Auto Insurance


I.I.I. Florida representative Lynne McChristian sheds light on the topic of price optimization in this post which first appeared @InsuringFLA blog.

Florida regulators issued a memorandum to insurers recently to eliminate the use of something called price optimization. That’s probably an unfamiliar term to most people. It’s interesting that the memo had to define what “price optimization” is in order for insurers to stop doing it. Simply, the memo from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation was to stop a practice that few insurers are using in the first place and that may actually help lower insurance costs.

Price optimization is a tool that other industries have used for years, specifically the retail and travel industries. It is a new tool for insurers, and it’s one that is designed to add sophisticated computer analysis to the final polishing of insurance prices.

At the very end of setting rates, insurers have always adjusted prices, almost always slightly lower, to reflect the industry’s competitive nature. It used to be a seat-of-the-pants guess by a real, live actuary; now, a computer helps give the final nudge.

That takes human guesswork out of it, yet the computer does the same thing.

Some critics have turned this equation upside down, stating instead that an insurance company is looking only to increase profits. Florida is one of four states that is prohibiting the practice of price optimization before there is a clear understanding of its consumer benefits. Most other states are carefully studying the practice and awaiting a white paper being developed by a special task force established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Insurers use all types of data to establish individual insurance rates. The concern critics have about price optimization is that it is not based on commonly used risk factors for auto insurance. Price optimization gave insurers one more tool to employ more sophisticated computer algorithms to give better prices to consumers. But that won’t be the case for Floridians.

Everyone cares about what they pay for insurance, and there are lots of choices for those shopping for auto insurance. So, if you think you’re not getting the best price, use these tips to shop around for auto insurance. To learn more, check out this Q&A on price optimization.

Everyone wants to talk about autonomous vehicles, and for proof I.I.I. chief actuary Jim Lynch offers the AIPSO Residual Market Forum, at which he spoke in mid-April.

AIPSO manages most of the automobile residual market, where highest risk drivers get insurance. Each state has a separate plan for handling risky drivers and AIPSO services most of them in one way or another, acting as the linchpin in the $1.4 billion market, about 0.7% of all U.S. auto insurance written in 2013, according to Auto Insurance Report.

Though small, the residual market is important, but it’s not an area that would naturally lend itself to discussing the self-driving car. If cars could drive themselves, of course, there wouldn’t be much of a residual market.

Even so, I was one of three speakers at the forum’s panel exploring industry trends, and at AIPSO’s request, all three of us touched on autonomous cars.

Though he spoke last, Peter Drogan, chief actuary at AMICA Mutual Insurance, probably did the best job of laying out the future technology and some of its challenges. Particularly spooky was a 60 Minutes clip in which a hacker took over a car Lesley Stahl drove over a parking lot test course. She wasn’t driving fast, but she couldn’t stop after the hacker took over the brakes of her car.

Karen Furtado, a partner at Strategy Meets Action, a consultancy that helps insurers plan for the future, laid out the case for disruption. Autonomous vehicles will not only make vehicles safer, they will change driving habits. Fewer cars will be on the road, and more people will share them, summoning self-driving vehicles through ride-sharing apps, all of which could potentially shrink the $180 billion auto insurance market.

I’ve made my thoughts clear before, both in this blog and elsewhere: the technology will change driving forever, but it takes about three decades for auto technology to become common on roadways, giving insurers a lot of time to adjust. And some coverages, like comprehensive, will not be affected, as they protect cars when they aren’t in accidents.

A PowerPoint of my presentation is posted here.

I.I.I. chief actuary Jim Lynch looks into the future of self-driving cars:

I wrote about autonomous vehicles and insurance for the March/April edition of Contingencies magazine.

I argue that while the safety improvements will reduce the number of automobile accidents, any predictions of the end of automobile insurance look overblown today.

The first cars to drive themselves will only do so for a few minutes at a time – far from the curbside-to-curbside Dream Vehicle that gets most of the media attention. Any new auto technology takes two or three decades to cascade from a pricey option on luxury vehicles to standard equipment found on every used Chevy.

The slow rollout means claim frequency – the number of claims per hundred vehicles – is likely to decline over the next few decades at about the same rate as it has over the past five decades, giving insurers plenty of time to adapt, just as they have since the first policy was issued in Dayton, Ohio, in the 1890s.

Here is an excerpt:

The property/casualty industry will react as it has for decades, as regulation and innovation have made auto, products and the workplace safer. The impact will be carefully measured by actuaries, who will adjust rates as the innovations prove out. Insurers will find new coverages that customers will want.

The Dream Vehicle will change auto insurance, sure, but it won’t destroy it.”

The I.I.I. has an Issues Update on Self-Driving Cars and Insurance.

We’re reading that self-driving cars are no longer a thing of the future, but it’s in the subhead of this Time article: how long will it be before your car no longer needs you? where the heart of the story lies.

Jason H. Harper writes of how he earned one of the first new driverless motor licenses – technically known as an “autonomous vehicle testing” permit – from the California DMV.

He then describes his chauffeured ride by a prototype Audi from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas for last week’s Consumer Electronics Show:

The car uses an array of sensors, radars and a front-facing camera to negotiate traffic. At this point, the system works only on the freeway and cannot handle construction zones or areas with poor lane markings. When the car reaches a construction zone or the end of a highway, a voice orders you to take the wheel back.”

Before taking the 550-mile road trip, Harper had to get special instruction on how not to drive, per California regulations:

The training included basics like turning the system on and off and learning the circumstances in which it could be used. The rest was about handling emergencies, such as making lane changes to avoid crashing.”

Harper says the training was far more difficult and involved than a regular driving test. However, average buyers will not need such training.

Why?

Because rollout of this technology is gradual. Audi’s program for example would allow the car to self-drive in stop-and-go highway traffic, but when traffic clears the driver takes the wheel again.

It’s at the very end of the article that a voice from academia reminds us that this approach may be no bad thing as both technology and driver acceptance need time to mature.

Dr. Jeffrey Miller, an associate professor at the University of Southern California, tells Time that in his opinion licenses and drivers will never be obsolete because “the driver will always have to take over in case of a failure.”

It’s an interesting point. From the insurance perspective, too, while self-driving cars are definitely on the way, the implications for insurers are evolving. In its issue update Self-Driving Cars and Insurance, the I.I.I. notes:

Except that the number of crashes will be greatly reduced, the insurance aspects of this gradual transformation are at present unclear. However, as crash avoidance technology gradually becomes standard equipment, insurers will be able to better determine the extent to which these various components reduce the frequency and cost of accidents.”

And:

They will also be able to determine whether the accidents that do occur lead to a higher percentage of product liability claims, as claimants blame the manufacturer or suppliers for what went wrong rather than their own behavior.”

More on auto insurance here.

Despite an increase in the number of more complex physical damage claims, auto insurers are doing a better job of handling these types of claims.

The just-released J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study finds that overall customer satisfaction with the auto insurance claims process has improved steadily during the past five years to 857 on a 1,000-point scale in 2014, up from 842 in 2010.

What’s more, customer satisfaction with more complex claims – those in which vehicles have significant structural damage and need to be towed – has also increased.

Satisfaction with total loss claims in 2014 averages 829, while satisfaction for towed vehicle claims averages 851. Satisfaction with each claim type was up 12 points from 2013.

J.D. Power notes:

Those improvements in satisfaction with insurers’ handling of complex claims are largely due to insurers managing customer expectations with respect to the timing of the claim and moving the claim along more quickly—key metrics of communicating the settlement, repair time, and paying the customer (if applicable) are all performed faster in 2014.”

The fact that customer satisfaction continues to rise is even more noteworthy when you consider that auto insurers are handling a growing number of more complex claims.

Total loss claims and claims in which vehicles have significant structural damage and need to be towed accounted for 37 percent of all auto claims in 2014, up 5 percentage points from 2011 when complex claims accounted for 32 percent of the total.

However, the study finds the rise in more complex claims has pushed up the average severity of claims (based on the dollar amount of loss) for the third consecutive year.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on auto insurance.

A report just released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts a $277 billion price tag on the economic costs of traffic crashes in the United States in 2010, a 20 percent increase over its 2000 data.

The economic costs are equivalent to approximately $897 for every person living in the U.S. and 1.9 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, the NHTSA says, and based on the 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal injuries, and 24 million damaged vehicles that took place in 2010.

Included in these economic costs are lost productivity, medical costs, legal and court costs, emergency service costs (EMS), insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage and workplace losses.

When you add in the $594 billion societal cost of crashes, such as harm from the loss of life and pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries, the total impact of crashes is $877 billion.

The following chart breaks out the economic costs:

It’s interesting to note that the most significant components were property damage and lost market productivity. In dollar terms, property damage losses were responsible for $76.1 billion and lost productivity (both market and household) for $93.1 billion.

The NHTSA explains that for lost productivity, these high costs are a function of the level of disability that has been documented for crashes involving injury and death. For property damage, costs are mainly a function of the very high incidence of minor crashes in which injury does not occur or is negligible.

Another takeaway from the survey is the impact of congestion, which accounts for some $28 billion, or 10 percent of total economic costs. This includes travel delay, added fuel consumption, and pollution impacts caused by congestion at the crash site.

There’s a separate chapter of the NHTSA report devoted to congestion impacts that includes some fascinating data.

For additional data on motor vehicle crashes, check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on highway safety.

Big savings are not all they seem, at least when it comes to buying auto insurance.

The just-released J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study finds that poor service is a leading reason why customers shop for and switch to a new auto insurer, rather than price.

Declining satisfaction with new price is also the primary reason customers are less satisfied when they do switch insurer, according to the study findings.

J.D. Power notes that some 30 percent of auto customers shopped for a new insurance provider in 2013, of which 36 percent ultimately switched insurers.

Perhaps surprisingly, increases in premiums do not drive shopping as much as poor experience.

Customers who have a poor experience with their insurer shop at a rate of 28 percent – more than double the rate of shopping among those who experience a premium increase (13 percent).

Another key takeaway is that customers are tolerant of rate increases at a certain level. However, rate hikes of more than $200 can triple the rate of customers who switch insurers.

A press release quotes Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power:

The insurance industry spends billions of dollars each year on advertising, and over the last seven years many of those ads have tried to entice customers with big savings. While switching to a new insurer usually results in savings, the ads make promises of savings that a growing number of new customers don’t believe they’ve received.”

Price, however, is still important in the selection process with eight in 10 customers selecting the lowest-price insurer.

Price is also an increasingly important driver of new-buyer purchase experience satisfaction once customers have selected a new insurer. Overall new buyer satisfaction with the auto insurance buying experience averages 821 (on a 1,000-point scale), down significantly from 828 in 2013.

J.D. Power notes that the decline in satisfaction is driven by a 17-point drop in the price factor, which has the greatest impact on customer satisfaction.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on auto insurance.

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.