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Special Report: Wildfire — California’s Tragedy ​

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018

This is written on Sunday, November 18th late in the day. The last story Weekly Industry News saw on the ongoing Camp Fire tragedy showed 76 people dead and over 1,200 missing.

Both figures stagger the imagination. An entire city up in flames in such a short time? So many people dead? So many people missing? There are no words. None.

Already Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is acting. He has asked insurers to agree to expedite claims handling for Camp and Woolsey wildfire survivors. This to help them begin the recovery and rebuilding process.

“Victims of these devastating wildfires need all the help we can provide,” Jones said, “I am asking California insurers to adopt these expedited claims handling procedures to get help to policyholders more quickly, so they may begin working on rebuilding their homes and their lives.”

Since most of the homes were totally burned up, Jones said policyholders in Paradise — the victims of the Camp Fire — especially have little of what insurers need to begin the claims process.

 

The debate now is what to do.

The National Interagency Fire Center said as of last week, 1.6 million acres have been burned in California from 7,500 fires. Moody’s says losses from the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire will hit $6.8 billion or more.

Losses last year hit $16 billion. That’s 4x the losses in 2016. A.M. Best said this year’s fire losses will be at record levels.

Best predicts the 10 largest premium writers in California will post direct loss and adjustment expense ratios an average of 3.7 times higher than 2017. “The catastrophe events of 2018 will likely cause significant earnings volatility and could stress some balance sheets. Insurers have responded to a certain extent to the wildfires of 2017, but the lessons learned from the 2018 events will again call for re-evaluation of their underwriting and risk management strategies,” A.M. Best said in its report.

The big problem California has is the number of people in the critical wilderness urban interface. In California the number is 15.5 million. Nationwide the figure rose from 30.8 million in 1990 to 43.4 million in 2010.

It’s the fastest growing land use type in the country.

U.S. Fire Service researcher Jack Cohen says limiting the danger of fire begins with state’s regulators. They need to come up with new guidelines for what he calls the Home Ignition Zone.

This is a 100-foot area around a property. Cohen thinks — in spite of the size and intensity of a fire — if this area is properly care for, fire will likely not destroy or damage a dwelling.

Here are his recommendations:

  Replace flammable wood roofs

  Between 100 feet and 30 feet from the house, space trees so that the fire can’t jump between them and is forced to the ground

  Between 30 and 5 feet, landscape and design so the ground fire loses steam, by removing fuels like tall grasses and wood piles

  Within 5 feet of the house, use design elements that stop fire, like rock beds and well-irrigated grass

  Make sure the garage door has a tight seal with the concrete

  Remove highly flammable trees, such as decorative juniper trees

President Barack Obama’s climate advisor Alice Hill agrees the increase in wildfire losses is a land-use issue. She contends too many homes are built in the interface. While we’d still have the fires, with less homes in those areas we wouldn’t see as much human destruction.

Ironically, California — though it has huge numbers in the wilderness urban interface — has the most aggressive building codes in the country and does not allow local governments to opt out of those codes. Buildings in high risk areas need to be built with fire-resistant materials with construction techniques that help retard fire.

So it still boils down to too many people living in those areas.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s office responded to the issue and sent out a statement he made on building standards and building in the wildfire urban interface earlier this year. “Yes we need good building standards. But when you say more building standards, I always want to say let’s do this very carefully because it is complex. That does raise costs. So we have to protect, but I want to do it in the wisest way possible,” the governor noted.

Molly Mowery is the CEO of Wildfire Planning International. She says the problem with Brown’s comment is how narrowly state and local officials define a high-risk area. What appears safe on paper is not always safe up-close-and-personal. “More and more places around the country are getting affected in areas that were never labeled extreme. We need to stop thinking in terms of limited areas,” she said.

Back to Cohen’s recommendations, Hill said older homes are at much higher risk of catching fire and being a threat to the buildings around them. “I think they should be examining it,” however, “To replace a wood shake roof is a very expensive matter,” she said.

 

Source links: California Department of Insurance, Risk & Insurance, Insurance Journal, Fortune, Bloomberg

Tags:  Camp Fire  Wildfires Impact California Insurance & Other West 

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Cyber Threats — Small Business Still Not Prepared

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018


It’s been a year since the WannaCry ransomware struck. In a four-day period it attacked 300,000 computers, and cost businesses and individuals billions of dollars.

Gad Naveh of Check Point's Threat Intelligence and Research & Development team did some research on what’s happened in the past year. Since then hackers have created offshoots of the ransomware and they are creating more chaos. His research also points out that — in spite of the continuing threat — businesses still aren’t prepared.

  77% of chief information security officers (CISO) say they are not equipped to handle these attacks

  Staffing challenges are a problem

  Security technology conflicting with business operation is another

  Just 3% of businesses have the protection needed to repel an attack

  79% are using security solutions from generations two and three

By the way, Naveh points out that we are now up to generation five — Gen V — of this kind of ransomware. The genesis of ransomware is pre-2000.

He is very critical of nations and businesses and says it’s time for the U.S. and other nations to put an end to this problem. He writes, “It does not really matter who launches an attack or why — countries and global business communities simply need to defend themselves better — because the large-scale, multi-vector nature of these attacks are several generations beyond the average enterprise’s security capabilities.

The reality is we’re spending trillions globally on military defense technologies, but investing only a fraction of that on defending businesses and infrastructure against cyber attacks.”

He suggests going back to the basics to start:

  Segment networks to quarantine attacks

  Segmentation stops them from propagating

  Deploy advanced, real-time threat prevention

  This stops attacks before they get a foothold on a network or networks

  Do this across all environments:

  Networks

  Cloud

  Mobile

He also notes we need to get past petty differences and work together — large businesses and small. “Because cyber attacks have become the modern weapon of choice for crippling critical infrastructure, we must work together as a global cybe security community to not only protect individual organizations but also to create a shared vision around protecting cities, nations, and the citizens within them. Without a concerted, collaborative effort, we can expect nations, communities, and our most trusted companies to continue to be woefully unprotected against the next mega cyber attack,” he said.

Another report comes to similar conclusions. Datto is a cyber security and data backup company. It recently released its third annual Global State of the Channel Ransomware Report.

The report says ransom ware is the leading cyber attack experience by small to medium-sized businesses (SMB). Ransomware tops viruses and spyware as the biggest threat to their firms.

  55% of managed service providers (MSP) said their clients experienced a ransomware attack in the first six-months of this year

  35% said their clients were attacked many times

  Some said they were attacked multiple times during a day

  92% of MSPs predict the number of attacks will continue at this rate or a higher rate

 

In the report, the MSPs said their clients have anti-virus software but it’s not enough.

  85% report ransomware protection is installed

  65% say email and spam filters are installed

  29% say their clients have pop-up blockers

 

All failed to block the ransomware attacks.

As we know, downtime for a small business leads to lost revenue. If the downtime is long enough, a small business can fail. The report says, the downtime and cost of the attack in other areas is 10-times what it costs to pay the ransom.

  The average cost per business is $46,800

  The average ransom is $4,300 per attack

 

James Bergl is is a director at Datto APAC. He said most businesses don’t report these attacks and just one in four get reported to authorities.

By the way, if you’re an Apple user and think you’re safe, Bergl said Apple operating systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable. In the report, five times as many MSPs reported ransomware attacks on the macOS and iOS platforms from last year to this.

He said the worst attacks are happening in Asia.

The report said the best protection against a ransomware attack is employee training. Education and training are highly recommended. And it is suggested that the training be ongoing and in areas where ransomware attacks are must likely to occur:

  Phishing attacks

  Malicious websites

  Web ads

  Clickbait directed toward a business

 

Source links: The Next Web, Security Asia

Tags:  cyber attacks  Cyber security  cyber threats  insurance content 

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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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Millennials and Basic Insurance

Posted By Joey Leffel, Monday, November 19, 2018
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2018

 

Liberty Mutual took a hard look at millennials and how they approach insurance. The conclusion is that millennials — more than the other generations — work hard to protect their technology and their pets but overlook basic insurance needs.

The insurer found they are the largest generation of renters ever. A whopping 43% rent but just 42% have renters insurance. In fact, over a quarter of the millennials surveyed said they are looking for ways to cut the cost of their auto, home and renters insurance.

Liberty Mutual’s Emily Fink believes that’s because of a lack of insurance knowledge and that lack of knowledge is — as you know — exposing them to potential loss or damages.

  33% say it never occurred to them to get renters insurance

  31% think getting insurance is too complicated

“The unexpected is inevitable, and it’s important for all generations to understand the importance and value of having good insurance coverage customized to individual needs,” she said.

Here’s what Fink — and Liberty Mutual — find ironic.

  29% say they have special insurance to cover their technology

  Of those having that special insurance, 51% don’t have renters insurance

Fink’s conclusion? Smart phones and computers are considered more important than other belongings. There’s more.

  Many millennials say they’re trying to save money

  However, the value of their personal property is quite high

  Take jewelry for example — it averages more than $2,000 in value

  Yet only 22% of millennials think it is “extremely” important to have insurance to cover that $2,000

  Just 20% have opted to insure those valuable items

Pets

on the other hand — are very important. Millennials are the mostly likely generation to purchase or adopt a dog or cat. The survey says a high percentage will — if they don’t have one now — buy or adopt a pet in the next year. All are willing to make financial tradeoffs to take care of a pet’s wellbeing. That’s the highest of any generation — ever.

  57% own a pet now

  31% of millennials have pet insurance

  Just 8% of baby boomers have pet insurance

  Just 15% of Generation X have pet insurance

When it comes to their health compared to their pet’s?

  37% are likely to skip their own medical treatments to cover their pet’s needs

  28% of generation X will do that

  Just 21% of baby boomers will do the same

 

Source link: Media Post

Tags:  insurance content  insurance news  liberty mutual  Millenials  Millenials and insurance  pet insurance 

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​ FIO Director Bags the Job & Moves On

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018


Steve Dreyer took the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) Director’s job in June. Last Friday was his last day on the job. He took the FIO job after an extensive vetting process and now feels it wasn’t the best career decision.

His background says he’s probably a good choice. Dreyer spent 25-years working for Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (now S&P Global) where he specialized in insurance and infrastructure and enterprise risk management.

Not to be, he said, and he resigned.

“Although we have been able to accomplish quite a bit during my time here, upon reflection, I have recognized that working in government turned out to be quite different from my time in the private sector, and I believe that my experiences can be best applied in other pursuits,” Dreyer said after announcing his departure to staff.

Dreyer is the second FIO director. Michael McRaith headed the office from its inception in 2011. Steve Seitz will now serve as acting director.

PIA National has always opposed the FIO and believes it usurps the regulation of insurance by states.

Source link: PropertyCasualty360.com

Tags:  Federal Insurance Office  FIO  PIA National  Steve Dreyer 

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Montana — MSF Suit Leader to Lead House

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018


Montana State Representative Greg Hertz has been elected as the Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives. Former PIA National President Fred Thomas failed in his effort to be elected Senate President but has retained his position as the Senate Majority Leader.

Sen. Scott Sales will continue as the Senate President.

Since early this year all insurance eyes in Montana have been on Hertz. He spearheaded a lawsuit over the taking of workers’ compensation dollars by the state’s governor and Legislature. He’s at the forefront challenges to a movement by some states to tap into workers’ compensation funds to balance a budget.

So far only Montana has seen a Legislature actually take the dollars.

Hertz heads the Montana State Fund Justice Coalition. They sued over the 3% fee and claim it is unconstitutional for the state to take surplus dollars from the state fund. The law says — Hertz and his group contend — those dollars will be sent back to the policyholders.

He owns Moody’s Market, Inc. in Polson. It is one of the eight businesses and one business group that filed the actual suit.

Hertz said he’s going to focus on unity in the upcoming session and will work at uniting the hard core and moderate conservatives in the state’s Republican dominated House.

The Senate is also dominated by Republicans and Thomas said he has a 10-point plan for the session. Much of it is focused on the budget. “We need to unite. We need to elect a Republican governor,” Thomas said. “I think those things go hand in hand.”

Source link: The Independent Record

Tags:  Fred Thomas  greg hertz  Montana state representative  spearker of montana house of representatives 

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​ Robocalls — A Growing Problem

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018

We worry about data theft and cyber attacks. They take the focus these days when it comes to business and consumers. Try this for a statistic. There were 30.5 billion robocalls made in 2017.

It’s an average of 100 robocalls for every adult in the country and is a 19% hike over 2016. Things will likely get worse early next year when the statistics are released for 2018.

Shockingly, 50% to 60% of these calls are legal. They are:

  Debt collection

  Political calls

  Charity calls

  Flight delays

  Prescription refill reminders

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) spokesman Will Wiquist said his agency picked up 4.5 million robocall complaints in 2017. That’s up from 3.4 million in 2016.

“While unfortunately there is no silver bullet for solving it, we’re working hard to tackle this problem through a number of public policy initiatives and enforcement actions,” he said. “We recently passed new rules to allow phone companies to block calls that are likely to be illegal robocalls, and we’re looking at ways to authenticate caller ID information so consumers know who is really calling and blocking services can stop scammers.”

Here’s what the FTC suggests you do:

  Don’t answer calls with an unfamiliar phone number. Let it go to voicemail and call back if it’s legit.

  Don’t trust caller ID. While it’s a good way to screen calls, you cannot rely on it to guarantee the validity of the phone number displayed.

  Don’t follow the instructions to press 1 or 2 to get removed from their call list. That doesn’t work. It simply tells them that they’ve reached a working phone number and you’re likely to get more spam calls.

  Never call back and don’t engage with them. Telephone swindlers do this for a living. They know how to get you to give them your personal information. Once you do that, you can’t take it back.

 

Source links: NBC News, Consumer Affairs

Tags:  calling tips  FTC  Robocall complaint  Robocalls 

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Around the PIA Western Alliance States

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018

Around the Western Alliance States

 

Alaska

Work Comp Rates

 Workers’ compensation rates are falling in Alaska. On January 1st businesses will see an average 17.5% drop. That’s a 14.8% drop for voluntary loss costs.

Alaska Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier said yes to the new rates based on the recommendation of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). The new rates for 2019 follow a 5.4% decrease in 2017.

Rates in the state have fallen by 25% since 2015.

Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas said, “This would be the biggest year-to-year decrease in workers’ compensation rates in 40 years. The department worked tirelessly to reform the workers’ compensation system to increase efficiency and lower medical costs, both major factors in premiums.”

Governor Bill Walker agrees. “These proposed rate reductions are welcome news for Alaska businesses — lower workers’ compensation costs reduce the burden on the small businesses that strengthen our economy,” he said.

Source link: Business Insurance

 

Idaho

Notice of Company Applying to become an Idaho Certified Insurer

 As of November 8, 2018, Hannover Rück SE of Hannover, Germany (AA-1340125 and NAIC Company Code 10241) has applied to become a Certified Reinsurer in the State of Idaho.

For questions or concerns regarding this application, please contact Nathan Faragher with the Idaho Department of Insurance no later than December 9, 2018.  He can be reached at 208-334-4250, or by e-mail at:  nathan.faragher@doi.idaho.gov.   

Visit doi.idaho.gov for further information.

 

Wildlife & Roadways

An increased potential for vehicular accidents involving deer and elk on Idaho roadways occurs during fall when cooler weather encourages wildlife activity.  The Idaho Department of Insurance urges drivers to always drive with caution and to be on the lookout for animals on the roadway, most particularly during dawn and dusk when wildlife tends to be more active.

During this time, deer and elk naturally migrate to lower, warmer elevations, increasing their chances of crossing paths with a vehicle on the road.  Deer, elk and other wildlife tend to travel in herds, so if you see one, others may follow.  According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA), about 1.5 million deer-related auto accidents happen nationwide each year, resulting in more than $1 billion in annual insured losses.

“Driving requires your full attention, most especially in rural areas or near migration routes where wildlife can make their way onto open roadways,” said Director Dean Cameron.  “It’s also important to review your auto policy and make sure you have proper coverage that can protect your loved ones and other drivers.”

‘Comprehensive’ coverage and not liability or collision is the portion of an automobile policy that Department officials say will pay for auto damages caused by wildlife.  Filing a claim for an accident covered by comprehensive coverage may still require paying a deductible before the insurer will cover the cost of the claim up to the policy limit.  Contact your insurance agent to discuss adding comprehensive coverage that will cover animal collisions.  Always be sure to take photos or video of any damage to support an insurance claim.

 

Oregon

Oregon Democratic Leadership

 Oregon House Democrats, fresh off election victories that saw the caucus’ majority expand to 38 members, has elected their new leadership team for the 2019 Legislative session.  Rep. Tina Kotek has been nominated to serve an additional term as Speaker of the House, while Rep. Jennifer Williamson was re-elected to serve in her role as the House Majority Leader.

Oregon Senate Democrats elected the following state senators to leadership positions:

Senate President Designate: Peter Courtney, D-Salem;

Senate President Pro Tempore Designate: Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham;

Senate Majority Leader: Ginny Burdick, D-Portland;

Senate Deputy Majority Leader: Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton;

In the 2019 Session, Democrats will hold an 18-12 majority in the Senate.

 

Workers’ compensation claims processing locations, reporting, recordkeeping; employer coverage requirements and effects of noncompliance

The Workers’ Compensation Division has published final rules to its website: https://wcd.oregon.gov/laws/Documents/New_rules/50-18061-posted-new.pdf.

 

The revised rules are in:

OAR 436-050, Employer/Insurer Coverage Responsibility; and

OAR 436-080, Noncomplying Employers.

These rules are substantially the same as when previously proposed. No public testimony was submitted regarding the proposed rules or presented at the hearing. A summary of the changes is included at the bottom of this message.

Please let me know if you have questions.

Fred Bruyns, policy analyst/rules coordinator

Department of Consumer and Business Services

Workers' Compensation Division

503-947-7717; fax 503-947-7514

Email: fred.h.bruyns@oregon.gov

Summary of changes in OAR 436-050:

Amended rule 0005 defines “claims processing location” as a place of business maintained or operated by an insurer, self-insured employer, self-insured employer group, or service company to process claims and keeps records as required by ORS 731.475 and 656.455. The rule excludes a post office box, commercial mail receiving agency, virtual office, or an employee’s place of residence from the definition.

Amended rule 0045 restores the definition of “adult foster home” removed from the rule by Administrative Order 16-054, effective 1/1/17.

Amended rule 0110 clarifies the requirements for in-state claims processing by insurers, and for registration of claims processing locations. The rule clarifies notification requirements for insurers that use service companies, and specifies what elements must be included in the agreement between the insurer and each service company. The rule also adds references to optional forms for use by insurers.

Amended rule 0120 includes minor clarifying wording changes regarding the requirements for maintenance, removal, and disposition of Oregon claim records.

Amended rule 0210 clarifies the requirements for in-state claims processing by self-insured employers, and for registration of claims processing locations. The rule clarifies notification requirements for self-insured employers that use service companies, and specifies what elements must be included in the agreement between the employer and each service company. The rule also adds references to optional forms for use by self-insured employers.

Amended rule 0220 includes minor clarifying wording changes regarding the requirements for maintenance, removal, and disposition of Oregon claim records, and replaces reference to “claim records” with “claims records.”

Summary of changes in OAR 436-080:

Repealed rule 0001 included a statement of the director’s authority for promulgating rules – removed because this authority is provided under ORS chapter 656, and it does not need to be stated in rule.

Repealed rule 0002 included a statement of purpose that has been moved, with wording changes, to rule 0003.

Amended rule 0003 includes a statement of purpose to replace the statement in repealed rule 0002, and the rule explains that the director may waive procedural rules as justice requires, unless otherwise obligated by statute.

Amended rule 0005 defines “noncomplying employer order,” and removes definitions of certain terms no longer used in these rules or that are defined in ORS chapter 656.

Repealed rule 0006 explained that orders issued by the division are considered to be orders of the director; however, all orders under these rules are orders of the director.

Amended rule 0010 describes the procedure for an employer to contest a noncomplying employer order and the consequence of not appealing the order within the time allowed.

Repealed rule 0020 explained the consequences if an employer does not appeal a noncomplying employer order within the time allowed, and this provision has been moved to rule 0010.

Repealed rule 0030 explained procedures for an employer to contest a noncomplying employer order, and this provision has been moved and reworded to rule 0010. The provisions of rule 0030 related to the agency’s participation in hearing are replaced with a reference to OAR 436-001-0030.

Amended rule 0040:

  Provides for the director’s discretion to impose civil penalties under ORS 656.735(2) in amounts less than $250 per day, consistent with statute

  Specifies methods that may be used for the calculation of premium amounts that would have been paid if the employer had obtained coverage, to include estimation of payroll when necessary, and application of assigned risk rates established by the National Council on Compensation Insurance

  Has clearer wording and is reorganized to enhance clarity

Amended rule 0060 has clearer wording and includes a statement that OAR 436-001-0030(2) to (5) apply to hearings regarding non-subjectivity determinations.

Amended rule 0065 has clearer wording regarding determination of an assigned claims agent.

Amended rule 0070 has clearer wording regarding reimbursement of the assigned claims agent.

Amended rule 0080 has clearer wording and removes a provision explaining which section within the Department of Consumer and Business services is responsible for collection of moneys owed by noncomplying employers.

Tags:  Around the PIA Western Alliance States  idaho insurance  oregon insurance 

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Wildfire — More Tragedy in Very Dry California

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, November 13, 2018


At the time this is written — Monday afternoon, November 12th at 7:00 p.m. PST — at least 42 people have died in the current outbreak of wildfire in the used to be Golden State. Experts say it’s likely that figure is going to rise since, again at the time this is written, over 200 people are still considered missing.

Governor Jerry Brown has requested disaster help from the federal government and President Trump.

The fire that destroyed almost the entire city of Paradise is called the Camp Fire. The city — just East of Chico — was a town of 27,000 people. Over 6,700 structures — almost all of them homes — are gone. It is now considered the most destructive fire in the state’s history.

Since it is a low-income retirement community, experts say there is no way the city will rebuild.

In Southern California the Woolsey Fire ripped through Malibu and destroyed mansions as well as middle-class suburban homes. Over 250,000 people were ordered to evacuate. At the time this is written 370 structures are gone and another 57,000 are in danger of being destroyed.

High winds are driving the fires and it is going to be awhile before they are contained.

In addressing California’s latest need to the president, Brown said the state is grateful for the help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gave to the California Office of Emergency Services for the fires that tore through the state this past summer.

However, more help is needed now.

The governor worries that the president will — again — criticize the state’s forest management policies. Trump has been a constant critic. On Sunday the president tweeted, “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!”

Brown countered and said, “Managing all the forests in every way we can does not stop climate change. Those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we’re now witnessing and will continue to witness in the coming years.”

But rather than fight with the president, the governor hopes ways can be found to mitigate the risk in the future with local, state and federal agencies working together.

“This is real here. It’s not a question of pointing this way or that way, but pulling together in these tragic circumstances and thinking wisely and collaboratively,” Brown said.

A summer ago Brown called the destructive wildfires the “new normal.” At a press conference on Sunday he changed that assessment. “This is not the new normal. This is the new abnormal, and this new abnormal will continue certainly in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years. Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify,” Brown said.

Malibu’s Woolsey Fire destroyed the homes of many celebrities and damaged those of a number of others. Miley Cyrus, rocker Neil Young and actor Gerard Butler are among those with total losses.

Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian West, Rainn Wilson, Alyssa Milano, Robin Thicke, and Caitlyn Jenner escaped damage but did have to flee their homes over the weekend. Cyrus sent out a tweet that said, “I am one of the lucky ones. My animals and LOVE OF MY LIFE made it out safely & that’s all that matters right now. My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong.”

She’s encouraging people to help with relief efforts by sending money and supplies to relief organizations.

Young pointed to global warming and climate change as the cause and he urged action on their impact. He also praised the firefighters who have worked so heroically to battle California’s many blazes.

“Firefighters have never seen anything like this in their lives. I have heard that said countless times in the past two days, and I have lost my home before to a California fire, now another. Hopefully we can come together as a people to take climate change on. We have the tools and could do it if we tried. There is no downside,” he wrote.

 

Source links: FM News 101 KXL, The New York Times, KSBY TV, MSN

Tags:  camp fire  Golden state wildfire  jerry brown  paradise california  woolsey fire 

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PIA National & Other Groups Respond to Mid-Term Election

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Democrats will control the U.S. House of Representatives when the 116th Congress is sworn in next January. Republicans will keep control of the Senate and have added to the number of seats the party holds.

So getting anything done for the two-years to follow will require bipartisanship.

PIA National is asking those in leadership in Congress to find bipartisan solutions for the insurance issues before us. Spokesman Jon Gentile — PIA National’s Vice President of Government Relations — said, “PIA will continue to advocate for policies that help independent insurance agents protect consumers: a strong National Flood Insurance Program and crop insurance program, the strengthening of employer-sponsored healthcare, and opposition to proposals that chip away at the successful state insurance regulatory system,” he said.

In the meantime, Gentile added — even though this is now a lame-duck Congress — it’s important for the 115th Congress to still be working on those goals as well.

Gentile and the PIA are not alone. Maggie Seidel of the American Insurance Association (AIA) added, “The AIA’s work on behalf of its members and their policyholders has always been — and will continue to be — bipartisan. We look forward to continuing to work with House Democrats and Republicans on a number of important P&C issues in the new Congress.”

Top on the mind of insurance these days is reforming the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Craig Poulton heads the private flood insurer Poulton Associates. He hopes the current Congress can get reforms done but says the House has put in the work but the Senate has not.

“The House had discussed and had come up with a set of reauthorization criteria that they were ready to act on and again, the Senate said, don’t pass the bill yet, let us look at it, and they just continue to keep it stalled,” Poulton noted.

What happens next? Whatever it is, Poulton isn’t optimistic. “Even though Democrats are in charge of the House, most of them had already looked at this issue and said, here are the kind of reforms we need to do, so if they see any light at the end of the Senate tunnel, I would expect the House to be willing to do something along the lines of what they’ve previously proposed. It’s really the Senate where the bottleneck is, and it’s more geographic than it is political.”

Nat Wienecke of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) is somewhat optimistic about flood reforms. Since California Representative Maxine Waters — who has had a hand in previous flood reform legislation — is now going to head the House Financial Services Committee, Wienecke expects new flood legislation early next year.

But like Poulton, he wonders if anything is going to get done. “The question is, can the Senate find 60 votes and what does that compromise look like, and that challenge doesn’t change as a result of the election,” Wienecke noted.

Gentile said the PIA wants a long-term NFIP solution with reforms accompanying the legislation. “Since we also support efforts to encourage the development of the private flood insurance market, the expanded Republican majority in the Senate could present a good opportunity for the entry of additional private flood resources into the marketplace,” he said.

He — and the PIA and other insurance associations — hope the looming flood issue can generate some bipartisan cooperation.

“We hope these changes to the composition of Congress will encourage a renewed spirit of bipartisanship in terms of creating opportunities for insurance agents to expand their businesses and increase the take-up rate for flood and other essential lines of insurance,” Gentile said.

Wienecke said the PCI also wants Congress — and Waters specifically — to look at data protection. “I have a reasonably high degree of confidence that one of the major issues that will come up in this Congress is the issue of consumer data privacy, and I would expect to see Congress discussing and debating with legislative solutions to consumer data privacy similar to the California legislation that passed or GDPR in Europe,” Wienecke said.

He’s also very surprised that — with all the controversy lately over data theft and data loss from applications like Facebook — nothing was done. 

“With all the hearings that we’ve had with the social media companies this year, there was no bill or effort in this Congress to do that. That is almost impossible for me to see in the next Congress — I would be shocked if there weren’t legislation in the next Congress on consumer privacy,” he said.

In conclusion, Gentile said the PIA expects a split-controlled Congress will be a positive and not a negative. “While a lot has been accomplished under two years of singular control — including passage of tax reform, which led to many agents and brokers being able to qualify for a very helpful pass-through tax deduction — we now may see other positive actions as the result of this split Congress,” he added.

Source links: PIA National, Insurance Business America

Tags:  116th Congress  Democrats House  PIA National  Republicans Senate 

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