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Text Neck Spurs — The Latest Smartphone Malady

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Smartphones have all kinds of positives associated with them. They also have negatives. The latest negative goes along with text neck — a malady we’ve known about for a while. It is bone spurs at the base of the skull associated with too much smartphone peering at unhealthy angles.

The study comes from researchers in Queensland, Australia. They did 1,200 XRAYS of 400 adults ranging in age from 18 to 86 and found 33% of them had developed bone spurs at the base of the neck. The spurs average 10mm to 31mm in length. Bone spurs in the neck are considered to be “large” when they run 5mm.

Some — they found — are so large that they can be seen at the back of the neck.

The researchers — David Shahar and Mark G.L. Sayers of the School of Health and Sport Sciences in Queensland — say we now know about them but aren’t going to give up our phones so the malady is going to be a permanent part of the lives of many of us.

Shahar and Sayers call them horns and, no surprise, say they are seen more in young people than those that are older.

The authors of a study done last year titled How modern life is transforming the human skeleton says this is a huge concern. They wrote, “An important question is what the future holds for the young adult populations in our study, when development of a degenerative process is evident in such an early stage of their lives?”

Dr. Todd Lanman is a neurosurgeon working in Beverly Hills, California. He agrees with the researchers and said he has noticed how smartphone use is affecting the neck and upper back health of teens, children and young adults.

“Not only do young people tend to use their handheld devices for longer periods, but the developing neck and spine is more susceptible to these abnormal forces,” Lanman said. “I’ve certainly noticed an increase in young people with neck and shoulder pain in my practice.”

Dr. David Geier is an orthopedic surgeon and the author of the book That's Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever. He said the study’s results are no surprise at all. “You’re at the airport or school and everyone is hunched over. It would be fine if it was 15 seconds here or 15 seconds there, but when it’s over hours you’re concerned that this habitual behavior can result in a real curved deformity, especially in kids but really all adults,” he said.

He — too — doesn’t think we are going to give up our smartphones. So he suggests doing things to deter the growth of these spurs and other maladies associated with too much smartphone use. “Small changes like putting pillows under our laptops and holding the phone or tablet higher up and away from our laps can promote better posture,” he said. “We need to get up and moving. We have got to get people more active for a number of reasons. The sedentary aspect of this is huge and these devices are killing us in that respect.”

Lanman also noted posture changes are needed with smartphone use but he says this applies to other aspects of our lives as well. “Spinal surgeons have long known that people who work in professions that require long periods of neck flexion — including manicurists, surgeons, desk workers, and factory line operators — develop neck and shoulder pain, and arm pain with numbness and tingling,” he said.

Here’s how text neck occurs and what you can do about the problem

Upfront, it is important to understand how the neck and upper back work. The muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck support the weight of the head.

In a neutral position that is 10 to 12 pounds.

Most of the time when you are texting, the head is tilted at a 45-degree to 60-degree angle. That puts somewhere between 50 and 60 pounds of force on the neck. It is not designed to handle that much pressure.

Text neck starts as a mild ache in the next and upper back and then transitions into sharp pain and stiffness. It doesn’t improve itself without lifestyle changes. Experts suggest:

  Limiting your phone or tablet uses to necessary tasks

  Using better posture like holding smartphones closer to eye level

  Exercise with stretches to the neck, chest and upper back

Lanman points out, “The more you can keep your neck in a neutral, upright position, the less likely you are to develop text neck. Ideally, one would hold the head with the ears in line with the shoulders, holding the device at eye level. The more one’s neck is bent, the greater the forces on the neck.”

Dr. Neel Anand handles spine trauma at the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles. He agrees the Lanman and said, “Try addressing your device with your eyes, not your neck. Keep your head, neck, and shoulder posture in a neutral position and look down at your device only with your eyes.”

Source links: Big Think, NBC News, Spine Health, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest

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Driving High — AAA Says it is a Concern

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A new survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is frightening. It is especially troublesome in the PIA Western Alliance states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Drivers now see driving high as less dangerous than driving drunk, driving distracted or driving drowsy.

  13% say driving within an hour of getting high is only slightly dangerous or not dangerous at all

  1.2% say the same about driving after drinking

  1% say that about driving while drowsy

  2.2% believe that about prescription-drug impaired driving

There’s more:

  70% think they’re unlikely to be caught by police when driving an hour after getting high on pot

  14% of millennials say they will drive within an hour after smoking marijuana

  10% of Generation Z say they do that

  8% of men will likely drive an hour after smoking

  5% of women will

The study gets even more scary. The estimate now is that 14.8 million people are on the road and driving one hour after smoking pot. AAA says impairment from the drug lasts from one to four hours, and pot users driving high are as much as twice as likely to get into a crash than someone that isn’t.

Dr. David Yang in the foundation’s executive director. “Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” he said. “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk.”

As noted, a large percentage of people in the survey say the police aren’t going to catch them driving high. But Jake Nelson who is the AAA Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy said they’re fooling themselves.“Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk,” he said.

Source links: ABC 10 News, AAA Newsroom

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A Frightening Survey — Direct to Consumer Auto

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 25, 2019

J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Auto Insurance Study has a frightening conclusion. Consumers are falling in love with the direct-to-consumer auto insurance model.

One of the most serious contentions of the survey has to do with reliance on agents. It has dropped by 33% in the last 20-years and 17% of those using an agent say they have not met with them face to face or on the phone.

The study involved 42,759 auto insurance customers and looked at five factors that drive customer satisfaction with that line of insurance.

They are:


  A variety of policy offerings


  Billing and the process of billing

  Policy information

J.D. Power spokesman Robert Lajdziak said satisfaction has gone up since 2018. The average this year is 831 out of 1,000 points and that is a record. The most satisfied in the survey are the 23% of people who purchase their insurance direct.

“Auto insurance customers have more access, control and visibility into the details of their policies, and that is translating into record-high levels of customer satisfaction,” he said. “As customers take greater control of their auto policies, it’s also becoming more important for insurers to offer superior digital experiences and easy access to account management features such as bill pay, policy information and an integrated experience for customers who bundle multiple policies.”

Those bundling policies also had a much higher satisfaction level:

  For home and auto and life — 837

  Without bundling — 812


As for insurance company satisfaction:

  Esurance sits on top with 847 out of 1,000

  Auto Club of Southern California Insurance Group took second with a score of 834

  Amerprise is third

  Wawanesa is fourth

  GEICO came in fifth

Source links: Carrier Management, Insurance Journal

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Update — California’s Wildfire Crisis & Utilities

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 25, 2019

When rumors are heard from a number of source they are more than likely true. Or at least true enough to give them some credibility. Apparently California Governor Gavin Newsom wants the Legislature to  look at finding a way to help utilities pay for the fires their equipment and power lines cause.

Bonds — or some sort of bonding program — is what Newsom is said to be thinking. He’s said to be looking at getting the Department of Water Resources to seed the plan with $10 billion. Utilities are said to have skin in the game and will be asked to contribute $7.5 billion. Money to pay for the bonds will also be raised from a fee that utility customers have been paying since 2001.

Again, these are rumors but negotiations are said to be in process now. It is said the governor wants something concrete proposed and passed by July 12th. That’s the date ratings companies are going to downgrade Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas And Electric.

As part of the legislation, Newsom wants changes in regulations that will make it easier for utilities to recover from the cost of wildfires. The changes discussed include letting utilities charge for those expenses but only when the can prove they haven’t acted irresponsibly.

PG&E — the cause of some of the state’s most destructive wildfires — is trying to be more responsible. Last week the company said it has concluded the inspection of 700,000 power poles, 50,000 transmission structures, 222 substations, over 5,500 miles of transmission lines and 25,200 miles of distribution lines.

It found 1,200 cases where that equipment was unsafe. Nearly all of it has been repaired.

On another front — and an area deemed by some to be irresponsible — PG&E is going to be give some of the firm’s top executives performance-based bonuses. They’ll be sharing $11 million in cash and stock.

The bonuses are safety-weighted but may not happen unless the bankruptcy court says it can spend the money.

Source links: Bloomberg, The Press Democrat, San Francisco Chronicle

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A Huge Reason for Purchasing Cyber Insurance

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 25, 2019

If you haven’t been able to convince your clients large and small to at least think about picking up cyber insurance, show them this story. This is scary stuff. Very scary. Organized crime groups on the Dark Web are selling access to the computer networks of banks.

They are also selling tools and instructions to help people hack them.

This information comes from Michael McGuire who is a professor of criminology at the University of Surrey in Britain. He and his team found bad guys selling tools to help steal login info for businesses including the customers of Bank of America and the Qatar National Bank.

Marketplaces for hackers. Oh, goodie.

“We couldn’t legally purchase this stuff,” McGuire said and noted the data being sold can be used for ID theft and for credit card fraud. Others use the tools sold on the Dark Web to plant ransomware. Some of those selling this information are individuals. Others — McGuire suspects — are nation states.

By the way, you can pick up a phishing tool kit — including a manual to explain how it works step-by-step — for as little as $11.

The groups selling this stuff are being sought out by people but they are also checking in with employees at large companies and are asking if they’d be willing to sell contract and payroll information.

Though the health industry from doctors to hospitals to insurers are the most hacked, the financial sector is the biggest target for those selling or trying to buy information.

They amount to 35% of the offers on the Dark Web.

If you want to hire one of these bad actors to hack a corporation it can run you $4,500. To target someone specifically — like for blackmail or some such action — it can cost $1,000 to $15,000.

There is a lesson in all this, and it’s one that’s actually good advice. McGuire said cyber security officials from corporations and government ought to be monitoring the Dark Web regularly. He says you never know what attack hints you’re likely to pick up.

At the very least you might be able to catch an employee doing something that will be very damaging to the company.

Source link: PropertyCasualty360.com

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Around the PIA Western Alliance States

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 25, 2019

California — PG&E Pays Local Governments: PG&E is going to pay $1 billion to 14 local governments. The money is for damages from wildfires caused by the firm’s downed power lines.

Here’s where the money is going:

Calaveras County$3 million to the Calaveras County Water District

The 2017 Wine Country Fires — $415 million to:

  Mendocino County

  Sonoma County

  City of Santa Rosa

  Napa County

  City of Napa

  Lake County

  City of Clearlake

  Yuba County

  Nevada County

2018 Northern California Fires

  $270 million to the Town of Paradise

  $252 million to Butte County

  $47.5 million to Paradise Recreation and Parks District

  $12.5 million to Yuba County

Source link: Insurance Journal

Idaho — Medicare Workshop: A free Medicare Workshop for individuals turning 65 and those approaching Medicare eligibility will be held in Eagle on Monday, July 1st from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Eagle Library, 100 N. Stierman off Old State Street. 

All those interested in learning how Medicare works are encouraged to attend.

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.

Oregon — Defrauding Agent Jailed: James Frackowiak was sentenced to 60 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution by Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Todd L. Van Rysselberghe for defrauding at least four elderly investors out of approximately $284,000.

Frackowiak targeted former insurance clients and sold them interests in the Frack Income Fund, LLC, promising returns of up to 9 percent. He mislead victims by failing to disclose that the fund consisted of his personal debts and had no potential for generating the promised returns.

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation discovered the scheme after receiving a complaint from one of the victims about Frackowiak’s insurance practices. The investigation revealed Frackowiak was withholding and combining client insurance premium payments. The division revoked Frackowiak’s insurance producer license in 2017 and fined him $14,000.

The investigation into securities fraud began that same year. The division’s enforcement team worked with the Clackamas County Sherriff’s office and Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office on the case.

“Collaboration at all levels of government service is essential for cases like this,” said Andrew Stolfi, division administrator. “Before making any investment, we encourage Oregonians to do their homework, ask plenty of questions, and be suspicious of offers that appear too good to be true.”

Oregon — Pacific Power Adopts Wildfire Policy: Wildfires will no doubt be a serious problem again this summer. Pacific Power’s Scott Bolton said the company — like utilities in California — are doing things to help reduce wildfire risk.

“We want to make sure, going forward, that we’re keeping communities safe during those high-wind and dry conditions,” Bolton said.

The company is clearing vegetation around poles and power lines and doing more inspections. Weather stations are being installed to help identify high risk days. Crews are also being trained in wildfire suppression.

Pacific Power will also shut down power to areas where high winds pose fire risk.

“Some of the tragedies we’ve experienced, like the loss of the city of Paradise and other fires we’ve seen down in California, demonstrate that we need to take active measures to protect communities and Oregonians who could be in harm’s way,” Bolton said.

Source link: The Astorian

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House Committee — An Agreement on Long-Term Flood Extension

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 18, 2019

PIA National Vice President of Government Relations, Jon Gentile

The House Financial Services Committee voted to pass a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to the full House. The bill — if it gets through the House and passes the Senate — will authorize the NFIP through September 30, 2024.

All eyes are now on what the full House will do since the NFIP is still on life support and will expire on September 30, 2019. The extension it is currently on is the 12th short term extension since 2017.

PIA National vice president of government relations Jon Gentile says this is a compromise between the committee chair Rep. Maxine Waters of California and Ranking Member Patrick McHenry — a Republican from North Carolina.

“After nearly two years of seemingly never-ending short-term extensions, PIA National thanks Chairwoman Waters and Ranking Member McHenry for working together in a bipartisan way to pass this common-sense legislation out of the Financial Services Committee,” Gentile said. “Their leadership has ended the treatment of the NFIP as a political hot potato, which has been unfair and even dangerous for the  millions of NFIP policyholders, as well as those who have been impacted by flooding events.”

By the way, the committee’s vote was 59 to 0.

Waters is pleased with the vote and the compromise. “Flooding is a humbling and equalizing force,” she noted. “In the wake of the many catastrophic natural disasters we experienced just in the last three years, we’ve seen the best of America during the worst of times, with everyone putting aside their differences, to come together to help one another in a time of need. Now it’s time for Congress to do the same thing.”

Here is what the bill contains:

  A continuous coverage provision to allow borrowers who dumped NFIP insurance for private insurance to return to the NFIP without penalty

  The NFIP will be able to offer umbrella policies for commercial properties, multifamily properties and agricultural properties

  The NFIP will also be required to make coverage available to co-op and condo owners

  A loan fund will be set up to help states with mitigation efforts to relocate homes or elevate them

  That fund will also help high-income homeowners

  It also expands flood mapping to all areas of the country

  It requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update its mapping technology and $500 million a year will be provided for the update

  An annual independent actuarial study of the NFIP will be done to analyze the NFIP’s financial status

  The minimum loan amount to trigger mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement will go from $5,000 to $25,000

  The bill will let monthly payments to be made instead of annual payments for flood insurance

“This bipartisan bill includes many of the priorities PIA National has been advocating for,” Gentile said. “It preserves the critical role of the independent agent; provides continuous coverage protections to policyholders who leave the NFIP to purchase a private flood policy and return to the program; makes critical investments in mitigation; and increases funds for mapping.”

Even more importantly, the bill will continue the gradual implementation of actuarily sound rates.

“PIA supports this bill,” Gentile said and a statement from PIA National pointed out the association will oppose any amendments that will negatively affect the ability of agents to earn fair compensation “for the expertise they provide to consumers to identify and purchase appropriate flood coverage through the NFIP.”

The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) like the deal. NAR President John Smaby said, “This legislation addresses many critical NAR priorities, including long-term reauthorization, strengthening mapping and mitigation, and facilitating a more robust private insurance market.”

The NFIP has 5.1 million policies in effect and 256,850 of them are in the nonresidential category. That leads to what the bill doesn’t do and that is address the huge debt the NFIP owes to the federal government and the taxpayers.

It is $20.5 billion.

Waters would like to see it forgiven but can’t get much support for the idea. She said the NFIP pays $400 million every year in interest payments to the Treasury. That is — she said — “a debt it can never repay.”

Gentile and PIA National get the last word and said it is a very good bill. “I think the Waters-McHenry bill is the best chance that we’ve have for a long-time reauthorization in a long time and I would encourage the Senate to work off of this bill, assuming it passes committee and assuming it passes the House without any poison pill amendments,” Gentile concluded.

Source links: PIA National — link 1, link 2, Insurance Journal, DS News, Business Insurance

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Are Older Workers in the Way — Maybe

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Andrew Soergel did a 10-month fellowship with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. He studies aging and workforce issues. His conclusion is that younger workers resent older workers for not retiring at 65.

The research found more people over age 65 are staying on the job and making the workforce more “gray.” Part of the reason has to do with the Great Recession and the financial uncertainty that followed. Higher healthcare costs also have something to do with the problem.

If it is a problem.

In talking to those over age 65, Soergel found that last year:

  Close to 20% are employed or actively looking for work

  The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that’s up from less than 12% two decades ago

Apparently, at that point in life they’re supposed to go. If not, they’re clogging up the workforce. Here’s some data from his study:

  Workers under 50 — by and large — think staying on the job past age 65 is a negative

  40% of people age 18 to 49 feel that way

  44% of those 18 to 29 think it’s a negative and bad for American workers

  Just 14% of those over 60 think it’s a negative

Soergel picked up this comment from Katie Otting. She’s 29 and lives in Southern California. “I don’t think in things like IT and medicine you’re as effective a worker (at 65 years old) as you are at 50,” she said. “If some 65-year-old is in a position that he’s not ready to quit because he wants a better pension and there’s someone else ready to take that job, they’re not going to replace him.”

  32% of men said the prevalence of older workers in the workforce are holding back the momentum of the economy

  27% of women feel the same way

  34% of respondents earning over $100,000 a year feel that way

  Just over 24% of people earning less than $30,000 think they’re holding back economic momentum

Aging Americans don’t see it that way:

  60% of people over 60 say those over 65 still working is good for the economy

  30% of people under 30 have a similar conclusion

  33% of people under 50 think the aging workers are a negative on their careers

Steve Burghardt is a professor at City University of New York. He is 74. Burghardt calls the myth that older people are keeping younger people from getting the job they want is just that — a myth. He believes job displacement, job inequality and other economic problems have them “looking for someone younger or someone older to blame.”

As for whether the aging workforce is having an impact on the U.S. economy, Moody’s Analytics economist Adam Ozimek believes they are a hinderance. Ozimek’s research found they slow productivity and have an impact on wage growth for those on the job market that are younger.

At the same time, Ozimek found very little evidence suggesting older workers are keeping younger workers from getting those prized promotions. He pointed out that those getting those positions are not baby boomers but those of Generation X who are middle-aged.

Agism expert and activist Ashton Applewhite agrees. “In anxious times, we look for scapegoats. And old people are a ready scapegoat, especially if you are forced out of having a public presence or are forced (out of a job),” he said.

Other economists also say this has little basis in reality. Andrew Chamberlain of Glassdoor — an employment site — said, “The more of those seniors continue to work, that means they’re also spending. And that spending helps build a rich economy that gives you jobs and lots of opportunities.”

Source link: Insurance Journal

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Commercial Insurance 2019 — Better than 2018

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fitch Ratings likes what it sees in commercial insurance in 2019. It finds things looking better than they did last year. As a result, Fitch will maintain the stable outlook going forward. The potential this year for better underwriting profits and capital strength that will help insurers withstand adversity is the reason.

  Direct written premiums for commercial lines grew 5% in 2018

  That’s up from 3% in 2017

  On a net basis premiums in 2018 grew 15%

  That’s due to tax law changes that allow large commercial underwriters to keep more business in the U.S.

James Auden of Fitch said, “If pricing trends continue favorably and unusually large catastrophe events are avoided, U.S. commercial lines are positioned well for another year of improvement in 2019.”

Workers’ compensation is the most profitable of the major commercial lines. It has seen four-years of underwriting profits. Fitch doesn’t — however — think the four straight years of profits will continue much beyond 2020. Competitive forces and declining premium rates are the reason.

That means while profits of work comp are the highest among the commercial lines, it is the only segment to see prices dropping. Fitch said the worst line continues to be commercial auto. Not even rate increases and underwriting corrections have stopped eight consecutive years of losses.

Overall, commercial property underwriting is seeing a second year of underwriting losses. Increasing and more severe natural disasters are the reason.

Source link: Insurance Journal

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Trump Administration Issues ObamaCare Small Business Break

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Trump administration says it wants to continue to help small business with its ObamaCare obligations. So a new rule has been added to the president’s executive order of 2017 and it expands insurance options.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the goal is to expand healthcare choices. “This new rule gives businesses a better way to offer health insurance to employees and allows workers to select coverage that best fits their and their families’ needs,” he said.

White House health care advisor Brian Blase said what the rule does is allow employers to use tax-exempted funds — or health reimbursement arrangements — and give them to workers so they can purchase insurance on the individual market. The decision will “particularly benefit smaller employers ... by creating another option for financing worker health insurance coverage,” he said.

While controversial, this one is much less controversial than the original order in 2017. The administration says that action expanded short-term health insurance plans that are cheaper for employers. They don’t — however — cover people with pre-existing conditions.

That set off a firestorm of Democrat criticism.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said the criticism is unfair and this action proves that. “President Trump has promised Americans that he will put them in control of their healthcare,” he said. “And this expansion of health reimbursement arrangements will help deliver on that promise by providing Americans with more options that better meet their needs.”

Source link: The Hill

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