Summer Floods Highlight Insurance Crisis

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The Association of British Insurers published a report on June 13, 2007 called 'Insuring Older People' in which it acknowledged that the opportunities (for insurers) created by the rising personal spending power of older people are balanced by significant challenges. The report also notes that some insurers "may not be able to offer cover if they lack the necessary underwriting expertise to serve this market". As a specialist, Castle Cover offer much more competitive prices to the 50+ group.

may not be able to offer cover if they lack the necessary underwriting expertise to serve this market.

With the country braced for another week of wind and rain, it's not hard to imagine bookmakers offering the same odds on the sun shining on midsummer's day as they do on snow falling on Christmas Day.

And while the summer solstice may have heralded three days of muddy fun for Glastonbury revellers, the torrential rain of the past few days has been no laughing matter for thousands affected by the flooding that, tragically, has already cost three people their lives.

Almost in anticipation of the recent bad weather in England, on 13 June the Association of British Insurers (ABI) issued advice to owners of flood-damaged property which confidently began: "Household and business insurance policies will cover flood damage."

Naturally enough, news reports floods have focused on the personal costs of the current flooding. But another story is also emerging: that of the growing problem of people with no insurance whatsoever.

The ABI estimates that one in four homes in the UK -- around six million properties -- has no contents insurance. It might be assumed the figure is lower in areas where people know the risk is higher. But all this would mean is the number of uninsured households is even higher everywhere else.

The problem isn't confined to 'big ticket' insurance items such as household contents policies. The ABI estimates five per cent of the vehicles on Britain's roads are uninsured (as well as being driven by someone more likely to be drunk or disqualified).

There is a sense that the rise in the number of people going without insurance is a symptom of a growing 'live now, pay later' attitude in society, with echoes of inadequately-funded pensions and increasing personal debt. Whatever the reason, there is no question that 'the uninsured' make insurance more expensive for the rest of us.

One group that can ill-afford their share of this extra burden is the older generation. Earlier this year, the ABI published a report called 'Insuring Older People' in which it acknowledged that the opportunities (for insurers) created by the rising personal spending power of older people are balanced by significant challenges.

On the upside for older people, the ABI report says the average age limit for new motor insurance policies has risen to 82, from 74 a decade ago. But the report also notes that some insurers "may not be able to offer cover if they lack the necessary underwriting expertise to serve this market."

The ABI says it is developing a new referral system to help older customers get the cover they need. "We envisage a system whereby an insurer which cannot provide cover to an older customer will direct them to alternative insurers or brokers that will be able to help -- so they are less likely to receive a simple refusal for a quote if they are over a certain age, for example."

Luckily for older folk, the insurance market has already begun to adapt to the country's changing demographic profile. Castle Cover, for example, is one of a new breed of specialist insurers targeting specific market segments, in this case the over-50s.

Launched last July by industry expert Andrew Marchington, with backing from HSBC Bank and Asset Ventures Ltd., the company says its specialist knowledge helps it find low cost, high quality insurance for people in this age group. Castle Cover says the over 50s receive a poor deal on insurance. "They tend to claim less frequently and do not exaggerate claims, unlike younger people," says its chief, Andrew Marchington. "As a specialist, we therefore offer much more competitive prices to the 50+ group."

Having concentrated initially on home insurance, other products such as motor, travel and pet insurance now form part of the Castle Cover offering.

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James Zhao

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