Insurance company ratings explained
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When it comes to shopping for insurance, many people prioritize the cost of a policy as part of the decision-making process. And while your insurance policy needs to fit within your budget, there’s more to insurance than the price you pay. There are other factors you may also want to consider when selecting an insurance company, such as customer satisfaction ratings, its history of claim payouts and industry-wide reputation, which you can learn by looking at insurance company ratings. By taking into account these third-party ratings, it may help you to determine an insurer’s ability to pay claims on time and provide the coverage you need in the event of a catastrophe.
What are insurance company ratings?
Consumer analytics companies rate businesses on a variety of factors. Since insurance typically is all about money, the most important criterion for rating insurers is financial stability. People depend on insurance companies to bail them out during a catastrophe. Any policy is purchased with the sole purpose of being covered financially during any disaster that might befall your car, home, or life, and if an insurer does not have a stable position in the industry, its ability to pay out claims becomes questionable.
Although insurance company ratings mainly focus on financial strength, there are other factors that are also taken into consideration. These include overall customer satisfaction, availability, coverage options, discounts and competitive prices. Scores are also based on the resilience of a company in the face of nationwide disasters. For instance, a home insurance company will be rated for how well it handles business during severe weather events like hurricanes, while a health insurance company will be marked for the coverage it offers policyholders during a major case of widespread illness across the country.
What do insurance scores consider
Insurance company ratings take into account a number of factors. Besides the finances, the general health and ethics of the company are also considered before rating the insurer. Some other consideration factors are:
- Cash in reserve
- Debt to assets ratio
- Ethics and risk management
- Revenue streams
- Quality of policies underwritten
Since every analytics company is different and follows separate methods to determine scores, the ratings may not always be uniform for all insurers. Besides considering third-party ratings, it is also important that you conduct your own independent research to find your best fit.
Who rates insurance companies
There are four companies whose scores for insurance providers stand out from all others. These are AM Best, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Demotech.
The most well-known insurance specific rating company, the scores provided by AM Best are often considered the yardstick for financial strength in the industry. The highest rating offered is A++ (Superior) while the lowest is a D (Poor). AM Best does not rate any other kind of businesses other than insurance companies.
Standard & Poor’s
Unlike A.M. Best, Standard & Poor’s rates businesses across all industries, including insurance. They rate the ability and willingness of companies to meet their financial obligations on time and in full. Or, in other words, they rate the likelihood that an insurance company can and will pay out your claim in a timely manner. The highest score it offers is AAA (Extremely Strong) while the lowest is a D.
Another all-industry rating company, Moody’s Corporation analyzes insurance providers for financial stability, market risk and overall performance. They do this with the intent of determining, like other rating companies, how likely an insurance company is to be able to pay out your claim on time. Their highest score is Aaa (Highest Quality) while C (lowest-rated, typically in default) is the lowest.
Ohio-based financial analysis company Demotech rates insurance companies for their survival strength regardless of market downturns. Its rating scale is a little different, in that the highest score offered is A” and the lowest an L, with A’, A, S, M in the middle.
Why are insurance company ratings important?
An insurance company is different from other businesses because it has a financial obligation to customers. Ratings for insurance companies matter because they highlight the financial stability of an insurer and help people gauge if the company will be able to provide them with the money they need in the event of an accident or catastrophe. However, because these ratings are objective and fairly broad, they must not be the only factor to determine the effectiveness of the company. Just because an insurance company is financially strong, it must not be considered a guarantee of excellent customer service too.
What if an insurance company does not have a rating?
Sometimes, an insurance company may be unrated by any of the leading credit-rating agencies. This is not always a negative indicator. In most cases, it simply means that the company is new and has not yet had many years in business or it operates in only a handful of regions and is not considered a national insurer. In the absence of financial ratings, it is best to focus on customer reviews to learn more about the company’s performance.
Other things to consider
While the financial strength of an insurance company is of significance, it is far from the only factor that you should consider when looking for an insurer. In many instances, companies that are financially sound may not be equally reputed when it comes to customer service or timely claim payouts. Therefore, reviewing customer complaints about an insurance company should be your first consideration.
The National Association for Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) maintains an index of complaints against insurance companies, with a median of 1. This index tells you the number of complaints registered against the company by consumers. The higher the score, the greater the number of complaints. You must also check customer reviews about claims handling, billing, renewal, and sudden price hikes by the company. Coverage options and available discounts that help you save a few hundred dollars a year are also necessary factors to be considered when looking for an insurance company.
You may also want to consider researching a company’s J.D. Power score. J.D. Power specializes in data collection and analytics with the intention of providing an unbiased picture of a particular industry. This is important because if you look up customer reviews, many customers will take the time to write a bad review but not focus on the good things about the company. J.D. Power scores major companies in the industry on things like claims handling satisfaction and customer satisfaction. This company’s ratings may give you a good idea of a company’s ability to serve you satisfactorily.
Frequently asked questions
It may be a good idea to review a company’s insurance ratings whenever you are in the market for a new policy or are considering changing insurers. However, you can check your company’s rating regularly to make sure it hasn’t declined from the year prior, as most third-party rating companies will update their data on an annual basis.
There are several consumer analytics available to you, and in some cases, there may be conflicting information from one to the next. If you’re looking for a reputable source of information for insurance ratings, companies like AM Best, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Demotech are industry-recognized insurance reviewers and can be a good place to start.
If you discover that your insurance company has a low rating with a third-party rating company, you may be tempted to shop around for other insurance companies. However, you do not have to make changes right away. If you’re happy with your insurance company overall, or if you have discounts or other perks that you want to keep, it may be worth considering whether the company has historically had good ratings or whether a low rating is the norm. It may also be helpful to consider whether a recent catastrophic event may have caused an impact to the rating. It may also be helpful to read through recent reviews and customer complaints so you can make an informed decision on whether or not to leave your insurance company due to a low rating.