As insurance companies continue to low-ball claims, it’s important to consider how the industry has changed over the past 25 years.
The Post and Courier, a South Carolina newspaper, put out such an expose two years ago concerning the industry’s transformation, one in which claims were handled by adjusters and actuaries to software programs like Colossus.
Writer Tony Bartelme explains that this program grew in popularity around the time major U.S. storms hit the country in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. While the program adds more consistency to the figures insurance companies calculate, it nearly eliminates the human touch used years prior and depends on a series of scenarios: “catastrophe models,” using weather data and other factors to predict losses, and “scoring models,” for which customers are more likely to file claims. In turn, the program generates a range of payments.
On the other hand, the assets from consistency have several downsides. As the article explained, implementing the software resulted in an immediate spike in homeowner’s insurance premiums, and the program turned into a method not for helping customers get their lives together but for saving insurance companies money. In some cases, Bartelme details, payments and savings differed drastically between areas – such as, here, between inland and coastal South Carolina – and companies would attempt to lower the benchmark for claims. As well, employees like those sourced in the article were advised to never talk about the software.
Eventually, the program combined with Allstate’s delay and deny tactics, especially when a lawyer was involved, resulted in New York and Illinois watchdog groups requesting an investigation. Starting in 2009, these states and eventually others found that Allstate’s use of software showed that the company hadn’t “tuned” it consistently across the country. As well, this insurance company and others are now required to inform customers when software is being used.