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The Farm Bill — PIA National Opposes Cuts

Posted By Staff writer, Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Late in 2018, President Trump signed the current farm bill into law. PIA National supported the president’s decision to sign. It — says Jon Gentile, PIA National vice president of government relations — preserved provisions in the crop insurance program that PIA National says are vital. The bill also honored how important the independent insurance agent is to the crop insurance program.

 

We’re pleased that Congress was able to agree on a compromise Farm Bill that includes strong support for the federal crop insurance program,” Gentile said. “The overwhelming votes in favor of the bill in both the House and Senate and the president’s signing of it signal strong, bipartisan support for the key crop insurance provisions it includes.”

 

In his 2020 financial year budget President Trump has taken a different approach to the Federal Crop Insurance Program. The budget statement runs 150-pages and the pages relating to the program said it eliminates “subsidies to higher-income farmers and reducing overly generous crop insurance premium subsidies to farmers and payments made to private-sector insurance companies.”

 

PIA National opposes the changes to the crop insurance program in Trump’s budget. To begin with, Trump is proposing a 15% cut to the Department of Agriculture. In that decrease is deep cuts to crop insurance totaling $26 billion over the next decade.

 

According to the PIA National Advocacy Blog, the Trump cuts will have three impacts:

 

  It reduces the average premium discount for producers to 48% — it is currently at 62%

  The administration says that will save $22.1 billion over 10-years

  Next, it caps the rate of return at 12%

  This — says the Trump administration — saves $2.9 billion over a decade

  Lastly, crop insurance eligibility is limited to farms with an adjusted gross income of $500,000

  This will save $641 million over 10-years

 

PIA National says this is just not a good idea.

 

“Crop insurance is the cornerstone of the farm safety net. During a time of depressed prices in rural America, now is not the time to slash the federal crop insurance program, which so many farmers and ranchers rely on to stay afloat,” PIA National’s Advocacy Blog says. “This budget proposal would make crop insurance unaffordable and unavailable for many people. Furthermore, a 5-year Farm Bill with strong support for crop insurance was just signed into law in December.”

 

PIA National said it strongly opposes these — or any cuts — to the crop insurance program and will diligently work with members in the House and Senate to make sure the cuts do not make it through Congress. “We urge Congress to reject these cuts and to support a strong federal crop insurance program that recognizes the vital role that independent insurance agents play in the delivery of the program,” the Advocacy Blog stated.

 

Source links: Insurance Business America, PIA National

Tags:  Federal Crop Insurance  insurance content  insurance news  Jon Gentile  PIA National  President trump 

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Trump & California Duel Over Wildfire Assistance

Posted By staff reporter, Tuesday, January 15, 2019

 

California Governor Gavin Newsom says the state will be on the financial hook for at least $923 million in damages for the wildfire that destroyed Paradise and other California communities last year.

That’s 25% of the overall damages. The federal government will cover the rest. Well, maybe the federal government will cover it. More on that in a bit.

Newsom is also asking the Legislature to approve $400 million to reduce the fuel available for fire in fire-prone areas and to improve the state’s ability to fight fire when it breaks out. He’s also seeking $60 million this year and next to improve emergency communications.

The governor asked President Trump to double the federal dollars the state needs to deal with wildfires and forest management. The president’s response was to threaten to withhold all federal dollars. He has been highly critical of California’s past management of forests.

Trump has — at least for the time being — ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stop giving the state money until “they get their act together.”

In his tweet on the matter, Trump said, “Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money.”

He later corrected the misspelling of forest.

The new House of Representatives Minority Leader is California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy. He has defended the president’s comments on the state’s forest management but said he’s going to propose more funds for forest management in the spending bills being introduced to reopen the federal government.

What set the president off was a letter sent by Newsom and Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Oregon Governor Kate Brown asking for double the federal funding. The governors pointed out that over half of California’s 33 million acres of forest is federal land and the dollars available for forest management has been going down since 2016.

“Our significant state-level efforts will not be as effective without a similar commitment to increased wildland management by you, our federal partners,” the letter said.

Newsom also said by itself California has promised to double its spending by $1 billion over the next five-years. “Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses,” Newsom tweeted. “The people of CA — folks in Paradise — should not be victims to partisan bickering.”

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein backed Newsom and the West Coast governors.

“It’s absolutely shocking for President Trump to suggest he would deny disaster assistance to communities destroyed by wildfire,” she said. “Attacking victims is yet another low for this president.”

Source links: The Tribune, Insurance Journal, PropertyCasualty360.com

Tags:  president trump  Trump  wildfires 

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The Deal Done — A Farm Bill Agreement

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, December 4, 2018

 

The House-Senate negotiating committee has come up with a deal on the farm bill. The new deal dumps controversial new food stamp requirements wanted by House conservatives and President Trump.

Those requirements would have extended those requirements for those who have been receiving food stamps for a long time and for people with older children. The House bill wanted those requirements. The Senate version did not.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas said, “It’s more the Senate version than the House version. Everything we had in the House bill was important but we made the compromises we needed to make to get this deal done.”

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas disagrees and said the bill does the same thing as what the House wanted. Roberts believes it actually strengthens existing work requirements without adding new ones. It does it without shifting food stamp funding into the job training program.

If signed into law by the president it will extend the farm subsidies, federal crop insurance and food aid for low-income families for another five-years. 

Tags:  farm bill  insurance content  insurance news  president trump 

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Farm Bill & Trump’s Trade War

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018

Congress goes back to work on Tuesday. One of the challenges facing the now lame-duck Congress is a new farm bill. Many in the body say it’s maybe the most important piece of legislation that needs passed before January’s change in the leadership of the House.

Soybean farmer Mike Schlosser says the big problem faced by U.S. crop producers is President Trump’s now on-going trade war with China. He doesn’t expect things to end soon which is why Schlosser hopes Congress will act — and act soon.

“It’s our safety net,” he said. “We could use all the help we can to eliminate any uncertainty in times like this.”

The Farm Bill has — as you know — funding for:

  • Crop subsidies
  • Insurance
  • Rural development programs
  • Export market access

It’s time for a new one — experts say — since the last farm bill was passed in 2014 and expired on September 30th of this year. At issue — again — is a bill that puts more restrictions on food stamps and that puts more work requirements on food stamp recipients.

Over objections by Democrats, the $867 billion bill passed the House in June. The Senate passed a similar bill — on a bipartisan effort — but it does not include the food stamp restrictions and work requirements.

Curt Mether is a corn and soybean farmer. He wants the bill passed and said the president — and the House — need to back off the food stamp thing and get moving. “I think President Trump will be willing to step down on the work requirements issue in the end as he understands the House will be Democrat-controlled,” he said.

Like Schlosser, Mether thinks the new farm bill could help farmers survive the trade dispute. It has — he notes — driven China out of the U.S. market. Until the trade war, China was the biggest buyer of U.S. agriculture exports. “Some of our export programs are funded through the Farm Bill. While we are negotiating with China, it is really important that we get all the trade we can with other countries,” he said.

Soy and corn farmers aren’t the only agriculture producers impacted. Jim Mulhern of the National Milk Producers Federation said his members were hurt by the NAFTA negotiations with Mexico and Canada.

“Given the sustained low prices dairy farmers have faced, coupled with uncertainty in agricultural trade policy, it is more important than ever that Congress quickly enact the 2018 Farm Bill before adjourning for the year,” he said.

PIA National — also — is concerned about the new farm bill. The PIA’s worry is the independent insurance agent and the vital role agents play in the administration and delivery of the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP).

PIA Advocates for Independent Agents by working with members of Congress to:

  Support an FCIP that continues to utilize the expertise and professional guidance of independent agents.

  Support just compensation for independent agents, the key sales force for the FCIP.

  Oppose further funding cuts to the FCIP

  Working with the United States Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency (RMA), the entity that administers the FCIP to:

  Support a formal role for independent agents in negotiations over the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA), an agreement covering administrative reimbursements for approved crop insurance companies.

  Support comprehensive enforcement of anti-rebating and control of business schemes.

Source link: Insurance Journal, PIA National

Tags:  China trade war  Farm bill  insurance content  President Trump 

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More Controversy — Trump & ObamaCare

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Like most everything the Trump administration is doing, the newly-approved short-term health insurance plan it has rolled out is controversial. How controversial — we guess — has to do with your view of the Affordable Care Act and the president himself, and how the two relate to each other.

 

And now to — maybe — how it all relates to you...

 

President Trump says health insurers are “going wild” over the new options and that very soon millions upon millions of us will sign up for the new type of coverage.

 

Here are the details. The administration has approved the sale of short-term, limited-duration insurance. President Trump calls them low-cost alternatives to the higher priced plans of ObamaCare. The lower prices, as you know, means less coverage and a higher cost for pre-existing conditions — if an insurer will even cover them at all.

 

The plans also do not have to cover prescriptions, maternity, mental health issues and substance abuse treatment.

 

In a statement on the rollout Trump said, “So all of the insurance companies are going wild, they want to get it. You’re going to have great health care at a much lower price.” Then in a tweet he noted the plans will be “somewhat different, result the same. Much less expensive health care at a much lower price; will cost our country nothing.”

Insurers aren’t so sure.

 

Some think the new plans have a lot of downside for consumers. Plus, they need to be approved by insurance regulators in the individual states before they can actually be sold. Many insurance commissioners oppose the idea so it may be a long climb upward for the short-term plans.

 

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) spokeswoman Myra Simon said you’ll start seeing advertising for the plans this fall. However, they will likely be hard to find since not everyone will be eligible to get one and a lot of state insurance commissioners aren’t going to approve them.

 

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association agrees and said, “the broader availability and longer duration of slimmed-down policies that do not provide comprehensive coverage has the potential to harm consumers.”

 

Jeff Smedrud is the CEO of Pivot Health. His company already offers short term plans and says the insurance industry is not up to speed on what must be done to offer them. He said look for minor improvements by October but not much else until 2019.

 

As to whether these plans will actually end up making insurance less expensive? AHIP’s Simon said not so fast. A lot of people may want to buy these plans thinking they’ll save money and if something catastrophic happens they can always jump back to ObamaCare and pick up new insurance from HealthCare.gov.

 

She then referred to the AHIP official statement on the short-term plans. “We remain concerned that consumers who rely on short-term plans for an extended time period will face high medical bills when they need care that isn’t covered or exceed their coverage limits,” the statement said.

 

Simon said with very few exceptions, you can only sign up for Affordable Care Act plans during open enrollment. That’s from November 1st to December 15th. So if something critical comes up people might wait months to get into a comprehensive plan that covers the ailment.

 

“It’s not simple to move back and forth,” she said.

 

Here’s another problem insurers have with the Trump plan. It comes courtesy of Gary Claxton of the Kaiser Family Foundation. He said these plans may end up making insurance more — not less — costly.

 

The administration says short-term plans can be picked up to cover 90-days. It also allows insurers to offer coverage up to 36-months. That means they’ll be taking on more — not less — risk. “You’ll have to pay more up front because there’s a longer time during which you could get sick,” Claxton said.

 

Smedsrud agrees. “The longer you cover somebody, the more likely it is you are going to have a claim,” he explained.

 

Even though the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking state regulators to approve the plans, many oppose the short-term policies. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones — and others — are saying no. They note the plans are not good for consumers and are not a good substitute for something more comprehensive.

 

“These policies are substandard, don’t cover essential health benefits, and consumers at a minimum don’t understand [what they’re buying], and at worse are misled,” he said.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar disagrees. “We believe sensible state regulation of these plans is important.

 

But millions of Americans are in need of affordable insurance options, and states can help build this market outside of Obamacare’s broken regulations,” he said.

 

His plea is falling on the deaf ears of many regulators and many insurance companies. They believe the plans will drive up costs for all other health insurance. Jessica Altman — who is the insurance commissioner in Pennsylvania — said insurers she’s talked with say this creates a dangerous secondary market.

 

That market will take people healthy people away from ObamaCare and when they leave prices will rise. “The individuals who are able to access these plans, those willing to take the risk, they won’t have significant needs, they will be disproportionately healthy, so that will lead to a more expensive individual market, and will drive up prices for those who need it,” she said.

 

Jones said the California Legislature is looking at a bill to permanently ban the sale of short-term plans. Right now the state allows such plans for 185-days.

 

Hawaii has already passed a law that prohibits people from purchasing a short-term plan when they are eligible for a plan on the ObamaCare exchange. Maryland’s Legislature passed a bill that says short-term plans can be purchased and can last three-months. They cannot be renewed.

 

The Oregon Department of Insurance issued a statement on the matter. It said federal regulations do not limit a state’s ability to establish laws regarding these short-term plans and, “It is a violation of Oregon law to market, sell, or offer short-term health insurance policies that exceed three months, including renewals, and a new policy cannot be issued to a customer within 60 days of expiration.”

 

Washington State’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler — a staunch defender of ObamaCare — said he’s working on new rules to allow coverage for three-months with no renewal. He also wants very strong transparency requirements.

 

“What I worry about the most is the agents and brokers selling the plans. They are looking at the [large] commission, and that blinds them to their legal responsibility,” he said.

 

That responsibility is to inform consumers about the limitations of a short-term plan, a concern shared with Altman in Pennsylvania. She said she’s already revoked the licenses of eight agents and brokers who misrepresented how a short-term plan works.

Tennessee’s insurance commissioner is Julie Mix McPeak.

 

She worries — like the others in this story — that consumers will not truly understand what they are buying.

 

“We have to really make sure consumers know what they’re purchasing, and they’re aware of what’s covered and what’s not covered. The last thing we need is for consumers to have surprise bills,” she said.

 

Part of the problem her state faces is the lack of competition. There is only one insurer in the ObamaCare exchange in Tennessee. “We need competition. Having a plan that can be a stopgap measure, and affordable, is not necessarily a bad thing,” Mix McPeak added.

 

Kriedler agrees temporary is not necessarily a bad thing. He and Altman understand there is a need for that kind of a plan but that’s not how the administration is marketing the new policy.

 

“The message getting out there is that these plans can and should be looked at as an alternative to major medical coverage,” Altman said. “There are so many things those plans don’t have to do or cover. So on their face, these plans are not comparable to [ObamaCare] compliant plans,” she said.

Source links: Insurance Business America, The Hill

Tags:  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Obama Care and Trump  President Trump  Weekly Industry News 

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