Just in time for the peak of hurricane season, our updated paper on the residual property market is hot off the press.

At first glance the numbers on the property insurance provided by the nation’s FAIR and Beach and Windstorm plans indicate that attempts by certain states to reduce the size of their plans appear to be paying off.

As you’ll see, the exposure value of the residual property market in hurricane-exposed states has declined significantly from the peak levels seen in 2011. In fact between 2011 and 2013, total exposure to loss in the plans fell by almost 30 percent – from $885 billion to $639 billion.

Why such a drop?

Florida Citizens, a plan that accounts for more than half (51 percent) of the total FAIR Plans’ exposure to loss, saw its exposure drop by nearly 50 percent from $429.4 billion in 2012 to $228.9 billion in 2013, as Citizens took much-needed steps to reduce its size.

This accounted for the overall reduction in total exposure under the FAIR plans. In 2013 total exposure to loss in the FAIR Plans was $445.6 billion, a 38 percent drop from its 2011 peak of $715.3 billion.

But what of the Beach and Windstorm plans?

Latest data show that between 2011 and 2013 exposure to loss in the Beach and Windstorm Plans actually grew by 14 percent.

Five state Beach and Windstorm plans are covered in our report: Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

Over a longer time period, 2005 to 2013, the I.I.I. finds that some of the Beach and Windstorm plans saw accelerating growth. For example, total exposure to loss in the Texas Beach Plan (the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA)) increased by 230 percent during this period.

A plan that would move TWIA’s policies over to private insurers and depopulate its book of business (much like Florida Citizens has done) is in the works, but so far nothing definite.

An ongoing and arguably more pressing concern is the fact that many of the residual market plans charge rates that are not actuarially sound and do not accurately reflect the risk of loss.

What does this mean? The I.I.I. warns that a major hurricane could expose residents in certain states to billions of dollars in post-storm assessments:

While hurricane activity in the most exposed states may have been lower in recent years, there is no question that over the long-term major hurricanes will cause extensive damage in future. This highlights how important it is for the rates charged by these plans to be actuarially sound.”

While the composite rate for U.S. commercial property and casualty insurance remains positive, at plus 1 percent in August, it is closing in on flat or no increases and rate reductions are coming, according to online insurance exchange MarketScout.

Richard Kerr, CEO of MarketScout commented:

Insurers really don’t want to enter another era of rate declines; but in order to hold business, most of the market is being forced to moderate pricing. If this trend continues, we should see annual rate declines very soon.”

Aug2014_Barometer_Commercial

The key takeaways from MarketScout’s latest analysis:

– Property rates were actually up slightly at plus 3 percent in August.

– Business interruption was down one percent to flat, as were fiduciary and crime.

– Business owners’ policies and commercial auto moderated from plus 3 percent to plus 2 percent.

– Umbrella liability coverage moderated from plus 2 percent to plus 1 percent.

– Workers compensation rates were up from plus 1 percent to plus 2 percent.

– Rates as measured by account size and industry classification remained the same as in July 2014.

Bear in mind that August is traditionally a slower month for insurance placements so the volume of premium measured is less than normal.

Still, the findings tie in with the latest quarterly Commercial P/C Market Index Survey from the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers released in July. It found prices for commercial p/c insurance continued to slide in the second quarter of 2014. On average, prices for small, medium and large accounts eased by a modest -0.5 percent during the second quarter, compared with 1.5 percent in the first quarter.

 

I.I.I. chief actuary James Lynch brings us a grim story on drug abuse and how it affects insurers:

This week Contingencies magazine published my article tracing how America’s latest drug epidemic has affected workers compensation insurance.

The epidemic comes from 20 years of gradually increasing use (and abuse) of opioids, a special class of prescription drugs that mimic many of the effects of heroin. Some you may have heard of, like Vicodin or OxyContin. Prescribed legally but highly addictive, they have become the most commonly abused class of drugs in America.

More people die from drug overdoses in America than from car accidents, and opioids lead the tragic parade. In 2010, for example, 16,652 people died from opioid overdoses, more than from heroin and cocaine combined. Opioids toll has tripled since the late 1990s.

My article shows how the growing epidemic played out in workers comp. Narcotics make up 25 percent of workers comp drug costs, and more than 45 percent of narcotics dollars pay for drugs containing oxycodone, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

Insurers have acted as the crisis emerged, and now they as well as federal, state and local officials may be making headway against the problem.

Last week, after my article went to press, AIG’s new chief executive, Peter Hancock, noted his company had teamed with Johns Hopkins University to study opioid abuse among the company’s 23 million workers compensation claims.

“It is a terrible cost to the industry, a terrible cost to employers, and it’s a terrible cost to society,” Hancock told The Wall Street Journal. AIG has medical professionals working with doctors to find ways to alleviate pain without turning to opioids.

The most recent federal action reclassifies any drug containing the opioid hydrocodone as a Schedule II drug, meaning its prescriptions are more tightly controlled than before.

Unfortunately, these actions may be too late to prevent many opioid addicts from switching to heroin. Opioids tantalize the same brain receptors as heroin, and there are signs that addicts deprived of their Oxys switch.

Earthquake exposure is one of the biggest risks to workers compensation insurers, so it’s interesting to read that the California State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) is once again looking to the capital markets to provide reinsurance protection for workers comp losses resulting from earthquakes.

This is a repeat of the first catastrophe bond sponsored by the SCIF in 2011 – Golden State Re Ltd sized at $200 million — which is due to expire in January 2015.

Artemis blog says:

The unique transaction, which has not been repeated by anyone else until now, links earthquake severity to workers compensation loss amounts demonstrating a new use of the catastrophe bond structure.”

The Golden State Re II catastrophe bond issuance is expected to be sized at $150 million or more, and will cover the SCIF until January 2019.

While the covered area is for earthquakes events across the United States, Artemis notes that as with the 2011 deal as much as 99.99 percent of the SCIF’s insurance portfolio is focused on California, so the risk is primarily focused on California-area earthquakes.

The new deal apparently carries a similar modeled loss trigger to the 2001 transaction, using the exposures of a notional portfolio of workers compensation risks in the SCIF portfolio, earthquake severity factors (ground motion), geographic distribution of the covered portfolio, types of buildings covered, time of day and the day of week an event occurs as some of the weighting factors.

An earthquake has to be magnitude 5.5 or greater to trigger the catastrophe bond, according to Artemis, and losses after an event will be modeled deterministically, so not related to actual injuries and fatalities, using the earthquake event parameters. This will be modeled against the notional portfolio using day/time weighting to determine an index value and notional modeled loss amount.

A 2007 report by EQECAT for the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) estimated California workers compensation insurers would pay annual losses of $180 million caused by earthquakes.

The report suggested that the losses would affect 15.6 million employees working during a major earthquake.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on workers compensation insurance.

Natural catastrophe events in the United States accounted for three of the five most costly insured catastrophe losses in the first half of 2014, according to just-released Swiss Re sigma estimates.

In mid-May, a spate of severe storms and hail hit many parts of the U.S.  over a five-day period, generating insured losses of $2.6 billion. Harsh spring weather also triggered thunderstorms and tornadoes, some of which caused insured claims of $1.1 billion.

The Polar Vortex in the U.S. in January also led to a long period of heavy snowfall and very cold temperatures in the east and southern states such as Mississippi and Georgia, resulting in combined insured losses of $1.7 billion.

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These three events contributed $5.4 billion of the $19 billion in natural catastrophe-related insured losses covered by the global insurance industry in the first half of 2014, according to sigma estimates.

The $19 billion was 10 percent down from the $21 billion covered by insurers for natural catastrophe events in the first half of 2013. It was also below the average first-half year loss of the previous 10 years ($23 billion). Man-made disasters added $2 billion in insured losses in the first half of 2014, sigma reports.

The $21 billion in insured losses from disaster events in the first half of 2014 was 16 percent lower than the $25 billion generated in the first half of 2013, and lower than the average first-half year loss of the previous 10 years ($27 billion).

Total economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters reached $44 billion in the first half of 2014, according to sigma estimates.

More than 4,700 lives were lost as a result of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in the first half of 2014.

One day after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck the San Francisco/Napa area of California, the Northern California Seismic System (NCSS) says there is a 29 percent probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock in the next seven days and a small chance (5 to 10 percent probability) of an earthquake of equal or larger magnitude.

The NCSS, operated by UC Berkeley and USGS, added that approximately 12 to 40 small aftershocks are expected in the same seven-day period and may be felt locally.

As a rule of thumb, a magnitude 6.0 quake may have aftershocks up to 10 to 20 miles away, the NCSS added.

According to Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), this earthquake is the strongest to impact the area since the 1989 Loma Prieta quake which resulted in $1.8 billion in insured claims (in 2013 dollars) being paid to policyholders.

Initial reports suggest the greatest damage has been to historic buildings in the city of Napa, with the downtown area cordoned off to fully assess damage. There have also been reports of non-structural damage such as items falling off shelves, including wine bottles and barrels, and substantial sprinkler leakage to many buildings.

The Napa region is most known for its wine industry, but tourism draws visitors to the area year-round.

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A report by catastrophe modelers CoreLogic EQECAT gave an initial estimate of $500 million to $1 billion in insured losses. Residential losses would account for about one half to one quarter of this loss estimate.

If the loss exceeds $1 billion it will be from uncertainty in commercial losses, CoreLogic EQECAT said, and losses to the wine industry could increase this estimate:

Business interruption (BI) losses are a major concern. As this is a very popular tourist area, many businesses – including wineries and restaurants – have sustained damage, both non-structural and structural.”

CoreLogic EQECAT noted that the Napa Valley wine harvest was already underway. Losses would have been less if this event had occurred pre-harvest.

According to the Napa Valley Vintners Association, while there have been reports of damage at some Napa Valley wineries and production and storage facilities, particularly those in the Napa and south Napa areas, vintners are still assessing their individual situations. More information is expected in the next 24 to 72 hours.

Standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover damage from earthquakes. Coverage is available either in the form of an endorsement or as a separate policy.

I.I.I. earthquake facts and stats show California had the largest amount of earthquake premiums in 2013, at $1.6 billion, accounting for 61 percent of U.S. earthquake insurance premiums written.

This figure includes the state-run California Earthquake Authority, the largest provider of residential earthquake insurance in California. Only about 10 percent of California residents currently have earthquake coverage, down from about 30 percent in 1996, two years after the Northridge, California, earthquake.

The percentage of homeowners and renters who have earthquake insurance in the affected area is very low – in Napa less than 6 percent, and in Sonoma less than 10 percent, according to the California Earthquake Authority.

Check out key facts from the I.I.I. on the insurance industry’s contribution to the California economy here.

Forecasters’ Twitter feeds are alight this morning as to the potential development of two systems in the tropical Atlantic.

Here’s the latest graphic of where they’re located, courtesy of the National Hurricane Center (NHC):

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The NHC gives the first disturbance currently located several hundred miles east of the southern Windward Islands a 50 percent chance of tropical cyclone formation in the next five days.

The second disturbance, a tropical wave located 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, has a low (20 percent) chance of tropical storm formation in the next five days.

Over at Weather Underground, Dr. Jeff Masters noted that if the first disturbance (designated Invest 96L by the NHC) does develop, it would likely be similar to Tropical Storm Bertha of early August while it is in the Caribbean—a weak and disorganized system that struggles against dry air.

Meanwhile @EricHolthaus tweets that Invest 96L could be a tropical threat to the U.S. next week, based on the first model runs.

It’s still too early to tell, but Hurricane Hunters are on call to investigate 96L Thursday afternoon if necessary.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes.

And a shout-out to  Paul Dzielinski of The Dec Page who hosts Calvalcade of Risk #215 Dog Days of Summer edition here.

Have you ever wondered how far people will go to stretch the truth in order to save a few bucks?

Research out of the United Kingdom by global insurer Zurich sheds light on this behavior.

In a poll of 2,000 adults in the UK, one-in-five (20 percent) admit to lying to their insurance company, despite a separate 82 percent knowing that wrong information registered on an insurance form can render the policy invalid.

Why do people lie to their insurer? The reasons are varied:

• 29.3 percent lie because they are unsure of the correct information or didn’t understand the process to begin with;
• 10 percent knowingly lie because they are scared of the consequences of being totally truthful;
• 8 percent even admit to lying as they don’t take the process seriously.

Despite these numbers, the poll also revealed 87 percent of people would not lie to an official body, such as the police or their accountant, in order to save money.

In the words of Zurich home insurance expert, Phil Ost:

It’s really encouraging that most people don’t feel it’s acceptable to lie to save money and honesty really is the best policy when it comes to things like jobs and insurance. The consequences of being found out can be severe and maybe invalidate a policy and potentially result in claims not being paid.”

Maybe insurers should take note that 32 percent of Brits are more comfortable lying online than over the phone, while 34 percent will lie to put a positive spin on a bad situation, and another 10 percent will lie about their weight.

Dr Patrick Fagan, Lecturer in Consumer Behavior, Goldsmiths University, sums it up best:

People lie about all sorts of things – from their weight to their employment experience – but the ‘white’ lie is still the most prevalent…it’s interesting to see that there are still a sizeable group of people who’d be dishonest in more serious and formal situations.”

More on this story from Post Magazine.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on insurance fraud.

Construction workers, farmers and landscape workers take note: insect-related deaths are most likely in your line of work.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal’s The Numbers blog, a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that insects, arachnids, and mites were involved in 83 fatal occupational injuries from 2003 to 2010.

During the course of the eight-year period, farmers and farm workers (20 fatalities), construction occupations (19 fatalities) and landscaping workers (17 fatalities) accounted for two-thirds of the deaths.

Bees were responsible for 52 workplace deaths – more than spiders, wasps and ants combined (25), The Numbers blog reports.

Most of the deaths (72 of the 83 total) were directly caused by an insect, including cases in which the worker was bitten or stung.

Another 11 deaths were indirectly caused by insects. These include cases where an insect distracted the worker while driving or caused the worker to fall from a height.

Anaphylactic shock, often associated with insect-related injuries, occurred in close to half the deaths, the BLS said.

By state, Texas saw the greatest number (21) of insect-related workplace deaths during the 8-year period, followed by Florida (8).

However, when it comes to non-fatal insect-related workplace injuries and illnesses with days away from work, four states: California, Florida, New York and Texas had more than 250 cases reported in all three years between 2008 and 2010.

As a percentage of all days-away-from-work cases in those large population states, though, insect-related cases were less than 1 percent of the total cases in any year.

Not surprisingly, these incidents tended to occur in the warmer months. Almost 94 percent of the cases occurred between April 1 and October 31. The largest number of deaths (17) occurred in September.

Check out National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) information on workplace safety and insects here.

Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center now say the chances of a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season have increased to 70 percent, up from 50 percent in May.

In its updated outlook, NOAA said overall atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are not favorable for storm development will persist through the season.

Check out the revised numbers in this NOAA graphic:

However, coastal residents may want to heed the words of NOAA lead forecaster Dr. Gerry Bell:

Tropical storms and hurricanes can strike the U.S. during below-normal seasons, as we have already seen this year when Arthur made landfall in North Carolina as a category-2 hurricane. We urge everyone to remain prepared and be on alert throughout the season.”

This echoes the warning of others. After all, it only takes one landfalling hurricane for a season to go from below-active to active for coastal residents.

In a recent post Weather.com gave the classic examples of 1992 and 1983:

The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane. In 1983 there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there as Andrew did in South Florida.”

The $15.5 billion in estimated property losses ($23.4 billion in 2013 dollars) paid out by insurers for Hurricane Andrew ranks second in a PCS chart via the I.I.I. of the 10 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

If Hurricane Andrew were to occur today, Karen Clark & Company estimates insured property losses would total $57 billion, based on current exposures.

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