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Nixa Senator Proposes Insurance Coverage for Sinkhole Protection

In 2006, this sinkhole 75-foot deep swallowed a garage and vehicle in Christian County/Photo Credit: Missouri DNR
In 2006, this sinkhole 75-foot deep swallowed a garage and vehicle in Christian County/Photo Credit: Missouri DNR

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/nixa-senator-proposes-insurance-coverage-sinkhole-protection_79613.mp3

A southwest Missouri lawmaker has renewed his push this session for legislation to require every insurance provider in Missouri to offer sinkhole protection. KSMU’s Julie Greene has more.

The Geological Survey Program has confirmed almost 16,000 sinkholes in Missouri. Sinkhole sizes often vary ranging from several square yards to hundreds of acres and can be shallow to hundreds of feet deep. Their effects can be detrimental, which is what initially drove Republican Senator Jay Wasson, of Nixa, to back the bill.

“Where I live in the southwest part of the state, we’ve had quite a bit of sinkhole activity over the last few years. I had one house, five or six years ago or so, that fell completely in. I mean, the entire house fell in one Sunday morning. There are a couple of other instances. I think last year there was one in Springfield that had a similar situation, so it happens, but it doesn’t happen often,” Wasson said.

Related: See our report from 2013 on the location of sinkholes in Missouri.

This insurance will be funded by the Missouri FAIR Plan, an association of all licensed insurance companies in the state. Therefore, all licensed insurance companies will have access to the coverage.

In order to qualify for this insurance, participants must have homeowner’s insurance with a licensed company. If passed, the sinkhole protection insurance would become an endorsement - something homeowners could choose to add-on to their current policy, like earthquake insurance.

“I mean, most people, the biggest investment they make in their whole lives is their house, so most of what they have is tied up in their home, so if it suddenly falls in a hole, that can be pretty devastating to most people, and I just wanted them to have the option of having that insurance if they feel like they’re in an area where they need it,” Wasson said.

Currently, Wasson estimates that at least 90% of Missouri insurance companies don’t offer policies for sinkhole coverage.

One example of a company that does is Foster Insurance Group in Springfield. Dee Smith is a licensed insurance producer with Foster.

“Most of the time when somebody calls in here, they already know they want sinkhole coverage. I mean, they call in specifying it if they’re in an area they’re scared of,” Smith said.

This is the third attempt by Wasson to pass this type of legislation. The bill awaits a third reading and final passage in the Senate before moving to the House.   

For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.