Reinsuring pandemics: the role of government and public-private partnerships between reinsurers and governments

Geneva Pap Risk Insur Issues Pract. 2023 Feb 17:1-25. doi: 10.1057/s41288-023-00290-0. Online ahead of print.


Pandemic-related business interruption (BI) losses are generally considered 'uninsurable' because, in order to pool sufficient premium revenue to meet valid claims, premiums would be unaffordable for the majority of policyholders. This paper explores whether and how such losses might be made insurable in the U.K. The authors consider post-pandemic governmental responses, including the role of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the meaning and implications of FCA v Arch Insurance (U.K.) Ltd ([2021] UKSC 1). The central premise of the paper is to highlight the importance of reinsurance in increasing an underwriter's insuring capacity and to illustrate how, with the support of government in the form of a public-private partnership (PPP), 'uninsurable' risks of this type may be made insurable. The authors propose a PPP, 'Pandemic Business Interruption Re', which provides, in their view, a feasible and defensible solution that would confer the benefit of increasing policyholders' faith in the industry's ability to underwrite pandemic-related BI claims and reduce reliance on ex post government aid.

Keywords: Business interruption insurance; COVID-19; Public-private partnerships; Reinsurance; Systemic risks; Uninsurable risks.