2020 Insurance Fact Book Includes New Section
On Emerging Risks

The Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) 2020 Insurance Fact Book is now available.

The 234-page digital publication features facts, figures, statistical tables, and charts on U.S. and global insurance markets. It also includes detailed data on direct premiums written and factors affecting U.S. auto, homeowners, and business insurance costs.

Three unique insurance risks—cybersecurity, extreme weather, and social inflation—are highlighted in a new section called Emerging and Evolving Insurance Issues. Other new components include:

“As we welcome a new decade, the challenges before the insurance industry are vast,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. “The catastrophic shock and losses from the last few years, from California wildfires and the Atlantic hurricane season, are telling. What the last decade has foreshadowed could be, as some say, the new abnormal. Our new Insurance Fact Book reflects the new risks insurers face.”

The 2020 Insurance Fact Book is available for purchase from the Triple-I’s online store.  Copies may be obtained free of charge by Triple-I member companies and associate members via the Triple-I’s members-only website. Previous editions have been popular with policymakers, journalists, academics, business leaders, and others.

Auto Premiums Climbing;
Are They “Affordable”?

Car insurance premiums have risen steadily since 2009 at a faster pace than inflation, according to a recent paper in the Journal of Insurance Regulation.

Transportation is essential to opportunity in the United States. Cost of driving, therefore, isn’t a trivial issue.

When you hear a stat like that, what’s your instinctive response? To blame “greedy insurers” who are making money hand over fist and still aren’t satisfied? It might be, if you don’t follow insurance profitability trends. If you do, you know they’ve been losing money on auto insurance for years, despite increasing rates.

Rising rates have caused some to call for regulation to help make car insurance more affordable. Transportation is essential to opportunity in the United States, and most Americans rely on cars. Cost of driving, therefore, isn’t a trivial issue.

But the authors of the paper – Cost Trends and Affordability of Automobile Insurance in the U.S. –  found rate regulation could do more harm than good.

Frequency and severity

The year 2009 was the beginning of the end of the “Great Recession.” In a recovering economy, more people drive – to work, stores, restaurants, et cetera. More vehicles traveling more miles means more accidents and more insurance claims.

The insurance term for this is “frequency.” In addition to more cars on the road, the report finds, distracted driving due to use of digital devices may contribute to increased accident frequency.

In an improving economy, more cars are on the road. More vehicles mean more accidents and insurance claims. Distracted driving due to use of hand-held digital devices also may contribute to increased accident frequency.

Another key term is “severity” – the average cost of claims. Severity has been high for several reasons:

Safety and fuel efficiency are expensive. Cars are safer and cheaper to operate than ever before – thanks to sensors and computers and new materials, all of which are expensive to repair or replace after an accident. This affects loss costs, which are reflected in premiums.

Medical costs are on the rise – especially for hospitalization. The paper cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that medical and auto insurance inflation growth track closely and hospital cost inflation by far outstrips both. Since many crash victims wind up in the hospital, it’s possible these costs aren’t fully reflected in insurance rates.  The paper also cites research indicating that hospitals may charge insurers more than other payers.

Litigation and generous juries. The report doesn’t go into detail about litigation, but the trend known as “social inflation” – marked by growing jury awards and “litigation funding,” in which investors pay plaintiffs to sue large companies in return for a share in the settlement – is well documented.

These factors drive up rates as insurers seek a return that justifies risk taking and operational spending. Nevertheless, the report finds no correlation between rising rates and insurer profitability.

Cracking the affordability nut

Literature on insurance affordability is diverse, with little consensus on the key term. The paper cites research that strongly suggests aggressive rate regulation actually reduces affordability.

“When rate regulation suppresses costs for the riskiest insureds,” the study states, “average premiums, losses, and injuries increase.”

So, what might improve auto insurance affordability?

Some contributors to rising rates – such as repair costs – “should partially self-correct over time,” the paper says. Others, like medical costs and “non-economic” damages (pain and suffering awards) could be addressed through changes in personal injury protection (PIP) laws, antifraud efforts, transparency in medical pricing, or civil justice reform. Stricter “distracted driving” laws and improved enforcement of existing ones could help reduce losses and premiums.

Insurers are investing in technology and improved analytics to streamline their workflows, improve service, and bolster their bottom lines. Some are even discussing getting out of auto entirely – which, should it become a trend, would not bode well for affordability or availability.

Fish Smashes Windshield; Will Insurance Cover It?

Sometimes the blog posts just write themselves.

ABC News in North Carolina reports that a driver in the state looked up and saw a bird carrying a huge fish.

“It was one of those slow-motion moments in life. I saw the fish and I saw him drop it,” said Rhesa Walston of Beaufort, North Carolina.

The catfish smashed straight into her windshield.

It happened so quickly she didn’t have time to react.

“There was glass all over my front seat…glass on my lap,” Walston told ABC News.

After making sure her daughter in the back seat was safe, Walston contacted her family and her insurance company. Family members tracked down the fish (apparently, catfish dropped from high altitudes bounce) and took pictures to corroborate her catch.

Walston told ABC News she will have to pay the $250 deductible on her comprehensive auto policy — not a huge price for a story the family will be telling for years to come.  Animal damage is covered if you have optional comprehensive coverage. If you only have collision coverage, then you’re not covered.

The eagle could not be reached for comment.

I.I.I. RADIO SATELLITE MEDIA TOUR: CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

It’s getting harder for California homeowners in fire-prone areas to buy and keep insurance.

Homeowners insurance non-renewals were on many listeners’ minds during last week’s Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) radio satellite media tour (SMT) on the aftermath of the 2017-18 California wildfires.

With 20 media outlets throughout the state participating, I.I.I. CEO Sean Kevelighan, Head of Media and Public Affairs Michael Barry, and Director of Strategic Communications Janet Ruiz were on hand to answer questions from journalists.

As the frequency and cost of California wildfires increase, it’s getting harder for homeowners in fire-prone areas to buy and keep insurance. In August 2019, the California Department of Insurance released data showing insurers are non-renewing an increasing number of residents in areas with high wildfire risk.

The guidance the I.I.I. provided to Californians faced with this dilemma included:

  • If your insurer says they won’t renew your policy, ask them to reconsider. Your situation may involve factors they don’t know about.
  • Try another insurer. The insurance market is competitive, and insurers don’t profit from not writing business. Risk appetites and underwriting vary.
  • When all else fails, California’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) plan is available as an insurer of last resort, after “a diligent effort to obtain coverage in the voluntary market has been made.”

The I.I.I.’s speakers also emphasized during the SMT that property owners can make their homes more resilient to wildfires by mitigating their own risks; how California’s insurers disbursed nearly $25 billion to their customers to help them recover financially from the 2017-18 wildfires; and how state regulators are working with insurers to price accurately the risks of covering homes in wildfire-prone communities.

Within hours of I.I.I.’s SMT, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced mandatory protections from insurance non-renewals extending into new areas of Northern and Southern California. The one-year moratorium covers residential policies in ZIP codes adjacent to recent wildfire disasters. The law cited by Commissioner Lara (Senate Bill 824) protects homeowners adjacent to a declared wildfire emergency who didn’t suffer a total loss — recognizing the disruption non-renewals cause in communities after wildfire disasters.

Below is a list of the participating radio stations and podcasters who taped the I.I.I. conversations for either broadcast or streaming in January 2020:

KCAA 1050-AM/KRLA 870-AM/KSPA 1510-AM Los Angeles/KDIA 1640-AM/KFAX 1100-AM Radio San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose “Bill Martinez Live”

Business Radio X-IND Podcast National, “The Mark Bishop Podcast”

KOCI 101.5-FM Los Angeles/Liberty Express Radio Network-AM/FM Radio Syndicated “School for Startups”

KSZL 1230-AM Radio Los Angeles “America Tonight with Kate Delaney”

KMET 1490-AM Los Angeles – KEST 1450-AM Radio San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, “Talk! With Audrey”

Transformation Talk Radio-Online Podcast National, “The Dr. Pat Show”

KVTA 1590-AM Radio Los Angeles, “The Kim Pagano Show”

KSTE 650-AM Radio Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, “The Chad Benson Show”

House approves TRIA, NFIP extensions as part of $1.4 trillion spending package

On Tuesday, December 17, the House approved a package of bills that includes a seven-year reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and funding for the National Flood Insurance Program until September 30, 2020.

Numerous insurance industry groups applauded the extension of TRIA. The act has been an important support in the effort to supply terrorism insurance through the private market. Since it was enacted, the percentage of companies purchasing terrorism insurance has risen to 80 percent, and the price of coverage has fallen more than 80 percent.

The $1.4 trillion spending package also includes:

  • Federal funding ($25 million) for gun violence research for the first time in 20 years.
  • A repeal of Obamacare taxes, including a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices, a health insurance industry fee that would have taken effect in 2020, and the 40 percent “Cadillac” excise tax on the most expensive health-insurance plans.
  • The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019, which features provisions that make it easier for smaller employers to join open multiple-employer plans, ease non-discrimination rules for frozen defined benefit plans, and add a safe harbor for selecting lifetime income providers in defined contribution plans.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump before government funding expires on December 20.

Interconnected Perils Demand Holistic
Risk Management

Few risks exist in isolation.

The most primal ones – those associated with wind, fire, and water – often travel in pairs.  Modern, more complicated risks – supply chain, business interruption, cyber, political, and financial – are like tapestries so tightly woven that any effort to address this or that hazard can threaten to unravel much of what you’re trying to protect.   

A new report from Verisk looks at complex emerging risks and why they matter to insurers and risk managers.

Between 1990 and 2008, natural hazards were the cause of 16,600 hazardous material releases.
When nature meets technology

Ever heard the word “natech”? I hadn’t until I read the 2019 Verisk Perspectives.

“Accidents in the industrial sector can be catastrophic, and up to five percent of all accidents in this sector are caused by natural events,” writes Alastair Clarke of Verisk’s AIR Worldwide in an article titled “Where Climate Change and Natech Risk Meet.”

Between 1990 and 2008, Clarke reports, natural hazards were the cause of 16,600 reported hazardous releases.

“In each case,” he writes, “a natural event triggered a technological malfunction that led to the release of hazardous material.”

That’s a natech, and the insurance implications are significant.

Many examples exist of catastrophic casualty claims from natechs. The report cites the 2010 collapse of a dam at the Ajka alumina plant in Hungary.  The dam broke after days of heavy rain, releasing toxic sludge and causing 10 deaths and 150 injuries, along with the contamination.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina triggered 200 hazmat releases. When storm surge ruptured a storage tank at a Louisiana oil refinery, Clarke writes, “the release of 25,000 barrels of crude oil affected 1,800 homes and resulted in a $330 million settlement.”

“Natechs show how liability can arise from natural events that can be traced back to the suppliers of a faulty service,” Clarke writes.  “With climate change, the threads are deeply tangled. ”

IoT unites us, for better and worse

Globalization has connected the world through commerce and culture as never before, and the Internet of Things (IoT) aims to finish the job. But supply-chain risks – already subject to the vagaries of weather, politics, and global finance – only become more complex as machines whisper among themselves.

Utilities alone are expected to deploy more than 800 million connected IoT devices by the end of 2019. Each one is a potential cyberattack portal.

In “Cyber Risks Loom Large in an Interconnected World,” Tim Campbell of Verisk Maplecroft and Kamban Parasuraman of AIR report that a survey of more than 1,000 U.K. and U.S. risk professionals indicated the average company shares confidential information with about 583 third parties. Of those surveyed, 59 percent experienced a data breach linked to a vendor or other third party in 2018.

“Just as companies need to be aware of the cyber risks introduced by third parties in their supply chains,” Campbell and Parasuraman write, “insurers may need to consider how the insureds within its own book of business are interconnected. In fact, the lack of full visibility into each insured’s interdependencies may create risks that are unidentifiable from an underwriting standpoint.”

Utilities alone are expected to deploy more than 800 million connected IoT devices by the end of 2019, reports Ben Kellison of Verisk’s Wood Mackenzie in “Power Utilities Face Emerging Cyber Threats.”

Each one is a potential cyberattack portal.

“The power grid is also becoming more decentralized,” Kellison writes. “Tens of millions of small generators and loads are being integrated into more power markets and local power systems that may or may not be owned or operated by the utility.”

The risks go on

The Verisk report, produced by the data and analytics provider’s ISO Emerging Issues team, examines these and other risk areas. As I reflect on these articles in the context of many hours spent reading about, discussing, and listening to others discuss risk and insurance, it becomes clear – from a resilience perspective – that a more holistic, epidemiological approach  to risk management is needed.

Your building can be designed and built well above code; if your neighbors’ buildings aren’t, you’re at risk when a tornado turns their HVAC units into projectiles. This reality becomes more insidious when your billing system is threatened by malware introduced through a customer’s “smart” lightbulb.

Cyber Claims Get Paid; 
Why Do Many Businesses
Believe They Don’t?

There’s a road in my town that’s widely regarded as a speed trap. We all know drivers who say they were unfairly stopped and ticketed on it. I’ve never been and, come to think of it, neither has anyone I talk to about it.  Maybe it’s because we live in town and “everyone knows” about the trap.

Cyber is a relatively new, evolving risk. Insurers manage their exposures, in part, by setting coverage limits and excluding events they don’t want to insure.

Sure, people get ticketed. The road is straight and wide, and I guess some feel they should be able to drive faster than the clearly posted speed limit. Or maybe they think the “real” limit is somewhat north of the number posted.

Is that really a “speed trap”?

I think of this road when I hear people say they don’t buy cyber insurance because “everyone knows” cyber claims don’t get paid.

Poster child for “cyber” denial

The example on everyone’s lips when this topic comes up is Mondelez International, the food and beverage giant hit by the NotPetya ransomware attack in 2017. Mondelez incurred losses exceeding $100 million, and its insurer denied coverage based on a war exclusion.

The irony? The policy in question covered property, not cyber. One can argue – as Mondelez does in a lawsuit –  that the war exclusion is being unfairly applied, but businesses aren’t ceasing to buy property insurance on account of it!

Cyber claims data are hard to come by, but for nine years NetDiligence has published a Cyber Claims Study analyzing paid claims. The 2019 study looks at more than 2,000 such claims aggregated in over 20 ways, including types and amounts of losses, incident causes, data types exposed, business sectors affected, revenue size of claimants, and financial impact.

Verisk, whose cyber products help insurers write coverage based on their policyholders’ risk characteristics, doesn’t publish claims data but aggregates and incorporates them into its analytics.

NetDiligence publishes an annual Cyber Claims Study. Verisk aggregates and incorporates claims data into its analytics. Why do so many believe cyber claims don’t get paid?
Why the perception/reality gap?

Cyber is a relatively new, evolving risk. Insurers manage their exposures, in part, by setting coverage limits and excluding events they don’t want to insure. Indeed, in a recent survey by J.D. Power and the Insurance Information Institute, small-business owners named “too many exclusions” among the top reasons they don’t buy cyber coverage.

Claims are often denied because of exclusions policyholders might not have known about or understood. Some insurers, for example, include “failure to follow” exclusions for claims arising from inadequate security standards.

Everyone’s responsibility

If insurers want businesses to buy cyber policies and not be hit with unpleasant surprises at claims time, they need to be aggressively transparent about what’s included and excluded. Relegating this to fine print is not a good strategy.

Brokers and agents need to educate themselves about their clients’ needs and be fastidious in aligning coverage recommendations with those needs.

And insurance buyers – those with most at stake – need to understand cyber perils and insurance. For example, insurers require a cyber hygiene self-assessment from applicants. If, after an incident, that assessment proves inaccurate – say, if encryption practices were misrepresented – coverage can be denied.

Insurance isn’t a replacement for cyber diligence. But it can complement it as part of a well-planned risk management program.

Algorithms, A.I.
and Insurance:
Promise and Peril

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer

A couple of articles crossed our desk recently that discussed the benefits and pitfalls of algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI). Neither discussed insurance, but they offered important lessons for the industry.

Algorithms and AI can work quickly, but they aren’t perfect.

An algorithm is a simple set of instructions for a computer.  Artificial intelligence is a group of algorithms that can modify and create new algorithms as it processes data. Broadly, these smart technologies can drive untold change for the industry.

As the Financial Times wrote earlier this year, “Insurance claims are, by their nature, painful processes. They happen only when something has gone wrong and they can take months to resolve.”

Chinese insurer Ping An uses AI to accelerate decision making, and New York-based insurance start-up Lemonade employs algorithms and AI to help pay clients more quickly. Other insurers use smart technologies for fraud detection, risk management, marketing, and other functions.

What could go wrong?

Algorithms and AI can work quickly, but they aren’t perfect. A recent article by Osonde A. Osoba, an information scientist and professor with the RAND Corporation, details what data scientists call an “algorithm audit.” An algorithm audit detects biases or blind spots that skew results, making it necessary to review and test the underlying data.

In the case Osoba discusses, Apple Pay was assailed on Twitter by tech executive David Heinemeier Hansson for giving him a credit limit 20 times larger than his wife’s, despite their sharing all assets, among other factors. Hansson concluded that the algorithm was sexist – causing a furor on the social media platform among both those who vehemently agreed and disagreed with him.

Apple Pay said it doesn’t have information about applicants’ gender or marital status. Yet no one from Apple could answer why Hansson received a significantly higher credit limit. They responded: “Credit limits are determined by an algorithm.”

Still, these algorithms and AI are informed by something – perhaps the implicit biases of the programmers. For example, systems using facial recognition software have yielded decisions that appear biased against darker-skinned women.

Are algorithms easier to fix than people?

An article in The New York Times by Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor of behavioral and computational science at the University of Chicago, discusses human and algorithmic biases. He cites a study in which he and his co-authors examined an algorithm that is commonly used to determine who requires extra levels of health care services. This algorithm has affected approximately 100 million people in the U.S. In this case, black patients were routinely rated to be at lower risk. However, the algorithm was inherently flawed: it used data on who receives the highest amount of health care expenditures.

Black patients already spend less money on health care than white patients with the same chronic conditions, so the algorithm only served to reinforce this bias. Indeed, without the algorithmic bias, the study estimated that the number of black patients receiving extra care would more than double. Yet Mullainathan believes that the algorithm can be fixed fairly easily.

Contrast this to a 2004 study Mullainathan conducted. He and his co-author responded to job listings with fabricated resumes: half the time they sent resumes with distinctively black names; the other half with distinctively white names. Resumes with black names received far fewer responses than those with white names.

This bias was verifiably human and, therefore, much harder to define.

“Humans are inscrutable in a way that algorithms are not,” Mullainathan says. “Our explanations for our behavior are shifting and constructed after the fact.”

Don’t write algorithms off

As RAND’s Osoba writes, algorithms and AI “help speed up complex decisions, enable wider access to services, and in many cases make better decisions than humans.” It’s the last point that one must be particularly mindful of; while algorithms can reproduce and intensify biases of their programmers, they don’t possess inherent prejudices, as people do.

As Mullainathan puts it, “Changing algorithms is easier than changing people: software on computers can be updated; the ‘wetware’ in our brains has so far proven much less pliable.”

From the Triple-I Daily: Our most popular content, November 29 to December 5

Here are the 5 most clicked on articles from this week’s Triple-I Daily newsletter.

To subscribe to the Triple-I Daily email daily@iii.org.

Latest research and analysis