Auto Insurance


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.