United States - Insurance

The number of life insurance companies has shrunk in recent years. Between 1985 and 1995 the number fell from 2,261 to 1,840; in 1998, there were 51 life insurance mergers and acquisitions. Life insurance premiums in 2001 totaled $375.1 billion, representing growth of 73% since 1992. Property and casualty premiums totaled 323.4 billion in 2001, a 42% change since 1992. Competition between financial institutions has been healthy and premium income has risen steadily. The overwhelming majority of US families have some life insurance with a legal reserve company, the Veterans Administration, or fraternal, assessment, burial, or savings bank organization. The passage in 1999 of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed insurance companies, banks, and securities firms to sell each other's products and services; restrictions were also lifted on cross-industry mergers and acquisitions.

Hundreds of varieties of insurance may be purchased. Besides life, the more important coverages include accident, fire, hospital and medical expense, group accident and health, automobile liability, automobile damage, workers' compensation, ocean marine, and inland marine. Americans buy more life and health insurance than any other group except Canadians and Japanese. During the 1970s, many states enacted a "no fault" form of automobile insurance, under which damages may be awarded automatically, without recourse to a lawsuit.

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