Sunday, October 11, 2009

Take Care Of Your Home for Homeowners Insurance Savings

insurance quotes

When a person finally owns their own home, they inherit more than just the pride of being the king or queen of their own castle. Being a homeowner also means shouldering the responsibility of protecting the property to the best of their ability. Doing so will yield much lower homeowners insurance quotes, saving homeowners plenty of money annually, says

“Since homeowners insurance companies base your homeowners insurance quotes on how much risk you represent, a sufficiently protected house can significantly lower your risk thus saving you on homeowners insurance,” the article, ‘Property Protection & Your Home: A Guide,’ states.

Protecting one’s home doesn’t have to be a drain on the savings account, and it doesn’t have to even require a lot of time and effort. Here are just a few items and ways suggests to protect one’s home against life’s perils, and save money on homeowners insurance in the process.

• A premier security system to keep burglars out and prevent theft
• Motion sensor lights on the outside of your house to illuminate and scare off any prowlers or potential burglars
• Smoke detectors installed throughout your house to prevent fire
• Fire extinguishers available throughout your house to prevent fire
• A properly maintained fireplace to prevent fire
• Storm shutters installed to prevent significant wind damage to the exterior of your house
• Waterproof veneer installed on your exterior walls and use flood damage resistant materials to prevent flood damage

All of the above will yield significant discounts from a homeowner’s insurance premium.

For more ways to save on premiums, homeowners are encouraged to regularly check local homeowners insurance quotes due to fluctuating insurance market trends. They are also recommended to compare at quotes from at least three companies to find the best rate.

What You Don't Know About Auto Insurance

auto insurance

That talking lizard may be on to something. Auto-insurance prices are based on many different factors, so shopping around really could help you save hundreds of dollars.

Your driving record will matter, as well as what car you drive, how many miles you travel each year, the coverage you want and where you drive.

Here are some other factors to consider before you start comparing:

Nearly all insurers look at your credit record because it has proven a strong indicator of how likely you are to file a claim. (In California, such use of credit scores isn't allowed).

Make sure your record is accurate by checking your credit report at (one report a year from each of the three major credit-reporting companies is free). At, you can get a free copy once a year of your CLUE auto report, which lists the insurance claims you have filed over the past seven years.

If your insurer raises your rates or penalizes you for your credit score, it should tell you so and give some explanation for the change.

Compare prices both with insurers that sell directly and those that sell through agents. Though agents receive a commission, they aren't always more expensive. In fact, Progressive sells both directly and through agents, and the company says one isn't always cheaper than the other.

Loyalty cuts both ways. Insurance companies want to win new customers, but they also reward you for staying put. You'll benefit if you've been with the same company for five years or more. That's because loyal customers tend to have fewer claims.

Discounts are in the details. Many companies offer discounts for going paperless, setting up direct deductions from your checking account or paying in full instead of monthly. You might get an early-signing discount of as much as 10% if you agree to switch companies a couple weeks before your current insurance expires.

Service matters. Once you identify the best deal, research the company's reputation. Both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates rank customer satisfaction with insurers. And you can look up complaint ratios at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, at

-- Karen Blumenthal, The Wall Street Journal
Help School, Help Your Kids

Cash-strapped schools are leaning hard on parents for help this fall. Some 53% of parents plan to volunteer at their children's schools, up from 44% last year, according to a poll of 1,086 parents by Harris Interactive and GreatSchools, a nonprofit parent-involvement group.

Sometimes it's best to volunteer where a school needs you most. But for parents with limited time and energy, which roles deliver the biggest benefit for your kids? And how does the answer to that question change as a student grows up?

Here's what research and experts say:

Elementary School: Volunteer where your kids can see you. "The idea that 'My parent is at school, my parent cares about me,' is so valuable," says Kathy Hoover-Dempsey, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University. Parent volunteers can get to know teachers, share information, observe the classroom and reinforce lessons at home.

Volunteering outside the classroom -- on the school board or as a PTA officer -- while helpful to the school, has indirect benefits. For small children, Dr. Hoover-Dempsey says, such activities are "going to be out-of-sight and out-of-mind."

Middle School: At this stage, volunteer tasks become more remote from the classroom. And although teens and pre-teens still want their parents involved, their horror at Mom or Dad appearing in the school hallway may lead many volunteers to drop out.

Research suggests that volunteering in middle school helps parents fill the all-important coaching role, guiding kids in picking the right classes and managing big projects. A 2001 study found that children of parents who volunteered in eighth grade were more likely to tackle a tough academic program in high school.

High School: By this stage, kids see school as their territory, not parents'. Research shows parent volunteering has little direct impact on high-schoolers' grades. But staying involved fortifies parent-teen relationships. Running the refreshment stand at football games shows a student that what he or she is doing is worth a parent's time, Dr. Hoover-Dempsey says.

-- Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal
What's Not for Dinner?

As business continues to drag at many restaurants, some are creatively cutting costs.

Here are a few tactics to watch out for:

Shrinking snacks: A bowl of nuts at a bar may be complimentary, but don't be shy about requesting refills. Some efficiency consultants say bar operators reduce costs by switching to smaller snack bowls.

Turning off the tap: More restaurants are holding back the tap water, hoping that patrons will pony up for cocktails or other pricey beverages.

Switching ingredients: One restaurant chain swapped pricey scallops with cod on an otherwise shellfish-laden skewer.

Unsweetening: Many eateries try to goose margins by cutting the syrup in their soda machines.

Tea, no twist: A glass of iced tea costs a restaurant less than a nickel, but at about 10 cents a slice, lemons cost more than the drink itself.

-- Neil Parmar,

Pack your flip-flops and travel insurance

travel insurance

Just about the time the second wave of the H1N1 virus hits, many of us will be thinking about giving the north the frigid finger and booking a holiday in a hot place. That'll happen after several mornings of scraping icy windshields or trying to find that missing glove or scarf from last year.

Escaping the frosty temperatures doesn't mean you can dodge the illness. You can expect the virus to be lurking in crowded airports, on planes and in hotels. Sure, you can take the usual precautions, sneezing and coughing into the crook of your elbow, carefully washing hands and practising the knuckle bump instead of a handshake or hug. And getting the vaccine when it becomes available.

But there's one thing many of us often overlook in our haste to beat it to beaches and deserts: travel health insurance. We might be vigilant about arranging pet sitters and finding the most flattering bathing suit, but not so much at protecting the hard-earned investment in a precious holiday.

A 2008 Ipsos Reid poll conducted for RBC Insurance suggests the topic is not considered as sexy as the bikini you might buy for the trip. Here are a few highlights:

-Nearly 40 per cent of Canadians never purchase health insurance when travelling on holidays to the United States, where medical costs are some of the highest in the world. (If you've ever seen Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, you might change your mind.) According to the study, a four-day stay in a U.S. hospital for an appendectomy could cost $39,400 US, with only $1,600 Cdn covered by a government health insurance plan (GHIP). A one-day stay in a U.S. hospital for a broken arm and wrist could cost $32,600, with only $400 covered by a GHIP.

-In a similar study done the year before, it was found that 64 per cent have never purchased travel health insurance when travelling in Canada because a majority-- around 75 per cent --believe their provincial health insurance plans would cover everything. (Provincial plans often exclude X-rays, dental work, ambulance transportation and prescription drugs.) One example cited the cost of an air ambulance with a full medical team travelling from Calgary to Toronto; the $28,000 cost would not be covered by a government health insurance plan.

-Nearly 30 per cent have never purchased travel insurance when travelling outside of Canada or the United States, skewing toward 18-to 34-year-olds. Another common misconception is that certain credit cards that have travel health insurance cover all costs incurred for illness or injury while travelling. It's wise to read the fine print because this is often not the case.

Martha Turnbull, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, is a nurse and works as a claims assistant in the travel division of RBC Insurance. I asked her some travel insurance questions relating to H1N1, but the answers would apply to most infectious illnesses.

Q. With all the news about the second round of H1N1, would a traveller who has already booked a trip and bought travel medical insurance be reimbursed if they want to cancel because they are worried about contracting the illness?

A. Typically, no. People can't cancel because they are worried. It has to be a defined situation. In this case, it would be best to ask your travel agent. Most insurance policies would change the dates of travel. Or, if the policy had a "cancel for any reason" clause, the person might be entitled to some money back, but not all of it. It depends on the insurer.

Q. In June, the World Health Organization deemed H1N1 a pandemic. Will travel health policies still cover the illness?

A. I haven't heard of any instances (where it won't). I can only speak for RBC. (The pandemic classification) does not void any part of the policy.

Q. If I'm advised not to travel and stay in bed when I become ill at a destination, will I be reimbursed for the cost of my extended days in a hotel, plus other expenses incurred?

A. Each company would look at it differently. If someone was ill and was unable to travel home, they would be covered for hotel and food. This is an important point.

Trip cancellation or interference and health coverage will cover the cost to change travel arrangements.

INSURANCE FAST FACTS - Cost of insurance is usually based on no pre-existing health issues, length of trip and age. here's a couple of cost scenarios for travel health insurance, from rBC.

A deluxe package includes: cancellation and interruption coverage; emergency medical coverage; emergency medical transportation; baggage and personal effects coverage; flight accident and travel accident coverage. - Family of four, both parents under 60:

Trip: Seven days in Hawaii Value of trip: $4,000

Policy premium for deluxe package: $380 - Snowbird couple, both aged 65 trip: 60 days in Jamaica Value of trip: $6,000

Policy premium for deluxe package : $1,442 Announces $16 Million Asset Sale, Continuation of Business Under Life Quotes Brand Name

life insurance, Inc. (Nasdaq: NSUR)
announced today that it has sold its brand name and related media
assets for $16 million in cash to QuinStreet, Inc., Inc. (the
Company) intends to change its corporate name to Life Quotes, Inc. and will
continue its business under its Life Quotes and Consumer Insurance Guide brand
names. The Company will retain all of its remaining balance sheet assets,
national brokerage contracts with 25 leading life insurance companies, 50
fully licensed insurance agents, call center operations, customer and prospect
lists, and nearly all of its current inbound affiliate and traffic

The Company acquired the name and website for $1.6 million in
December 2001. Revenue from this asset sale transaction will be recorded as
an extraordinary, one-time gain in the fourth quarter of 2009. The Company
does not anticipate paying any federal income taxes on this gain because it
has a current federal tax loss carry forward of $49 million.

"We have sold our name and specified website content in a
significant cash transaction that we think is in the best long-term interest
of our shareholders," remarked Robert Bland, chairman and CEO of the Company.
"This transaction has other benefits to our shareholders and employees in that
it will allow us to focus on our brokerage operation and insurance marketing
businesses. As a result of this transaction, we are projecting reduced
revenues of approximately 10-15 percent with increased marketing expenses for
the next 2-6 quarters as we rebuild under a new brand name and move from a
content-based website to a transaction-based website."

Phil Perillo, CFO, remarked, "This transaction, which calls for a $15 million
cash payment now and a $1.0 million payment in 365 days, significantly
increases our shareholders' equity and stockpile of cash. As a result of this
asset sale, the Company now has approximately $24 million of cash and
investments, no debt, stockholders' equity of $31.4 million and a book value
of approximately $4.98 per share."

The Company's board of directors voted unanimously in favor of this asset sale
and intends to hire an investment banker and review all of its options for use
of the transaction proceeds, which the Company intends to return to
shareholders in some fashion.

Health insurers to release report projecting rising premiums

health insurance

Obama officials, who have been wooing the insurers, question the timing and source of the report.

Washington - After months of collaboration on President Obama's attempt to overhaul the nation's healthcare system, the insurance industry plans to strike out against the effort today with a report warning that the typical family premium could rise over the next decade by $4,000 more than projected under current law.

The critique, coming one day before a key Senate committee vote on the legislation, sparked a sharp response from the Obama administration. It also signaled an end to the fragile detente between two central players in this year's healthcare drama.

Industry officials said they intended to circulate the report on Capitol Hill and promote it in advertisements. That could complicate Democratic hopes for action on the legislation this week.

Administration officials, who spent much of the spring and summer wooing the insurers, questioned the timing and authorship of the report, which was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers and paid for by America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.

"Those guys specialize in tax shelters," said Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform. "Clearly this is not their area of expertise."

At the same time, White House officials had to retreat from plans to tout Republican endorsements of Obama's top domestic policy initiative. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instructed the Democratic National Committee on Sunday to withdraw a pro-overhaul television commercial featuring former Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.) after Dole objected that it was being used for partisan purposes.

The developments came as administration officials were beginning to boast of momentum in the drive to remake the nation's $2.4-trillion health sector. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has expressed confidence that he has the votes to pass his 10-year, $829-billion legislation out of committee Tuesday, letting party leaders prepare a bill for floor debate.

Obama had courted industry leaders in the hopes of neutralizing many of the players who helped defeat a similar effort by President Clinton. Yet as the process has moved from abstract concepts to legislative details, the tension has mounted. Hospitals and doctors have increasingly complained that the administration is not keeping bargains it struck over how many Americans would be covered by an overhaul and what payment changes would be made.

But no industry has reacted with the same intensity as the insurance lobby.

"The report makes clear that several major provisions in the current legislative proposal will cause healthcare costs to increase far faster and higher than they would under the current system," Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans, wrote to board members Sunday. "Between 2010 and 2019 the cumulative increases in the cost of a typical family policy under this reform proposal will be approximately $20,700 more than it would be under the current system."

At the heart of the argument is whether the finance committee bill does enough to draw young, healthy people into the insurance pool. Industry analysts predict that by postponing and reducing penalties on those who fail to buy health insurance, it would attract less-healthy patients who would drive up costs.

On Sunday, Democrats blasted the industry's decision to release the report.

"Now that healthcare reform grows ever closer, these health insurers are breaking out the same, tired playbook of deception to prevent millions of Americans from getting the affordable, accessible care they need," said finance committee spokesman Scott Mulhauser. "It's a health-insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple."

FITZGERALD: Avoid a car insurance crash

car insurance

Opening your auto insurance bill this fall may result in whiplash more severe than a head-on collision. But unlike the deer in the middle of the road, this disaster was completely avoidable.

Democrat lawmakers included numerous auto insurance changes in the last state budget, causing rates to skyrocket. The sneaky part is that these policy provisions had absolutely nothing to do with balancing the state books.

You will now be required to have higher minimums on coverage, and multiple vehicle polices could be exposed to action from a single accident. In other words, if you have two cars with $1 million of insurance on each, you could be liable for all $2 million in damages, even if only one vehicle was involved in an accident.

The lone group that supported these changes will benefit from those bigger awards in lawsuits.

According to the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, these changes will boost auto insurance premiums by 33 percent for most drivers and more for low-income and middle-class drivers. Additionally, medical payment coverage premiums for motorcyclists could more than triple.

These modifications were attached to a budget document in the hopes that you wouldn’t notice. From the calls I am receiving at my office in Madison, however, their sleight of hand did not work.

Callers to my office are rarely irate. But since insurance bills list “legislative action” as the reason for the increase, my phone lines have been overheated with frustration.

The annoying part of that explanation is that every Republican in the Legislature, including myself, opposed these provisions. We offered specific amendments to remove the changes that would increase premiums but were rejected by the Democrat majority.

We pleaded with Democrats to not artificially increase insurance premiums, as the higher rates will hurt working families and small businesses. They heard us, but ignored our request. Nothing as trivial as premium increases during a recession was going to get in the way of the Democrat leadership flexing its muscle.

These significant rate hikes are hitting families at the worst time. With record unemployment, we should be working in Madison to reduce the burden on the family budget. Instead, Democrats made changes that take away options and dramatically increase rates on those already financially stressed.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Democrats were given absolute power in the last election. They chose to unnecessarily jack up your insurance rates. Now that is change you can do without.

Valuations not very compelling now: Vikram Kotak

kotak life insurance

After surviving the global turmoil of 2008, Indian equities are trading at attractive valuations, says Vikram Kotak , chief Vikram Kotak investment officer, Birla Sun Life Insurance. He is sanguine that the rally in the markets will continue , as insurance companies are likely to invest large sums of money in the market. In an interview with ET , he says one should look out for the impact of the stimulus package and RBI’s policy stance for direction. Excerpts:

India has been among the best performing markets over the past several months. So is the worst behind us?

The markets have come a long way since March 2009 and valuations are no longer very compelling. Stocks seem almost fairly valued in many sectors. The combination of surprisingly strong economic news and policy settings is a big catalyst. This may continue to drive equity prices higher. Markets are likely to deliver above average returns over the next few years. The improving risk appetite and increased capital flow into India will ensure sufficient liquidity flow into the country.

India is in a sweet spot due to two key reasons, domestic demand-driven economic expansion and emergence of strong domestic institutional investors. As of now, retail investors are yet to totally return to the markets. The FIIs, however, have been furiously buying in India, they have almost 85% of what they sold in the financial year ended March 2009. The rally is expected to continue as insurance companies are likely to invest approximately $1.3-1 .5 billion a month till March 2010.

Is the rally in global equity markets pricing in full fledged recovery?

While the economic recovery has been generally priced into markets, investors appear to be discounting an unusually weak recovery in countries such as the US that have lagged the global recovery. Yet, the US is exhibiting all characteristics of a classic Vshaped economic recovery. The biggest risk is not global economic recovery faltering or slowing down, but the speed of markets to recognise it. I think recovery in the US and developed world is unlikely to falter although it will be slow recovery.

With recovery in place, what kind of policy response are you expecting from government and the RBI?

The government, I would understand, is facing a dilemma about continuing with the stimulus package. The decision will be a key variable for the speed of recovery. Two factors to watch out for are: will this government-driven recovery translate into sustainable private consumption as early as possible and RBI’s policy on interest rate visa-vis growth going forward. The RBI faces a challenge on calibrating interest rates maintaining growth momentum and managing inflationary expectations. I think India will be first to tighten the policy rates, and will be followed by emerging Asian countries in the first quarter of 2010.

While choosing a unit-linked insurance plans (ULIP), how should one approach the choice of fund options?

It is critical to understand the nuances of long-term savings and protection. ULIPs provide a very good opportunity to plan for the long term. The first thing that one needs to do before selecting a plan is to set a financial goal, retirement, children’s education or buying a house. Based on the defined goal, one can choose from a variety of fund offerings that provides long-term capital appreciation along with risk cover. Both pure equity and fixed income funds offer long-term capital appreciation, equity offering higher returns given the inherent nature of risk one takes. ULIP also provides blended fund option, investing in both debt and equity, thereby giving policyholder a choice of products depending on his risk profile.

Is fresh money coming to ULIPs? What is the status of traditional plans?

Insurance industry is showing healthy growth in new business and renewal premium income. There is a clear preference for investment in equity over debt; almost 70% of incremental flow is into equity funds. Clearly improved education and financial literacy backed by under investment in equities are the key reason why we continue to see more preference towards equity investments. Traditional plans are integral part of insurance business and we will continue to see new products on traditional segment on ongoing basis.

State-run general insurers post 10 percent growth

oriental insurance

The four government-owned non-life insurers - National Insurance, New India, Oriental Insurance and United India - have posted a combined business growth of 10.55 percent for the first half this fiscal.

'The four companies earned a total premium of Rs.9,991.18 crore during the period, up from Rs.9,059.3 crore earned during the first half of 2008-09,' J. Gurumurthy, secretary of All India Insurance Employees Association, told IANS.

Among the four, the city-based United India logged the highest growth rate - 17.55 percent. It earned Rs.2,463.22 crore in the April-September period this year, up from Rs.2,095.49 crore in the like period last year.

However, in terms of volume, the Mumbai-based New India maintained its lead over the other companies, with a premium income of Rs.3,027.63 crore, up by Rs.237.56 crore from the year-ago period.

The New Delhi-based Oriental Insurance earned Rs.2,307.59 crore as compared to Rs.2,009.08 crore in the first six months last fiscal, while the Kolkata-based National Insurance earned Rs.2,192.74 crore, up from Rs.2,164.66 crore, Gurumurthy added.

National Insurance which logged impressive growth rates during the past couple of years, now dropped to the fourth position, logging a growth rate of meagre 1.3 percent.

Rel General crosses over Rs 1,000 cr premium in H1

reliance general insurance

Anil Ambani Group firm Reliance General Insurance has achieved a premium collection of more than Rs 1,000 crore in the first half of this fiscal, making it the fastest growing non-life insurer among the top-five private players.

The premium collection of over Rs 1,000 crore during six months period is the fastest since the inception of the company, Reliance General Insurance CEO K A Somasekharan said.

"Focus on retail and enhanced distribution network contributed to the growth," he said.

According to the preliminary data of the General Insurance Council, Reliance General recorded maximum growth among the top 5 private players during April-September period.

The company logged growth of 6 per cent at Rs 1,046 crore during the first half of 2009-10 compared to Rs 986 crore in the same period previous fiscal.

However, the largest private sector player ICICI Lombard, according to the data, recorded a decline of 16 per cent in premium collection.

ICICI Lombard collected premium of Rs 1,612 crore in the first half of the fiscal against Rs 1,925 crore in the same period last year.

At the same time, premium collection of Bajaj Allianz shrunk by 14 per cent to Rs 1,218 crore from Rs 1,416 crore in the same period a year ago.

Other top private sector players like Tata AIG General Insurance also registered a negative growth of 7 per cent, while Iffco-Tokio's portfolio grew by 5 per cent at Rs 751 crore.

What to do if you have no health insurance

catastrophic health insurance

For those who don't have health insurance, here are tips provided by insurance brokers, health plans and

1Don't procrastinate. Even if healthcare reform passes, it's likely that it will be several years before many provisions take effect. Not getting insurance can be -- well, gambling with your life. If you're young and healthy, you may feel you can live forever. But having a major illness without insurance can literally be a death sentence. The American Cancer Society reports uninsured women with breast cancer are 20 percent more likely to die than those who have coverage. The key is this: If you have health insurance, you can keep it. State law says that if an insurer sells you an individual policy, you can't be dropped. (There are exceptions, including persons moving out of state.) If you have no insurance and then try to buy it when a major illness strikes, you're out of luck.

If you're laid off and have the opportunity, take COBRA. The government is temporarily offering to pay 65 percent of the cost for up to nine months. The older you are and the more physical conditions you have, the more you need COBRA. It runs out after 18 months, but laws require insurance companies to offer you conversion coverage, which can be expensive but will keep you covered.

Be patient and persistent in researching the individual market. The choices can be numbing -- high deductible, low deductible, barebones, maximum life benefit, annual benefit, size of insurer network, health savings account. Insurance brokers and websites such as provide a good chance to shop. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida -- -- helps customers narrow options to meet needs. The most important factor may be cost. That likely means going for a lower-cost, high-deductible policy that essentially offers catastrophic coverage if you get really sick. In all cases, read the fine print about lifetime limits and total out-of-pocket.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your financial situation. Some doctors offer discounts -- if you pay at the time of service.

Many possibilities exist for getting help on prescription drugs. Walgreens offers substantial discounts for those who purchase an annual card at $20 per individual, $35 per family. CVS offers a free card, saying it can save an average of 20 to 30 percent. The Florida Discount Drug Card is available for those over 60 without drug insurance or for the uninsured under 60 who earn less than $32,490 for an individual or $66,150 for a family of four. More information at or 1-866-341-8894. The Together RX Access card, created by major pharmaceutical companies and boasting of savings of 25 to 40 percent, is open to the uninsured individuals who earn less than $45,000 or $90,000 for a family of four. More information at or 1-800-444-4106. Partnership for Prescription Assistance, another Big Pharma effort, 475 programs for the uninsured, offering free or discounted drugs, depending on need. More information at or 1-888-477-2669.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New D.N.C. Ad Touts Republican Support for Health Care Bills

health insurance

The Obama administration is trying to build a sense of momentum for a health-care overhaul by portraying such legislation as inevitable while portraying Republican opponents in Congress as isolated.

In a new commercial, the Democratic National Committee touts the recent endorsements of an overhaul from Republicans who are not in Congress, like former leaders Bob Dole and Bill Frist, while contrasting them with Congressional Republicans who are “siding with the insurance companies and just saying “no” to health insurance reform.”

The 30-second spot is set to begin airing Monday on national and Washington, D.C., cable stations.

And in his weekly address today, President Obama drew attention to those same outside Republicans as he declared that the health-care debate was approaching its “final days.”

There is no definitive timetable for votes on an overhaul, but the road ahead contains many challenges in what has sometimes seemed a sluggish process. The Senate Finance Committee is set to vote on its bill next week, and that bill must be melded with a bill from the Senate health committee before the full Senate takes up the matter.

A similar process will take place on the House side. Then the two chambers have to agree on one proposal, while the administration tries to keep industries like the drug companies, hospitals and insurance companies on board. Few are expecting floor votes in the next month.

“The historic movement to bring real, meaningful health insurance reform to the American people gathered momentum this week as we approach the final days of this debate,” President Obama said in his address.

Casting an overhaul as all-but-inevitable, he took note of what he called a “spirited debate” over health care, but added that what was remarkable was “the unprecedented consensus that has come together behind it.”

The “consensus” includes Republicans like former Senators Dole and Frist, although they have not endorsed specific legislation. Still, Mr. Obama contrasted them with “some in Washington today who seem determined to play the same old partisan politics, working to score political points, even if it means burdening this country with an unsustainable status quo.”

The outside Republicans who have endorsed the effort are proving useful to the White House not because they are likely to persuade any specific votes in Congress but because they help in portraying Republicans in Congress as cranky and out of touch.

A spokesman for Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, pointed to comments made by Mr. Dole in an interview with Fox News on Friday, when the former Republican majority leader tried to play down a split with Republican lawmakers.

“Well, my message is not telling them what to do or how to vote or what bill to vote for,” Mr. Dole said in the interview. “I’m not forcing any of them. But I think we need to stay in the game. I mean, that’s not a criticism, that’s a reality, because I’ve been around long enough or was around long enough to know that these things are never over, and there will be opportunities for Republicans if they’re in the game. And they’re probably going to carry some amendments if they offer amendments to the Baucus bill.”

Mr. Dole also said he agreed with Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, on some provisions opposed by G.O.P. lawmakers, like excise taxes, for example, that Mr. Dole argued would drive private insurance companies out of business.

In a statement highlighting Mr. Dole’s remarks, Mr. McConnell said: “I’ve spoken about reform 44 times on the Senate floor on the need for health care reform. Yet some don’t seem to be listening. But higher premiums, higher taxes, and more government? That’s not reform. And this is precisely the problem Americans have identified with advocates of the administration’s health care plans. They aren’t listening to our common-sense proposals any more than they’re listening to the concerns of the Americans people.”

Car insurance could provide a roadmap for health care reform

car insurance

One of the arguments that has been made by supporters of President Obama's health care reform plan is that a government requirement for individuals to have health care coverage is comparable to state requirements that drivers have car insurance. One must possess insurance to drive on the nation's roads, they say, so should it be for health insurance.

However, the analogy does not quite work. Nowhere in the Constitution does the federal government have an enumerated power or responsibility to mandate health care insurance. It's not outlined in Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution, nor in any subsequent amendments. Thus, the health care coverage issue belongs to the states and the people, as per our 10th Amendment, which states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Aside from the potential unconstitutionality of a health care mandate on individual liberty, an individual can opt out of paying for car insurance by not driving a vehicle. Living in a big city like Chicago, I find that public transportation pretty much handles my daily travel needs. I prefer to spend my money on other priorities. In addition, the priorities of health insurance and car insurance are different. Unlike health insurance, the often-standard liability insurance is designed to protect other people from negative results of your driving actions.

Despite the differences, however, there are indeed several areas where the health care reform debate could draw inspiration from the car insurance arena, although perhaps not in the way that proponents would think.

Your car insurance is not controlled by the government, nor your employer, but yourself. If you change jobs or even locales, you can keep your same provider. However, when it comes to health care insurers, there are virtual duopolies in many states due to government rules that prohibit them from selling their products across state lines. This inhibits competition, and drives up costs for consumers. The portability of car insurance should be applied to health care insurance.

Rewarding responsible behavior
Car insurance companies often offer discounts after a driver has demonstrated a clean driving record for a period of time, has taken a driving course or has received good grades or credit. These incentives have been shown to have an influence on one's driving record. Yet in health care, those of us who take care of our bodies have no comparable incentives. Given that up to 70 percent of health care costs are due to individual lifestyle choices, why shouldn't healthy individuals be rewarded for choosing to minimize bad health through healthy choices? The absence of such incentives does little to encourage people to make lifestyle changes that would reduce their health care costs.

Focus on catastrophic events
Car insurance typically doesn't cover routine maintenance like oil changes or tune-ups. Rather, it covers catastrophic activities like rear-end collisions. Similarly, the routine maintenance type of health care - dental checkups, annual checkups, breast exams, etc. - should come directly out of our pockets. Taking out the third party payer setup for these activities would bring down costs and stimulate competition, as companies compete for health care dollars.

For individuals with pre-existing illnesses, there can be high-risk pools to provide coverage for folks with costly health problems. Others have recommended a more free-market method that combines covering current expenses with the right to buy insurance in the future at a set price, so that one's premiums don't rise with illness.

The health care market shouldn't be government one-size-fits-all. If people are going to compare health care coverage to the car insurance market, they should take the ability to tailor car insurance to different needs, different behaviors, and different levels of risks and apply that to health care.

Southland homeowners at risk for mudslides have trouble finding insurance

homeowners insurance quotes

Some residents of areas burned by the Station fire are buying flood policies on top of fire and earthquake plans, hoping that at least one will accept mudslide damage claims.

Charred slopes in the foothills towering above William Johnson's La Cañada Flintridge home are now a mudslide in the making after being burned by recent wildfires.

But getting insurance has been impossible for him and many of his neighbors, he said, as winter rains loom.

Johnson, 54, said he called three providers, each of whom said they would not issue insurance for his area.

"While I'm trying to get protection, they don't want to deal with their losses, and they're trying to maximize their profits," he said.

Southland homeowners at a high risk for mudslides say they are finding few options for complete coverage.

Stand-alone mudslide policies are rare, so some residents are buying flood policies on top of fire and earthquake plans, hoping that at least one will accept mudslide damage claims.

But flood insurance is often vague and may not always pay for mudslide damage. Experts say flows that look like a chocolate milkshake tend to be covered, whereas an onslaught with a cake consistency is not.

As a result, residents like Johnson are turning to sandbags as a more reliable defense.

"Ironclad protection probably doesn't exist," said California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who was in La Cañada Flintridge on Friday to warn residents of the flooding risk. "There are certain types of perils not addressed by insurance. But there are things homeowners can do to protect themselves other than insurance."

The Station fire tore through acres of thick vegetation that normally holds the ground in place. The U.S. Geological Survey said this week that communities including Pacoima Canyon, Big Tujunga Canyon and Arroyo Seco could face an 80% chance of mudslides during the rainy season.

La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta could also be hit.

Poizner, speaking at the base of a hill speckled with dull, ashy dirt and the skeletal remains of trees, said residents were "completely exposed." Only 20 or so flood policies are in place in the area, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But basic insurance packages usually don't cover mudslides, experts said, focusing instead on fire, theft and falling water such as rainstorms.

"A lot of water damage claims end up being duked out in court," said Amy Bach, executive director of consumer group United Policyholders. "It's one of these areas where insurance companies have tried in recent years to limit their responsibility."

Although some providers of basic homeowner plans may be willing to pay for damage if residents can definitively link a mudslide to a recent fire, experts recommended buying a flood policy just in case.

"The last thing you want is to see that water coming and say, 'Oops, I should have done something,' " said Pete Moraga, a spokesman with the Insurance Information Network of California. The nonprofit trade association represents insurers including State Farm, Farmers and Allstate.

The dominant provider, the National Flood Insurance Program, is part of FEMA. Coverage is usually administered locally by independent insurers, few of whom offer their own flood plans.

"Flooding has become such a huge and expensive issue that it became uninsurable," Moraga said. "Because they usually involve such a large area and such high risk, many companies just pulled out."

The federal program, created by Congress in 1968, is particular about what damage qualifies for coverage, leaving mudslides in a gray zone.

A flood is defined by the program as a water overflow or an unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters, including faulty dams or rivers that jump their banks.

Some residents of areas burned by the Station fire are buying flood policies on top of fire and earthquake plans, hoping that at least one will accept mudslide damage claims.

Slope failures are excluded, as are "earth movements" such as earthquakes, sinkholes or gradual erosion. So, too, are landslides that break earth off in large chunks and destabilized land saturated with water.

However, mudflows are covered. The description mentions a river of liquid and flowing mud that picks up debris, usually after rains fall on land without adequate surface vegetation, such as in fire zones.

"The insurance is difficult because of all the flood categories," said resident Jane Fontana, 47. "If you have a giant rock roll down the hill because of the rain, they don't really cover that."

Fontana, a musician whose home in Big Tujunga Canyon was one of only two on her street to survive the Station Fire, said she bought flood insurance as a backup for the fire coverage she has through the California Fair Plan. It is an alternative sponsored by the government and insurance industry offered to those considered too risky by other companies.

Fontana said she was repelled by an initial $2,000 quote -- "a lot of money, especially if I put in a claim and they say no," she said. Eventually, an agent helped push down the cost to $400.

Just last week, the average cost of the federal flood program rose 8% nationally, according to the Insurance Information Network. On average nationwide, flood policies cost $544 a year, and the average flood claim is $33,000.

In the state, 271,007 federal flood policies are in place, with a total premium of more than $188 million.

For a claim to qualify, two or more acres or properties must be covered in water or mud. But according to the federal program, just 6 inches of flooding can cause more than $11,000 in damage to a house.

The policies usually take effect after 30 days and cover $250,000 in structural damage and up to $100,000 for personal property. Renters' policies are worth up to $100,000.

In the meantime, experts said homeowners should try to protect their properties by putting out nets, building retaining walls or planting vegetation to divert the mud.

Some insurers also offer additional insurance above the federal program's limit. And Poizner suggested companies that offer all-inclusive policies or specialized landslide coverage, while cautioning that such plans would be few and far between, and very expensive.

But the combination of home and flood insurance should cover the vast majority of cases, Poizner said.

Some residents, however, are resisting insurance entirely.

Karen Carson, 64, who works for a sports shoe manufacturer, owns the other surviving house on Fontana's street. She has fire and earthquake insurance but isn't too concerned about mudslides.

"I'm kind of taking a wait-and-see attitude," Carson said. "I could be wrong, but I don't think my actual house is going to be a problem. In 40 years, we've had some pretty bad rains, but never a problem with mudslides before."

Insurance firm told to pay Rs 58,693

oriental insurance

CHANDIGARH: UT consumer forum directed Reliance General Insurance Company Limited to pay Rs 58,693 within 30 days, along with Rs 5,000 as cost of litigation, to Kailash Yadav, a Sector 21 resident.

According to his complaint, Yadav had purchased an insurance policy for his vehicle for a period from January 2, 2008 to January 1, 2009, and paid Rs 6,915 as premium. However, during the insurance period, his vehicle met with an accident. The claim application was forwarded to insurance company, which asked Yadav to furnish consent letter for having accepted Rs 60,000 towards net of salvage or cash loss basis.

The understanding was forwarded to the insurance company on September 18, 2008, on a duly notarised stamp paper. After getting the vehicle repaired, when he demanded Rs 60,000 from the company, it allegedly did not release the amount even after receipt of legal notice. This forced Yadav to file a complaint before consumer forum on account of deficiency in services.

In its written reply, Reliance General Insurance Company Limited pleaded that after verification and inspection of the records, it transpired that Yadav had opted for 20% as no claim bonus from the insurance company at the time of taking the policy, although he had taken a claim from his previous insurers, ie Oriental Insurance Company and, therefore, his claim was repudiated.

After hearing the pleas of both sides, the forum, led by Jagroop Singh Mahal, held, “The insurance company was well aware that earlier the vehicle was insured with Oriental Insurance Company Limited and before issuing the policy in favour of Yadav, it was its duty to confirm whether the complainant was entitled to No Claim Bonus or not. If the insurance company failed in its duty to confirm this fact and issued the policy giving No Claim Bonus to Yadav, then he cannot be penalised for the inaction on the insurance company’s part.”

Insurance, When the Patient Is a Pet

pet insurance comparison

LIKE a lot of Americans, I’m obsessing about health insurance.

Only in my case, the issue is whether or not to buy pet insurance for Scout.

Soon, she will be 6 months old, the age recommended for spaying, a procedure that will probably cost several hundred dollars, once tests and medications are included. A less invasive technique, done through laparoscopy, is far more expensive. And we’ve already spent quite a bit on vaccinations and routine checkups. Then there are possible future expenses, like an accident or a really severe malady, like cancer.

As with humans, pet insurance programs are complex; some are expensive, and it’s hard to tell for sure what kinds of illness and conditions will be covered. Most plans offer tiers of coverage, which grow in price depending on how expansive the coverage is, the breed of dog, where you live and other factors. For many pet owners, of course, neither veterinary care for complex health problems nor paying monthly pet insurance bills is affordable or even possible, so I know that having the choice is a luxury.

The costs I’ve checked out for Scout with two leading companies that offer pet health insurance range from monthly premiums of about $12 to $45. Ouch.

Personal experience, discussions with a few trusted veterinarians and guidance from friends and fellow dog owners have tipped me in favor of buying the insurance, although I am still poring over the fine print and deciding among plans.

Frankly, I think the possibility of a big out-of-pocket puppy health expense is pretty high. Scout is, in dog training parlance, extremely food motivated. She managed to grab a shrimp off the counter the other day, even though I was keeping careful watch (or so I thought) and had shoved the plate way back from the edge. While her chewing has abated somewhat, I worry that her occasionally successful sneak attacks on our laundry basket could result in her swallowing a sock, or something else that could cause a blockage. (I have a lot of friends who have suffered through surgeries on their dogs to deal with this kind of problem.)

When he was a pup, Buddy, our dog before Scout, got into a box of chocolates (poisonous for dogs) that one of our children had carelessly left within reach. An expensive nighttime visit to the emergency clinic ensued. At midlife, Buddy also developed unbearable skin allergies, requiring tests and even biopsies, before a change in his diet brought the problem under control. What we spent on Buddy’s health issues (as well as the more serious problems we confronted with Dinah, recounted in an earlier column) probably exceeded the cost of insurance, even over his long life span.

Of course, I didn’t even know pet insurance was available with Buddy. And still, although it is growing in popularity, only about 2 percent of dog owners buy insurance. Two of the largest providers are VPI Pet Insurance, which has been offering policies since 1982, and Hartville Group, which has a licensing agreement with the ASPCA. There are about a dozen other companies that also sell pet health insurance. With most policies, the dog owner picks the veterinarian, pays the bill and is reimbursed from the insurance company, after deductibles are subtracted. And all policies are different, with some treatments and ailments either uncovered or not fully reimbursed.

Dr. Ann E. Hohenhaus, an oncologist at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, cited cases where dogs with the coverage were treated successfully when their owners probably could not have afforded treatment if their pets were uninsured. “We were able to make the decisions based on medicine, not on money,” she said. As Christmas gifts, Dr. Hohenhaus gave her two nieces, both dog owners, pet insurance policies. When one of their dogs needed surgery for bladder stones, she received an extra thanks for the gift.

But Dr. Hohenhaus recognizes that “insurance is a gamble.” And there are striking similarities in the pet-insurance world to some of the loud complaints that were voiced about the health care system at all those town hall meetings over the summer. Web sites focused on pet issues include discussions from both satisfied and dissatisfied customers. As with humans, existing conditions sometimes are not covered and older dogs with congenital ailments are sometimes rejected for coverage altogether.

That has been an upsetting experience for my colleague, Sarah. Her dog, a young Shih Tzu named Sammy, started shaking, panting and even biting the dog walker about a year ago. After medical expenses of about $1,200, Sammy’s liver disease was diagnosed. It’s a condition that makes it impossible for him to metabolize regular dog food. Even worse, Sarah was told Sammy might need a $1,500 operation, although the problem did not turn out to be severe enough to warrant the procedure. She did not have insurance, and set about trying to get it. Unfortunately, the company she approached rejected Sammy, saying his liver condition made him ineligible for coverage. She is going to see if another company will cover him. “It’s not a happy ending,” Sarah said, “because he will be 4 in January and if this liver disease doesn’t shorten his life, that’s another 10 years at least of potential health problems with no insurance.”

The rejection of one little dog pales next to the hardships suffered by many humans with existing health problems, who are routinely denied health coverage or find their health insurance policies suddenly canceled. But it underscores Dr. Hohenhaus’s point about insurance being a gamble.

But, in another case involving a colleague, Jo, insurance has turned out to be a good idea. At a monthly premium of $38.50, she bought insurance through the ASPCA for her dog, Humphrey, adopted in 2007. When his form of canine lupus was recently diagnosed, her policy covered a good portion of the costs. Here is her account.

According to Elysia Howard, vice president of marketing and licensing, the ASPCA started its pet insurance program three years ago. Since then about 140,000 pet parents (the organization’s preferred nomenclature for owners) have bought insurance through the organization. (By comparison, VPI Pet Insurance says on its Web site that it has helped protect more than a million pets since 1982.) The ASPCA receives a cut of between 5 and 10 percent on each policy and a guaranteed revenue stream of $1.6 million over five years. Ms. Howard said the insurance program is in keeping with the ASPCA’s broader mission of championing animal welfare. She bought a basic $11 a month accident policy for her dog, who subsequently injured her leg jumping over a fence, to the tune of a $350 emergency clinic visit. “Insurance helps you plan for the stuff you don’t anticipate,” she said.

Her words remind me that Scout isn’t the only family member whose health insurance needs my attention. Will, my 24-year-old son, has recently switched jobs and I’m not sure whether he still has insurance, especially since he is working as a consultant, not in a staff position. I’ve just sent him a nagging e-mail message, because we’ve discussed this several times, to make sure he either has, or buys, coverage. Luckily, he doesn’t have any health problems or existing conditions, but a health crisis, in dogs or in humans, can arise out of nowhere. Indeed, although it is painfully expensive for most consumers — and even then coverage can be insufficient — this is still the most powerful reason to buy insurance.

Air India brings in Reliance General for fleet insurance

reliance general insurance

NEW DELHI: State-run carrier Air India is believed to have roped in Reliance General Insurance, part of Anil Ambani group, as the insurer for its entire fleet. This is the first time that the insurance cover for Air India fleet has gone to a private insurer. Till date the same was being underwritten by National Insurance companies as a consortium.

The new cover is provided by a consortium led by Reliance General Insurance with HDFC Ergo, Bajaj Allianz and Iffco Tokyo General Insurance being part of the consortium. While Reliance General spokesperson declined to comment and Air India spokesperson was not available for comments, sources said that Air India has also paid its first premium as part of the tender process which warrants the premium to be paid to the insurance company in four installments during the tenure of the cover.

The new cover, to remain in force for one year, would come into force from midnight today and cover all 167 aircraft of Air India across the globe. Helping Californians Find the Right Auto Insurance

auto insurance comparison

Comparison shopping is the most effective way to find the best price on
automobile coverage. is proud to provide a service
specifically designed to help Californians find the lowest possible rates
available. By providing visitors with instant quote comparisons from multiple
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also provides valuable resources and tools for effective shopping and a better
understanding on how to choose the right policy.

Like most states, California auto insurance laws have set minimum requirements
for liability coverage. However, the state has one of the lowest limits required
in the country. For this reason, consumers are strongly urged to consider
comparing higher limits when shopping for policies. This can be extremely
beneficial in the event of a traffic accident where the cost of injuries and
property damage exceed the state`s minimum requirements. The minimum legal
coverage may prove inadequate to protect one from having to pay out of pocket to
cover another party`s medical care or repair bills.

The Internet makes it possible for consumers to get several quotes from
different companies all on one website. This sort of side by side comparison
makes it much easier to see the different rates being offered for the same level
of coverage and make an informed decision about what policy to purchase. By
one will see that the state`s Department of Insurance recommends shopping around
because the laws of the state allow companies to determine their own rates based
on their previous experience and losses. Since no two companies have had the
same loss history, each will quote an applicant differently. This is why it is a
good idea to quote as many companies as possible.

For more information about how California residents can find the right coverage
at the right price, visit for
more details, answers to frequently asked questions, help choosing coverage and
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Online Auto Insurance, LLC
John Pirro, 909-912-1855

United India Insurance, TMB enter into agreement

united india insurance

United India Insurance company Ltd and Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Ltd on Friday entered into an agreement to act as 'Bancassurance partners'.

By this agreement, the bank will market products of the insurance company through its 215 branches nationwide, a TMB release said.

The agreement was signed in Chennai today between TMB Managing Director Nagammal Reddy and United India insurance General Manager K Sanath Kumar.

United India insurance company Ltd has a nationwide network of 1,400 branches and 17,000 employees.

New York state unemployment NYS unemployment NYS dept of labor

nys unemployment insurance

New York state unemployment NYS unemployment NYS dept of labor. Governor Paterson announced today that New York State will receive approximately $4.5 million in federal grant funds for 2009 under the national Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) initiative of the US Department of Labor. The REA initiative is designed to help people receiving unemployment insurance get back to work faster by providing them with individualized job search and training services. The money comes from federal funds that support the administration of unemployment insurance. “Because of the economic turmoil New York has faced during the past 18 months, I have made it a priority that we do everything within our power to protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including the unemployed. These grants demonstrate that the federal government has recognized and rewarded those efforts,” said Governor Paterson. “New York was one of the first states to try this individualized approach to helping the unemployed get back to work faster, and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to expand this promising program. I want to thank President Obama and Secretary Solis for providing funding that will allow us to serve more workers through this program.”

REA grant funds support additional One-Stop Career Center staff who work one-on-one with individuals receiving unemployment insurance. Staff will help workers determine what job hunting and training services they need, and then develop a job search plan customized to each person’s needs. Additionally, information on the local labor market is used to help focus the individual’s job search. Staff will continue to follow-up with each worker throughout the job search process, until the worker gets a job or exhausts his or her unemployment benefits.

Early results from the REA initiative are promising. For 2008, participants found jobs approximately two weeks faster than those in a control group. Putting New Yorkers back to work more quickly not only benefits participants, but also saves the State money. In 2009, New York could save approximately $10.4 million per year in payments from its Unemployment Insurance Trust fund (based on the current average weekly unemployment insurance benefit rate of almost $316) if program participants find a job one week faster than those who do not participate.

State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith said, “As this recession continues to drag on, we are doing everything we can to help unemployed workers get back to work and support themselves and their families. These grant funds will help us do that.”

Twenty-five states received awards that totaled $26.5 million under the REA initiative. New York is one of nine states receiving grant funds that have previously participated in the program. In 2008, New York received $647,000, which funded a model REA program in one Local Workforce Investment Area. For 2009, New York received more than $4.5 million to continue the model REA program and expand it to eight additional Local Workforce Investment Areas throughout the state.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said: “For years, New York has been a leader in improving the lives of its citizens. This federal funding recognizes our success, and allows us to provide even more support to unemployed New Yorkers during these difficult economic times. I am extremely proud to have worked so hard on behalf of New Yorkers to secure this funding and will continue to fight to ensure New Yorkers are well taken care of.”

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said: “This is the right investment for New York. These federal dollars will help workers and families who have been hit the hardest by this economic downturn get back on track. I will continue working with Governor Paterson, Senator Schumer and the entire Congressional Delegation to make sure New York gets its fair share from the federal government to rebuild our economy.”

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke said: “Today, I am pleased to join Governor Paterson in announcing the Re-employment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) initiative. This program provides the citizens of New York access to key federal resources, helping to combat the increase in unemployment that our nation faces. I strongly encourage our local leaders to apply for these grants, providing economic empowerment and job training for Brooklyn residents. I commend the hard work of Secretary Solis and the Obama administration in joining me to specifically address the employment needs of the citizens of Brooklyn, New York.”

Congressman Eric Massa said: “Helping families get back on their feet during this recession is one of my top priorities. We all need to work together to help lower the unemployment rate and that's exactly what these funds are designed to do. Helping retrain workers is critical in this process and that's why I'm so proud to help make this announcement today.”

Congressman Paul Tonko said: “This federal grant money is supporting an innovative program that will help improve the employment outcome for New Yorkers. I congratulate Governor Paterson and the New York State Department of Labor for doing everything in their power to help the unemployed get back on their feet.”

Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns said: “Reducing our unemployment rate is critical to rebuilding our economy. This grant will provide those most severely affected by the recession personalized access to the tools and guidance necessary to find a job.”

Dead Peasants Insurance Policies

dead peasants insurance

I learned about a new low in corporate greed from Michael Moore’s latest documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which, by the way, I highly recommend. It is called “dead peasant” insurance. Companies take out secret insurance policies on their employees and name themselves as beneficiaries. And we are not talking about key employees since losing their expertise, knowledge and contacts of top managers can be financially devastating for companies. Rather, companies also write policies for rank-and-file employees. When the employee dies, the company, not his or her family, gets the insurance money. In Moore’s movie, Wal-Mart took out a secret policy on a cake decorator, and when she died, Wal-Mart received $80,000, but her family received nothing but medical bills and funeral costs.

I cannot take out an insurance policy on my neighbor’s life with me as the beneficiary because I have no insurable interest in his life. That would be an invitation for me, if I was that kind of guy, to bump him off. Insurance is largely regulated by the individual states and, in the 1980s, many states permitted these type of insurance policies. Congress over the years has tried to crack down on the practice, but the insurance industry so far has managed to derail reforms.

Hundreds of companies — including Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney and Winn-Dixie — have purchased this insurance on more than 6 million rank-and-file workers. Companies pay $8 billion in premiums each year for such coverage. The policies make up more than 20% of the all the life insurance sold each year and companies expect to reap more than $9 billion in tax breaks from these policies over the next five years. The policies are treated as whole life policies. Therefore, companies can borrow against the policies. And the death benefits are tax-free.

No one knows how many corporate-owned policies are issued on executives versus rank-and-file workers. Wal-Mart alone had taken out about 350,000 such policies between 1993 and 1996. Nestle USA had policies on 18,000 workers in 2002. Enron had $500 million in policies on workers.

Congress should ban the practice for rank-and-file employees or at the very minimum require companies to obtain employees’ permission for the policies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Turning life insurance policies into cash

life insurance

With the slumping economy driving many older Americans into poverty, there is another asset besides the equity in your home that could be turned into cash - your life insurance policy.

I am not talking about buying a policy in order to flip it and sell it to an investor. That's called Stranger Owned Life Insurance (STOLI), which has been all but outlawed in most states because it's little more than a scam that aims to rip off insurance companies. And you put your life in the hands of a stranger-investor who profits if you don't live too long.

Now, however, reputable elder law attorneys and the AARP magazine suggest that if you have a universal or whole life policy for which you're still paying premiums, or which you and your heirs and survivors don't need, you may sell it as a "life settlement."

The proceeds of such a settlement, minus a broker's fee, would be less than the death benefit but more - maybe much more - than the cash surrender value.

The life settlement, which is especially useful for those facing costly medical bills, grew out of "viatical settlements" for terminally ill AIDS patients who did not have sufficient insurance. They paid for their care by selling their insurance policies. Those settlements ended as drugs prolonged the lives of HIV-positive patients.

While dying AIDS victims were able to get 30 percent or more of the value of the death benefit, according to the AARP magazine, most life settlements today pay between 15 percent and 25 percent on universal and whole life policies and on term policies that are convertible. Elderly people with health problems can get more.

Elder law attorney Penny Kassel of Garden City, N.J., says in her newsletter that most companies that buy such policies require that you own the policy for at least two years and that you allow them to see your medical records. If you're healthy, under 70 and have a long life expectancy, you're not a good candidate for a life settlement.

But you need not be ill to seek the cash of a life settlement. If you're over 70 and the policy is paid up, or if you've been paying on it for years, it is as much of an asset as your home.

Most people who can no longer afford the premiums let the policies lapse, which is what insurance companies count on. If you need the policy's worth in your lifetime and your heirs don't need the money, a life settlement could be a life saver.

Under a settlement, the buyer pays your premiums for the rest of your life and a percentage of the death benefit. And the older you are, the better the settlement.

According to one expert, a male policyholder who is 75 and has a $1.5 million policy with a cash surrender value of $72,000 can get a life settlement of $455,000.

Some brokers will pay life settlements for policies worth considerably less. You may shop around for the best deal. Brokers, many of whom now advertise, may earn high commissions. So AARP recommends you choose one through your accountant, lawyer or financial adviser.

Kassel says it may be possible to collect a portion of the death benefit if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness and need the money for care. This is called an accelerated death benefit, which is included in some, more expensive policies.

Wall Street has found a way to treat life settlements like the subprime mortgages that sent the financial system into a tizzy.

According to the Sept. 6 New York Times, some of the investment bankers who made millions from exotic "credit default swaps" and bundles of subprime mortgages are now "securitizing" life settlements. That is, they are planning to buy up thousands of life settlements and packaging them into bonds, to be sold to investors.

In 2006, New York State sued one life-settlement company, Coventry, for allegedly engaging in bidrigging to keep down prices offered in life settlements.

But there are potential problems beyond fraud, and the Securities and Exchange Commission announced last month the creation of a task force to investigate and consider regulating life settlements.

Times reporter Jenny Anderson wrote, "There is another risk for investors that some people could live far longer than expected. ... If too many people with leukemia are in the securitization portfolio, and a cure is developed, the value of the bond would plummet."

One wonders, for example, if investors with billions at stake could delay FDA approval of a cure.

Health Insurance Exchanges: Will They Work?

health insurance

It is the sleeper issue in the current health care debate.

Despite all the disagreement in Washington, every proposal now before Congress to overhaul the nation’s health care system includes creation of an insurance “exchange” — a marketplace that would operate something like a Travelocity Web site for insurance policies.

In theory at least, the exchange would fix a fundamental flaw in the present system by giving small businesses and individuals a broad choice of insurance policies at competitive prices. Right now, such buyers typically have few affordable options.

The idea of an exchange has support from the White House and many in Congress — from people who also advocate including a government-run insurance plan in the marketplace and from those who oppose letting the government compete with commercial insurers.

But policy experts say few lawmakers have yet paid enough attention to what that new marketplace should look like — and whether it would actually work as promised.

Without careful design and adequate rules of fair play, and without letting enough buyers participate to create a robust market, the exchange might not actually stimulate new competition among the nation’s health insurers. In other words: What happens if you build an exchange and insurers do not flock to it with new, well-priced wares?

The risk is that many local markets could end up looking much as they do today — with small businesses and individuals at the mercy of too few insurers wielding too much power in their regions.

“We may not be able to improve competition in the short run through the exchange,” said Len Nichols, a health economist at the New America Foundation, a Washington research group that supports an overhaul of the insurance market.

So far, the House proposal calls for the creation of a national exchange where someone in Iowa, for example, may have the same choice of health plans as buyers in Maine and California. Because insurance is now a state-by-state patchwork, such an approach would conceivably enhance competition by creating an interstate market.

But critics worry that the result may be a few big providers of one-size-fits-all plans, still leaving many small businesses and consumers with products that do not meet their needs or budgets.

Both Senate proposals, meanwhile, favor the creation of state-based exchanges, where a state may have the choice of deciding whether its residents can also buy from a national or regional exchange. The exchanges may have other wide variations, depending on the model chosen by a state or outlined in the legislation.

Some may mirror the one in Massachusetts, which actively screens the policies and negotiates with insurers on behalf of customers. Others may operate more like electronic yellow pages, where insurers list their offerings with little government involvement or oversight.

Another big question is whether there will be enough new customers to prompt insurers to actively compete for their business.

As currently outlined in the Congressional proposals, participation in the exchanges would be limited in some way — to only the very smallest employers, or to residents of a single state or to people who do not now have coverage through their employers.

Another limiting factor, policy experts say, would be whether Congress provides generous enough subsidies so that people who do not currently have insurance could afford it.

For all their potential drawbacks, the exchanges are meant to address a fundamental issue: the current lack of competition in many parts of the country.

President Obama, for example, in his recent speech to Congress, cited states like Alabama where the insurance market for individuals and small companies is dominated by a handful of carriers. As a result, he said, “the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down.”

A recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office notes that in more than a dozen states, including Delaware, Maine, North Dakota and Rhode Island, the largest health insurer offering coverage for a small business commands more than half of the overall market.

Some insurers argue that the strongest need for competition is among the hospitals and doctors, not the health plans serving as middlemen.

“There has to be competition within the delivery system,” said David H. Klein, the chief executive of the powerful Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in Rochester, a nonprofit insurer that is one of the major sources of coverage in that market. “In most of America, that just isn’t going to happen.”

But small business owners frequently complain they when they have limited choice among insurers, they have little bargaining clout. “It’s a ‘take it or leave it’ for some of the biggest carriers out there,” said Amanda Austin, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses.

At Smithfield Diesel and Transmission Repair in Rhode Island, for example, for years the choice of insurers has been limited to the state’s two biggest carriers — a Blue Cross plan and United Healthcare — said Joan Frattarelli, who runs Smithfield Diesel with her husband. This year, the company’s costs went up by 29 percent, to about $34,000 for coverage of four employees under Blue Cross.

Ms. Frattarelli said she worried that some proposals in Congress would continue to restrict her options to only those plans now available in Rhode Island, which would leave her no better off. “Competition is the name of the game,” she said, “I don’t care what industry it is.”

The hope in Washington, of course, is that an influx of tens of millions of newly insured customers will lure insurance companies to enter new markets. That is what happened a few years ago when private insurers flocked to offer prescription drug coverage after it was added to the Medicare program, said Ken Sperling, a health care consultant for Hewitt Associates.

But because of the restrictions on who can shop, and the question of whether the shoppers will be able to afford insurance, no one knows how many new customers there might be, especially in some in the least populous markets.

The big national insurance companies, like Humana, United Healthcare and Aetna, would not speculate on how the exchanges might affect their business plans. But some of the regional insurers say they could be tempted to expand, at least into nearby markets or states.

“It’s not off the radar screen,” said George C. Halvorson, the chief executive of Kaiser Permanente, the big California health plan. “We’re going to sit down and take a really hard look.”

Another deterrent facing new entrants is the fact that established insurers can negotiate the deepest discounts with the local hospitals and doctors, making it hard for a new player to compete on price.

“The big dominant insurer in any market has the providers pretty much sewn up,” said Timothy S. Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee University. “I think that’s the big problem, and I don’t know that the legislation addresses that very well.”

Congress must also decide whether the exchanges would have any authority to decide which plans are offered and at what price, said Paul Fronstin, a policy analyst with the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a co-author of a recent report on insurance exchanges. “The exchange can have a more active role if it negotiate rates,” he said, “but it is not clear what is going to happen.”

In Massachusetts, for example, the state’s exchange, called the Connector, negotiates directly with the state’s private insurance companies in offering a small number of state-subsidized plans — similar to what an employer does when it screens the policies offered to its work force.

“We work as an aggressive employer, offering managed competition,” said Jon Kingsdale, the executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority. He said the agency’s ability to negotiate on behalf of 180,000 customers who required state subsidies was a reason it achieved a 6 percent reduction in the cost of premiums this year.

But the Connector would be less effective if it had no say over which plans were offered on the exchange, said Mr. Kingsdale, who criticized the Senate Finance committee’s proposal, for example, as potentially creating little more than “an automated yellow pages.”

Because formulating an effective exchange is so difficult, some policy analysts are still arguing that only a new government-run competitor could create a powerful enough force in many parts of the country to offset the home-court advantage many insurers already wield.

“People don’t realize how hard it is to crack these markets,” said David Balto, a former official with the Federal Trade Commission who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group. “What you need to have,” he said, “is something that effectively disrupts the market.”

OH Dear!!!!!!!!!! Watch Out For That Deer

car insurance

The latest study from State Farm Insurance indicates that Minnesota is now the 12th most likely state for drivers to hit a deer. This is down from the last study where Minnesota was 10th nationally. Nationally, 1 in 156 vehicles will collide with a whitetail in any given year. Minnesota was up 9 percent from five years ago, but that’s half the average increase in the United States, according to a study by State Farm Insurance. The number of car/deer collisions puts Minnesota in the risk category.

The Minnesota Department of Traffic Safety's "Crash Facts 2007" indicated that there were 3,144 vehicle-deer accidents reported last year with 336 injuries and six fatalities. An estimated 2.4 million deer-vehicle crashes occurred in the two-year period between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009. That’s 100,000 per month or one every 26 seconds. The national average property damage cost of deer collisions is $3,050, up 3.4 percent from a year ago.

The Duluth News Tribune recently published some helpful suggestions:

Rule 1: Treat every deer as if it’s going to cross in front of you. If you assume a deer feeding on the shoulder is going to hold its position until you have gone by, you’re just an accident waiting to happen.

Rule 2: Drive according to the conditions. If the night is foggy, rainy, or slippery, you might not be able to prevent a collision, but you can minimize the damage if you’re driving slowly enough. Don’t just speed along and hope nothing gets in your way.

Rule 3: Keep your eyes on the road at all times. You may only have a second or two to react to a deer crossing the highway. If you’re not an attentive driver, you can get hurt.

If a crash with a deer seems inevitable, safety experts advise people not to swerve because of the risk of losing control or swerving into oncoming traffic. From the car insurance angle, Steve Murphy, with the Willard & Williams insurance agency in Mankato points out the difference in hitting a deer or the ditch also affects motorists’ insurance premiums. “If you swerve and miss the deer and end up in the ditch, it’s an at-fault accident and affects your rates. If you hit the deer, it’s under your comprehensive (coverage) and doesn’t affect your rates,” Murphy said.

While there is no liability claim for the driver of the car, he or she is covered for Minnesota No Fault Benefits. These benefits are paid in the same manner that they would be paid in any Minnesota motor vehicle collision. Passengers may still have a claim for liability depending on the facts of the collision. It is important that these case be investigated early by an Attorney who does this type of work.

India Post Selects 2 Companies to Manage Insurance Funds

sbi life insurance

NEW DELHI -- India's federal postal department Tuesday signed pacts with two fund managers to help manage cash that it will collect daily as premiums from its life insurance customers.

The funds to be managed will be split equally between state-run UTI Asset Management Co. Ltd. and SBI Fund Management Pvt. Ltd., a government statement said.

"The net accretion to the postal life insurance and rural postal life insurance will now be invested as per the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority guidelines," the statement said.

The postal department expects to collect between 70 million rupees ($1.47 million) and 100 million rupees a day in fresh premiums, a senior department official, who didn't want to be named, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"It (the premium collection) is likely to pick up at the close of the financial year," the official added.

India's fiscal year runs from April through March.

Up to 15% of funds collected in premiums can be invested in equities, UTI Asset Management Chairman U.K. Sinha told Dow Jones Newswires.

Earlier, the postal department used to invest the entire amount in government securities.

The postal department has also sought government approval to convert 200 billion rupees worth of bonds into tradable securities, the department official said. He didn't elaborate.

ICICI Pru pips SBI Life to become largest private insurer

icici prudential

Private insurer ICICI Prudential has pipped SBI Life to regain the top position among private players garnering new businesses Rs 1,725 crore in the first five months of the current fiscal.

SBI Life, promoted by the country's largest lender State Bank of India, earned first year premium worth Rs 1,704 crore in April-August period while ICICI Prudential collected Rs 1,725 crore in the same period, according to the Irda data.

The ICICI Prudential's gain is mainly from the large premium the insurance firm managed to mop up in August. The company new business during the month stood at Rs 525 against SBI Life's Rs 306 crore.

SBI Life had taken over ICICI Prudential to become the largest private insurer in the first two months of FY10.

However, when compared to last year, ICICI Prudential's premium dipped by about 40 per cent. In the first five months of FY09 its premium stood at Rs 2,818 crore.

SBI Life also saw its premium declining to Rs 1,703 crore in the first five months of this fiscal, compared to Rs 1,763 crore raised in the same period last fiscal.

Overall, the private life insurers registered a negative growth of about 15 per cent during April-August of the current fiscal. The 21 private life insurers managed to raise Rs 10,227 crore in the first five months of FY10 against Rs 12,089 crore during the same period last year.

However, the life industry grew by 17 per cent in April -August of the current fiscal, with the life insurance companies' premium rising to Rs 31,039 crore against Rs 26,449 crore during the same period last year.

This was mainly due to the 45 per cent growth in new business registered by the country's largest insurer Life Insurance Corporation.

LIC's market share rose to 67 per cent in new business in the first five months of current fiscal from 54 per cent share during the corresponding period last year.

It mopped up Rs 20,810 crore during April-August period of the current fiscal, compared with Rs 14,359 crore during the same period last year.

In August, the premium collection of the life insurance industry grew by around 44 per cent to Rs 9,044.18 crore against Rs 6,273.57 crore in the same period last year.

The private life insurance segment, however, witnessed a negative growth of around 8 per cent, while the LIC registered a whopping growth rate of 83 per cent in premium collection in August.

Commenting on the August figures, Reliance Life Insurance President Malay Ghosh said, "The new business numbers are showing growing trend each month which is a positive sign. We are sure that the private sector will be back on the growth path by the second half of the financial year."

Virgin Money to sell car insurance

virgin insurance

- Virgin launches car insurance
- Re-entering home loan, credit card market
- Had 750,000 accounts five years ago

VIRGIN Money has launched a car insurance product which will be followed by other banking products over the next two years.

Sir Richard said Virgin Money would also launch deposits, personal loans, home loans and credit cards.

Virgin Money became a major player in Australia five years ago when it linked with Westpac for a low-cost credit card that snared more than 750,000 accounts, but Westpac inherited those customers when the contract ended a year ago.

Virgin has paired up with Citibank to roll out credit cards, signing a 10-year exclusive profit-sharing contract late last week, The Australian reported on Monday.

The first Citibank-Virgin credit card is scheduled for July next year and then online retail savings and deposit accounts will be rolled out. The accounts will be offered only on the internet or through Citibank's existing call centres, with no branch access.

The joint venture will also develop a Virgin Blue credit card linked to the budget airline with reward points that will compete directly with the Qantas-associated credit cards.

Up to 40pc cheaper - Branson

In the Australian car insurance market, most brands are owned by IAG and Suncorp-Metway, who together hold about 75 per cent of the market.

Sir Richard said he could offer Australians 35 to 40 per cent cheaper car insurance than current insurers.

Sir Richard said Virgin Money was expecting to have 40,000 to 50,000 car insurance customers by the end of 12 months, and would offer products capped for two years, and 13 months for the price of 12, when customers sign up to comprehensive cover online.

Virgin Money's car insurance will be underwritten by Auto & General Insurance Company, one of South Africa's biggest general insurers, which is aiming to expand in Australia.

Todd Henry Musical Scholarship

horace mann insurance

John Tyler teacher Todd Henry's life and love for music will live on. A music scholarship has been set up in his memory.

Donations can be made at the Teacher's Credit Union in Tyler for the Todd Henry Musical Scholarship. The account has been set up by Horace Mann Insurance.

The family hopes that this will be a way for them to share Mr. Henry's love for music and students.

For more details, contact Horace Mann Insurance at 903-534-9161 or email us at You may also contact Cooperative Teacher's Credit Union at 903-561-2603

New York State unemployment benefits and NYS dept of labor

nys unemployment insurance

New Delhi, October 5, 2009: New York State unemployment benefits and NYS dept of labor. Unemployment in New York States has risen to an unprecedented level. It is the first time in around three decades that it has gone on to touch such level.

With unemployment on rise the claims for unemployment benefits have also risen significantly. It is not going to come down till there is significant improvement on job front.

Unemployment Insurance Benefits Online

Federal legislation is pending for an additional 13 weeks of emergency benefits. Please continue to claim weekly benefits in the usual manner. It is not necessary to file a new claim, unless you are advised to do so. For updates, continue checking this website or click here for more details regarding benefit extensions.

Advisory for Individuals Claiming Extended Benefits
If you failed to search for work during the past week for any reason, you should not claim extended benefits for that week; otherwise you may be disqualified from receiving benefits until you have worked for four (4) weeks and earned four (4) times your weekly benefit amount.

Resources for Families

UI Warning
We have learned of persons or companies that may charge a fee to help customers complete or file Unemployment Insurance claims. They imply that they have a connection to the NYS Department of Labor. THIS IS FALSE.

The State Labor Department does not want our customers to be fooled by these claims. Customers in New York State should continue to file their claims for UI through our web site or by phone. There have been some delays recently at our call centers due to a high volume of claims, but we take all claims in the order they are received. Using a paid service to file your claim will not ensure faster handling.

You may file a claim between the hours of 7:30 am to 7:30 pm Monday through Thursday (Eastern Time), Friday, 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, all day Saturday, and Sunday until 7:00 pm.
You may claim benefits for last week between the hours of 7:30 am to midnight Sunday through Saturday.

New York State Department of Labor's (NYSDOL) website provides a safe, efficient way to file your claim for unemployment insurance benefits, claim your weekly benefits, or inquire about benefit payment status. NYSDOL is strongly committed to protecting your personal and employment information against unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.

Please be aware of phishing emails. "Phishing" is a type of scam designed to steal your personal information. We will never request information such as your Social Security Number, Direct Payment Card number or PIN through email. If you believe your card account has been compromised, please call the number on the back of your card.

Virgin to shake up financial services

virgin car insurance

Virgin Money, part of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin group, aims to shake up the Australian financial services scene, launching a car insurance product, which will be followed by deposits and loans in coming months.

Sir Richard launched Virgin Car Insurance in Sydney on Wednesday, saying he could offer Australians 35 to 40 per cent cheaper car insurance than current insurers.

"We have a team in Australia who look for businesses where consumers are being taken for a ride," Sir Richard said.

"The challenge is to get people to compare, but we have a strong brand and we've done this before."

Sir Richard said Virgin Money would also launch banking products over the next 12 to 24 months including deposits, personal loans, home loans and credit cards.

In the Australian car insurance market, most brands are owned by Insurance Australia Group Ltd and Suncorp-Metway Ltd, who together hold about 75 per cent of the market.

Sir Richard said Virgin Money was expecting to have 40,000 to 50,000 car insurance customers by the end of 12 months, and would offer products capped for two years, and 13 months for the price of 12, when customers sign up to comprehensive cover online.

Virgin Money's car insurance will be underwritten by Auto & General Insurance Company Ltd, one of South Africa's biggest general insurers, which is aiming to expand in Australia.

Sir Richard said he wanted to take advantage of Virgin's brand strength in Australia to sell the financial products.

"The Virgin brand is strong and we will be tying the brands together," he said.

That may involve offering deals on flights with airline V Australia for customers of the financial products, Sir Richard said.

Virgin Money has a deal with Citigroup to provide banking products under the Virgin brand.

Virgin Money managing director Matt Baxby said the company's aim was to sell products mainly online, backed up by call centres. The company also may open retail stores.

Mr Baxby, who was in charge of Virgin Money's UK business, said there was a big opportunity in a banking market, now dominated by the big four banks.

The big four are Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd, Westpac Banking Corporation, ANZ Banking Group Ltd and National Australia Bank Ltd.

"Our intention is to build a significant scale of business," Mr Baxby said.

In the UK, Virgin Money has about 2.5 million customers and revenue of about STG100 million ($A183.03 million), he said.