The Effects of Regulatory Reforms in The South Carolina Auto Insurance Market. Martin F. Grace Georgia State University

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1 The Effects of Regulatory Reforms in The South Carolina Auto Insurance Market Martin F. Grace Georgia State University Robert W. Klein Georgia State University Sharon Tennyson Cornell University Paper Proposal for the 2011 ARIA Meeting Contact Author: Robert W. Klein Department of Risk Management and Insurance Georgia State University P.O. Box 4036 Atlanta, GA Tel:

2 The Effects of Regulatory Reforms in The South Carolina Auto Insurance Market Overview and Motivation The impact of the regulation of auto insurance markets in the US has been a subject of considerable interest and empirical study. South Carolina provides an interesting test case for examining the effects of significant reforms of the regulation of auto insurance markets. Prior to 1997, South Carolina had a very strict regulatory regime for auto insurance. Rates were subject to prior approval and South Carolina regulators imposed tight constraints on overall rate increases and territorial and other rating factors. In addition, South Carolina established a Reinsurance Facility ( the Facility ) as a residual market mechanism which imposed a large subsidy from low-risk and high-risk drivers to medium-risk drivers. South Carolina s approach to auto insurance regulation was motivated by concerns about escalating auto insurance costs stemming from high speeds on its rural highways, frequent and severe accidents, and a litigious environment. Legislators believed that imposing strict regulatory constraints on auto insurers would stem the tide of rising premiums and address concerns about the unfair treatment of certain drivers. However, market conditions worsened rather than improved. Rates (albeit constrained) continued to rise because of escalating claims and by 1992 the Facility had ballooned to cover 42 percent of the states drivers and generated large deficits that were borne disproportionately by drivers across the state. Further, because of these adverse conditions, carriers began exiting the auto insurance market and the number of insurance companies writing auto insurance in South Carolina fell from 80 in 1990 to 55 in Growing consumer and political dissatisfaction with this situation eventually prompted the South Carolina legislature to enact a set of significant regulatory reforms in 1997 with most becoming effective in Regulatory constraints on rates and underwriting were eased the Facility and its subsidies were scheduled to be gradually phased out. An early study of these reforms by Grace, Klein and Phillips (2002) found evidence that initial effects of these reforms were positive. The number of insurers had doubled to 108 by 1999 and many began implementing overall rate decreases in response to the easing of restrictions on risk classification and underwriting and in anticipation of declining claim costs. Additionally, the Facility began to depopulate. They also examined the effects of territorial rate subsidies and other factors on claim frequency and severity across counties. They concluded that the early prognosis for the South Carolina auto insurance market was promising based on this initial evidence but further research would be needed to assess the ultimate outcome of the states reform efforts. The purpose of this paper will be to update and extend the analysis by Grace, Klein and Phillips (2002). Their data ended in 1999 and, with the assistance of the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI), we have acquired 10 additional years of data to 1

3 further assess the effects of its regulatory reforms as they became fully implemented and market conditions continued to evolve. This paper represents the first in-depth analysis of the long-term impact of deregulatory reforms in a state automobile insurance market. Our analysis includes an assessment of changes in the structure and performance of the South Carolina auto insurance market, the depopulation of the Facility and the phase-out of its subsidies, and the effects of the reforms on claim frequency and severity and average loss costs over time and across counties. Our analysis will employ more sophisticated methods to examine the effects of rate subsidies and their diminution analogous to a study of the Massachusetts auto insurance market by Derrig and Tennyson (forthcoming). Data and Methodology We have several data sets that cover a year time period (depending on the data set) that will enable us to fully examine the effects of the regulation of auto insurance in South Carolina pre and post-reform. First, we have financial data from the NAIC that will allow us to track changes in the structure and performance of the SC auto insurance market in comparison with other states for the period Second, we have data on earned premiums, incurred losses, earned exposures and number of claims by county and type of coverage for the period These data are further broken out between the voluntary market and the Facility. Third, these data will be further supplemented by statewide auto insurance claim frequency and severity data by state obtained from Insurance Research Council. Finally, we have obtained territory-level data on premiums, losses, exposures, and claims for South Carolina and North Carolina for the period These data will enable us to perform detailed analysis of various market trends and outcomes in South Carolina and draw comparisons with other states. Our analysis is based on two major theoretical premises. First, tight regulatory constraints can interfere with insurers need to set risk-based prices and control loss costs. This will lead insurers to reduce their voluntary writings of automobile insurance. If regulatory constraints ultimately causes insurers to fall below their cost of capital we would expect that insurers will exit the market unless they anticipate that conditions will improve in a reasonable period of time (Harrington, 1992). Vice versa, if regulatory constraints are relaxed and profits rise to an acceptable level, we would expect exits to decline and that insurers will reenter the market. This reasoning leads to two hypotheses regarding the effects of regulation on market structure that we will test in our analysis: H1: Tighter regulatory constraints will increase the size of the residual market; deregulation will lead to a shrinking of the residual market, all other factors held constant. H2: Tighter regulatory constraints will reduce the number of insurers supplying automobile insurance; deregulation will increase the number of insurers in the market, all other factors held constant. 2

4 We will test these hypotheses by assessing how the structure and performance of South Carolina s auto insurance market has evolved over the period looking at several key parameters including the number of insurance companies and groups, entry and exits, market concentration and profitability. We will also examine trends in average premiums by coverage and county over the period in the voluntary and residual markets. This detailed analysis of South Carolina auto insurance premium trends will be augmented by comparisons with average premium trends in other states (at a statewide level) for the period The final element of this part of our study will examine how the number of vehicles insured through the Facility relative to the voluntary market has changed, by county, over the period The second theoretical premise is that rating and underwriting constraints and the imposition of rate subsidies would be expected to exacerbate the problems of adverse selection and moral hazard. With respect to adverse selection, if low-risk drivers are forced to subsidize high-risk drivers, we would expect low-risk drivers to be less likely to buy insurance or reduce the amount of insurance they buy. High-risk drivers would be expected to be more likely to buy insurance and to buy higher amounts of insurance. Further, if regulators artificially suppress rates then drivers will have reduced incentives to drive safely as they will not be compelled to pay for the full cost of the claims they incur. This would be expected to result in higher claim costs. This could occur at a statewide level or in specific geographic areas depending on how the regulatory constraints and any cross-subsidies are applied. This leads to two complimentary hypotheses that we will test in our analysis: H3: rate constraints and cross-subsidies will lead to higher/increasing claim costs H4: the elimination of rate constraints and cross-subsidies will lead to lower/decreasing claim costs (all other things equal). These hypotheses will be tested by focusing on claim frequency and severity and average losses (total losses divided by the number of exposures). First, we will examine changes in claim frequency and severity and average losses by coverage and county over the years Second, we will employ econometric methods to examine the effects of constraints on rates and the imposition of cross-subsidies on claim frequency, claim severity and loss costs in South Carolina over time and across counties. Our estimations will control for various economic, demographic and other factors that might affect claims costs (e.g., traffic density, average income, etc.) to the extent that data are available to measure these factors. References Bartlett, Dwight K. III, Robert W. Klein and David T. Russell, 1999, "Attempts to Socialize Costs in Voluntary Insurance Markets: The Historical Record," Journal of Insurance Regulation, Vol

5 Cummins, J. David and Sharon Tennyson, 1992, Controlling Automobile Insurance Costs, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 6: Cummins, J. David., 2002, "Property-Liability Insurance: Price Deregulation: The Last Bastion," in J. David Cummins, ed. Deregulating Property and Liability Insurance, 1-24, Washington, D.C. Brookings Institution Press. Danzon, Patricia M. and Scott E. Harrington, 2001, Workers Compensation Rate Regulation: How Price Controls Increase Costs, Journal of Law and Economics, 44: Derrig, Richard A., 1993, Price Regulation in US Automobile Insurance: A Case Study of the Massachusetts Private Passenger Automobile Insurance , The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance, 18: Derrig, Richard A., and Sharon Tennyson, The Impact of Rate Regulation on Claims: Evidence from Massachusetts Automobile Insurance, Risk Management and Insurance Review, forthcoming. Grace Martin F., Robert W. Klein, and Richard D. Phillips, 2002, "Auto Insurance Reform: Salvation in South Caro1ina", in J. David Cummins, ed. Deregulating Property- Liability-Insurance, , Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution Press. Harrington, Scott E. and S. Travis Pritchett, 1990, Automobile Insurance Reform in South Carolina, Journal of Insurance Regulation 8: Harrington, Scott E., 1992, Rate Suppression, Journal of Risk and Insurance 59: Harrington, Scott E., 2002, "Effects Of Prior Approval Rate Regulation of Auto Insurance," in J. David Cummins, ed. Deregulating Property-Liability-Insurance, , Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution Press. Rothschild, M. and J.E. Stiglitz, 1976, "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 90: Smith, Eric and Randall Wright, 1992, Why Automobile Insurance in Philadelphia is so Damn Expensive?, The American Economic Review 82: Tennyson, Sharon, 1997, The Impact of Rate Regulation on State Automobile Insurance Markets, Journal of Insurance Regulation 15(4):

6 Tennyson, Sharon, Mary Weiss and Laureen. Regan, 2002, "Automobile Insurance Regulation: The Massachusetts Experience, in J. David Cummins, ed. Deregulating Property-Liability-Insurance, , Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution Press. 5

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