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Cyber Insurers Warn Catastrophic Hacks Will Require Government Help

Cyber Insurers Warn Catastrophic Hacks Will Require Government Help

A cyberattack that disrupts everyday life in the U.S. will likely cost more than the insurance industry can afford to cover, requiring government intervention, insurers and brokers said.

The idea of a federal backstop to help insurers cope in the event of a catastrophic cyberattack has been examined by the government in recent years, but has gained momentum with tandem efforts at the Treasury Department, the Office of the National Cyber Director and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency over the past year. Government officials and the insurance industry plan to meet in April to work out exactly what such a program would look like.

Federal support in the event of a catastrophic attack would undoubtedly be necessary, said John Keogh, president and chief operating officer of insurer Chubb. While the industry could absorb a major natural disaster, the effects of a cyberattack on a similar scale would quickly overwhelm its capacity to cover losses.

“A $250 billion cyber event is beyond the ability of the insurance industry to respond to today,” said Keogh, who was speaking at a recent conference organized by New York University and the U.S. Treasury Department in New York.

Some cyberattacks have cost billions of dollars, including the NotPetya malware infections of 2017, which caused an estimated $10 billion of damage worldwide across shipping companies, healthcare systems and logistics businesses, among others. That case also led to lawsuits against insurers by policyholders over the question of whether the attacks, which the U.S. attributed to Russia, triggered war exclusions. Moscow has denied involvement.

Truly devastating attacks could dwarf those costs. In October, insurance and reinsurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London predicted a successful cyberattack on a major financial-services payments system would result in global economic losses of $3.5 trillion over a five-year period. The scenario, which Lloyd’s described as “hypothetical but plausible,” would hit the U.S. hardest, at $1.1 trillion of damage.

Lloyd’s estimated that insurers globally underwrote around $9 billion of cyber insurance premiums in 2022, forecasting that number to reach between $13 billion and $25 billion by 2025, highlighting the gap between coverage and possible losses.

“We understand that some of the risk is too great for the insurance industry to take on all by itself,” said Drenan Dudley, acting National Cyber Director, adding that while the U.S. government would likely step in after the fact, developing plans ahead of such an event would provide certainty to insurers.

Insurers are leery of their exposure to such events. In August 2022, Lloyd’s directed its syndicates to incorporate language in policies that specifically excludes state-backed catastrophic events from coverage.

Graham Steele, assistant secretary for financial institutions at the Treasury Department, said at the Nov. 17 conference that the government has reached the conclusion that it must investigate the topic more thoroughly. A simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question of whether a federal response is required demands a more nuanced answer, he said.

“We believe that further exploration of the proper federal insurance response to catastrophic cyber risks is warranted, and should be undertaken,” he said.

While a well-designed backstop could provide assurance to carriers, and encourage cybersecurity best practices, a poorly designed program could shift too much risk onto the government, he said.

CISA is also re-establishing its Cyber Insurance Data Analysis Working Group, said Nitin Natarajan, the agency’s deputy director. The group originally comprised insurers and government officials from 2012 to 2016 to better understand the risks within cyber insurance, and its next incarnation will follow a similar approach, Natarajan said.

Insurers suggest that previous measures in similar areas could prove instructive in defining any backstop. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush on Nov. 26, 2002, created a temporary federal backstop for insurance claims related to acts of terrorism, following the Sept. 11 attacks. The program, renewed by Congress through 2027, provides federal assistance once insurers reach a certain threshold of losses, most recently set at $200 million.

“Tria is a fairly elegant solution in the sense that it encourages and works through the existing market, to show up at the times when it’s necessary to draw a line under the exposure,” said Tom Reagan, global head of cyber at insurance broker Marsh, a unit of Marsh & McLennan.

Dan Palardy, lead actuary at insurer Cowbell Cyber, said government programs that sit alongside traditional insurers, such as the U.K.’s Pool Re or the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, can also serve as a model for a catastrophic cyber backstop, but the triggers must be clearly defined. Notably muddy areas within cyber, such as attributing attacks to their perpetrators, should also be tackled, he said.

“The trade of catastrophic cyber risk tends to fixate on the limits of the insured risk, particularly, the issue of attribution as it pertains to cyberwar. Policy language designed to address instances where attribution is unclear could aid in this,” he said.

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Cat-Exposed Property to See the Biggest Rate Gains in 2024: WTW

Cat-Exposed Property to See the Biggest Rate Gains in 2024: WTW

Catastrophe exposed commercial property insurance renewals are expected to see some of the biggest rate gains in 2024, as pressure continues and a challenged reinsurance market drives buyers towards alternative solutions, to offset rising rates. An outlook to 2024 for the commercial insurance market from broker WTW paints a fairly bleak picture for those with property in regions where natural catastrophes and severe weather are prevalent. For 2024, WTW forecasts that catastrophe exposed property insurance rates will rise between +10% and +25%. Only political risk, terrorism and violence related insurance premiums are expected to rise faster next year. The property market remains “relatively hard” WTW says, but all over commercial insurance the inflation we’ve seen is continuing to make itself felt in terms of rising prices. “Certain clients and industry sectors still face spiraling premiums at renewal,” WTW explained. Going on to highlight the use of alternative solutions and alternative capital in helping clients navigate the challenging environment, saying that these “creative, alternative solutions include risk transfer via parametric options, integrated solutions, and alternative capital/MGA/MGU solutions.” Price increases have begun to stabilise, WTW explained. The broker said that, after last year’s hurricane Ian, “reinsurers have found themselves on shaky ground,” which led to the imposition of “all-encompassing cuts to capacity, resulting in substantial price increases and larger retentions for retail insurers.” Retail insurers then had to prune their capacity and portfolios, leading to challenging conditions for insurance buyers. “These conditions have persisted throughout 2023, culminating in over $100 billion of insured property losses, despite a relatively calm Atlantic hurricane season,” WTW explained. But added that, “A bright spot lies in the restructuring of reinsurance treaty retentions, positioning the capital base for meaningful returns. For consumers, this could attract additional capital to the property insurance marketplace, potentially reducing property insurance prices and mitigating market challenges in 2024.” Non-catastrophe exposed property is expected to see renewal rates of flat to +10% in 2024, meaning the majority of commercial insurance buyers can expect to pay more for their cover next year. Jon Drummond, Head of Broking, North America, WTW, said, “As the reinsurance market continues to exert its influence over retail insurers and capital distribution, our clients may face more uncertainty in 2024 across both property and casualty product lines. “The concept of a bifurcated market has become seemingly omnipresent, but this dynamic may grow to be even more prevalent across multiple lines of business and industries in the foreseeable future.” Of course, this all reads across to reinsurance markets as well, both in terms of opportunity for capital to cascade in to support the commercial insurance market, as well as in maintaining the upwards pressure, or at least support, for hard market pricing when it comes to property catastrophe risks.

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Senators Call for Investigation of Health Insurers’ Role in Driving Up Drug Costs

Senators Call for Investigation of Health Insurers’ Role in Driving Up Drug Costs

A pair of U.S. senators called on the federal government to investigate health insurers that are paying high prices for generic drugs for serious diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Sen. Mike Braun (R., Ind.) sent a letter on Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General requesting an investigation into the high drug prices and any role played by health insurers’ shared ownership with the pharmacies that often fill the prescriptions.

The letter cites a recent article in The Wall Street Journal that reported that big health insurers Cigna Group, CVS Health and UnitedHealth Group are paying multiples more for drugs such as cancer therapy Gleevec and multiple-sclerosis treatment Tecfidera than what manufacturers charge for generic versions.

“These findings are alarming,” the senators said of the Journal article in its letter to HHS Inspector General Christi Grimm. “This anticompetitive behavior raises costs, hurts independent pharmacies, and undercuts Congress’ ability to rein in excessive profits of insurance companies.”

Generics are supposed to help health plans keep a lid on drug spending. Healthcare experts say insurers, even though they reimburse pharmacies for drugs, can profit by charging high prices if their parent companies also own pharmacies and other players in the drug-supply chain. That is because insurers often steer patients to use their own pharmacies, keeping the money under the same roof.

Cigna owns Express Scripts, a pharmacy-benefit manager, or PBM, that negotiates drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and the specialty pharmacy Accredo. CVS operates the Caremark PBM, as well as health-insurer Aetna and thousands of retail pharmacies.

UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, also owns both a PBM and specialty pharmacy in addition to employing tens of thousands of U.S. doctors.

UnitedHealth declined to comment. Cigna and CVS didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The senators also asked the Health Department’s investigators to examine whether the healthcare companies are able to dodge a federal law that requires insurers to allocate no more than 15% to 20% of insurance premiums to profits and administrative costs, known as the Medical Loss Ratio, or MLR.

“By owning every link in the chain, a conglomerate like UnitedHealth Group…can send inflated medical payments to its pharmacy,” and appear to be in compliance with the MLR requirements while keeping more money for itself, the senators wrote.

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AM Best Panel Explores How GenAI & ChatGPT Are Reshaping the Insurance Industry

AM Best Panel Explores How GenAI & ChatGPT Are Reshaping the Insurance Industry

A recent panel hosted by AM Best, that included insurance and technology experts, examined how Generative AI and ChatGPT technologies will play a key role in driving the customer experience across the industry. The panel featured, Arun Balakrishnan, Chairman & CEO of Xceedance, Ray A. Mirza SVP of Berkshire (BHSI), and Praveen Reddy, COO of Velocity Risk. Mirza explained that Berkshire BHSI’s approach to AI and ChatGPT internally is primarily twofold, with one area being to really have a focus on “education and awareness.” “We have had a big push around that this year, educating our colleagues around the world on ChatGPT and other offerings. And we have started to talk about the use cases, as well as the benefits, but most importantly, the pitfalls and the risks. “The second thing now is that we are starting to vet real use cases and something that we’re looking very closely at and its quite exciting that we are moving forward with it, is our first use case, which is in the area of submission processing.” Moreover, Balakrishnan also explained how both GenAI and Chat GPT are still new forms of technology and that across the industry he is seeing different levels of “excitement, exuberance and caution” by different companies. “In a personal lines world we are seeing a lot of experimentation in customer experience. Like how it engages with the customer service when somebody’s calling in, from making your charts more engaging, all the way to comprehensions. So there are a lot of experiments, but largely limited in the customer interaction world when it comes to personal lines. “In commercial lines, I think there is a bit of spectrum depending on each companies appetite. So, you have some companies in small commercial trying to see this from an underwriting perspective, like how can you assimilate all the information which comes within a card form to come up with insights.” However, even with a lot of experimentation taking place across the industry with this technology, Balakrishnan noted that he does not think a “scale mass adoption” with GenAI and ChatGPT has happened just yet, but the industry remains on the verge of doing this.
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