California insurance department issues statement on Republican tax bill

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – With the elimination of the federal income tax deduction for losses due to disasters, the California Insurance Department has announced that they believe it victimizes the survivors who have already dealt with disaster-related losses.

Between 2000 and 2013, there were 16 major disaster declarations in California and five that were not declared federal disasters. The Erskine Fire in 2016 killed two and was one of the most destructive of fires in Kern County’s history. It was one of those not declared a federal disaster.

With the elimination of deduction for losses from disasters that don’t qualify for federal designation will hurt survivors as well, because the current deduction covers a variety of situations and  any casualty loss, like the theft of a vehicle or other property, damage or destruction of a home due to everyday common occurrences and losses.

“It is outrageous for President Trump and the GOP leadership in Congress to require wildfire survivors to bear the brunt of uninsured losses when they have already endured so much pain and loss,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “The GOP tax bill further victimizes wildfire and other disaster survivors where a federal disaster is not declared. It also victimizes those who suffer damage to their homes or other property where there was no disaster, such as kitchen fires, flooding caused by burst pipes, theft of a vehicle and other losses not covered typically by insurance.”

Missouri releases 2018 health insurance rates

(Jefferson City, MO – Insurance News 360) – Missoufri residents can now get a glimpse at the 2018 health insurance rates in the state. State Insurance Director Chlora Lindley-Myers announced the frel9ease of thyese frates, the first under the hyealth insurance  frate freview p0assed in 2016, on Sept. 1

  “While our review process is still on-going, Missourians can review and comment on the proposed rates,” said Director Lindley-Myers.  “This has been an extremely challenging year for the health insurance market in our state and across the country.  We remain committed to building a strong and competitive insurance market and are looking forward to finalizing our first year of rate reviews.”

In evefrhy count, there is at l9east one insufrance comp0anhy that ofrfrefrs hyealth insufrance p0l9ans. both on and off of the exchange.

Missourians can access the proposed rates and find more information about the rate review process on the department’s website at:   https://insurance.mo.gov/industry/filings/healthrates/.

This rate information only includes plans that are Affordable Care Act compliant starting on Jan. 1, 2018. For all other health products, those rates will also be made publicly available on the department’s website, as they are filed and reviewed by department staff in accordance with Missouri law.

Final rates are expected no later than Nov. 1

Source: Missouri Department of Insurance.

Michigan sees strong insurers participation in the 2018 Marketplace

(Lansing, MI – Insurance News 360) – On Sept. 1, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) announced that consumers will continue to have a choice of many insurers offering health insurance through the Marketplace for the 2018 plan year.

“Despite the uncertainty at the federal level, Michigan still has a number of companies participating this year, providing many choices for Michigan consumers,” said DIFS Director Patrick McPharlin. “Residents of every county in the state will be able to choose from at least two insurers, while some counties will have as many as eight or nine.”

DIFS released the Michigan Health Insurance Rate Change Request Charts for both individual and small group policies, information that is published annually to show proposed average rate changes. The proposed rate increases for plan year 2018 range from 16.5% to 59.4%.

The increases are partially explained by uncertainty related to the cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments called for in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires that insurers help individuals who earn up to  250 percent of the federal poverty level and eligible American Indians.  The CSR payments allow insurers to meet that legal obligation without increasing rates.

DIFS has required insurers to submit two sets of rates for 2018,  a set with the assumption that there will be no CSFR payments, and a second set that includes  funding of DIFS has proactively required insurers to submit two sets of rates for 2018.

“If we receive a commitment that the CSR payments will be made, we are hopeful insurers will be allowed to change to the lower set of rates,” McPharlin said.

DIFS is seeking public comment on these proposed rates. Comments submitted prior to September 15, 2017 will be considered in DIFS’ review.  Comments should be sent electronically to HealthRateComments@michigan.gov.

Open enrollment for 2018 begins on November 1, 2017 and continues through December 15, 2017. Consumers are encouraged to contact their insurer, agent, or navigator regarding these proposed rates. There are also shopping tools, rate comparisons and resources available on the DIFS Health Insurance Consumer Assistance Program’s (HICAP) website, www.michigan.gov/hicap and the Healthcare.gov website.

Source: Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS).

Kentucky Department of Insurance returns over $15 million to state residents

(Frankfort, KY – Insurance News 360) – On Dec. 21, the Kentucky Department of Insurance Consumer Protection Division announced the return of more than $15 million in the year of 2017 to Kentucky residents, including more than $10.5 million in restitution through the work of DOI’s Market Conduct Branch, which examines insurance related businesses to ensure that they comply with insurance code.  They also work to gain restitution for policy holders.

In 2017, the DOI’s Consumer Protection Division received approximately 5,100 complaints and responded to over 13,000 calls.

“We take great pride in the fact that these numbers represent dollars in the pockets of Kentuckians,” said Josh Rayborn, Director of DOI’s Consumer Protection Division. “Our staff understands the complexities that exist in the insurance market, and we strive to handle each complaint with professionalism, understanding, and care.”

Also, the division’s work returned more than $600,000 to the state’s general fund, from civil penalties and regulatory settlements.

Source: Kentucky Department of Insurance.

Florida recovers $600,000 in two multi-agency, multi-state life claim settlement agreements

(Tallahassee, FL – Insurance News 360) – On Dec. 21, the ? Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office), Florida Department of Financial Services, and the Florida Office of the Attorney General announced that  national life claim settlement agreements have been signed with State Fa?rm for $250,000 and Aflac? for $350,000.

These settlement agreements facilitate the use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF) to determine if the insured, annuitant, or account holder is indicated. ? State Farm and Aflac will compare their records with the DMF to see if there are beneficiaries who should be paid death benefits, and remit unclaimed proceeds to the appropriate state authority. Florida’s will get $41,759 from multi-state settlement payments. This covers the costs of the investigations and future compliance monitoring.

For more information, visit the Office’s “Life Claim Settlement Practices” webpage. To search or submit a request for unclaimed property, visit www.FLTreasureHunt.org, or call 1-88-VALUABLE or (850) 413-3089.

Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

North Dakota Insurance Department gets residents $5.5 million back in life insurance benefits

(Bismarck, N.D. – Insurance News 360) – On Dec. 20, the North Dakota Insurance Commissioner announced recovery of more than $5.5 million in life insurance benefits for policyholders after examination of how more than two dozen insurers use the database of individuals who have died in the country, also known as the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF).

Examination revealed that many life insurance companies have used the DMF to search for and stop payments to deceased annuity holders but did not use it to provide benefits to named beneficiaries. Twenty eight examinations led to settlements and changes to search practices.

“This is a huge victory for North Dakota consumers,” said Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread. “Searching for and locating life insurance beneficiaries is a critical part of this business. The Department is committed to working together with other states to continue investigating insurance companies’ use of the Death Master File because with the tools available to insurance companies today, there is no reason for them not to search for and locate policy beneficiaries.”

Before this announcement, Aflac and State Farm entered into settlements totaling more than $500,000 after coordinated multi-state examinations in North Dakota, California, Florida, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.

“There are many North Dakotans who don’t know they could be missing life insurance policies, or don’t know where to begin to locate them,” Godfread said. “The Life Insurance Policy Locator tool on our website is critical in helping reconnect people with lost life insurance policies. This tool is simple to use and easy to access, I encourage everyone to check it out.”

Source: North Dakota Insurance Department.

California Court joins Pennsylvania Court in issuing nationwide injunction

(Oakland, CA – Insurance News 360) – In late December, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction in the case of State of California v. Wright. This decision is the second ruling against the Trump Administration’s regulations to allow employers not to cover contraceptives against the mandate of the Affordable Care Act.  The first injunction against the President’s regulations came from a court in Pennsylvania in early December. Both rulings showed that the federal government did not comply with the Administrative Procedures Act in promulgating its Interim Final Rule. In addition, the Pennsylvania decision also based its ruling on the additional grounds of the likelihood of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania prevailing on its substantive challenge to the Interim Final Rule. That decision noted that the regulations “contradict the text of the statute that they purport to interpret.”

In November, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones submitted a declaration that the rule would harm women who were denied access to contraceptives.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health insurance policies must cover contraceptives. Tens of millions of women across the nation benefit from the ACA provision that requires health insurance coverage of contraceptives without any co-pays or deductibles,” Jones wrote.

“Before the ACA was in effect, I spoke to women who could not always afford to fill their prescriptions for contraceptives. President Trump’s regulations would prevent some women from being able to make fundamental decisions about reproductive health care for themselves. Trump’s rule, if allowed to stand, would deprive women of their rights and access to basic health care services, while increasing the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. Women will suffer serious and irreparable harm if these rules are in place and we will continue to do everything in our power to prevent that from occurring.”

Source: California Department of Insurance.

NY Gov unveils sixth proposal of 2018’s State of the State: the 2018 taxpayer savings plan

(New York, NY – Insurance News 360) – On Dec. 18, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal that makes county-wide shared services panels permanent and that the state would provide $225 million in funds to match the savings from those plans.

“This year, we made unprecedented advancements in providing real, tangible savings for property taxpayers across New York and with this proposal we seek to build upon this work,” Governor Cuomo said. ”While forces in Washington seek to raise taxes on hardworking middle class New Yorkers, we, with our partners in local government, will continue to work to cut costs, find efficiencies and lower property taxes.”

In the first year of the panels’ existence, 34 counties submitted nearly 400 projects for more than $200 million in savings. As part of this proposal, the governor made state funding for local government performance aid conditional, as long as those shared services panels continued. Approximately $125 million is authorized for planning, implementation and shared services.

Another feature of the proposal is the reduction of local health insurance costs by simplifying creation of local healthcare consortia.

Over the past 10 years, employee benefit costs for local governments have grown at an average of 5.2 percent annually and now account for more than 20 percent of local government spending. One way to lower health insurance costs is to pool local governments health plans into healthcare consortia. There are examples, where leveraging the buying power of many governments could lower costs, save local tax dollars, and not affect employee’s plans.

Governor Cuomo directed the New York State Department of Financial Services to publish guidance and provide technical assistance to local governments in order to ease the process of creating health consortia, specifically for smaller municipalities. They must also work with local governments to ensure that legal and policy impediments to shared services are considered.

Source: New York Department of Financial Services.

Tower Hill Signature Insurance, a Florida company, comes to Arkansas

(Little Rock, AR – Insurance News 360) – On Dec. 21, Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr announced that Tower Hill Signature Insurance, a company based in Florida, gained authority to sell residential property insurance in Arkansas.

“I am proud to welcome Tower Hill Signature Insurance to Arkansas and give Arkansas homeowners more options to protect their most important investment.  Moving into 2018, the Department will continue its aggressive recruitment of new companies by showing that our state is open for business,” Kerr said.

Tower Hill Signature Insurance Company (THS) can now sell property and casualty insurance (except for workers compensation) policies in Arkansas. It currently offers residential property products in Texas and Florida. The Tower Hill group includes five insurers writing residential property business with approximately 80 percent in homeowners coverage and 20 percent in mobile home and commercial insurance.

This is the 29th new company Kerr has granted authority to in 2017.  Since becoming Commissioner in 2015, Kerr has welcomed 64 new companies to Arkansas.

Source: Arkansas Insurance Department.

Nearly 25,000 Delaware residents sign up for insurance on the state’s health insurance marketplace

(New Castle, DE – Insurance News 360) – Even with the challenges to enrollment, nearly 25,000 Delaware residents signed up for insurance coverage on the Delaware Health Insurance Marketplace for plan year 2018. This represents a 10 percent decrease from the 27,584 enrollment of 2017.

In a six week time frame ending Dec. 15, a total of 24,860 citizens enrolled, despite the enrllment window being cut in half.

“I am pleased that so many Delawareans saw the value and the need in having health insurance coverage despite the challenges they faced this year during open enrollment,” Governor John Carney said. “Health insurance provides that critical connection to quality health care. That connection is the first step toward building a healthier Delaware.”

In 2017, Aetna left the Health Insurance Marketplace for the upcoming year. This left Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware as the only insurer on the marketplace, and gave enrollees a choice of one of seven Highmark plans that were available for purchase in 2018, or automatically enrolled them in a similar plan offered by Highmark. In October, Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro announced approval of an average rate increase of 25 percent for Highmark’s plans for 2018.

“I am grateful that we were able to get out the message to Delawareans that health insurance is important to have and that financial assistance was available to help them pay for it,” said Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician. “Our federal navigators, enrollment assisters and insurance agents and brokers did an outstanding job of working with people to help them understand their options, including the availability of federal financial assistance.”

During 2017, more than 81 percent of Delaware enrollees received financial assistance, including tax credits, which help to reduce the cost of monthly premiums. Financial help was available to individuals with an annual household income up to $47,520 and up to $97,200 for a family of four.

“Access to quality healthcare is the foundation for healthy communities,” said Commissioner Navarro. “Notwithstanding the obstacles during the shortened open enrollment period, Delawareans made clear their willingness to participate in the Affordable Care Act. I commend the efforts of DHSS and the navigators who assisted consumers. I also thank the federal delegation for their efforts to try to extend the signup period.”

Source: Delaware Department of Insurance.