Batten Down the Hatches as the P&C Market Hardens … or Not? Featured

4:39pm EDT October 8, 2012
Batten Down the Hatches as the P&C Market Hardens … or Not?

On the heels of the Affordable Care Act and health care reform, business owners are going to deal with the shakeout of more costs or potential fines, exchanges and other uncertainties. All the while, the sleeping giant of the commercial Property & Casualty (P&C) industry is awakening with wide speculation of a potential hardening market in workers’ compensation and property casualty. Frankly, it seems to have arrived here in California and other states, as workers’ compensation renewals are causing sheer exasperation.

Gloria Lam of Risk Placement Services lets us know that the market is gyrating; low-price carriers have started high and the clients are demanding quote revisions up to three times for price reductions. It is our job as brokers to persist on behalf of clients by presenting high-deductible plans and other options. Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) and captives may not be the best shelter, and the repercussions can be costly and can be felt for years to come. It feels as though CEOs are in the eye of the storm that is circling around them, taking bits and pieces, as CFOs are boarding up the windows trying to hold on to what they have.

Ken A. Crerar, president and CEO of the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB), said the P&C market has officially achieved hard-market status. With price increases in the last two quarters and tightening in underwriting, the market has made a hard turn. He goes on to say, “It is hard to predict the length and severity, but the market has turned.”

Mark Lyons, CEO of Arch World Wide Insurance Group said, “Overcapitalization is hiding losses on business. We have had $12 billion in reserves released in the 2011 calendar year alone. … It has been three loss-ratio points of reserve releases over the past three to four years on average. … This sheltering losses on current-year business and masking how unprofitable current business is because of releases in this year for accidents which occurred prior.”  The soft-market pricing is catching up and the longer-tails in commercial lines are causing depleting cushions in reserves.  Acts of God and other disasters have an aftermath effect and there has been frequency internationally.

Market Scout says workers’ compensation and commercial property rates both rose 4 percent in April, which was the highest of the product lines. Richard Kerr, CEO of Market Scout, notices admitted and nonadmitted insurers are showing similar pricing models. This is against historical approaches to underwriting which, in the past, showed considerable differences. These similar pricing strategies could lead to more business for the nonadmitted insurers. The admitted insurers may begin to restrict their risk appetite and begin to decline tougher risks.

The last 10 quarters have generated negative cash reserves, which are beginning to impact companies. Business leaders are looking for leadership that will re-energize local economies and lower the cost of doing business. Brian Allen in National Underwriter goes on to state how these business leaders are demanding improvements in state's business climates. “These changes include reforms to workers’ comp laws that deal with how medical treatment and benefits are delivered to injured workers and the costs that are ultimately passed on to local businesses.”

California is beginning to see double-digit increases in workers’ compensation and some businesses are responding by closing their doors in the state. U.S. Legislators, State Department of Industrial Relations and Governors are demanding more than piecemeal reform and taking a hard look at the delivery of care, prescriptions and costs. The broker’s role is to go to the insured and make sure they know what is happening. The only safety net is to be prepared for the storm as it continues to pass through.

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