How Is Cost Determined?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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The cost of life insurance is determined by the insurance company’s actuaries who take the following into consideration:

1. Mortality cost, or the cost of paying claims to the beneficiaries of insured people. Mortality costs for most insurance companies have declined in recent years because people in the United States have been living longer. This means there is a longer period to collect premiums and death claims are being paid out later than originally anticipated. Still companies must be careful to select new policyholders who are basically healthy, and they should charge rates which reflect the actual mortality risks of those people who have serious health problems or who engage in potentially dangerous activities. Otherwise, they might have higher than expected costs for death claims, which could cause financial difficulties for them.

2. Operations cost, the cost of operating the insurance company and selling its products. These costs includes marketing costs (commissions; costs of operating sales offices; advertising expenses; etc.), and non-marketing costs (the cost of constructing and maintaining company buildings; salaries of officers and staff; etc.).

3. The return on investments. Insurance companies invest money until they need it to pay claims or expenses. If they can earn good investment returns, this will help to pay some of their expenses and reduce the cost of insurance. They will then be able to sell policies at lower premiums and compete more effectively against other companies.

The overall effect of all these factors determines how much the company needs to charge in order to provide life coverage while making a profit and paying dividends to its policyholders, if it is a mutual insurance company. Several large mutual insurance companies have recently changed to stockholder owned companies through a process called demutualization. In stockholder owned companies, dividends are paid to the stockholders.

A company that feels it needs to become competitive, can

1. cut marketing costs by reducing marketing staffs; trimming commissions; selling directly to customers by phone, mail, or over the Internet;

2. cut non-marketing costs by having fewer workers and managers; moving to a smaller building; lowering pay scales for new workers; cutting raises and bonuses for existing employees;

3. increase return on investment by making different investments.

Customers could benefit if the costs are cut and the cuts are then passed on to them.

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