Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers rises 2.3 percent from Sept. 2017- Sept. 2018

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on October 15 that the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) rose 2.3 percent; this is not seasonally adjusted.

Food prices increased 1.4 percent, with prices for food consumed away from home increasing 2.6 percent. Food consumed at home increased in price by 0.4 percent.

Energy prices increased 4.8 percent. The index for fuel oil jumped 23.5 percent, while the gasoline index increased by 9.1 percent. Electricity and natural gas both declined 1.2 percent.

Prices for energy increased 4.8percent over the year ending September 2018. The index for fuel oil rose sharply, increasing 23.4 percent. The gasoline index rose 9.1 percent over the last 12 months, while the electricity and natural gas indexes both declined, falling 1.2 percent.

For items other than food an energy, the index increased 2.2 percent; the shelter index is up 3.3 percent over the year and medical care index is up 1.7 percent as well.

This information is from the Consumer Price Index program and these figures are not seasonally adjusted. To learn more, see “Consumer Price Index — September 2018.”

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wolf Administration Announces Agreement with Insurers to Eliminate Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment

(Harrisburg, PA  - Insurance News 360) – In October, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to agreement with commercial insurers in Pennsylvania to align prior-authorization processes for opioid prescriptions to protect patient health and safety while ensuring patients have unrestricted access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) when needed to battle opioid addiction.

“It is vital we take all possible steps to make sure patients are receiving the most appropriate treatment for their pain, while at the same time appropriately managing and monitoring the risks associated with opioids,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Medication-assisted treatment is an effective, evidence-based treatment to help those with the disease of addiction to opioids and this step by private insurers allows more people with opioid use disorder to be able to access this form of treatment. Treatment works and recovery is possible for those who are battling this disease.”

The announcement, made Oct. 12, followed a summit of Pennsylvania’s largest health insurers and the Medicaid managed care program, the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services, and the Insurance Department. The summit was part of the administration’s ongoing effort to battle the opioid crisis.

Insurers agreeing to the guidelines include Aetna, Capital BlueCross, Geisinger, Highmark, Independence Blue Cross, UPMC, and United Healthcare.

“I want to thank Governor Wolf for his continued leadership on battling the opioid crisis in our state, and our insurers for coming to the table to find ways to cover appropriate treatment when it is needed, and for working with our medical providers to properly manage and monitor this treatment,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said.

This move closely aligns commercial insurance prior-authorization requirements for opioid prescriptions and access to MAT with requirements used by both Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care programs. The requirements were implemented earlier this year by the Department of Human Services.

These guidelines apply to individual, small group, and large group fully insured plans. Self-funded plans, where employers provide health care coverage administered by a third party, are regulated by the federal government and are not included in this agreement.

They implement thresholds for prior authorization for long- and short-acting opioids, morphine milligram equivalents (MME) and exceptions for active cancer, sickle cell crisis, and palliative care/hospice patients. Some insurers are phasing in their alignment with many of the guidelines. Patients should consult with their insurer to find out how these guidelines are being incorporated into their specific health plan.

Under this agreement, commercial insurers will cover MAT without prior authorization in the following ways:

• Coverage of at least one Buprenorphine/naloxone combination product

• Coverage of Methadone as MAT

• Coverage of injectable and oral Naltrexone

Commercial insurers have also committed to coverage of at least one form of nasal naloxone without quantity limits. The guidelines also provide that MAT will be covered at the lowest patient cost tier on the plan’s pharmacy benefit, as applicable.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Insurance.

Wolf Administration Announces Agreement with Insurers to Eliminate Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment

(Harrisburg, PA  – Insurance News 360) – In October, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to agreement with commercial insurers in Pennsylvania to align prior-authorization processes for opioid prescriptions to protect patient health and safety while ensuring patients have unrestricted access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) when needed to battle opioid addiction.

“It is vital we take all possible steps to make sure patients are receiving the most appropriate treatment for their pain, while at the same time appropriately managing and monitoring the risks associated with opioids,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Medication-assisted treatment is an effective, evidence-based treatment to help those with the disease of addiction to opioids and this step by private insurers allows more people with opioid use disorder to be able to access this form of treatment. Treatment works and recovery is possible for those who are battling this disease.”

The announcement, made Oct. 12, followed a summit of Pennsylvania’s largest health insurers and the Medicaid managed care program, the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services, and the Insurance Department. The summit was part of the administration’s ongoing effort to battle the opioid crisis.

Insurers agreeing to the guidelines include Aetna, Capital BlueCross, Geisinger, Highmark, Independence Blue Cross, UPMC, and United Healthcare.

“I want to thank Governor Wolf for his continued leadership on battling the opioid crisis in our state, and our insurers for coming to the table to find ways to cover appropriate treatment when it is needed, and for working with our medical providers to properly manage and monitor this treatment,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said.

This move closely aligns commercial insurance prior-authorization requirements for opioid prescriptions and access to MAT with requirements used by both Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care programs. The requirements were implemented earlier this year by the Department of Human Services.

These guidelines apply to individual, small group, and large group fully insured plans. Self-funded plans, where employers provide health care coverage administered by a third party, are regulated by the federal government and are not included in this agreement.

They implement thresholds for prior authorization for long- and short-acting opioids, morphine milligram equivalents (MME) and exceptions for active cancer, sickle cell crisis, and palliative care/hospice patients. Some insurers are phasing in their alignment with many of the guidelines. Patients should consult with their insurer to find out how these guidelines are being incorporated into their specific health plan.

Under this agreement, commercial insurers will cover MAT without prior authorization in the following ways:

• Coverage of at least one Buprenorphine/naloxone combination product

• Coverage of Methadone as MAT

• Coverage of injectable and oral Naltrexone

Commercial insurers have also committed to coverage of at least one form of nasal naloxone without quantity limits. The guidelines also provide that MAT will be covered at the lowest patient cost tier on the plan’s pharmacy benefit, as applicable.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Insurance.

Employment up 560,000 in professional and business services over the year ended September 2018

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that several sectors have seen employment increases over the fiscal year ending September 2018.

The mining and logging industries have seen the biggest gains of all between October 2017 and September 2018. Employment in this sector rose by 61,000, or 8.8 percent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in health care and social assistance increased 406,000 in the fiscal year ended September 2018. This is a 2.1percent increase in employment. Within health care and social assistance, employment in health care increased 301,500 over the past 12 months.

In other areas, construction added 315,000 jobs, for a 4.5 percent increase; manufacturing added 278,000 jobs, with 4/5 of those in durable goods manufacturing. That’s an increase of 2.2 percent over the previous year.  Transportation and warehousing employment increased by 174,000, or 3.3 percent.

Mining and logging employment rose by 61,000, with all of the gain in mining. Employment in mining and logging increased 8.8 percent over the September 2017–September 2018 period, which was the largest percentage change among the major industries.

This data is from the Current Employment Statistics program and are seasonally adjusted. Data for the most recent month are preliminary. See “The Employment Situation — September 2018” to learn more.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ohio home, auto insurance rate changes in 2017 announced

(Ohio, OH – Insurance News 360) – In October, Jillian Froment, Director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, reported that average rate changes for the top 10 homeowners and private passenger auto insurance groups rose, but that those rates were far below the national average.

Homeowners insurance rates rose 1.5 percent for the top 10 companies, and private pasenger auto insurance rates rose 4.1 percent.    In the state of Ohio, individuals pay an average of $819 for homeowners insurance, and $703 for auto insurance. This is the ninth lowest, and 14th lowest, respectively, in the country, according to data the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. It is important to note though, that individuals may have experienced rate changes outside the average.

“We are fortunate in Ohio to have among the lowest average insurance premiums for homeowners and auto insurance compared to the rest of the country,” Froment said. “Ohio has a robust and competitive insurance market providing consumers many different product options to consider when selecting coverage.”

Medical costs, weather-related claims, the number of cars on the roads, and repair costs spur the changes in auto insurance rates. Weather-related claims, building and material costs are the biggest impacts to homeowners insurance rates.

The top 10 insurance groups represent approximately 75 percent of the market in Ohio.

Source: Ohio Department of Insurance.

FMCSA Simplifies process to allow individuals with controlled diabetes to drive commercial trucks

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – In September, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced rules that allows people with an insulin regimen and properly controlled insulin-treated diabetes mellitus to drive commercial vehicles in interstate commerce.

Before the new rule, individuals with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus were not allowed to drive commercial motor vehicles without an exemption from FMCSA. Now, administrative and financial burdens for these groups are lifted, and safety is maintained.

AN individual with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus may receive a medical examiner’s certificate for up to a year. The healthcare professional who manages a driver’s condition and prescribes insulin must certify that the patient has a stable insulin regimen and has their condition under control. The certified medical examiner will determine whether the application meets the FMCSA’s physical qualification standards and is able to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

“This final action delivers economic savings to affected drivers and our agency, and streamlines processes by eliminating unnecessary regulatory burdens and redundancy,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.  “It’s a win-win for all parties involved.”

The final rule eliminates the requirement of the exemption program that requires individuals with and prescribes to incur recurring costs to renew and maintain their exemptions. FMCSA estimates this will save the nearly 5,000 individuals with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus who currently have exemptions more than $5 million per year.  The final rule will also save new exemption applicants and their associated motor carriers approximately $215,000 annually in opportunity and compliance costs related with the exemption program’s waiting period.

As an agency, FMCSA will save more than $1 million per year over the next three years in costs associated with administering the diabetes exemption program.

A copy of the final rule is available here.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

California Insurance Commissioner encourages greater diversity for insurance company governing boards

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – In September, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sent letters to more than 50 California-licensed insurance company chief executives, asking them to increase the diversity of their governing boards. The letter also asked that each company give insight into a diversity policy for their company, or to develop strategy or action plan to enhance that diversity within a specified time frame. The companies that received the request letter were selected due to a lack of female or minority governing board members.

Since 2011, when Jones created the Insurance Diversity Initiative, his efforts have included encouraging insurance companies to seek executives and board members who reflect the changing demographics and diversity within California and the rest of the country. Three years later, he issued a first-in-the-nation survey, the Governing Board Diversity (GBD) Survey.

“Board diversity helps improve corporate accountability and enhance financial performance,” said Commissioner Dave Jones. “I am committed to supporting efforts that expand opportunities for diverse representation on corporate boards. Independent studies continue to demonstrate that enhanced board diversity results in better corporate performance, as well as increased economic opportunities for diverse business communities.”

In March 2018, Commissioner Jones convened the first GBD Summit bringing together insurer CEOs and board members to share challenges and best practices for advancing governing board diversity within the insurance industry. The GBD Summit included presentation of the findings from McKinsey & Company’s latest study, Delivering through Diversity, which underscore the statistically significant link between profitability and diversity on corporate boards. For example, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability and companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity were 33 percent more likely to have industry-leading profitability.

Source: California Department of Insurance.

Department of Transportation pilot program allows military personnel to drive commercial trucks

(OMAHA, Neb. – Insurance News 360) – In July, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, and Congressman Don Bacon announced the launch of a pilot program to allow 18-20 year olds with the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate large trucks in interstate commerce.

“This program will allow our Veterans and Reservists, to translate their extensive training into good-paying jobs operating commercial vehicles safely across the country, while also addressing the nationwide driver shortage,” said Secretary Chao.

The program will allow a limited bumber of people between 18 and 20 years of age to drive large trucks in interstate commerce, as long as they have the military equivalent of a commercial drivers license and sponsorship of a trucking company. This is directed in section 504 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

“This innovative program offers a way for our younger Veterans and Reservists to transition to the civilian workforce. I personally thank Secretary Chao and officials with the DOT who continue to find ways to utilize the training and talent of the men and women who served in uniform for our country,” said Congressman Bacon.

The program is expected to run for three years, and the safety records of these drivers will be compared to a control group of drivers.

Complete information on the pilot program is available on FMCSA’s website at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/under-21-pilot-program-frn.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

California Insurance commissioner calls for ease of inventory requirement for 2018 wildfire survivors

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – On Oct. 4, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued a plea to insurers to volunatily provide up to 100 percent of contents coverage for 2018 wildfire survivors, without requiring a detailed home inventory.

Insurance commissioner calls on industry to ease inventory requirement for  2018 wildfire survivors

Jones asked that all insurers to follow the lead of those providing 75-100 percent of personal property coverage limits without requiring wildfire survivors to submit a detailed inventory.

Issued on October 3, the notice acknowledges and applauds the insurers who are going above and beyond Voluntary Expedited claims handling proceudres, and who have made attemtps to accommodate survivors by offering up to 100 percent contents limit payment without that inventory, in some cases.

“The Carr and Mendocino Complex fires rank among the most destructive wildfires in California’s history,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “Entire communities were decimated with residents suffering staggering losses of not only property, but tragically loss of life and injuries. I’m asking property insurers to ease the burden on traumatized survivors by voluntarily providing at least 75 percent of contents coverage without the onerous requirement of a detailed home inventory, so survivors may get on with patching their lives back together.”

Source: California Department of Insurance.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issues regulatory guidance for transporting agricultural commodities

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – On May 31, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced clarification to the longstanding 150 air-miles-of-service agricultural commodity exemption. The organization also explained more about the provision focusing on “personal conveyance.”

The FMCSA published notices proposing regulatory guidance for use of personal conveyance and transporting agricultural products in December 2017 and asked for comments then. The organization is offering clarification for law enforcement as well as for those in the agricultural industry.

“Due to input from commercial vehicle stakeholders and the public, the Department has taken steps to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the intent and effect of these regulations, for the agricultural and other sectors,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

After receiving nearly 850 comments, the new regulatory guidance has questions and answers format, explains the 150-air mile radius agricultural commodity exemption and how they determine the exact “source” of the commodity.

“We are dedicated to finding effective solutions to challenges, exploring new opportunities for innovation and constantly seeking ways to improve,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.

For a copy of the agricultural product guidance, see: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ag-commodity-guidance.

New guidelines explain what circumstances call for a commercial motor vehicle driver to use a truck or bus for personal conveyance. For a copy of this information, see: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/personal-conveyance-guidance.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.