- The insurer (the life insurance company) calculates the policy prices with intent to fund claims to be paid and administrative costs, and to make a profit. The cost of insurance is determined using mortality tables calculated by actuaries. Actuaries are professionals who employ actuarial science, which is based in mathematics (primarily probability and statistics). Mortality tables are statistically-based tables showing expected annual mortality rates. It is possible to derive life expectancy estimates from these mortality assumptions. Such estimates can be important in taxation regulation.
The three main variables in a mortality table have been age, gender, and use of tobacco. More recently in the US, preferred class specific tables were introduced. The mortality tables provide a baseline for the cost of insurance. In practice, these mortality tables are used in conjunction with the health and family history of the individual applying for a policy in order to determine premiums and insurability. Mortality tables currently in use by life insurance companies in the United States are individually modified by each company using pooled industry experience studies as a starting point. In the 1980s and 90's the SOA 1975-80 Basic Select & Ultimate tables were the typical reference points, while the 2001 VBT and 2001 CSO tables were published more recently. The newer tables include separate mortality tables for smokers and non-smokers and the CSO tables include separate tables for preferred classes.
Recent US select mortality tables predict that roughly 0.35 in 1,000 non-smoking males aged 25 will die during the first year of coverage after underwriting. Mortality approximately doubles for every extra ten years of age so that the mortality rate in the first year for underwritten non-smoking men is about 2.5 in 1,000 people at age 65.] Compare this with the US population male mortality rates of 1.3 per 1,000 at age 25 and 19.3 at age 65 (without regard to health or smoking status)
Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy. Auto insurance provides property, liability and medical coverage:
- Property coverage pays for damage to or theft of your car.
- Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
- Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
An auto insurance policy comprises six kinds of coverage. Most countries require you to buy some, but not all, of these coverages. If you're financing a car, your lender may also have requirements. Most auto policies are for six months to a year.
In the U.S, your insurance company should notify you by mail when it’s time to renew the policy and to pay your premium.
Any risk that can be quantified can potentially be insured. Specific kinds of risk that may give rise to claims are known as "perils". An insurance policy will set out in detail which perils are covered by the policy and which are not. Below are (non-exhaustive) lists of the many different types of insurance that exist. A single policy may cover risks in one or more of the categories set out below. For example, auto insurance would typically cover both property risk (covering the risk of theft or damage to the car) and liability risk (covering legal claims from causing an accident). A homeowner's insurance policy in the U.S. typically includes property insurance covering damage to the home and the owner's belongings, liability insurance covering certain legal claims against the owner, and even a small amount of coverage for medical expenses of guests who are injured on the owner's property.
Business insurance can be any kind of insurance that protects businesses against risks. Some principal subtypes of business insurance are (a) the various kinds of professional liability insurance, also called professional indemnity insurance, which are discussed below under that name; and (b) the business owner's policy (BOP), which bundles into one policy many of the kinds of coverage that a business owner needs, in a way analogous to how homeowners insurance bundles the coverages that a homeowner needs
Types of insurance
The business model can be reduced to a simple equation: Profit = earned premium + investment income - incurred loss - underwriting expenses.
Insurers make money in two ways:
Through underwriting, the process by which insurers select the risks to insure and decide how much in premiums to charge for accepting those risks;
By investing the premiums they collect from insured parties.
The most complicated aspect of the insurance business is the underwriting of policies. Using a wide assortment of data, insurers predict the likelihood that a claim will be made against their policies and price products accordingly. To this end, insurers use actuarial science to quantify the risks they are willing to assume and the premium they will charge to assume them. Data is analyzed to fairly accurately project the rate of future claims based on a given risk. Actuarial science uses statistics and probability to analyze the risks associated with the range of perils covered, and these scientific principles are used to determine an insurer's overall exposure. Upon termination of a given policy, the amount of premium collected and the investment gains thereon minus the amount paid out in claims is the insurer's underwriting profit on that policy. Of course, from the insurer's perspective, some policies are "winners" (i.e., the insurer pays out less in claims and expenses than it receives in premiums and investment income) and some are "losers" (i.e., the insurer pays out more in claims and expenses than it receives in premiums and investment income); insurance companies essentially use actuarial science to attempt to underwrite enough "winning" policies to pay out on the "losers" while still maintaining profitability.
An insurer's underwriting performance is measured in its combined ratio which is the ratio of losses and expenses to premiums. A combined ratio of less than 100 percent indicates underwriting profitability, while anything over 100 indicates an underwriting loss. A company with a combined ratio over 100% may nevertheless remain profitable due to investment earnings.
Insurance companies earn investment profits on “float”. “Float” or available reserve is the amount of money, at hand at any given moment, that an insurer has collected in insurance premiums but has not paid out in claims. Insurers start investing insurance premiums as soon as they are collected and continue to earn interest or other income on them until claims are paid out. The Association of British Insurers (gathering 400 insurance companies and 94% of UK insurance services) has almost 20% of the investments in the London Stock Exchange.
In the United States, the underwriting loss of property and casualty insurance companies was $142.3 billion in the five years ending 2003. But overall profit for the same period was $68.4 billion, as the result of float. Some insurance industry insiders, most notably Hank Greenberg, do not believe that it is forever possible to sustain a profit from float without an underwriting profit as well, but this opinion is not universally held.
Naturally, the “float” method is difficult to carry out in an economically depressed period. Bear markets do cause insurers to shift away from investments and to toughen up their underwriting standards. So a poor economy generally means high insurance premiums. This tendency to swing between profitable and unprofitable periods over time is commonly known as the "underwriting" or insurance cycle.
Property and casualty insurers currently make the most money from their auto insurance line of business. Generally better statistics are available on auto losses and underwriting on this line of business has benefited greatly from advances in computing. Additionally, property losses in the United States, due to unpredictable natural catastrophes, have exacerbated this trend.