The Consumer Federation of America released it’s 2007 study of industry profits along with it’s analysis of the reasons behind the numbers. Those of us on the Mississippi Coast can readily identify with the conclusions of the study, conducted by former Texas Insurance Commissioner Robert Hunter. This document is well worth reading and I highly recommend it for those wondering why the 2004 tort reform promise of cheaper insurance after passage has largely never materialized.
“State and national consumer organizations joined the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) today to release a new study concluding that the property/casualty insurance industry continued in 2007 to systematically overcharge consumers and reduce the value of home and automobile insurance policies, leading to profits, reserves, and surplus that are at or near record levels. The study estimates that insurer overcharges over the last four years amount to an average of $870 per household.
The report provides extensive data demonstrating that property/casualty insurance companies are paying out lower claims in relationship to the premiums they charge consumers than at any time in decades. The pure loss ratio, the actual amount of each premium dollar insurers pay back to policyholders in benefits, was only 54.6 cents in 2007. Over the past 20 years, the amount paid back as benefits has dramatically declined from over 70 cents per premium dollar, indicating a huge loss in the value of insurance to consumers.
“Consumers ultimately pay the price for the unjustified profits, padded reserves, and excessive capitalization that exist right now in the insurance industry,” said J. Robert Hunter, the Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and author of the study. Hunter is an actuary, former state insurance commissioner, and former federal insurance administrator.
“The insurance industry reaped record profits in 2004 and 2005, despite significant hurricane activity,” said Hunter. “Profits in 2006 rose to unprecedented heights and 2007 may set a fourth consecutive profit record,” he said. “Unfortunately, a major reason why insurers have reported record-high profits and low losses in recent years is that they have been methodically overcharging consumers, cutting back on coverage, underpaying claims, and getting taxpayers topick up some of the tab for risks the insurers should cover,” said Hunter.
In the last several years, insurers sharply increased premiums for homeowners and commercial insurance and reduced or eliminated coverage for tens of thousands of Americans in coastal areas. Insurers have succeeded in convincing Congress to continue taxpayer subsidies for terrorism losses and are seeking additional subsidies for catastrophe insurance”