Category Archives: Insurers and the Economy

Gauging Pandemic’s Impact on Insurers

While COVID-19’s impact on the insurance industry will require time to fully understand, litigation, legislation, and concerns about pricing and policy language will be with us for some time to come.

“Significant” changes in policy language seen

The majority of respondents to an Artemis re/insurance market survey believe the COVID-19 pandemic will result in “significant changes” to business interruption (BI) policy wordings.

In fact,  the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is conducting a review focused on obtaining legal clarity on policies connected to the pandemic and which claims are valid and which aren’t.

FCA’s Interim CEO Chris Woolard said recently that while some BI policies are paying out for virus-related issues, others remain “within dispute” due to ambiguities in their wordings.

Outside of the 67.6% who stated a belief that COVID-19 will drive “significant changes” in BI policy wordings, 21.6% expect a “moderate amount” of change, while the remaining 10.8% said the effect will be “limited.”

Loss estimates vary

The Artemis survey also shows 67% of respondents expect the industry to face between $80 billion and $100 billion of underwriting losses due to the pandemic. This is roughly in line with Lloyd’s of London’s earlier estimate of a $107 billion global industry impact.

But analysts from investment bank Berenberg said they believe global COVID-19 claims will be more manageable, estimating a range from $50 billion to $70 billion for the total bill. The analysts don’t specify whether this includes both life and non-life insurance claims from the pandemic, but they do point to the estimate from Lloyd’s of London as being too high.

“We estimate $50-70bn for global COVID-19 claims,” Berenberg’s analysts state. “Significantly less than the $107bn estimate reported by the Lloyd’s of London market estimate on 14 May.”

Las Vegas Hospitality Union Sues Employers

Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union Local 226 is suing several employers on the Las Vegas strip over unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, Business Insurance reported.

The union, representing 60,000 workers, said in a statement it is asking for injunctive relief under the Labor-Management Relations Act based on the “hazardous working conditions” workers face.

The lawsuit alleges casino hotels have not protected workers, their families, and their community from the spread of COVID-19 and that current rules and procedures in place for responding to workers contracting COVID-19 have been “wholly and dangerously inadequate.”

The Culinary Union made a number of requests for policy changes, including daily cleaning of guest rooms, mandatory testing of all employees for COVID-19 before returning to work and regular testing thereafter, adequate personal protective equipment for workers, and a requirement that guests wear face masks in all public areas.

Best Warning on COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Laws

Insurance rating agency A.M. Best has warned that legal efforts in several U.S. states to expand workers’ compensation coverage to allow employees to claim for COVID-19 will have a negative impact on re/insurers, Reinsurance News reports.

The crisis has resulted in many employees now working from home, but a significant part of the workforce still needs to be present and public facing, and this is the group new state laws aim to support. For these workers, some states are looking to shift the burden to the insurer to prove that an employee contracting COVID-19 did not do so while on the job.

“This shift in the burden of proof could lead to significant additional losses to a segment already under pressure and result in increased reserve estimates and higher combined ratios,” A.M. Best said.

Given that assumptions used in pricing and actual loss emergence diverge significantly, these legislative changes will result in an increase in loss estimates and could affect earnings.

Businesses Ask Patrons to Waive Right to Sue

As businesses reopen across the U.S. after coronavirus shutdowns, many are requiring customers and workers to sign forms saying they won’t sue if they catch COVID-19, Associated Press reported.

Businesses fear they could be the target of litigation, even if they adhere to safety precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials. But workers’ rights groups say the forms force employees to sign away their rights should they get sick.

So far, at least six states — Utah, North Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama — have such limits through legislation or executive orders, and others are considering them. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are lobbying for national liability protections.

P&C COVID-19 Wrap-up
The Path to Reopening

Just as it has played a key role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the insurance industry will be integral to the economic recovery as businesses and communities reopen. 

Aon forms recovery coalition 

Re/insurance broker Aon has formed a coalition of companies and organizations to focus on aiding social and economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reinsurance News reports

Starting in Chicago, the coalition will create a model and framework to inform criteria and guidelines to help restart the economy worldwide, with the aim of scaling the work to other key geographies, including London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo. The coalition will work closely with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s and Mayor Lightfoot’s offices to ensure alignment with public health and city/state official recommendations. 

The broker believes this will help to assess impact and measurement of efforts, evaluate the latest technologies, and develop guidelines to help navigate the challenges businesses face as society reopens. 

“We have used our expertise to assist clients in maintaining operations and mitigating risk during the pandemic—and believe we have a responsibility to play a larger role in helping the private and public sector navigate the recovery,” said Aon CEO Greg Case. 

Initial coalition members include: Abbott, Accenture, Allstate, Beam Suntory, BMO Harris, CDW, CNA, ComEd, ConAgra, Exelon, Fortuna Brands, Hyatt, JLL, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Morningstar, Motorola Solutions, Sterling Bay, Ulta Beauty, United Airlines, Walgreens, Whirlpool, and Zurich. 

S&P panelists wary of post-COVID-19 headwinds 

A panel of property and casualty insurers at the S&P Global Ratings’ Annual Insurance Conference  raised concerns about the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reinsurance News reports

S&P analysts currently believe COVID-19 related losses will total between $15 billion and $30 billion for the U.S. P&C market alone over the next two years. 

The panelists agreed that coverage for pandemic-induced business interruptions and losses will be a complicated issue for the industry to face, even though viruses are generally not a covered peril for commercial properties. 

“I never envisioned managing through a global pandemic,” said Christopher Swift of The Hartford.  

“Clearly the challenge is how you are operating both internally and externally,” said W. Robert Berkley, Jr., of WR Berkley. “It calls for flexibility, but also for the ability to plan amid uncertainty.” 

Panelists said workers’ compensation claims due to COVID-19 illnesses could be an inflection point, though, as states scrutinize policies given the rising number of these claims. If coverage is expanded, insurers will need to evaluate this risk and price accordingly. 

Moderator Kevin Ahern, managing director and analytical manager, S&P Global Ratings, noted that the U.S. P&C market faces many headwinds, not just those related to COVID-19. These include competitive pressures, the pricing/underwriting/reinsurance environment, and evolving regulatory and legislative developments. 

Iowa Legislature approves COVID-19 liability shield 

Legislation headed to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk would provide liability limitations on potential COVID-19 lawsuits for a broad range of businesses and organizations — among them restaurants, retail establishments, meatpacking plants, churches, medical providers and senior care facilities — provided they followed public health guidance, Business Record reported
 
Senate File 2338, the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act, would prohibit individuals from filing a civil lawsuit against a business or health care organization unless it relates to a minimum medical condition (a diagnosis of COVID-19 that requires in-patient hospitalization or results in death) or involves an act that was intended to cause harm or that constitutes actual malice. 
 
The legislation would protect tenants, lessees and occupants of any premises — including any commercial, residential, educational, religious, governmental, cultural, charitable or health care facility — in which a person is invited in and is exposed to COVID-19.   

However, liability would extend to anyone who “recklessly disregards a substantial and unnecessary risk that the individual would be exposed to COVID-19,” or exposes the individual to COVID-19 through an act that constitutes actual malice or intentionally exposes the individual to COVID-19. 

The provisions, which would be retroactive to Jan. 1, also shield health care providers from liability for civil damages “for causing or contributing, directly or indirectly, to the death or injury of an individual as a result of the health care provider’s acts or omissions while providing or arranging health care in support of the state’s response to COVID-19.” 

Ill. workers comp measure becomes law 

Legislation signed into law in Illinois will provide worker compensation benefits for front-line and essential workers who contract COVID-19 on the job under certain conditions, Business Insurance reports

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed H.B. 2455, which will provide death benefits for first responders who were presumably infected with COVID-19 on duty and also revises state code to expand unemployment benefits and enhance sick pay and leave for workers who contract the virus. 

Under the law, employers can rebut claims under certain conditions, including if they can demonstrate the workplace was following current public health guidelines for two weeks before the employee claims to have contracted the virus; provide proof the employee was exposed by another source outside the workplace; or that the employee was working from home for at least 14 days before the claimed injury. 

The law also says first responders, including police officers and firefighter who die after testing positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies, are entitled to death benefits. However, the virus must have been determined to have been contracted between March 9 — the first day of Illinois’ governor-mandated stay-at-home order — and Dec. 31, 2020. Under the law, the date of contraction is either the date of diagnosis with COVID-19 or the date the first responder was unable to work due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as related to COVID-19 infection, whichever occurred first. 

Taking Care with Economic Headlines

By Dr. Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist, Insurance Information Institute

Dr. Steven Weisbart

In normal times, economic news isn’t something many people pay attention to, other than—possibly—at the headline level. And the headlines generally sufficiently convey what’s happening with the economy. But we’re entering a period in which the usual measurements of economic activity might be grossly misleading.

Take real GDP, for example. This is the inflation-adjusted measure of the total output of goods and services for the economy. When real GDP is growing from one calendar quarter to the next, that’s a good sign. The growth is often pretty small, percentagewise, and so it is typically expressed as a SAAR (seasonally-adjusted annual rate). This means that the rate for a quarter is treated as if it would continue at the same rate for the next three quarters. This virtually never happens, but it has become the conventional way to express GDP changes, nevertheless.

To illustrate the effect of expressing real GDP changes as SAAR, look at Figure 1.

Figure 1

This chart uses data provided by Blue Chip Economic Indicators, a publisher of a monthly survey of 53 econometric forecasts. Blue Chip averages the 10 highest, the 10 lowest, as well as the median forecasts, and we’ve graphed them in Figure 1. Note that the median of the forecasts in 2020:Q2 is -35.7 percent. This is a staggering dropoff in the economy, but of course no one is actually predicting that the economy would sink by 8.9 percent per quarter each quarter through 2021:Q1 (which is what results from the SAAR adjustment).

So be prepared for gloom-and-doom headlines in the fall when the Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes its measure of the real growth (or shrinkage) of the U.S. economy in the second calendar quarter.

On the other hand, note from Figure 1 that the GDP growth rates for 2020:Q3 and onward are all positive numbers. This is a picture of an economy that is shrinking for only one quarter—the V-shaped recovery that some economists (not us at the Triple-I) have forecast. This too is a distorted impression. To see why, look at Figure 2.

Figure 2

In Figure 2 you see a small dropoff from 2019:Q4 to 2020:Q1 and the big dropoff from 2020:Q1 to 2020:Q2. You also see growth each quarter from 2020:Q3 onward through the end of 2021. However, despite this growth the economy doesn’t even reach the level of output in 2020:Q1—which includes the first month of the recession—at the end of the 2021 calendar year. On New Year’s Day 2022 we will perhaps be celebrating six consecutive calendar quarters of economic growth, but in relation to the prior non-recession years we will still be lacking (assuming that the Blue Chip median forecast is correct).

If you were to match the pattern of recovery to an alphabet letter, you wouldn’t call it a V; there really isn’t a direct correlate to the slow but steady return to the pre-recession level, but a U might suggest that the economy is taking a while to recover fully.

CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: PROPERTY AND CASUALTY (4/27/2020)

Accounting Rules
NAIC Working Group Approves Flexible COVID-19 Accounting Rules
Automobile Insurance
How the Coronavirus Could Change U.S. Personal Auto Insurance
Business Interruption
Travelers, Insured Law Firm Spar Over Civil Authority Business Income Loss Claim
States Seek to Force Insurance Companies to Pay Those With Business Interruption Policies
Covid-19 Business Interruption Existential Threat, Reinsurance Capital Availability Key: Willis Re
Credit Insurance
Governments should backstop trade credit
Litigation
The Race Is on to Lead Business Interruption Insurance Litigation
What Won’t Cure Corona: Lawsuits
6 Types Of Employment Lawsuits To Expect In The Wake Of COVID-19
Editorial: Stopping a Lawsuit Epidemic
Kudlow: Businesses shouldn’t be held liable for employees and customers getting coronavirus
Corporate America Seeks Legal Protection for When Coronavirus Lockedowns Lift
Profits & Losses
Coronavirus Costs Weigh on Travelers’ Profit
Coronavirus Will Be Largest Event in Insurance History, Says Chubb CEO
Coronavirus To Be Largest Industry Loss Ever: Chubb’s Greenberg & Lloyd’s Neal
Covid-19 P&C Insurance Industry Loss Estimated $40bn – $80bn: Dowling
Chubb Classifies Covid-19 as a Catastrophe Event
Covid-19 Claims Manageable, But Reinsurers Face Formidable Challenges: Willis Re
Specialty Lines
Companies Can Expect Higher D&O Rates, Lower Limits: Experts
Lack of Adequate Insurance Puts Healthcare Workers At Risk of Malpractice Lawsuits
Workers Compensation
States Easing Path to Workers Compensation Benefits for Coronavirus Workers
Changing Virus Guidance Creates Balancing Act For Essential Employers
Employers Pushing Back as States Expand Work Comp to Cover COVID-19
Workplace Safety For COVID-19 Essential Workers
From the Triple-I Blog:
TRIPLE-I CEO AMONG PANELISTS DISCUSSING BUSINESS INTERRUPTION INSURANCE LEGISLATION
INSURERS RESPOND TO COVID-19 (4/24/2020)
CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: LIFE AND HEALTH INSURANCE (4/22/2020)
CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: DATA AND VISUALIZATIONS (4/20/2020)

Triple-I CEO Among Panelists Discussing Business Interruption Insurance Legislation

Sean Kevelighan

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan today joined legislators and legal experts to discuss proposed measures that could retroactively rewrite business interruption insurance policies.

“The insurance industry is applying forward-thinking solutions to take care of its customers, communities, and employees during the COVID-19 crisis,” Kevelighan said, citing more than $10 billion so far returned to customers through premium relief; $200 million in charitable donations; and insurers pledging not to lay off employees during the crisis and implementing innovative solutions to conduct daily operations while respecting social distancing. “We’re deeply engaged in mitigating the economic impact of this pandemic.”

But the industry can only do these things – while keeping its promises to policyholders and preparing for impending catastrophes – if policyholder surplus isn’t eliminated, as it could be if some of the proposed legislative “solutions” were enacted.

Legislation has been discussed or introduced in Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina that would retroactively enact business interruption coverage into existing policies despite an absence of the physical damage required in property policies and/or express exclusions for communicable diseases in those policies.

Kevelighan explained how policyholder surplus provides a cushion that enables insurers to meet their obligations, even when large, unexpected catastrophes occur. He showed how retroactively rewriting insurance contracts could make it impossible for insurers to play their critical role as “financial first responders.”

The scenarios he discussed could cost the industry $150 billion and $380 billion per month – “quickly eliminating the surplus it has taken the industry centuries to accumulate.”

And they would do this in the midst of a tornado season that is shaping up to be the deadliest in eight years and as a “more active than normal” hurricane season approaches.

Kevelighan made his remarks during a webinar sponsored by the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) and the Rutgers Center for Risk and Responsibility at Rutgers Law School. Other panelists included NCOIL President and Indiana Rep. Matt Lehman; New Jersey Assemblyman Lou Greenwald; and Jay Feinman and Adam Scales, Professors of Law at Rutgers Law School and Co-Directors of the Rutgers Center for Risk and Responsibility.

The panelists all expressed support for the creation of a COVID-19 Business Interruption and Cancellation Claims Fund, similar to the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund enacted by Congress in 2001, for businesses suffering from costs related to the interruption of their businesses, as well as the many associations that have had to cancel events. Funded by the federal government and operated by a special federal administrator, it would facilitate distribution of federal funds and liquidity to impacted businesses during this time of incalculable business interruption.

Click here to view the presentation.

CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: PROPERTY AND CASUALTY (4/22/2020)

Automobile Insurance
Erie Insurance Offering $200M dividend to Auto Insurance Customers Amid Pandemic
If Miles Driven Are Down, Why Are U.S. Auto Crashes Up?
Business Interruption
Federal Lawsuits Target Insurers Over COVID-19 Business Interruption Claims
Covid-Fueled Supply Chain Disruption a Crunch Point for Insurance Claims
Businesses Contemplating Reopening Fear Lawsuits From Sick Patrons
Cannabis
20 Ways to Address Marijuana Reform Amid COVID-19
Directors & Officers
Top Exec With Coronavirus a Reportable Event? It All Depends
Financial and Business Impact
A.M. Best Forecasts Hit to Insurer Capital from Equity Exposures
Fraud
Pandemic Has Scam Artists Out in Full Force
Litigation
‘Act of God’ Disputes Are on Upswing
Travelers Hits Back With COVID-19 Claims Denial Suit
Fed-up Nurses File Lawsuits, Plan Protest at White House Over Lack of Coronavirus Protections
Travel Insurance
Impact of Covid-19 on Corporate Travel, Recovery & Way Forward
Cruise Ship Virus Losses May Hit Marine Liability Insurers
Workers Compensation
CA Virus Comp Costs Projected to Reach as High as $33.6B
Employers May Exclude Payroll to Employees Not Working for Workers’ Comp: NCCI
COVID-19 Presumptions May Lead to Billions in Workers’ Comp Losses

CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: Data and Visualizations (4/20/2020)

The coronavirus crisis continues to generate data that can be valuable for understanding and decision making. Below are just a few resources that may be of interest to insurers and the people and businesses they serve.

COVID-19 Mortality Projections for U.S. States
Graphs from the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium show reported and projected deaths per day across the United States and for individual states.
The Verisk COVID-19 Projection Tool
The Verisk COVID-19 Projection Tool has been made available to enhanceunderstanding of the potential number of worldwide COVID-19 infections and deaths. It provides an interactive dashboard that leverages the AIR Pandemic Model.
How State Insurance Departments Are Responding to COVID-19
This interactive map from PC360 highlights bulletins and procedures released by state insurance departments as of April 15, 2020.
Tracking U.S. Small and Medium Business Sentiment During COVID-19
Small and medium-size businesses account for roughly 44% of the U.S. economy and provide employment to about 59 million people. McKinsey is tracking their sentiment to gauge how their views on economic activity, employment, and financial behavior—as well as their expectations about financial institutions and public authorities—change as a result of ongoing public and private interventions.

CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: PROPERTY AND CASUALTY (4/17/2020)

Auto Insurance
Stay-at-home Pandemic Orders Reduce Auto Claims Almost by Half
As Coronavirus Empties Streets, Speeders Hit the Gas
Business Interruption
UK Watchdog Orders Insurers to Pay Small Business Claims Quickly
Cannabis Insurance
Pandemic Could Shrink Cannabis Insurers’ Premiums, Market
Cyber Insurance
Preventing Losses Due to Growing Cyber Crime During Coronavirus Crisis
As Attacks Rise, Paladin Offers Cybersecurity Platform Free to Insurance Agencies
Disaster Preparedness
‘Uncharted Territory’ as Wildfire Fighting Adapts to Pandemic
Insurance-Linked Securities
Artemis Live: Interview with Tom Johansmeyer, Head of PCS
Litigation
Nashville Bar Sues Insurer Over COVID-19 Loss Claim. Experts Say It Won’t Be the Last
Businesses Warn Fear of Liability Lawsuits Could Stall Rebooting of Economy
P/C Industry Impact
Suddenly There is Big Demand for Pandemic Cover, Says Underwriter
Chubb CEO: Forcing Insurers to Pay Pandemic Loss Claims is ‘Plainly Unconstitutional’
Allianz CEO: Pandemic Hit “Like a Metororite”
From Hacker Attacks to Shareholder Lawsuits, Insurance Industry Braces for COVID-19 Fallout
Public Health and Safety
What FDA Says About Food Safety Amid COVID-19
Travel Insurance
Travelers Consider Their Risk Tolerance
HOLIDAY HELL How to Get a Refund on Your Holiday if it’s Cancelled and How Long Should it Take to Get Cash Back
Workers Compensation
Workers Compensation in Wake of COVID-19

From the Triple-I Blog:
INSURERS RESPOND TO COVID-19 (4/17/2020)
TRIPLE-I BRIEFING: SURPLUS IS KEY TO INSURERS KEEPING POLICYHOLDER PROMISES
PUTTING CAR INSURANCE PRICES INTO PERSPECTIVE

CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: PROPERTY AND CASUALTY (4/16/2020)

Legislation and regulation
Democrats Plan Legislation to Force Insurance Companies to Pay Out for Pandemic Losses
Thompson Introduces the Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Act
Lawmakers Advocate Stimulus Aid to Insurers on Business Interruption
SC Proposes Bill Over Coronavirus-related Business Interruption Claims
NJ offers grace period for insurance premium expenses
Coronavirus Regulations: A State-By-State Week In Review
Litigation
COVID-19, business interruption and bad faith litigation
P/C Industry Impact
No Evidence COVID-19 Industry Loss Will Match Large Catastrophe Years: Flandro
How Insurance Claims Pros Are Adjusting to Pandemic Complications
COVID-19 Response ‘Could Bankrupt the Insurance Industry’: Insurance Defense Lawyer
Coronavirus response: Short- and long-term actions for P&C insurers
Auto Insurance
Analysts: Auto Insurance Coronavirus Rebates a Solid Move in Short Term
Will Fewer Drivers on the Road Mean Lower Auto Losses? It Depends
Auto Insurers Offer Rebates as Traffic Abates During Pandemic
Business Interruption
Neglecting Idle Facilities Amid COVID-19 Will Cost Companies, Warns FM Global
Cyber
Working From Home? Don’t Let Cyber Criminals Break In
Hospital Hackers Seize Upon Coronavirus Pandemic
Workers Compensation
COVID-19 Comp Expansions Could Have Significant Impact on Industry

CORONAVIRUS WRAP-UP: PROPERTY AND CASUALTY (4/15/2020)

Litigation
Legal Experts Prepare for Battles Over Business Interruption Cover
Travelers Sued Over Coronavirus Coverage
Meal Delivery Services Sued Over Restaurant Prices Amid Pandemic
Pandemic Relief
Swiss Re Donates CHF 5 Million to Support COVID-19 Relief Efforts
Axis Capital, Swiss Re Pledge Donations to Pandemic Relief
Australia’s QBE to Raise $825 Million to Counter Coronavirus Crisis
CA Workers Comp Fund Creates Virus Relief Programs for Policyholders
Coronavirus Litigation Against Nursing Homes Takes Off in Tennessee
Regulation and Legislation
AL Regulator Eases Process for Auto Insurers to Reduce Policyholder Premiums
CA Insurers Ordered to Give Refunds
Politicians Push Insurers to Resolve Mounting Disputes Over COVID-19 Losses

Related:
Risk Manager is Suddenly a Hot Job
How Homeowners Insurance Claims Have Changed During the Pandemic