Model, dealer selection affected by word-of-mouth and online research when looking for a new car

(Singapore – Insurance News 360) – In the United Arab Emirates, nearly 75 percent of buyers ask friends or relatives for car advice, or do online research to choose a model and brand of vehicle to purchase, according to the JD Power 2018 UAE Sales Satisfaction Index study.

Vehicle pricing, features specifications, warranty, sale promotions, and dealer information are the most-cited information searched for by vehicle buyers who look online. But, 18 percent visit the dealer they end up purchasing from

Sixty-eight percent of new vehicle buyers who looked online did contact the purchasing dealership for one reason or another. The study did reveal that individuals who shop online are slightly less satisfied with their purchase than those who buy in person.

“As the path to new vehicle purchases increasingly relies on online sources, it is imperative for manufacturers and dealerships to design websites that feature the required information sought by buyers and are easy to navigate across multiple devices,” said Shantanu Majumdar, Regional Director Automotive Practice at J.D. Power. “Given that word-of-mouth plays a strong role in influencing purchase decisions, dealerships that can actively manage their reputation online stand a better chance to enhance their retail experience, and ultimately, win new customers.”

Study Rankings

In the mass market category, Kia ranks highest in sales satisfaction, followed by Ford and Nissan. In the luxury category, Land Rover has the highest satisfaction ratings, followed by BMW and Infiniti.  859. Ford ranks second with a score of 855, while Nissan ranks third with a score of 854.

The 2018 U.A.E. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study measures satisfaction with the sales experience among new-vehicle buyers. Buyer satisfaction is based on six measures: dealership facility (25%); delivery process (23%); dealer sales consultant (20%); paperwork completion (17%); working out the deal (10%); and dealership website (5%).

The study is based on responses from 2,083 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle between March through November 2018. The study is a comprehensive analysis of the new-vehicle purchase experience and measures customer satisfaction with the selling dealer (satisfaction among buyers). The study occurred  from July through November 2018.

Source: J.D. Power.

On Jan. 3, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the final weekly enrollment snapshot for 2019.

(Baltimore, MD – Insurance News 360) – Each week, through the enrollment period,  CMS took enrollment snapshots that give point-in-time estimates of plan selections, call center activity, and visits to healthcare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov. This final report shows new plan selections, active plan renewals and automatic enrollments.

The snapshot includes the following:

Plan selections between Nov.1- Dec. 22: 8,411,614

New consumers: 2,072,115

Consumers renewing coverage: 6,339,499

Call Center volume: 5,781, 920

Calls with Spanish-Speaking Representative: 396,895

Healthcare.gov users; 15,857,282

CuidadoDeSalud.gov users: 588,088

Window-Shopping Healthcare.gov users: 1,439, 953

CMS will release additional data in March, including final plan selection data from State-based Exchanges that do not use the HealthCare.gov platform.

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Center for Medicare Services releases final snapshot for 2019 Federal Exchange open enrollment period

(Baltimore, MD – Insurance News 360) – On Jan. 3, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a final snapshot for the 2019 Federal exchange open enrollment period. Enrollment was steady, with more than 8.4 million enrolling. The CMS says this represents steady enrollment when a strengthening economy and job Dmarket may be reducing need and demand for subsidized healthcare.

Several factors may have contributed:

More than two million jobs were added to the economy, compared to the prior year, which led to the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years.

More people had access to job-based health coverage.

Virginia’s Medicaid population expanded, and that means 100,000 exchange enrollees would be eligible for expanded Medicaid.

“Congratulations to everyone at CMS who executed another very successful Open Enrollment period through HealthCare.gov.  Our team worked day and night to ensure those who wanted coverage on the Exchange could easily pick a plan,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Similar to last year, CMS committed resources to cost-effective, high-impact outreach during this year’s Open Enrollment that increased as the deadline approached. For instance, CMS sent over 700 million reminder emails and text messages to consumers, as well as 3.2 million outreach emails to help Navigators, agents, and brokers assist consumers.  In addition, senior Administration officials, including the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CMS Administrator, encouraged people to enroll through television and radio interviews broadcasted to more than 195 stations across the country.

To view the final enrollment snapshot, visit: https://cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/final-weekly-enrollment-snapshot-2019-enrollment-period

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Final Rule Creates Pathways to Success for the Medicare Shared Savings Program

(Baltimore, MD – Insurance News 360) – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule which creates a new direction for the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The new direction is called Pathways to Success and redesigns participation options to encourage Accountable Care Organizations to move to performance-based risk more quickly, and for those ACOs that are eligible to increase savings for trust funds. They also address additional tools and flexibilities for these organizations, as established in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

These additional tools include new beneficiary incentives, telehealth services and choice beneficiary assignment methodology. This final rule also finalizes the program’s policy for extreme and uncontrollable circumstances for performance year 2017.

CMS will offer an application cycle for a single new agreement period starting July 1, 2019, to avoid interrupting participation by ACOs  that elected on Dec. 31, 2018 to extend their agreement period for an additional six month performance year.

CMS will resume the usual annual application cycle for agreement periods starting on January 1, 2020, and in subsequent years.

Major changes include the availability of an optional 6-month extension for ACOs whose agreements expired on Dec. 31, 2018, methodology for determining financial and quality performance, ; a reduction in the Shared Savings Program core quality measure set by eight measures and a new Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) threshold criterion to determine ACOs’ eligibility for program participation in order to promote interoperability among ACO providers/suppliers; refinements to the voluntary alignment process. They also implement policies to address the impact of these changes are expected to allow beneficiaries more flexibility when choosing medical providers.

Shared Savings Program ACOs serve more than 10.5 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. This program helps CMS payment systems to move from pay for volume to instead look at paying for value and outcomes.  The Shared Savings Program originally had three tracks, and the most popular seems to be a one-sided shared savings-only model in Track 1. ACOs receive a share of savings under their benchmark, but are not required to repay a share of spending over the benchmark.  Tracks two and three give ACOs a larger portion of savings under benchmark, but those ACOs are required to share the losses if they spend above the benchmark.

There are now two options starting July 1, 2019 and in subsequent years:

(1) BASIC track, which would allow eligible ACOs to begin under a one-sided model and incrementally phase-in higher levels of risk that, at the highest level, would qualify as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) under the Quality Payment Program, and

(2) ENHANCED track, based on the program’s existing Track 3, which provides additional tools and flexibility for ACOs that take on the highest level of risk and potential reward. Appendix A summarizes the characteristics of the participation options.

The BASIC track’s glide path offers an incremental approach to transitioning eligible ACOs to higher levels of risk and potential reward. The glide path includes 5 levels:  a one-sided model available only for the first two years to most eligible ACOs (ACOs identified as having previously participated in the program under Track 1 would be restricted to a single year under a one-sided model, but new, low revenue ACOs that are not identified as re-entering ACOs would be allowed up to three years under a one-sided model); and three levels of progressively higher risk in years 3 through 5 of the agreement period.

Under Levels A and B of the glide path, an ACO’s maximum shared savings rate under a one-sided model will be 40 percent based on quality performance, applicable to first dollar shared savings after the ACO meets the minimum savings rate. Under Levels C, D, and E of the glide path, an ACO can earn up to a maximum 50 percent sharing rate under a two-sided model, based on quality performance. The glide path concludes with a maximum level of risk that qualifies as an Advanced APM for purposes of the Quality Payment Program.

ACOs in the BASIC track glide path generally will be automatically advanced at the start of each performance year along the progression of risk/reward levels or could elect to move more quickly to a higher level of risk/reward, over the course of their agreement period. While the typical agreement period will be 5 years in duration, with 12-month performance years based on calendar years, ACOs entering an agreement period beginning on July 1, 2019, would participate in a first performance year of 6 months for the period from July 2019 – December 2019 plus 5 additional years in their first agreement period. For ACOs entering the BASIC track’s glide path for an agreement period beginning on July 1, 2019, the first automatic advancement occur at the start of performance year 2021.  Additionally, a new, low revenue ACO in the glide path that is not identified as a re-entering ACO will be permitted to choose to remain at Level B for an additional year, in exchange for agreeing to progress immediately to Level E at the start of the fourth performance year (or fifth, in the case of an agreement period starting on July 1, 2019).

The eligibility criteria for the BASIC track and ENHANCED track recognize differences in ACO participants’ Medicare FFS revenue and the experience of the ACO and its ACO participants with performance-based risk Medicare ACO initiatives. We will determine whether an ACO is a low revenue ACO versus a high revenue ACO, and whether an ACO is experienced or inexperienced with performance-based risk Medicare ACO initiatives. Based on stakeholder feedback, we have increased the threshold for low revenue ACOs to include ACOs with ACO participants’ total Medicare Parts A and B FFS revenue of less than 35 percent of the total Medicare Parts A and B FFS expenditures for the ACO’s assigned beneficiaries to capture additional ACOs, especially those that include clinics or smaller institutional providers, including rural ACOs. Ultimately, all ACOs are expected to transition to the ENHANCED track under the redesigned program. Low revenue ACOs are allowed additional time under lower-risk options within the BASIC track, while ACOs identified as high revenue are required to transition to the ENHANCED track more quickly.

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Department of Transportation announces $908 million loan for Cotton Belt Corridor Regional Rail Project

(Washington, WA – Insurance News 360) – On Dec. 21, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced the Build America Bureau has awarded a $908 million Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) direct loan to Dallas Area Rapid Transit to finance the Cotton Belt Corridor Regional Rail Project.

“This financing demonstrates the Department’s commitment to serving as a trustworthy partner to regional and local agencies, which are at the forefront of developing infrastructure solutions to meet the needs of their communities,” said Secretary Chao.

The Cotton Belt Corridor Regional Rail Project is a 26-mile passenger railroad from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) International Airpor to the Plano/Richardson area, covering three counties and seven cities.  The project will be constructed primarily within the existing DART-owned railroad right-of-way. The tracks are currently used for freight rail service provided by short line and regional carriers. The project will upgrade existing track to meet passenger rail standards, convert single-track to double, and build 10 new stations. Funds will also be  used to acquire eight vehicles.

The Cotton Belt Corridor Regional Rail Project is expected to improve mobility, accessibility, and system linkages to major employment, population, and activity centers in the northern part of Dallas, which has long been identified as a heavily congested area in need of additional capacity and mobility solutions.  When operational, the project will provide a cross regional route linking DART’s Red, Green, and Orange lines, as well as the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) A-Train.

The Bureau, which administers the RRIF credit program, was established as a “one-stop shop” to streamline credit opportunities, while also providing technical assistance and encouraging innovative best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and monitoring.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.

Bureau of Economic Analysis releases estimates for gross domestic product, corporate profits

(Suitland, MD – Insurance News 360) – For the third quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis has released a report that revealed real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 3.4 percent, according to the third estimate. This is a decline from the second quarter, when real GDP increased by 4.2 percent.

The GDP estimate released on Dec. 21, 2018, shows that personal consumption expenditures and exports were revised down, while private inventory investment went up.

Real domestic income (GDI) rose by 4.3 percent in the third quarter of 2018; the average of real GDP and real GDI increased 3.8 percent in the same quarter. The current-dollar GDP increased 4.9 percent. $246.3 billion in the quarter; during the second quarter, current-dollar GDP increased 7.6 percent.

Corporate profits from current production rose 78.2 billion in the third quarter, $13.2 billion more than the second quarter. Profits from domestic financial corporations fell by $6.1 billion; profits from domestic non-financial corporations increased $83 billion and the rest-of-the-world profits increased $1.3 billion.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, US.

Bureau of Economic Analysis releases estimates for gross domestic product, corporate profits

(Suitland, MD – Insurance News 360) – For the third quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis has released a report that revealed real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 3.4 percent, according to the third estimate. This is a decline from the second quarter, when real GDP increased by 4.2 percent.

The GDP estimate released on Dec. 21, 2018, shows that personal consumption expenditures and exports were revised down, while private inventory investment went up.

Real domestic income (GDI) rose by 4.3 percent in the third quarter of 2018; the average of real GDP and real GDI increased 3.8 percent in the same quarter. The current-dollar GDP increased 4.9 percent. $246.3 billion in the quarter; during the second quarter, current-dollar GDP increased 7.6 percent.

Corporate profits from current production rose 78.2 billion in the third quarter, $13.2 billion more than the second quarter. Profits from domestic financial corporations fell by $6.1 billion; profits from domestic non-financial corporations increased $83 billion and the rest-of-the-world profits increased $1.3 billion.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S.

Personal income, outlays analyzed by the Bureau of Economic Analysis

(Suitland, MD – Insurance News 360) – The Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report on the November 2018 personal income and outlays of individuals in the United States. The report, released on Dec. 18, 2018 revealed that personal income increased by .2 percent ($40.2 billion) during the month of November; disposable personal income increased by $37.8 billion, and personal consumption expenditures increased by $54.4 billion.

The BEA notes that the personal income increase comes mostly from farm proprietors’ income, increases in wages and increases in salaries. These were offset by personal dividend income and social security benefits. Farm proprietors’ income rose by $14.9 billion, including subsidy paymenst from the Department of Agriculture’s Market Facilitation Program.

Personal outlays rose by $56.6 billion, and personal saving was $944.2 billion. The personal saving rate was 6 percent.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S.

Fire deaths in Mississippi rise in 2018

(Jackson, MS – Insurance News 360) – Seventy nine individuals died from fire-related issues in 2018 across the state of Mississippi; the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) investigated 74 of those cases and local agencies investigated the others. This is an increase from 56 deaths in 2017 and 53 investigations by the SFMO.

This is a 36 percent increase, but State Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Ricky Davis does not call this a record-breaking number.

“As recently as 2006, the SFMO has investigated upwards of 100 fire deaths,” Davis said. ”In fact, in the last five years, we’ve significantly lowered the number of preventable fire deaths across the state. I can’t say specifically why the numbers are higher this year, but in a majority of these cases, a working smoke alarm could have saved lives.”

Of the 74 deaths investigated by SFMO, nearly 40 cases showed that there was no working smoke alarm.

State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney notes that a dozen cases involved the presence of non-working smoke alarms.  “It’s upsetting because these fires were preventable, and in every one of these cases, a life could have been saved,” Chaney said. “The State Fire Marshal Office doesn’t just investigate after a fire has occurred. Our educators are out working in communities and schools every day.”

The SFMO urges people to install and maintain smoke alarms, make escape plans specific to their homes, and keep lighters away from children’s reach.

Electrical fires top the list, linked with 21 deaths. There were 13 cases where a cause for the fire could not be determined.

Source: Mississippi Insurance Department.

Tennessee residents get millions back through mediation

(Nashville, TN – Insurance News 360) – The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance returned or located more than $17.9 million in 2019 through mediation and recovery of lost life insurance benefits, the department announced on Jan. 10.

Tennessee residents received more than $5.6 million through mediation, where TDCI insurance investigators worked with insurance companies and policy holders to overturn and pay wrongfully denied claims. In 2017, consumers received more than $6.5 million through those efforts.

Additionally, $11,695,834 in life insurance benefits was located in 2018 through the Life Insurance Policy Locator Service. This free service, which is provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) via TDCI’s Insurance Division, assists consumers in finding insurance policies or annuities for deceased loves ones. In 2017, nearly $3 million was returned to consumers through the Life Insurance Policy Locator Service.

“I’m proud of the efforts this year by our Insurance Division to help deserving consumers get the benefits of their insurance coverages,” said TDCI Commissioner and NAIC Past President Julie Mix McPeak. “We encourage Tennesseans to always remember to call our team with questions about their insurance coverages or to learn what resources may be available.”

In addition to the Department’s mediation and recovery efforts, the Insurance Division levied over $600,000 in civil penalties through disciplinary actions taken on behalf of Tennessee consumers against licensees who were found to be in violation of state insurance laws.

TDCI encourages consumers to contact the Department if they feel they have been unjustly denied a claim, if they have experienced unlicensed or unlawful activity, or even if they have a question or concern about their insurance policies.

If you have questions about insurance, visit the department’s website or call 1-800-342-4029 or (615) 741-2218.

Source: Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance.