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This paper is an effort to understand the source of the crisis in insurance that has recently disrupted product and service markets in the United States. From press accounts, the crisis seemed to peak in the early months of 1986, when reports became common of extraordinary changes in commercial casualty insurance markets. Insurers had increased premiums drastically for an unusual set of products, such as vaccines, general aircraft, and sports equipment, and for an equally diverse set of services, such as obstetrics, ski lifts, and commercial trucking. In still other cases—intrauterine devices, wine tasting, and day care,—insurers had refused to offer coverage at any premium, forcing these products and services to be withdrawn from the market. The crisis extended beyond commercial enterprises. Municipalities and other governmental entities faced similarly extreme premium increases or the unavailability of market insurance coverage altogether. Some cities closed jails and suspended police patrols until insurance coverage was obtained. Parks and forest preserves were closed. Fourth of July celebrations were cancelled because of concerns over uninsured liability.

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