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Steve Chiotakis: Earnings reports are starting to trickle out. Insurance company MetLife saw their earnings fall 39 percent last quarter. Aetna says its third-quarter profits fell 44 percent. And now there's word the insurance industry may be next up for billions of dollars in federal assistance, some of which may be used for mergers and acquisitions. Here's Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson.

Jeremy Hobson: We got a glimpse of the fragility of the insurance industry last month. AIG got an $85 billion loan from the federal government just to stay alive long enough to sell itself. The question is: are there other AIGs out there? And do they need to be rescued?

Mark Lane, sa research analyst at William Blair and Company, doesn't think so:

Mark Lane: There's not another life insurance company out there that has a similar exposure or similar business profile, so I think that was very unique to AIG.

Still, tight credit and weak investments have damaged the insurance industry, and Lane says some consolidation is inevitable.

Robert Hoyt is a professor of risk management and insurance at the University of Georgia.
He says consumers probably won't be hurt much if some insurance companies merge.

Robert Hoyt: It's hard to envision a degree of consolidation that would really eliminate the competition that's already there in the market.

Hoyt says the industry is global and remains quite competitive.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson