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Hartford upbeat about disability

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Executives at Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE:HIG) say the group disability insurance market is looking better.

The executives talked about group benefits markets trends today during a conference call they held to review first-quarter earnings.

The company is reporting $495 million in net income for the latest quarter on $4.5 billion in revenue, compared with a $241 million net loss on $9 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2013.

The group benefits unit is reporting $51 million in net income on $903 million in revenue, compared with $42 million in net income on $941 million in revenue for the comparable quarter in 2013.

The group disability operation is reporting $88 million in fully insured ongoing sales on $346 million in premium revenue, up from $76 million in sales on $345 million in premiums.

At the group life unit, sales fell to $79 million, from $88 million, and premiums fell to $388 million, from $426 million.

But the group disability loss ratio fell to 82.4 percent, from 89.9 percent, and the group life loss ratio dropped to 67.9 percent, from 68.1 percent.

The company says the improvement in the group disability loss ratio reflects improving long-term disability (LTD) insurance claim incidence trends — a drop in the number of workers filing new claims — and strong LTD claim recoveries.

An insurer can get LTD claim recoveries when a worker dies, returns to work, or is found to have filed an invalid claim.

The drop in group benefits premiums is due mainly to “management actions related” to policies sold through associations and financial institutions, the company says.

Douglas Elliot, a Hartford executive vice president, said during the conference call that LTD prices are looking better.

Elliot said later during the call that Hartford has developed a critical illness insurance product and may sell it through private insurance exchanges, and possibly through programs linked to the new public health insurance exchanges.

The company is now preparing to launch a new accident insurance product Jan. 1, 2015, Elliot said. 

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