What if they ran a bailout program and no one came? Last year, the Bush Administration Treasury Department opened TARP’s doors to insurance companies, a number of which promptly filed for aid. Last week, the applications of six of those were approved, totalling some $22 billion. But rather than rush to claim their winnings, most of the firms are reconsidering. According to the Wall Street Journal, one — Ameriprise Financial — has already said no, and another — Prudential — is expected to decline soon. Two others, Allstate and Principal Financial Group may also decline. The remaining two — Hartford and Lincoln National — seem more likely to accept, although they want to review the final terms.

The hesitancy is due to the same factors that have led banks to run screaming for the TARP exits. TARP aid, which looked relatively free at first, now comes with substantial strings — or worse, as a look at federally-occupied Detroit shows.

The insurance companies are right to be afraid. They should be very afraid.