Author Archives: hesty

More Fallout From Obamacare, Fewer Insurance Companies and Less Choice

We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it – Nancy Pelosi

Principal Financial Quits Writing Health-Care Policies

One of my harshest criticisms of Obamacare was the secretive manner in which it was written. Drafted behind closed doors by congressional staffers and lobbyists, Pelosi, Reid and Obama did not make the bill available for review before passage. The ability to deliver votes or large campaign contributions determined who had input into the bill.

Large insurance companies were one such pressure group, along with trade unions, allowed to influence the actual wording of the legislation. Although large insurance companies are motivated by profit and not the health of their patients, no one can accuse them of stupidity. A simple number these companies surreptitiously managed to slip in the bill will simultaneously guarantee their profits and destroy their competition. The article referenced is the first example of one such deception.

Hidden the 2000 pages of the health care bill is the requirement that 80-85% of health care premiums be spent of patients for actual health care. For those ignorant about the functioning of insurance companies, (Congress, Obama, the national press and the populace), such a number seems quite reasonable. It keeps those greedy insurance companies from taking too much of the money for themselves, and guarantees money for patients. In actuality, this numerical requirement will limit choice, increase costs, and insure the dominance of the legacy insurance companies.

Paying health care claims involved fixed and variable costs. These fixed costs include complex computer and software systems to deal with the arcane medicare rules prescribed by the government. Once these systems are installed, scaling them to larger operations is less expensive. Hence, as insurance companies get larger, their fixed costs become a smaller percentage of overall expenditures, which is common in many industries.

Meeting the 80% ratio is therefore far easier for larger than smaller companies, and will be virtually impossible for new start-up insurance companies. I think the 80% number was not just pulled out of the air, but probably represents the ratio already being spent by Anthem, Aetna, United Health, and the other large companies.

So in one stroke of the pen, large insurance companies have been able to force out smaller companies, eliminate the possibility of new competition and assure themselves of a 15-20% profit margin. I would say Insurance companies campaign donations were money well spent. The outcomes for the rest of us will be fewer choices, little innovation, lack of competition, and further centralization of power in the hands of a few large corporations.

The secretive manner in which Obamacare was written insures more deceptions remain to be discovered. Who knows what other pressure groups and lobbyists have slipped into the bill to protect their interests at the expense of the American people? I will not be surprised, nor am I optimistic.

 

The Best Way to Pick a Florida Take Out Homeowners Insurance Company

Citizens Property Insurance is Florida’s state run home insurance company. It was formed to offer home insurance coverage to consumers unable to find coverage from a private Florida home insurance company. Homeowners in Florida turn to Citizens for coverage due to one or more risk factors that make their home undesirable to private insurance companies. These risk factors include among other things – the home’s age, distance from the coast, construction materials, and roof type.

Citizens Property Insurance depends on a mix of pre-event hurricane borrowing and imposing after the storm surcharges on all Florida home insurance policies if it doesn’t have the money it needs to pay claims.

This potentially lethal mix of high risk homes along with being under funded is one of the reasons that it’s always been a good idea to try to reduce the number of policies in Citizens Property Insurance. The smaller the number of policies that the company has, there is less chance that policyholders across Florida will have to pay large special assessments for many years after a major hurricane.

One of the ways that is done is by encouraging private home insurance companies to assume or “take out” policies currently covered by Citizens Property Insurance – hence the name “take out companies”. The take out process is also referred to as depopulation.

Attracting companies to assume or take policies out of Citizens Insurance Florida is good public policy.

In addition to moving more of Florida’s wind risk to the private market, customers may also get better customer service from a private take out company that doesn’t have a massive base of over 1 million customers like Citizens. They are also usually rewarded with annual insurance premiums that are lower than what they were paying Citizens. Finally, policyholders with private insurance companies are subject to smaller special assessments after major hurricanes.

Florida take out home insurance companies come to life with an immediate customer base of policyholders without having to make the usual investments in marketing and adverting. When these companies are initially capitalized, its easier for them to raise money because investors know that the take out companies will have an immediate customer base and money coming in immediately after they assume policies from Citizens.

Despite all the good that comes from reducing the number of Florida home insurance policies in Citizens Property Insurance, the take out program is not without its problems.

Policyholders are often concerned about the financial stability of the take out insurance companies. Many are start up companies and have a small surplus available to pay claims of $20 million or less. With Florida hurricane claims averaging $30,000 or more, even after a company’s reinsurance kicks in, there might not be enough money to pay all of the claims.

A significant number of take out companies were created after Florida’s 2004/2005 hurricane seasons. Policyholders are concerned that if their home has a hurricane claim in 2009, that their home will be “on-the job” training for the customer service staff at these newly formed companies – inexperience that could cause delays in paying claims fairly and prompty.

Many of these take out companies milk the policy base they assume and never go on to write any new business beyond the policies they take out of Citizens. Companies that don’t diversify their policy base beyond the original take out policies are more vulnerable to collapsing after a major Florida hurricane.

Last but not least, Florida insurance agents who originally wrote the policies that are being removed from Citizens might not want to become an agent with the new take out companies – even if it means they will lose the business. They simply might not want to add a new company to the mix of companies they already represent. Or they could have real concerns about the financial stability of the new take out company. The agent can’t stop consumers who want to benefit from a take out offer. However, an agent’s reluctance to be an agent with a particular company should at a minimum cause a consumer to pause and move forward with caution.

Here are the questions you should be asking your current Florida insurance agent if you are with Citizens and you are sent a take out offer – before you decide whether to move your Florida home insurance from Citizens to the new take out company:

How long has it been in business? Has it ever handled Florida hurricane claims before? If so, how many customers have filed complaints against that company for inadequate customer service.

How financially strong is the take out company? What are its financial ratings? How diversified is the company’s policy base across both Florida and other states? Are the policies being assumed by the take out company in North Central Florida, or in hurricane ground zero along the South Florida coast?

If your agent is not willing to become a new agent of one of the take out companies, that alone should be a warning sign to you. By taking this position, your agent is risking the loss of the commission your policy. Find out from your agent why they don’t want their agency to accept an appointment with the new take out company. The answer your agent gives you, might tell you everything you need to know about whether you should accept the offer from the new take out company.

Last but not least, ask your agent if there are any other Florida home insurance companies who might want to cover your home. The private home insurance market in Florida is always changing and there might be other companies now covering homes like yours that are a lot more stable.

Don’t forget, if you don’t bother to investigate these take out insurance companies, you will be the one that could be living with an unpaid claim after the next Florida hurricane.

Could Your Life Insurance Company Fail?

Life insurance policies provide your family the much needed financial stability in case of your sudden demise. This becomes all the more essential when the breadwinner of the family is gone suddenly. Your family can still meet their vital needs and maintain the same standard of living that was available that they had earlier. However, what if the insurance company goes bust?

Like in case of a bank, your insurance company could also go bankrupt. However, this does not mean that all your hard earned money is gone forever and you are left penniless. This is because every insurer is monitored by IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) on a regular basis. The insurer is also supposed to maintain a solvency margin for recovery in case of an unfortunate incident.
What are the Safety Measures

There are various measures and regulations undertaken by the government and IRDA so that your money is always safe, even if the insurer goes bust. There are various strict guidelines and regulations that ensure that one or two serious incidents or financial loss doesn’t result in the company going down. The two main acts that cover all these regulations and are the foundations of various activities that are carried out in the field of insurance are:

• The Insurance Act 1938

• The Insurance Regulatory and Development Act 1999

The various guidelines and regulations are the following:

• Every insurance company has to be registered and needs a license from the relevant authorities. This will prevent fraud companies from carrying out their illegal operations and duping investors.

• The process of registration and renewal has to be strictly followed by every insurance company.

• A solvency amount of Rs 150 crores has to be submitted with RBI, under IRDA. This is safety deposit money that is kept for compensation to customers in case the company goes bankrupt.

• Every insurance company is required to be attached to a re-insurance company. The re-insurance company will take up the legal responsibility of reimbursement of insurance claims of customers, in case the insurer goes bankrupt.

• There are strict regulations regarding the minimum capital requirements, funds, accounts and management of the companies.

• There are also strict guidelines regarding the amount of cash companies can invest in stock markets, individual stocks etc.

What Else Can You Do?

On the other hand, to be doubly sure, you might invest your money with different insurers in different policies. This reduces the risk of losing all your insurance cover in case one of the insurers goes bust. However, it has a downside that you will be paying a policy fee for multiple policies to different insurers. Also, you will be missing out on the discounts and other benefits that one insurer gives on a single bulk policy. Also, when you get life insurance, you must go for online life insurance that will enable you to choose the best and most reliable insurance company.

With the strict guidelines and regulations, it is almost impossible for any insurance company to go bankrupt in India. You can therefore be confident and fully assured that your hard earned money will be safe with the insurance companies. If at all anything unfortunate happens, IRDA and the Finance ministry in the Central government will ensure that your and other customers’ issues are addressed and your money recovered.