Press Release - FEBRUARY 14, 2018

Best’s Special Report: U.S. Life/Health Sector Credit Rating Upgrades Outpace Downgrades in 2017

 Brian Virostek
Financial Analyst
+1 908 439 2200, ext. 5531

Michael Adams
Senior Financial Analyst
+1 908 439 2200, ext. 5133

Joseph Zazzera
+1 908 439 2200, ext. 5797
Christopher Sharkey
Manager, Public Relations
(908) 439 2200, ext. 5159

Jim Peavy
Director, Public Relations
(908) 439 2200, ext. 5644


The number of Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating (Long-Term ICR) upgrades for the U.S. life/health industry outpaced downgrades in 2017, a turnaround from the previous two years when downgrades eclipsed upgrades, according to a new A.M. Best report.

The Best’s Special Report, titled, “Life/Health Sector Rating Upgrades Outpace Downgrades in 2017,” states that the change in direction was primarily driven by improving levels of risk-adjusted capitalization, particularly among life/annuity (L/A) carriers, owing partly to benign credit market conditions and favorable equity markets, which buoyed earnings.

Likewise, health insurers reported improved risk-adjusted capitalization, due to better operating results in the individual health care exchange business and, to a lesser extent, overall slower premium growth. Improved operating results were driven partly by consecutive years of high rate increases and a narrowing of provider networks.

A.M. Best reported 31 upgrades and 15 downgrades for life/health carriers in 2017, compared with 16 upgrades and 23 downgrades in 2016. Overall, A.M. Best took action on the Long-Term ICRs of 380 rating units, which describes either an individual insurer or a consolidation of companies and is the financial basis on which A.M. Best performs its Credit Rating (rating) evaluations. The vast majority of rating actions in 2017 were affirmations (77%).

The following are some other highlights from the report.

  • In 2017, 32 rating units were assigned the under review modifier, an increase from 22 in 2016. The higher number of rating units under review in 2017 largely was due to a number of rating units being placed under review following the release of the updated Best’s Credit Rating Methodology in October 2017;

  • There were 19 Long-Term ICR upgrades and seven downgrades in the life/annuity segment, compared with four upgrades and 12 downgrades in 2016. The health segment experienced nine Long-Term ICR upgrades and seven downgrades in 2017, compared with 12 upgrades and 11 downgrades in the previous year; and

  • In 2017, 86.1% of the life/annuity segment’s outlooks were stable, while 82.9% of the health segment’s outlooks were stable. The percentage of stable outlooks in the overall life/health industry experienced a slight uptick in 2017 to 84.7%%.

A.M. Best will continue to keep a close eye on the U.S. life/health sector’s earnings, premium trends and risk-adjusted capital levels, as well as hold discussions with management regarding their plans for 2019.

To access a copy of this special report, please visit .

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