Insurance Company Loyalty Doesn’t Pay

I had a conversation with a friend the other day that gave me inspiration for this topic. My friend, who I will call an insurance company loyalist, said “I have been with my insurance company for 52 years. When I call they jump.” We discussed this belief for a little while as I wanted to get a little more insight from his perspective. For the purpose of this week’s topic, it is coming from the perspective of being in CA, considering CA insurance law. If you are from another state, your laws may be different, and I am not an attorney so this is not legal advice.

In 1988 California voters passed Prop 103, which was a insurance reform proposition. It is my understanding that this law, while primarily focused on regulating rates, protects insurance consumers by preventing the use of discriminatory tactics by insurance companies. What this means is that insurance companies have to treat a 1 day customer, with the same service as a 52 year customer. If the insurance company gives preferential service to the older customer over the newer customer they are subject to penalties and fines if the Department of Insurance were to investigate complaints of this nature. Typically the penalties far exceed the value of any client, so insurance companies do not waiver in their treatment of their customers regardless of tenure. So for my friend, while the company may listen a little more politely, their policy for him is the same as a new customer. If they jump for him, they jump for everyone. As an insurance shopper, just know that your treatment is the same no matter how long you are with a specific company.I am not privy to the world of corporate leaders, but I would bet in the insurance company boardrooms, and executive meetings, the opposite of ‘jumping’ is the case. Given how much insurance companies study the business for profit, I would bet loyalist customers are the most profitable customers for insurance companies. Once the insurance loyalist is set in their comfort zone, they can be taken advantage of with changes in policies or direction. These corporate leaders don’t talk about special privileges for loyalists, but rather take the insurance loyalist for granted, assuming that no matter what they do as a company, or how they treat their customers, the loyalists will stay. Similar to some sports teams, where no matter how bad the product is, the fans stick around in faith for their team. In the meantime the executives get healthy bonus payment and the company makes healthy profits on the back of these consumers. Since my goal is to give good tips or advice on insurance shopping, it makes sense to get you to think about these things.

What I did tell my friend was he, like any insurance consumer, should shop his insurance regularly or talk to his agent about pricing other companies, to could confirm his pricing is the best. Why throw money away over a brand? I told him the primary factors in determining his best rate are: his driving record (tickets and accidents), the number of years of driving experience he has, and how far he drives each year.

There are other factors that insurance companies may use in determining rates and those are the important ones for insurance shoppers and finding the best price. Did his company offer a loyalty discount of some type? Yes. I asked him, what his 52 years of loyalty was worth to his company. We did some math and his loyalty discount was worth about 7%. Moving forward, knowing that your 52 years of brand loyalty to an insurance company was worth about 7%, would you stick around especially if there were greater discounts elsewhere?

In the category of these other factors, there are companies with discounts for college degrees or targeted professions worth 15% or more. Did his company have something like that? No, he said. From the perspective of being an insurance shopper over a company loyalist, in just this one discount he potentially was sacrificing an additional savings of 8%. This is only one example of potential savings for insurance shoppers. Companies advertise discounts for alumni associations or organizations you belong to, or extra discounts for having an ‘extra’ clean driving record. The key for insurance shoppers is to be willing to look around. It doesn’t take much to shop for comparison quotes, and the insurance shopper and the insurance loyalist both may save some money.My take on the matter, you don’t have to shop your insurance every year, but I would look for the triggers indicating you should. Did your rate change from one policy period to another but your primary rating factors did not? Is there a change that your company or agent pass off as simply ‘new rates’? Does the explanation you hear not make a lot of sense? Not every company raises their rates at the same time, or changes discounts that you qualify for, so if that happens to you, use your triggers to be a new insurance shopper.

Health Insurance – Protection for your Family

Life is by far the most precious thing humans have in their hands, as someone has truly said-“Health is Wealth”. One can lose out on their money, on a job, or on any other materialistic or non-materialistic thing, but losing out on health is probably the worst, as this could seldom be gained back. And therefore, no amount of persuasion could ever justify the importance of a health insurance policy. A health insurance covers you and your loved ones from any of the unforeseen emergencies that life may throw at you. This includes contracting a disease unexpectedly or falling ill at an unexpected time, or even meeting with an accident while totally unprepared.

While getting an insurance just for your self is one thing, but wouldn’t you want to extend the same benefit for those near ones, whom you love dearly? By introducing family health insurance plans at a marginally higher cost, health insurance companies such as Aviva Insurance, Bharti AXA Insurance, Max Life Insurance, etc. have earned themselves brownie points. Few of the features of these health insurance plans are as follows.

Reimbursements on day care treatments – In cases of day care, when a hospitalization is not required, but the patient still has to undergo a treatment for some time at the hospital, it is still possible to claim for health insurance cover.
Domiciliary Hospitalization – This refers to the treatments carried out at home, when a patient is unable to recover, and the treatment needs to be carried out for a period of over 3 days. This applies alike towards illnesses, injuries, and diseases.
Critical illnesses – There are a number of critical diseases that one may contract, in case of which health insurance cover can be availed:

 Cancer

 First Heart Attack

 Coronary Artery Disease

 Coronary Artery bypass surgery

 Heart Valve Surgery

 Surgery to Aorta

 Stroke

 Kidney Failure

 Aplastic Anemia

 End Stage Lung Disease

 End Stage Liver Failure

 Coma

 Major Burns

 Major Organ/Bone Marrow Transplantation

 Multiple Sclerosis

 Fulminant Hepatitis

 Motor Neurone Disease

 Primary Pulmonary Hypertension

 Terminal Illness

 Bacterial Meningitis

One needs to note that if they contract any of these diseases in less than the first two years of getting a health insurance, then there may be some complications in getting the cover. For all cases exceeding the initial period of two years, these are included without any conditions.

How to Research Insurance Companies

Before you subscribe an insurance you need to understand how insurance companies work. To help understand that we have provided a detailed explanation of Insurance Companies Business Model based on internet research and talking with some friends that are experts and work on the insurance professional field. Let’s breakdown the model in components:

  • Underwriting and investing
  • Claim
  • Marketing

Underwriting and investing

On raw terms we can say that the Insurance Companies business model is to bring together more value in premium and investment income than the value that is expended in losses and at the same time to present a reasonable price which the clients will accept.

The earnings can be described by the following formula:

Earnings = earned premium + investment income – incurred loss – underwriting expenses.

Insurance Companies gain their wealth with these two methods:

  • Underwriting, is the process that Insurance companies use to select the risk to be insured and chooses the value of the premiums to be charged for accepting those risks.
  • Investing the values received on premiums.

There is a complex side aspect on the Insurance Companies business model that is the actuarial science of price setting, based on statistics and probability to estimate the value of future claims within a given risk. Following the price setting, the insurance company will consent or refuse the risks using the underwriting process.

Taking a look at the frequency and severity of the insured liabilities and estimated payment average is what ratemaking at a simple level is. What companies do is check all those historical data concerning losses they had and update it on today’s values and then comparing it to the premiums earned for a rate adequacy assessment. Companies use also expense load and loss ratios. Simply putting this we can say that the comparison of losses with loss relativities is how rating different risks characteristics are done. For example a policy with the double losses should charge a premium with the double value. Of course there is space for more complexes calculations with multivariable analysis and parametric calculation, always taking data history as it inputs to be used on the probability of future losses assessment.The companies underwriting profit is the amount of premium value collected when the policy ends minus the amount of paid value on claims. Also we have the underwriting performance A.K.A. the combined ratio. This is measured by dividing the losses and expenses values by the premium values. If it is over 100% we call it underwriting loss and if it is below the 100% then we call it the underwriting profit. Don’t forget as part of the Companies business model there is the investment part which means that the companies can have profit even with the existence of underwriting losses.

The Float is how insurance companies earn their investment profits. It is amount of value collected in premium within a given time and that has not paid out in claims. The investment of the float starts when the insurance companies receive the payments from the premiums and end when the claims are paid out. As it is this time frame is the duration from which the interest is earned.

The insurance companies from the United States that operate on casualty and property insurance had an underwriting loss of $142 Billion in the five years ending on the year of 2003, and for the same period had an overall profit of $68 Billion consequence of the float. Many professionals from the industry think that is possible to always achieve profit from the float not having necessarily a underwriting profit. Of course there are many thinking streams on this matter.

Finally one important think you should consider when subscribing a new insurance is that in economically depressed times the markets have bear trends and the insurance companies run away from float investments and causes a need to reassess the values of the premiums which means higher prices. So this is not a good time to subscribe or renew your insurances.

The changing on profit and nonprofit times is called underwriting cycles.

Claims

The actual “product” paid for in insurance companies industry are the claims and loss handling as we can call it the materialized utility of insurance companies. The Insurance Companies representatives or negotiators can help the clients fill the claims or they can be filled directly by the companies.

The massive amount of claims are employed by the claim adjusters and supported by the records management staff and data entry clerks within the Companies claims department. The classification of the clams are made on severity criteria basis and allocated to the claim adjusters. The claim adjusters have variable settlement authority according to each ones experience and knowledge. After the allocation, follows the investigation with collaboration of the customer to define if it is covered by the contract. The investigation outputs de value and the payment approval to the client.Sometimes a public adjuster can be hired by the client to negotiate an agreement with the insurance companies on his behalf. On more complex policies where the claims are hard to manage the client may and normally uses the a separate policy add on for the cover of the cost of the public adjuster, called the loss recovery insurance.

When managing claims handling functions, the companies tries to steady the requirements for customer contentment, expenses of administrative and over payment leakages. Insurance bad faith usually comes from this equilibrium act that causes fraudulent insurance practices which are a major risk that are manage and overcome by the companies. The dispute between the clients and insurance companies often leads to litigation. The claims handling practices and the validity of claims are the escalating issues.

Marketing

Insurance Companies use negotiators and representatives to initiate the market and underwrite their clients. These negotiators are bond to a sole company or they are freelancers, which mean that they can rules and terms from many other insurance companies. It is proven the accomplishment of Insurance Companies goals is due to dedicated and tailored made services supplied by the representatives.

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