A look ahead: Insurance trends for 2012
Be prepared to dig deeper into your pocket in 2012 to insure your car, your home and your health. Experts say that in some cases, Americans could see double-digit increases in insurance premiums.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for auto, home, health and life insurance in the new year.
If history repeats itself, you’re going to fork over more for auto insurance in 2012 than you did in 2011. According to the Insurance Information Institute, auto insurance premiums jumped an estimated 10 percent between 2008 and 2010.
|Premiums for several types of insurance could be on the rise in 2012.|
Ashley Hunter, an insurance risk specialist who is a former insurance agent, predicts an overall 7 percent to 10 percent hike in auto insurance premiums in 2012. Auto insurance fraud is one of the culprits. The nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates auto insurance fraud tacks $200 to $300 a year onto your premiums.
“Fraud has dramatically impacted the premiums in areas like New York City, the larger metropolitan areas of Florida and in some other large population areas in the country. Like shoplifting for all consumers, insurance fraud causes the losses and payouts of insurers to rise, and that results in higher premiums for everyone,” says Fred Karlinsky, an insurance attorney at Fort Lauderdale law firm Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky & Abate.
Since auto insurance rates are regulated on a state-by-state basis, where you live determines how high or low your premiums are.
If your home insurance rates go up in 2012, you may be able to pin the blame on the 12 natural disasters in 2011 that each caused at least $1 billion in damage. Those calamities included tornadoes, floods, snowstorms, wildfires and drought.
Frank Cacchione, CEO of TNC Management Group, an insurance consulting firm in New Jersey, says home insurance rate hikes as high as 20 percent increases are on the horizon for some Americans.
Hunter says: “I would expect at least a 7 to 10 percent increase.”
As with auto insurance, home insurance rates are regulated by state insurance departments.
Merton Bernstein, a health insurance expert who is the Walter D. Coles Professor of Law Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis, says Americans are on track to spend more on health care in 2012 than in 2011. He notes that premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance plans rose an average of 9 percent in 2011 and that this upward trend is expected to continue.
A survey by consulting giant Mercer indicates that employers’ health insurance costs will climb an estimated 5.7 percent in 2012. Because of the increasing cost of health care, some employers are passing along more of their health insurance expenses to their workers. About one-third of the employers that responded to the Mercer survey said they planned to boost health insurance deductibles or co-pays in 2012 as a way to manage expenses.
A survey by the nonprofit National Business Group on Health found that large U.S. employers expect to see their health care benefit costs rise an average of 7.2 percent in 2012. More than half of the surveyed employers plan to hike workers’ health insurance premiums in 2012.
“Employers continue to face countless challenges when it comes to offering health plans that effectively meet the needs of workers and their families, while also managing rising costs,” Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, says in a news release.
Despite rising health insurance premiums, you’ll pay less for some popular prescription drugs in 2012.
Michael Goodheim, a small business health insurance consultant in Seattle, says a number of widely used brand-name drugs will be losing their patents in 2012, paving the way for cheaper generic versions to hit the market. Among them are the anti-depressant Lexapro, which goes generic in March 2012; Plavix, which helps prevent strokes and heart attacks, May 2012; and asthma medication Singulair, August 2012.
For Medicare recipients, there’s also some good news. Monthly premiums for Medicare Part B will decrease by $22 in 2012, Medicare Advantage premiums will drop by 4 percent and premiums for Medicare’s prescription drug plans will stay about the same.
Fierce competition among life insurers is helping consumers.
In an economy that continues to be shaky, fewer people are buying life insurance, so life insurers have been slicing their rates, says Joe Perkins, a principal and employee benefits consultant at Indianapolis-based MJ Insurance. Just 22 percent of U.S. households did some serious shopping for life insurance in 2011, and only half of those households make purchases, according to life insurance trade group LIMRA.
Perkins has seen rates on life insurance fall an average of 10 percent in recent months, and he foresees the lower-cost trend continuing in 2012.
“Carriers have not been getting the same (investment) returns as in the past, so really they should be charging more in premiums, but that isn’t reflected in current premium costs,” Perkins says.