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California’s Wildfire Fix is No Fix?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Right after he took office, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed a commission to study wildfire and to make recommendations on how to prevent them in the future. They held four hearings and took a lot of input from around the state.

Though the final product is due July 1st, the commissioners have given the governor a preliminary report. The main suggestion from the commission is to change the laws that make energy companies like PG&E responsible for all fires caused by their equipment.

It’s called inverse condemnation. To put it succinctly, the law says even though the energy company did everything possible, did everything right, and its equipment causes a fire through an act of god, the company is responsible for all losses.

Commission chairman Michael Kuhn said, “We are in a crisis. The current liability and governing system doesn’t equitably distribute costs.”

His — and the commission’s — recommendation going to go anywhere. The governor and leaders in California’s Legislature already have their mind made up on how to help utilities like PG&E deal with the problem. Doing away with inverse condemnation is not one of those ideas. They’ll leave that issue for other legislatures to solve.

A bridge fund will be established that power companies can use to offset the costs. The fund will be financed by utility customers and can only be accessed in those cases where the utility acted responsibly and fire happened anyway.

Commission member Michael Wara — an energy and climate expert from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment — doesn’t like the idea of the bridge fund. He said it “doesn’t address the underlying question around the solvency of utilities.”

Also serving on the commission is former California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Carla Peterman, a former commissioner on the California Public Utilities Commission and former Assemblyman Pedro Nava.

Source links: Insurance Business America, Utility Dive

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Healthcare Costs — A Poll

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Monmouth University has a new poll about healthcare. It says in the last two years 27% of us — just over one in four — have skipped healthcare due to the cost or know family members who have because it is unaffordable. That’s down from the last survey in 2017 when it was 31%.

The survey also found 45% of those surveyed find it hard to pay their deductible and other expenses that come out of pocket. Another 20% say they have thought about getting a new job or starting a business but didn’t because of the need to maintain health insurance coverage.

It is statistics like this that have proponents of Medicare for All saying these are reasons we need a government health insurance program. Healthcare just isn’t affordable. Opponents of the idea say there are market-based solutions that have not been considered or implemented.

In the meantime, bipartisan action is being considered in the Senate by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Washington Sen. Patty Murray who is a Democrat. They are trying to find ways to lower healthcare costs by eliminating surprise medical bills and dealing with the high cost of prescription drugs.

Source link: The Hill

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Wells Fargo Settles Auto Insurance Scam

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Wells Fargo will pay $385 million to the thousands of auto loan customers it forced to purchase auto insurance when it wasn’t need or sold them insurance without telling them. National General — the auto underwriter that participated in the scam — will kick in an additional $7.5 million.

A judge still has to approve the settlement.

The company’s forced insurance action caused 250,000 customers to go into delinquency. Of the 250,000 going into delinquency, close to 25,000 autos were repossessed.

Wells Fargo says it has spent $2.7 billion so far to resolve this scandal and the scandal involving fraudulent accounts and manipulative sales practices it engaged in to pump up the bank’s financial standing and meet sales quotas.

The bank settled with attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia a couple of years ago for $575 million.

Source links: Insurance Journal, PropertyCasualty360.com, CBS News

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The Cost of Living & 13 Affordable Cities

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Census Bureau says the nation’s median household income is now $57,617. The bureau’s annual Consumer Expenditure Survey says we average $57,311 a year in spending. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room.

That same report says wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. So as those costs rise around the country, the number of places a person can live affordably is dropping.

Major cities are still more expensive to live in than smaller ones but in most cities — large or small — we just aren’t making enough to cover costs.

Forbes Magazine took Census Bureau data and took a look at cities around the country and came up with 13 cities where you can still live fairly cheaply. Four of them — Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, Las Vegas, Nevada and Fresno, California — are PIA Western Alliance state cities.

One caution the magazine offers is that along with low cost of living comes a higher cost through crime. NeighborhoodScout says property crimes are rampant in most of these cities. Albuquerque and Tuscon are among them and report between 57 and 70 instances per 1,000 residents.

When it comes to violent crime, Detroit — the second cheapest to live city on the list — has 20 crimes per 1,000 which is one of the highest rates in the nation.

Las Vegas does much better. Property crimes there are down to 29.78 crimes per 1,000 residents.

Here is the list and the PIA Western Alliance state cities are in bold:

1. El Paso, Texas

  Cost of necessities: $25,075

  Income needed to live comfortably: $50,150

  Median income: $43,322

El Paso is military driven. Fort Bliss is one of the largest military complexes in the U.S.

2. Detroit, Michigan

  Cost of necessities: $26,050

  Income needed to live comfortably: $52,100

  Median income: $26,249

Not only does Detroit have a large auto production industry but it has a large number of biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technology companies.

3. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  Cost of necessities: $26,692

  Income needed to live comfortably: $55,384

  Median income: $48,127

Technology is a driver of Albuquerque’s economy. Several high tech firms and government entities are logged in the city. Many of the high tech companies contract with the federal government. Sandia National Laboratories is there as is Kirkland Air Force Base.

4. Wichita, Kansas

  Cost of necessities: $27,672

  Income needed to live comfortably: $55,345

  Median income: $46,775

Cessna, Beechcraft and other aviation companies have large workforces in Wichita.

5. Tucson, Arizona

  Cost of necessities: $27,689

  Income needed to live comfortably: $55,379

  Median income: $37,973

Tucson is a military city. The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, Fort Huachuca and the University of Arizona are the major employers.

.6. Las Vegas, Nevada

  Cost of necessities: $28,304

  Income needed to live comfortably: $56,609

  Median income: $50,822

Gambling is the main industry in Sin City. It goes along with entertainment and shopping.

7. Louisville, Kentucky

  Cost of necessities: $28,643

  Income needed to live comfortably: $57,285

  Median income: $46,881

Louisville has the Kentucky Derby and is a major medical science center. Heart surgery and cancer research and treatment are economic focal points.

8. Memphis, Tennessee

  Cost of necessities: $28,716

  Income needed to live comfortably: $57,433

  Median income: $36,975

Cultural contributions abound in Memphis. It is also the home of FedEx, AutoZone and International Paper.

9. Tulsa, Oklahoma

  Cost of necessities: $28,993

  Income needed to live comfortably: $57,986

  Median income: $43,045

Oil used to be king. No more. The city has worked to diversify the economy and now houses industries associated with aerospace, technology and finance.

10. Indianapolis, Indiana

  Cost of necessities: $29,213

  Income needed to live comfortably: $58,426

  Median income: $43,101

Known mostly for its famous auto race, Indianapolis has diversified into education, health care and finance. It also has a large number of auto-oriented museums and galleries.

11. San Antonio, Texas

  Cost of necessities: $29,252

  Income needed to live comfortably: $58,504

  Median income: $48,183

Tourism is a major industry but the city also has a high military presence as well as eight universities.

12. Fresno, California

  Cost of necessities: $29,308

  Income needed to live comfortably: $58,616

  Median income: $41,842

Fresno’s main industry continues to be large-scale agriculture production.

13. Columbus, Ohio

  Cost of necessities: $29,487

  Income needed to live comfortably: $58,973

  Median income: $47,156

Columbus doesn’t have much industry but start-up businesses are easy to get going.

Source link: Forbes

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Drivers Can Work Around Poor Driving History

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2019

TransUnion says consumers can obscure their driving history. In other words, there are ways to cover up poor driving behavior and past violations. Even if a state learns of those violations many are dismissed or downgraded.

That, too, can disguise driving history.

The TransUnion study is titled Violation Downgrades and Dismissals: What Can Be Done? It looked into 39 million violations registered in three states. The shocking part of the study is learning that drivers have access to programs that can reduce — or even remove — tickets and violations including DUIs.

This could have a major negative impact on insurers:

  57% of major offenses in some states can’t be seen because of dismissals or downgrades

  41% of DUIs are likely to be dismissed

  Driving without a seatbelt is dismissed 10% of the time

TransUnion executive vice president Mark McElroy said what’s scary is the more serious the violation, the more likely it is to be downgraded or dismissed entirely. And those with dismissals and downgrades cost insurers 1.7-times more in losses than drivers with a guilty violation on their record.

“When insurers aren’t presented with the full picture, this can compromise how well premiums align with risk,” McElroy said. “This dynamic, in turn, impacts good drivers who then subsidize insurance premiums for risky drivers.”

Speaking of risky drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission said nearly six out of 10 fatal collisions are one-car crashes. It also put out some stats on when and how crashes occur:

  The most deadly time on the road is Saturday between midnight and 3am

  Four out of 10 fatal crashes happen when an auto rolls or hits a fixed object like a tree or a sign

These are the most dangerous states in the union when it comes to car crashes. Four of them are PIA Western Alliance states.

1. Texas

2. California

3. Florida

4. Georgia

5. North Carolina

6. Pennsylvania

7. Ohio

8. Illinois

9. Michigan

10. Tennessee

11. Alaska

12. New York

13. Arizona

14. New Mexico

15. Kentucky

In the meantime, you may want to share these safety tips with your clients. They come from the National Safety Council:

  Practice defensive driving. Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation when imbibing, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively.

  Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from prescription opioids.

  Learn how to use your vehicle’s safety systems.

  Fix recalls and vehicle maintenance issues immediately.

  Talk about these tips with teenagers, who are statistically more likely to be involved in an accident.

National Safety Council spokesman Nicholas Smith said, “Roadway deaths are preventable by doubling down on what works, embracing technology advancements and creating a culture of safer driving.”

Source links: PropertyCasualty360.comlink 1, link 2

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Around the PIA Western Alliance States

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2019

California — Coffee Cancer Warning: Several years ago a lawsuit was filed saying coffee makers like Starbucks and Nestle needed to put a cancer warning on their coffee bags and cups. Not doing so — the suit said — violated state law that requires cancer warnings for toxic substances.

Coffee is toxic? Really?

Ridiculous said retailers — including Target and Whole Foods — and they defended the suit saying the cancer warning is unnecessary. If found guilty all would be fined millions of dollars for ignoring the law.

After eight years or wrangling a judge just decided the warning is not needed. The state just made it official when the Office of Administrative Law made the exemption official.

No word yet on whether the plaintiffs will appeal.

Source link: Insurance Journal

California — Ranch Fire Decision: The largest fire in California history is the Ranch Fire. It burned in July of last year, killed one fire fighter and destroyed 280 buildings. The fire then merged with the River Fire and it became knowing and the Mendocino Complex Fire.

CalFire has now been determined that the Ranch Fire started by accident when a rancher used a metal hammer to drive a stake into a hornet’s nest.

Source link: Press Democrat

Idaho — Medicare Workshops: Free Medicare Workshops for individuals turning 65 and those approaching Medicare eligibility will be held:

Boise on June 19 from 10:00am to 11:30am and from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd, 3rd Floor, Marion Bingham Room.

Caldwell on July 1 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the College of Western Idaho, 2407 Caldwell Blvd. Room 252.

Medicare workshops are designed to introduce the various parts of Medicare and to share some of the costs and benefits associated with the program.  Sessions cover enrollment timeframes for Medigap, Medicare Advantage, prescription drug plans, and how the different parts of Medicare work together.

Staff with the state’s Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program, a unit of the Idaho Department of Insurance, conduct the workshops.  To register for the upcoming session, please contact the SHIBA Helpline at 1-800-247-4422.

Montana — Expect a Longer Fire Season: Governor Steve Bullock held the state’s annual fire roundup to prepare for this year’s fire season. The roundup includes state, local, tribal and federal fire officials. Preparedness and finding enough fire fighters to battle this year’s blazes is the reason.

The governor said, “As fire seasons have gotten longer, and by many stretches more severe, the duties that face each of our teams to just from a seasonal issue to actually a year-round responsibility to train, prepare, respond and recover from fires continuously.”

The biggest fire seasons in history — to date — have happened since 2000. Last year the state spent $400 million fighting fire and the expectation is that amount or more will be spent this year.

Source link: Independent Record

Oregon — From the Department of Insurance: The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation seeks public comment on the following Proposed Bulletin:

DFR 2019-02: Applicability of HB 2010 premium assessment to health benefit plans


The purpose of this bulletin is to clarify the applicability of the 2 percent assessment on heath benefit plan premiums under Enrolled House Bill 2010 (2019).

Draft Bulletin DFR 2019-02 https://dfr.oregon.gov/laws-rules/Documents/Bulletins/proposed/dfr-2019-02-draft.pdf

Last day for public comment: Monday, July 8, 2019

Comment email: dfr.bulletin@oregon.gov

To read this and other proposed bulletins and get more information, please visit the Division of Financial Regulation's Proposed Bulletins page at: https://dfr.oregon.gov/laws-rules/Pages/proposed-bulletins.aspx

Oregon — Unlimited Jury Awards: It was a rare event. The Oregon Senate killed House Bill 2014 that would have done away with the noneconomic damages caps in civil suits for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

Medical associations and businesses opposed the bill. Trial lawyers wanted it and usually get their way with bills like this.

The votes weren’t there but it came to the floor anyway and was defeated.

In 1999 the Oregon Supreme Court ruled the $500,000 cap was unconstitutional. Late — in 2016 — the court reversed itself and said it is legal and it is now — and still — law.

Source link: OPB

Tags:  Weekly Industry News 

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Congress Extends NFIP — But Not for Very Long

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Congress has extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through June 14th of this year. That avoids a coverage lapse. This is the 11th extension since the NFIP expired on September 30, 2017.

While the extension is welcome, the inability of Congress to pass actual NFIP reforms and to pass a permanent extension is not. Jon Gentile is PIA National’s vice president of government relations. He said the extension is not only important because hurricane season officially started on June 1st, but because many states are experiencing disastrous flooding.

Good yes, but not good enough.

“PIA National now calls on Congress to pass the disaster relief legislation (H.R. 2157) as its first order of business. H.R. 2157 includes a 4-month extension of the NFIP, reauthorizing it until September 30, 2019. Congress must then get serious about passing a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP before its next expiration date,” Gentile said.

Other than an extension, the NFIP has other problems.

In the last 30-years cities and other local governments have spent $5 billion to pick up thousands of properties vulnerable to repeated flooding. Most of that money comes from the the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.

Data from FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says once purchased the properties are destroyed. In 2015 the amount spent was $25 million.

This year’s spending has hit $250 million so far.

Thousands more properties are on the list of those to be purchased and since — with climate change and increased flooding — homes that used to be considered safe are endangered.

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He says more extreme weather events are on the way and flooding “is going to become more and more of an issue, and there will be more and more properties that are at risk of total loss or near total loss.”

He believes changes are in order and “the question is: Are we just going to keep selling them insurance and building in the same place?”

DeFazio wants to expand the purchases and change how buyouts are done. He calls them irrational and inefficient. One idea DeFazio supports is to give homeowners a break on their flood insurance premiums in exchange for an agreement to a buyout if their homes are significantly damaged in a flood.

The National Institute of Building Sciences says the buyouts make sense. At least it might to taxpayers. A study the institute did recently found taxpayers save $7 for every $1 spent on grants to buy or demolish buildings in flood prone areas.

PIA National supports legislation to get more private insurers involved in selling flood insurance and the PIA says it is “working with members of Congress to support legislative solutions to create sensible options for growing the private flood insurance market, promoting flood risk management policies, transitioning to risk-based rates and reforming the NFIP.”

Craig Poulton is the CEO of Poulton Associates. His company runs the largest private flood insurance program in the country. He agrees and points to the rate raises that were supposed to accompany the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act.

Poulton thinks if Congress actually paid attention to how much the NFIP wastes each year, they’d pass some common sense reforms. “Because the NFIP has failed to raise rates as instructed, they’ve passed up about $9 billion in additional capital that must now fall on the back of taxpayers. It would be hard to blame any Congressman that refused to vote on a temporary reauthorization of the NFIP based on that fact alone,” he said. “After all, the NFIP has cost taxpayers around $40 billion over its lifetime which represents over 40% of all claims dollars paid. It’s just not working the way it was intended.”

His criticism is in line with a lot of those working in the insurance industry.

“I empathize with members of Congress and with the good folks who are trying to steer the NFIP. On one hand, they have allowed the NFIP rate structure to stifle the private market to the extent that the NFIP is absolutely necessary. On the other hand, the NFIP seems unwilling or unable to raise its rates as directed by Congress and continues to engage in efforts that result in impeding the growth of the private market.

That — Poulton notes — is terrible policy.

“The American taxpayer has paid a terrible price for those decisions. At some point, Congress will be forced to allow the invisible hand of the marketplace to make the NFIP our flood insurer of last resort. Doing so is mostly just a matter of raising rates,” he concluded.

Source links: PropertyCasualty360.com, PIA National — link 1, link 2, CNBC

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Wildfires — Controlled Burns as a Control

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Crystal Kolden is an associate professor at the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources. She just completed a study on controlled burns or prescribed burns as they’re often called. Kolden concludes we’re not doing enough of them to help stem the glut of wildfires that have plagued the West and Southwest for the last few years.

Kolden said this is a very good way to reduce the threat of wildfire. “Prescribed fire has actually decreased over the last 21 years in the western United States,” Kolden noted. “This means one of our best tools to reduce wildfire disasters is not being used.”

If you don’t know, prescribed burns are fires deliberately set by landowners or by agencies that manage public lands. Under certain conditions they are done and then tightly controlled. They restore fire-prone ecosystems and reduce the buildup of the fuels that fuel wildfire.

That leads to the why not more of them?

Kolden says controlled burns are acceptable — and even encouraged — in the Southwest but not in West. Smoke from the fires aren’t popular with the people living in the West and are discouraged.

Another reason for the limit on the practice is burns that get out of control. There’s also a huge lack of funding at the federal level to pay for them.

Kolden says a change is needed. “It takes a lot of proactive people to make it happen,” she said. “It didn’t happen magically in the Southeast. It took some key folks 80 years ago to push for prescribed fire and to work with industry to facilitate that happening, and now it has become something that happens there annually and everyone expects it to happen.”

One thing that might drive the approval of more controlled burns has to do with wild game habitat. The burns are good for deer, elk and other species. That’s something one federal land management agency — the Bureau of Indian Affairs — has noticed. For the last couple of decades it has used fire to improve wildlife habitat.

“Not only have the tribes been doing more prescribed fire recently, they have all this stored indigenous knowledge,” she said. “We can look to partnership and collaborate with tribes to figure out how to implement more prescribed fire across the landscape.”

The bottom-line? Kolden says we need to find the political will and funding to do more of them. “If we can’t figure out how to do more prescribed fire, we’re going to continue to see ‘megafires’ and wildfire disasters due to climate change,” Kolden concluded.

Source links: Lewiston Tribune, AP

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California’s Lara to Insurers — Extend Benefits to Wildfire Victims

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 4, 2019


California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara wants insurers to extend benefits to the survivors of the Wine Country fires of 2017. He made that statement at a meeting of city officials and victims of the Tubbs Fire.

Lara wants insurers to pay the living expenses of policyholders who are still without a habitable home. He suggests giving them benefits for another year. Lara also wants insurers to voluntarily cover the full replacement value of a home.

Part of the reasons given is a serious lack of contractors, building supplies and the delays being experienced in the demolition of burned homes.

In 2018 the Legislature extended living expense coverage from two years to 36 months. Those laws do not cover the survivors of the fires in 2017 that caused $12 billion in losses while destroying 5,300 homes in five California counties.

Lara said many of those survivors face the loss of benefits in the next few months — benefits that include living expenses like food, housing costs, furniture rental, moving, storage and transportation expenses.

“With labor shortages and other outside factors delaying the rebuilding process, time is running out for many who lost their homes in the 2017 fires,” Lara said. “I urge insurers to show good faith with their policyholders by extending living expense payments to those who have endured so many delays beyond their control.”

The commissioner also wants insurers to not subtract the value of the land beneath the destroyed homes and businesses when they calculate the replacement costs. This is in case the survivors choose to buy a replacement home rather than rebuild.

Nicole Mahrt-Ganley is with the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA). It represents 60% of the companies that insure homes in California. She didn’t comment on Lara’s comments but did note insurers understand the delays and why there are delays.

“The law allows for flexibility,” she said. “While insurers cannot increase the amount of coverage under a policy, they can, as the commissioner requested, work with policyholders to provide more time for rebuilding. Policyholders should always have a conversation with their insurer to find solutions.”

Source links: San Francisco Chronicle, Insurance Journal

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The Future of Autos Might Affect Auto Insurance

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 4, 2019


The annual Collision Conference has released some interesting information. The phone and some other, new auto-sharing concepts could soon replace the automobile for a lot of people.

Experts like Andre Haddad — CEO of the car-sharing company Turo — say ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber, and shared ownership of autos could end up replacing individual autos in the future.

“Your phone will be your car,” he said and pointed out that more people may end up renting vehicles from time to time rather than buy. Unaffordable car payments, parking and — yes — insurance are the reasons.

“Many more are realizing they can share their car when they’re not using it or rent it out to recover the big costs of ownership,” he said.

While auto sales are still high worldwide, car ownership among young adults is dropping and a lot fewer people under age 25 are buying cars. That said, demand for vehicles for weekend trips and vacations will be stable and even go up.

Filld is a mobile gas delivery service. Its CEO Scott Hempy pointed out that more people are working from home these days and that is causing the interest in owning a car to drop.

Then there’s autonomous vehicles. Volvo Cars Technology CEO Zaki Fasihuddin said they’re going to be used for ridesharing in the future and that — too — is going to drop the demand for cars.

“Give consumers the choice,” he said. “Ride-sharing is a viable option. Nowadays people take that for granted, and that’s a valid mode of transportation.”

Source link: Insurance Journal

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