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PIA Western Alliance Hosts Ruble in Seattle, WA

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018
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SPECIAL REPORT: Montana State Fund

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018

 

UPDATE

Earlier this year the Montana State Fund Justice Coalition filed a suit against the state of Montana. More than 30 Montana businesses and associations — including the Professional Independent Agents (PIA) of Montana — have contributed to help fund the lawsuit. The group is fighting a decision by the Montana Legislature to illegally take money from the assets of the Montana State Fund (MSF). The money taken from the state’s workers’ compensation fund totals $30 million and will be used for fire suppression.

 

The suit is now before the Montana Supreme Court.

 

The Montana State Fund Justice Coalition is led by Polson, Montana Republican State Representative and businessman Greg Hertz.

 

He recently updated Weekly Industry News on what is happening with the suit. “This money [MSF premiums] is collected as insurance payments from policyholders to be used for the benefit of injured workers. These funds are private assets and it is unconstitutional for the government to disguise this taking as a ‘fee’ and use the money for purposes that are not related to workers compensation,” he said.

 

Hertz told us the state filed a motion to dismiss soon after coalition filed its suit. A hearing on that led to a denial. When that motion was denied the MSF then filed its own motion to dismiss. The coalition is still waiting on the court’s decision on that motion.

 

Another wrinkle in the suit is the coalition filing a motion to amend its own suit. It asks to add some Montana State Fund board members to the suit. As expected, the State of Montana and the Montana State Fund oppose coalition’s motion to amend.

 

As it stands now, Hertz said it will take some time before the court can make a decision “because our amended complaint does have some monetary claims we are required under State law to submit the claims to the Department of Administration/Tort Claims Division. They have 120 days to accept the claim and pay it, or to deny it. If denied, the matter is then filed with the Court. The Court has indicated it wants to hear what the position is, and will wait 120 days to see. Thus, until 120 days pass, which will be January 14, 2019, there will likely be no activity in this case.”

 

The membership of the PIA got involved in the issue when PIA Montana President Travis Clark first brought this issue to our attention. Since then PIA members and the PIA Western Alliance have stepped up to help fund the lawsuit.

 

In his statement Clark said, “The Montana Constitution orders the money it collects, the interest on that money and any dividends from investments to only be used for workers compensation-related purposes. It can also be given back in the form of dividends but that’s it.”

 

MSF policyholder Wayne Dykstra — who is also a former MSF board member — is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. He agrees with the PIA Montana position. “When there are excess dollars in the State Fund, they have, by law, been returned to policyholders to reduce premiums and the cost of doing business in Montana. This is an outright seizure of private assets that would set a precedent and put our workers compensation system in jeopardy,” he said.

 

This is a problem that could spread and that the PIA Western Alliance is watching very closely. Many states have quasi-public workers’ compensation companies. They appear to have deep pockets and with budgets tight in almost every state these days, Legislatures are tempted to raid the coffers of these agencies.

 

It almost happened in the PIA Western Alliance state of Oregon with its SAIF Corporation and has now happened in Montana. Other states could follow. The PIA Western Alliance — representing independent insurance agents and companies in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington — opposes such actions.

 

Here are some of the groups supporting the Montana coalition:

 

  The Professional Insurance Agents of Montana (PIA)

  The Montana Chamber of Commerce

  Montana Roofing Contractors

  Montana Building Industry Association

  National Federation of Independent Business

  Montana Motor Carriers Association

  The Independent Insurance Agents Association

 

For more information contact Greg Hertz, at 406-253-9505.

Tags:  INSURANCE CONTENT  Montana State Fund  PIA Western Alliance 

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PIA Montana Joint Conference — Last Call

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Last call.

 

Well, almost a last call. The annual Professional Independent Agents (PIA) of Montana Joint Conference is set for the Double Tree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater in Missoula, Montana on October 25th and 26th.

Like all PIA Montana conferences, this one is specifically designed with you — the independent agent/broker, customer service representative or marketing representatives — in mind. How? Education. Networking. Camaraderie. A fabulous trade show with the latest in products and services.

Oh, and lots of fun. So what’s not to love?

Plus, attend the entire conference and you can earn you up to 12 CE Credits total! There are five possible on Thursday and seven on Friday.

 

About the Sessions

  Technology Impcts on Our Industry and How ACT Helps Agents Respond — 3 CE

  X,Y, and Z — Can Younger Generations Keep Insurance Alive? — 2 CE

  Defending Employment Claims from the Beginning — 2 CE

  Safety in Montana: There is Hope! — 1 CE

  Uber, Lyft & The Ride Share Economy — 2 CE

  Employment Practices Liability Coverages — 3 CE

  Legislative Changes —1 CE

  Errors & Omissions: It’s not a problem until it’s a problem — 3 CE

  BnB Rentals, Drones, Autonomous Vehicles and other Miscellaneous things that Cause Loss Issues — 3 CE

 

Click here to register

Click here for the agenda

Click here for session details

Click here to see the exhibitors

Click here for reservations

 

The annual Montana Conference title sponsors are Liberty Mutual and Safeco. Click here to see the sponsors. 

Tags:  Insurance Content  Montant Joint Conference  PIA Western Alliance 

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Travelers & Amazon Team Up — Smart Home Kits

Posted By Joey Leffel, Tuesday, October 16, 2018


 

Weekly Industry News received news about this program from PIA National. The association is reviewing the positives and negatives and will keep us — and you — informed.

Travelers’ has teamed up with Amazon to provide homeowners with smart home hits. The kits are designed to provide home maintenance tips, help with billing, and to do other important things that benefit the client and the company.

Participants will be offered homeowners insurance discounts.

Travelers said the kits will use Alexa to provide the homeowner’s tips. An Amazon Alexa Echo Dot comes along with the purchase of the smart home kit. Discounts will also be given for the installation through Amazon Smart Home Services.

Here’s what the kits include:

•  Security cameras

•  Water sensors

•  Motion detectors with multi-sensor capabilities

•  A smart home hub that wirelessly connects a wide range of smart devices and enables them to work together

And — as noted earlier — an Echo Dot that features some new Alexa skills comes along with the package and it has:

•  A skill to help the policyholder with questions regarding billing and payments

•  A skill that lets the consumer access property maintenance and home safety tips

Other skills will be added as the program develops.

At the present time the new Travelers program is only available in a few states but the company has plans to increase the number of states in the near future. The only PIA Western Alliance state where the smart home kit program is available is California. The others — for now — are Colorado, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Travelers executives are very happy with the new program. Company Chairman and CEO Alan Schnitzer said, “This is an exciting example of Travelers executing on our innovation agenda to be the undeniable choice for the customer and an indispensable partner for our agents and brokers. It advances our priorities of extending our lead in risk expertise and providing great experiences for our customers, agents and brokers.”

Michael Klein is the Executive Vice President and President of Personal Insurance at Travelers. He echoed Schnitzer’s comments about the program and added, “Smart home technology is making it easier for all of us to monitor our homes and help protect us from some of the most common causes of damage. Our Amazon digital storefront conveniently brings together smart home devices, installation services, discounts and insurance knowledge in one central location to help our customers and agents manage risk and take a more proactive approach to home safety.”

Klein said consumers interested in the program will be directed from the Travelers storefront on Amazon to the Travelers website, or to an independent insurance agent. Plus, he said Travelers network of independent agents can also use the program to market to current and prospective customers.

“We continually look for innovative ways to help our agents grow their business, and we’re thrilled that this collaboration with Amazon will give them another way to differentiate themselves and Travelers in the marketplace,” Klein added.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in learning more, you can access the Travelers program by clicking here

Tags:  Amazon  Around the PIA Western Alliance States  insurance content  Travelers' insurance 

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CVS Can Buy Aetna — Justice Department Decides

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018


The U.S. Justice Department has approved CVS’s purchase of Aetna. The price is $68 billion. Originally the department said no to the sale on antitrust terms. To make the sale work, Aetna sold its Medicare drug plan arm. Justice Department antitrust department head Makan Delrahim said that took care of the department’s concerns.

“The divestitures required here allow for the creation of an integrated pharmacy and health benefits company that has the potential to generate benefits by improving the quality and lowering the costs of the healthcare services that American consumers can obtain,” he said.

If the sale happened as planned the two companies would have owned more than 30% of the market share of standalone Medicare drug plans. The Justice Department worried that the 6.8 million members would give CVS too much control.

The sale fixes things.

The purpose of the merger — the two companies say — is to save on patient care costs and on administrative costs. Aetna’s customers would be encouraged to use the CVS store walk-in clinics. The costs — to the patient — would be far less than visits to other doctors.

CVS hopes costs can be cut by $750 million a year by the end of the second year of the merger.

It is the second large deal the department has approved. On September 17th Cigna’s $52 billion purchase of Express Scripts Holding Co. was approved.

The PIA Western Alliance states of California and Washington joined the antitrust effort as did Florida, Hawaii and Mississippi. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “We know that over consolidation is bad for healthcare and leaves millions of Californians with fewer options. We will keep close watch to ensure that the terms of this settlement are met.”

A lot of critics are upset about the Justice Department deal. However — and to be fair — the department has recently stopped a couple of important deals for antitrust reasons. They are Aetna’s $37 billion shot at buying Humana and the Anthem-Cigna deal.

CVS Chief Executive Larry Merlo said the deal could close early in the fourth quarter.

Source links: Insurance Journal, Insurance Business America

Tags:  Aetna  CVS  insurance content  PIA Western Alliance 

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Mergers & Acquisitions — The Boom Continues

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A couple of different reports say 2018 is one of the most active merger and acquisition years in history. The first is from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The first nine-months of 2018 saw $39.1 billion in what it terms “aggregate transaction value.”

That figure is the largest since 2015 and it makes 2018 the busiest year since 1998. The S&P report predicts the merger and acquisition boom will continue into next year. It also predicts the deal value for the whole year will be 150% more than 2017.

S&P Global Market Intelligence senior insurance analyst Tim Zawacki said, “We are in a period where insurance carriers are reevaluating what is core to their franchise and pushing for greater efficiency in both expenses and capital utilization, which in turn is driving deal volume close to record highs. With a continued push for consolidation even after one of the most active years for P&C and life insurance M&A, a variety of factors will continue to drive transaction deal value beyond 2018.”

The S&P report believes federal tax reform and interest from international “acquirers” is the reason for the jump this year. Those reasons and the auto insurance industry could play a role in next year’s increases.

“Uncertainty about the future of the auto insurance business may be a driver of consolidation in the near term. We project that the private and commercial auto business will account for 43.3% of the US P&C industry’s total premium writings in 2018,” Zawacki said.

A second report from OPTIS Partners’ M&A database echoes the S&P Global Market Intelligence report. It has a count and says there were 463 insurance agency mergers and acquisitions during the first three quarters of this year. It is the second-highest nine-month total in history.

 

The only year it is behind is last year when there were 466 mergers at this point in time.

 

The OPTIS Partners report says there are four different types of deals:

  Private equity-backed/hybrid brokers

  Privately held brokers

  Publicly held brokers

  All others

 

Daniel Metzger of OPTIS said, “The impressive level of M&A activity seen during the quarter and throughout 2018 is a continuation of what we’ve seen over the last several years. Buyers, in particular, the private equity/privately funded group, continue to aggressively pursue agency owners and are driving valuation multiples to unprecedented levels across the board.”

Here are the leaders for the first nine-months of 2018:

  Acrisure had the most at 70 transactions

  Hub International Limited did 47

  AssuredPartners had 30

  Arthur J. Gallagher and Broadstreet Partners had 23 each

More than 65% of the transactions were private equity transactions. They total 311. Privately owned agency transactions are down from 2017 to 89 verses 111.

  Most of the sales are property and casualty agencies at 250

  Employee benefits are second with 114

  P&C benefit brokers had 56 deals

  Other transactions totaled 43

 

Source links: Insurance Business America, Insurance Journal

Tags:  insurance content  mergers and acquisitions  PIA Western Alliance 

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MarketScout — Third Quarter Insurance Rates

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018


 

MarketScout said the third quarter of 2018 looked good. Rates rose 2.5% on average.

  Commercial lines did best with a jump of 6%

  Commercial property is up 3%

  General liability rose 3%

  Employment practices liability increased 3%

 

Smaller increases were had by other lines. Not all was roses:

  Workers compensation saw a decline of 3%

  Surety stayed flat

 

MarketScout CEO Richard Kerr said, “Rates continue to move slowly upward as insurers take a measured approach to price increases. However, transportation and commercial auto rates continue to be assessed with more aggressive rate increases. Clearly, insurers feel these exposures are tough and merit aggressive rate increases,” Kerr noted and then added, “Moreover, the market is accepting the increases because of the small number of insurers willing to write commercial auto and trucking risks.”

In the industry class one major change from the second to third quarter is with contractors. Rates rose in that line by 4%. The rise was 3% in the second quarter. They went from a 4% increase in the second quarter to 3% in the third.

  Small and medium accounts — up to $25,000 — saw a 3% hike on average

  Medium accounts — $25,001-$250,000 — saw the same percentage

  Large accounts — $250,001-$1 million — jumped 2%

  Jumbo accounts — $1 million and over — also saw a 2% rise

Source link: Business Insurance

Tags:  commercial lines  insurance content  marketscout  PIA Western Alliance 

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Around the PIA Western Alliance States

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018

 

Alaska

Marijuana Sales: The tax revenue from the sale of marijuana continues to grow in Alaska. In August the state took in $1.5 million. That’s a new high. In fact, state officials say the only month this year where tax revenue has been below $1 million is February.

By the way, it is cultivators who pay the tax when pot is sold or transferred from a licensed grow facility to a retail shop or to a facility that manufacturers product.

So far this year the Alaska Department of Revenue says $15.8 million has been collected — so far — since sales became legal in October of 2016.

Source link: Insurance Journal

 

California

Work Comp Claim Frequency Privately Insured: Workers’ compensation claims reported by those in California who self-insure rose last year. It is the first jump in a decade.

According to the Office of Self-Insurance Plans (OSIP) these businesses cover 2.26 million employees. That’s down from the 2.37 million insured in 2017. The wages and salaries for the employees hit $103.9 billion — or 2.9% more than the total from 2016.

The OSIP said these self-insured companies said there were 79,655 claims. That’s 1,251 more claims than 2016 or 1.6%. While it went up in the last reported year, the claim numbers are still 31.5% below 2003’s level.

Source link: Insurance Journal

 

Wildfire Update: On July 13th of this year the Ferguson Fire started in California. It burned 100,000 acres of the Sierra National Forest, the Stanislaus National forest, Yosemite National Park and other state lands. It killed two people.

From the outset, officials believed the fire was started by a vehicle. Last week a report was released that said, “investigators believe superheated pieces of a catalytic converter came into contact with dry, roadside vegetation, igniting the fire.”

What wasn’t given was a description of the vehicle nor has it been located.

In a related story, the cause of last year’s Cascade Fire has been found. It is one of a complex of fires that killed four people and destroyed 264 structures last October. Investigators suspected equipment from PG&E was the cause. That is now official. They say sagging power lines from PG&E equipment have been tagged as the official cause of the blaze.

Source links: CNN, Insurance Journal

 

Idaho

Medicare Workshop to be Offered in Lewiston: A free Medicare Workshop for individuals turning 65 and those approaching Medicare eligibility will be held Tuesday, October 16, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Community Action Partnership center, located at 124 New 6th St., Lewiston. 

Caregivers and all those interested in learning how Medicare works are encouraged to attend.

The workshop will be led by Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA), a unit of the Idaho Department of Insurance. SHIBA presenters will introduce the various parts of Medicare and explain some of the vocabulary associated with the program.  Topics to be covered include:

  Timeframes for enrolling in Medicare

  Enrollment periods for Medigap, Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans

  How the different parts of Medicare work together – and when they don’t

To register for the workshop, please contact the SHIBA office at 1-800-247-4422.

 

Idaho

Health Insurance Rates for 2019 Now Available to the Public: Final 2019 premium rates for individual and small group health insurance plans have been released by the Idaho Department of Insurance. In the individual market, plans will increase by an average of 5 percent, a significant reversal in the double-digit rate increases Idahoans have faced the past three years, and a figure slightly lower than the 8 percent increase proposed by health carriers this past spring.

From 2016 to 2018, Idaho has averaged a 24-percent yearly increase for individual plans, including last year’s spike of 27 percent.  The final 2019 rate adjustments and justifications for each carrier are published and can be viewed on the Department website at: https://doi.idaho.gov/consumer/RateReview/. Increases for bronze and silver plans remain the lowest, while rates for catastrophic plans will be the highest.

“Although I wish I could report no increase, I am thankful that the Department was able to work with the carriers in reducing the proposed increase,” said Director Dean Cameron. “I and the Department are continuing our efforts to offer more affordable health insurance products.”

Open enrollment for 2019 begins November 1, and those seeking coverage can visit the state’s insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho, at:  https://www.yourhealthidaho.org/.  Four carriers are offering a total of 293 plans, including three carriers providing coverage statewide.  Some consumers utilizing Your Health Idaho may be eligible for assistance covering premiums, out-of-pocket costs and deductibles.

Health insurance companies submit their proposed rate increases in the spring, and the Department works with carriers to evaluate these proposals.  The Department’s only authority is to deem a proposed rate increase as “unreasonable” and cannot simply disapprove rates.  Rate increase proposals are based on claims experience, premiums, network provider agreements and other costs.  The Department recommends consumers work with a licensed agent to help evaluate the various plan options.

 

Nevada

Record Pot Sales: Nevadans kicked off the first month of the new fiscal year with record sales of marijuana. Nevada’s Tax Department said there was $7.9 million in sales in July. That’s 11% higher than Fiscal Year 2018’s best three-months — March, May and June — all together.

It’s a 92% gain from the first sales in July of 2017 that hit just $4.1 million.

Source link: Insurance Journal

 

Oregon

DCBS releases national study on workers' compensation costs: Oregon’s workers’ compensation rates remain among the lowest in the nation, according to an analysis released today by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). This reflects the state’s ongoing success in making workplaces safer and keeping costs under control.

The biennial study ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C., based on premium rates that were in effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Oregon had the sixth least expensive rates in 2018, an improvement from its ranking as the seventh least expensive state the last time the study was done, in 2016. DCBS recently announced that Oregon workers’ compensation rates would decline further – an average 9.7 percent – in 2019. Workers’ compensation pays injured workers for lost wages and medical care for job-related injuries.

“Oregon continues to demonstrate that it’s possible to maintain low employer costs while providing strong support to workers,” Governor Kate Brown said. “We must remain committed to working together to balance employer rates and worker benefits, and to help injured workers heal and return to work quickly.” The study shows New York had the most expensive rates, followed by California. Meanwhile, North Dakota had the least expensive rates. In the Northwest, Washington’s rates were the 16th most expensive and Idaho was the 21st most expensive. Oregon researchers also compared each state’s rates to the national median (the 26th ranked state) rate of $1.70 per $100 of payroll. Oregon’s rate of $1.15 is 68 percent of the median.

To produce a valid comparison of states, which have various mixes of industries, the study calculates rates for each state using the same mix of the 50 industries with the highest workers’ compensation claims costs in Oregon. A summary of the study was posted today; the full report will be published later this year. Oregon has conducted these studies in even-numbered years since 1986, when Oregon’s rates were among the highest in the nation. The department reports the results to the Oregon Legislature as a performance measure. Oregon’s relatively low rate today underscores the success of the state’s workers’ compensation system reforms and its improvements in workplace safety and health.

Oregon has long taken a comprehensive approach to making workplaces safer, keeping business costs low, and providing strong worker benefits. This approach includes enforcing requirements that employers carry insurance for their workers, keeping medical costs under control, and helping injured workers return to work sooner and minimize the impact on their wages.

It also includes efforts to prevent on-the-job injuries by enforcing workplace safety and health rules, and advising employers about how to improve worker safety and health.

“Oregon employers and employees understand the importance of keeping workplaces safe,” said Cameron Smith, DCBS director. “That commitment continues to be a major factor in keeping costs down.” Here are some key links for the study/workers’ compensation costs:

  To read a summary of the study, go to https://www.oregon.gov/dcbs/reports/Documents/general/prem-sum/18-2082.pdf  

  Prior years’ summaries and full reports with details of study methods can be found at https://www.oregon.gov/dcbs/reports/protection/Pages/general-wc-system.aspx  

  Information on workers’ compensation costs in Oregon, including a map with these state rate rankings, is at https://www.oregon.gov/dcbs/cost/Pages/index.aspx

  Learn about Oregon’s return-to-work programs, workers’ compensation insurance requirements, and more at https://wcd.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx

  Request a no-cost workplace safety or health consultation, and learn about workplace safety and health requirements and resources at https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx

Tags:  Around the PIA Western Alliance States  insurance content  marijuana sales 

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SPECIAL REPORT: Montana State Fund

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 16, 2018

protecting main street insurance interests on capitol hill Legislative issues

Update

Montana Joint Fund

How the PIA Fights for you - Earlier this year the Montana State Fund Justice Coalition filed a suit against the state of Montana. More than 30 Montana businesses and associations — including the Professional Independent Agents (PIA) of Montana — have contributed to help fund the lawsuit. The group is fighting a decision by the Montana Legislature to illegally take money from the assets of the Montana State Fund (MSF).

The money taken from the state’s workers’ compensation fund totals $30 million and will be used for fire suppression.  The suit is now before the Montana Supreme Court. 

 

Click here to view the report.

Tags:  insurance content  Montana state fund  PIA Western Alliance 

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Pet Insurance — An Insurance Goldmine?

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, October 9, 2018


We all know about the growth of cyber insurance and predictions of profitability from that line. Another line that’s getting increasing attention is insurance for pets. Some in the U.S. these days forgo having children and focus — instead — love and attention on pets.

They are treated as children and family and part of that attention means health insurance for those pets is needed and important.

More and more people are discovering the benefits of pet insurance. The market research company Packaged Facts said pet insurance premiums hit close to $1 billion in 2017. By 2022 — the firm predicts — pet insurance will be double that at $2 billion. Package Fact research director David Sprinkle said as consumers become more aware of the availability, growth could hit about 14% per year.

Pet insurers are also doing what they can to make themselves known.

“Through marketing efforts and consumer education by pet insurance companies and associations, consumers are learning the benefits that pet insurance can offer when a pet becomes ill or is injured,” Sprinkle said. “For example, pet insurance companies use social media and their websites to grow consumer awareness for their offerings by sharing information on pet health, dog and cat breeds, and how pet insurance works. As market penetration remains low, these efforts are crucial to continued growth in the number of policies in force.”

In its study, Packaged Facts said there are trends to look for moving forward:

Partnerships: Pet insurance companies are developing partnerships with veterinarians, employers, animal shelters and breeders. These partnerships can help grow attention for the line for consumers who need such protection for their animals.

Consumer Perception: Many pet owners don’t get the insurance because they think it costs too much and covers too little. Or they think it isn’t necessary at all. Look for consumer education efforts to grow and more information getting to them about the value of the insurance and what it covers.

Payment Options: Like health insurance for people, paying for the insurance can be done a number of ways. Pet insurers are adapting similar payment options ranging from automatic withdrawal from checking accounts or credit card accounts to pet health savings accounts.

Mobile Apps & More: Insurers continue to streamline interaction between the pet owner and the company via mobile apps and other software.

Health Codes: Efforts are also underway to standardize the line which will make processing and making claims easier and more efficient.

Exotic Pets: Right now the insurance that can be purchased for exotic pets like birds or reptiles is limited. Efforts by insurers are underway to remedy that and create policies that will protect these rare pets.

Source link: Insurance Business America

Tags:  Insurance Content  packaged facts  pet insurance  pets  PIA 

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