Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The pay-as-you-drive program will enable insurers to offer a new option for consumers who choose to take advantage of it. Companies can continue to offer traditional insurance based on estimated mileage. However, as soon as regulations go into effect, they can also offer a verified mileage program instead of, or in addition to, a traditional estimated mileage program.
Poizner originally proposed the pay-as-you-drive regulations last summer to make a new, more mileage-accurate auto insurance option available for California consumers. The regulations were last revised in August 2009. Revisions made to the regulations in August are reflected in the final regulations.
The regulations also allow insurers to offer discounts to drivers who opt to purchase a mileage verification policy. Any auto insurance program, including a pay-as-you-drive program, must be approved by Poizner before being placed on the market for consumers to purchase.
If a driver elects to purchase a pay-as-you-drive policy, the insurer would verify the driver's miles through a variety of methods, including odometer readings taken by the insurer or its agents or vendors, auto repair dealers, smog check stations, self-reporting by the policyholder or a technological device placed in the consumer's vehicle. The final regulations explicitly prohibit insurers from gathering location data from consumers for automobile rating purposes through the addition of a technological device. The regulations would not affect existing multipurpose devices such as GM's Onstar system or the use of a technological device as part of an emergency roadside assistance program.
The final regulations incorporate changes based on feedback from consumer groups, the insurance industry and other interested parties. The primary changes from the initially proposed regulations to the final, submitted regulations include:
- Language that encourages insurers to offer a price per mile, or prepaid mile option for drivers.
- An allowance for insurers to apply to sell mileage verification policies in addition to mileage estimation policies; or they may apply to sell mileage verification policies only.
- Language that requires an insurer that offers a pay-as-you-drive plan to specify when filing with the department the exact types of mileage verification the insurer will accept.
- The final regulations explicitly require insurers to offer and make available all mileage verification methods equally, to all applicants and insured drivers with a mileage verification policy.
- The use of location data is still prohibited for most purposes. The final regulations make it clear that they do not prohibit insurers and motor clubs from offering optional devices to drivers to identify the location of the vehicle for the purpose of an emergency road service, theft service, map service or travel assistance service.
Last August, the Environmental Defense Fund estimated that if 30% of Californians participate in pay-as-you-drive coverage, California could avoid 55 million tons of CO2 emissions between 2009 and 2020, which is the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road. This would save 5.5 billion gallons of gasoline and save Californians $40 billion dollars in car-related expenses. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board has recommended the adoption of pay-as-you-drive as one of the means to meet future climate change gas reduction targets.
The final regulations will go into effect pending approval by the Office of Administrative Law, which has 30 days to approve the regulations. As soon as regulations are in effect, which could be as soon as October 2009, insurance companies may apply to offer pay-as-you-drive plans. Pending the Commissioner's approval of a pay-as-you-drive insurance plan submitted to the Department, consumers will be able to purchase a pay-as-you-drive policy.
The office of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota arrested John Rusnak, 48, of Syosset for workers’ comp fraud. Rusnak is the owner of Colt Contracting Corp.
Francis Hunt, an investigator with the Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau, said Rusnak is accused of defrauding the state Insurance Fund of $104,000 in lost workers’ comp premiums by concealing the payroll of eight workers.
Rusnak could be sentenced to up to four years in prison if he is convicted. A hearing will be held in Suffolk County Court.
In May 2006, the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, the West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner began investigating the three individuals as they had filed a significant number of insurance claims. Claims filed included acts of arson, theft, auto accidents and disability / personal injury claims.
The investigation revealed the three suspects would purchase vehicles from local car dealerships using fraudulent documents and employment information, and would take out credit disability insurance. Shortly after obtaining vehicles, the suspects would then contact the insurance carrier and report they were injured and/or disabled. In order to maximize the length of time the insurance company would have to pay on the vehicle, the suspects would alter disability forms obtained from their provider and submit them to the insurance carriers.
The three individuals are scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 9.
In "Catastrophes and Performance in Property Insurance," a policy report from the Independent Institute, economists Patricia Born and Barbara Klimaszewski-Blettner reveal that post-disaster property insurance regulation actually drives up the prices it purports to control. Drawing data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and the Swiss Re Sigma reports, the scholars argue that strict regulatory environments induce higher losses from unexpected catastrophes, as firms are unable to adjust prices in light of changing conditions. Notably, commercial insurers experience less loss following catastrophes than the homeowners insurance market due to greater flexibility and fewer constraints.
The authors demonstrate that in states such as Florida, regulations that include premium limitations or exit restrictions can cause severe market distortions that may result in "an inadequate supply of insurance coverage." When restrictions on premium adjustments are enforced, insurers "may choose to exit the market if rates are not adequate to maintain solvency. This, in turn, prompts regulators to impose exit restrictions or cancellation bans." Addressing wide variations in state-level regulation, Born and Klimaszewski-Blettner dissect the phenomenon of "regulatory chain reactions," in which one intervention seems to establish the "necessity" for more government action. This snowball effect actually exposes taxpayers and consumers to greater risk when disaster hits.
Considering the staggering losses by insurers in 2005 -- $45 billion for Hurricane Katrina alone -- the authors propose several reform measures to protect both insurers and policyholders. They propose deregulating prices and a reform of residual market solutions "with emphasis on allowing market forces to operate more freely in responding to the insurance needs." In considering low-income people in affected areas who are unable to move or afford coverage, they suggest that even direct state subsidization of premiums is preferable (but hardly ideal) to keeping premiums artificially low, while cautioning that "incentive-incompatible subsidization of premiums -- for example, for new buildings in high risk areas" -- must be avoided.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The results of the survey will provide information regarding agency compensation practices, commission structures, incentive awards, travel and other data related to agent management practices. This insurance company survey is free of charge to Ward Group clients and a summary of results will be made available to all participating individuals. Companies may also contact Ward Group to see if they are eligible for discounted or waived participation fees through membership with Ward alliance organizations.
This study will be conducted from Sept. 1 – Oct. 15, 2009 and results will be distributed by December 1, 2009. Participants are invited to attend a webinar presentation on the study’s findings conducted by Ward Group in December.
To participate or to request more information on the survey, contact Vince Albers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A recent analysis of the latest government data by the American Insurance Association (AIA) shows that auto and traffic safety efforts over the past 40 years have significantly reduced the number of accident-related injuries and fatalities.
- Recently released federal highway data shows a continuing drop in motor vehicle fatality rates over the 40-year period from 1968 to 2008, as well as a decline in the motor vehicle traffic injury rate despite an increase in vehicle miles traveled.
- For example, Americans drove close to one trillion miles in 1968, compared to nearly 3 trillion in 2008. Over those four decades, the motor vehicle traffic fatality rate dropped from 5.19 deaths per-100 million vehicles miles traveled in 1968 to a record-low 1.27 deaths per-100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2008. Additionally, over the past 20 years the injury rate has dropped from 169 injuries per-100 million vehicle miles traveled in 1988 to 80 injuries per-100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2008. By examining the underlying rates rather than simply looking at the total number of deaths and injuries, these statistics take into account any fluctuations in vehicle miles traveled and show that improved safety measures are the leading cause for the pronounced reduction in fatalities and injuries.
- AIA’s analysis goes a step further to highlight how the safety-promoting efforts of the insurance industry and other groups have made a critical difference. By looking at the current year vehicle miles traveled and using the fatality rate of historical years, AIA has estimated the amount of people that would have been killed or injured had there been no improvements at all in vehicle and traffic safety. Even with these positive trends, drivers should always drive defensively.
- A copy of AIA’s analysis can be found at: http://www.aiadc.org/AIAdotNET/docHandler.aspx?DocID=327085
The fires are spread from as far north as Siskiyou County to Riverside County in Southern California.
By Tuesday, there were seven major fires across the state. The devastation was more severe in the Station Fire which so far has destroyed 18 residences and consumed 121,762 acres in Los Angeles County. Another fire which ravaged 63 homes and businesses near Auburn, was 80 percent contained by Tuesday afternoon.
During a press conference on Tuesday at a command center in Southern California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in San Bernardino County in the wake of two major fires that have led to the evacuation of Oak Glen as well as hundreds of other evacuations in nearby Yucaipa.
State Fund has set up dedicated customer service lines to provide assistance to Southern California policyholders whose operations were impacted. Policyholders are encouraged to contact State Fund's Customer Service Center at (800) 388-0902 to make arrangements for September 2009 payroll reports and payments. This program will be offered to employers through a series of newspaper announcements and mailings to all State Fund policyholders in the affected area.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
"The grim reality is that the fishing industry is averaging one death per month," said Marcel Ayeko, TSB's director of Marine Investigations. "Sixty people have died in accidents over the past five years, and we need to find out why."
As an independent government agency, the TSB conducts dozens of full investigations into marine accidents every year. These result in public reports that contain a host of conclusions, concerns, and safety recommendations, but Ayeko said the problem is bigger than any one event. This study, he added, is expected to be the first to provide an overall view of the situation across the country. "We'll talk to everyone: vessel owners and operators, fishing associations, government, unions, and - above all - the fishermen," Ayeko continued.
"We already know there are systemic issues," he said, noting that small fishing vessels have the highest rate of marine accidents in Canada. With over 200 incidents reported to the TSB annually, "these issues need to be formally identified - to the regulators, the industry, and the fishermen themselves - so that we can improve safety and reverse this tragic trend."
The study will also look at the risks and challenges experienced by members of the fishing community when they set out for a day's work and will be released to the public and industry stakeholders when completed. To help with this, historical data and case studies of selected accidents in Canada will be analyzed, as will occurrences from other nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and several Nordic countries. "The further in-depth we go," said Ayeko, "the more solid facts we'll uncover to help make the fishing industry safer."
Since 1992, the TSB has made 42 recommendations aimed at improving fishing vessel safety, and it has repeatedly drawn attention to critical safety issues that contribute to accidents. These include vessel stability, structural integrity, unsafe operating procedures, the use of lifesaving equipment, and the impact of fishery resource management plans and practices on the overall safety of fishing vessels.
- A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 miles per hour.
- The National Hurricane Center began naming tropical storms in 1953.
- The naming of hurricanes alphabetically, alternating male and female names, began in 1979.
- For the United States, September has had more major hurricanes than all other months combined.
- However, five of the most devastating hurricanes did not occur in September: Katrina (August 2005), Andrew (August 1992), Camille (August 1969), Audrey (June 1957) and Hazel (October 1954).
- The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history, repeatedly shattering previous records.
- Hurricane Katrina was the most costly hurricane in U.S. history, costing an estimated $75 billion.
- The three deadliest hurricanes in US History are: Galveston, TX (1900) with 8,000 people reported killed; Lake Okeechobee, Fla. (1928) with 2,500 reported dead; and Katrina (2005) where 1,800 people perished in Louisiana and Texas.
- Only three hurricanes, in the past 100 years, have hit landfall as a category 5: Florida Keys (1935); Camille (1969) in Mississippi, southeast Louisiana and Virginia; and Andrew (1989) in southeast Florida and southeast Louisiana.
- The average life of a hurricane is nine days.
Storms are full of surprises, and while experts predict near-normal activity this hurricane season, there are potential mishaps that can happen even if a storm doesn't make an appearance on a trip. Anticipating the unexpected - such as medical emergencies, flight delays, identity theft or a natural disaster at home before leaving - and covering it with travel insurance will protect travelers from surprises. Travelers can find out more about CSA and travel insurance by contacting their travel agent.
- A new Best’s Review cover story informs life/health agents how to value their businesses to plan for retirement or acquisition. “What’s Your Agency Worth?” tells the story of how a life insurance agency owner in Woodland Hills, California, found an investor that allowed her business to grow and also provided her with a long-term exit strategy.
This kind of story is likely to play out in coming years as owners of life/health agencies look for a way to access capital, find a buyer so they can retire, or both. About 26% of all life/health and property/casualty agents are self-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many life/health don’t have succession plans in place or know what their agencies are worth, said Chris Greis, president and founder of Leaders Partners Inc. Some principals plan to work until they drop, he said, or look for a young producer to come in and take over. Both of these plans are fraught with risk, he said.
The California life agency, Time Financial, was sold to an insurance wholesaler, but at the time of the sale the buyer and seller didn’t know the value of the business, said Kate Kinkade, Time’s president.
Measuring a life/health agency’s worth isn’t as simple as applying EBITDA or (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) as you can in valuing a P/C agency. Life/health agencies require a holistic view — evaluating the quality of the firm’s contractual relationships, market conduct record, insurance carriers and the kinds of retailers and brokers with which it works.
“What’s Your Agency Worth?” also features a sidebar containing three experts’ advice on selling a life/health agency.
September’s Other Highlights:
To read these articles and more, subscribe to Best's Review by visiting www.bestreview.com, calling the A.M. Best customer service department at (908) 439-2200, ext. 5742, or e-mailing your request to email@example.com.
- DriveCam Inc., a global Driver Risk Management (DRM) company, announced support for legislation requiring states to pass laws banning text messaging while operating a moving vehicle. DriveCam also expressed support for the Distracted Driving Summit announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation where transportation leaders, members of Congress and safety groups will come together to reduce accidents and fatalities caused by distracted driving. DriveCam has been invited to participate in the Summit.
The bill (S. 1536) – Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers (ALERT Drivers) Act – was prompted in part by studies by Virginia Tech and the University of Utah, which found that drivers were much more likely to crash if texting while driving, according to Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, one of four sponsors of the legislation. These studies found that texting was more distracting to drivers than using a hand-held cellular telephone or being intoxicated.
- "DriveCam unequivocally supports the goals of this bill," said Brandon Nixon CEO of DriveCam. "With a database of 13.5 million risky driving events, we see what’s happening on our nation’s roads every day. Texting is on the rise, as are the number of incidents – and deaths – as a result of this selfish behavior. Road safety is of paramount importance in ensuring every American’s right to get from one place to another safely."
Currently, texting while driving is banned in the District of Columbia and 14 states, including Alaska, California, Minneapolis, New Jersey and Virginia. Maryland's ban takes effect Oct. 1. The New York legislature recently passed such a measure and sent it to the governor for signature. This federal bill would require other states to write laws prohibiting text messaging by drivers or risk losing 25 percent of their annual federal highway money. States would have two years to enact such laws.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Fire officials have ordered mandatory evacuations for residents of the 10,000 homes under threat. The city of Los Angeles today issued a mandatory evacuation order for an area of Sunland-Tujunga bordering the Angeles National Forest from roughly Alpine Way on the north to Haines Canyon Avenue on the east.
According to one fire spokesman, The Station Fire had increased to 85,576 acres as of Monday morning. The blaze is only 5 percent contained while being fueled by dry air and protected by the steep terrain in and around the Angeles National Forest.
Officials are keeping a close eye on the blaze, which is being aided by warm temperatures and low humidity, as it creeps closer to the Mount Wilson Observatory. The facility holds 20 television and radio transmission towers along with fire and police communication equipment.
Tragically, two firefighters died Sunday when their vehicle went down a steep enbankment as they were battling the Station Fire.
Officials identified the dead as Capt. Tedmund Hall, 47, and Spc. Arnaldo Quinones, 35.
Two residents who ignored mandatory Station Fire evacuation orders were severely burned when they decided to wait out the blaze in a hot tub, according to sheriff's officials.
"Our hearts are heavy as we are tragically reminded of the sacrifices our firefighters and their families make daily to keep us safe," California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement issued Sunday. "This is a devastating day for firefighters everywhere, and Maria and I join all Californians in expressing our gratitude and sadness. Our hearts go out to their loved ones."
Both were severely burned when flames ripped through their Big Tujunga neighborhood Saturday.
The Station Fire began Wednesday and had destroyed 18 structures by Sunday. The fire also is threatening 500 businesses and 2,000 other structures. The blaze grew over the weekend in an area that has not witnessed a major fire in more than six decades.
Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday as a result of the Station Fire. He has also declared a state of emergency in Monterey County, where one blaze, called the Gloria Fire, has burned approximately 6,500 acres, and another, called the Bryson Fire, has charred more than 3,000 acres.
The company worked with the offices of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance Commissioner and the Massachusetts Attorney General to resolve all matters related to regulatory issues with the Division of Insurance dating back to 2003, and to litigation brought by the Attorney General’s office dating back to 2004. HealthMarkets stated that given the unique environment regarding health insurance in Massachusetts, marketing only ancillary products, underwritten by its subsidiary insurance companies, is the best business strategy going forward.
This decision has no impact on the company’s marketing efforts outside the state of Massachusetts.
HealthMarkets subsidiaries have approximately 27,000 health insurance members in Massachusetts, and will continue to service those members and administer the health insurance plans currently in-force in the state, consistent with the terms of the settlement agreements.
As a result of the voluntary agreements, the company will make payments totaling $15 million to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from which $11.25 million will be used by the Attorney General’s office to provide restitution or other relief to Massachusetts residents who meet certain criteria and $750,000 will be used for attorney’s fees and related costs. The payment includes a $3 million civil penalty and the company will be implementing a claims reassessment program under the terms of the agreement with the Division of Insurance. In addition, the companies have previously paid amounts of more than $2.1 million in claims remediation in Massachusetts since litigation commenced.
This endorsement, offered by only a limited number of insurance companies, was designed to provide additional protection for RV owners who sell their units on a consignment lot. Distributed exclusively through appointed agency partners, National Interstate is currently offering consignment coverage in 27 states, and the endorsement is available on both new and existing policies.
Most RV insurance policies list RV consignment as an excluded usage, meaning that when an RV owner places their unit for sale on a consignment lot, physical damage coverages are removed. In addition, RVs are seldom, if ever, insured under the dealership's policies.
National Interstate offers a portfolio of specialty products for recreational vehicle owners. The company is rated "A" (Excellent) VIII by A.M. Best Company. To learn more about National Interstate's consignment coverage, contact Jason Sinkovitz at 800-929-1500, or email: Jason.Sinkovitz@NATL.com.
Friday, August 28, 2009
While it’s true that many markets are flush with choice, people living in some states have few options for insurance — with almost all consumers ending up in the same plan, according to an article in BestWeek U.S./Canada. An early 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office that ranked the market share of insurers in each state pointed out that 17 states had a single insurer that served at least half of the market.
Also, in BestWeek Europe, Belgian insurer Fortis has reported a group net profit after minority interests of 886 million euros (780.6 million pounds) for the first half of 2009, showing a marked recovery from the same period of 2008, when it made a profit of just 25 million euros. This was driven by a number of events related to the closing of the transactions with BNP Paribas, the Belgian State and Fortis Bank, as well as a net-of-tax charge of 301 million euros related to the legal dispute with Fortis Capital Co. Ltd., the company said.
The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, beyond its tragic weight for his friends, constituents and public admirers, further highlights a basic math problem that his Democratic colleagues in the Senate have been facing, according to an article in BestWeek U.S./Canada. It takes one vote away from Democrats, dropping the number they can muster to 59 — not a filibuster-proof majority. But the truth is, they never experienced filibuster freedom.