Insurance is a contract when for a specified disbursement called the premium, single or mutual party (the insurer) decides to pay to the other (the policy holder or his designated beneficiary) a defined amount (the claim payment or benefit) upon the occurrence of a specific loss. This defined claim payment amount can be a fixed amount or can reimburse all or a part of the loss that occurred.
The insurer considers the losses expected for the insurance pool and the potential for variation in order to charge premiums that, in total, will be sufficient to cover all of the projected claim payments for the insurance pool.
The premium charged to each of the pool participants is that participant’s share of the total premium for the pool. Each premium may be adjusted to reflect any special characteristics of the particular policy.
As will be seen in the next section, the larger the policy pool, the more predictable its results.
Generally, only a small percentage of policy holders suffer losses. Their losses are paid out of the premiums collected from the pool of policy holders. Therefore, the entire pool reimburses the unfortunate few. Each policy holder exchanges an unknown loss for the payment of a known premium.
Under the formal arrangement, the party agreeing to make the claim payments is the insurance company or the insurer. The pool participant is the policyholder. The payments that the policyholder makes to the insurer are premiums. The insurance contract is the policy. The risk of any unanticipated losses is transferred from the policyholder to the insurer who has the right to specify the rules and conditions for participating in the insurance pool.
The insurer may restrict the particular kinds of losses covered. For example, a danger is a potential cause of a loss. Dangers may include fires, hurricanes, theft, and heart attack. The insurance policy may define specific risks that are covered, or it may cover all risks with certain named omissions (for example, loss as a result of war or loss of life due to suicide).
Risks or hazardous conditions that increase the probability or expected amount of a loss. Examples include smoking when considering potential healthcare losses, poor wiring in a house when considering losses due to fires, or a California residence when considering earthquake damage.
In instant, an insurance contract covers a policy holder for economic loss caused by a peril named in the policy. The policy holder pays a known premium to have the insurer guarantee payment for the unknown loss. In this manner, the policyholder transfers the economic risk to the insurance company. Risk, as discussed in Section I, is the variation in potential economic outcomes. It is measured by the variation between possible outcomes and the expected outcome: the greater the standard deviation, the greater the risk.