NCCI on Workers Comp: Host of Challenges

The workers compensation insurance industry is in a precarious position and facing a host of challenges in 2010, according to the annual “State of the Line† report from NCCI Holdings Inc. The pace of economic recovery, the long-term impact of the new federal healthcare law and the potential change in the nation’s financial regulatory system are among the unknown factors affecting the line, NCCI said. It reported that the workers compensation calendar year combined ratio was 110 in 2009 – up 9 points from 101 in 2008. NCCI chief actuary Dennis Mealy observed:

After the prior three years of an underwriting profit followed by two years of minor underwriting losses, the combined ratio for workers compensation shot up 9 points in 2009, the largest single year increase since the mid 1980s. The line was one of only two (in addition to ‘other liability’) that had an increase in combined ratio for 2009 over 2008.

These deteriorating underwriting results, combined with the record low interest rate environment left the line at only slightly better than breakeven after investment income is considered.†

However, NCCI added that 3 points of the combined ratio increase was due to reserve strengthening by a single carrier. Excluding that, the industry combined ratio would have been 107, still a significant deterioration from 2008. NCCI said deteriorating underwriting results combined with the record low interest rate environment left the line at only slightly better than breakeven after investment income is considered. Check out I.I.I. president Dr. Robert Hartwig’s presentation on Insurance in the Obama Era  from last week’s NCCI annual issues symposium.

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