Florida Again Dominates the Insurance Battle

There were two big announcements out of Florida this week, one involving Allstate and one involving State Farm. I’ll tackle State Farm first since it is more complex and the most disingenuous.

Some background is in order for State Farm. When Florida created a state market for cheaper reinsurance it also mandated premium reductions for those who took advantage of the program. Two major insurers filed for rate increases after buying the state reinsurance, Allstate and State Farm. When Insurance Commissioner McCarty ordered rate hearings for the increases (rate hearings in Florida involve public sworn testimony including revealing the basis for the rate increases) State Farm backed down and instead reduced their homeowner premiums in accordance with the law.

As is their custom in states where they do not get their way including here in Mississippi Continue reading “Florida Again Dominates the Insurance Battle”

Breaking: Allstate Fined $250,000, Ordered to Reinstate Policies

Thanks to Mr CLS for the heads up to this Times Picayune story.

BATON ROUGE — Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon fined Allstate $250,000 Wednesday and ordered the state’s second-largest insurer to reinstate the wind and hail coverage of several hundred customers whose policies were dropped in disregard of a key consumer-protection law.

It is the only fine that Louisiana has levied against a homeowners insurance company since Hurricane Katrina, and the fine is the maximum penalty allowed by state law. Continue reading “Breaking: Allstate Fined $250,000, Ordered to Reinstate Policies”

Xavier University v. Travelers / Chehardy v. Allstate

“The wise man listens to meaning; the fool only gets the noise.”
Poet C. P. Cavafy

“Favor distilled thinking, by which I mean the thinking based on information that is around us that is stripped of meaningless but diverting clutter. For the difference between noise and information has an analog: that between journalism and history.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Fooled by Randomness Continue reading “Xavier University v. Travelers / Chehardy v. Allstate”

Gene Taylor to Speak on Insurance Reform

There has been an advertisement run in the print editions of the Sun Herald on Gene Taylor conducting an Issues + Answers lecture sponsored by the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus on Friday, February 29, 2008 at the Advanced Education Center auditorium.

Thanks to one of our readers, I was emailed a link to the University press release and I am happy to pass it along to all so interested. Considering the other recipients listed in the address header I am honored Ida thought enough of this blog to pass me the good word.

I will be in attendance and hope we pack the house on the 29th.

sop

The Mississippi “R” Factor Part 2

I’ve noticed that when solutions to this insurance mess are offered it is one political party that is doing the offering. Outside of a few Democrats like US Senator Christopher Dodd the Republican party is the overwhelming choice for discriminating big business and insurance political donors.

Such must certainly be the case here in Mississippi as we found this Clarion-Ledger story concerning Phil Bryant’s State Senate Insurance Committee most disturbing. Lt. Governor’s Bryant stated campaign goal of continuing the coastal rebuilding efforts certainly are taking a back seat to his service to monied insurance interests. Continue reading “The Mississippi “R” Factor Part 2″

The Mississippi “R” Factor Part 1

We have more insurance news out most of it involving the State of Mississippi. As I noted yesterday the contrast between Commissioner McCarty and the Republican Party in Florida and Commissioner Chaney and the Republican leadership in Mississippi is striking and very unfavorable to our leadership here. Today we are greeted with this news story in the Sun Herald on the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association: Continue reading “The Mississippi “R” Factor Part 1″

Insurance Complexities: The Myth of State Farm’s Financial Insolvency and Conflicts of Interests.

I occasionally run across “fans” of Nassim Taleb, a philosopher/visionary who is changing the way people view world events. His black swan concept, which is the name sake for his latest book, is understood and often repeated as the totality of his theory when in reality it is just a small part of his body of work. Russell and I share an interest in Taleb’s work, an interest that derives from actually reading his two books rather than simply embracing the pop culture lite version repeated in the popular media.

This subject of insurance is akin to understanding Taleb and his theories; one can get a slight flavor for the concepts of subjects like wind claims dumping from the media but the nuance and complexities of the subject escape the vast majority of the popular reporting just as Taleb’s theories are revealed completely only by reading his books. Taleb’s Black Swan is an important concept but his central thesis is far more involved. Taleb’s website, named for his first book gives a better clue the larger theory he espouses.

Such is the case with the recently issued GAO report and the concepts surrounding the Continue reading “Insurance Complexities: The Myth of State Farm’s Financial Insolvency and Conflicts of Interests.”

Florida Insurance Hearings: Not Every Company is Losing Money

We noted in our continuing coverage of the Florida Senate Hearings concerning their property insurance mess that Allstate used unapproved short term weather models to make actuary decisions on the purchase of reinsurance. Those poor business decisions have caused losses for Allstate’s Florida operating company, losses they now wish to dump on Florida consumers.

Allstate has since been joined by Nationwide and Farm Bureau in admitting the use of unapproved short term models to drive reinsurance purchase decisions. Farm Bureau also admitted losses deriving from that fact.

In a refreshing change, we have a story from the Miami Herald that Florida based American Strategic Insurance testified Tuesday they used approved long term models and have profited from the better decisions that resulted from that fact.

American Strategic, a St. Petersburg company that managed to cut rates an average 11.5 percent due to the money it saved by buying a portion of its reinsurance from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

The company also lowered rates another 9.5 percent later in the year, mostly because it paid a lower cost for additional reinsurance bought in the private market and had fewer claims and better cost controls.

”Generally speaking, apples to apples, reinsurance costs were coming down for everyone in 2007,” said CEO John Auer, who expects to see another drop this year.

Unlike many insurers, American Strategic said it is writing new homeowners policies, even some on the coast. The company has 260,000 policies, making it the third-largest insurer behind state-run Citizens and State Farm.

Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Winter Haven, questioned American Strategic’s heavy use of reinsurance to cover potential losses. He asked if it would be in financial trouble if its reinsurers, especially the state catastrophe fund, couldn’t make good on their
policies.

Auer said the company, started 10 years ago, has already lived through highs and lows in the reinsurance market, noting that reinsurers are pleased with American Strategic’s management. And A.M. Best raised American Strategic’s rating to A-minus from B++ last December.

As I opined on the Allstate Yahoo Finance Message Board, the testimony of Allstate, Hartford, Farm Bureau and Nationwide Insurance reminded me of the confessions of an accomplished three card monte dealer. They expect their customers to foot their mistakes; both the mistaken decision to purchase more reinsurance and the decision to buy expensive reinsurance at all for that matter, rather than the cheaper variety offered by the State of Florida. Is insurance the only line of business that doesn’t have to pay for their business mistakes? In the small business world where I come from there is no government backstop save bankruptcy so the concept of profit entitlement is foreign to me.

In any other line of business the shareholders, not the public would be eating these business mistakes. So while we congratulate American Strategic and their owners for their ability to profit while their competitors languish we also hope free market principles apply equally to those who make bad business decisions.

Simply put there is a point where the insurance industry needs to take ownership of their mistakes. The mess in Florida illustrates exactly why so few present day insurers would survive in a truly competitive marketplace without that anti-trust exemption they currently enjoy. Our position is that the free marketplace should reign supreme where ever possible and the culture of big insurance profit entitlement should end.

Finally the events in Florida now have me wondering if our state regulators here in Mississippi have been hoodwinked by similar tactics. Our wind pool premiums are in the stratosphere, largely due to the astronomical cost of reinsurance. Given what we have learned through the application of Sunshine to the insurance industry by the Sunshine State, I challenge Mr. Chaney to hold rate hearings for any increases in property insurance, not just those he arbitrarily deems too high. We have quickly arrived at the point where he should put the interests of the citizens of this state ahead of the profit interests of these out of state insurance companies.

sop

The Allstate Battle in Florida: An Update

The Florida District Court of Appeals last week kept a temporary stay in place against the suspension of Allstate from Florida by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The ruling is a double edged sword in that the expedited appeals process puts pressure on Allstate to produce records on its business practices; records it has been unwilling to produce in the past. According to Kevin McCarty, Commissioner of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation Allstate has become more diligent in producing the subpoenaed records:

All the documents requested in our October subpoenas were due at the Jan. 15 hearing, but I am encouraged that as a result of my suspension order Allstate within a week produced about 25,000 pages of documents.

“I remain ever committed to Florida consumers to get to the bottom of this issue and to ensure that Allstate is held accountable to the law.”

The timetable for the expedited court appeal points to a resolution in early March, 2008. A copy of the court order that contains the milestones can be found here.

sop