California Insurance Commissioner issues rule prohibiting gender discrimination in vehicle insurance rates

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – On Jan. 3, California Insurance Commisioner Dave Jones issued regulations that prohibit use of gender to determine private automobile insurance ratings. The Gender Non-Discrimination in Automobile Insurance Rating Regulation went into effect on Jan. 1.

The Gender Non-Discrimination in Automobile Insurance Rating Regulation requires all automobile insurance companies operating in California to file a revised class plan that eliminates the use of gender as a rating factor.

“My priority as Insurance Commissioner is to protect all California consumers, and these regulations ensure that auto insurance rates are based on factors within a driver’s control, rather than personal characteristics over which drivers have no control,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Source: California Insurance Department.

Delaware Insurance Department Approves Genworth Acquisition by China Oceanwide

(Dover, DE – Insurance News 360) – The application from China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd., and its affiliates to acquire Genworth Life Insurance Company and certain affiliates has been approved by Delaware Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro. The application was filed more than two years ago, and in the past two years, the two companies have adjusted the transaction to address different questions posed by regulators at the state, federal, and international levels.

Commissioner Navarro approved the application after a  November 28, 2018 public hearing, where the findings of former Vice Chancellor Stephen P. Lamb were explained. Judge Lamb was appointed to preside at the public hearing and present him with findings of facts, conclusions of law, and a recommendation as to whether the proposed transaction meets Delaware’s legal requirements for approval.

The Delaware Department of Insurance used internal expert financial staff, along with outside experts to scrutinize the financial, actuarial and data security aspects of this transaction, agreed to notice the public hearing after the parties recently agreed to deposit $375 million in liquid funds into GLIC.  These additional liquid funds will be invested in GLIC and available to pay policyholders was cited in the testimony of the Department witness, by Judge Lamb in his findings, and today by Commissioner Navarro as being vital to the approval of this transaction.  “I am satisfied that China Oceanwide brings immediate new value to the policyholders, and I look forward to working with them and with GLIC’s management to assure that the safety of benefits to GLICs policyholders is always considered the top priority.”

Commissioner Navarro’s approval includes certain additional conditions to assure the ongoing safety of GLIC’s policyholders. This includes restrictions on the parties to assure that GLIC’s funds are used for policyholders; prohibiting any dividends without the Department’s prior approval and tasking China Oceanwide and GLIC to establish teams to continuously meet and respond to Department requests focused on measures of financial health.

“I know that no one act will fix all the challenges of long term care, but I am satisfied that this approval is a step forward, to be followed by many future steps to protect the policyholders,” Navarro said.

Source: Delaware Insurance Department.

California Insurance Commissioner

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – Commissioner Jones blasts Trump Administration rule interfering access to abortion, creating confusion that leads to loss of insurance

On Jan. 4, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sent a letter to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services opposing the proposed rule “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Exchange Program Integrity.”

This proposed rule pertains to policies through the exchange, and would require insurers to send separate bills each month for consumers who enroll in health insurance policies that include abortion coverage. The bill would cover the portion of the premium charged for abortion services. State law requires that health insurance policies include abortion coverage.

In part, Commissioner Jones’ letter reads:

“Californians have an inalienable right to privacy secured by the California Constitution, and that right includes the right to choose whether to bear a child or choose to obtain an abortion. The State of California is forbidden from denying or interfering with someone exercising that right.”

“I urge you to withdraw the amendments to the Segregation of Funds for Abortion Services federal rule (45 CFR § 156.280) found in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Exchange Program Integrity proposed rule. The proposed amendments to 45 CFR § 156.280 serve no purpose other than interfering with access to abortion, and have the potential to create substantial consumer confusion, which could result in cancelation of health coverage generally for some individuals. In California alone this ill-conceived proposed regulation would affect more than 1.3 million consumers enrolled in qualified health plans (QHPs) through California’s Exchange, Covered California.”

“The proposed amendment to the Segregation of Funds for Abortion Services rule found in the Exchange Program Integrity proposed rule is unnecessary and extraordinarily burdensome to consumers and health insurers.”

“It is both absurd and punitive to single out this one medical service and require a separate bill and separate payment be made for this coverage. In addition to inappropriately interfering with a woman’s right to abortion coverage, this rule will likely result in the cancellation of the health insurance policies of consumers who fail to understand these burdensome rules.”

“The proposed changes to 45 CFR § 156.280 are entirely arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with statute, and come with unacceptable costs to both consumers and QHP issuers. California Department of Insurance strongly opposes the proposed changes to the existing language of § 156.280, because these changes will harm consumers, issuers, and health insurance markets. This proposed regulation, a burdensome federal government intrusion, serves no legitimate purpose and should be withdrawn.”

Source: California Insurance Department.

Report detailing analysis of climate risk exposure of insurers’ investments now available

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – On Jan. 4, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones released the results of analysis of climate risk exposure faced by insurance industry investors. The climate risk scenario analysis, prepared for the Department by leading climate risk modeler 2° Investing Initiative, is the first of its kind to include analysis of both physical and transition risks faced by insurers assets.  An under 2 degrees Celsius scenario is also included in the analysis for the first time.

“This initiative shows that scenario analysis is an accessible tool for financial supervisors to monitor both physical and transition climate risks and support their regulated entities on managing these risks. It creates a blueprint that other financial supervisors can follow. Automated, scalable and technology driven solutions related to sustainability are ushering in an era of more cost effective supervision – both for supervisors and financial institutions,” said Jakob Thomae, Managing Director, 2° Investing Initiative.

The climate risk scenario reveals that insurer assets are exposed to climate-related transition risks with the possibility of fossil fuel investments becoming stranded assets and that  these assets face additional risks due to climate-related physical impacts. For example, investments in coal-powered utilities are significantly exposed to wildfires and that a number of other assets in which insurers invest could be adversely impacted by water scarcity.

“Insurers, like all investors, need to analyze and consider the climate change related risks facing their considerable investment portfolios,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “While we are the first financial regulator to undertake an analysis of both climate-related physical risks and transition risks to insurer investments, we know that other financial regulators as well as investors are also moving forward to implement the important recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, including climate risk scenario analysis. I urge insurance companies to run multiple scenarios in assessing their investment and underwriting exposure to climate-related risk, especially in light of the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and US National Climate Assessment reports and the adoption of an international Paris Agreement ‘rulebook’ at COP 24 all of which point to a transition away from burning fossil fuels. Climate-related physical risks such as wildfires are also becoming more pronounced, with implications for insurers as underwriters and investors.”

Source: California Insurance Department.

Supreme Court denies review of decision upholding Commissioner’s Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations

(Los Angeles, CA – Insurance News 360) – A decade of legal battles over the implementation of the Unfair Insurance Practices Act (UIPA), the California Supreme Court denied review of the 4th Appellate District’s decision that upheld Commissioner Dave Jones’ Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations. The regulations detail how insurance claims must be processed, and are the foundation of determining how many violations occur as part of the fine assessment process.

This allows the Department of Insurance to levy up to $91 million in fines against PacifiCare for numerous unfair claims practices, including wrongful denials for life-saving treatment for people battling serious illness and claim payment denials for providers and hospitals—all because the insurer was focused on maximizing profits through what it called “efficiencies” after the 2005 botched $9 billion acquisition of PacifiCare by UnitedHealthcare. Examinations revealed that the company knew about these issues.

Misrepresenting what medications or treatments an insurance policy covers, failing to promptly pay claims where liability is reasonably clear, and forcing claimants to file lawsuits to get full payment, and other acts are considered unfair practices. The Insurance Code allows the commissioner to impose fines of up to $5,000 each time an insurer commits an unfair act or practice on a consumer, or up to $10,000 each time if the insurer did so willfully.

“UnitedHealthcare purchased PacifiCare and imposed cost-cutting measures that destroyed PacifiCare’s claims-handling processes and its arguments in litigation that insurance companies should be allowed to willfully harm consumers as long as they don’t do it too often, reflect a gross disregard of the lives and well-being of the consumers who paid for the promise of coverage,” Commissioner Jones said. “Customers have no choice but to rely on the integrity of their health insurance companies. PacifiCare breached that trust. By any measure, 908,000 violations reflect a general business practice of violating consumer protection laws. I am delighted the Supreme Court has rejected further challenges to the insurance commissioner’s authority to punish insurance companies for knowingly harming even one consumer.”

Based on departmental examination results and following an administrative hearing that took three years, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones found PacifiCare committed 908,547 separate violations of the UIPA, and he imposed fines aggregating $173,603,750 in penalties. On behalf of PacifiCare, UnitedHealthcare sued the commissioner, arguing that none of its harmful conduct violated the Insurance Code.

The Appeals Court rejected PacifiCare’s argument that insurers are immune from fines for unfair acts, stating “PacifiCare’s interpretation of section 790.03(h) is not only internally problematic, it stands in contrast to virtually every other statute the Legislature has enacted in connection with (1) enforcement of the Insurance Code against insurers generally; (2) enforcement of the UIPA in particular; and (3) the imposition of administrative penalties against insurers in other contexts.”

The court also rejected PacifiCare’s argument that the commissioner must prove an insurer had “actual knowledge” of its illegal conduct and held that it was within the commissioner’s authority to hold the insurer responsible if its agents or employees were aware of facts that would cause a reasonable person to know of the violations. The court also found the commissioner’s reasoning was sensible in that restricting the definition of “knowingly” to one particular individual’s actual knowledge would fail to take into account that many people handle a claim, and an unfair practice can be committed by cumulative acts, not simply the intentional act of one person.”

Source: California Insurance Department.

California Insurance Commissioner estimates COIN impact investments could reach $29 billion

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – Investments through the California Organized Invenstment Network (COIN) are expected to reach $29 billion by the end of 2018, according to California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

The report explains the program, which sources and structures financially sound investments for insurers. The expected outcome is based on prior data call findings and tracking of these investments, which support renewable energy projects, affordable housing opportunities, health centers, economic development, jobs, and numerous other social and environmental benefits in the state.

Insurance company holdings in California community development and green investments have more than tripled from $6.6 billion at the end of 2010 to $22 billion at the end of 2015, according to prior data call findings. Growth trends show that COIN could have quadrupled from $6.6 billion in 2010, when Commissioner Jones was first elected to lead the Department of Insurance.

“Insurer investments into California’s underserved communities and environment remain crucial to the economic development of the State,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “I encourage policymakers to authorize the Department of Insurance to obtain annual reporting from insurers on their community and green investments in California and to reinstate the COIN CDFI Tax Credit.”

Established in 1996, COIN is a collaborative effort between the California Department of Insurance, insurance industry, community affordable housing and economic development organizations, and community advocates to support investments benefitting California’s environment and low-to-moderate (LMI) income and rural communities.

Source: California Insurance Department.

California releases report on prescription drug costs and insurance costs

(Sacramento, CA – Insurance News 360) – On Jan. 2, the California Department of Insurance released the Prescription Drug Cost Transparency Report, which compiles information from nine health insurers about prescription drug coverage.

The report includes information on prescription drugs dispensed at a plan pharmacy, network pharmacy, or mail order pharmacy for outpatient use, and include the following drug categories: generic, brand name, and specialty. CDI-regulated insurers reported to the department the 25 most frequently prescribed drugs, the 25 most costly drugs by total annual plan spending, and the 25 drugs with the highest year-over-year increase in total annual plan spending for calendar year 2017 for individual and group coverage. This mandated reporting by insurers is meant to demonstrate the overall impact of drug costs on health insurance premiums in California.

“Our Prescription Drug Cost Transparency Report is an important first step toward providing more information for consumers and policymakers regarding the cost of drugs,” said Commissioner Jones. “More work needs to be done by policymakers to address the rising cost of drugs which significantly contribute to overall healthcare costs and health insurance premiums.”

Source: California Insurance Department.

Job openings, hiring fall in November

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey for November revealed a drop to 6.9 million openings and a slight decrease in hires to 5.7 million, and a slight fall in quits to 3.4 million.

Job openings dropped 243,000 to 6.9 percent on the last day of November, and job openings in the private sector decreased by 237,000. There was little change in government.

Job openings in “other services” and construction both fell (66,000 and 45,000, respectively).

The number of new hires dropped by 218,000 to 5.7 million in November, and the rate of hires was 3.8 percent overall. The federal government increased hiring by 8,000 positions, but professional and business services fell by 167,000, and total private sector hires fell by 236,000.

Separations didn’t change much, with 5.5 million in November, and a rate of 3.7 percent. Total separations decreased in professional and business services (-122,000) and in accommodation and food services (-88,000). The number of total separations was little changed in all four regions. The number of quits fell by 112,000. In professional and business services, there was a drop of 84,000; accommodation and food services saw a decrease of 62,000.

Source: U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Arkansas residents see 10 percent increase in options to get insurance from agents and agencies

(Little Rock, AR – Insurance News 360) – From 2017 to 2018, the state of Arkansas saw an increase in insurance producers and adjusters – from 122,053 at the end of 2017 to 135,291 at the end of 2018.

Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr announced this finding on Jan. 4.

“I am very proud of the record of new insurance jobs and businesses the Arkansas Insurance Department has had through my first four years as Commissioner.  It is a testament to the ‘open for business’ culture Governor Hutchinson has created in Arkansas.  The Department will continue to promote our state as a welcoming home for the insurance industry and a land of opportunities for new insurance agents,” he said.

Since December 2014, the number of licensed insurance producers and adjusters has increased by more than half. Licensed insurance agencies also saw a 4.9 percent increase as of Dec. 31, 2018, up to 9,723 from 9,269 the previous year.

Source: Arkansas Insurance Department.

Enrollees with high deductibles engage more in healthcare than traditional plan enrollees

(Washington, D.C. – Insurance News 360) – The 14th annual survey of consumer engagement in health care shows that consumers are more cost-conscious and seek more information than in years past.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates conducted a consumer engagement survey that looked at value-based health insurance design, growth of high deductible plans and their impact on consumers’ behavior and attitudes.

The study revealed that nearly half of enrollees in a high deductible health plan were in a plan paired with a consumer-directed health plan (with a health savings account, or health reimbursement arrangement. Also, those who enrolled in high deductible plans are more engaged than traditional plan enrollees.

These are also more likely to look for information and exhibit cost-conscious behaviors. They are more likely to research doctors and hospitals, inquire about generic drug options, seek less costly treatment solutions, negotiate lower prices for services,and ask questions about coverage for specific medications. They are also more likely to create a budget for medical expenses, use online cost-tracking tools offered by healthcare providers, and take preventative measures to preserve health, including enrolling in wellness programs. But, those differences though, may be tied to outside factors.

“HDHP enrollees have a higher level of education than traditional plan enrollees, consider themselves to be in very good health, and receive a higher level of income,” said Paul Fronstin, Director of Health Education, Employee Benefits Research Institute. “It is important to remember that these advantages may drive people to select the HDHP option.”

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute U.S.