Insurance companies pool risk. They collect money from many people to pay the losses of a few who have claims. Everyone’s rates go up or down, depending on the insurance company’s experience. More claims paid = higher rates.
You may be wondering:
- How much do hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters affect insurance rates?
- Do disasters in other states affect my insurance rates in Maine?
It’s helpful to understand how insurance companies price their product. Insurance rates are recommended by insurance company actuaries. They project how much money the insurance company must collect to pay claims and make a profit. This requires complex modeling and formulas. Actuaries recommend rate changes to a special committee of company executives. The committee compares the actuary’s recommendation to the company’s profitability and growth targets. They agree on a proposed rate change, and submit it to Maine insurance regulators.
The regulator’s job is to make sure that insurance rates are:
- Adequate to pay claims
- Not excessive
- Not unfairly discriminatory.
Regulators may approve or deny the rate change, or ask for more information.
What Factors Affect Insurance Rates?
At its simplest, insurance is “money in…money out.”
Money In = Premium Collected
Cheap insurance rates may leave the insurance company with insufficient money to pay claims and make a profit. Rates that are too high may send customers fleeing to other insurers.
Money Out = Losses
The most important determinant of insurance rates. More losses than expected puts pressure for the insurance company to raise rates. Fewer losses puts downward pressure on rates.
But here’s the rest of the story:
Insurance Company Financial Strength – Well-managed insurance companies keep adequate reserves to pay claims on a rainy day. Insurers with strong financials can weather a bad year without huge rate increases. Weaker ones need more frequent rate adjustments. The best way to learn the financial condition of an insurance company? A.M. Best tests the financial strength of insurers and assigns them a letter grade.
Type of Insurance Company – Mutual insurance companies are owned by their customers. After they pay claims, mutuals store their profits to pay future claims. Other insurance companies are stockholder owned. Stockholders expect a return on their investment. Investors pressure executives of publicly held companies to improve profits every quarter. This can lead to larger or more frequent rate increases to stay ahead of current losses.
Reinsurance – Almost every insurance company is also an insurance consumer. They buy insurance against “the big one”. This is called reinsurance. Most companies reinsure against annual total losses exceeding a certain amount. This dampens the impact of multiple hurricanes, fires or other disasters in one year.
Generally, larger insurers buy less reinsurance than smaller ones. Smaller insurers have less surplus, and thus are more vulnerable to catastrophic losses.
Of course, reinsurers are also insurance companies. They must collect more premium if they suffer unexpectedly large claims. Insurance companies pay different reinsurance rates based on their individual loss experience.
Do Disasters in Other States Affect My Insurance Rates?
Probably not as much as you think. Maine insurance regulators only allow insurers to file rates based upon Maine premium and losses. Claims that a company pays in California or Florida are not baked into Maine insurance rates.
Insurance companies factor nationwide overhead costs into Maine rates. Cost like advertising, salaries – and reinsurance. Since events outside Maine influence reinsurance costs, they influence Maine customers’ rates. Just less than you might expect.