Tag Archives: Covid-19

Isaias Expected
to Approach
Florida This Weekend

Hurricane Isaias is expected to strengthen somewhat, to a strong Category 1 hurricane, as it crosses over the Bahamas Friday and Saturday. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) now forecasts Isaias will come extremely close to the east coast of Florida later this weekend. 

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the strongest winds in Florida will be felt from Pompano Beach to Palm Bay, where there’s potential for winds from 58 mph to 73 mph. Miami-Dade and most of Broward are predicted to see winds from 39 mph to 57 mph.

The NHC recently posted hurricane watches from north of Deerfield Beach to the Volusia-Brevard County line and forecasts two to four inches of rainfall from south-central to southeastern Florida, with potential totals of six inches. There is also the potential for some storm surge, with exact levels dependent on the future track and intensity of Isaias.

Residents are strongly encouraged to prepare for Isaias and other storms during this above-average hurricane season – particularly with the additional challenge of COVID-19.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said South Floridians should “start to examine what other opportunities or options they may have to be out of South Florida.”

Florida has recently experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases. In preparation for the storm, the Florida Department of Emergency Management has closed all state-run COVID-19 testing sites.

“The more that we can do as individuals and focus on the things we can do to reduce the burden on government will be extremely helpful as the mayor, the county administrator are tackling different new challenges and trying to be innovative to the point where we’re not shutting down government completely, but at the same time, we’re not unnecessarily allowing for hazards and exposures to this virus,” Tony said.

Wind-caused property damage is covered under standard homeowners, renters, and business insurance policies. Renters’ insurance covers a renter’s possessions while the landlord insures the structure.

Property damage to a home, a renter’s possessions, and a business – resulting from a flood – is generally covered under FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies, if the homeowner, renter, or business has purchased one. Several private insurers also offer flood insurance.

Private-passenger vehicles damaged or destroyed by either wind or flooding are covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. drivers choose to purchase comprehensive coverage.

Isaias Meets COVID-19: South Floridians Advised to Consider Evacuation

South Floridians should “start to examine what other opportunities or options they may have to be out of South Florida,” Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a virtual press conference as a broad area of low pressure looked increasingly likely to turn into Tropical Storm Isaias.

Tropical storm-force gusts could arrive in Florida as early as Friday night, but Saturday is much more likely, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) Miami.  

Tony said the biggest hurdle officials anticipate during the 2020 hurricane season is the ability to effectively maintain social distance while taking in large numbers of people at county storm shelters. Florida has recently experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“The more that we can do as individuals and focus on the things we can do to reduce the burden on government will be extremely helpful as the mayor, the county administrator are tackling different new challenges and trying to be innovative to the point where we’re not shutting down government completely, but at the same time, we’re not unnecessarily allowing for hazards and exposures to this virus,” Tony said.

In preparation for the storm, the Florida Department of Emergency Management has said it will close all state-run COVID-19 testing sites at the end of business day today.

The storm knocked out power to more than 300,000 clients across Puerto Rico, according to the island’s Electric Power Authority. Minor damage was reported elsewhere in the island, where tens of thousands of people still use tarps as roofs over homes damaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Chubb CEO says business interruption policies are a good value and work as they should

Evan Greenberg

In a July 29 earnings call Evan Greenberg, the CEO of Chubb, addressed the lawsuits filed by many businesses over business income (interruption) coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. He stressed that even though business interruption (BI) policies do not cover a pandemic, they are a good value and work as intended.

“Standard BI policies, which are an addendum to a fire policy, require direct physical loss or damage to the property, for example, a fire or flood damages the property and prevents the business from operating while repairs are being made.  COVID-19 does not cause physical loss or damage to a property, despite the trial bar’s efforts to influence some government officials in the wording of their civil public shutdown orders,” he said.

Greenberg reiterated the uninsurable nature of pandemics and the necessity for the federal government to take the lead in mitigating pandemic risks. To properly service all policyholders, Greenberg said, the insurance industry must not be distracted by attacks from the legal community.

The comments appear in their entirety below.  

Remarks from Evan Greenberg, Chubb Second Quarter Earnings Call, July 29, 2020

I am going to say a few words about the business interruption issue that I know is on the minds of many.  As you know, the insurance industry is under attack by the trial bar over business interruption claims.  They represent many businesses which purchased BI coverage that does not provide cover for pandemic, and these customers are understandably disappointed and upset.  Plaintiff attorneys are attempting to torture or reverse engineer insurance contract language to conjure up business interruption coverage that for the most part simply doesn’t exist. 

Coverage for a pandemic was never contemplated in standard business interruption policies, and therefore no premiums were ever charged for that risk.  In fact, state insurance regulators, who approve the policies, have been clear that this risk is not covered and that the industry could not cover the massive open-ended tail risk of a global pandemic because it threatens the industry’s solvency.  Without the federal government playing a major role to cover the tail risk, pandemics are simply uninsurable on a broad basis.

Standard BI policies, which are an addendum to a fire policy, require direct physical loss or damage to the property, for example, a fire or flood damages the property and prevents the business from operating while repairs are being made.  COVID-19 does not cause physical loss or damage to a property, despite the trial bar’s efforts to influence some government officials in the wording of their civil public shutdown orders. 

Though it doesn’t cover pandemic, standard BI coverage provides good value for the money.  We estimate the industry pays out about 70 cents in insurance claims for every business interruption protection dollar collected, with most of the remaining amount paid in commissions, premium taxes and other expenses.   For Chubb, in addition to our normal losses this year, we will pay BI claims for policies that specifically covered certain pandemic-related shutdowns such as those for the entertainment industry.

We care deeply about properly supporting and servicing all of our policyholders, and I have particular sympathy for the millions of businesses that have suffered terribly during the pandemic-forced economic shutdowns.  But it would be wrong – in fact, catastrophic and irresponsible – to pay the claims of those who didn’t have coverage, and in fact didn’t pay premiums for the coverage, by using funds that have been properly reserved for the legitimate claims of the vast majority of our P&C policyholders who number over 100 million globally. 

To provide some context, in 2019, Chubb paid $24 billion on approximately four million property and casualty claims.  Again, to pay billions of dollars in uncovered claims by raiding the reserves or capital needed to pay claims on other kinds of policies, such as auto and home, commercial insurance exposures, or respond to natural catastrophes such as hurricanes and wildfires, would be irresponsible to the vast majority of our policyholders and to our shareholders.

Beyond the business interruption challenges of the current COVID-19 crisis, the insurance industry has an important role to play in society and in the economy, and that includes fully participating in the development of a prospective future pandemic business interruption solution should crises arise.  Earlier this month, Chubb released its Pandemic Business Interruption Program designed to mitigate the economic disruption and losses in the event of a future pandemic.

Our framework is not the first plan to be introduced. But the public-private partnership framework we developed has important differences from the other leading proposals. By sharing our ideas and approach, we hope to spark and influence a productive debate on a solution that will work for businesses of all sizes, taxpayers, our industry and the economy more broadly.

First and foremost, I believe the industry can and should take pandemic risk along with the government.  This is a peril that can be covered to a greater degree than we do today as long as the tail exposure is covered by the government.  It’s our job to figure out how to do that.  We can do more than simply play an administrative role or we belittle ourselves and we’re less relevant than we can or should be. 

The framework we announced has attributes that we believe will make for a successful program.  It accounts for the different needs of small, medium and, to a modest degree, large businesses. Premiums for small business will be affordable and they will be paid quickly. Larger companies would pay a fair and risk-adjusted price to both the government and insurers for pandemic cover in a program built on free-market principles.  The government gets paid for the use of its balance sheet – it’s not a handout to larger companies.

Our framework has incentives for broad participation by the industry. And by committing insurance industry capital and providing opportunity for increased risk-sharing over time as direct and secondary markets develop, the pandemic burden shouldered by the government will ultimately be lessened to a degree.

This is an important issue for our nation.  We look forward to contributing to the dialogue as policymakers work to refine the most effective solution.

COVID-19 and Workers Compensation: Impact Will Become Clearer … Eventually

By John Novaria

The impact of COVID-19 on workers compensation will come down to several fundamental questions in the coming months: Who’s at work? Who’s going back to work? And under what circumstances?

Experts addressed these questions during a webcast jointly sponsored by Triple-I and the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). The discussion was moderated by Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications, Triple-I.

While they agreed it’s too early to know all of the impacts of the virus on workers compensation, several important themes are emerging.

Sean Cooper, practice leader and senior actuary, NCCI, said the economy has experienced sudden job losses, compared to the Great Recession of 2008-09, when they were spread out over a period of time, and the nature of those jobs is much different.

“Back then you saw construction and manufacturing impacted greatly, while this time it’s hospitality, leisure and travel,” he said.

Cooper explained some of the varying impacts of COVID-19 on overall workers compensation claims: while COVID-19 claims will have an upward influence on claims, social distancing could put downward pressure on frequency. He also noted telehealth could put downward pressure on the cost of claims.

NCCI files rates and loss costs for every job classification in 38 states, and submits those to regulators for approval in each state. The organization has taken several actions and made several changes to reflect COVID-19.

“We began collecting payroll for furloughed workers so that payroll wouldn’t be used in premium calculations,” said Jeff Eddinger, senior division executive, NCCI. “We are also tracking legislation in each state that affects compensability presumptions.”

Triple-I chief economist Dr. Steven Weisbart pointed out that the last recession was a lengthy one – lasting 19 months – and this one in contrast is unique because it largely depends on a virus and society’s ability to successfully combat it.

Weisbart said he believes the nation will emerge from this pandemic with a different type of economy.

“Telecommuting will be one of the new norms,” he said. “People are recognizing they can do most jobs at home, and companies don’t have the expense of renting office space.”

Weisbart also thinks there will be some additional conversion to robotics and machine jobs, and the number of jobs performed by people may well shrink. He says these types of changes in the workplace will make some difference over time in the types of jobs available and skills required.

Until now, few would have considered a pandemic a likely workers compensation catastrophe. Eddinger noted that traditional methods for calculating the impacts don’t work for low frequency, high severity events.

“NCCI has engaged a modeling firm to evaluate if a pandemic catastrophe provision would be appropriate for future rate filings,” he said. “After 9/11 we applied terrorism models in all 38 of our states, but that was more straightforward because compensability applied to all workers; if you were at work during an event you were covered.”

Watch the highlights: Webcast Highlights Video

Watch the full webcast: Impact of COVID-19 on Workers Compensation Insurance

Additional Resources: 

Media Coverage:

COVID-19 and Shipping Risk

The shipping industry has largely proved resilient to the coronavirus outbreak, and insurance claims related to risks of the sea could be reduced as fewer vessels venture out, insurer Allianz reports in its Safety and Shipping Review 2020

However, new challenges have emerged that could lead to more claims. 

“One of the biggest issues,” Allianz reports, “has been the inability to change crews easily because of pandemic restrictions.” 

Crew relief is essential to ensuring the safety and health of seafarers. Fatigued crew members make errors that Allianz says contribute to 75 percent to 96 percent of marine incidents. Damaged goods and containers account for more than one in five shipping claims. 

“The pandemic has heightened the risk environment around high-value and temperature-sensitive goods in particular as supply chains have come under pressure, cargo-handling companies have shut down abruptly, and ports operated under restrictions,” Allianz says. 

COVID-19 also has made it hard to obtain parts and materials like lubricants that are essential to maintenance and repair. This could make ships and the equipment on board them less safe, potentially leading to groundings or collisions. 

Such an outcome could impede or reverse the industry’s steadily improving safety record.  

The number of total losses of large ships fell in 2019 to 41, Allianz reported – “the lowest total this century and a close to 70% fall over 10 years.” 

The insurer credits improved ship design, technology, regulation, and risk management as contributing to the long-term reduction in losses. 

But improved technology can be a two-edged sword as vessels become more reliant on computers and software, making them vulnerable to cyber incursions. The coronavirus outbreak has affected this risk, too, Allianz says, reporting that companies have faced a 400% increase in attempted cyber-attacks since the pandemic began.  

Wrap-up: COVID-19
and Workers Comp

Lauded for their service and hailed as heroes, essential workers who become infected with the coronavirus on the job have no guarantee in most states that they’ll qualify for workers compensation to cover lost wages and medical care, Associated Press reports

Fewer than one-third of the states have enacted policies that shift the burden of proof for coverage of job-related COVID-19 so workers like first responders and nurses don’t have to show they got sick by reporting for a risky assignment. 

And for most employees going back to job sites as the economy reopens, there’s even less protection than for essential workers. In nearly all states, they have to prove they got the virus on the job to qualify for workers comp. 

Workers comp is not health insurance, or an unemployment benefit. In exchange for coverage, workers give up the right to sue their employers for job-related harms. Employers pay premiums to support the system. Complex rules differ from state to state. 

Dealing with job-related injuries is fairly straightforward, but diseases have always been trickier for workers’ comp, and COVID-19 seems to be in a class of its own. 

“You don’t know per se where you inhaled that breath whereby you became infected,” said Bill Smith, president of the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group, a professional association of lawyers representing workers.  

Read more: 

Families of health workers killed by COVID-19 fight for denied workers comp benefits (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 16, 2020) 

Workers comp in the new world of the COVID-19 pandemic (Law.com, July 16, 2020) 

Report: Sharp drop in California workers’ comp premiums expected from COVID-19 (Insurance Journal, July 14, 2020) 

Triple-I: Insurers Poised to Withstand Challenging Economic Times

The economic uncertainty brought about by COVID-19 has impacted the U.S. insurance industry’s investment portfolios this year yet insurers cumulatively entered 2020 in a strong financial condition, according to a just-released Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) Economic Snapshot report.

“The good news is the industry is well positioned to provide the safety net we need,” said Dr. Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, Triple-I. “We recognize there’s been deterioration in investment income during the past few months, but the industry was financially strong before the pandemic hit. If a vaccine is discovered, most economists believe the economy will have little trouble bouncing back. Until then, it’s just going to be a longer process than we originally thought.”

The financial fortunes of the U.S.’s property/casualty (P/C) insurers are generally tied to the U.S.’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as auto, home, and business (e.g., construction, workers compensation (w/c)) activity are reflective of the economy’s overall health.

Weisbart says while a combination of government restrictions and personal fear is delaying economic recovery, the insurance industry has been able to provide some relief and flexibility for its private-passenger auto insurance policyholders. More than $14 billion in premium relief had been offered to the nation’s drivers in 2020 as of the end of May, a Triple-I analysis found, and insurers continue to monitor the claims experience of motorists.

The Triple-I report shows some additional positive news for insurers. For example, during the past four years the number of owner-occupied homes has risen following a decade during which there was no increase. This is significant for the P/C insurance industry because virtually every owner-occupied home has homeowners insurance while only about half of renters buy renters insurance.

Pandemic-related changes may also affect workers compensation insurance as some states consider changes to the way w/c claims are processed for front-line workers, such as those in health care and law enforcement. On the other hand, some economists suggest w/c claims may experience a decrease due to the number of people working from home.

The Economic Snapshot’s special topic section focuses on life insurance. Although this sector generated its largest pre-tax operating loss of any quarter in at least 18 years, deaths due to the COVID-19 virus weren’t responsible. Instead, the plunge in interest rates was so steep and is expected to last so long that the industry booked an unprecedented increase in aggregate reserves. Reserves rose to $103.5 billion—a $57 billion increase since the third quarter of 2019.

A copy of the 2Q 2020 P/C Industry Economic Snapshot is available to Triple-I members by logging into the members-only portal at www.iii.org.  Please contact members@iii.org for log in instructions, or information about membership.

Based on gas consumption, we’re nearly back to driving at pre-pandemic/recession levels

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

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes extensive data on petroleum production, refining and supplies to users, with some data provided on a weekly basis. Gasoline supplied to retailers is not quite the same as gasoline consumed but it is close. And gasoline consumed is not exactly the same as miles driven but it is close.  Consequently these data can indicate how much people are driving, sooner than we get data on the frequency and severity of collisions. Still, one benefit of tracking these data is that they are published in a timely way.

As a baseline, consider gasoline supplied in the first 12 weeks of 2020, compared to the comparable weeks in 2019 (Figure 1). Although this comparison can be affected by changes in prices from year to year as well as changes in weather (and possibly other differences between the two periods), we can assume that these differences are small and do not obscure longer-term trends.

The graph shows some week-to-week variation, but basically the same—or maybe a little less—gas supplied in 2020 vs. 2019.

Then the pandemic—and the start of the recession caused by fighting it—happened. Driving was sharply curtailed, and auto insurers instituted programs for refunding premiums to reflect this change. Figure 2 adds to Figure 1 the percentage change in year-over-year supplies of gas for the rest of March and all of April 2020.

But in May some states began relaxing various restrictions, and driving began to return to near-pre-pandemic/recession levels, as Figure 3 shows.

At this point there is no way to know what caused this spike in gas usage, but some speculate that any or all of the following could be responsible:

•        States are moving to more permissive stages of lockdown, resulting in more travel, especially to beaches and other outdoor activities

•        People who once took public transportation are now choosing to drive, thereby lessening exposure to the virus that might result from travel on mass transit

•        Warmer weather months are traditionally a time for more driving

•        The price of gas continues to be unusually low, making driving less burdensome than the prior year.

Social Inflation
and COVID-19

Social inflation” refers to rising litigation costs and their impact on insurers’ claim payouts, loss ratios, and, ultimately, how much policyholders pay for coverage. While there’s no universally agreed-upon definition, frequently mentioned aspects of social inflation are growing awards from sympathetic juries and a trend called “litigation funding”, in which investors pay plaintiffs to sue large companies – often insurers – in return for a share in the settlement.

If the idea of social inflation was controversial before the start of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic lockdown, with some calling it a hoax, the subject must now be looked at through the additional lens of COVID-19’s long-term impact on liability questions, plaintiff expectations, and juror attitudes.

A.M. Best said early in the crisis that COVID-19 could produce a big increase in social inflation. The reason: expectations that businesses would sue their insurers in an attempt to access their business interruption coverage for losses relating to the coronavirus pandemic. Such lawsuits have been and continue to be brought.

Hiscox warns about rising Florida risk

Despite reports of rate increases across the property catastrophe reinsurance sector at the mid-year renewals, a Hiscox executive has warned that these improvements could be offset by rising costs of risk in Florida, Reinsurance News reported

After consecutive heavy loss years, some fairly significant loss creep and low interest rates, coupled with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, reinsurance rates reportedly trended in a positive manner at the mid-year renewals, with rises of 20% – 30%, or more in some instances. While reinsurers will welcome rate increases after a prolonged soft market and subsequent pressured returns, the improvements might not be sufficient to account for the increased risk in the region’s market, according to Ross Nottingham, Chair of North America at Hiscox Re and ILS, a division of global insurer and reinsurer Hiscox.

“Why? Because these increases haven’t yet covered our own view of the increased risk in the Florida market, which suggests that the amount of risk going into these programmes is a lot higher than thought last year,” Nottingham said. “That means you might get a 30 percent increase on the programme, but if you’ve measured the risk to the layer and established that it’s potentially worth 40 percent more in premium than it was last year, the margin has in fact decreased.”

Nottingham said the increases being seen in the Florida market in 2020, while positive, are barely covering the additional risk that is out there as evidenced by the substantial levels of adverse loss development on prior year events.

“And what’s continuing to drive loss creep? The villain of the piece is social inflation – a factor not yet captured in the vendor cat models the industry benchmarks for measuring hurricane risk.”

Nottingham says that in Florida social inflation comes from a variety of sources, ranging from assignment of benefits (AOB) litigation to loss adjustment inflation.

AOB abuse has been mitigated somewhat by recent reform legislation. But Nottingham says this reform is expected to have a limited impact on catastrophic claims being litigated and related inflation of a claim once lawyers start to get involved through other avenues.

“Despite insurers’ best efforts to change their original policy forms or to de-risk in the worst performing areas, it is expected that AOB or equivalent abuse will continue after the next big loss event,” says Nottingham. “Two years ago, the market thought the physical attributes of Irma were akin to a one in 10-year event. The loss now – with the advent of social inflation-fueled loss creep – looks more like the cost of a one in 20-year event, but there is no new science to show the expected vulnerability or hazard has changed.”

Another important element impacting reinsurance rates this year is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which, Nottingham says hasn’t been factored into pricing for the months ahead. Forecasters predict an above-average level of hurricane activity in the Atlantic in 2020, which, coupled with the unprecedented impacts of the virus outbreak, presents unique challenges for the industry.

How Court Lockdowns May Turn Social Inflation Tide

COVID-19 may affect some aspects of social inflation in a different manner, Claims Journal reports.

Speaking at a recent Advisen event – Social Inflation: Truth or Fiction – defense attorney Ellen Greiper reported receiving more than the usual number of phone calls from plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“I have had a flurry of phone calls from plaintiffs who are now willing to take that [settlement] amount I had offered before,” said Greiper, a partner with Lewis Brisbois, Brisgaard & Smith. With courts having been closed as part of the general pandemic lockdown and now slowly reopening, “Those plaintiffs are realizing that they are not going to get a trial for at least two years, no matter what status their case may be and whether it’s discovery or past that. So now they are coming out of the woodwork.”

She added that the plaintiffs are “starting to realize that when we all come back and the jurors don’t have jobs or they’ve been furloughed, they’re not getting $10 million on a cervical fusion. They may realize that’s a ridiculous amount of money.”

California Reports $1.2 Billion in Premium Refunds in Response to COVID-19

Insurers refunded $1.2 billion to California policyholders as of June 26, according to actuarial firm Perr & Knight.

The California Department of Insurance (CDI) ordered the refunds to drivers and businesses in the state affected by the COVID-19 emergency. The companies were required to file reports outlining the details of their response to COVID-19.

CDI recently made these reports public, and Perr & Knight,  which specializes in rate filings, published an analysis. Here are some key takeaways:

  • California’s reports have information on the number and percentage of policyholders affected. If the state is a guide, EVERY person with a personal auto insurance policy got a break on premiums, as well as millions of other policyholders, according to James Lynch, Triple-I’s chief actuary.
  • Private auto insurance customers received the largest share of the refunds – a little over $1 billion. Commercial auto customers received about $33 million in refunds, and workers compensation customers received $82.7 million.
  • Commercial multi-peril clients received $11.2 million, commercial liability $7.2 million and medical malpractice $10.3 million.

The reports also have data on payment deferrals (grace periods), which is something that has been underrecognized, in part because it was so hard to quantify.