Terrorism and Insurance Markets: A Role for the Government as Insurer?

Alan O. Sykes


Since September 11, 2001, insurance markets have been struggling to adjust to new information about the magnitude of risks posed by terrorism, and to the loss of tens of billions of dollars in reserves because of claims relating to the September 11 attacks. Insurance coverage for terror-related losses has become more expensive and for some risks difficult or impossible to obtain. As a result, various interest groups called for the federal government to provide coverage for terrorism losses, resulting in the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. We question the wisdom of measures of this sort. They are likely to come too late to address short-term market disruption, and in the long run may well supplant or distort desirable market responses to the new information about terrorism risk.