Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Insurance Industry Developments

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

Like all businesses today, the insurance industry is facing constant changes and challenges. One day I might see a study of various potential catastrophes. The current 'really bad case' scenario predicts losses over $150 billion in some major act of terrorism (that's double the size of Katrina), and the next day it's the Federal government trying to get involved in the supervision of insurance companies, which right now is done by the states.

That last part might not seem like a big deal, but if you're a State Senator or other official, or a believer in a more conservative interpretation of the Constitution (our country, after all, is a union of states, where the Federal government is supposed to leave matters of commerce to the states except where it involves interstate activities, which much insurance often does not) then you are pretty actively protecting your turf in this sort of battle.

States' Rights has been a huge issue over the years, but on the other hand, technological advances like the Web and computers have made it harder and harder to argue against one uniform set of rules for everybody.

Just yesterday Congress passed a bill that will attempt to make uniform regulations, but for just one part of the industry at this time. In this case, that would be the Excess and Surplus market. Many people will never actually buy a policy in this sort of company, but the best known of them would be Lloyd's of London. It is a vibrant and active market where all kinds of interesting coverages can be bought and sold.

Another HUGE issue these days is reinsurance company financial strength and premium charges. As end consumers of insurance, we never see where the insurance companies go to buy their insurance against the big losses, but they do it, nonetheless. And some of them were hit pretty hard in the past few years. Costs are expected to rise 50% or more in the next couple of years and the impact on our rates will be widespread.

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