifts to compel insurers to adopt such practices. However, he acknowledged the complexity of reaching effective solutions to what he identifies as a prevalent and unreasonable problem.

The discourse shifted momentarily to the insurance sector’s response post-Canterbury earthquakes, noting New Zealand's departure from full replacement policies as reinsurers eyed more predictable outcomes. Trowbridge countered this hesitation with an argument for the Australian insurance and reinsurance market's adaptability, drawing parallels to the unanimity achieved in introducing mandatory flood coverage years past.

Some providers, including AAMI, maintain such full replacement offers, pointing to feasible paths ahead. What may seem an onerous task for insurers and their reinsurance partners is, according to Trowbridge, a matter of confronting the same challenge with renewed resolve.

As the inquiry continues, the Economics Committee of the House of Representatives hears diverse perspectives, ranging from consumer advocates to industry representatives. In the coming months, the committee aims to ground its findings with on-site visits to regions thrashed by floods, understanding the real-world aftermath and insurance landscape.

The ultimate goal is to crystallize observations and recommendations by the end of September, laying down firm tracks for policy shifts and industry practices that may finally mitigate the insidious underinsurance that plagues Australian homeowners.

Published:Tuesday, 2nd Apr 2024
Source: Paige Estritori

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