NU Online News Service, Jan. 25, 3:04 p.m. – Squeezed by falling interest rates, insurers are asking state lawmakers and regulators to change the legal minimum contract payout guarantees.
The outcome of the effort could affect the financial strength of the life insurers issuing the contracts, and the availability of guaranteed contract options in new variable annuities and indivdual deferred annuities, according to life industry representatives.
The American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, has asked the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., for an expedited opinion on its call to cut the minimum guarantee to 1.5% from 3%.
The expedited opinion is needed so that necessary changes in state laws can be broached with legislators, according to Linda Lanam, ACLI deputy general counsel.
U.S. regulators should think about Japan, a country where a combination of high guaranteed rates and low investment returns have forced several life insurers into rehabilitation, Diana Marchese, a representative for Transamerica Life Insurance and Annuity Company, Los Angeles, said during a discussion with regulators.
The situation is serious enough that the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations, Herndon, Va., is monitoring the effect of interest rates on life insurance companies, Marchese said.
Industry representatives told regulators that short-term yields are compressing margins to the point that rates on some products could fall below 2%.
Legislatures in 23 to 25 states are in full session this year, Lanam said.