Annuity (US Financial Products) - Insurance Company Default Risk and State Guaranty Associations

Insurance Company Default Risk and State Guaranty Associations

An investor should consider the financial strength of the insurance company that writes annuity contracts. Major insolvencies have occurred at least 62 times since the conspicuous collapse of the Executive Life Insurance Company in 1991.

Insurance company defaults are governed by state law. The laws are, however, broadly similar in most states. Annuity contracts are protected against insurance company insolvency up to a specific dollar limit, often $100,000, but as high as $500,000 in New York, New Jersey, and the state of Washington . This protection is not insurance and is not provided by a government agency. It is provided by an entity called the state Guaranty Association. When an insolvency occurs, the Guaranty Association steps in to protect annuity holders, and decides what to do on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes the contracts will be taken over and fulfilled by a solvent insurance company.

The state Guaranty Association is not a government agency, but states usually require insurance companies to belong to it as a condition of being licensed to do business. The Guaranty Associations of the fifty states are members of a national umbrella association, the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations (NOLHGA). The NOLHGA website provides a description of the organization, links to websites for the individual state organizations, and links to the actual text of the governing state laws.

A difference between guaranty association protection and the protection e.g. of bank accounts by FDIC, credit union accounts by NCUA, and brokerage accounts by SIPC, is that it is difficult for consumers to learn about this protection. Usually, state law prohibits insurance agents and companies from using the guaranty association in any advertising and agents are prohibited by statute from using this Web site or the existence of the guaranty association as an inducement to purchase insurance(e.g. ). Presumably this is a response to concerns by stronger insurance companies about moral hazard.

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