Reinsurance Definition, Types, and How It Works

What Is Reinsurance?

Reinsurance is also known as insurance for insurers or stop-loss insurance. Reinsurance is the practice whereby insurers transfer portions of their risk portfolios to other parties by some form of agreement to reduce the likelihood of paying a large obligation resulting from an insurance claim.

The party that diversifies its insurance portfolio is known as the ceding party. The party that accepts a portion of the potential obligation in exchange for a share of the insurance premium is known as the reinsurer.

How Reinsurance Works

Reinsurance allows insurers to remain solvent by recovering some or all amounts paid to claimants. Reinsurance reduces the net liability on individual risks and catastrophe protection from large or multiple losses. The practice also provides ceding companies, those that seek reinsurance, the capacity to increase their underwriting capabilities in terms of the number and size of risks.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Hurricane Andrew caused $15.5 billion in damage in Florida in 1992, causing seven U.S. insurance companies to become insolvent.

Benefits of Reinsurance

By covering the insurer against accumulated individual commitments, reinsurance gives the insurer more security for its equity and solvency by increasing its ability to withstand the financial burden when unusual and major events occur.

Through reinsurance, insurers may underwrite policies covering a larger quantity or volume of risk without excessively raising administrative costs to cover their solvency margins. In addition, reinsurance makes substantial liquid assets available to insurers in case of exceptional losses.

Insurers are legally required to maintain sufficient reserves to pay all potential claims from issued policies.

Types of Reinsurance

Facultative coverage protects an insurer for an individual or a specified risk or contract. If several risks or contracts need reinsurance, they a renegotiated separately. The reinsurer holds all rights for accepting or denying a facultative reinsurance proposal.

A reinsurance treaty is for a set period rather than on a per-risk or contract basis. The reinsurer covers all or a portion of the risks that the insurer may incur.

Key Takeaways

  • Reinsurance, or insurance for insurers, transfers risk to another company to reduce the likelihood of large payouts for a claim.
  • Reinsurance allows insurers to remain solvent by recovering all or part of a payout.
  • Companies that seek reinsurance are called ceding companies.
  • Types of reinsurance include facultative, proportional, and non-proportional.

Under proportional reinsurance, the reinsurer receives a prorated share of all policy premiums sold by the insurer. For a claim, the reinsurer bears a portion of the losses based on a pre-negotiated percentage. The reinsurer also reimburses the insurer for processing, business acquisition, and writing costs.

With non-proportional reinsurance, the reinsurer is liable if the insurer's losses exceed a specified amount, known as the priority or retention limit. As a result, the reinsurer does not have a proportional share in the insurer's premiums and losses. The priority or retention limit is based on one type of risk or an entire risk category.

Excess-of-loss reinsurance is a type of non-proportional coverage in which the reinsurer covers the losses exceeding the insurer's retained limit. This contract is typically applied to catastrophic events and covers the insurer either on a per-occurrence basis or for the cumulative losses within a set period.

Reinsurance Deconstructed

Under risk-attaching reinsurance, all claims established during the effective period are covered regardless of whether the losses occurred outside the coverage period. No coverage is provided for claims originating outside the coverage period, even if the losses occurred while the contract was in effect.

Article Sources
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  1. Insurance Information Institute. “Hurricane Andrew and Insurance: The Enduring Impact of an Historic Storm,” Page 2.

  2. Insurance Information Institute. “Reinsurance.”

  3. International Monetary Fund. “Insurance Transactions and Positions, and Pension Schemes,” Pages 340-342.

  4. International Association of Insurance Supervisors. “Core Curriculum for Insurance Supervisors,” Page 17.

  5. International Risk Management Institute. “Understanding the Business-Covered Clause in a Reinsurance Contract.”