Texas Agent Group absorbs Baker as Director of Health Insurance Information

 Given with new opportunity, Misty Baker has joined the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas as director of health insurance information. With this newly delegated role on her, Baker will take into position being a member resource for agency personnel working in life and health lines which includes employee benefits. Her task will include advising members regarding life and health issues and to develop related educational and training programs. She will also guide the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas (IIAT) about legislative and regulatory matters both in the life and health arena.

            Her thirteen years of service in the insurance industry proves that she deserves her new position. Last 2000, she founded Lonestar Benefit Solutions, an insurance industry which focuses on individual health insurance needs, health savings accounts and small group plans. In 2006, she was named to Texas Health Coverage Awareness and Education Program Task Force by Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) Commissioner Mike Geeslin. For four months starting last July, she was also the president elect of Texas Association Of Health Underwriters.

            As an affiliate, she has been an associate of the Austin Association of Health Underwriters (AAHU) since 1999 where she took office as the president. She worked for twelve years in the industry wherein she brought some on the remarkable advances in AAHU. She was also a director of legislative affairs for the Texas Association of Health Underwriters (TAHU) and is still the president-elect of TAHU.

            As a proof of her excellence in terms of service in the field, she was also a recipient of some awards. This includes 2003 Hutzler Award in Austin as outstanding service to the AAHU board; in 2005 and 2011 Tom Schilling Texan of the Year awards; the National Association of Health Underwriters 9NAHU) state legislative achievement award; the 2006 TAHU legislative award; the 2008 NAHU Spirit of Freedom Award; and the most recent of all is the 2010 Shirley Hutzler Legislative Excellence Award.

 

Michigan Governor Snyder Approves Jobless, Worker’s Comp Benefits Changes

Employers in the state of Michigan could potentially save cash for unemployment coverage and workman’s comp with changes enacted by Michigan’s Governor, Rick Snyder, last week. Opponents, however, state the changes could hinder hurt or unemployed individuals in receiving much-needed benefits.

The changes may require out-of-work individuals to become re-employed within two and a half months of receiving benefits, regardless if the work they take on falls outside previous employment experience, or requires a pay cut from previous employment. These changes could make it more difficult for an individual to receive unemployment benefits in cases of voluntary resignation or termination for cause.

The changes arrive on the heels of previous changes to law that truncate the amount of time unemployed individuals can receive benefits from the state – pruning the benefit to twenty weeks from the original twenty six. This change applies to those seeking new benefits beginning in January.

The Governor countered opponents who state that asking the unemployed to take employment paying 120% of the benefit they receive weekly could indenture them to underemployment by making it difficult to seek jobs more in line with their work experience.

The Governor stated that the new laws were meant to encourage employment, not to trap people into lesser employment. As Snyder explained, finding employment is easier when you have recent employment activity.

In addition, new changes to Michigan’s workman’s comp legislation – the first changes made to the law in more than twenty years – will require workers to take employment if they receive an offer of employment for a job they are physically capable of performing. Turning down offered employment runs the risk of having unemployment benefits terminated.

The Oxford GOP member Brad Jacobson explained, workers need to return to the work force as soon as practicable. Himself a business owner, he described seeing a previous employee receive workman’s compensation even beyond the point of being physically able to contribute to society.

This new legislation excludes certain municipal employees (such as fire and police workers) from the majority of new compensation guidelines. While Dems attempted to exclude other workers (such as corrections employees) these exclusions stalled as the changes headed through the approval process.

Michigan Governor Snyder Approves Jobless, Worker’s Comp Benefits Changes

Employers in the state of Michigan could potentially save cash for unemployment coverage and workman’s comp with changes enacted by Michigan’s Governor, Rick Snyder, last week. Opponents, however, state the changes could hinder hurt or unemployed individuals in receiving much-needed benefits.

The changes may require out-of-work individuals to become re-employed within two and a half months of receiving benefits, regardless if the work they take on falls outside previous employment experience, or requires a pay cut from previous employment. These changes could make it more difficult for an individual to receive unemployment benefits in cases of voluntary resignation or termination for cause.

The changes arrive on the heels of previous changes to law that truncate the amount of time unemployed individuals can receive benefits from the state – pruning the benefit to twenty weeks from the original twenty six. This change applies to those seeking new benefits beginning in January.

The Governor countered opponents who state that asking the unemployed to take employment paying 120% of the benefit they receive weekly could indenture them to underemployment by making it difficult to seek jobs more in line with their work experience.

The Governor stated that the new laws were meant to encourage employment, not to trap people into lesser employment. As Snyder explained, finding employment is easier when you have recent employment activity.

In addition, new changes to Michigan’s workman’s comp legislation – the first changes made to the law in more than twenty years – will require workers to take employment if they receive an offer of employment for a job they are physically capable of performing. Turning down offered employment runs the risk of having unemployment benefits terminated.

The Oxford GOP member Brad Jacobson explained, workers need to return to the work force as soon as practicable. Himself a business owner, he described seeing a previous employee receive workman’s compensation even beyond the point of being physically able to contribute to society.

This new legislation excludes certain municipal employees (such as fire and police workers) from the majority of new compensation guidelines. While Dems attempted to exclude other workers (such as corrections employees) these exclusions stalled as the changes headed through the approval process.

NFIP Faces Changes In Senate And House

The United States Senate voted unanimously to extend the NFIP into May of next year, with the House of Reps writing into law other changes to the program, and extending it into 2016. The temporary measure to extend this bill was sponsored by Senator Vitter, a Republican, and was passed by Senators on the 7th of this month. It now waits to be voted upon by the House of Reps, in order to circumvent the NFIP’s planned expiry on the 16th. Both branches are engaged in preparing legislation to extend this program for the next 5 years, and to make changes to the program. Representatives voted to pass their rendition of the law, the 2012 FIRA – a reform act for flood insurance.

The National Flood Program provides coverage to about five and a half million United States home and property owners. The SCB – a senate committee for banking oversight – passed a separate version of the bill; however, this reform still faces consideration by the entire Senate. In the event the Senate approves the considered legislation, Representatives and Senators must vote to approve the final language.

The National Flood Insurance Program is laboring under eighteen billion dollars in debt, at a cost of nearly two billion in premiums shouldered by taxpayers. As explained by Steve Ellis, the VP of the consumer group TCS, NFIP failed the people it was designed to serve. The program needs reform to be able to protect those who need it. According to Ellis, the bill represents cooperation between the parties that could be a great success for the Congress.

Some reforms proposed would mean increasing premium payments for flood-related insurance policies over the next 3 – 5 years, increases that could be as high as twenty percent each year. A panel of representatives from different agencies would work on updating criteria for flood mapping. Larger penalties and more stringent enforcement of laws concerning insuring in flood plains would also be on the table. One benefit to the insured would be an option to sell properties that suffer repetitive damages, in order to allow those owners to leave flood-affected locations.

SEC Requires Mines To Report Safety Issues To Investors

Mining operations in the United States will now be required to arm their investment providers with new reports outlining data concerning violations, in accordance with new requirements set by the SEC yesterday.

The requirements, put into place by 2010’s Wall Street reform legislation, are to start taking effect one month after their publication. These new standards will compel organizations to offer individual disclosures concerning mines, with information on violations of the 1977 federal Mine Safety Act.

The organizations will also be required to report on litigation, and comprehensive reports on penalties levied in the report timeframe, regardless of the organization’s ongoing involvement in contestation.

The bill begins the first of a triad of mining disclosure requirements ratified by the SEC since the Dodd-Frank legislation was passed last year. Currently, the Securities Commission is delaying ratification of the remaining sets of requirements – those concerning “conflict” minerals and reports for organizations conducting resource extraction, after mining organizations and industry associations pushed back against these two items.

The proposal regarding conflict minerals – clearly the most provocative requirement proposed – would compel companies to report the use of certain minerals such as gold, tantalum, and tin derived from the Congo (an area currently embroiled in war).

Another requirement still in the final stages of approval would mandate that resource extraction agencies report on financial transactions with the US or international government entities.

In contrast to the conflict mineral requirement, which is the recipient of widespread public critique that required a roundtable discussion by the SEC, yesterday’s ruling on safety reporting for individual mines was the focus of a little more than a dozen letters with comment, according to the organization.

The majority of comments concerning this aspect of the new requirements showed support for these new rules. The new requirements are structured similarly to health and safety mandates currently in use for mine reporting today, administered by federal legislation. A great deal of the data the SEC is requiring organizations to report is already disclosed to federal administrators in charge of mine safety oversight, according to a statement released by the Securities Exchange Commission.

Wisconsin State Farm Customers Could See Rates Decrease Next Year

Many State Farm Insurance clients in Wisconsin may start 2012 with savings on their automobile insurance, according to company reps that announced a reduction in their total rate by an estimated two and a half percent.

The reductions, slated to start on the 16th of January, will result in an almost eight million dollar savings to State Farm policyholders in the coming year.

State Farm Insurance is the #2 private auto coverage carrier in all of Wisconsin, based on 2010 statistics. In 2010, State Farm underwrote over three hundred million dollars in insurance premiums, which accounts for nearly thirteen percent of that market.

This decision comes on the heels of other overall reductions in other states during the past few months. As with those instances, this does not mean that each client will get a lowered premium payment when they look at their monthly premium side by side.

Officials for State Farm stated in a press release that the cost of purchasing liability insurance will drop for most of their Wisconsin clients; however, medical spending will increase for some and decrease for others, reflecting the same in auto coverage – which insures against damage for the client’s own car caused by a collision with another car, and comp coverage, which covers losses caused when a car is stolen, immolated, or lost due to natural disasters or intentional damage by another.

A rep for State Farm was unavailable for comment, but officials stated that premium changes on car insurance in other coverage states were the result of unanticipated low numbers and size of liability claims put in by clients in those locations.

State Farm announced a few weeks ago that it would reduce overall premiums in Illinois by an average rate of two percent. That modification, taking effect the 26th of December, will save clients nearly thirty four million dollars throughout the year. Similar declines in premiums have been cited in Alabama and in neighboring Georgia. The carrier states that rate decreases for drivers in each of the above states will most likely continue to vary, due to factors including area, type of vehicle, operator, and mileage rates.

NAIFA Releases Comments For FIO Role In Industry

 

 

A group representing the industry of insurance representatives and service professionals has issued comments on the Federal government’s Insurance Office (FIO) study concerning improvements and modernization of insurance standards and regulatory practices.

 

The NAIFA delivered a letter with comments to the Director of the FIO, concerning its view of the agency’s place in bettering transactions in the insurance and financial assistance industries nationwide.

 

The FIO was instated as a way help the government develop better practices for monitoring and regulating the financial industry as a result of worldwide economic turmoil that began in 2008. Despite the intended efforts to create an office that addresses potentially volatile financial issues, many are unhappy with the current progress in instating federal oversight of surety and financial security services products.

 

While the NAIFA was in support of the FIO’s creation, making the comment that the organization provides much needed expertise on financial and insurance products for the benefit of the Federal government, it did have several comments on how the FIO could best meet the goals it was intended for.

 

The NAIFA believes that the FIO should be primarily concerned with educating federal regulatory staff. These staff members include members of the SEC, DOL, and others. This education should give these departments a thorough working knowledge of issues within the insurance infrastructure, and its impact on other financial entities and areas. They further believe the FIO should act in the role of intermediary for regulation matters arising within the industry and local/federal regulators. Finally, they believe the FIO should be engaged in the review of surety regulations by states, and work with each to streamline their regulations and shed unnecessary or inconsistent language.

 

According to NAIFA’s Robert Miller (president of the group), it is vital that the federal government and its representatives grasp the impact of the industries over which they have control.  He went on to say that, while his organization boasts nearly one hundred years of support and oversight in the regulation of insurance entities, there are many areas ripe for necessary development. He believes that the FIO can be a large part of the drive to provide reform and education in these industries.

 

Aon Gains Injunction In Lawsuit Alleging Breach of Non-Competition Agreement

 

 

New York State granted temporary injunctive relief to a risk company, Aon, in a case of alleged non-competition violations perpetrated by one of the company’s former senior members. The court sided with the firm after what they found to be potential violations of fair competition laws and the the non-competition agreement executed between the firm and its former executive member.

 

The court issued a statement last week that it is allowing ARSN to pursue injunctive relief and a lawsuit against its former employee, Michael Cusack. He left the company recently to take employment with a direct competitor, Alliant Insurance. ARSN pursued the lawsuit after Cusack allegedly went to the new company and took with him several other executives, and as many as forty other employees. In addition, Cusack’s position made him privy to intellectual property and trade secrets which should not be shared with a direct competitor under the terms of his agreement with ARSN.

 

The lawsuit alleges that Cusack and new employer Alliant induced his fellow employees to leave ARSN and join Cusack at the new establishment, bringing the accounts with them in a planned exodus from their former employer. Before the move to Alliant, Cusack served as Aon’s Senior Executive, CSG (a construction services division of the company). All employees who followed Cusack to the new firm were employed by a similar division as the posts previously held at ARSN.

 

The lawsuit further alleges that Cusack, carried out this plan after weeks of reparation (during which time he was still an employee of ARSN) in concert with other members of the CSG division, a few of which were senior-level execs. They resigned without warning in June to pursue employment with the competition. Shortly thereafter, more than a dozen clients of ARSN moved their accounts away from the company, to be serviced by the rival firm under the direction of Cusack and the former CSG group. Further details on the case and its potential impact on ARSN and Alliant are not yet available.

Maryland HIX Council Recommends Continued Carrier Support Of Small Groups

In response to health reform efforts in the State of Maryland, spurred by the upcoming institution of health insurance exchanges (or HIX), the State is urging insurance carriers and branches to continue offering small-group coverage options when the exchanges begin later in the year. 

The MHBE, group commenting to lawmakers on the upcoming legislation and guidelines, wants carriers to continue offering employers insurance, even when they have less than fifty regular eligible employees on the payroll. 

The HBEC Act passed last year, and gave authorization for the state to create its first HIX. The MBHE made recommendations concerning the new plan, as well as recommendations on how the HIX could contract with carriers, how small business coverage should be handled, how the program logistics should work, and how to adopt guidelines to keep risk factors within acceptable parameters.  The recommendations also discuss public information and training about these new avenues for obtaining coverage.

 

The report also addresses issues concerning the PPAC act in the state, which is meant to safeguard patients and create economical coverage for compliance with insurance requirements under the law.

 

The legislature has made special efforts to gear up for the upcoming bill, with legislation that provides all the required support to implement PPAC in Maryland. Should the reform pass both the republican vote and the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, every state in the union will be required to institute a HIX within the next two years. These arrangements are meant to protect consumers by offering competitive coverage costs and federal support for those who cannot pay for standard coverage on their own, for those who do not receive it through an employer.

 

In the current incarnation of the health reform legislation, consumers must have access to impartial “navigators” – who are not compensated by carriers. These individuals engage in assisting people to find the best coverage option at a competitive rate. Unfortunately, Maryland is one of many other states that have a current system in place that feature insurers as navigators. Under the new law, this will no longer be permissible. This leaves states like Maryland tasked with rejuvenating their systems, rather than duplicating their processes.

 

Maryland HIX Council Recommends Continued Carrier Support Of Small Groups

Health Insurance Reform in the Maryland is urging insurance carriers and branches to continue offering small-group coverage options when new Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX) become available later in the year. Lawmakers want the health insurance carriers to continue offering insurance even when they have less than fifty regular eligible employees on thier payroll. The Health Benefits Exception Commitee passed an act last year authorizing the state to form a Health Care Exchange.  The MBHE made a recommendation regarding the new plan.    as well as recommendations on how the HIX could contract with carriers, how small business coverage should be handled, how the program logistics should work, and how to adopt guidelines to keep risk factors within acceptable parameters.  The recommendations also discuss public information and training about these new avenues for obtaining coverage.

 

The report also addresses issues concerning the PPAC act in the state, which is meant to safeguard patients and create economical coverage for compliance with insurance requirements under the law.

 

The legislature has made special efforts to gear up for the upcoming bill, with legislation that provides all the required support to implement PPAC in Maryland. Should the reform pass both the republican vote and the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, every state in the union will be required to institute a HIX within the next two years. These arrangements are meant to protect consumers by offering competitive coverage costs and federal support for those who cannot pay for standard coverage on their own, for those who do not receive it through an employer.

 

In the current incarnation of the health reform legislation, consumers must have access to impartial “navigators” – who are not compensated by carriers. These individuals engage in assisting people to find the best coverage option at a competitive rate. Unfortunately, Maryland is one of many other states that have a current system in place that feature insurers as navigators. Under the new law, this will no longer be permissible. This leaves states like Maryland tasked with rejuvenating their systems, rather than duplicating their processes.

 

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