Reinsurance

RECENT NEWS
Insurance Journal  Oct 21  Comment 
Since January the rating agencies have become increasingly negative on their outlook for ratings in the  reinsurance sector overall, while in practice affirming or even increasing individual reinsurer* ratings. Standard and Poor’s move to take...
SeekingAlpha  Oct 17  Comment 
By Steve Evans: Platinum Underwriters Holdings (NYSE:PTP) is the first of the reinsurance firms to announce its third-quarter 2014 earnings and there appears to be little change to its strategy of adapting to soft market conditions by pulling...
Insurance Journal  Oct 17  Comment 
IAT Reinsurance Company Ltd., the privately owned Bermuda insurer, announced that Peter R. Kellogg is retiring as chief executive officer, a position he has held since the company’s founding in the early 1980s. William Cunningham will assume the...
SeekingAlpha  Oct 14  Comment 
By Steve Evans: The current trend towards growth of multi-year reinsurance deals, as heightened competition pushes reinsurers to offer coverage enhancements to clients, could indicate a weakening of reinsurance underwriting standards, warns...
Insurance Journal  Oct 9  Comment 
A.M. Best has upgraded the financial strength rating to A (Excellent) from A- (Excellent) and the issuer credit rating to “a” from “a-” of Taiping Reinsurance Company Limited (TPRe) (Hong Kong). The outlook for both ratings is stable. The...
Insurance Journal  Sep 29  Comment 
Lloyd’s Chairman John Nelson is pleased with the current state of the Lloyd’s market. Shortly after Nelson was interviewed at the Reinsurance Rendezvous in Monte Carlo, Lloyd’s announced a $1.67 billion [$2.72 billion] profit for the first...
Insurance Journal  Sep 24  Comment 
Following a presentation from Guy Carpenter, moderated by the CEO Alex Moczarski, we caught up with the company’s Vice Chairman David Priebe, who explained just what’s involved in operating one of the world’s largest reinsurance brokers in...
Insurance Journal  Sep 24  Comment 
Axis Capital Holdings Ltd. plans to expand the insurance side of its business to make up for lower earnings from the reinsurance segment. “I wouldn’t be surprised now over the next couple of years if we would see the proportion … The...
Insurance Journal  Sep 22  Comment 
Over the past 13 years Swiss Re’s Chief Economist, Kurt Karl has been through a succession of reinsurance market ups and downs, but the current situation is somewhat new, and, as he told the IJ at the Reinsurance Rendezvous, it … The article...




 
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Reinsurance is an arrangement under which an insurance company (i.e., reinsurer) agrees to assume the specified risks of another insurance company (i.e., ceding company). In essence, reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies. Depending on the arrangement, the reinsurer may assume all or a portion of the insurance risks underwritten by the ceding company. In exchange, the reinsurer receives some or all of the premium and, in certain cases, investment income derived from the assets supporting the reserves of the reinsured policies.

Most actuaries susgegt that at roughly 25,000 lives, it is possible to have a stable risk pool: all other things being equal, you can reasonably predict the growth in expense year to year. With a stable risk pool, it is usually unnecessary to carry stop-loss insurance. Self-insured employers of large size typically do not carry stop-loss coverage. In a large self-insured employer pool, there are zero dollars allocated to risk charges, marketing expense, and commissions. Typically, the self-insurer “rents” a network from an insurer or third party; and pays a fee for medical management and claim services. Most large plans don’t have pre-existing condition limitations or medical underwriting but that’s not a concern because the laws of large numbers protect them: a stable, demographically mixed pool behaves predictably. A large employer pool has some “in-bred” characteristics that make it more attractive (from a risk perspective) than the small group or individual markets: all participants are actively at work (therefore less likely to be suffering from a disabling condition); the great majority are between ages 21 and 60; employee contributions are relatively minor and are tax-preferenced via a Section 125 plan (resulting in what is called a high “acceptance rate”); enrollment is typically stable with defined entrance and exit points that favor long-term enrollment (thus insuring a favorable demographic mix in the pool); and, the benefit terms can be modified to achieve a “reasonable” combination of cost/benefits (self-insured plans are not subject to state insurance coverage requirements).Many of the benefits of the large group self-insured pool are weakened in the proposed legislation: 1.Enrollment and disenrollment are not controlled. Pre-existing condition limitations and health underwriting are eliminated. These devices do help insurer profitability but they also mitigate claim volatility: wild swings in expense due to the entrance of enrollees with known, often-times expensive medical conditions. These devices also kept people in the risk pool because they knew that if they left the risk pool they could not return at all or they could only return under limited circumstances. Any risk pool depends on a balance of well and sick people. If people can leave the pool when well and return when sick, the people who are continuously insured will have to pay more to keep coverage in place. When it costs less to be uninsured, the healthy with no assets will quickly figure it out and elect to “buy” the penalty rather than the insurance. What this means practically is that those with assets (homes, retirement accounts, savings) are put at a relative disadvantage: their risk aversion will be used against them to fund the health care expense of the judgment proof (those without assets who can elect bankruptcy and use the medical system for emergency care). This is unsustainable in the mid to long term. (One version of the Baucus bill actually supports disenrollment in September because it waives the “penalty” if the time without coverage was three months or less: a tax-supported Christmas savings account?)2.Under the legislation, the plan design requires that no service can be limited on an annual or lifetime basis; no service can be denied for other than reasons of clinical effectiveness; preventive services are covered with no deductible; habilitative services are covered; and, out of pocket expense must be limited based on income. These same rules will apply to employer plans after a grandfather period. While this design is very attractive from the perspective of the consumer of health care services, it will cost more than most existing benefit designs. Wages and benefits are zero-sum companions: as the cost of health care rises wages are suppressed or take home pay is suppressed (higher co-pays and deductibles) to account for the increase in expense. We have never answered the question: Does free or near free health care make people healthy or does it free them to be sick?3.We continue to confuse risk management and medical certainty. “Medical certainty” means that a known medical condition requires significant amounts of medical services, drugs or devices or the patient will die or lose all quality of life. In these circumstances, risk management is immaterial. On the other hand, less significant disease states are subject to risk management: Patient education, best practices care management, and behavior change can reduce, prevent worsening or eliminate the disease state. Insuring all disease states through a for-profit model is absurd. If an insurer “buys” $20 million of RH factor for the treatment of hemophiliac patients, and has a medical loss ratio of 80%, then it “costs” policy holders $25 million to cover this known, non-optional expense. A $5 million transaction cost for this purchase is unconscionable. A national risk pool with consolidated purchasing for such expenses and for best practices management of care is a far better alternative than directing incremental marginal income to insurers. It would also allow us to provide a more compassionate and supportive environment for patients: If a child has hemophilia, does it really make sense that the parents pay deductibles and co-pays for those expenses? If such expenses were paid with a payroll based deduction for both employers and employees, it would avoid issues related to adverse selection (all would pay) and it would substantially reduce the cost of insurance (now a true risk management device).

Types of Reinsurance

Reinsurance contracts, also known as treaties, are generally written on either an automatic or facultative basis, with the former being significantly more prevalent in the market.

  • Automatic Reinsurance: An automatic reinsurance treaty specifies that the ceding company be contractually obligated to cede risks to a reinsurer on specified blocks of policies where the risks meet the ceding company’s underwriting criteria and provisions of the reinsurance agreement. In essence, an automatic reinsurance treaty does not require approval from the reinsurer for each policy underwritten (only at the onset of the contract). This business is primarily related to the reinsurance of term insurance. Ceding companies generally seek to establish automatic reinsurance with three to five participants to diversify counterparty risk.
  • Facultative Reinsurance: Facultative reinsurance is underwritten by the reinsurer for each policy reinsured and is generally purchased by ceding companies for medically impaired lives, unusual risks, or liabilities in excess of the binding limits specified in their automatic reinsurance treaties. Unlike automatic reinsurance, facultative reinsurance is optional (not a contractual obligation) and allows a reinsurer the opportunity to analyze and separately underwrite a risk before agreeing to accept it. In addition, the reinsurer may specify its own ratings and terms for the reinsurance arrangement.


References

Bear Stearns International (European Reinsurance: Life Reinsurance Demystified)

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