Monday, November 16, 2009

New York Life on the prowl to buy mutual fund companies

life insurance

New York Life Insurance Co. is looking to acquire one or more fund companies, according to one of the company's top executives.

“We are looking for a firm with about $15 [billion] to $25 billion with funds that have strong track records,” said Chris Blunt, executive vice president in charge of retirement income security.

“There are a few good institutional boutiques that would be great.”

The goal of the purchase would be to boost the assets the firm's MainStay Funds, which now hold $25 billion, Mr. Blunt added.

Since the economic downturn began last year, a number of distressed financial institutions have sold off portions — or in some cases all — of their money management operations.Even though asset valuations have come up, many boards still want to sell their funds and focus on their core businesses, Mr. Blunt said.

“Our fund complex makes very little money,” he said, explaining why buying another firm would make sense. “We are right at the break-even point and buying a fund business would contribute to our bottom line.”

The firm has no timetable for when it would make an acquisition, but Mr. Blunt says it is in talks with a number of firms.

New York Life, he said, is also in discussions to team up with another fund company to help with distribution or product development.

“The advantage of partnering with a big money manager is speed to market,” Mr. Blunt said.

On the distribution side, New York Life would benefit from working with a firm that has more of a presence in the independent broker-dealer market, he said. “Right now our fund business is wirehouse-oriented and we could use more on the independent side of the business,” he said.

The firm is also planning to roll out a couple of new variable annuities in 2010, although Mr. Blunt wouldn't elaborate on those plans.

Term Life Insurance Is A Necessity

life insurance

Many question whether life insurance is necessary, and whether the cost is justified. If you have to work to sustain an income, chances are you need term life insurance. Life insurance is required by those who have a desire to provide money to their heirs, but who do not have a substantial estate. The independently wealthy may not require a life insurance policy, however many independently wealthy people do maintain life insurance policies.

"The focus of purchasing a term life insurance policy is to provide a financial benefit to the people you care about after you die. This benefit can be designed to pay debts of the policyholder, funeral expenses, or to simply provide a sum of money to the beneficiary", said Vince Bagni of Paramount Life Insurance, your source for FREE life quotes.


If your spouse and/or dependents rely on your income, life insurance can be designed to replace that income in the event of your death. This income replacement can be tailored to last for a limited period, which can end when children are mature, or it can be designed to last a spouse for a lifetime.

Funeral costs can be a significant expense to leave your family when you die and life insurance can provide protection for your family members. Leaving your family with the burden of paying for your funeral expenses when you die may become a significant burden if you are the sole wage earner, and if there are little savings to carry the family through after your death.

Joint debt between spouses can be one of the most devastating financial problems after the death of a family’s primary income earner. If the income is cut off, debt payments will not be able to continue which can result in repossession, foreclosure and bankruptcy. Life insurance can ensure that debt payments for joint debts such as mortgages, auto loans or credit cards can continue, or better yet, a life insurance settlement can pay off all existing debts to eliminate the financial risk associated with debt.

There are no legal requirements for life insurance. In many cases, guaranteed issue life insurance quotes are recommended by lenders when giving a loan. These policies are afforded without the need for a medical exam, and dollar for dollar, they are often quite expensive compared to a typical term life insurance policy.

There are no legal requirements that a person obtain life insurance, and there are also no legal obligations for insurance companies to provide coverage, except as outlined by the Civil Rights Act.


You can inquire with a life insurance broker, a financial advisor or an attorney as to whether life insurance quotes or a policy is necessary. You could also check with your state insurance regulatory body to see if there are any laws that affect the need for life insurance. The best way to find out if you need life insurance is to ask the people who depend on you and your income to sustain their current standard of living. Your opinion on whether you should purchase a life insurance policy matters less than the opinion of your spouse or children regarding this question.

Genworth Financial Companies Introduce a New Breed of Life Insurance

life insurance

Genworth Financial, Inc., (NYSE: GNW) announced today the introduction of Colony(SM) Term UL, a new breed of universal life insurance that is very competitive with term life insurance. Colony Term UL is designed to address the same financial security needs of the term life buyer. It provides affordable coverage for specified durations of 10, 15, 20 or 30 years, maximum issue ages five to 15 years higher than in typical term life products, and the benefit of premium payment flexibility available in universal life insurance. The product will be underwritten by Genworth Life Insurance Company and Genworth Life and Annuity Insurance Company.

"We saw the need for a next-generation life insurance product - one that combines the affordability of term with the flexibility of universal life - so we created an attractive new option for consumers," said Buck Stinson, president of Insurance Products for Genworth's U.S. Life Insurance companies.

Six out of every 10 Americans with incomes between $50,000 and $250,000 do not own individual life insurance and one-third of those who do own life insurance admit they currently don't have enough coverage, according to the LIMRA's 2009 study, Is There Magic in the Middle Market? "Clearly, there is a great need and opportunity to offer consumers a product that meets their financial security needs at prices they can afford," continued Stinson. Colony Term UL will be highly competitive with term insurance for face amounts below $1 million and remains competitive for face amounts up to $5 million.

"For distributors wondering if this product can help them profitably grow their businesses, the answer is an emphatic yes," Chris Grady, president of Distribution and Marketing for Genworth's U.S. Life Insurance companies. It's a simple sales process with no illustration required. Using Genworth's Life Quick Request service platform, distributors and agents will benefit from cost savings, faster cycle times, and a higher placement ratio, helping them to sell more in less time. In addition, Genworth is becoming significantly more competitive in underwriting decisions through its innovative 360o LifeView(SM) underwriting program, while maintaining a long-standing reputation for strong mortality experience.

"Bringing together a product with competitive premiums, simplified service transactions and enhanced underwriting will allow distributors and agents to tap into the underserved middle and emerging affluent market -- offering access to a new revenue stream and helping consumers prepare for a financially secure future," Grady concluded.

About Genworth Financial

Genworth Financial, Inc. (NYSE: GNW) is a leading Fortune 500 global financial security company. Genworth has more than $100 billion in assets and employs approximately 6,000 people with a presence in more than 25 countries. Its products and services help meet the investment, protection, retirement and lifestyle needs of more than 15 million customers. Genworth operates through three segments: Retirement and Protection, U.S. Mortgage Insurance and International. Its products and services are offered through financial intermediaries, advisors, independent distributors and sales specialists. Genworth Financial, which traces its roots back to 1871, became a public company in 2004 and is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. For more information, visit From time to time Genworth releases important information via postings on its corporate website. Accordingly, investors and other interested parties are encouraged to enroll to receive automatic email alerts and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds regarding new postings. Enrollment information is found under the "Investors" section of

All guarantees are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

All products and their riders and benefits are subject to their policy forms and to state availability and issue limitations. Colony(SM) Term UL: Policy Form No. ICC09GA1002 or GA1002-0709 et al. (Genworth Life & Annuity); Policy Form No. ICC09GL1002 or GL1002-0709 et al. (Genworth Life).

Colony(SM) Term UL NY: Policy Form No. GY1002-0709; available only in New York (Genworth Life of New York). Only Genworth Life of New York is licensed to conduct business in New York.

Top insurer plans IPO in first half of next year

life insurance

Samsung Life Insurance, Korea’s largest life insurer by assets, said yesterday it would go public on the Seoul stock market in the first half of next year, joining a growing number of life insurers here preparing to float their shares after government restrictions on doing so were eased two years ago.

The insurer said the IPO would help “improve our corporate transparency and expand our capital base,” the company said in a statement yesterday. The statement revealed that the insurer recently started due process, including reviews on listing requirements, with an eye to kick off the IPO in the first half of next year.

The move comes at a time when a growing number of Korean life insurers are taking the plunge onto the market, hoping to win some breathing room to take full advantage of their rapidly growing assets.

For decades, life insurers had been unable to list their shares here because of a longstanding debate over whether their policyholders would be entitled to dividends if they did. Some local civic groups argued that life insurers with listed stocks should pay dividends not just to shareholders but also to clients, since policyholders’ premiums form the basis of the insurers’ profits.

But the debate finally came to an end in 2007, when the government ruled in favor of the insurers, giving them the green light to raise capital on the stock market.

Tong Yang Life Insurance was first out of the gate, floating shares on the main Seoul stock bourse in October. Korea Life Insurance, one of the top three life insurers here, and Mirae Asset Life Insurance, a midsize player, hired several stock brokerages in Korea and abroad to arrange their upcoming share sales, which they hope will take place in 2010.

Samsung Life had total assets of 121.6 trillion won ($105.4 billion) as of the end of its 2008 fiscal year, and several Samsung Group subsidiaries and companies controlled by the conglomerate’s founding family members have stakes in the insurance giant. Former Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee has a 20.7 percent stake in Samsung Life, followed by 13.6 percent held by Shinsegae, 13.3 percent by Samsung Everland, 4.8 percent by CJ Cheiljedang and 3.2 percent by CJ. The Samsung Foundation of Culture and the Samsung Life Public Welfare Foundation also hold 4.7 percent stakes each.

“If Samsung Life goes public, financial companies that have a stake in Samsung Life and other CJ subsidiaries will heavily benefit from it,” said Lee Sang-hoen, analyst at Hi Investment & Securities.

Health Care Reform Likely to Include More Taxes for Many Americans

health insurance

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama had one central message to middle-income Americans: no new taxes. And since taking office, the president has repeatedly pledged not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year.

But as a massive health care reform bill inches closer to reality, middle-class Americans, as well as high income earners, can expect some sort of increase in what they pay into government coffers, say Republican critics and some fiscal watch dog groups.

The Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill, which could hit the Senate floor as early as this week, would impose new taxes on insurance companies, drugmakers and medical device manufacturers.

It would also impose a 40 percent tax on the portion of insurance premiums exceeding $8,000 a year for individuals and $21,000 a year for family plans. That tax would be imposed on insurance companies, though it would likely be passed on to consumers, including many middle-income families, say experts.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was considering a proposal to increase the Medicare payroll tax on high-income workers to help offset the costs of providing health insurance to millions of Americans.

But several Democratic senators are urging Reid to propose extending the Medicare payroll tax to income other than wages, such as capital gains, dividends and rental income. Democrats say that could generate revenue from wealthy households who often get a greater share of their income from sources other than wages.

Some Republicans and Wall Street investors say tapping into high-end earners and capital gains will soak the rich and hurt an already ailing economy.

"Could there be a more efficient way to kill our halting recovery from recession than to have Harry Reid plot in secret to raise taxes?" says Donald Luskin, chief investment officer at Trend Macrolytics LLC. "Have we learned no economic lessons from the Depression?"

The recently passed House bill would impose a 5.4 percent income tax on individuals making more than $500,000 and joint filers making more than $1 million.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent. If existing Bush-era tax cuts expire in 2011, as President Obama has called for, the top rate would grow to 39.6 percent. The new health care tax would further increase that to 45 percent. The House bill would also impose a 2.5 percent tax on the sale of medical devices.

Paying a Fair Share

The House bill would raise $460 billion over the next decade from new income taxes that mostly target the wealthy.

"The public pretty much thinks the richer people in America ought to pay their fair share," says House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told ABC News last week. "They don't think they're paying their fair share."

But Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska says he'll vote to block any health care bill that looks like the bill passed by the House. "The costs are extraordinary associated with it," he told ABC News. "It increases taxes in a way that will not pass in the Senate. I won't vote to move it."

The House GOP bill, which was rejected a week ago, had no new taxes. Republicans would get savings by capping medical liability awards, stepping up efforts to fight Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and setting up an approval process for generic versions of high-tech drugs.

All of the health care packages are expensive. The House bill is projected to cost $1.2 trillion over 10 years and the Senate Finance Committee bill is projected to cost $829 billion. Taxes will increase if any of the plans are enacted, say experts.

According to a report by the Tax Foundation, a tax research group based in Washington, D.C., wealthy taxpayers in 39 states could pay a top tax rate higher than 50 percent by 2011.

The report combined states' average local tax rates, top state and federal rates with the 2.9 percent Medicare tax and the proposed 5.4 percent health surtax.

Also possibly adding to middle-class tax burdens is a provision in the House plan that requires all Americans to have health insurance.

Large companies would have to offer coverage to their employees, and both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defy the government's mandate.

"If you choose not to get insurance, you get hit with an excise tax," says Luskin of Trend Macrolytics LLC. "Which is a fancy way of saying a fine or a penalty."

For low-income Americans, the bill would provide subsidies for buying insurance if they don't receive it through an employer. It would also create a federally regulated insurance exchange where individual Americans could shop for coverage.

"There are harmful taxes and taxes that aren't as harmful," says Gerald Prante, a senior economist at the Tax Foundation. Prante says ultimately the final health reform bill will raise taxes on the general public.

"Taxes are necessary evil to finance governments."

Health Benefits Direct Announces Third Quarter 2009 Financial Results

health insurance

Health Benefits Direct Corporation (OTCBB: HBDT), a leading technology innovator in the marketing, sales and administration of a range of insurance technology products, today announced its financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2009.

During the third quarter, the Company continued its previously announced restructuring activities. As part of these restructuring efforts, in the first quarter of 2009, the Company ceased selling health and life insurance products to individuals and families and disposed of a significant portion of its agency business, which is now classified as discontinued operations in the Company's financial statements.

Third Quarter Highlights

-- Revenues from continuing operations of $1.5 million, compared to $1.4
million in the third quarter of 2008. The increase was due primarily to
increased InsPro Technologies (formerly Atiam Technologies LLC) revenues
from ASP, maintenance and licensing agreements.
-- Operating expenses for continuing operations of $3.7 million, compared
to $3.0 million in the third quarter of 2008. The increase was primarily
attributable to an increase in InsPro staffing and technology consultants
to support current client requirements and growth plans.
-- Net loss from continuing operations of $2.2 million, compared to $1.7
million in the third quarter of 2008. This increase is consistent with the
Company's strategy to enhance InsPro Technologies' capacity by increasing
expenditures for marketing, sales, infrastructure and product development.
-- Total net loss from continued and discontinued operations of $1.4
million or ($0.03) per share, compared with total net loss of $1.7 million,
or ($0.04) per share in the third quarter of 2008.

"We continue to make progress with our initiatives to further align our operations and cost structure with our promising technology business," said Anthony Verdi, Acting Principal Executive Officer of Health Benefits Direct and Chief Financial Officer. "We realized an $800,000 net gain from discontinued operations in the third quarter as we continue to reduce expenses that are not essential to our core technology business.

"In conjunction with our plan to continue to invest in our promising subsidiary, InsPro Technologies, we are working on obtaining additional financing through a rights offering of up to $8 million, which will give all of our shareholders the opportunity to participate in an equity investment in the Company on the same economic terms as our private placements in 2008 and 2009," Mr. Verdi concluded.

About Health Benefits Direct Corporation

Through its subsidiary, InsPro Technologies, Health Benefits Direct offers InsPro software, an internet-based marketing and administration system used by Insurance carriers and Third Party Administrators. Through its subsidiary, Insurint Corporation, Health Benefits Direct provides a proprietary, professional-grade, web-based agent quote engine portal that aggregates real-time quotes from more than 100 health insurance carriers, life insurance carriers and carriers of related insurance products.

Forward-Looking Statements

In addition to historical facts or statements of current condition, this press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the "Safe Harbor" provisions of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements regarding the growth potential of our technology platforms and obtaining additional financing through a rights offering to fund our operations. Forward-looking statements provide Health Benefits Direct's current expectations or forecasts of future events. Moreover, Health Benefits Direct cautions readers that forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the statements made, including risks described in Health Benefit Direct's most recent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q or Annual Reports on Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available on Health Benefits Direct's website at These documents are also available on the Securities and Exchange Commission's website at Health Benefits Direct does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement to conform the statement to actual results or changes in expectations.

Experts Split Over How Public Health Insurance Would Affect California

health insurance

Although supporters of a government-run public health insurance option say the proposal could improve health care quality in California, others say the plan likely would have higher premium costs, the San Jose Mercury News reports.


Supporters say California's relatively limited health insurance marketplace could benefit from greater competition. Although the state currently has five major insurers, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente control about three-fifths of the state's health insurance market, according to the American Medical Association.

Newly elected Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), former California insurance commissioner, said a more competitive health insurance marketplace could motivate insurers to improve their business practices so they do not lose members to the public plan.

Lucien Wulsin -- a health care attorney and director of the Santa Monica-based Insure the Uninsured Project -- said a government-run plan also could experiment with different incentive models and spur innovation in the health care system.

Other experts note that California has a large pool of residents who might seek coverage under the public plan. The state currently has 6.8 million uninsured residents and 2.7 million residents who purchase coverage on the individual insurance market.


Other analysts say relatively few Californians would seek coverage under a government-run plan because it might have higher premiums than private health plans.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that fewer than one million Californians would join the public plan. The office said the option is likely to attract less healthy residents, who could drive up overall premium costs.

A government-run plan also might have difficulty securing lower premiums because the House bill (HR 3962) would require the plan to negotiate payments with hospitals and physicians, instead of tying payments to Medicare rates. Experts say some health care providers might choose not to participate in the public plan if they are dissatisfied with the proposed payment rates.

Patrick Johnston, president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, said the House's public insurance option likely would have only a modest impact on California.

Other observers note that it remains unclear whether final health care reform legislation will include a public health insurance option (Zapler, San Jose Mercury News, 11/15).

Come Medicare Part D time (which is now), don't feel daunted -- help is at hand

health insurance

Already the clock is ticking down toward the end of the enrollment -- and re-enrollment -- period for Medicare Part D. It opened Sunday and will end Dec. 31.

Need help figuring out what your drug needs are? We'll be offering advice in the Health section soon. In the meantime, here's an earlier guide to help you sort through your options...


New to Medicare Part D? Start at or call 800-MEDICARE (633-4227) for a compendium of all things Part D.

Part D veteran? Head right to plan comparisons at Formulary (Drug) Finder. This option lets you compare the premiums, deductibles and drug co-pays for plans in your area. Be forewarned: The task is tedious.


My Medicare Matters, offered by the National Council on Aging, presents the very complex Part D information in simple terms and divides it into digestible chunks before sending you off to the next section.

The Medicare Rights Center, an advocacy group based in New York and Washington, D.C., offers Medicare Part D telephone counseling at (800) 333-4114 -- with plenty of advice on the website.

California Health Advocates is a nonprofit Medicare education and advocacy group with advice perhaps most useful, our earlier report said, for already-Medicare-savvy beneficiaries and caregivers.

The Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program offers one-on-one counseling on Medicare, managed care and long-term care. A call to (800) 434-0222 is routed to the closest office.

The National Alliance for Hispanic Health, an advocacy group, can answer questions about Part D benefits for Spanish-speaking beneficiaries. Call (866) 783-2645.

Abortion Rights Groups Mobilize Against Stupak Amendment

health insurance

Abortion rights advocates are ratcheting up their pressure on lawmakers to drop the proposal added to the House health care bill that would restrict health insurance coverage for abortions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is launching an ad campaign today to emphasize that, if the Stupak amendment were to pass in the final health care bill, millions of women could potentially lose the coverage for abortions they currently have in their health care plans.

The group is running an ad online and on cable markets in the Washington area, leading up to the abortion debate that is sure to spring up in the Senate.

The so-called Stupak amendment would prevent women who receive federal subsidies for health insurance from purchasing plans that cover abortion. It would also explicitly ban abortion coverage from the government-run plan, or "public option." It would also essentially prevent private insurers from selling plans on the national health insurance exchange that cover abortion.

In other words, women who intend to use government subsidies for health care costs could be forced to switch plans. Additionally, if a woman's employer were to start offering coverage under the national health insurance exchange, she could potentially have to switch plans.

"Anti-choice forces in Washington are trying to use this important moment of health insurance reform to expand restrictions on abortion coverage in private insurance plans," Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup told The extent of the amendment's impact on coverage is surprising, she said.

"People who have terminations in the second trimester because of fetal abnormalities are also not going to be covered, and that's going to be stunning to people," Northup said. "This is a wake up call for pro-choice Americans."

Abortion rights advocates say the amendment has galvanized their supporters. To prove that, NARAL Pro-Choice America today delivered a petition with 97,218 signatures to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking that he leave the Stupak amendment out of the Senate bill. Working with state affiliates and other progressive partners, NARAL collected the signatures in 72 hours.

"America’s pro-choice majority is speaking up loudly and clearly," NARAL President Nancy Keenan said in a statement. "As the fight for health reform moves forward, we are making sure Sen. Reid and his colleagues understand that adding the anti-choice Stupak-Pitts language to the Senate bill is not an option."

NARAL is also launching this week a set of automated calls in 17 states that will allow NARAL supporters to connect with their senators with the touch of a button. The organization is also engaging its e-mail network of half a million supporters to rally opposition to the Stupak amendment. NARAL will be communicating with all 100 senators in the upcoming weeks, NARAL Communications Director Ted Miller told

Planned Parenthood is also engaging its supporters online, rallying support on progressive blog networks and via social networking. It is planning a national "day of action" for December 2.

Health Reform: More on the Wrong Way Cost Curve

health insurance

In my Newsweek column this week ("Obama's Malpractice: Why the health-care bill isn't reform"), I argued that-contrary to the Administration's claims-none of the various proposals now floating around Congress would reduce future budget deficits or the rapid rise in national health spending. Quite the opposite: the proposals would probably increase both deficits and national health spending. Now comes Richard Foster, chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, making the same points with a lot more detail. In a study published after my column was written, Foster estimates that H.R. 3962, which passed the House of Representatives on Nov. 7, would raise national health spending by about $289 billion from 2010 to 2019. He also casts considerable doubt on whether the "savings" in Medicare that are used to pay for expanded insurance coverage would actually materialize; if not, the expansion of health-care would lead to higher federal budget deficits.

By Foster's estimates, H.R. 3962 would substantially reduce the number of uninsured Americans, from a projected 57 million in 2019 to 23 million. Most of the newly-insured would receive coverage under a liberalized Medicaid, the joint federal-state program aimed at the poor; many others would entitled to federal subsidies to buy insurance on "exchanges" where a number of insurers would offer competing plans. The costs of the expanded coverage would total about $935 billion over the 2010-2019 decade (some other non-insurance provisions would add slightly to costs). Meanwhile, "savings" mainly from Medicare would cover slightly more than half those costs. High taxes, not included in Foster's analysis, would pay for most of the rest. (Though Foster's office is an arm of CMS, it provides independent analyses of proposals and costs.)

But, Foster says, many of the Medicare "savings" may be "unrealistic." Reimbursement rates for hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies and other health-care providers would be reduced from existing law. The assumption is that these providers would become more efficient and, therefore, could survive without the higher payments. This could be wishful thinking, Foster suggests. Providers that depend heavily on Medicare "could find it difficult to remain profitable and might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries)." In that case, Foster indicates, Congress might reverse some of the reimbursement reductions leading to "significantly smaller actual savings." Budget deficits would increase correspondingly.

Small Businesses Face Health Insurance Rate Hikes in Massachusetts

health insurance

Some commentators have called the Massachusetts health reform plan adopted a few years ago "Obama-like." But health reform in the Bay State has not meant the end of insurance premium woes for small employers. The Boston Globe reports that small business insurance rates are jumping by the double digits.

At a time when both the state and the nation are struggling to rein in health care costs, many small businesses in Massachusetts say they’re receiving the largest premium increases in years for their Jan. 1 renewals. Insurers in September said they expect to raise premiums an average of 10 percent next year, but some employers are facing increases that are double or triple that - or even higher.

While all of the state’s health insurers have been jacking up rates for small businesses, which lack the negotiating might of larger enterprises with hundreds or thousands of employees, some of the steepest increases have been coming from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The Boston insurer, the state’s largest, has in the recent past offered lower base rates than many of its rivals.

One possible cause? The state's universal mandate has forced high-cost individuals into small-business insurance plans.

Trauma patients without health insurance are much more likely to die

health insurance

A new study shows the odds of dying from a traumatic injury soar for the uninsured. ER physicians say they're surprised by the findings.

Patients who lack health insurance are more likely to die from car accidents and other traumatic injuries than people who belong to a health plan -- even though emergency rooms are required to care for all comers regardless of ability to pay, according to a study to be published Tuesday.

An analysis of 687,091 patients who visited trauma centers nationwide between 2002 and 2006 found that the odds of dying following an accidental injury were almost twice as high for the uninsured than for patients with private insurance, researchers reported in Archives of Surgery.

Trauma physicians said they were surprised by the findings, even though a slew of studies had previously documented the ill effects of going without health coverage. Uninsured patients are less likely to be screened for certain cancers or to be admitted to specialty hospitals for procedures such as heart bypass surgery, for example. Overall, about 18,000 deaths each year have been traced to a lack of health insurance.

But insurance status isn't supposed to be a factor for trauma patients. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, passed by Congress in 1986, guarantees that people brought to emergency rooms get all necessary treatment no matter what kind of insurance they do -- or don't -- have.

The research team from Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston used information from 1,154 U.S. hospitals that contribute to the National Trauma Data Bank. The team found that patients enrolled in commercial health plans, health maintenance organizations or Medicaid had an equal risk of death from traumatic injuries when the patients' age, gender, race and severity of injury were taken into account.

The risk of death was 56% higher for patients covered by Medicare, perhaps because the government health plan includes many people with long-term disabilities, said Dr. Heather Rosen, who led the study while she was a research fellow at Harvard Medical School.

However, the risk of death was 80% higher for patients without any insurance, according to the report.

The researchers also did a separate analysis of 209,702 trauma patients ages 18 to 30 because they were less likely to have chronic health conditions that might complicate recovery. Among these younger patients, the risk of death was 89% higher for the uninsured, the study found.

Rosen, now a surgical resident at USC's Keck School of Medicine, said the group expected to find at least some disparity based on insurance status. But she said the group was surprised at the magnitude of the gap.

Dr. Frank Zwemer Jr., chief of emergency medicine for the McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va., said he was "kind of shocked. "

"We don't ask people, 'What's your insurance?' before we decide whether to intubate them or put in a chest tube," said Zwemer, who wasn't involved in the research. "That's not on our radar anywhere."

The researchers offered several possible explanations for the findings. Despite the federal law, uninsured patients often wait longer to see doctors in emergency rooms and sometimes visit ERs at several hospitals before finding one that will treat them. Other studies show that, once they're admitted, uninsured patients receive fewer services, such as CT and MRI scans, and are less likely to be transferred to a rehabilitation facility.

Patients without insurance may have higher rates of untreated underlying conditions that make it harder to recover from trauma injuries, the researchers said. They also may be more passive with doctors and nurses since they don't interact with them as often. All of these factors could influence whether a trauma patient is able to recover from his or her injuries.

But the link could also be coincidental, the authors acknowledged. Perhaps the hospitals that have fewer resources at their disposal also happen to see the most uninsured patients, they said.

The types of injuries may differ too, Zwemer said. Gunshot and stabbing victims were much more likely to die from their wounds than other trauma patients tracked in the study. These people are generally uninsured, but the type of injury -- not insurance status -- is the reason for their higher fatality rates, he said.

More research is needed to figure out whether lack of insurance actually harms trauma patients or whether the data simply reflect a correlation, said Dr. A. Brent Eastman, chair of trauma at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

The issue is particularly relevant as Congress and the Obama administration weigh various measures to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, he wrote in a short critique that accompanied the study. More than 45 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2007, and another 10 million people will join their ranks over the next decade, according to government estimates.

"Being uninsured is an overriding problem in our healthcare system and is why we need healthcare reform," Eastman said.

AP Poll: Americans fret over health overhaul costs

health insurance

WASHINGTON — It's the cost, Mr. President. Americans are worried about hidden costs in the fine print of health care overhaul legislation, an Associated Press poll says. That's creating new challenges for President Barack Obama as he tries to close the deal with a handful of Democratic doubters in the Senate.

Although Americans share a conviction that major health care changes are needed, Democratic bills that extend coverage to the uninsured and try to hold down medical costs get no better than a lukewarm reception.

The poll found that 43 percent oppose the health care plans being discussed in Congress, while 41 percent are in support. An additional 15 percent remain neutral or undecided.

"Well, for one, I know nobody wants to pay taxes for anybody else to go to the doctor — I don't," said Kate Kuhn, 20, of Acworth, Ga. "I don't want to pay for somebody to use my money that I could be using for myself."

There's been little change in broad public sentiment about the overhaul plan from a 40-40 split in an AP poll last month, but not everyone's opinion is at the same intensity. Opponents have stronger feelings than do supporters. Seniors remain more skeptical than younger generations.

The latest survey was conducted by Stanford University with the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

When poll questions were framed broadly, the answers seemed to indicate ample support for Obama's goals. When required trade-offs were brought into the equation, opinions shifted — sometimes dramatically.

In one striking finding, the poll indicated that public support for banning insurance practices that discriminate against those in poor health may not be as solid as it seems.

A ban on denial of coverage because of pre-existing medical problems has been one of the most popular consumer protections in the health care debate. Some 82 percent said they favored the ban, according to a Pew Research Center poll in October.

In the AP poll, when told that such a ban would probably cause most people to pay more for health insurance, 43 percent said they would still support doing away with pre-existing condition denials, but 31 percent said they would oppose it.

Costs for those with coverage could go up because people in poor health who'd been shut out of the insurance pool would now be included, and they would get medical care they could not access before.

"I'm thinking we'd probably pay more because we would probably be paying for those that are not paying. So they got to get the money from somewhere. Basically I see our taxes going up," said Antoinette Gates, 57, of Atlanta.

The health care debate is full of such trade-offs. For example, limiting the premiums that insurance companies can charge 50-year-olds means that 20-year-olds have to pay more for coverage.

"These trade-offs really matter," says Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who follows opinion trends. "The legislation contains a number of features that polls have shown to be popular, but support for the overall legislation is less than might be expected because people are worried there are details about these bills that could raise their families' costs."

If the added costs — spread over tens of millions of people — turn out to be small, it may not make much difference, Blendon said. But if they're significant, Obama could be on shaky ground in the final stretch of his drive to deliver access to health insurance to most Americans.

More than 4 in 5 Americans now have health insurance, and their perceptions about costs are key as Obama tries to rally his party's congressional majority. In the House, Democrats came together to pass their bill. In the Senate, Democratic liberals and a smaller group of moderates disagree on core questions even as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., prepares to take legislation to the floor.

The poll suggests the public is becoming more attuned to the fact that in health care, details can make all the difference.

For example, asked if everyone should be required to have at least some health insurance, 67 percent agreed and 27 percent said no.

The responses flipped when people were asked about requiring everybody to carry insurance or face a federal penalty: 64 percent said they would be opposed, while 28 percent favored that.

Both the House and Senate bills would require all Americans to get health insurance, either through an employer, a government program or by buying their own coverage. Subsidies would be provided for low-income people, as well as many middle-class households.

And there would also be a stick — a tax penalty to enforce the coverage mandate.

"I think it's crazy. I think it infringes on our rights as a citizen, forcing us to do these things," said Eli Fuchs, 26, of Marietta, Ga.

Among Democrats, only 12 percent oppose the broad goal of requiring insurance. But 50 percent oppose fines to enforce it.

The poll found a similar opinion shift on employer requirements: 73 percent agreed that all companies should be required to give their employees at least some health insurance.

Yet when asked if fines should be used to enforce such a requirement on medium and large companies, support dropped to 52 percent. Uninsured workers are concentrated in small companies.

The poll was based on land line and cell phone interviews with 1,502 adults from Oct. 29 to Nov. 8. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The interviews were conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media. Stanford University's participation was made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that conducts research on the health care system.

Pelosi defends jail time and fines for those without health insurance

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The Speaker of the House opines it is unfair for people not to have health insurance and pass on costs of possible illnesses to the rest of us but it is, however, fair for people not to have health insurance and pass on costs of purposeful provision of health insurance to the rest of us.

Jim Cooper, Nashville's Democratic House member, voted for Speaker Pelosi's bill. Someone should ask Representative Cooper what he believes is fair.

Local WA Parents Turn Out For Child Restraint Checks

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Twisted straps, seatbelts and tether straps were some of the main faults identified at this year’s annual Kidsafe WA Child Car Restraint Checking Day in Karrinyup.

Perth, WA (Advertiser Talk) 16-Nov-2009 — Kidsafe WA, in partnership with car insurance provider SGIO, checked more than 90 child car restraints as local parents turned out in numbers on Monday, 25th of May at Karrinyup Shopping Centre.

Kidsafe WA CEO Sue Wicks said nearly 70 per cent of child car restraints were found to be incorrectly fitted on the day.

Car crashes are a leading cause of child deaths in Australia and 68 per cent of child restraints we checked were either incorrectly fitted or incorrectly in use, reducing their effectivenessParents can reduce the risk of death or serious injury in a car crash by as much as 70 per cent by using a correctly installed child car restraint. When the restraint is not secured by the seatbelt, or the harnessing is not correctly adjusted, it puts the child at far greater risk ofserious injury should an accident occur SGIO Car Insurance is committed to helping develop safer, stronger communities and we encourageparents to contact Kidsafe for information on how to ensure their child restraints are fitted correctly “Car crashes are a leading cause of child deaths in Australia and 68 per cent ofchild restraints we checked were either incorrectly fitted or incorrectly in use, reducing their effectiveness,” she said.

“Parents can reduce the risk of death or serious injury in a car crash by as much as 70 per cent by using a correctly installed child car restraint.”

“When the restraint is not secured by the seatbelt, or the harnessing is not correctly adjusted, it puts the child at far greater risk ofserious injury should an accident occur,” she said.

The trained Kidsafe WA staff who checked the installation of the child restraints on the day also showed parents how to use the seats so that their children were better protected, as well as providing parents with a written summary of the assessments.

Other faults encountered on the day included restraints over 10 years of age, loose harnesses over children and restraints not attached to anchorage points.

SGIO State Manager Colin Tierney urged parents to take steps to ensure the safety of children when travelling in cars.

“SGIO Car Insurance is committed to helping develop safer, stronger communities and we encourage parents to contact Kidsafe for information on how to ensure their child restraints are fitted correctly,” he said.

For more information on Kidsafe WA’s regular child restraint fitting, checking and hire service at their Subiaco centre, contact Kidsafe on (08) 9340 8509 or visit

About SGIO: SGIO is a leading insurance provider in WA, offering car insurance quotes, motor insurance and more online.

Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as SGIO For many insurance products a Product Disclosure Statement is available from SGIO which you should consider before making decisions about those products.

Insurance issued by Insurance Australia Limited trading as SGIO 46 Colin St, West Perth, Western Australia 6005

How to Wreck the Economy

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"The higher jobless rate could be the new normal" reads the headline of a recent AP report. Further down we read:

"Even with an economic revival, many U.S. jobs lost during the recession may be gone forever and a weak employment market could linger for years."

The report's message is clear. It will be a long time before we recover our former prosperity. Things, in fact, may never be as good as they used to be, at least not in our lifetimes.

the-great-depressionBut how can this be? After all, it is Barack Obama who is in charge. Less than twelve months ago, the Associated Press and the whole of the mainstream media were selling Obama as the one who would speedily solve this nation's economic ills. Obama was presented as nothing less than a national savior who had all the right answers.

Writing at CBS, Bonnie Erbe posted a piece in January titled "The Economy Could Actually Turn Around Under Barack Obama." The piece quoted Jerome Idaszak, associate editor of the Kiplinger Letter, who said: "There's also a new sense of public confidence in Washington. About 70% of Americans say they are optimistic that the Obama administration will be able to spur growth." Michael Hirsh of Newswek showed childlike confidence in Obama's abilities even before he assumed office:

"The new president may think his only task is to rescue the economy. But like FDR, he may have to save capitalism itself."

How do we, then, explain AP's present lack of hope in a better tomorrow? It would seem that they are coming to realize that the Messiah of yesterday is making a mess of things today.

To be fair, Barack Obama has been dealt a difficult hand. He has repeatedly said that this crisis was years in the making and in that he is correct. But it should be noted that it has been brought on by the very policies he subscribes to. This crisis, as almost all other economic crises, has been caused by government. The housing bubble - the bursting of which set things off - was a government creation. Inflated by a combination of unsupportably low interest rates - set by the Federal Reserve - and Congress' misguided desire to increase home ownership among low income people, it was a governmentally-induced phenomenon from beginning to end.

Even though Obama was not a major player when those policies were enacted, they were precisely the kind of measures he has always stood for. After all, he worked for ACORN, an organization which threatened to shut down banks that did not meet mortgage quotas for low income earners. So while it is true that Obama did not personally bring about the crisis, the policies he espouses most certainly did.

political-pictures-hindenburg-blimp-us-economyIn any case, now that Barack Obama is in power he is doing everything he can to drive the economy off the cliff and into the ground. David Horowitz recently made a strong case on Glenn Beck that Obama is a far-left radical who poses a great danger to this country. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the economic front. So ruinous have Obama's actions been that if a Hugo Chavez or some other America hater were given an opportunity to call the shots, he could hardly outdo the president in the destructiveness of his policies. Working relentlessly to impose government control over the American economy and to annihilate the remaining vestiges of the free market, Obama has already wrought untold damage. Nationalizing banks and car companies, debasing the dollar, passing odious business regulations and running up debts that we will never be able to repay are only some of the highlights of Obama's performance so far.

But all this is just the beginning, because still in the works are two monumentally deleterious schemes - Cap and Trade and Healthcare Reform.

The purported aim of Cap and Trade is to eliminate the nonexistent phenomenon of man-made global warming, but its real goal is to put a stranglehold on the American economy. This will be done under the guise of penalizing those who use energy deriving from fossil fuels. It is rightly said that energy is the lifeblood of the American economy. Significantly, Americans obtain 85 percent of it by burning C02-emitting substances, mainly oil and coal, which is why Cap and Trade would have devastating consequences.

According to analysis by The Heritage Foundation, Cap and Trade "promises serious perils for the American economy for the years and decades ahead." It would result in the loss of millions of jobs and it would cut trillions of dollars from America's economic output. Under Cap and Trade the price of gasoline would go up 58 percent and the average household electric rate would increase by 90 percent. Paradoxically, all these immense costs would yield virtually no discernible benefits. More from Heritage:

Climatologists estimate that Waxman-Markey's impact on world temperature will be too small to even measure in the first several decades. The theoretical moderation of world temperature would be 0.05 degree centigrade by 2050.

All this for less than one tenth of one degree, and even this infinitesimal gain only shows up on models that run on most optimistic assumptions. Looking at all the facts, one cannot but conclude that Cap and Trade is nothing other than a stealth move for the economy's jugular.

As far as healthcare is concerned, the president's works are no less destructive. The bill that was passed last Saturday by the House and hailed as a "victory" for Obama contains a provision that would prohibit insurance companies from refusing coverage based on pre-existing health conditions. This is the equivalent of allowing people to buy car insurance after their crash their car or buy fire insurance after their house burns down. Highly controversial, this provision was kept on the urging of President Obama who insisted that it be included in the bill.

If you do not believe that an American president would ever force such an onerous requirement on private businesses, you should refer to an e-mail sent to supporters on August 8 by Obama's senior advisor David Axelrod. The first bullet point under the heading "8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage" reads:

Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.

smile-big-brother-is-watching-you-obama-209x300Clearly no insurance company can operate under such a regime and continue as a viable commercial entity. Obama's healthcare "reform" would thus end up driving all insurers out of business and eventually leave the government as the sole provider of healthcare in America.

It should be obvious that the American economy cannot survive the implementation of these odious programs as they would vitiate America's capitalist foundation. This is why the president wants to make their passage his signature achievements.

David Horowitz is all too correct when he writes that Obama's goal is "the systematic transformation of our nation from an open, capitalist society, to a Big Brother-type socialist nation." Obama actions prove Horowitz right almost every day as he takes this country down the sewage tubes of socialism. Despite all his flowery promises, the American people have nothing good to look forward to. The president's media spokesmen know it, and they are dutifully preparing us for the hardships to come.

Buffett’s Berkshire Discloses Exxon, Nestle Stakes

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Warren Buffett’sBerkshire Hathaway Inc. disclosed stakes in oil producer Exxon Mobil Corp., candy maker Nestle SA, trash hauler Republic Services Inc. and insurer Travelers Cos.

Buffett’s company had about 1.28 million shares of Exxon, the world’s largest oil company, as of Sept. 30, Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said today in a regulatory filing disclosing U.S. equity investments. Berkshire held 3.4 million American depositary deceipts of Nestle, the world’s largest food producer, 3.63 million shares of Republic and about 27,000 shares of New York-based Travelers.

Stock picks by Buffett, the second-richest American, are watched by mutual funds and individuals looking for clues about his investment strategy. Berkshire bought about $2.23 billion of stocks in the third quarter, according to a separate filing, the most in a year, and agreed this month to pay $26 billion for the 77.4 percent of railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. his firm doesn’t already own.

“A terrible market or a terrible economy is your friend,” Buffett said at a forum in New York last week, when asked whether the stock market rally was unwarranted, given the recession. “It’s a terrible mistake to look at what’s going on in the economy today and decide whether to buy or sell stocks.” The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to a 26-year high in October.

Soda, Credit Cards

Berkshire’s largest holdings, including Coca-Cola Co. and American Express Co., advanced in the biggest back-to-back quarterly rally in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in 34 years. The value of stocks held by Berkshire insurance units jumped 20 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30 to about $55 billion. Berkshire’s own shares rose 12 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30, the best quarterly performance since 2007.

Investors mimic Berkshire’s stock picks to duplicate Buffett’s investing success, and an academic study in 2007 found that using the strategy for 31 years would have delivered annualized returns of about 25 percent, double the S&P’s return.

Buffett, 79, makes most of the investment decisions at Berkshire, while Lou Simpson, 72, manages the portfolio for car insurance unit Geico Corp. Buffett has cautioned investors against assuming all changes in the equity portfolio are his.

The U.S. economy returned to growth after its worst performance in seven decades, expanding at a 3.5 percent pace in the third quarter, according to Commerce Department figures released last month. Government incentives spurred consumers to spend more on homes and cars.

Berkshire is making what Buffett called an “all-in wager” on the U.S. economy with the deal to purchase Fort Worth, Texas- based Burlington. It is Buffett’s biggest acquisition in more than four decades as Berkshire’s chairman.

A Double Mandate For Health Works For Europe

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How do most European countries achieve universal coverage?

Most people believe that European countries use the Canadian single payer model to achieve universal coverage.

Most people are wrong.

Only Canada uses that model. Canada actually makes private insurance illegal. Most countries in Europe successfully achieve universal insurance coverage using a mixed model based on a combination of private insurance companies and government programs. Some European countries, in fact, use only private insurance companies, and a couple of European countries who have achieved full universal coverage don't have any government-run insurance program at all.

There are actually hundreds of private health plans of one kind or another in various European countries. Each of those countries has both competing health plans and universal coverage.

So how do all of those countries who use private health plans actually achieve universal coverage?

They basically use a "double mandate." Most European countries mandate that every citizen must buy insurance coverage. They also mandate that every local insurance company who wants to do business in the country must sell coverage to any citizen who applies for that coverage. Health screens are not allowed.

It's a very clear double mandate. Everyone must buy. Everyone must sell.

Each of those countries with a double mandate -- Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, etc. -- collects a portion of each worker's paycheck to pay for the coverage. Payroll deductions are the most common method of funding health coverage in Europe, and employers are definitely part of the health care financing picture in almost all countries.

Most European countries continue to maintain a relationship between jobs and people's health coverage for two main reasons: The number one reason is that jobs are where the money is. Jobs create paychecks, and paychecks are the most common source of revenue used by other countries to pay for people's health coverage.

The second reason countries link jobs and health coverage is that employers often function as "wise" or skilled volume purchasers, and employers in some countries make various decisions and negotiate deals with insurers to help workers get either better coverage or better services from the private insurance plans.

Premium Costs Are Shared With Employers
In most countries, premium cost is shared between employers and employees -- a portion of each worker's paycheck is dedicated to pay for health coverage, and then the employer usually matches some or all of the worker contribution.

As one example, Germany has an 8 percent payroll deduction from each worker. That deduction from each worker's paycheck is matched by an 8 percent contribution from each employer. So, in essence, 16 percent of every German paycheck is spent to buy universal health care coverage.

Germany doesn't have a Canadian-like single payer system. German health insurance is provided by a fairly large number of private health funds. So each German picks a health plan -- or "sickness fund" -- to actually be their personal insurer. Many of the sickness funds are co-op-like entities. Some are for-profit insurers. All are privately run and operated. The whole approach does not look anything like the Canadian single payer system.

Germany has used that model for over 100 years. Bismarck invented it.

Low-income Germans without jobs, of course, have their premiums subsidized by the government.

Because everyone is in the insurance "risk pool" all of the time, Germany doesn't have the problem of people waiting until they are sick and then joining a sickness fund to "use other people's money" to pay for their care.

How well would that model work in the U.S.?

An interesting economic fact is that all "group" insurance in the U.S. already basically uses an approach that operates very much like that European double mandate model. Employers in America buy coverage for an entire group of employees. Every eligible employee in each group is automatically covered as a member of the group. The result is a lot like Europe, one group at a time. There are some exceptions, but everyone employed full time in each employer group is usually in the insurance group, and every group member must be covered by the insurer. Health screens and medical underwriting do not happen within employer groups in America now. More than 90 percent of the people in the United States with health insurance receive their coverage through "groups."

We would be very well advised to take the double mandate risk-sharing business model that works well for Switzerland and the Netherlands, and works equally well today for our group purchasers in the U.S., and use it for all of our people.

Covering everyone is important in both Europe and America because we need to have a broad cross section of people enrolled in order to keep the average cost of care at a level that makes the average premium affordable.

The underlying concept of getting everyone in the risk pool is pretty simple. Automobile insurance would fail as an economic system if car insurers were required to sell instantly to every applicant but people could wait until after their car had crashed before actually buying insurance coverage. People would not pay premiums for car insurance every month if they could simply wait to pay one month's car insurance premium when the accident actually happened and then have the insurance company buy them a new car. Fire insurance would also obviously fail as a business model if the insurance companies only insured burning homes. Everyone who understands fire insurance understands that there needs to be premium paid from quite a few houses that are not burning to put enough money into a pool to pay the expenses of repairing or rebuilding the houses that do burn.

We need to use a European-like double mandate for health insurance in America to get everyone insured and to get everyone in the risk pool.

The double mandate already works fairly well in America for the 90 plus percent of insured people who get coverage through employers.

Let's just finish the job. Let's use a double mandate to enroll everyone in America. No one should ever lose their home in America or be financially ruined because of health care expenses. We need to cover everyone. A double mandate can help make that happen.

Health insurance reform bills from the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will soon be going to a conference committee process. That process should create a blended final bill that will focus some key energy on keeping the average costs of care down by getting as many people in the American risk pool as possible.

If we can't do a pure European style double mandate in America, we should get as close to it as we can.

We should not be too arrogant or too insulated to learn from what works well in other settings and other countries. The double mandate can work well here.

Car insurance cost up 13% on last year, says Sainsbury's

car insurance

The price of car insurance has risen by almost 13 per cent in the last 12 months, according to Sainsbury's Finance.

The price of running a car has gone up, with car cover now costing an average of £551.74. Tax and MOT costs have seen an increase of 8.45 per cent and 1.69 per cent respectively.

However, while prices have risen for some areas of driving, others have seen a reduction compared to 2008. Fuel and servicing charges have dropped, with petrol prices now 1.22 per cent less than they were a year ago.

Overall, Sainsbury's Finance estimates the average annual cost of motoring to now be £2,338, a figure which excludes the cost of paying for the actual vehicle.

Earlier research by the financial service provider found that reluctance to haggle over the price of a new car could cost consumers a combined total of £229 million in the next six months.

Ben Tyte, car insurance manager for the finance firm, advised drivers that the way to beat the price increases was by shopping around for the best value deal.

Is Permit Insurance Available For Teenage Drivers?

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One of the greatest days for a teenager is getting their learner’s permit. It is the beginning of a whole new world of independence and freedom. Unfortunately for parents, it is the beginning of a nightmare; your little baby behind the wheel of a car. Luckily, the law allows for ample practice time on the road before your teen driver is unleashed and free to wreak havoc on unsuspecting drivers. For this critical instruction time, insurance companies offer a special policy for those learning to drive.

What Kind Of Insurance Is There

Car insurance for a learning driver can be expensive to purchase independently but by adding your learning driver onto your existing policy, you could save a substantial amount on premiums. The learning driver will be able to have the same type of insurance policy that you have. By adding them to your existing policy they will be covered in the same capacity that you are. It might even be a good idea to upgrade their coverage to comprehensive and uninsured driver coverage if you only carry liability.

What Can Cause A Policy To Be Voided

Allowing your learning driver to drive without an adult, or the age of 21 in the car can most certainly void the conditions of the car insurance policy. If they were in an accident without an adult present not only could they lose their permit and not get their license until they turn 18, the insurance company could refuse to pay out any money on the policy because the conditions weren’t met. Not only is it dangerous for the learning driver and whomever they are in an accident with, it can also cause your insurance company to drop you from their policy. Leaving you without car insurance. It is important to teach your young driver how to be a responsible and respectful driver.

How a driving conviction hits car insurance

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Insurers are turning their backs on drink-drivers with many simply refusing to cover those convicted of driving under the influence.

As we enter the festive period when incidents of drink driving can increase, latest analysis of insurance quotations has shown that those convicted of the offence could be blacklisted by insurers, or else could face swingeing hikes in their insurance premiums.

Comparison website said that drivers could see their premiums increase from an average of £300 per year to £578 per year – a difference of £278.

However, other insurers will not return a quote at all to drivers if they admit to receiving a DR10 penalty for drink driving.

And some will not insure drivers if they have been handed a driving ban in the last five years.

Steve Sweeney, head of motor insurance at said: 'On top of a massive hike in insurance premium costs, any convicted motorist is likely to find themselves with the difficult task of trying to find a provider who is prepared to insure someone with a drink driving conviction.'

According to a recent survey carried out by the Home Office, a staggering one in eight drivers - or 12% - admitted to having driven after drinking what they believed was an 'over the limit' amount of alcohol in the previous year.

Steve Sweeney added: 'A conviction could lead to a £1,000 fine, a 12-month driving ban on their licence, and even a possible prison sentence.

'It is simply not worth taking the risk – the results of doing so can be costly and very damaging.'

Driving age to rise?

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The Government has young drivers in its sights in a battle to lower the road toll, with proposals to raise the driving age to 16 or 17 and extend learner licences.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said drivers aged between 15 and 24 were "seriously over-represented" in crash statistics.

Young people made up 16 per cent of licensed drivers but were responsible for 37 per cent of serious injury crashes. Mr Joyce said the Government could not ignore the statistics. "There are too many young people dying on our roads," he said.

He wanted a package of proposals before Cabinet early next year, including raising the driving age, extending the learner-licence period to 12 months – from the current six-month minimum – and making the test for a restricted licence tougher to encourage 120 hours of driving practice.

The Government will also consider restricting learner and restricted licence-holders from driving high powered or modified cars, and introducing compulsory third-party insurance. Young drivers who breached graduated licences could have their cars impounded.

Waikato Federated Farmers president Stew Wadey said raising the driving age would not be popular with rural families, who lived some distances from schools and services teenagers needed.

Mr Wadey argued rural families would be "penalised for the probably more ill-disciplined driving in the cities that is causing the (crash) statistics". He expected the prospect of a raised driving age would be discussed when the National Council of Federated Farmers meets next week in Wellington. Mr Wadey also stressed there was a need for "more discipline" in driving and road use and "more emphasis placed on parental responsibility."

Roger Leaf, of Hamilton's Black & White Driver Training, believed the learner's licence age should stay at 15. Raising the age to 16 would make no difference and he supported longer, graduated driver-licensing periods, and a tougher test for the restricted licence. "It's something that can't be fixed overnight. I don't have a problem with what they're doing if it reduces the risk of crashes," he said.

Young people spoken to on Hamilton's Te Rapa Rd last night were surprisingly receptive to the prospect of tougher tests for licences.

One 18-year-old man said the restricted licence test was "too easy", and he agreed the period should be extended so young drivers got more experience. He said young drivers needed more thorough training including mandatory driving lessons, and conceded that most young people were "probably not responsible" in cars.

The teens said plenty of their peers did not abide by licence conditions and were reckless behind the wheel.

A 17-year-old man – who admitted he'd previously lost his licence for "a sustained loss of traction" – felt the driving age should stay at 15, but he believed there was a need to extend the learner's licence period beyond 12 months. "The ages should stay the same, but the tests should be better," he said.

"The restricted licence is so easy to get."

Month-End Portfolio Data Now Available for Federated Investors' Closed-End Municipal Funds

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Federated Investors, Inc. today announced that monthly fund composition and performance data for Federated Premier Municipal Income Fund (NYSE: FMN) and Federated Premier Intermediate Municipal Income Fund (NYSE: FPT) as of Oct. 31, 2009 are now available in the Products section of To order hard copies of this data or to be placed on a mailing list, call 800-245-0242 x8079, email or write to Federated Investors, 1001 Liberty Avenue, Floor 23, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222.

Federated Investors, Inc. (NYSE: FII) is one of the largest investment managers in the United States, managing $392.3 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, 2009. With 150 funds, as well as a variety of separately managed account options, Federated provides comprehensive investment management worldwide to nearly 5,300 institutions and intermediaries including corporations, government entities, insurance companies, foundations and endowments, banks and broker/dealers. For more information, visit

What Lies Ahead: Incoming TIA President Outlines Plans for Coming Year

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In the midst of this unprecedented economic turmoil, and with the entire automotive and commercial tire sectors still struggling, there are probably very few people who would look forward to taking the helm of a major tire association.

However, as I assume the presidency of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), I see far more positives than negatives. For starters, being able to take the presidency of TIA from an expert like Dan Beach is a huge plus. He has served the association well over these last 12 months as president. Dan tackled the difficult challenges we faced this past year head-on. His tenacious attitude was well-timed for the association.

I will continue the efforts to push for TIA to lead the consumer education effort mandated by the 2007 Energy Bill, which called for a tire fuel efficiency labeling and consumer education program. As TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield explained in his Aug. 21 comments to NHTSA, dialogue between the tire sales associate and the customer at the point of sale is absolutely critical to the success of any consumer education program. TIA is a world leader in tire service training; we understand tire dealers better than anyone. And no one understands the customer better than our members. Thus, it’s a clear and logical conclusion that TIA is best equipped to handle such an important task. This is my number one goal for my term as TIA president. We have worked hard to earn this opportunity, and I believe that TIA is best suited and most qualified to lead this very important consumer education program.

Another of my goals is to continue the strong member program lineup TIA currently has. As chair of our Member Services & Benefits Committee for the past four years, I have been very much involved in the development of many of these programs. In 2009, TIA added Federated Insurance, Ceridian payroll/HR services, a package shipping discount with FedEx, ContactPoint sales training, and a partnership with Kiely Hines, which offers our members innovative and affordable health insurance.

With the addition of these programs, we have increased the potential savings to a TIA member who uses our programs to more than $27,000 a year. I encourage all of our members to take a look at these programs. They offer real savings that could help them get through these difficult economic times. We are working on a few new and exciting benefits that I hope to announce in the upcoming months.

As I mentioned above, TIA is a world leader in tire service training. This year has proven to be one of the best ever for our training department. We have greatly expanded our CTS and ATS training classes to meet booming demand. We are continuing the success of the TIA TPMS Relearn Chart with an update. We released the first-ever TIA training program for earthmover tires for the OTR industry. This state-of-the-art training program earned a Telly award, which, in the training arena, is the equivalent to an Oscar. And, we have totally revamped our Commercial Tire Service training and certification course.

In the coming year, we are exploring the possibility of updating our very successful Automotive Tire Service program; it may even include the addition of a comprehensive component on TPMS. Even during these difficult times, the smart tire business owners realize the value and importance of TIA training and certification. We continue to train hundreds of automotive, commercial and OTR tire service professionals each year, ensuring that millions of people ride on safe, well-maintained tires.

In addition to our work on the consumer education mandate of the Energy Bill, TIA has also been in the forefront of many of the governmental issues that are critical to the tire industry. We have been very much involved in the battle to prevent punitive tariffs on affordable tire imports from China. Additionally, we will continue our work on Capitol Hill in regards to health care, as it has taken on a whole new level of urgency with the mandate by President Obama to have a health care bill drafted by year’s end. Our work has not been restricted to the federal level. At the state level, we have been involved in several battles, including the one in California to prevent draconian measures against tire dealers from taking effect in respect to the issue of tire aging. We also continue to advocate Right to Repair legislation at the state level. All of these issues will be active in the coming year, and TIA’s members can rest assured that we will continue to vigorously defend their interests.

In terms of TIA’s events, 2009 was definitely a year of change and affirmation. While we made the decision to eliminate the Commercial Tire, Retread and Recycling Conference, our 2009 OTR conference continues to be that sector’s must-attend event.

And, for our Tires, Wheels & Equipment Section of the SEMA Show this year, we’ve made some bold changes. We eliminated the Breakfast with the President, replacing it with a Wine & Cheese Social and Tire Industry Honors, a new event that will honor the legends – both current and past – of the tire industry. This event was my vision, and I created it with the intent for it to quickly become THE place that the entire tire industry comes together to honor those who have made this industry great. We will recognize this year’s Tire Industry Hall of Fame inductees, and, we are excited to announce that all three major tire trade publications – including Tire Review, which will be presenting its Top Shop Award – will also be participating in this event. We have also created an International Roundtable – Best Practices in the Tire Industry & International Review of Industry Regulations.

Our 2010 events are shaping up very nicely. The 2010 OTR Conference will be held Feb. 17-20 at the beautiful Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz. We will have a rare opportunity to be part of a Caterpillar tour to witness OTR equipment in action. Anyone involved in the OTR sector knows this is the must-attend conference of the year. And, we are as committed as ever to maintaining our TWE Section at SEMA. This event remains the most important consumer tire and wheel show in North America, and I encourage everyone to attend.

I will also continue our efforts to effectively communicate with our membership, the media, the general public and the tire industry – both within the U.S. and around the world. We are expanding into electronic communications, such as via our Web site and e-mail. We have begun to “go green” at TIA. Our newsletter – The Business Owner – is available digitally to all members. In addition, with my background in the software industry, I plan on exploring the possibilities that lie ahead for TIA in the social marketing arenas.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I, along with TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield and the staff and Board, will continue to make TIA the preeminent tire organization in the world. We continue to constantly look for ways to make the association more efficient, more dynamic, more responsive, and an even greater value to our membership.

Business and professional news

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Staff Sgt. Thaddeus Cook was recently assigned to the Air Force recruiting office at 1117 Sixth St. N.W., in Barlow Plaza. Cook will support the Air Force Recruiting Service in Rochester and surrounding communities.

Cook is a recent graduate of the Air Force Recruiting School in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to this assignment, he was a pharmacy technician at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Buckingham earns kudos

Former West Concord resident Traci Buckingham has been named to Crain's Chicago Business' 40 Under 40. The annual list published by Crain's profiles 40 of Chicago's business leaders under the age of 40.

Buckingham is a 1990 graduate of West Concord High School and the daughter of Corky and the late Roberta Buckingham. She is a broker at CB Richard Ellis Inc., and her client roster includes Best Buy, Caterpillar Inc. and IKEA.

RCTC's Mercer wins award

Rochester Community and Technical College faculty member Bonnie Mercer has received a Townsend Developmental College Teaching Award.

John Langan, president of Townsend Press, says Mercer is one of those teachers who "on a caring and steady basis, semester after semester, provide persistent, patient, sensitive and respectful support -- honoring the dignity and humanity of those in their classes."

Mercer will receive a $1,000 award.

Common Ground hires four

Common Ground has hired Doug Schommer as its new community outreach director and named three other new hires.

Schommer has served on the Board of Directors of the Cronin Home since 1999 and currently serves as vice president. The Cronin home, in Rochester, provides residential housing for chemically dependent patients. Schommer also chairs the development committee and has been active in the DARE program in Winona County.

Other new hires at Common Ground are:

• Drew Martin, counselor. A native of Minneapolis and now Rochester resident, Martin has a bachelor's degree in family social science. Having worked in a variety of in-patient and out-patient capacities, he most recently worked three years with the methadone and opiate addiction clinic.

• John Podvin, counselor working with the men's primary program. A native of the Twin Cities and now Rochester resident, Podvin has a bachelor's degree. Most recently, he worked at the Guest House for seven years.

• Megan Blake, dependency technician. She is attending Rochester Community and Technical College to earn a degree in human resources, and she assists with groups and in the business office.

Common Ground, formerly Rochester Behavioral Health Services, has been in business since 2001. It offers a complete range of out-patient treatment options to assist those struggling with alcohol and other drug addictions.

McCabe achieves company presidency

Jeff McCabe has been named president of Spray Control Systems of Blooming Prairie, the parent company of Minimizer.

"We are excited to have Jeff as a member of our team. He brings significant managerial experience and a vision that will positively effect change and growth in the organization," said Craig Kruckeberg, chief visionary officer of Minimizer.

Before joining Minimizer, McCabe was an underwriting manager of the commercial health division of Federated Insurance Cos. He was with Federated for 23 years. McCabe also has 22 years of military service experience as a civil affairs major who regularly traveled overseas with international teams to improve nations.

Minimizer manufactures poly truck fenders, poly toolboxes, customized mud flaps and bracket kits. Family owned and operated for nearly three generations, Minimizer was founded in 1983.

Short takes

• Michael Smith, of Grand Meadow, was selected to attend this year's Northwestern Mutual Forum, held Sunday to Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., in recognition of his outstanding year of performance. Of the company's 7,000 representatives, 235 were eligible to attend.

• The Minnesota Department of Human Services has named Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center's Recovery Partners as a Dual Diagnosis Enhanced program for the treatment of behavioral health disorders. This program is the only one in the state to receive the enhanced classification. Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center treats behavioral health and substance-use disorders for adults, adolescents and children.

• Shawn Buryska was named the top lister and seller for Coldwell Banker Burnet during October. Coldwell Banker Burnet, a leading residential real estate brokerage headquartered in Edina, Minn., serves Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The company, which was founded in 1973, operates 27 offices and has nearly 2,250 sales associates throughout the market.

• EO Johnson Office Technologies announces Jordan Fredrickson has joined its Rochester office as an account executive. Fredrickson will work with small and medium-sized businesses in the Rochester area. His responsibilities include selling office technology, such as multifunction products, printers, scanners, document management and print management solutions.

Robbery prevention seminar slated

federated insurance

It's the time of year that robberies at convenience stores usually increase, said Gadsden Police Capt. Jeff Wright.

"It usually starts just before Thanksgiving and goes through Christmas," Wright said.

This year, the Gadsden Police Department is teaming up with the Etowah County Sheriff's Department and the Etowah County District Attorney's office to make all convenience store operators aware of ways to prevent robberies at their businesses, Wright said.

The event will be presented by Rachel Krech, risk consultant with the Federated Insurance Co., Wright said.

The number of crimes such as car break-ins, thefts, burglaries, purse snatchings and robberies usually increases during the holidays, Wright said.

The increase in robberies often is seen at convenience stores and similar businesses.

This seminar focuses on convenience stores, according to Wright.

The seminar will give clerks and owners information to help make the business less prone to robberies and about what to do if the business is robbed, Wright said.

"This is something that has been needed for a long time," Sheriff Todd Entrekin said. "(Gadsden Police) Chief (Richard) Crouch had the idea for this event, and we're glad to be a partner."

All convenience store owners and clerks will be invited, he said.

"It is something we'd like to eventually expand to other businesses," Entrekin said.

The event is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Ryan's Family Steak House, 127 River Road, Gadsden.

Tom Johnson Joins New York Life Insurance Company as Head of Business Development for Retirement Income Security

federated insurance

NEW YORK--(Business Wire)--
New York Life Insurance Company today announced that Tom Johnson has joined the
company as head of business development for Retirement Income Security, a leader
in providing retirement planning solutions. In this role, he has responsibility
for overall business development of Retirement Income Security products, which
include income and investment annuities, long-term care insurance and mutual
funds, with an emphasis on defined contribution plans and 401(k) rollover
options. Mr. Johnson reports to Chris Blunt, executive vice president in charge
of Retirement Income Security.

"I am very pleased that Tom is joining New York Life. Tom brings a wealth of
knowledge, industry best practices and networks that will help us continue the
momentum we have had since the division`s creation last year, aimed at providing
holistic solutions for advisors to use with their clients that address each
phase of the retirement process," said Mr. Blunt.

Mr. Johnson joins New York Life with 33 years in this industry, most recently
with MassMutual as senior vice presidentRetirement Income, Strategic Business
Development,where he led business development of their retirement income
platform. In addition to over 10 years at MassMutual, he worked at Federated
Investors, Inc. and his family firm, The Johnson Companies.

Mr. Johnson received a B.A from Gettysburg College and completed the Management
Development program at Harvard University. He resides in Hingham, Mass., with
his wife, Joyce Sullivan.

New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the
largest mutual life insurance company in the United States and one of the
largest life insurers in the world. New York Life has the highest possible
financial strength ratings from all four of the major credit rating agencies.
Headquartered in New York City, New York Life`s family of companies offers life
insurance, retirement income, investments and long-term care insurance. New York
Life Investments* provides institutional asset management and retirement plan
services. Other New York Life affiliates provide an array of securities products
and services, as well as institutional and retail mutual funds.

Visit New York Life`s Web site at for more information.

*New York Life Investments is a service mark used by New York Life Investment
Management Holdings LLC and its subsidiary, New York Life Investment Management

New York Life
William Werfelman, 212-576-5385
Sloane & Company
John Hartz, 857-598-4779

Lenoir County arrest reports

grange insurance

The following arrests were reported by the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office:

Calais Michell Murphy, 21, 1513 Cobblestone Drive, Kinston, Nov. 10, misdemeanor order for arrest/failure to appear/no operators license. Bond: $500. Arresting officer: C. Heath.

Heather Wade Mullins Vandiford, 32, 6333 Bear Creek Estates, La Grange, Nov. 10, misdemeanor failure to appear. Bond: $500. Arresting officer: J. Elmore.

Antony McCarlo Garner, Sr., 35, 211 E. Highland Av.e, Kinston, Nov. 10, misdemeanor assault on a female. Bond: $500. Arresting officer: J. Elmore.

Omar Rashin Suggs, age unknown, 705 Lincoln St., Kinston, Nov. 11, misdemeanor larceny. Bond: None. Arresting officer: S. Mitchell.

Kevin Tyler Fernandez, 17, 1642 Sandy Ridge Drive, Kinston, Nov. 11, misdemeanor harrassing phone call. Bond: Written promise. Arresting officer: M. Manning.

Mickey Shaun Hunter, 26, 2649 Paul's Path Road, Kinston, Nov. 11, felony possession with intent to sell/distribute marijuana, misdemeanor communicating threats, misdemeanor harassing phone calls. Bond: $2,000. Arresting officer: L. McKinney.

Candida Ann Jarman, 34, 2649 Paul's Path Road, Kinston, Nov. 11, felony possession with intent to sell/distribute marijuana. Bond: $2,000. Arresting officer: L. McKinney.

Stuart Bryan Letchworth, 35, Kinston, Nov. 11, misdemeanor resist arrest, misdemeanor reckless driving to endanger, misdemeanor fail to report accident. Bond: Written promise. Arresting officer: B. Kordulewski.

Taylor Alan Ipock, 17, 6526 Skeeter Pond Road, Grifton, Nov. 12, misdemeanor no liability insurance, misdemeanor failure to reduce speed. Bond: None. Arresting officer: D. Kennedy.

Bobby Devon Dawson, 28, 709 W. King St., La Grange, Nov. 12, misdemeanor assault on a female, misdemeanor assault on a child under 12. Bond: Amount not listed. Arresting officer: W. Howard.

Battle the Winter Winds by Winterizing Your Home

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Grange Insurance Offers Tips to Keep Families Warm this Season

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- With the crisp chill of autumn now in
full effect, homeowners must begin thinking about ways to prepare their homes
for the colder weather that is still ahead.

That's why Columbus-based Grange Insurance has recommended some useful tips to
help homeowners winterize their homes this season.

"Winter is only a few months away, so now is the time to start preparing your
home for the cold temperatures," says Peter McMurtrie, chief claims officer
for Grange Insurance. "With a little planning now, homeowners will find that
battling the cold weather doesn't have to be a six-month struggle."

While planning for winter this fall, consider a furnace inspection before
temperatures dip below freezing. Make sure your furnace is in tip-top shape to
last for the duration of the winter months. By maintaining the upkeep of your
furnace, homeowners can eliminate the possibility of faulty air circulation.
For those using fireplaces, homeowners should ensure that chimney flumes are
free of debris before using the fireplace for the first time. Additionally,
chimney flumes should be cleaned and serviced at least once per year. And to
keep the heat flowing properly through the furnace, McMurtrie suggests
replacing the filters each month. Managing proper filters prevents harmful air
particles from entering your home as warm air circulates.

Homeowners can take winter preparation a step further by also checking
insulation quality around the entire house. It's easy for crevice cracks to go
unnoticed when it's warm during the summer months. But, as temperatures begin
to drop, McMurtrie says homeowners should consider investing in
weatherstripping. This rubber material blocks cold air from creeping
underneath doors and can help consumers save up to 15 percent in heating
costs. By making sure all entry points are properly sealed, you can save money
and keep the house warm.

"Winterizing your home goes beyond just making sure the heat works," McMurtrie
says. "It's about getting the heat inside and keeping it inside."

Keeping the heat inside will help tackle another challenge during the winter
months. Frozen pipes open opportunities for pipe damage, causing homeowners to
deal with an unnecessary expense. But, according to McMurtrie, you can fight
off the freeze by keeping a few things in mind before the cold hits your home.
He recommends draining all air conditioning pipes and outside garden hoses
before the weather gets too cold. Also while outside, any exposed plumbing
pipes should be insulated to prevent freezing. Finally, the furnace should
remain on once freezing temperatures are present. Even if you've left for a
winter vacation, McMurtrie says the thermostat should never drop below 55

"Overall, keeping your home safe and calm during the winter months doesn't
have to cause a lot of stress or break the bank," McMurtrie says. "The most
important thing in any type of winter planning is keeping up with the little
things. If you've done that, the challenge of surviving the winter season
won't seem challenging at all."

About Grange Insurance
Grange Insurance, with $2 billion in assets and $1.3 billion in annual
revenue, is an insurance provider based in Columbus, Ohio. Through its network
of independent agents, Grange offers auto, home, life and business insurance
protection. Established in 1935, the company and its affiliates serve
policyholders in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan,
Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and
Wisconsin. For more information, visit