Seventeen U.S. insurance companies became financially impaired in 2006, despite a respite for property/casualty insurers from two consecutive turbulent hurricane seasons and more diversified asset portfolios among life/health insurers.
That is according to two new A.M. Best Co. special reports, “2007 Annual U.S. Life/Health Impairments” and “2007 Annual U.S. Property/Casualty Impairments.”
The property/casualty report found 15 insurers in those lines of business became impaired last year, a rate of 1-in-233 companies.
While any impairment can be a hardship to policyholders and employees, 2006’s impairment rate is half the historical rate of the past 38 years. So far in 2007, A.M. Best has identified one public impairment: Vanguard Fire & Casualty Co. Florida; regulators placed that company in rehabilitation in January. Vanguard Fire & Casualty was never rated by A.M. Best.
The majority of last year’s impaired property/casualty companies were affiliated with either Poe Financial Group or Vesta Insurance Group.
Of the two life/health companies identified as impaired in 2006, one is a known confidential supervision. The other impairment is Security General Life Insurance Co., which was issued a cease-and-desist order by the Oklahoma Insurance Department last September. It was placed in rehabilitation in November. The company was not rated by A.M. Best at the time of impairment. 2006’s impairment rate of 1-in-769 life/health companies continues a seven-year trend of below-average impairment rates.
“We have a circumstance with confidential supervision,” said John Williams, senior business analyst at A.M. Best. “The states take action to try to prevent problems for companies that they see in financial trouble. We picked up three additional impairments for 2005 and there’s a fair shot that you’ll see a fair jump in the 2006 numbers as we go forward—enough that they won’t be the lowest numbers on record.”
“What we found with most of these companies, both in property/casualty and in life/health, the impaired companies and those that became impaired either had vulnerable A.M. Best ratings, or were not rated at all by A.M. Best,” said Williams.
A.M. Best designates an insurer financially impaired as of the first official regulatory action taken by an insurance department. That marks the point when an insurer’s ability to conduct normal insurance operations is adversely affected, capital and surplus have been deemed inadequate to meet legal requirements, or the company’s general financial condition has triggered regulatory concern.
The financially impaired companies identified in these studies might not technically have been declared insolvent. The definition of financially impaired is broader than that of a Best’s Rating of E (under regulatory supervision), which is assigned only when an insurer is no longer allowed to conduct normal ongoing insurance operations.
Source: A.M. Best
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