Regulation


The Chinese insurance market is changing as quickly as any in the world, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch.

China is the fourth largest insurance market, behind the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom, but it is poised to grow quickly as the government looks to insurance to “play a larger role in the country’s patchy social welfare system,” the Financial Times reports (subscription required).

The market may be best known for buying trophy properties worldwide. In the past two years, Anbang bought New York’s Waldorf Astoria, China Life bought a majority share of London’s Canary Wharf, and Ping An bought the home of insurance, the Lloyd’s Building of London.

Beyond the property plays, Fosun Group in May agreed to buy the 80 percent of property/casualty insurer Ironshore that it doesn’t own and Fosun’s acquisition of U.S. p/c insurer Meadowbrook Insurance Group just received state regulatory approvals in Michigan and California.

The Financial Times report focuses on changes in the life sector, as the Chinese government encourages citizens to buy traditional life products and 401(k)-like pensions, but the P/C market is changing as well, as I recently wrote for the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS):

China’s market has grown between 13 and 35 percent a year for the past decade . . . Property/casualty insurers wrote RMB 754 billion ($120 billion in U.S. dollars) of premium in 2014, 16.4 percent more than a year earlier. By contrast, U.S. property/casualty insurers wrote about $500 billion and grew just over 4 percent, with both figures reflecting the maturity of the U.S. market.”

Starting June 1, six provinces – about one-fifth of the country – overhauled the way auto insurance is priced, moving a bit closer to the U.S. model of loading expected claim costs for expenses and adjusting rates for underwriting factors like a good driving record.

China is also strengthening of capital standards, working on the same January 1, 2016, deadline as Europe’s Solvency II. It hopes its standard, known as C-ROSS, will become a template for emerging markets:

The new standard splits “supervisable” risks that regulators are good at addressing from the ones better handled by market mechanisms.

The supervisable risks are split between quantifiable ones, like insurance risk, and unquantifiable ones, like reputation risk. Another class of supervisable risks is control risk. For emerging economies like China’s, Huang said, it is even more important to watch how companies control their risks. Good risk management may result in a reduction in regulatory capital requirement, and poor risk management can result in a capital add-on of up to 40%.

There’s also a systemic risk element, which requires systemically important insurers to set aside more capital.”

The I.I.I. is drafting a white paper about global capital standards to be published later this year. I.I.I. President Robert Hartwig gave a presentation that covered global insurance issues (and quite a bit else) late last year.

Survey more than 800 corporate counsel representing companies across 26 countries on litigation trends and issues and you get some insightful findings.

Such is the case with the recently released Norton Rose Fulbright 2015 Litigation Trends Annual Survey.

For example, class action lawsuits were listed as the top issue by respondents in the United States, Canada and Australia.

U.S.-based respondents also reported a more litigious business environment than their peers, with 55 percent facing more than five lawsuits filed against their companies in the previous 12 months, compared with 23 percent in the United Kingdom and 22 percent in Australia.

There are also significant differences in the types of litigation that U.S. companies face compared with their peers worldwide.

For example, personal injury litigation is much more prevalent in the U.S. than elsewhere, with 21 percent of those polled selecting it as one of the most numerous types of cases faced in the previous 12 months, compared to just 15 percent in the survey overall.

In addition, intellectual property/patents (18 percent) and product liability (17 percent) cases were more common in the U.S. than worldwide (13 percent and 11 percent, respectively).

Going forward, more U.S. respondents say regulatory/investigations are a top concern (48 percent) compared with the broader sample (39 percent).

Intellectual property (IP)/patents disputes are also of greater concern in the U.S. (30 percent) compared with all respondents (21 percent).

In addition, more U.S. respondents list class actions (25 percent) and product liability (18 percent) as top concerns compared with the total sample (18 percent and 14 percent, respectively).

In the words of Richard Krumholz, head of dispute resolution and litigation, United States, Norton Rose Fulbright:

Our survey clearly demonstrates that the litigation and regulatory environment in the United States continues to pose some of the greatest risks which businesses from around the world face. This is reflected in rising litigation budgets and the size of disputes-focused staff compared to peer companies around the globe.”

Just to be clear, the average U.S. company has 20 in-house lawyers to handle disputes and the number of U.S. companies with an annual litigation spend of $1 million or more increased from 52 percent to 69 percent from 2012 to 2014.

Slightly more than half of the survey respondents are from companies with headquarters in the U.S.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) has an excellent resource on business liability insurance here.

How to balance the risks and rewards of emerging technologies is a key underlying theme of the just-released World Economic Forum (WEF) 2015 Global Risks Report.

The rapid pace of innovation in emerging technologies, from synthetic biology to artificial intelligence has far-reaching societal, economic and ethical implications, the report says.

Developing regulatory environments that can adapt to safeguard their rapid development and allow their benefits to be reaped, while also preventing their misuse and any unforeseen negative consequences is a critical challenge for leaders.

John Drzik, president of Global Risk and Specialties at Marsh, says:

Innovation is critical to global prosperity, but also creates new risks. We must anticipate the issues that will arise from emerging technologies, and develop the safeguards and governance to prevent avoidable disasters.”

The growing complexity of new technologies, combined with a lack of scientific knowledge about their future evolution and often a lack of transparency, makes them harder for both individuals and regulatory bodies to understand.

But the current regulatory framework is insufficient, the WEF says. While regulations are comprehensive in some specific areas, they are weak or non-existent in others.

It gives the example of two kinds of self-flying aeroplane: the use of autopilot on commercial aeroplanes has long been tightly regulated, whereas no satisfactory national and international policies have yet been defined for the use of drones.

Even if the ramifications of technologies could be foreseen as they emerge, the trade-offs would still need to be considered. As the WEF says:

Would the large-scale use of fossil fuels for industrial development have proceeded had it been clear in advance that it would lift many out of poverty but introduce the legacy of climate change?”

Geopolitical and societal risks dominate the 2015 report. Interstate conflict with regional consequences is viewed as the number one global risk in terms of likelihood, with water crisis ranking highest in terms of impact.

The report also provides analysis related to global risks for which respondents feel their own region is least prepared, as highlighted in this infographic:

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The report was developed with the support of Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group and with the collaboration of its academic advises: the Oxford Martin School (University of Oxford), the National University of Singapore, the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center (University of Pennsylvania), and the Advisory Board of the Global Risks 2015 report.

Growth in U.S. liability claims could accelerate to 5-6 percent in the near future, according to a just-released report by Swiss Re sigma.

The slowdown in U.S. liability claims paid after 2008, primarily due to economic drivers such as the recession and weak recovery, is expected to reverse.

Why the change?

Cyber risk and the liability from emerging technologies including hydrofracking and autonomous cars, combined with stronger economic growth will drive liability claims costs higher, sigma says.

Interestingly the report suggests that the effects of tort reform, which contributed to a slowdown in claims growth in the mid-2000s in the U.S., were a one-off benefit and will no longer suppress claims growth to the same degree.

It notes:

Often these types of reform have only a temporary effect on claims growth, which fades as the rules eventually soften again or the legal profession learns how to optimize the pursuit of claims in the new framework.”

Tort reform in the U.S. has focused on medical malpractice and class action claims, the report says.

Many early studies concluded that medical malpractice reforms such as limits on lawyers’ fees and non-economic compensation were effective in reducing medical malpractice liability. However, some of these caps were later overturned by state supreme courts.

Despite passage of the Class Action Fairness Act in 2005, empirical evidence on the effects of federal class action reform in the U.S. remains inconclusive, sigma adds.

The report also warns that litigation funding, in which a third-party funding company pays the costs of litigation and is paid only if the litigation is successful, is still in its infancy in the U.S. but developing.

There are fears it will grow, driving up litigation and future claims costs for insurers.”

Check out this I.I.I. backgrounder on the U.S. liability system here.

I.I.I. chief actuary James Lynch reports from Day 2 of the WCRI annual conference in Boston:

Health insurance and workers compensation are sort of kissin’ cousins, in that changes that affect one inevitably affect the other.

But that’s my metaphor. Dr. Richard Victor, executive director of the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), likens the impact of health care reform to a hurricane.

Like a storm whose path is not quite defined, health care reform could take a significant toll – but we don’t know precisely where. Since workers comp differs from state to state, the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will differ from state to state. Like a good weatherman, Dr. Victor told an audience of about 400 at WCRI’s annual conference in Boston on Thursday he could make some educated guesses what might happen.

He is assuming the ACA is enacted exactly as written – a tough assumption but as good a starting point as any. In that case, the increase in insured Americans will increase demand.

The marketplace might decrease the use of doctors, relying instead on well-trained nurses or even sophisticated computers to help provide care.

Or doctors might raise prices in the face of rising demand.

What actually happens will differ by state. Some states make it difficult to take diagnosis and treatment out of the doctors’ hands. In those states, medical costs – and their kissin’ cousin, comp costs — are likely to rise. Elsewhere, the effect will be muted.

Other insights:

● Health care reform will result in a healthier work population. This will tend to help the comp system, because healthy workers are less likely to get hurt on the job, and if they do get hurt, they get well faster.

● Changes in billing, Dr. Victor said, will “absolutely” lead to upcoding – in which a doctor exaggerates the severity of a treatment to receive a bigger reimbursement. The practice is well-documented in workers comp, he said, citing examples from Florida and California.

● Changes are likely to shift into workers compensation. That’s because many employers are increasing deductibles that employees pay for treatment. Workers comp, meanwhile, has no deductibles and no co-pays – giving an employee the incentive to label an injury as work-related.

I blogged about Day 1 of the conference here. Other highlights from Day 2:

● Alex Swedlow, president of the California Workers Compensation Institute (CWCI) noted that even after all appeals are exhausted only about five percent of denials of comp claims are overturned. Swedlow also said evidence-based pain management guidelines effectively control costs; and a comparison of California and Washington pharmaceutical costs show that more cost savings are possible.

● Harry Shuford, chief economist of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), argued that underwriting cycles are closely linked to bond yields and that when it comes to managing their business, insurers in the long run “do a much better job than other financial intermediaries” like banks.

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) has taken a closer look at the potential effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for property/casualty insurers.

Its analysis – which doesn’t make any specific estimates of the potential cost implications for the P/C industry – identifies the possible ways in which P/C insurance claim costs will be affected by the Act.

The upshot is that the IRC believes the most significant impact will be cost shifting by hospitals and other providers from public and private health insurers to p/c insurers.

According to the report:

Cost shifting will occur in response to increased cost containment efforts by public and private health insurers, and will appear in the form of higher charges and a higher volume of billed services.”

And:

Cost shifting will be particularly severe in state jurisdictions and with coverages where the differences between public and private health insurance reimbursement levels and property-casualty reimbursement levels are greatest.”

The potential magnitude of the cost-shifting is likely to be major, the IRC notes.

To mitigate this potential impact, the IRC suggests that P/C insurers should consider options to ensure that the prices paid as reimbursement for medical services are consistent with prices paid by public and private health insurers.

While market-based fee schedules and bill review authority are among the tools often applied to address medical pricing issues, the IRC says P/C insurers should also consider alternatives to ensure that only medically necessary and appropriate treatment is provided to P/C insurance claimants and reimbursed by insurers.

Utilization review authority, evidence-based treatment guidelines, and the authority to deny reimbursement for unnecessary or inappropriate treatment are among the tools that P/C insurers should consider, the IRC suggests.

PC360 reports on the IRC analysis here.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have both potential positive and negative effects on the property/casualty insurance industry, according to a recently published paper by Travelers.

In the paper, Travelers notes that medical trends impact workers compensation, general liability, and auto insurance costs, which make up about 5 percent of health care revenue.

Key ACA components expected to affect the P/C industry are:

– Extended healthcare coverage – a 15 percent increase in demand for a fixed supply of healthcare services

– Black lung presumptions – any miner (or surviving spouse) with 15 or more years of underground coal mine employment and a totally disabling respiratory or pulmonary impairment is presumed to be disabled due to pneumoconiosis and eligible for Black Lung benefits.

– Pharmacy and durable medical equipment (DME) taxes and assessments – the potential to increase costs 1.5 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

– Medical data – enhanced electronic record-keeping and sharing of data among providers.

Some of the potential positive effects of the ACA on P/C insurers include increased wellness – a healthier and better conditioned population – and a decreased incentive to file questionable P/C claims, Travelers says.

However, on the negative side, the ACA could result in decreased access to care, increasing indemnity costs as prompt access to physicians is reduced and return to work is delayed, the paper notes.

Travelers also cautions that there could be increased cost shifting from Medicare to P/C payers by physicians and hospitals due to declining Medicare reimbursement rates.

Hat tip to Claims Journal for its report on P/C insurer impacts of the ACA here.

High taxation has become the number one threat to global business, soaring up the rankings from 13th to 1st place in the last two years, according to the third Lloyd’s Risk Index.

Other top risks concerning more than 500 of the world’s most senior business leaders in 2013 are loss of customers/cancelled orders, cyber risk, increased material costs and excessively strict regulation.

Interestingly, the survey found that U.S. businesses feel even more unprepared to deal with the risk of high taxation than their European counterparts.

While both regions put high taxation as their number one risk, U.S. respondents rank their preparedness at 37 out of 50, compared to European businesses at 21 out of 50.

But does the increase in volume on the subject of corporate taxation reflect reality? Not necessarily, Lloyd’s says.

It cites data showing that corporate taxes have actually declined or remained static in the past few years, despite the financial problems of most major economies.

Still, personal tax rates in some economies have risen, which particularly affect global businesses competing for international talent, it adds. Indirect taxes are also on the increase.

Lloyd’s says:

The reality for businesses appears to be that government ambiguity about business taxes, whether about extending jurisdictions, amending legislation or changing rates, may actually be more damaging for business confidence than the reality.”

In a press release Lloyd’s chief executive Richard Ward warns that focusing on near-term issues at the expense of longer-term strategic decision making can leave organizations over-exposed to future business challenges:

With business tax in the spotlight and rising up the political agenda, executives are understandably concerned. Yet the danger is that an emphasis on near-term, operational issues comes at the expense of significant, strategic decisions that have previously exercised business leaders.”

First published in 2009, the Lloyd’s Risk Index is run in conjunction with Ipsos MORI.

Many factors, including demographics, economic conditions and the litigation landscape, can affect an insurer’s decision to operate in or to continue doing business in a particular state. The regulatory environment is another important consideration for insurers.

According to the 2012 Insurance Regulation Report Card from non-profit think tank R Street Institute, Vermont, Illinois and Ohio had the best property/casualty insurance regulatory environments in the U.S. this year, receiving ‘A+’ grades.

At the other end of the scale, Florida was the only state to receive a failing grade, falling more than two standard deviations below the mean (the mean was -3.1).

Other states falling more than one standard deviation below the mean include Alaska, Michigan, New York, California, Massachusetts and Texas.

Interestingly enough the best state, Vermont, only scored 26 out of a maximum possible score of 55.

R Street based its assessment of states on 14 objective metrics, including:

- the concentration of their home and auto insurance markets and relative size of their residual markets

- the effectiveness of state solvency and fraud regulation

- the transparency and politicization of insurance regulation

- the tax and fee burdens placed on insurance markets and the proportion of fees used to support insurance regulation

- the relative freedom granted to insurers to set risk-based rates, including through the use of credit and territorial information

A press release cites the report’s author R.J. Lehmann saying:

Overall, in 2011 and early 2012, we saw continued modest trends toward greater consumer and business freedom in the homeowners and automobile insurance markets, as well as real efforts in some states to scale back, or otherwise place on more sound financial footing, residual insurance markets and state-run insurance entities.”

Those are positive trends, and we hope this report card encourages other states to move forward in that direction over the next year.”

Stay tuned.

Yesterday’s U.S. House of Representatives’ hearing on Congressional ‘Oversight of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC)’ has made for a number of headlines.

Check out coverage of the hearing in the Wall Street Journal, the Hill’s Finance and Economy blog, a Reuters report via Insurance Journal and PropertyCasualty360.com.

A new Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) white paper provides insights on the property/casualty insurance industry and systemic risk.

In the paper co-authors Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I. and an economist, and Dr. Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist for the I.I.I. remind us that not one property/casualty insurer failed as a result of the financial crisis or the ensuing “Great Recession”.

As financial regulators consider criteria for determining which financial institutions might be systemically risky, the authors note that P/C insurance is fundamentally different from banking, and poses no systemic risk to the financial system.

Inappropriate inclusion of P/C insurers could cause harm not only to insurers, but to consumers and the efficacy of financial institution regulation in general, the paper concludes.

Check out the I.I.I. issues update on regulation modernization.

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