John Oliver describes Flood Insurance Program failures via talking seagull

John Oliver Last Week Tonight Flood Insurance Program

As hurricanes and flooding becomes increasingly problematic Oliver brought NFIP into the spotlight.

The most recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver focused on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and its current widespread failings. This episode arrived at a time in which the issue is exceptionally relevant but isn’t necessarily in the public’s eye.

NFIP is struggling from all sides and is in dire need of reform at the same time that floods plague the country.

“Floods were everywhere this summer,” explained Oliver. Although they may be natural disasters, Oliver went on to underscore the fact that the damage experienced as a result of them is greatly increased by controllable factors such as rapid, widespread development. Houston was cited as a primary example of this situation.

The show explained that the area around the city had once been made mainly of soil but has since been paved over with concrete. This was detrimental to the flood risk as the soil absorbs water while concrete forces it to sit on top. Moreover, the federal Flood Insurance Program was also accused as a contributing factor to the ongoing flooding struggles. The reason is that insurance companies would refuse to cover homes at an extremely high risk, but the NFIP was introduced in the 1960s to make the coverage more affordable.

The problem is that the National Flood Insurance Program was designed to be a temporary measure.

NFIP was implemented under the belief that people would receive a discount for flood insurance coverage to tide them over until they could make alternative arrangements to live. The thought was that once people realized that their properties were at a high risk of flooding, they would move away. However, as John Oliver pointed out, “That’s not how people work. We will gladly accept huge risks to our personal safety for the sake of a discount.”

While the majority of flood insurance policyholders are not an excessive expense to the program, the “repetitive loss properties” are causing the program to bleed money. Oliver cited the case of one woman whose property had flooded 40 times. The problem is that it’s impossible to sell that type of property – a primary residence of a woman who cannot afford to simply abandon it and purchase another home. Moreover, government buyouts require an exceptionally lengthy process.

With a debt spiraling out of control as flooding worsens, John Oliver – and a talking seagull – worked together during the segment to recommend efficient and careful reform of the flood insurance program.

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