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Central States Health & Accident Association was founded in 1932 by T. Leslie Kizer, beginning with two desks, two chairs and 100 individuals each willing to spend $11 on an insurance policy. Central States pioneered what was then called Deferred Payment Health Accident Protection, providing payment protection when death or disability made it impossible for an insured to fulfill their financial obligations. It was the first of its kind in the Midwest, and it quickly propelled Central States growth in the insurance industry. The company soon developed a hospital reimbursement policy, similar to modern major medical insurance, and expanded its business into Colorado and South Dakota by the early 1950s.
In 1957, Central States celebrated its silver anniversary and changed its corporate charter to a legal reserve life, health and accident company. Emerging with a new corporate name; Central States Health & Life Co. of Omaha (CSO), the company offered both life and health insurance and was licensed in 14 states. The new name was a more accurate reflection of the company's diversified product lines.
CSO continued to experience growth and became a leading writer of credit insurance and various health insurance products. Statutory surplus grew from $1,000,000 in 1960 to over $5,400,000 by 1970. To accommodate the growing business, in 1976 a new headquarters facility was built on a 13-acre office site in Omaha, Nebraska.
An important organizational change occurred in 1977 when CSO formed a subsidiary: Central States Indemnity (CSI). Chartered to operate as a full line property and casualty insurance company, CSI focused on credit disability and unemployment insurance for bank credit card customers. At the same time, CSO’s credit insurance, major medical and supplemental health lines helped fuel the company's growth. By 1980, statutory surplus was over $10,000,000.
It was not long before continued growth prompted the construction of a second building, which was completed in 1988. The five-story structure is directly adjacent to the first building and was the first round office building built in Omaha. In December 1992, CSO’s subsidiary, CSI, was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. As a result of this sale, CSO’s financial condition was strengthened and its ability to compete in the insurance marketplace was enhanced. Statutory surplus now exceeded $37,000,000.
In the late 1990’s, CSO set in motion strategic business initiatives designed to ultimately place emphasis on its core business: debt protection. The major medical business was sold in 1999. And, with the expanded ability of financial institutions to offer debt cancelation products, CSO in 2002 developed the infrastructure enabling them to support debt cancellation programs. The ability to extend both credit insurance and debt cancellation offerings solidified their position as a leader in the debt protection industry.
In 2004, CSO made a strategic decision to discontinue marketing its Medicare Supplement and other supplemental health insurance products. With the reinsurance and/or assumption of its supplemental blocks of business completed in 2005, CSO exited the health insurance market. These transactions resulted in statutory surplus combined with asset valuation reserve to reach a record high, in excess of $100,000,000.
With CSO's focus now 100% on its core business - debt protection - the company strategically began initiatives to grow the business. In 2006, CSO entered into an alliance with Jim Moran and Associates (JM&A) for the rights to market credit insurance to JM&A's dealership base. Later that year, CSO negotiated a similar agreement with Universal Underwriters (Zurich). In 2007, CSO finalized an agreement with The Warranty Group to take over Resource Life Insurance Company (RLIC) credit insurance block of business. CSO quickly earned the reputation as an industry consolidator.
In 2009, CSO was successful in aligning with Service Life & Casualty Company (Service Life) as well as with Emerald Bay Reinsurance Company (Emerald Bay), a group of independent auto agents formerly writing with Aegon.
By the end of 2010, CSO was noted as the fourth largest U.S. writer of credit life and disability direct written premiums (based on data contained in the CCIA Fact Book, 2011).
In 2011, CSO was again successful in aligning with American Heritage Life, (Allstate Dealer Services). Like JM&A, Zurich and Resource Life, AHL decided to phase out their credit insurance products and form a strategic partnership with CSO.
As a result of these agreements, CSO has established a significant national presence in providing credit insurance to the automobile dealership market. In addition, CSO continues to place strong emphasis on servicing and growing their business with financial institutions for both credit insurance and the evolving debt cancellation lines.
As of year end 2011, over 3,400 automobile dealerships and 1,600 financial institutions have contracted with CSO to extend credit insurance to their customers.
Although statutory accounting principles are utilized by the insurance industry, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are accounting methods utilized by non-insurance organizations. CSO's year-end 2011 statutory surplus combined with asset valuation reserve exceeded $110,000,000. CSO began 2012 with retained earnings (a GAAP measurement) in excess of $175,000,000.
CSO and its subsidiaries, Censtat Life Assurance Company and Censtat Casualty Company, have a Best's credit rating of A- (Excellent). For the latest rating access www.ambest.com. In 2012, CSO successfully completed a SSAE 16 SOC-1 audit and achieved an unqualified opinion. CSO's SOC-1 audit report covers the financial, information systems controls and related applications for the debt cancellation products administered by CSO.
CSO's vision remains to be the leader in the debt protection market by providing innovative solutions, exceptional service and value to lenders, agents, dealers and policyholders. CSO is uniquely positioned to capitalize on a dual focus of extending traditional credit life and disability insurance products as well as providing debt cancellation programs.