Victoria Advocate from Victoria, Texas on November 20, 1985 · 28
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Victoria Advocate from Victoria, Texas · 28

Victoria, Texas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, November 20, 1985
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8C THE VICTORIA ADVOCATE, Wednesday, November 20, 1985 Tough Insurance Cycle Puts Squeeze on Firms EDITOR'S NOTE Insurance people agree theirs is a business of ups and downs, reacting to income-producing interest rates by either raising or lowering premiums. But the current dip in the insurance roller coaster ride is surprisingly deep. This second story in a four-part series, "Insurance Drought," explains the reasons. By FRED BAYLES Associated Press Writer In 1980, the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, partly gutted by fire and reeling from the deaths of 87 guests and employees and injuries to 700 other people, was able to buy a unique retroactive insurance policy. For just $38 million, a consortium of insurance companies sold the hotel a $170 million package to cover eventual settlements with victims and their families. Five years later, times have changed. Dorothea Olsen of Ken-newick, Wash., is faced with a 500 percent increase in insurance for her day-care center in Pasco, even though it hasn't had a claim in 10 years. "We are faced with losing money that should go to teaching the children," she told state lawmakers. The two cases illustrate the cyclic nature of the insurance business, a feast-to-famine industry that goes from periods of frenzied competition and low rates to tight markets and high prices. But this latest cycle in liability insurance is unprecedented. Economic and social factors cost insurers a collective $3.8 billion in 1984 - II YflU wean err OUR NEW his nrr Wfl KouwM -I-UHi! OPEN MON - (AT t: AM - S:PM 202 HALLETTSVILLE HWY. 77-A YOAKUM, TEXAS iWilg Insurance Drought the worst year on record and dried up insurance for steady customers. Those able to buy insurance face rate increases of 300 percent to 1,000 percent even when they have never filed a claim. Consumer advocates like Ralph Nader say the industry has manufactured a crisis, but insurance executives say events are beyond their control. Twenty insurance companies have been declared insolvent this year, the highest number in 11 years. "The mood is scared," said James Holland, an executive with The Travelers Cos. The insurance industry has ridden a roller coaster of cycles since the 1920s. When insurance money is plentiful, rates fall as companies compete, for premium dollars to invest in stocks, bonds and real estate. When rates fall too far and investment income can no longer support them, the cycle reverses and rates climb. The latest cycle began in the late 1970s when insurers cut rates to lure additional dollars for high interest investments. Foreign insurers, banks and brokerage houses, attracted by the investment promise, entered the business. "The industry is naturally competitive," said Warren Levy, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute. "With new money coming in and everybody looking to increase market share, companies cut rates." Although the results looked good the industry recorded a net gain of $7 billion in 1981 experienced hands began to worry. "We were very reluctant players under ground rules that we knew were wrong and were going to lead to disaster," said Holland of Travelers. "As long as the investment income was coming in, it was pretty hard to cry wolf." The MGM Grand story was an example of the times. The insurance companies, thinking it would take years to settle suits from the fatal blaze, counted on profits from high interest investments to offset the cost of claims. , , Instead, the hotel startled its insur- If you're 55 or older, you've earned it! ers by settling most cases quickly out of court. In addition, throughout the industry, interest rates fell faster than expected while the number of claims, and the damages awarded, rose. John Jennings, an editor with National Underwriter magazine, said the industry was slow to react. "They knew this was happening to them and yet it took until 1985 for the market to turn," he said. "It should have turned in 1983." Dramatic rate increases began last year, yet premium income is still below levels of six years ago. In 1979, insurers collected $6.6 billion in premiums from business customers. "If you only allow for inflation, the premiums in that line should have totaled $9.4 billion last year," said Sean Mooney, an economist with the Insurance Information Institute. Instead, 1984 premiums totaled $6.5 billion. But industry critics say recent rate increases have more than compensated for past mistakes. "Prices are now going into extremely excessive areas," said Bob Hunter, head of National Insurance Consumer Organization. "The idea that every line of insurance in the country is falling apart is ridiculous." But while income has remained static, losses have climbed. In 1980 the industry paid $70.2 billion in claims; last year, losses were $101 billion. Richard Earley, an assistant vice president at Aetna Life and Casualty, said court rulings had saddled insurance companies with claims they never intended to cover. In Jackson Township, N.J., for example, two insurance companies were ordered to pay $15.8 million to residents suing over water contamination from a leaky landfill even though the municipal policy expressly excluded pollution incidents, except for "sudden and accidental." "Traditionally we felt we could develop a contract that stated what our liabilities were and what exposures we were insuring," said Ear-ley. "We found recently that even a very common understanding by us and our insured had gone away by the time we got in the courtroom." This uncertainty has scared insurers away from potentially high-risk customers. Insurance for day-care centers was once considered a "sleeper." Many home day-care centers simply paid a few extra dollars for a rider on their homeowners policy. But when a California company dropped the line, other insurers shunned the business. They were concerned about reports of sexual abuse, even though no such claim has ever been filed. Liabilities And Losses Natural Catastrophies $1 5boo Property Loss By Fire $7 28 mtfcon Water Contamination $15 5 mon Industrial S3 5 bon Insurers recorded $101 1 boo n losses tasi year, up from $702 bon pari n 1980 Group Hits Brock For Labor Contract The industry contends it has to be more selective about customers because it has less money for insurance. Under most state regulations, insurers must hold $1 in reserve for every $3 of insurance sold. That means for every $1 of reserve lost, the companies have to cut sales by $3. Mooney, of the Insurance Information Institute, said the industry's surplus had fallen nearly $2 billion, reducing its capacity to write insurance. The industry's capacity has also been reduced by cuts in reinsurance funds money provided by reinsurers like Lloyd's of London and other foreign companies that underwrite the risks covered by insurance companies. Andre Maisonpierre, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, said companies that rushed into the U.S. market five years ago now are cautious. He estimated American reinsurance companies had lost as much as $1 billion in foreign reinsurance funds. "Lloyds is saying that 12 percent of its premium is U.S. business and that 12 percent has generated losses that have virtually wiped out its worldwide gain," said Maisonpierre. Ironically, there are signs the industry's roller coaster ride already is heading up. Insurance stocks are considered a good investment. "Earnings should be excellent in 1986 and better in the next few years," said David Wells, an analyst for Goldman, Sachs. Critics like Nader and Hunter say the stock market forecast backs up their contention that insurers are exploiting the situation. But Levy of the information institute said, "We have no qualms about saying the industry will be profitable again. "The industry that comes out of this will be different a tougher, smarter industry." NEXT: Suing "Deep Pockets" WASHINGTON (AP) - The National Right to Work Committee is accusing Labor Secretary William Brock of trying to whitewash a labor agreement that allows the United Auto Workers union to represent workers at General Motors Corp.'s planned Saturn plant in Tennessee. The committee, a conservative group opposed to compulsory unionism, accused Brock in a statement of "orchestrating a coordinated drive to whitewash an illegal sweetheart deal." The group's legal defense foundation filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in August after the agreement was reached which recognizes the UAW as the exclusive bargaining agent for Saturn plant employees. The pact, says the committee, constitutes an unfair labor practice because employees will not have the opportunity to choose their bargaining representative. The complaint also says the agreement illegally gives preferential hiring to those who pay UAW dues. Filed in Detroit where the automaker is based, the complaint was transferred to the NLRB in Washington several weeks ago in an unusual move which will result in the issue being handled by NLRB general counsel Rosemary Colly er. Ordinarily, initial disposition of NLRB complaints is made by the office in which it is filed. The committee says Brock is "seizing the opportunity to sugarcoat Big Labor's scheme and publicly pressure Collyer into looking the With the new InterFirst Classic "Account! 70O7 InterFirst ( JtI InterFirst Bank VXrAlV. Victoria m9 ar,m W, 1CVY"M I 91 .rant Victoria,' TX 77901 (512)575-4574 Member FDIC Premiums Vanish IIIHIll BRAKE PROBLEMS?! TlfYSTOFPiiJtii mimz. We do over 500,000 brake jobs a year. So if you need brake service or want a free brake inspection, the best place for you to stop is Midas Guorant: brake hixs and dist brake .irt- w.irninli'd tiir as kins us yixi own your Arm nan in" hireiRni'ar. vanur light truck (under RiKlOlbs. ) If they cut wrartxit. new Nbdas braki- sWsiir pads v. til br . installed without charge tor the shoe or pads or the labor to install the shoes or pads. Additional parts and.or labor required to restore the system to .jperauonal - ditumare extra. TRUST THE KIMS TOUCH! j I s 88 if i I JQ) PER AXLE 1 I MOST CARS & LIGHT TRUCKS I Ft Mi FOUR FROST PADS 08 All FOUR REAR U-H j ! M SHOES WITH LIFETIME U A WARRANTY'- Xt V I rf OTHER PARTS AND f I ( I LABOR REQUIRED TO J S I RESTORE BRAKE 4 7 ) S SYSTEM TO SAFE 1 I I OPERATING CONDITION I ) j AVABLE ATPARABLE f , .- - H B I FREE BRAKE CHECK HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. g q 5aL 8:uu a.m. to ::uu p.m. H B6407 Hallettsville Hwy. 573-0727 B My wife and I have been approached by a salesman with insurance policies that have "vanishing premiums" after seven years. We both are 28 and, according to the salesman, each of us would pay approximately $1,000 annual premiums for $100,000 policies. The idea of never paying insurance premiums after seven years is very appealing and we've already received applications from the insurance company. What is your opinion on this? A. Don't sign those applications and turn over any money until you have studied and understand all the details of the policies. You'll probably find out that your premiums would be higher than your wife's. That's pretty standard, because females have longer average life expectancies than males. Insurance companies have that all worked out on actuarial tables. As with the gaming tables in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, the odds favor the house. Double-check to make sure the premiums can't be raised during the seven-year payment period. The policies might have provisions allowing the insurance company to raise the premiums, if interest rates drop and the company earns less interest on the money it gets from you. An insurance company invests the money it receives from premiums. Because you would pay all the premiums in seven years, the insurance company would have the use of your money sooner than if you make premium payments over a longer span. As a result, the company would earn more by charging $7,000 in premiums over seven years than it would by charging, say, $10,000 in premiums over 20 years. While this arrangement might appeal to you, it also results in you losing the use of your money for longer periods of time. Chances are, you could do better by buying lower-cost term insurance and investing the money you save on premiums elsewhere. Of course, an insurance company doesn't get all the premium money you pay. A goodly chunk goes to the salesman. It comes as a shock to many people to learn that, in states where insurance regulations allow it, all of the first year's premium goes to the salesperson on some policies. ; Q. A friend of mine claims he is Investor's Guide By Bill Doyle King Fturf Syndicate, Inc. getting his whole life insurance for free. He says he's had his policy for so many years that the dividends now are big enough to pay the premiums. This sounds too good to be true. Is it really possible? A. Even though your friend no longer has to pay premiums, he isn't getting his insurance "for free." He simply paid so much in previous years that the insurance company has collected a sufficient amount of his money and no longer has . to charge him. So-called "dividends" are paid bri "participating" whole life policies. Those dividends come from money the insurance company has left over, after meeting its expenses including death claims. Holders of that type of policy participate in the company's surplus money by receiving dividends. Your friend is using his policy's dividends to pay his premiums. When a participating policy has accumulated a high cash surrender value, its dividends can be equal to or larger than the policy's premiums. This being the case, your friend no longer has to send money to the insurance company. Q. I have $30,000 in a 10.5 percent certificate of deposit and $10,000 in a 9.5 percent CD. My insurance agent is trying to sell me a universal life plan with the entire $40,000. He says it would pay me to redeem my CDs and pay the early withdrawal penalties six months' interest on the larger CD and three months' interest on the smaller one. Do you agree? A. Not for one minute. Next time that agent shows up at your house, lock the door and don't let him in. Quick arithmetic shows you would lose $2,050 in early withdrawal penal-ties by going along with that peddler's proposal. Even if the universal life policy turned out to be a reasonably good thing for you over the long run, there's no reason in the world for you to take that immediate financial other way." Brock's "high-profile promotion of the UAW-Saturn accord is "tantamount to tampering with evidence," right to work committee president Reed Larson said in the statement Monday. Brock should "step out of the way and let the NLRB do its Job properly," Larson's statement said. Asked Tuesday to respond to the committee's criticism, Brock spokesman David Demarest said it "would be inappropriate for me to engage in polemics," since the legal issue is pending. "Brock has been very supportive of labor-management cooperation on the basis that it increases American competitiveness and insofar as Saturn is an example of a more cooperative approach as opposed to a more confrontational approach, that's good," said Demarest. Panel Okays Limit On Nuke Liability WASHINGTON (AP) - The nuclear industry won the first round Tuesday in a legislative effort to keep a relatively low government ceiling on its liability exposure in event of a catastrophic atomic power plant accident. By 15-11, the House Interior Committee's energy and environment subcommittee substituted a $2 billion limit on the industry's liability for a $10 billion ceiling proposed by Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz. INVESTING COMPANIES NEW YORK (AP) Tht following quo tations, supplied by tht National Associ ation of Socuritios Distort, Inc.. art the pncn at which time securities couM have boon km (Not asstt value) or bouont lvalue plus salts cherts) Tuesday. iH lay AARP Invtt CaoGr N27 Nl CmM IS" NL OnBd I5S5 Nl Ctninc M IS NL WM li C NL TlF 15 X NL AST Family Emrg 14.1? 1570 Otfiinc isni7 37 Serine It IS T2M x i; n an ADTEK M-Tt NL Acorn f JS SI NL Ahiturc 1! NL M funds: CVM ll II 71 d"wy .71 10JI H,Ykl t.U S3 Sumit . 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