In this post, we are going to discuss the four functions of an insurance company.
Introduction – The Promise
Insurance is not like any other business. Rather than selling a tangible product that you receive immediately upon paying for it, insurance companies are selling an important promise—a promise of protection, security and peace of mind if something goes wrong.
When you buy a car, you give someone money and you take a car home. When you buy groceries, you pay money and get your groceries. Insurance is different. With insurance, you give them money and trust, and hope and pray that you never have to collect.
The Four Functions of Insurance
The activities of an insurance company can be divided into four major functions:
The actuarial department is concerned with what kind of promise the company is going to sell and how much the promise should cost. Essentially, the actuaries’ role is to analyze the financial consequences of risk and price the company’s product in a way that will allow the company to make a profit. For example, an actuary working for a car insurance company might calculate the risk that potential customers will be in a car accident, and then adjust premium amounts to account for that risk so that the insurer can pay accident claims and still make money.
The marketing department is concerned with how to get people to buy the promise being sold. They design ads and employ sales people. Basically, this department’s goal is to get people interested in buying the promise.
The underwriting department determines who the company should sell the promise to. Underwriters review applications and assesses whether the company should allow applicants to purchase the promise. For example, the underwriting department of a life insurance company might review health questionnaires submitted by applicants to assess whether the level of risk is low enough to provide life insurance to the applicant.
The claims department’s role is to process and pay legitimate claims. While the first three departments are very much concerned about profitability, the claims department is not supposed to consider company profitability when adjusting a claim. If the actuaries made a mistake and sold a product that is costing the company too much money, the product was not marketed correctly, or if underwriting was too lax, the company is supposed to pay legitimate claims and bear the loss.
As we have discussed in previous posts, an insurance company has a legal obligation to treat its customers fairly and deal with its customers in good faith. Ideally, the disability insurance claim process should be simple. You should inform the company that you meet the standards of the contract, provide certification from a doctor of that fact, and collect your benefits. It is not supposed to be an adversarial process.
Unfortunately, in instances where one or all of the first three departments mess up, some insurance companies improperly shift the burden of making a profit onto the claims department. This, in turn, transforms the claims process into an adversarial process.
If you have an experienced disability attorney involved from the outset of your disability claim, your attorney can monitor the insurance company to make sure that they are complying with their legal obligations. If you have already filed a claim, but believe that your insurer is not properly processing your claim, an experienced attorney can review the insurer’s conduct and determine whether the insurer is acting in bad faith.