Friday, September 25, 2009

Free Life Insurance? Not Really

life insurance

It seems like a deal that’s too good to be true: Pay premiums on your term-life insurance policy, then get them all back if you don’t die during the 10, 20 or 30 years you are covered. It’s like getting insurance for free.

But like most too-good-to-be-true deals, this one isn’t quite as good as it appears. Most people can do better with a standard term policy.

So-called return-of-premium options were devised a number of years ago to boost sales of term policies, the simplest and least expensive type of life insurance. With term, the policy holder pays an annual or semiannual premium in exchange for a death benefit for survivors.

But the benefit is paid only if the policy holder dies within the period, or term, covered by the policy. Die later and the survivors get nothing, and the premiums seem to have been wasted.

That encouraged lots of potential customers to opt for variable, universal or whole-life policies that cover the policy holder for life and build up a cash value.

The return-of-premium option on term policies is meant to attract customers who want something to show for years of premium payments if they outlive their policies and their survivors don’t collect a death benefit. The premium is not returned if you die with the policy in effect and a death benefit is paid.

But you have to pay a larger premium to get this option, wiping out much of its value, if not all of it.

Transamerica Life Insurance (Stock Quote: AEG) offers a 40-year-old nonsmoking male a 30-year term policy for $800 a year. An identical policy with the return of principal feature costs $1,335 a year.

With the ROP policy you would get back the $40,050 spent on the premiums over 30 years.

But if you took the cheaper policy and invested the $535-per-year savings at 6% a year, it would increase to $40,050 in just less than 29 years, according to the BankingMyWay Savings Goal Calculator.

Chances of averaging 6% over such a long period are pretty good. The Standard & Poor’s 500 returned about 10% a year in the 20th century, and you could invest in that through an index fund like Vanguard 500 Fund (Stock Quote: VFINX), or an exchange-traded fund like the SPDR 500 (Stock Quote: SPY.)

But if you took the cheaper policy and invested the $535-per-year savings at 6% a year, it would increase to $40,050 in just less than 29 years, according to the BankingMyWay Savings Goal Calculator.

Chances of averaging 6% over such a long period are pretty good. The Standard & Poor’s 500 returned about 10% a year in the 20th century, and you could invest in that through an index fund like Vanguard 500 Fund (Stock Quote: VFINX), or an exchange-traded fund like the SPDR 500 (Stock Quote: SPY.)

A Health-Insurance Difference Without a Distinction

health insurance

My hat is off to Max Baucus. He's produced a credible plan to make health care both a right and a responsibility of all Americans while beginning to rein in health spending in a way that is politically acceptable to a majority of Americans. In many ways it is the most robust proposal so far because of its emphasis on changing the way health care is organized, delivered and paid for. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has put the reform back in health reform.

During the first two days of committee action on his bill, Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, beat back repeated attempts by most of the committee's Republicans to gut provisions that would slow runaway growth in Medicare spending. Republicans want us to believe that they care deeply about the federal deficit and about keeping Medicare from going broke, while at the same time demanding that there should be no cuts in benefits, no cuts in payments to insurers or providers, and no reduction in the utilization of medical services. It was the most craven, cynical, hypocritical performance by a group of elected officials that I can remember, and a good measure of the political, intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Republican leadership in Congress.

There is, however, one feature of all the Democratic health proposals -- including Baucus's -- that's been bothering me for a while, and it has drawn little attention. That's the two-tiered structure of the health-insurance market that the proposals envision.

One part of the market -- the one that has received all the attention -- would be organized around the new government-sponsored health-insurance exchanges, in which insurance companies would offer standardized policies to small businesses, self-employed individuals and employees of any firm that does not offer insurance.

By going through an exchange, these firms and individuals would get the purchasing power and risk-spreading that comes with being a part of a large, heterogeneous group. Insurers would be required to offer the policies to anyone, regardless of health condition, at a price that varies only by age. Plans would have to offer preventive care with no deductibles or co-pays, and annual out-of-pocket costs would be capped.

People who purchase insurance through an exchange would have, as one option, the choice of an insurance plan run by the government -- or, in the case of the Baucus proposal, a nonprofit insurance cooperative. Most significantly, lower-income workers who purchase insurance through the exchange would be eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay for their insurance premiums, as would small businesses that offer health-insurance benefits.

If they work as envisioned, these exchanges would be a huge step toward extending coverage and lowering the cost of health insurance for about 25 to 30 million Americans, according to congressional estimates. But that still leaves roughly 125 million workers and family members who would continue to get their health insurance from medium and large employers under the existing system, where the insurance reforms would not apply and where there would be few -- if any -- subsidies.

In the Baucus plan, for example, workers with the lowest wages in the current system could opt out of their employers' plans and buy coverage through an exchange instead, triggering a "free-rider" tax on their employers. In several proposals, the new rules on benefits, pricing and guaranteed coverage would not extend to insurance plans offered outside the exchange. The size thresholds that would determine which businesses qualify for the exchanges or the subsidies or an exemption from providing health benefits are all over the map. Nobody outside the exchange could opt for the government-run public plan.

The reasons given for maintaining separate markets are mostly political. It allows politicians to assure Americans who already have and like their health insurance that they can keep things as they are. It saves money by limiting the worker subsidies to employees of small firms or companies that don't offer insurance. And it allows Congress to continue kowtowing to small-business owners who throw a political hissy fit any time anyone proposes that they live by the same rules as everyone else.

Unfortunately, what this means is that the system not only winds up unnecessarily complicated and susceptible to all manner of games-playing by companies, workers and even insurance companies angling to qualify for subsides and exemptions. It means that the government will be in the awkward position of subsidizing some low-wage workers but not others, simply because one works for a small firm and the other does not. And it means that both labor and product markets will be distorted by variations in health-care costs.

As a practical matter, it's probably a good idea to get the exchanges up and running by limiting them initially to individuals and small businesses that now have the hardest time finding affordable insurance. But if they prove to be efficient and effective at spreading risk and offering a wide choice of plans at competitive prices, there's no reason why they shouldn't be quickly opened to all workers and all companies, as Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) have proposed. Under the pressure of competition -- and with some tweaks in the regulations and the structure of the subsidies -- the distinctions between the two markets could fade away.

It's all a bit wonky, I realize, but it sure beats the shouting matches over death panels and government takeovers.

Labor commissioner pushes for extension of unemployment insurance

unemployment insurance

Unemployment benefits for about 1,900 people in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region are expected to expire by Oct. 4 — and that number could more than double by year’s end, state officials said.

At a news conference in Niagara Falls, M. Patricia Smith, commissioner of the New York Department of Labor, called on legislators in Washington, D.C., to pass an extension of unemployment insurance.

State officials said the Rochester number could jump to 4,500 by Dec. 31 unless legislators take action.

Labor officials said estimates indicate that up to 40,000 New Yorkers will exhaust their benefits statewide in the week ending Oct. 4, and about 90,000 by the end of the year.

Nationwide, more than 400,000 are slated to exhaust their benefits by the end of September and more than 1 million Americans will exhaust benefits by the end of the year, according to the state department.

On Sept. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to extend unemployment insurance for an additional 13 weeks for states with unemployment rates at or above 8.5 percent. State officials hope to convince the U.S. Senate to take up the measure.

New York’s unemployment rate now stands at 9 percent.

I’m in Love with the Progressive Insurance Girl

progressive insurance girl

I’m in love.

It hit me recently one morning upon waking up in a state of incapacitating nausea and metaphysical confusion. At first I thought I must be pregnant, but quickly realized that this was not likely since I’m a dude, besides which I always wear protection. For the rest of the day I felt unsettled and struggled to find my bearings (having lost them the night before when I got embarrassingly drunk and decided to dress up as Captain Queeg at a cocktail party that my analyst threw for his pet lemur Cornelius). Sprawled forlornly on my mattress and staring up at the cracks in my ceiling I suddenly understood what was causing my distress - l’amour!

You see, lately I’ve become obsessed with a famous TV celebrity, and I just can’t get her off my mind. Usually I’m not one to develop mad crushes on unattainable figures, preferring to set my sights on more achievable targets such as the blind, mentally unstable, and comatose, however, this major star is one hot tamale that I just don’t have the wherewithal to ignore - Flo the Progressive Insurance Girl.

There’s just something about the chewiness of her gestalt that sets my heart aflame. I want to read Sendak to her, bite her nose, and have her sell me unlimited motorcycle coverage. Of course, I don’t actually own a motorcycle, preferring the safety of my beloved tricycle but hell, why mess with the fantasy? I can’t quite express why I’ve fallen so hard for Flo. Perhaps it’s how she’s so exquisitely irritating, or maybe it’s all that damnable pep of hers.

Whatever the reason, I’ve fallen and fallen hard.

Realistically, I know that we can never be together. She’s a big time television star and I’m just a wormy little creep, yet I can’t help but hold out the slightest flicker of hope in my heart that one day we might meet and fall in love. Still, I understand our getting involved is mere fantasy.

If we did meet, however, I truly hope peanut butter would be involved.

Sigh… Flo is such a unique beauty. I so love her sexy banged hairdo and stylish headband keeping that semi-flaccid beehive of hers so immaculately in place. I adore her thick neck and divine countenance, perpetually fixed with an expression most closely resembling an over-caffeinated nun.

Mostly, I just love her…for her.

All the cavemen, geckos and piles of cash with googly eyeballs can’t hold a candle to my beloved Flo. As I watch her shuck her wares with such jaunty perfection, I just can’t help but wonder what she’d look like dressed up as a pirate. Still, I wonder that about most people. Oh woe is me! I’m destined to be alone and tormented by my unquenchable ardor. I’ve already sent her countless e-mails expressing my undying devotion, but it’s all to no avail - she never responds. I suppose she’s too busy being a fancy shmancy celebrity to waste her time answering silly fanboy letters from wormy little creeps like me.

I wonder who makes love to her late at night. I’ll bet it’s one of those cavemen. Those smarmy little bastards, they think they’re so hot with their protruding foreheads and fancy clothes. Hairy douchebags! I’m glad their television series bombed so spectacularly.


I’ve got to pull myself together; I’m seriously starting to lose it. It’s just not going to happen for us. I need to find another object of affection, someone more attainable. Hmmm…I wonder what Madge from those old Palmolive commercials looks like dressed up as a pirate, she’s gotta be like ninety by now, you know she’d probably be the grateful type!

A.M. Best Withdraws Ratings of Accident & General Insurance Company Ltd.

the general insurance

OLDWICK, N.J. - (Business Wire) A.M. Best Co. has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A- (Excellent) and issuer credit rating (ICR) of “a-” of Accident & General Insurance Company Ltd. (AGI) (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands). The outlook for both ratings is stable.

Concurrently, A.M. Best has withdrawn the ratings and assigned an NR-4 to the FSR and an “nr” to the ICR. These rating actions reflect AGI’s management’s decision to withdraw from A.M. Best’s interactive rating process.

The ratings reflect AGI’s excellent capitalization levels, solid operating performance, experienced management team, niche market profile and extensive risk management and safety programs. Partially offsetting these positive rating factors are the concentration of risk associated with the company’s specific focus on recreational divers and its relatively high retention levels relative to surplus.

AGI has an extensive risk management program in place, focusing on diver safety, training and education. The company works closely with training agencies to provide training and educational workshops. Certified training instructors are required to take rigorous written and physical examinations in order to receive their certification or C-Card. The guidelines are strict and must be complied with or the instructor could potentially lose his/her license and liability coverage. The company has a global preferred provider network in place. The network ensures that the diver receives the necessary medical treatment, including the use of a hyperbaric chamber, if required.

A.M. Best remains the leading rating agency of captive insurers rating a wide variety of more than 200 captives in the United States and throughout the world.

For current Best’s Ratings and independent data on the captive and alternative insurance market, please visit

The principal methodologies used in determining these ratings, including any additional methodologies and factors, which may have been considered, can be found at

Founded in 1899, A.M. Best Company remains a global full-service credit rating organization dedicated to serving the financial and health care service industries, including insurance companies, banks, hospitals and health care system providers. For more information, visit

A.M. Best Co.
Gale Guerra, MBA, 908-439-2200, ext. 5069
Steven Chirico, CPA, 908-439-2200, ext. 5087
Public Relations
Jim Peavy, 908-439-2200, ext. 5644
Rachelle Morrow, 908-439-2200, ext. 5378

Wawanesa Insurance Selects Guidewire ClaimCenter

wawanesa auto insurance

The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company (Wawanesa), which provides coverage to 1.8 million policy holders in Canada and the United States, and Guidewire Software ® , a leading provider of flexible core systems to property/casualty (general) insurers, today announced that Wawanesa has selected Guidewire ClaimCenter ® as its new platform to manage claims for all lines of business: Home, Auto, Farm, and Commercial.

Wawanesa sought

a new core claims processing and management solution to provide the company with a foundation on which to modernize its claim handling processes in order to enhance its customer service offerings and more efficiently operate its claims business. The solution needed to be easy to use, scalable and flexible enough to grow and evolve with Wawanesa’s changing business needs. After a thorough search and review, Wawanesa selected Guidewire ClaimCenter.

“Guidewire’s customer focus, strong industry rating and consistent implementation track record, in both Canada and the United States, really appealed to us,” said Ken McCrea, President and Chief Executive Officer, Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company. “We are looking forward to the service and operational improvements ClaimCenter will help us realize.”

Guidewire ClaimCenter will help Wawanesa.

- Enhance its customer service capabilities;
- Automate processes for operational efficiency and reduced expense costs; and
- Provide its staff with a modern, easy to use system.

“Guidewire is particularly proud to welcome Wawanesa Mutual Insurance, our sixth Canadian insurer, to our customer family,” said John Raguin, Chief Executive Officer, Guidewire Software. “Wawanesa has a long history of serving customers across Canada and in the United States.

ClaimCenter is an excellent foundation to help them take their service capabilities to new levels.”

Guidewire ClaimCenter is a leading end-to-end claims management system, built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of today’s property/casualty (general) insurers. ClaimCenter’s flexible business rules enable claims organizations to define, enforce, and continually refine their preferred claim handling practices in order to optimize and monitor claim processes. ClaimCenter is in use by insurers of all sizes across all product lines to improve speed and accuracy, reduce loss adjustment expense, and enable proactive management of claims.

About The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company

Wawanesa is a Canadian mutual company owned by its policyholders. It is one of the largest property and casualty insurers in Canada. Wawanesa has a rich history dating back to 1896, when it was founded in the Village of Wawanesa, Manitoba. Today executive offices are located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Wawanesa operates in 9 Canadian provinces and in the states of California and Oregon. It has total assets of $4.7 billion (CDN) and over 1.8 million policies. Wawanesa has 100% ownership of two subsidiary companies; The Wawanesa Life Insurance Company and Wawanesa General Insurance Company (U.S.A.).

About Guidewire Software

Guidewire Software is a leading provider of flexible core systems that enable property/casualty insurers to deliver insurance the way they want to. Guidewire builds high quality software that consistently works as promised. Designed for maximum flexibility and scalability, Guidewire solutions give carriers the capability to deliver excellent service to policyholders and agents and increase market share – while lowering operating costs. The Guidewire Insurance Suite™, consisting of Guidewire PolicyCenter ® , Guidewire BillingCenter ® , and Guidewire ClaimCenter ® , spans the entire insurance lifecycle – underwriting, policy administration, billing, and claims management.

Guidewire is headquartered in San Mateo, California, with offices in London, Munich, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto. For more information, visit : .

NOTE: Guidewire, Guidewire Software, Guidewire ClaimCenter, Guidewire PolicyCenter, Guidewire BillingCenter, Guidewire Insurance Suite, and the Guidewire logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Guidewire Software, Inc.

Diana StottPublic Relations ManagerGuidewire Software, Inc.+1

650 356 4941 :

McLaughlin out of CIS Cup clash

cis insurance

LIMAVADY Utd will today learn where their next CIS Insurance Cup match will be played.

At the time of going to press United's opponents for the second round of the CIS Insurance Cup were still unknown.

Carrick Rangers and Ballyclare Comrades were due to play their first round second leg game last night (Tuesday) after it had been postponed twice for floodlight problems.

Carrick hold a one goal advantage after winning the first leg three two at Dixon Park earlier this month and are favourites to progress.

However that's not the only problem for United at the moment. The game may well switched to the Showgrounds because of ground sharing issues with other clubs.

This will only be decided this morning (Wednesday) at a meeting at the IFA so the club should know this afternoon who their opponents are.

United have already beaten Ballyclare this year when they defeated them 4-0 on the opening day of the season at Dixon Park.

The Comrades are currently tenth in the IFA Championship and suffered a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Loughgall last Saturday.

Carrick are currently seventh in the league and have produced several good results recently. They hammered neighbours Bangor recently and stunned Ards last Saturday with a two one victory away from home.

Roesiders manager Oran Kearney will be preparing his side the same way no matter who their opponents are on Saturday.

"We will be preparing the way we normally would for any other game no matter who we will be playing," said Kearney.

He added: "We will know come training on Thursday who we will be playing anyway so it won't put us off at all.

"I will be looking to continue our fine goal-scoring record in this game and will be looking to take a lead into the second leg.

"If we can keep a clean sheet in the first leg as well then that would be a massive bonus as well. We are playing well and that's what we want to continue."

Going into the game Ryan McLaughlin is definitely missing and is expected to be out for another six weeks with a fractured cheek bone.

Vincent Sweeney has returned to full fitness and did return to the squad for last Saturday's game against Armagh City.

More than 16,000 flood-related claims filed in Atlanta area

morethan insurance

As the waters recede, the insurance claims pile up.

Based roughly on claims tallied so far by the state’s largest home insurer, more than 14,000 claims have been filed on homes damaged by the recent flooding, while 2,000 have been filed for harm to water-damaged vehicles.

Many claims are still to come, said David Colmans, executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. “They need to get the debris cleared up, and they need to get water out of there.”

And more bad news awaits homeowners and renters.

“A lot of this is not going to be covered,” Colmans said. “The insured damage is going to be significantly less than the total damage.”

Flood insurance is sold by companies but is part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency program, which sets the rates. A policy covers up to $250,000 in damage for the contents of a home and $500,000 for the building itself.

Those with higher-cost homes and belongings are free to purchase policies from “specialty insurers,” said Colmans. “This is for those who have high-end risks and are willing to pay the premiums.”

Processing the thousands of claims will take at least several weeks, and when the paperwork is done, most homeowners and renters will be disappointed to find that they must bear the costs of flood damage themselves, Colmans said. Why? Because official maps may be wrong about flooding risks, because homeowners evaded — or didn’t know — the legal requirements to have insurance or perhaps because they simply underestimated the chances of a flood.

The impact of the storms on some DeKalb County residents’ lives was obvious at an emergency informational meeting Wednesday night at the county’s Lou Walker Senior Center near Lithonia.

When the water started pouring into Sandra Jinks’ house Monday evening, she knew what to do. She grabbed the television and some shoes and fled upstairs.

Now that the waters have receded, leaving the first floor of her house a smelly wreck, her next steps are not so certain.

Jinks is living upstairs, and she knows she must soon fix the damage below. But, like so many others hit by this deluge, she didn’t buy flood insurance.

“I’m trying to get some help,” said Jinks, who lives off Thompson Mill Road in south DeKalb County. “I can’t afford to fix it.”

Jinks was among nearly 200 people who attended the meeting coordinated by DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May. As with Jinks, the first floor of his house was submerged by the storm. And like her, May had no flood insurance. When he asked how many in the room also didn’t carry coverage, nearly everyone raised their hands.

So, what happens next?

Those without coverage can look to the government for help.

If the flooded region is declared a disaster area, FEMA could provide loans, as well as money for basic repairs and perhaps to replace homes that are effectively destroyed.

No word on a disaster declaration had come as of Wednesday evening. But after a helicopter tour of the affected area Tuesday, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine estimated the damage from the flood at more than $250 million.

DeKalb officials held out hope for federal aid. The county is manning two phones around the clock until Friday at its emergency operations center — 678-406-7850 or 678-406-7853 — so people can both call for help and report damage. “The numbers are important when it comes to a declaration” of a federal emergency, said Craig Medlin, the deputy chief of the county’s Office of Emergency Management.

Mercedes Bell isn’t waiting for help. By Wednesday, she’d already stripped out her carpets and torn out the soiled drywall, and a dehumidifier had already blown out most of the moisture, Bell said.

Her neighbor, who buys old houses and fixes them up, pitched in to help her. So did friends.

Experts say it’s important to dry out your house within two days of a flood to avoid mold contamination, so Bell may well have avoided the worst.

“A lot of my friends have been really, really lovely,” said Bell, who lives off Stephenson Road in south DeKalb. “We can fix mine because we caught it so quickly,” she said, adding, “It’s definitely going to be a struggle until my next paycheck.”

For many other storm victims, high water made it hard or impossible to even examine the damage. But by mid-Wednesday, more than 3,500 claims had been filed with State Farm Insurance, whose clients represent about one-quarter of the homes and autos in Georgia.

Although no official count will be available for some time, that number does provide a guide to the claims thus far, said Oxendine. “You can probably just multiply that by four.”

Flood insurance is mandatory for homes in a flood plain. In other areas, it is voluntary.

But even where it is legally required, homes are often without it, said Robert Klein, professor of risk and insurance at Georgia State University.

The requirement is generally enforced through lenders, who will not provide a mortgage to someone in a flood zone without purchase of flood insurance. But some homeowners do not have a mortgage at all: They paid off the mortgage, or inherited their houses; they financed the purchase themselves or bought them with cash.

Moreover, the maps that set out those high-risk areas are “woefully inadequate,” he said.

Maps should be recalibrated to account for continued development and sprawl, he said: destruction of trees, paving of roads and parking lots, addition of new homes to older areas and landscaping all change the way water drains — or doesn’t drain.

And where there are storm drains, if they are not kept clear, the water can pour onto land where there should be no flooding, Klein said.

It adds up to higher odds of flooding, he said. “People are at a much higher risk than they have been told.”

Sainsbury's Pet Insurance: Tips to keep your animal healthy

sainsburys pet insurance

Sainsbury's Pet Insurance has offered some advice to prevent animals from falling ill and racking up bills for owners to pay.

Lucy Hunter, a manager at the organisation, prepared the tips following the release of research by the company which showed that £9.3 million is paid out to policyholders through claims linked to pets vomiting or suffering from diarrhoea.

She pointed out that keeping a dog away from pond water can reduce the odds of a canine getting sick, as the bacteria can be bad for pets.

Ms Hunter also suggested using a rubber toy rather than a stick when playing catch, because it is more hygienic.

"Dogs do need to be able to run around, but simple steps can be taken to reduce the chances of them being injured or picking up an illness," she explained.

Sainsbury's Pet Insurance recently reported that 450,000 people had got rid of their pet insurance policies to save money, but that bills from the vet can often make this a false economy.

Sun Life Financial advisors "step out" in support of

sun life insurance

Eighty Sun Life Financial advisors from Atlantic Canada donned pedometers at their annual golf tournament yesterday to encourage and support the "get active" message as part of the ParticipACTION Sun Life - Inspire the nation campaign.

"The message we're sending through our partnership with ParticipACTION is that getting active is part of a healthy lifestyle," said Kevin Strain, Senior Vice-President, Individual Insurance and Investments, Sun Life Financial Canada. "The role of our Sun Life Financial advisors is to help provide lifetime financial security to our customers and we believe that personal health is an important factor in your overall financial well-being."

Kelly Murumets, President and CEO, ParticipACTION, also attended the tournament and shared her thoughts on the importance of finding ways to encourage family, friends and colleagues to join the physical activity movement.

"We're facing an inactivity crisis in Canada, but if we work together, we can achieve a healthier, more active future for our country," said Murumets. "Everyone can get inspired to get moving. You may be surprised that simple steps can make a big difference-and your actions just may inspire others to do the same."

Throughout the summer, the official ParticipACTION Sun Life - Inspire the nation tour travelled across the country with events that offered free pedometers to attendees and encouraged Canadians to record and share their ParticipACTION stories at the "Inspiration Booth."


The tour itself ended on August 27, but the campaign continues to live on through events like the golf tournament in Newfoundland and a booth at the Fall Flavours event in Charlottetown, PEI on Sunday, October 4. More information about the get active message along with the tour's inspiring video messages from Canadians can be found on

Driven to distraction by shouty DJs

zurich car insurance

- Radio distracts 80% of rush-hour drivers
- Talk show arguments are worst offenders
- Easy listening music is safest soundtrack

Listening to heated arguments or high-octane jokes and banter on the radio distracts twice as many drivers as the sound of radio music, according to a new survey.

If John Humphrys' combative style on Radio 4's Today Programme gets your blood boiling, or Chris Moyles' gag-a-minute chat on Radio 1 makes you laugh too much, you could find your attention straying from the road.

Nearly 80% of drivers said they were distracted by the radio in the poll conducted by car insurance company Zurich Connect. More than half of drivers said that talk radio was the most likely soundtrack to divert their attention from driving.

To keep drivers focused, Mike Quinton from Zurich Connect recommends Terry Wogan's gentle morning musings on Radio 2 or some gentle music without too much chat from Magic or Classic FM.

Flood Insurance Facts

Flood Insurance

Flood Insurance

True or False?

Flood Insurance is a form of federal aid.

False. The National Flood Insurance Program is premium funded and has been operating in the black for years. It has the authority to borrow up to 1.5 billion dollars from the U.S. Treasury, however, all such funds much be repaid with interest.

Flood Insurance in not intended to restore a property to it's pre-loss condition.

False. NFIP trains its agents as recently as July 2004 that a covered loss will be restored to it's pre-loss condition, less the deductible.

The National Flood Insurance Program is a government run program.

True. The National Flood Insurance Program is a program administered by FEMA. It is a cooperative effort between most of the largest homeowners insurance companies in the country and the Federal Government. Federal regulations call for the private insurance companies, or third party administrators, to receive premium dollars, and take nearly 1/3 off the top. The private companies pass the remainder onto the NFIP. In the event of a loss, the private insurance companies are provided an additional 3% of the loss for their efforts.

At this time the underwriting risk rests solely with the Federal Government.

All NFIP Officials and personnel are federal employees.

False. The NFIP was privatized nearly twenty years ago. Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE:CSC) handles most of the day to day aspects of the program. When a person appears at your door wearing a blue FEMA jacket, ask them for their business card. Most victims report that no such cards are ever handled out. In fact, many victims had the experience where the FEMA adjuster told them they were with the Federal Government. Technically that's true. They are a government contractor. Its similar to being stopped by a state trooper and you noticed in fine print on his shirt "Haliburton". Both are government contractors, and depending on the contract language they are often deemed agents of the U.S. Government.

Coverage questions are left up to the Federal Government.

False. Collectively the private insurance companies reap more than 600 million dollars in profits from NFIP policyholders. Federal regulations call for the insurance companies to make adjustments in accordance with their standard policies.

Private insurers must meet several criteria in order to participate with the NFIP. One is they must have been writing homeowners insurance for a minimum of five years prior to participating in the program. In those five years the insurance company has established procedures for paying its claims. Title 44 § 62.23 l states, "WYO Companies will adjust claims in accordance with general Company standards, guided by NFIP Claims manuals".

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baucus Says He’ll Revise Plan, to Make Insurance More Affordable

health care insurance

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, said Monday that he would modify his health care bill to provide more generous assistance to moderate-income Americans, to help them buy insurance.

In addition, Mr. Baucus said he would make changes to reduce the impact of a proposed tax on high-end health insurance policies.

Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, disclosed his plans in an interview a day before the committee is to begin meeting to debate and vote on the sweeping legislation, which is intended to remake the nation’s health care system and guarantee insurance for millions of Americans.

Mr. Baucus said the changes showed that he had heard the criticism of his bill from colleagues, who asserted that many people would be required to buy insurance who could not afford it — even with federal subsidies to help defray the cost of premiums.

“Affordability — that, I think, is the primary concern,” Mr. Baucus said. “We want to make sure that if Americans have to buy insurance, it’s affordable.”

Mr. Baucus said he believed that the changes would “help smooth the way for passage” of the bill through the Finance Committee, where it has been criticized from both the left and the right.

The changes could add $28 billion to the 10-year cost of his bill, which was originally estimated at $774 billion by the Congressional Budget Office. The revised bill, though, could still meet President Obama’s stipulation that health care legislation not add to the federal budget deficit.

Under Mr. Baucus’s original plan, the government would provide subsidies on a sliding scale to help people pay premiums. People with income at the poverty level ($22,050 for a family of four) would have been expected to pay 3 percent of their annual income on premiums before subsidies would begin. People with incomes of 300 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level would have been expected to pay 13 percent of their income for premiums before being eligible for subsidies.

It was not immediately clear how much Mr. Baucus would increase the proposed subsidies. He said he wanted to reduce the maximum amount that moderate-income Americans would have to pay in premiums, under the legislation, to less than 12 percent of income.

The subsidies “will clearly be more generous,” he said. However, it was not clear if they would be as generous as those called for under bills approved in July by the Senate health committee and by three House committees.

Mr. Baucus, taking steps to win the support of lawmakers before the committee votes on the legislation, said he would also raise the threshold for expensive insurance plans that would be affected by a new tax. Under his original proposal, insurers would have to pay the tax on policies with premiums exceeding $8,000 a year for individuals and $21,000 for families.

In his revised proposal, “the limits would be higher, so there is less of an impact,” Mr. Baucus said, without giving details.

Senator Baucus said the changes reflected the fact that some people are charged high premiums because they have high-risk jobs, for example as police officers, firefighters or miners. In addition, he said he would address the concern that some health plans charge high premiums because they provide health benefits to retirees.

Senators John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, both Democrats, have repeatedly raised questions about whether the subsidies for low-income people would be adequate.

Richard J. Kirsch, the national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now, a consumer group, said: “The tax credits in the original Baucus plan were so low they would make premiums unaffordable for many moderate- and middle-income people, who could also face high out-of-pocket costs. And if they don’t pay the premiums, they might have to pay a fine.”

A similar concern was expressed by health policy experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research and advocacy group often cited by Democrats in Congress.

“Subsidies in the Baucus health reform plan would fall short of what is needed for many people to afford health care,”’ the center said in a study last week.

Queenslanders paying more for car insurance renewals

car insurance

The first quarter of the new financial year has been expensive for Queensland car owners. The fuel tax subsidy has been discontinued, CTP has increased 13 per cent in the last year and motor vehicle registration has increased 20 per cent.

Research conducted by Youi on a national basis has also discovered that many people have experienced increases in their comprehensive car insurance.

27 per cent of customers surveyed stated their insurance premiums increased by more than 10 per cent since last year. A further 18 per cent advised their increase was between 5 and 10 per cent.

More than one third of all customers surveyed were unaware how much their premium had increased. Only 22 per cent noted their premium increase was less than 5 per cent.

Hugo Schreuder CEO of Youi car insurance said, “If you believe your car insurance premium has increased, now would seem the perfect time to shop around for an insurance cover that best suits you at the right price.”

Youi recognises that more than ever before, Queenslanders are using publictransport to commute to work and are also working from home in their efforts to counter the rising cost of fuel. This means more cars are likely to be parked at home or at the train station. By considering where a car is parked mostly during the day and what the car is used for, Youi are able to provide a more individually tailored insurance policy for every customer.

“People use their cars differently. Using simple factors such as a person’s commuting to work behaviour or parking habits can have a big impact on insurance premiums. Shopping around for an insurance policy that is better suited to your car usage, may help many people to balance their household budgets and assist in combating against the spiralling cost of car ownership,” says Mr Schreuder.

Youi conducts online surveys of customers via its website. Data collected from 970 responses across June and July 2009.

No more subsidizing insurance companies

insurance companies

The health care decision-making process in Washington is horribly tainted by the campaign contributions of insurance and pharmaceutical interests. Under the pay-to-play system health care becomes insurance care, the public option shrinks to irrelevance, and the choice we are left with is: What kind of private, for-profit insurance do you want?

This is not acceptable. We must respond now, and not settle for a plan that subsidizes insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and sets the stage for the privatization of Medicare.

We want health care for all Americans, Medicare for all, which is exactly what Congressmen John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich accomplish in H.R. 676. And the only way we will achieve it is to organize and take action in our communities to effect real change at a state and national level now. For more information, please see Physicians for a National Health Program at

Every other industrialized and civilized nation offers its citizens a national and universal health program. It's good for society and it's good for business. And while we're at it, let's end over eight years of costly wars of choice, and bailouts for the casinos on Wall Street, too. It's the moral thing to do.

More Americans cashing in on life insurance policies

life insurance

Many older Americans, who are strapped for cash and as anxious as the rest of us, are selling an unlikely asset: their life insurance policies.

The strategy, as it turns out, isn’t new. Once reserved for wealthy business executives who cashed in their company’s multimillion-dollar insurance policy when they retired, during the recession it’s become more widely used by policyholders.

Eric Bachman, founder and chief executive of Golden Gateway Financial, in Oakland, Calif., said the face value of life settlements reached last year was an impressive $13 billion.

Bachman recently spoke with Your Business about selling life insurance policies as an investment strategy and Wall Street’s keen interest in securitizing the life settlements.
One key piece of advice: Bachman said policyholders should work with a professional because as with any investment, there are pitfalls.

Q: Let’s start at beginning: What is a life settlement?

A: When someone chooses to sell a life insurance policy they can no longer afford or no longer need. They’re literally selling the policy. Say a large commercial investor buys the policy, then they become the beneficiary and continue to make payments (until the original policyholder dies). Interestingly, this has been a possibility for the past 15 to 18 years. It started as a rich person’s prerogative. Senior executives at big companies would retire and the company would have a $2 million policy on them. The companies would say: “Since you’re retiring, we’re no longer paying this, it’s yours.’’ These were big business people who had an asset they didn’t typically need because they had their own insurance. That has gone mainstream. Fifteen years ago, the average policy was $2 to $5 million. Now, it’s in the $150,000 range.

Q: Is this an option for anyone who has a life insurance policy?

A: Not every policy, but most types of policies can be settled.

Q: Who should consider a settlement?

A: If your kids are grown and on their own and you don’t need to worry about providing for them, if you’re aging and you can’t afford to keep the policy, For some people, it does get very expensive to maintain the insurance as they get older. For people who want to generate a lump-sum income, it’s an easy thing to do. Generally, the larger the policy and the older the policyholder, the greater percentage they’re going to get of that policy’s value. A good rule of thumb, on policies that have a surrender value, a person can get three-to-five times that surrender value. You’ll see the surrender value as part of the small print on a policy that says, if you turn this back in, we’ll pay you “x”. One of the little-known facts of the insurance industry, you never want to let your policy lapse because, at the least, you can turn it in and get some value for it.

Q: There’s a lot of buzz about securitizing life settlements as an investment opportunity. Why is this getting so much attention?

A: The central argument here is really one of greed. Is it inappropriate to look at a financial instrument as an investment? No. Would it be wrong if they were doing things that lead to downfalls? Absolutely. I guess the question is, should this be treated like another financial instrument that needs not only state regulations, but financial regulations? Every other sort of long-term financial instrument gets securitized at some point.

Q: If settlements have been around for so long, why are they getting so much more attention these days?

A: The natural progression and maturity of the industry has created the ability for the common person to enjoy the same benefit of someone who had a million-dollar policy. Another reason is financial need. People lost 40 percent of the value of their home. They lost 40 percent of the value of their stocks. Senior citizens who have a shorter time to recover need to look at the assets they have to create liquidity. For people who are looking for some means of liquidity, it’s an option they should consider. People look at selling life insurance as something morbid. From the perspective of the senior citizen, this is an asset they’ve purchased and the asset, at some point for them, has become devalued. That’s how it has to be viewed — they’re trading in one asset for another and that is cash. One of the concerns people have is their selling this and someone is going to make money when they die. If they’re selling to an unscrupulous person, there’s a danger. There are about 50 buyers we deal with. (Cantor Fitzgerald, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan Chase are among them.) There’s a high volume being settled. There was $13 billion of face value life settlements in 2008.

Who Pays for Health-Care Reform, and Is It Fair?

health insurance

No one is against expanding health coverage on principle. As we come down to crunch time, the health-reform debate is all about money.

Once you accept that health insurance plans must meet some minimal criteria and that everyone has to have one (or pay a penalty), you are left with the issue of funding. If 30 million to 45 million additional people will have health insurance, then someone has to pay for it. But the first thing to bear in mind is that, seen from the perspective of American society as a whole, this isn't money that we lose; it's money that we spend on health care for members of society and that goes to health-care providers who are, by and large, also members of society. In this view, in other words, it's a question of redistribution.

This should not be surprising. Insurance itself is a mechanism for redistribution. Take homeowners insurance: Money flows from people who don't lose their houses to people who do. In homeowners insurance, the general principle is that the premiums you pay should be proportional to your expected losses (the damage you could suffer times the probability of that damage). We generally consider this to be fair; if your insurance premiums are too high, you could sell your house and move to a smaller one.

The analog to this would be to force everyone to pay the expected cost of his health care. This would be "fair" in the sense that each person's costs would be proportional to his expected burden on the system. But it would break down because you cannot trade in your body for a healthier one that is cheaper to insure. As a result, the health-care bills on the table require that insurers charge the same amount to all people of the same age.

But even after taking differences in people's health status out of the equation, the numbers still don't add up on their own. The median household income in 2008 was $50,000. The average family health insurance policy provided through employer coverage cost more than $13,000. About 8 million people in households making $50,000 to $75,000 (and 29 million in households making less than $50,000) are uninsured. Asking them to suddenly start paying $13,000 per year for health insurance -- and potentially thousands more in out-of-pocket expenses -- is not going to work.

As a result, health-care reform has to involve redistribution. But this should not come as a big surprise. Social Security, for example, is a vast redistribution scheme. The amount you contribute depends on how much you make (up to the income cap, which makes little sense); the amount you receive depends partially on how much you contribute, but also on many other factors, most notably how long you live.

The real question is: Who pays? The House bill has the most generous subsidies, reaching up to 400 percent of the poverty level, and pays for them in part through an increase in income taxes for the very rich. Sen. Max Baucus's bill has less generous subsidies, and instead of taxing the rich directly, it imposes new fees on insurers, drugmakers and medical device manufacturers, and also has an "excise tax" on expensive health insurance plans. (It also includes a shockingly stupid provision to tax employers for hiring low-income people if they don't provide health insurance, but let's assume someone in the Senate Finance Committee comes to his senses and they kill that.)

Once you've made health care mandatory, lower subsidies are a tax on the middle class, plain and simple. The individual mandate -- the requirement that everyone have health insurance -- is itself a tax. The difference from Social Security and Medicare -- other redistribution schemes with mandatory taxes -- is that the individual mandate taxes the very people who are supposed to benefit from the program. Subsidies lower that tax but don't eliminate it. So the main people paying for health care reform are middle-class Americans who don't have insurance now and will probably get insurance after reform. Is that fair? It depends on whether you think taxes should be an even trade between taxpayer and government -- you get what you pay for -- or you think taxes are a way of spreading the benefits that government provides to all of society.

Taxing the rich is, by contrast, a tax on people who are most able to pay, but also the people who will benefit the least from health-care reform. Because the marginal utility -- the amount of extra enjoyment gained -- of one dollar is much lower for a rich person than for a middle-class person, it is also the most painless way to generate tax revenue. Is that fair? Again, it depends on how you see the relationship between taxpayers and the government.

The excise tax is more complicated. All other things being equal, it should affect the rich more than the poor. But other things are not equal. Some people need more expensive plans because of their health conditions. Health care is more expensive in some states than in others. So who pays will depend on a lot of factors that most people have little control over. (The one thing we can be sure of is that insurers won't pay; though this is billed as a tax on insurers, they will just pass the costs to consumers.) The excise tax would also have knock-on effects: As employers start hitting the threshold at which their plans become taxed, they and their employees will shift into cheaper plans with higher deductibles and higher copays -- which means that more of the net costs will shift to employees. Is that fair?

The challenge today is that politicians are wary of voting for anything that is called a tax, even though we know we need to pay for health-care reform somehow. In the end, if you think that individuals are responsible for dealing with their problems on their own, you probably see health-care reform as a special interest program for the uninsured and think the uninsured should pay for it (through lower subsidies). On the other hand, if you think that all Americans should have the right to a minimal level of health insurance, you probably think health-care reform is good for America, pure and simple, and favor increasing taxes on the people who can actually pay them.

Aon risk map finds heavier CT insurance burden

aon insurance

Globalisation is complicating the landscape for clinical trial insurance, warns risk management specialist Aon Corporation.

Issuing its 2009 Clinical Trials Risk Map, which provides an overview of clinical trial insurance across Western, Northern and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), as well as Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel, Aon notes that the shift in clinical trials from traditional markets such as the US and Western Europe to the emerging regions of CEE, Latin America and Asia has brought with it increased regulatory scrutiny and compliance requirements.

As such, the company warns, “a complex insurance regulatory environment is all but guaranteed across the industry”. An additional challenge, as highlighted by the 2009 Clinical Trials Risk Map, is the growing number of countries that now ask for admitted insurance – clinical trial coverage purchased from an insurance company licensed within the country where the trial is taking place.

In the past, observes James Walters, managing director of Aon’s Life Sciences practice, a certificate of insurance could be issued in the US, stating that the policies in place would address any liabilities associated with a clinical trial. Today, life sciences companies must often secure local country coverage, which means they need to understand the legal requirements in each jurisdiction.

The Clinical Trials Risk Map shows, for example, that there are now compulsory insurance requirements for clinical trials across Western, Northern and Central and Eastern Europe, with Romania the sole exception. In Western European and some CEE countries (e.g., Poland), these include extended reporting and life-of-trial requirements.

Most countries on the map are tagged as “admitted insurance laws may apply”. Broker-issued insurance certificates are normally accepted in some (e.g., Israel, France, Lithuania, Belgium). A high compulsory limit of liability applies in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Italy, France, Slovenia and Belgium.

Farmers to Make 1,200 Job Cuts at 21st Century

bristol west insurance

Farmers Insurance Group said it will eliminate up to 1,200 positions at its newly acquired direct-carrier unit over the next 16 months. The job losses represent about 20% of the work force at 21st Century Insurance Co. and come less than two months after it was acquired by Farmers, a Los Angeles-based subsidiary of Zurich Financial Services Group.

The most sweeping and immediate cuts will occur over the next four months as Farmers moves to eliminate 554 positions at 21st Century's Woodland Hills, Calif.-based operation. Fifty-six individuals were told Aug. 27 that their positions were being eliminated, according to Farmers spokesman Mark Toohey. Another 196 positions at that operation could be eliminated before the end of 2010.

Farmers said on Aug. 27 that 128 positions will also be eliminated at 21st Century's operation in Alpharetta, Ga., where it operated as a support system for that company's independent agent channel. Toohey said those operations will be folded into another Farmers subsidiary, Bristol West Insurance Co., before the end of 2010. A total of 447 jobs could be eliminated altogether at that operation, though Toohey said 154 of those positions would remain until the end of 2010.

"Anytime there's an integration after any acquisition, especially one of this size, you're going to find yourself faced with difficult decisions in an attempt to streamline operations," Toohey said. "This is the result of that."

Farmers' $1.9 billion acquisition of 21st Century from American International Group Inc., which closed on July 1, 2009, is the largest in the company's history.

The deal accelerated Farmers' entry into the direct-to-consumer market. Direct automobile insurance premium sales accounted for 75% of the $3.6 billion in 2008 total premium at 21st Century, according to a previous AIG statement. The balance of premium was generated by independent agents.

Farmers and 21st Century combined for 2008 net private passenger auto premium of $12.54 billion, according to A.M. Best State/Line data. The acquisition places Farmers just ahead of two chief competitors in the direct business for passenger auto: Geico, $12.52 billion; and Progressive at $11.68 billion (BestWire, April 16, 2009).

The corporate headquarters for 21st Century was completely shifted to Wilmington, Del., in November 2008. A total of 979 employees worked for 21st Century at the two leased buildings in Woodland Hills, Calif., which focused on direct sales. The company had about 6,000 employees when the sale closed (BestWire, July 1, 2009).

Both the Farmers Insurance Group and Zurich Insurance Co. currently have Best's Financial Strength Ratings of A (Excellent).

The Internet Provides Keys To Finding Cheap Car Insurance Companies

cheapest car insurance

With the creation of a free comparison websites, consumers now have a very effective way to find car insurance companies that will fit their budget as well as provide reliability. These sites will also provide visitors with valuable tips and resources to help them understand laws and coverage and help them save both time and money.

There's no such thing as one perfect company for all motorists. Some may charge one driver low rates, while offer another a much higher premium. This is these companies have their own qualifications and limitations.

The technique to reduce rates and to find the cheapest auto insurance is to comparison shop. This means that the motorists should look into multiple companies and assess them based on several categories, such as dependability, customer service, coverage, and, of course, price. One can visit for a helpful government consumer guide which will help residents compare properly.

The challenge, however, is that it could take quite a long time to contact various companies in order to complete an effective comparison. Therefore websites have come along that allow visitors to obtain free quotes from several insurers by filling out a brief form. Upon submission of the form, the shopper will be given the rates of top providers almost instantly which allow them to see just how much differently insurers can charge each applicant.

Websites such as offers visitors the perfect way on how to compare auto insurance policies. The website allows them to compare multiple insurance companies all across the country in just minutes. The website also provides drivers other helpful information such as company ratings, which give them an idea of how these companies stand financially, and help motorist avoid becoming insured with an insurer that can go bankrupt.

Henry Lyons loses bid to stop National Baptist Convention election

globe life insurance

The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, the disgraced preacher who wants to regain leadership of the National Baptist Convention, lost his bid Wednesday to stop the organization's election.

Lyons filed a lawsuit in a Washington, D.C., court alleging that new bylaws governing the election violate the National Baptist Convention's constitution.

Lyons complained that the bylaws limit the number of representative members eligible to vote and give some additional votes if they are designated as representative members by more than one church, association or state convention. The suit claimed that such changes constitute a breach of contract.

Lyons was in the courtroom Wednesday afternoon when Judge Jeanette Clark denied his motion for a temporary restraining order.

The judge "basically said that Rev. Lyons did not follow the convention's procedures and did not suffer irreparable harm," said the Rev. Wendell Griffen, parliamentarian for the convention and a member of the board of directors.

The judge added that Lyons "knew that the procedures had been in place since September 2006 and he sat and he waited until the last minute to file a lawsuit rather than going to the convention and complaining about the procedures," Griffen said.

The judge also ruled that there were no inconsistencies between the bylaws that Lyons was complaining about and the convention's constitution, he said.

Lyons' attorney did not return calls or respond to e-mails requesting an interview. Lyons also did not return calls seeking comment.

The election for president of the convention, said to be the largest African-American religious group in the United States, will go on today as planned in Memphis.

Lyons, 67, is running against the Rev. Julius R. Scruggs, 67, of Alabama, the current vice president at large. It's a paid position. The outgoing president, the Rev. William Shaw of Philadelphia, earns $100,000 a year.

Lyons' effort to retake the convention's presidency has been divisive. Supporters say he should be forgiven. Others say forgiveness does not mean another chance to lead the organization.

His problems began in July 1997, after his then-wife, Deborah, started a fire at a $700,000 Tierra Verde home he owned with another woman. The incident set off an investigation into his finances, and Lyons was eventually convicted on state racketeering and grand theft charges.

He swindled more than $4 million from corporations seeking to do business with the convention and stole nearly $250,000 donated by the Anti-Defamation League of B'Nai B'rith to rebuild burned black churches. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud and tax evasion. In addition to prison, Lyons was ordered to pay more than $5 million in restitution.

Although Lyons is looking to the future, he has not finished paying for his past. He was ordered in federal court in 1999 to pay $5.2 million to six victims. One was Oklahoma-based Globe Life Insurance, which was owed $1 million.

Globe has received "less than 10 percent of that court-ordered amount," said Mike Majors, vice president for investor relations of Globe's corporate parent, Torchmark Corp. Majors said the company has received payments intermittently.

Steve Cole, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Lyons has been making payments on the restitution, but he would not say how much he has paid or how much he still owes.

After Lyons was convicted in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court in 1999, he was ordered to pay, among other things, the $97,824 cost of his prosecution, plus $405 in other costs. Records indicate he has paid $154.75.

Because of his unpaid bill, his case was referred in November 2006 to a collection agency, which slapped on a surcharge. According to Pinellas records, he still owes $137,304 for court-related costs.

It's hard to tell how much of the $5.2 million he still owes overall. He was ordered to pay $299,611 to Union Planters Bank of Middle Tennessee, now part of Regions Bank. A spokeswoman declined to say how much Lyons had repaid of that.

The federal court ordered Lyons to repay $3.2 million to the Loewen Group, a Canadian funeral home chain that is now part of a Texas corporation that did not return phone calls.

The federal court also ordered Lyons to pay $534,689 to the IRS, but an agency spokesman said federal laws prevented him from discussing whether Lyons had made payments.

Lyons also was accused of misusing money gathered by the Anti-Defamation League to help raise money to rebuild African-American churches in the South that had been destroyed by arsonists. In that case, however, he repaid $214,000 before his trial.

Asked to comment on Lyons now, Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement this week that, "Rev. Lyons may seek forgiveness and attain it. However, there is trust that comes with leadership, and he has forfeited his right to that trust."

Infinity Insurance Named One of Birmingham's Best Places to Work

infinity insurance

The Birmingham Business Journal is proud to announce that Infinity Insurance Company (Nasdaq: IPCC) has been named one of Birmingham's Best Places to Work 2009.

The Business Journal's annual Best Places to Work competition strives to find the top companies to work for in the Birmingham area, based on the results of an extensive survey that ranks companies based on their employee/manager relations, trust in management, internal communication, benefits and several other factors.

Over 90 of the best local companies took the survey this year administered by Quantum Workplace. Only the businesses with the highest scores in their size categories, such as Infinity Insurance Company, are declared one of the Best Places to Birmingham.

All 30 honorees were recognized at a Best Places to Work luncheon on September 10 where Hatton Smith was the guest speaker. Sponsors included Behavioral Health Systems, Johnston Barton Proctor and Rose, Sheraton Birmingham, BSHRM and Quantum Workplace.

Infinity Insurance Company, with almost 900 employees in Birmingham in its Colonnade and Liberty Park offices, is proud to accept this award for the third year in a row.

New York 'most expensive' for UK visitors

virgin car insurance

New York City has been revealed as the most expensive city for UK holidaymakers by a new Virgin Money Weekend Break Survey.

The popular destination topped a league table of standard costs based on a two-day break, while those looking for value in their holidays are advised to head to Bangkok. Thailand's capital was revealed as the most economic destination.

Analysis measured five variables - the costs of car rental, four star accommodation, a Big Mac, Virgin Money travel insurance cover for the duration of the trip and entry to a popular sightseeing attraction - in 20 cities around the world, for two people.

The research excluded the cost of air travel to focus on the costs that matter to tourists when they are on holiday and converted all costs into sterling in order to assess the true cost for British tourists looking to visit for a weekend break.

New York emerges as the most expensive of all, with visitors having to fork out £527.44 just for two nights while in Bangkok the cost would be just £141.25 – an incredible 3.5 times cheaper.

Milan and Moscow came in second and third in the league table of most expensive cities to visit with London way down the rankings at ninth. Researchers found the UK capital was £162.44 cheaper than a weekend away in New York.

Grant Bather of Virgin Money Travel Insurance said: "City breaks are big business now and our research shows you don’t have to break the bank when you’re on holiday.

"While going further afield might feel more expensive, tourists can recoup a lot of extra expense because of the value for money in cities once you arrive. A two-night stay in Milan is over three times more expensive than in Bangkok."

The Virgin Money Weekend Break Survey included cities from the world’s major tourist destinations.

The launch results showed that Paris, Tokyo and Cape Town all sat comfortably in mid-table, with car rental costs coming in at under half that of Beijing.

Prague and Dublin – popular with stag and hen weekends - were surprisingly cheap, with tourists able to spend two nights in the cities for under £250.

Talk-based radio is double the distraction for drivers

zurich car insurance

Arguments on the radio are a major cause of distraction for car drivers, according to new research into rush hour journeys.

Nearly 80 per cent of drivers surveyed in the poll by car insurance company Zurich Connect said that the radio was a distraction while they were driving.

Drivers said speech-based radio like the Today Programme on Radio 4 and phone-in debates are twice as distracting as music-based shows.

Mike Quinton from Zurich Connect, said: “Watch out, or a Humphrys harangue could end in a prang.

“Listening to Radio 4 presenters giving politicians a hard time or to your favourite shock jock’s phone-in could mean you are more than twice as likely to take your eye off the road ahead.

“Likewise, beware of the noisy breakfast or drive-time shows that assault you with a non-stop barrage of gags and banter, like Moyles, Theakston or O’Connell.

“The announcement that Chris Evans is taking over from Terry Wogan means the Radio 2 breakfast show distraction rating is likely to go up a few notches. Sir Terry’s blend of middle of the road music and quiet musings contrasts with the Evans maximum-noise formula.

In the poll of more than 2,000 people, 21 per cent of drivers said that the radio doesn’t distract them at all in the car, 23 per cent said they were distracted by music-based programmes and 56 per cent said they were distracted by chat, debate, sport and news programmes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Risk managers dig deeper to uncover insurer flaws

chartis insurance

A year after the near-failure of American International Group Inc., risk managers say they have adjusted their insurance programs and increased their scrutiny of insurers' financial position.

In fact, they are looking beyond the insurer to scrutinize its parent company.

Many say AIG's fall was a wake-up call, forcing them to diversify their insurance programs by moving some coverage to other insurers. They also moved portions of their programs so they could sleep better at night knowing their insurer would be around.

Fred O. Pachón, vp of risk management for Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Select Staffing Inc., transferred his employment practices liability coverage from AIG to Zurich Financial Services Group, he said.

“I did not want to risk it,” Mr. Pachón said. “In the employment/staffing world, we are a prime target for discrimination and sexual harassment claims, etc. So we must be sure that the carrier will be there if and when the day comes. Diversification was the second consideration in this case.”

Yet diversification emerged as a top lesson, several risk managers said.

“I think the take-away from the whole AIG situation is the reinforcement of diversity within a risk manager's insurance portfolio,” said Lance J. Ewing, vp of risk management for Harrah's Entertainment Inc., in Memphis, Tenn.

Even risk managers who were not AIG customers said they now look much closer at their insurers and react faster to changes in their financial position.

“If there's an insurance company that's having a dramatic stock price decline, that can raise flags,” said David Adler, director-risk management for Portman Holdings L.L.C. in Atlanta. Portman did not buy coverage from any AIG units for its insurance program.

“The example I would raise is XL,” Mr. Adler said.

Not long after AIG's troubles became known last year, “XL lost a considerable amount of its stock price,” Mr. Adler said. “In that situation, we immediately went through our portfolio of coverage and confirmed that we did have an environmental liability policy with XL. We alerted management and went into more frequent monitoring of XL. Since it was a three-year policy, we also negotiated with XL that should its rating drop, that we would be entitled to a pro rata refund in the event that we chose to replace the coverage.”

Insurers also have changed their behavior, said Steve Wilder, vp-risk management at Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, Calif. They have reacted to his department's increased scrutiny of their financial position with a new eagerness to share information.

“Interestingly, some insurers have now been very proactive in sharing their financial information,” Mr. Wilder said. “What happened to AIG is not a good thing for anyone, but the result and how we are doing business now makes more sense.”

Disney re-evaluated its comfort level with the aggregate amount of coverage placed with any one insurer and that led to some coverage shifts, although Mr. Wilder declined to provide details.

More than before, though, delving deeper into insurers' financial strength has led to closer relations with them, he said.

AIG's problems were “a wake-up call for us to be conscious of the counterparty risk that we have with all the insurance companies we work with,” Mr. Wilder said. “In many cases, we have actually talked to their CFO or treasurer, someone who can help us better understand where they are.”

Disney's scrutiny now includes scheduled reviews of an insurer's stock price, credit default swap activity, and information available from Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's Corp., Mr. Wilder said.

Claims payment, including the length of time before all losses are paid, also is getting greater scrutiny for signs that something might be amiss, said a risk manager for a Fortune 500 company who asked not to be identified.

Although policy diversification is much more important now, he still must weigh increased costs and rival insurers' global capabilities against the benefits of diversifying the company's coverage, the risk manager said.

Other considerations in maintaining coverage with AIG, which now has its insurance brands under the Chartis banner, also are at play.

“One of the reasons we stay with Chartis is because of the relationships and amount of information that they provided to us in the risk management community after they dropped the ball on how to handle crisis management,” Mr. Ewing said. “When their company first imploded a year ago, they didn't handle the public relations crisis as well as I thought they should have. But they got a second swing at the ball and did exceptionally well in keeping us informed as to how they were righting the ship in these turbulent waters,” he said

“We as a company have made no major changes in the amount of business of we do or not do with Chartis, and they continue to pay claims, which is what we buy the insurance for in the first place,” Mr. Ewing said.

Humana Inc. also maintained its AIG insurance, said Carolyn Snow, director, insurance risk management, for the Louisville, Ky.-based health insurer.

“We work with them primarily in the executive risk area and, prior to our last renewals, we had a meeting between the senior management of both companies,” Ms. Snow said. “We felt that the core group was still financially stable and we still had confidence in their management. We did some shifting in the upper levels, but kept them on the program.”

Monitoring insurers' financial strength has always been important, so few real changes in due diligence have occurred, Ms. Snow said. “But we try to stay continually aware of company changes and probably pay more attention to little things than we might have in the past.”

Other risk managers said AIG's problems reinforced the need for their profession's established practices.

Enterprise risk management became increasingly important, said Jane A. Keegan, enterprise risk manager for the Port of Oakland in California.

Not only is AIG involved in her insurance program, the company and its units have been major purchasers of the Port of Oakland's tax-free municipal bonds and provided a commercial short-term investment program. In addition, an AIG unit won a bid to develop a port terminal project.

While an array of AIG units have been involved in numerous business undertakings, before the conglomerate's weaknesses became apparent, risk managers evaluated only the strength of AIG insurance units rather than scrutinize the entire company business operations, said Scott B. Clark, risk manager for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Certain rating agencies on which the insurance industry relies still review only the strength of individual insurance units without evaluating a parent company's entire operations, Mr. Clark said.

“The risk management community really has to start what is behind the insurance we can evaluate just what kind of risk we are getting into above and beyond the insurance contract,” Mr. Clark said.

Motorists still want to go green

esure car insurance

New research shows that despite the recession, 62 per cent of UK motorists polled are considering an electric or hybrid vehicle as their next car purchase, but Government support is key.

Following the reported success of the UK scrappage scheme, the findings issued by esure car insurance reveals that 93 per cent of motorists questioned said that a major motivation for purchasing a greener vehicle would be cash incentives from the Government.

With electric cars headlining this year’s Motor Show in Frankfurt and chef James Martin making headlines following his electric car review, the research shows that only seven per cent of motorists polled are unlikely to purchase a greener vehicle because of the tough economic climate.

Nine out of ten of those motorists polled said they would be more likely to buy a greener vehicle if there was better infrastructure in place for electric cars.

Proving that value for money remains a priority for car buyers, 94 per cent said they would be motivated to ‘go green’ if the technology was cheaper.

Mike Pickard, Head of Risk and Underwriting at esure car insurance, said: “As this week’s Motor Show testifies, car manufacturers are investing huge time and resource into the electric and hybrid market. This is great news for motorists who are concerned about the environment but cannot live without their cars.

“A significant financial incentive to ‘go green’ would make the choice more appealing to many motorists and this is hopefully something that the Government will consider after the success of the second-hand scrappage scheme. In the meantime esure advises motorists to drive greener – and also save money – by adopting fuel-saving measures such as accelerating and braking slowly and checking tyres are fully inflated.”

The O’Neill Group Offers Custom-Designed Personal Insurance Programs

the personal insurance

The O’Neill Group Insurance Agency has taken a strong stance against pre-packaged, “one-size-fits-all” insurance solutions by offering custom-designed personal insurance policies to protect your home, autos, collections, antiques, and other assets from accidents, disasters, theft, and other catastrophes.

Brought on by the current trend of some mainstream companies promotion of “cheap” commodity-type insurance solutions (which may or may not fully cover all of an individual or family’s assets), The O’Neill Group is offering personal and confidential insurance needs analysis and coverage evaluations. During the analysis, a protection specialist will evaluate one’s current policy as well as make appropriate coverage recommendations to best protect one’s assets for the lowest actual cost. Because the O’Neill Group offers a wide range of products from a number of outstanding companies, they can tailor-make a custom policy which provides maximum protection at a cost that is competitive with the lesser quality “off-the-shelf” type insurance programs.

The O’Neill Group currently employs protection specialists that can assist with both personal and professional insurance needs, as well as provide sound insurance advice. To contact Patrick O’Neill or one of the experts at The O’Neill Group, please visit their website at, or simply call 330-334-1561.

AARP Auto Insurance

aarp auto insurance

AARP/The Hartford’s auto insurance policies have many of the same provisions as their competitors but also offer three unique features tailored to older drivers.

- 12-month rate guarantee: Most auto insurers can raise rates after six months, but AARP/The Hartford locks in prices for 12 months. This may be useful to older drivers with fixed incomes who want to keep their expenses predictable.

-RecoverCare: Since an older driver in an accident may need a hand getting back on his feet, AARP/The Hartford policies include a $2,500 RecoverCare benefit to pay for necessary help up to six months after an accident. You shell out the cost of things like a cab to the doctor’s office or hiring the neighbor’s kid to mow your lawn. Then you submit the charges to a customer service rep from The Hartford for reimbursement.

- Lifetime renewability: Once you’re an AARP/The Hartford policyholder for 60 days, you generally needn’t worry about losing your coverage just because of a fender bender or two. But although AARP’s TV ads say its auto insurance will never be canceled, the fine print has exceptions: You can be canceled for not paying premiums on time, for losing your license, for getting convicted of driving under the influence, or if a doctor says you’re not capable of driving. What’s more, this provision is not offered in the five states that require elderly drivers to take tests to renew their licenses. (And there’s no guarantee that rates won’t increase, of course.)

Bach thinks these features are “nice to have,” especially RecoverCare. “Out-of-pocket expenses after an accident are always higher than anyone anticipates, so I like that feature,” she says. But she wouldn’t pay extra for these extras. “The auto insurance market is so competitive, I would shop around to see if I could get good service and a better rate before I paid more for those features,” she says.

EI change good step but more needed: McGuinty

employment insurance ontario

TORONTO — Proposed changes to employment insurance by the federal Conservatives are a step in the right direction, but a bigger overhaul of the system is needed to ensure the next generation of workers can benefit from the program if they lose their jobs, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.

"The Harper government is proposing some things which I think will help, in an immediate way, but I think we have to bring a major re-think to the program," McGuinty said.

"We need to reform the employment insurance system in a more fundamental way."

McGuinty says the new plan -- which extends benefits for workers who have been employed for seven of the past ten years -- doesn't take into account the modern economy and the fact that an increasing number of young people are working on contract or are self-employed.

"They're not going to have access to employment insurance benefits," said McGuinty.

"What happens when there's a slowdown in the economy? They lose their income."

He also noted the changes don't address one of Ontario's biggest issues with EI -- the fact that people in the province receive less support than those in other parts of country.

McGuinty has long decried what he calls a lack of fairness in a program that gives unemployed Ontario residents about $4,000 less than jobless workers in other provinces, and has called for a single national standard.

The new Conservative proposal on employment insurance would affect an estimated 190,000 so-called long-tenured workers, who would receive between five and 20 additional weeks of EI.

Many of those workers were employed in the forestry and automotive industries in British Columbia and Ontario.

The EI changes come just days after Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Canada's deficit was estimated to rise by more than $5 billion this year, to a projected $55.9 billion from $50.2 billion, and warned of painful spending restraints.

McGuinty has said he has confidence in his province's own deficit projections of $18.5 billion, but warned Tuesday that it will take some time to dig out of the recession and promised to keep focusing on jobs.

"There is a modest consensus that we are now arriving at the tail end of the recession but we're also being told that employment will remain a challenge for some time," McGuinty said.

"While, technically, we may experience some very, very modest growth, we won't see job creation return at the pace we'd all like it to be."

McGuinty wouldn't say whether the deficit projections may rise, but cautioned people in the province should be prepared to see some restraint on the part of the government.

"Ontarians need to understand that it is a difficult period, not only for their families and their homes but also in government, and we'll have to show constraint, especially if we want to move ahead with new programs like full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds," McGuinty said.

"It means that we won't be able to invest as heavily in other areas."

NDP critic Peter Kormos said he was concerned by those warnings, adding the government's economic policies are likely to lead to more service cuts.

"This big tax break for the corporate world that's part and parcel of Mr. McGuinty's harmonization, his HST, flat revenue sources across the board, an economy that's still faltering, mean that we're going to have bigger deficits, mean that the government is going to be cutting programs,"' said Kormos.

"We're going to see more hospitals shut down, more emergency rooms shut down, more school closures."

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is slated to update the province's finances later this fall.

CAIC to Enter Personal Lines Market

kemper insurance

HOUSTON, Sept. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- CAIC Holding Company, Inc. announced today,
that effective October 1, 2009, they will begin offering Personal Lines
coverages through their wholly owned subsidiary Commercial Alliance Insurance
Company ("CAIC").

CAIC has appointed JoAnn Schmidt as Vice President of the Personal Lines
Division to head this new Division. JoAnn brings more than 20 years of
experience in the personal lines industry, specializing in strategic planning,
product and financial management. Ms. Schmidt has served in numerous
management roles including product manager and regional underwriting manager
for Kemper Insurance Companies, where she led multiple initiatives across
sales, service, claims, and underwriting focusing on key business drivers
while implementing automated processes. Most recently, in her role as manager
of program business at Lincoln General Insurance Company, a subsidiary of
Kingsway Financial, Ms. Schmidt developed and executed strategic business
plans for managing general agencies including identifying increased
underwriting exposure through improved audit processes, producer management
reviews, rate reviews and catastrophe management programs.

Luis R. Bordes, President, said, "We are very fortunate to have retained the
services of Ms. Schmidt, who brings extensive knowledge and experience with a
proven track record of profitable results. The diversification of into other
product offerings is part of CAIC's mission to become a multi-line insurance

CAIC Personal Lines will specialize in offering non-standard automobile
initially serving the Texas market and other selected states. Plans are to
eventually add other specialty personal lines products.

Commercial Alliance Insurance Company (CAIC), is an insurance company
headquartered in Houston, Texas and licensed in eight states, that specializes
in writing non-resident (Mexico), private passenger, commercial automobile,
surety, Texas Non-subscriber insurance since 1998. During 2009, CAIC expanded
its product offerings to include Personal Lines Insurance products,
specifically Non-Standard Auto and Homeowners.

CAIC has assets of $25 million and is rated an A-(Excellent) by A.M. Best
Company and is approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury (T-Listed) to act
as surety on Federal Projects.

C. Byron Snyder
Chairman, CAIC Holding, Inc.
Tel. 713 - 960-1214 Fax 713-960-1474

Health care reform should include malpractice process

professional liability insurance

In a conflict between two parties, an exemplary legal process would base a resolution on truth and justice; discovering the truth in the contested matter and finding a way to provide justice for both parties.

However, the process in the United States for adjudicating malpractice cases is unconcerned with determining the truth and is unable to deliver justice. Instead, both sides are primarily motivated by money. The plaintiff and his or her attorneys strive to maximize what they might gain, while the defendant and his or her advocates attempt to minimize what they might lose. These goals color the entire legal process, with truth and justice often its victim.

Medical negligence indicates that an error has occurred in the treatment of a patient because the standard of care was breached. Negligence is deemed malpractice when trial lawyers enter the picture. Unfortunately, medical negligence is a major problem confounding the delivery of health care, ruining people's lives and resulting in unnecessary suffering. No one would argue against addressing this problem aggressively. But it needs to be done in an equitable fashion, as physicians may suffer emotionally and financially from these actions even if they have done anything wrong.

Malpractice suits raise health care costs in various ways, including physicians' payments for professional liability coverage. (The total cost of medical professional liability insurance in 2002 was calculated to be $25.6 billion and is certainly much higher since then.) The economic difficulties faced by many physicians because of the price of liability insurance can not be overestimated, with the cost often in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. These exorbitant premiums have resulted in some physicians "going bare" (practicing without insurance) or closing their practices.

Defensive medicine, related to the fear of malpractice suits, is another factor that increases health care costs- physicians ordering unnecessary tests to exclude every unlikely cause for problems to protect against the risk of future suits.

A CBS News report in 2007 noted that the cost of defensive medicine to the health care system was estimated at more than $100 billion annually. Another study calculated the costs in 2001 at between $69 billion and $124 billion.

As an example of defensive medicine, when patients come into emergency rooms with relatively minor head injuries, CT scans are invariably ordered. This is to protect doctors from malpractice actions in the rare instance that a problem develops subsequently. (In addition to raising costs, this also exposes patients to unnecessary radiation.)

The proper (cost-effective) way to manage these patients would be to follow them clinically and order scans only if the symptoms warranted it. A survey of physicians several years ago showed that 79 percent ordered more tests and procedures than they deemed medically necessary in order to defend against malpractice suits.

Does the current system only need small adjustments to improve it or is it so flawed that it should be completely overhauled? Any program designed to address medical negligence and malpractice should have five objectives.

1) Decreasing the incidence of negligence and improving quality of care.

2) Properly and rationally compensating individuals who have been significantly injured as a result of negligence.

3) Removing incompetent physicians from patient care.

4) Punishing physicians guilty of negligence.

5) Having a process both patients and physicians believe is equitable.

The current method of handling malpractice through legal redress fails to meet any of the above objectives. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine assessing patients who had sued for malpractice, found no correlation between adverse events caused by negligence and payment to patients. Another study revealed that only 1.53 percent of patients injured by negligence ever filed a claim and only 8-13 percent of these cases went to trial. In addition, only 1.2-1.9 percent were decided for the plaintiffs. Yet almost $25,000 was spent on average by insurance companies and defendants to defend each claim, no matter how minor they may have been. The present system also does not address the issue of improving the quality of care. As the lawyer Winston Hubert Smith noted in writing about malpractice- "The civil action for damages enforces only incidentally the standards of medical practice."

Malpractice actions currently do not decrease the incidence of medical negligence, do not adequately compensate injured patients, do not remove incompetent physicians, and usually do not punish those guilty of negligence. Advertising by trial lawyers who want to attract personal injury cases persuades individuals who are angry at physicians or hospitals, or dissatisfied with the outcome of their care, to use the lawyer's services. A study in 1994 showed that the most frequent reason patients initiated a suit was television advertising, noted by 73 percent.

Physicians believe the malpractice process is inequitable and that they are unable to achieve justice, even if they win their cases, with no compensation from the plaintiffs after years of emotional stress and lost time defending themselves. Frustrated physicians view the process as flawed, knowing that only chance (and not good medical practice) keeps them from its clutches.

These actions are opportunities for plaintiffs and trial lawyers to obtain large payouts in cases where the treatment was unsuccessful or the results failed to meet expectations, whether or not there was actual malpractice. The skill of the attorneys and the experts on both sides may determine how a jury votes, rather than the true merits of the case. And there is an industry of expert witnesses who charge $500 to $1,000 an hour and are willing to testify on any aspect of a case, with no attempt at impartiality or seeking the truth.

Noted trail lawyer Melvin Belli once said, "If I got myself an impartial witness, I'd think I was wasting my money."

Trial lawyers have been obstructing all attempts at malpractice reform, contributing large sums to the campaign funds of politicians. The Trial Lawyers Association also has lobbyists actively working with Congress and state legislatures to prevent any critical statutes affecting malpractice from being passed. (The Association of Trial Lawyers changed its name to the American Association for Justice after a number of its most prominent members went to jail for subverting the legal process in various ways.)

The current method of handling presumed malpractice is a waste of time and resources, in addition to being ineffective. It is unfair to patients, physicians, and society as a whole. There are far better ways to deal with the issue of medical negligence from the standpoints of trying to lessen negligence, improve health care quality, and compensating victims who have been injured. Transforming the malpractice system now in place should be an integral part of comprehensive health care reform.

Dr. Robert A. Levine, MD is a neurologist in private practice in Norwalk, a former Chief of Neurology at Norwalk Hospital, and an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (ret) at Yale University. He has written two books on aging and preventing dementia, and his current book, Shock Therapy For America's Health Care System- Why Comprehensive Reform Is Needed (Praeger/ABC-CLIO) was released on July 31. Other articles he's written on health care reform can be accessed at