Tag Archives: Transamerica

An Interview With Nick Gerhart (Part 1)

I recently sat with Nick Gerhart to discuss the regulatory environment for U.S. insurance carriers. Nick offers a broad perspective on regulation based on his experience: After roles at two different carriers, Nick served as Iowa insurance commissioner, and he currently is chief administrative officer at Farm Bureau Financial Services.

Nick is recognized as a thought leader for innovation and is regularly called on to speak and moderate at insurtech conferences and events. During our discussion, Nick described the foundation for the state-based regulatory environment, the advantages and challenges of decentralized oversight and how the system is adapting in light of innovation.

This is the first of a three-part series and focuses on the regulatory framework insurers face. In the second part, Nick will provide the regulator’s perspective, with a focus on the goals and tactics of the commissioner’s office. Finally, in the third installment, we will cover the best practices of the insurers in compliance reporting.

Part I: The Regulatory Framework

You served as the chief regulator in Iowa: How do regulatory practices in Iowa compare with other states?

Every state essentially has the same mission. Iowa has one of the largest domestic industries, so we have to focus a lot on the issues that go along with having a lot of domiciled companies. We have over 220 companies domiciled in Iowa. I believe that is the eighth most in the country; therefore, we are a top-10 state in the number of domiciled carriers. So, how we focus may be a bit different than if we only had a handful of domestic carriers. Due to the number of companies domiciled in Iowa, we must have a technical skill set and ability to completely understand the all facets of the industry.

Level-setting: What are the goals of the office of the insurance commissioner?

First and foremost, the goal is to protect the consumer. You do that through monitoring a company’s solvency and financial status. You also make sure that companies are following rules and regulations and all the laws on the books.

A lot of folks don’t recognize how complex that regulatory framework is, so you really spend your time not only on financial solvency but also on the market side, making sure that rules are followed.

See also: Time to Revisit State-Based Regulation?  

Even if a state has fewer companies domiciled, is it still interested in solvency? Or is this outsourced to the state of domicile?

That’s a good question. There are two sides – the financial side and the market side. On the financial side, there’s great deference to the lead state. For instance, if you are the lead state regulator of a group that is doing business in multiple states, there will be great deference to that regulator and his or her team that is reviewing those financials and that file. Any regulator can check and have their own views, obviously. But, there’s going to be great deference to that lead state.

Is this the same for market conduct?

On the market side, there’s not nearly as much deference. In fact, while I was commissioner, the NAIC was undertaking an accreditation standard for the market side. On the financial side, every state is accredited by the NAIC. And through this process, there’s much more cohesiveness and deference to that lead state. That doesn’t exist as much on the market side.

So, backing up a second, I’d like to touch on the topic of state-based regulation vs. federal regulation. Is this the right way to regulate this market?

I think it’s a good thing, because it’s local. A lot of insurance is local.

The feds have done a lot of work – whether it’s CMS, the Department of Labor or Treasury – that encroaches on state insurance regulators. I submit that this encroachment creates confusion and is counterproductive. I personally do not believe a federal regulator is going to do a better job and, in fact, believe it would lead to poorer results and hurt consumers. In my opinion, the federal government did not do exemplary work during the financial crisis, and I believe insurance regulators actually performed and executed quite well during that financially stressful time. In looking at that crisis, I have concluded that I do not want federal regulators or prescriptive banking standards forced upon the insurance industry.

State insurance commissioners are either elected by the people they serve or are appointed by a governor or other official or agency head. Those are held accountable at that local level and are part of the communities they serve. On countless occasions, I was stopped by people and asked about insurance issues. It would be very difficult to get that accountability or access if insurance were regulated at a federal level.

Are there areas where the states could improve?

There are some areas: They can do a better job of working together on the market side. But that’s why the National Association of Insurance Commisioners, the NAIC, exists – to create model laws that will create more uniformity across all states. And again, the states have done a tremendous job on the financial side.

The market side has more room to improve –  at least as far as coordination. Regulators have made tremendous progress in recent years, though. In the last six years, by collaborating and coordinating through the NAIC, monumental modernization has occurred. As an example, annuity suitability, ORSA, principal-based reserving, corporate governance, credit for reinsurance and now cyber model laws have all been created and passed in numerous states. Passing a model law out of the NAIC is important because it provides a state a solid model to guide through the legislative process.

What is the downside of state regulation?

There are certainly challenges with the state-based system. One is, at the state level, having resources to do the job. The state of Iowa is really an international regulator as we’re the lead state for Transamerica/Aegon and group-wide supervisor for Principal Financial. We have firms in Iowa with significant international footprints, so Iowa regulates alongside international peers from all over the world. I believe it is critical that Iowa resource the insurance division appropriately, as limiting resources too much ultimately hurts the ability to regulate effectively.

After resources, I think the biggest challenge for states is uniformity issues. An emerging challenge is keeping up with all the technological advances and innovation emerging from the insurtech and fintech area.

Is regulation keeping up with innovation?

Whether or not the old regulatory framework is still relevant today – I believe we will soon have a debate around that and how to modernize. The use of data is going to be a challenge for regulators, whether it’s genetic testing in life insurance or some other topic. There are a lot of issues in the innovation space that regulators are going to have to step up and meet because, if consumers demand change, the answer shouldn’t necessarily be, “We can’t do that.” Maybe we need to look at the rules and the laws and make a concerted effort to modernize.

Over the years, a number of people have come into my office frustrated at the limitations of the current rules and said, “That law’s stupid.” I have to inform them that just because it is illogical doesn’t mean that you can get rid of it. That’s not the commissioner’s job. The legislature passes the laws. The commissioner interprets and enforces the laws. Commissioners do not pass the law, so, when individuals are frustrated, often that frustration is misplaced.

See also: The Coming Changes in Regulation  

All in all, you would say that state-based regulation is the better answer?

I would put the state system up against a federally based system any day.

At the same time, we are the only country, to my knowledge, that has 56 different jurisdictions regulating insurers. Every other nation has a federal one. This poses challenges for international groups; certainly, some reinsurers are facing these issues. It is for that reason that we must coordinate better and speak with a unified voice.

As I have said, I do think the state system is remarkably better for consumers. When I was commissioner, the phone number on my business card went right to my office. I talked to consumers every day who called me directly. I would answer my phone, and they would be shocked that I would answer. There is genuine appeal in that.

When something goes wrong, insurance quickly becomes very personal. Sometimes, it’s bad things happening intentionally or willfully, while other times it’s just misunderstandings. Insurance is incredibly complex. I’d much rather have a system where there is accountability at the state level. You have people working for their citizens whom they go to church with and see around the state.

That’s a much better system than a federal bureaucracy that might have 10 regional offices where it’s impersonal and you have no idea who in the heck you’re talking to.

Continued….

Will Startups Win 20% of Business?

Headlines about the insurtech disruption are split between issues like improvement to the customer experience and how traditional carriers expect to be affected. The situation is reminiscent of the days when Wal-Mart announced that a store was coming to a small town, and local retailers began screaming that the sky was falling.

We keep a close eye on insurtech at WeGoLook because, as a leader in the gig economy, we find natural partnerships abundant between our on-demand workforce and innovative insurtech services.

According to PwC Global, many insurance carriers see the potential downside to ignoring insurtech:

  • 48% of insurers fear that as much as 20% of their business could be lost to insurtech startups within the next five years;
  • Annual investment in insurtech startups has increased fivefold over the past three years, with total funding reaching $3.4 billion since 2010; and
  • More than two-thirds of insurance companies say they have taken concrete steps to address the challenges and opportunities presented by insurtech.

Will incumbent carriers accept the anticipated losses or will they fight to retain market share?

See also: Be Afraid of These 4 Startups  

The Standard Market’s Reaction

Traditional insurers have begun to throw a lot of money at the insurtech situation. Many of them have significant venture capital funds.

These steps are not necessarily being taken to compete with the startups that are expected to capture the 20% but to retain control over methods of distribution.

Even though insurtech startups appear to be better than incumbents at creating products and distribution systems, many still rely on their insurance partnership with standard carriers for underwriting and claims administration. New pay-per-use companies such as Metromile and Simplesurance, which are not regulated insurers, sell policies that are underwritten by established insurers.

A Threat to Distribution

Insurtech startups will take a significant bite out of the traditional insurance distribution system. Startups and incumbents will be forced into partnerships because both are vital to delivering products.

Insurers are certainly not blind to the opportunities that have become available as a result of technology that will allow them to learn more about the consumer experience and how the consumer behaves.

We’ve already seen carriers such as MetLife and Aviva found and support startup incubators. And even WeGoLook was recently acquired by Crawford & Co.

And this is a good thing!

If incumbent insurers can embrace and adapt to the innovation, creativity and agility of the startups, the insurance industry will be better positioned to meet the needs of the consumer.

The newly created partnerships are destined to make significant progress in solving the problems of the new economy and bring consumer-centric innovative products to the marketplace.

The New Competition Partners

Some of the startups that have already succeeded in taking a bite out of the traditional distribution system:

Oscar

Founded in 2012 with $750 million in venture capital, and one of the first to establish its presence, Oscar was created as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Oscar relies on technology and data so it can improve the healthcare it offers to customers. With annual revenue of $200 million, the company is currently valued at $3 billion.

See also: Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2017  

Trov

Also founded in 2012, Trov is a U.S. startup funded with $46 million. The company was established to sell insurance by the piece.

The company will provide insurance on a per-item basis and offer policies on a term selected by the consumer.

Although founded in the U.S., the company first marketed its innovative product in Australia and targeted millennials. Like most other startups, the company partnered with a traditional insurer to handle the underwriting.

PolicyGenius

PolicyGenius is banking on consumers’ preference to have all their insurance products in one place and online.

The company was founded in 2014 with $21 million in capital and has partnered with major traditional players such as Axa, Transamerica and MassMutual.

As a virtual online insurance broker, PolicyGenius intends to make a dent in the insurance distribution system through satisfying the preferences of the consumer.

Metromile

San Francisco-based Metromile has created disruption in the auto insurance market by offering pay-per-mile auto insurance.

Through the use of an innovative app working in concert with the Metromile Pulse plug-in, consumers who use their vehicle on a limited basis will obtain significant savings on auto insurance.

The company offers a full customer service team and 24/7 claims service. All policies are underwritten via its partnership with National General Insurance Company (formerly GMAC).

Lemonade

After promising to reinvent the insurance industry, Lemonade offers home and renters insurance by using bots instead of brokers.

After testing the product in New York, the company launched nationwide in 2017. As licenses are approved on a state-by-state basis, the Lemonade footprint will continue to grow.

Unlike traditional insurers, Lemonade charges a flat-fee commission and then gives back unclaimed money to charitable causes that policyholders care about.

See also: Why I’m Betting on Lemonade  

Lemonade is a perfect example of how insurtech startups are revolutionizing the insurance industry.

But There’s Hope

Although the threat of losing market share is demonstrated by the success of many of the insurtech startups, it’s important to recognize that a relationship can manifest that benefits both traditional insurers and the innovative startup.

New business for one startup doesn’t necessarily mean a loss for another.

Also, traditional insurers are already positioned to raise the additional capital needed to compete with the startups — if they choose to do so.

So, will the 20% market loss actually be realized?

If we play our cards right, probably not.

The Stubborn Myths About Older Workers

When it comes to retirement, a significant cultural and demographic trend is taking place. Twenty-five years ago, only about one worker in 10 planned to stay in the workforce beyond age 65. Today, that number has risen to more than 50%. In fact, according to the 16th annual Transamerica retirement survey, 82% of 60-somethings expect to work or are already working past age 65.

Today’s boomers are not ready to stop working. They are better-educated, more physically fit than their parents and perhaps not as financially comfortable as they’d like to be. In short, they are defying stereotypes about an aging workforce and redefining retirement.

It’s not strictly a financial matter. “Money and access to healthcare are of considerable importance,” reports the AARP Public Policy Institute, “but so are the desires to remain active, make a contribution and maintain social relationships at work. Furthermore, these workers often enjoy what they are doing.”

Boomers are still working today at ages when their parents and grandparents had retired. This is particularly true in a service industry like insurance where physical strength is not an issue. Think of today’s 65-year-old worker as yesterday’s 50-year-old worker.

What is surprising is that few insurance firms have adapted to this new trend or have put policies and practices in place to accommodate today’s retirement reality.

Yet, when asked to name their greatest challenges, many insurance firms concede that finding and keeping qualified staff is at the top of their list and state that the loss of talented and experienced older workers is a key concern. This issue is further confirmed by the accounting firm PwC’s report that concludes the industry faces “a potentially massive loss of skilled, knowledgeable workers” as large numbers of older insurance workers approach their traditional retirement dates. The report notes that hiring millennials is only part of the solution and does not adequately address the transfer-of-knowledge issue.

See also: Why Are We Still Just Talking Diversity?  

Perhaps it isn’t so surprising after all. There remains a litany of stereotypes and negative perceptions to explain why firms tend to reject older workers, including:

  • Hiring managers tend to see older workers as more likely to be burned out, slow to accept or adapt to new technologies, more likely to miss work due to illness and poor at working with younger workers, especially younger supervisors; and
  • Many assume older workers are less creative, less productive, slower mentally and more expensive to employ than their millennial counterparts.

But current research negates these stereotypes:

  • According to a study this spring prepared by Aon Hewitt for AARP, “workers aged 50-plus can help employers address current and future talent shortages.” AARP and others have long argued that older workers are reliable, flexible and experienced and possess valuable institutional knowledge.
  • Writing in the AARP Bulletin on “The Value of Older Workers,” T.R. Reid reminds us that hiring skilled, vintage workers can be “a boon to employers, a boost for the U.S. economy and a bonus for the workers. For employers, the ‘unretired’ provide a pool of experienced labor that has proved to be productive, dedicated and loyal.”
  • One of last year’s blockbuster movies, The Intern, took notice of boomers reentering the workforce. Robert DeNiro played a septuagenarian whose experience and life skills help turn around the business run by the wonder-kid played by Anne Hathaway. His character pinpoints the reasons employers should want an older worker: “I’ve always been a company man,” he declares. “I’m loyal, I’m trustworthy and I’m calm in a crisis.”

Researchers at the University of Kentucky surveyed large and small companies to assess how employers evaluate their older workers. They uncovered seven perceived benefits of hiring older workers:

  1. Dedication to the organization
  2. Customer-service orientation
  3. Dependability
  4. High productivity
  5. Life experiences
  6. Strong work ethic
  7. Institutional knowledge

When it comes to actual job performance, Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of Business, is quoted in the AARP article, “The Surprising Truth about Older Workers,” as observing that older workers outperform their younger peers. “Every aspect of job performance gets better as we age,” he says. “I thought the picture might be more mixed, but it isn’t. The juxtaposition between the superior performance of older workers and the discrimination against them in the workplace just really makes no sense.”

Nathaniel Reade summarized Cappelli’s findings: “Older workers tend to be motivated by causes like community, mission and a chance to make the world a better place; younger workers are more driven by factors that directly benefit themselves, such as money and promotions. But perhaps the greatest asset older workers bring is experience — their workplace wisdom. They’ve learned how to get along with people, solve problems without drama and call for help when necessary.”

In a Sept. 18, 2015, U.S. News and World Report article, “5 Reasons Employers Should Hire More Workers Over Age 50,” Maryalene LaPonise suggests we “forget the myth that older workers are outdated and expensive. The best are loyal and competent and may even help a business’s bottom line.” She sees their experience, confidence, “relatability,” loyalty and ability to save companies money as the key reasons to hire older workers.

In a Brookings blog, World Bank economists Wolfgang Fengler and Johannes Koettl write, “A binary system of working 100% until retirement and then suddenly moving to 0% at an arbitrary age of around 65 is one of the great anachronisms of today’s labor market.” They argue the whole idea of a “retirement age” should be retired.

See also: How Should Workers’ Compensation Evolve?  

At WAHVE, we agree in the power and performance of experienced workers. It is clear that the attitudes of insurance firms toward older workers need to be reset. For our part, WAHVE is helping reimagine both staffing and retirement in the insurance industry and bridges the gap between insurance firms’ staffing needs and seasoned professionals’ “work-life” balance preferences as they phase into retirement.

InsurTech Start-Ups: Friends or Foes?

This is the second of two parts. The first was, “The InsurTech Boom Is Reshaping the Market.”

What is your strategy to respond to Insurtech? Yes, InsurTech start-ups may be rivals and disruptors….but savvy insurers are starting to recognize that InsurTech start-ups can also be partners. The benefits of InsurTech collaboration are substantial.

While some carriers view the rise of insurance technology start-ups with trepidation, others have been quick to seize on the InsurTech trend as an opportunity. Major insurers are some of the biggest investors in fledgling InsurIech firms. Far from seeing these new companies as rivals, they’re embracing them as partners.

The venture investment funds of prominent insurers such as AXA, Aviva, Allianz, American Family, MassMutual, TransAmerica and Ping An, have made significant investments in insurtech start-ups. Recipients include PolicyGenius, NextCapital, CoverHound and Limelight Health.

Funding of emerging technology firms by big insurers looks set to climb this year. CB Insights reports that insurers completed 20 investment deals in the first quarter of this year. The same group of insurers concluded only eight deals in the first three months of 2015.

See also: A Mental Framework for InsurTech

The shift to collaborate, rather than compete, with technology start-ups is gathering pace throughout the financial services industry. Investment in start-ups aiming to collaborate with established financial services providers jumped 138% last year. It accounted for 44% of the total funding for financial services technology, FinTech, in 2015 – up from 29% in 2014.

Start-ups looking to compete with financial services companies still attract the bulk of investment. However, there’s growing enthusiasm for cooperation among investors and start-ups. The extent of this support varies across geographic markets. In New York, investment in collaborative start-ups accounted for 83% of total FinTech funding, while in London and the rest of the U.K., where the regulatory environment is more conducive to new competitors, the proportion was only 10%.

The illustration below shows the growing interest in cooperation across the financial services industry. Investors are increasingly supporting firms that can help established service providers reduce costs and risk and capitalize on new markets.

Friend or foe. Big insurers shift stance on insurtech start-ups_Cusano (Figure 1)

This trend is only beginning to affect the insurance industry. But as the InsurTech sector grows it will become much stronger.

Increasing cooperation between insurers and new technology firms is a sure sign of the growing maturity of the InsurTech sector. Many major carriers no longer worry that InsurTech firms might erode their business. Instead, they’re eager to benefit from the new insights, attitudes and technology they bring to the industry.

See also: Blockchain Technology and Insurance  

The benefits of collaborating with InsurTech firms can be compelling and include:

  • Insurers can get early access, first mover advantage on disruptive technologies.
  • Big insurers’ decisions to use new technologies often decide whether a new company will be successful….so combining use of a new InsurTech with an investment is a double win.
  • Insurers will get the ability to influence the strategy of the new start-up.

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss the shift in FinTech funding to developing economies and explain why this is good for insurers.

This article originally appeared on Accenture.

 

trends

13 Emerging Trends for Insurance in 2016

Where does the time go?  It seems as if we were just ringing in 2015, and now we’re well into 2016. As time goes by, life changes, and the insurance industry—sometimes at a glacial pace—does, indeed, change, as well. Here’s my outlook for 2016 on various insurance topics:

  1. Increased insurance literacy: Through initiatives like The Insurance Consumer Bill of Rights and increased resources, consumers and agents are both able to know their rights when it comes to insurance and can better manage their insurance portfolios.
  2. Interest rates: The federal funds target rate increase that was announced recently will have a yet-to-be determined impact on long-term interest rates. According to Fitch Ratings, further rate increases’ impact on credit fundamentals and the longer end of the yield curve has yet to be determined. Insurance companies are hoping for higher long-term rates as investment strategies are liability-driven. (Read more on the FitchRatings website here). Here is what this means: There will not necessarily be a positive impact for insurance policy-holders (at least in the near future). Insurance companies have, for a long period, been subsidizing guarantees on certain products or trying to minimize the impact of low interest rates on policy performance. In the interim, many insurance companies have changed their asset allocation strategies by mostly diversifying their portfolios beyond their traditional holdings—cash and investment-grade corporate bonds—by investing in illiquid assets to increase returns. The long-term impact on product pricing and features is unknown, and will depend on further increases in both short- and long-term interest rates and whether they continue to rise in predictable fashion or take an unexpected turn for which insurers are ill-prepared.
  3. Increased cost of insurance (COI) on universal life insurance policies: Several companies—including Voya Financial (formerly ING), AXA and Transamerica—are raising mortality costs on in-force universal life insurance policies. Some of the increases are substantial, but, so far, there has been an impact on a relatively small number of policyholders. That may change if we stay in a relatively low-interest-rate environment and more life insurance companies follow suit. Here is what this means: As companies have been subsidizing guaranteed interest rates (and dividend scales) that are higher than what the companies are currently (and have been) earning over the last few years, it is likely that this trend will continue.
  4. Increasing number of unexpected life insurance policy lapses and premium increases: For the most part, life insurance companies do not readily provide the impact of the two prior factors I listed when it regards cash value life insurance policies (whole life, universal life, indexed life, variable life, etc). In fact, this information is often hidden. And this information will soon be harder to get; Transamerica is moving to only provide in-force illustrations based on guarantees, rather than current projections. Here is what this means: It will become more challenging to see how a policy is performing in a current or projected environment. At some point, regulators or legislators will need to step in, but it may be too late. Monitor your policy, and download a free life insurance annual review guide from the Insurance Literacy Institute (here).
  5. Increased complexity: Insurance policies will continue to become more complex and will continue their movement away from being risk protection/leverage products to being complex financial products with a multitude of variables. This complexity is arising with products that combine long-term care insurance and life insurance (or annuities), with multiple riders on all lines of insurance coverage and with harder-to-define risks — even adding an indexed rider to a whole life policy (Guardian Life). Here is what this means: The more variables that are added to the mix, the greater the chance that there will be unexpected results and that these policies will be even more challenging to analyze.
  6. Pricing incentives: Life insurance and health insurance companies are offering discounts for employees who participate in wellness programs and for individuals who commit to tracking their activity through technology such as Fitbit. In auto insurance, there can be an increase in discounts for safe driving, low mileage, etc. Here is what this means: Insurance companies will continue to implement different technologies to provide more flexible pricing; the challenge will be in comparing policies. The best thing an insurance consumer can do is to increase her insurance literacy. Visit the resources section on our site to learn more.
  7. Health insurance and PPACA/Obamacare: The enrollment of individuals who were uninsured before the passage of Obamacare has been substantial and has resulted in significant changes, especially because everyone has the opportunity to get insurance—whether or not they have current health issues. And who, at some point, has not experienced a health issue? Here is what this means: Overall, PPACA is working, though it is clearly experiencing implementation issues, including the well-publicized technology snafus with enrollment through the federal exchange and the striking number of state insurance exchanges. And there will be continued challenges or efforts to overturn it in the House and the Senate. (The 62nd attempt to overturn PPACA was just rejected by President Obama.) The next election cycle may very well determine the permanency of PPACA. The efforts to overturn it are shameful and are a waste of time and money.
  8. Long-term care insurance: Rates for in-force policies have increased and will almost certainly face future increases—older policies are still priced lower than what a current policy would cost. This is because of many factors, including the prolonged low-interest-rate environment, lower-than-expected lapse ratios, higher-than-expected claims ratios and incredibly poor initial product designs (such as unlimited benefits on a product where there was minimal if any claims history). These are the “visible” rate increases. If you have a long-term care insurance policy with a mutual insurance company where the premium is subsidized by dividends, you may not have noticed or been informed of reduced dividends (a hidden rate increase). Here is what this means: Insurance companies, like any other business, need to be profitable to stay in business and to pay claims. In most states, increases in long-term care insurance premiums have to be approved by that state’s insurance commissioner. When faced with a rate increase, policyholders will need to consider if their benefit mix makes sense and fits within their budget. And, when faced with such a rate increase, there is the option to reduce the benefit period, reduce the benefit and oftentimes change the inflation rider or increase the waiting period. More companies are offering hybrid insurance policies, which I strongly recommend staying away from. If carriers cannot price the stand-alone product correctly, what leads us to believe they can price a combined product better?
  9. Sharing economy and services: These two are going to continue to pose challenges in the homeowners insurance and auto insurance marketplaces for the insurance companies and for policy owners. There is a question of when is there actually coverage in place and which policy it is under. There are some model regulations coming out from a few state insurance companies, however, they’re just getting started. Here is what this means: If you are using Uber, Lyft, Airbnb or a similar service on either side of the transaction, be sure to check your insurance policy to see when you are covered and what you are covered for. There are significant gaps in most current policies. Insurance companies have not caught up to the sharing economy, and it will take them some time to do so.
  10. Loyalty tax: Regulators are looking at banning auto and homeowners insurance companies from raising premiums for clients who maintain coverage with them for long periods. Here is what this means: Depending on your current auto and homeowners policies, you may see a reduction in premiums. It is recommended that, in any circumstance, you should review your coverage to ensure that it is competitive and meets your needs.
  11. Insurance fraud: This will continue, which increases premiums for the rest of us. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud released its 2015 Hall of Shame (here). Insurance departments, multiple agencies and non-profits are investigating and taking action against those who commit elder financial abuse. Here is what this means: The more knowledgeable that consumers, professional agents and advisers become, the more we can protect our families and ourselves.
  12. Uncertain economic and regulatory conditions: Insurance companies are operating in an environment fraught with potential changes, such as in interest rates (discussed above); proposed tax code revisions; international regulators who are moving ahead with further development of Solvency II; and IFRS, NAIC and state insurance departments that are adjusting risk-based capital charges and will react to the first year of ORSA implementation. And then there is the Department of Labor’s evaluation of fiduciary responsibility rules that are expected to take effect this year. Here is what this means: There will be a myriad of potential outcomes, so be sure to continue to monitor your insurance policy portfolio and stay in touch with the Insurance Literacy Institute. Part of the DOL ruling would result in changes to the definition of “conflict of interest” and possibly compensation disclosure.
  13. Death master settlements: Multiple life insurance companies have reached settlements on this issue. Created by the Social Security Administration, the Death Master File database provides insurers with the names of deceased people with Social Security numbers. It is a useful tool for insurers to identify policyholders whose beneficiaries have not filed claims—most frequently because they were unaware the deceased had a policy naming them as a beneficiary. Until recently, most insurers only used the database to identify deceased annuity holders so they could stop making annuity payments, not to identify deceased policyholders so they can pay life insurance benefits. Life insurers that represent more than 73% of the market have agreed to reform their practices and search for deceased policyholders so they can pay benefits to their beneficiaries. A national investigation by state insurance commissioners led to life insurers returning more than $1 billion to beneficiaries nationwide. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is currently drafting a model law  that would require all life insurers to use the Death Master File database to facilitate payment of benefits to their beneficiaries. To learn more, visit our resources section here. Here is what this means: Insurance companies will not be able to have their cake and eat it too.

What Can You Do?

The Insurance Consumer Bill of Rights directly addresses the issues discussed in this article.

Increase your insurance literacy by supporting the Insurance Literacy Institute and signing the Insurance Consumer Bill of Rights Petition. An updated and expanded version will be released shortly  that is designed to assist insurance policyholders, agents and third party advisers.

Sign the Insurance Consumer Bill of Rights Petition 

What’s on your mind for 2016? Let me know. And, if you have a tip to add to the coming Top 100 Insurance Tips, please share it with me.