Admitted Insurance Carriers are supported by state guaranty funds, while Non-Admitted Carriers have more flexibility in coverage.
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Buying insurance is one of the best ways to maintain the financial stability of your small business. Therefore, when it comes to choosing a provider, it’s important to know as much about your future insurer as possible. Insurance companies, like all businesses, are not immune to insolvency or bankruptcy. That’s why it’s essential to know how you will be affected if your insurance company can’t pay your business the money that it’s owed. Knowing whether your insurance provider is Admitted or Non-Admitted to your state can help you make a more informed decision.
What is an Admitted Insurance Carrier?
Admitted Insurance Carriers are licensed and supported by the state government and are subject to strict regulations and oversight by the state’s insurance department. If your insurance carrier is unable to pay out your policy due to bankruptcy or insolvency, the state will step in and pay you the money you are owed.
What is a Non-Admitted Insurance Carrier?
Non-Admitted Carriers, often called “surplus line carriers,” or “excess and surplus lines,” on the other hand, are not supported by state guaranty funds and not officially licensed by the state’s insurance department. They are, however, approved by the state’s surplus lines office to operate within the state. Non-Admitted Carriers face far less regulation than Admitted Carriers, allowing them to move faster in some cases and agree to unusual or high-risk policies that Admitted Carriers may not be able to offer. The downside to using these carriers is that your business will not receive any insurance payment if the carrier becomes bankrupt or insolvent.
Both Admitted and Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers can offer you affordable and reliable insurance coverage if they are rated as being financially stable by an insurance rating organization like Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, or A.M. Best.
Benefits of Admitted Insurance Carriers
Admitted Insurance Carriers offer more formal benefits than those offered by Non-Admitted ones, with the biggest benefit being that Admitted Insurance Carriers are supported by state guaranty funds. Benefits of using an Admitted Insurance Carrier include:
- Payment in case of insolvency or bankruptcy – If your insurance company can’t pay your claim, the state will step in and make payments on their behalf.
- Option to appeal claim decisions – If your claim is handled improperly, you can appeal to the state’s insurance department.
- More consistent pricing – Because Admitted Carriers must gain approval for their rates from the state, you are unlikely to be charged an excessive amount.
Benefits of Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers
Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers have the freedom to offer a wider range of insurance plans. Some may even allow you to create a customized policy. Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers have more leniency because they aren’t required to go through a lengthy state approval process. You may also be able to negotiate a reduced rate for your policy.
A common misconception of Non-Admitted Carriers is that they are inherently more risky than Admitted Carriers. Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers, however, can often be more reliable than their Admitted counterparts. For example, Lloyd’s of London is a well-known insurance company that operates in the United States without being Admitted. Lloyd’s often receives triple A ratings from well-known insurance rating organizations for their reliability and creditworthiness.
Ultimately, the risk of choosing a Non-Admitted or Admitted Carrier boils down to creditworthiness and financial strength of the carriers themselves. Always make sure to check with insurance ratings from reputable organizations like A.M. Best to assess the financial stability of a carrier.
- A store in California sells precious vases, porcelain plateware, and other high-end home goods. Their flagship store is situated near the San Andreas fault, an area that is known for being prone to earthquakes. They are not able to buy insurance through an Admitted Carrier because the type of specialty policy they need hasn’t been approved by the state of California. Instead, they opt for insurance through a Non-Admitted Carrier.
Benefits of choosing a Non-Admitted Carrier include:
- Faster response time – Admitted Carriers are forced to file paperwork with the state to process your claim.
- Lower rates – Non-Admitted Carriers aren’t required to gain approval from the state for their rates, and you may be able to negotiate lower ones.
- Coverage for unique or high-risk cases – Lack of state oversight means they are free to take on risks that Admitted Insurers do not cover.
- Coverage for businesses otherwise ineligible – If your business doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria for insurance from an Admitted Carrier, you may be able to buy from a Non-Admitted one.
Who should use a Non-Admitted Insurance Carrier?
You should use a Non-Admitted Carrier if the plan you need is considered “high risk” by the state and you can’t find insurance through an Admitted Insurance Provider. Admitted policies differ from state to state. If you operate in multiple states, you may be able to receive Admitted Insurance in one and use Non-Admitted Insurance in the other. You might also use a Non-Admitted Carrier if your business does not meet certain requirements for eligibility.
- A construction company wants to purchase contract liability insurance to operate in New York City. The state of New York has a history of lengthy and expensive construction-related lawsuits. Consequently, many Admitted Insurance Carriers believe that offering contract liability insurance would not be profitable for them. The construction company decides to work with a Non-Admitted Insurance Carrier because it is the only way to secure insurance.
Remember that you can purchase more than one insurance policy. If you can fulfill the majority of your needs through an existing plan offered by an Admitted Insurance Carrier, it’s in your best interest to do so and request an additional Non-Admitted add-on plan.
Examples of policies that are often covered through Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers include:
- Commercial general liability insurance
- Fire insurance
- Automobile physical damage coverage
- Medical malpractice insurance
Limits of State Guaranty for Admitted Insurance Carriers
Though the state will step in to cover insurance policy claims when an Admitted Carrier becomes insolvent, they cannot always afford to cover the entire claim. The difference between the government’s funding and the pay out your business expects can be drastic. Many states set aside a guaranty fund dedicated to covering insurance policies. If a natural disaster strikes and leaves multiple insurers bankrupt, the guaranty fund may run out. In this instance, you may not receive any payment.
- A soup manufacturer purchases insurance from an Admitted Insurance Carrier in Oklahoma. The largest tornado in Oklahoma history destroys their factory, as well as 900 other insured properties across the state. The Admitted Insurance Carrier does not have the funds to pay for all of the insured property damage. As a result, they declare insolvency. The state of Oklahoma steps in to pay the insurance claims. Though the soup company’s policy was originally set to pay them $200,000 for the damages, the state of Oklahoma only awards them $5,000.
The best way to prevent this scenario is by selecting a company that’s financially stable, regardless of whether or not they are an Admitted Carrier. Financially stable insurance companies have a very low risk of becoming insolvent, even after a major event like a natural disaster. They often have large reserves of capital, which substantially decreases the risk of their being overdrawn during a widespread tragedy.
Insurance Rating Organizations
The best way to determine the financial stability of an organization is to check its rating with an insurance rating organization. These organizations grade insurers on their ability to pay claims, or their creditworthiness. The grades given to insurers usually range from:
- AAA (Exceptional)
- AA (Very Strong)
- A (Strong)
- BBB (Adequate)
- BB (Fair)
- B (Marginal)
- C (Poor)
- D (In Default)
You should avoid any organization with a grade of “C” or lower. A.M. Best is the most well-known rater of insurance companies, but other reputable sources include Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s.
State Oversight of Admitted vs Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers
Admitted Insurance Carriers are required to work closely with their state government because the claims of Admitted Insurance Companies are supported by the state. This means that the state government is granted:
- Regulation of rates and policies – Admitted Carriers must obtain approval for their list of policies and rates from the state’s insurance department.
- Power of appeal – Consumers can file an appeal with the state insurance department if they do not agree with the way that their claim was handled.
- Additional tax money – Admitted Carriers must pay a fee that is put towards that state’s guaranty fund, which is used in case an insurance company goes bankrupt.
Though Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers aren’t as closely monitored by the government, they are still regulated by the state’s surplus line office. The surplus line office requires Non-Admitted Insurance Providers to:
- Share information – This includes records of the company’s finances and a list of their executives.
- Pay additional taxes and fees – Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers are required to submit a surplus line tax for every policy.
- Have large capital reserves – Because they aren’t backed by the state, Non-Admitted Carriers must prove they have sufficient funding to pay out claims in the case of an emergency.
Though Non-Admitted Carriers may sound illegitimate, they are regulated by the government. However, because the state is not financially liable for their failures, Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers have more freedom and flexibility in the types of plans they offer and the fees that they charge.
What are the costs of Admitted vs Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers?
The rates of Admitted Insurance Carriers are approved by the state. This means that their pricing model is less flexible than a Non-Admitted Insurance Carrier. You are unlikely to get a great deal but won’t experience price gouging either. Consider the security that an Admitted Carrier provides when comparing it to a Non-Admitted Carrier.
Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers aren’t beholden to the state and might be open to charging you lower rates. On the flip side, Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers are required to pay additional surplus line insurance fees and taxes on your policy. More flexibility in pricing means that costs from Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers tend to be more volatile. Your rates can change dramatically from year to year. Additionally, Non-Admitted Carriers often take on higher-risk coverage, and the premiums charged will likely be proportional to the risk.
When it comes to making decisions about which insurance carrier or policy is right for your business, the most important factor to consider is whether the insurer is financially stable. Don’t consider price until you are sure that you are working with a reputable business. Consult an insurance rating organization like A.M. Best, and make sure that your carrier has a rating of B or higher. Though Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers might seem less legitimate at first glance, they fill an important need in the marketplace. If your business needs a policy that can’t be obtained through an Admitted Insurance Carrier, Non-Admitted Carriers with an “A” rating or better are generally a safe bet.