Nathaniel Hendren, a young economist, has published a paper that may require the National Bureau of Economic Research and Harvard University to hire extra public relations people to handle all of the speaking engagement booking requests he’ll be getting.
He used fancy statistical analyses, long-term care insurance (LTCI) carriers’ underwriting guidelines and survey data to show that the applicants rejected by LTCI insurers are difficult and expensive to cover because they have a great deal of sobering information about themselves that does not show up in the LTCI applications.
Hendren also did a similar analysis of the individually underwritten disability insurance and individually underwritten life insurance markets and found similar results there.
Hendren estimated that the amount insurance rejectees would have to pay insurers to compensate for all of the extra risk implied by hidden, “private information” would be about 42% of the premium for life insurance, 66% for disability insurance and 82% for LTC.
It’s not all that surprising that the level of risk is high in the LTCI market. LTCI carriers are putting out announcements about increasing rates, cutting benefits and, in some cases, leaving the market that sound as if they come from the same depressing news factory. Most of the companies say one reason for the depressing news is that claims have been somewhat higher than expected.
But what’s interesting is that similar underwriting problems exist in the disability insurance market. Disability insurers also face some of the other challenges facing LTCI providers. Like LTCI providers, disability insurers count on earnings on investments in high-grade corporate bonds and similar safe assets to fund long-term liabilities. Thanks to the Federal Reserve Board, those earnings are depressed. Of course, disability insurers also face a weak economy and consumers’ lack of willingness to plan seriously for all of the bad things that could happen in life.
A decade ago, individual disability insurance producers were going through a terrible shakeout and expressing concern about the future of that market.
Why do disability insurance businesses at least seem (to my outsider journalist eyes) to be doing so much better than LTCI carriers these days?