Effective Jan 1, 2017, state insurance commissioners agreed to make two significant changes to the way carriers are required to price and reserve for life insurance products.
While these changes were technically effective in 2017, states provided insurance companies three years to comply, or until Jan. 1, 2020. As is often the case, insurance companies have delayed implementation to maximize the benefits of the current regulatory framework, but now the time to make changes is arriving.
For the remainder of 2019, there will be a flurry of product reprices as carriers scramble to comply with these new guidelines by the end of the year. Before we can understand what’s to come, let’s dive into what is changing and what it means to you.
As insurance products have evolved over the last several decades, the regulatory framework for proper reserving has often lagged. Universal life products and universal life with “secondary guarantees” have grown significantly in market share over the last few decades and this has challenged regulators to create a framework to ensure policy promises are sound and secure. Principle-based reserving (PBR) is the latest attempt to ensure that carriers are adequately capitalized on the insurance business they are putting in place. Specific to the rationale for PBR, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) stated the following:
PBR is a significant change in underlying laws and regulations to solve a problem created by our current regulatory framework. The issue lies with laws and guidance on how a life insurer is required to book its reserves. Insurers set aside funds, known as reserves, to pay insurance claims when they become due.
Prior to PBR, static formulas and assumptions were used to determine these reserves as prescribed by state laws and regulations. However, sometimes this rule-based approach leaves an insurer with excessive reserves for certain insurance products and inadequate reserves for others. The solution is to "right-size" reserve calculations by replacing a rule-based approach with a principle-based approach.
The overall pricing impact of PBR changes have appeared to be relatively minimal. The carriers that have already released pricing on 2020 compliant products have made relatively small tweaks to pricing, with modest cost reductions in some areas and increases in others. Technically speaking, the PBR changes are not requiring the carriers to reprice their products but will be a significant factor in how they price products today and beyond.
When carriers are pricing product and regulators are setting reserve requirements, mortality assumptions must be made based on a standard. These mortality tables are updated periodically. The last update was the adoption of the 2001 CSO. For policies effective in 2020 and beyond, the NAIC will require carriers to comply with the 2017 CSO. The 2017 CSO will reflect a more robust data set for mortality and will generally reflect overall increases in life expectancy. The new mortality tables will certainly play into the PBR discussion as it relates to the way in which companies reserve for policies. Furthermore, the major impact of the 2017 CSO adoption is that all products must be repriced to comply with the 2017 CSO rather than the current 2001 CSO.
As the 2017 CSO is adopted, it will have notable pricing and product performance impact on Modified Endowment Contract (MEC) limitations. Every insurance contract has a methodology to comply with Internal Revenue Code Sections 7702 and 7702A, which, among other things, determines how much premium can be paid into a contract without creating a MEC. The calculations for compliance with these tests are based on mortality assumptions. Shorter mortality assumptions allow for a higher non-MEC premium, while longer assumptions allow lower non-MEC premiums. When carriers adopt the 2017 CSO, life expectancy assumptions will be generally longer, which will lower the amount of premium that can be paid into a contract without creating a MEC.
To use an overly simplified example, a 50-year-old male acquiring $1,000,000 of coverage in a product on the old mortality tables could fund a policy with an annual premium of approximately $56,000 for a period of seven years. On the new mortality tables, that same client would be limited to funding his policy with only about $47,000 annually over seven years. Because the non-MEC funding level will be less, the net amount at risk in the contract will increase and cash accumulation products will likely be adversely affected. It remains to be seen if carriers will be able to offer lower cost of insurance charges or other value to offset this impact.
Because all non-compliant policies must be placed no later than Dec. 31, 2019, carriers will be rolling out new product pricing throughout the year. Many carriers are waiting as long as possible to make this transition and are not disclosing their pricing until the transition period. There could also be additional repricing in early 2020 for carriers to maintain their competitive positioning relative to peers.
Producers should be aware of product pricing changes, transition deadlines and new pricing impacts on any active cases. There will certainly be some clients that will significantly benefit from the old pricing, which may not last much longer. This is especially true for those considering a cash accumulation policy funded to the MEC limit.
When my mother was young, she was a home health care aide for the local hospital. She enjoyed helping people – it was in her nature to care for those who could not properly care for themselves. But, she had no idea she would one day be sick herself, and unable to work as a caregiver.
After my sister way born, my mother’s health started to decline. Her asthma got worse. She started having severe depression and anxiety episodes. Her body was always in pain, no matter what she did. We used to joke about the “pharmacy” that she carried around with her, but in all actuality, it was sad. My mother was young, but she felt like someone twice her age.
Then, about 10 or so years ago, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She finally had an explanation for her aches and pains. But, on top of that, her asthma had developed into COPD, even though she had never smoked a day in her life. She could barely get out of bed most days. Her depression was worse than ever. She would end up hospitalized every time she got sick, mainly with upper respiratory issues.
Amid all her medical issues, she was no longer able to work full-time. Whenever she would land a job, a few months into it, she would fall ill and need to be hospitalized … then she would lose her job again.
The cycle continued. Eventually, she learned her immune system was basically not functioning. But, without a job to provide proper health insurance, she had no coverage for the medication she needed.
She applied for Social Security Disability Income, but was rejected – three times. It didn’t matter that her physicians had all written letters. It didn’t matter that she had significant proof she was unable to work full-time. It didn’t matter that her illnesses were expected to last over a year.
I’m going to repeat that – she was unable to work full-time and her illnesses were expected to last over a year. That is the basic definition of qualifying for Social Security. But still, she was denied time after time.
Finally, she agreed to hire an attorney. After more than a year and a couple hearings, she has finally been approved to receive Social Security Disability Income. She’ll have some money coming in each month and will no longer have to worry about insurance. She can start focusing on getting better and enjoying her grandchildren.
I wanted to share my mom’s story for two reasons:
As I said, no one believes a disability will happen to them. You may not always see them, and you probably never expect them, but disabilities do happen.
Yes, long-term care insurance CAN be expensive. My first reaction when someone says this to me is to ask how long they waited to buy it (see previous post). Because, of course, too many people wait until they’re older and have more health considerations for underwriting. Which, of course, ups the price.
This isn’t car insurance or home owner’s insurance. Actually, don’t think of it as insurance at all – think of it as another asset, or income protection. Your client pays a company a set amount of money, and in return they get access to a larger pool of money should they need it. Oh, and that money (when used for long-term care) is income tax free. It’s going to be there for your clients when they need it.
In some cases, the financial return of long-term care insurance is pretty hard to beat. More importantly, the emotional return for your clients and their families is priceless.
Talk to your clients and ask:
Some people ask, “What if I never need it?” First of all, then you’re one of the lucky ones. Second, that money doesn’t go to waste – in many cases, it can pass on to your heirs. But, trust me, your children and grandchildren would rather you have a plan for care than a plan to give then an inheritance. The cost of NOT having a plan and having an event is much, much higher than what you would have spent on insurance.
This isn’t the end of our discussion. Let’s keep talking long-term care.
You put long-term care at the bottom of your client agenda – again. You avoided it. You decided, “It can wait.” But can it really? Or, more importantly, what are the costs of waiting?
There’s a lot of change in the long-term care market, but two facts will always be certain:
The best time to create a plan isn’t 60 or 70. It’s actually 40 or 50. In fact, the average buyer is in their mid-50s. These clients are seeing their parents deal with extended care and it’s front of mind. They don’t want to pass that burden to their own children.
Don’t wait. Here are some questions to ask at your next client meeting:
We’ve discussed nearly all of the most common client concerns when it comes to discussing long-term care
People have the tendency to look at retirement and long-term care as two separate issues. Why? Because they tend to look at long-term care as a place – a nursing home, assisted living, retirement community, etc. But it’s more of an event – an event that could wipe out your clients’ retirement savings.
I would argue that the largest risk to a retirement plan is a long-term care event. So you can’t call yourself a retirement planner if you’re not addressing this risk. You need to put the pieces together.
In a webinar I did with Tim Ash, we used our software to literally show the impact a care event will have on retirement plans. It’s astounding. The good news? This software can also help show the impact you can make by having a plan in place.
After you watch the webinar, consider asking your clients a few questions during your next retirement planning appointment:
Yes, you have plenty to talk about during your client meetings. And you might feel like you don’t have time to add one more item to the agenda. Stop looking at long-term care as a separate issue. If you do nothing to address it, it’s a big risk to your clients’ portfolio.
© 2018 Ash Brokerage LLC.