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Hello Mr. Ratehike, are you new to town?  “State Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman has decided not to oppose an average 15 percent rate hike that Farmers Insurance imposed on its homeowners customers this fall, the second time this year that the company has increased premiums in Texas.”

“Her track record is clear. She hasn’t met a rate increase she didn’t like, and Texas policyholders are the ones paying the price,” he said, citing a string of premium hikes by major insurers that drew no objections from Kitzman.”

“Referring to the Farmers increase, Winslow said, “There is absolutely no justification for an increase of that size in such a short period of time.”

“Farmers customers have already seen one premium boost this year, a nearly 10 percent hike that was imposed in March.”

Excerpted from: Texas won’t fight Farmers Insurance as it raises homeowner rates, by Terrence Stutz, Dallas Morning News 11-2-2012

Oh no she didn’t.  “A decision to table new rules intended to protect consumers has landed state Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman in hot water with the chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, which will play a key role in the decision to confirm her appointment in the upcoming legislative session.”

“There are many senators, Republican and Democratic, that are concerned that she’s a little too pro-insurance company,” said Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, who chairs the Senate Nominations Committee.”

“The so-called balance billing rules Kitzman put the brakes on in December — measures put in place by her predecessor that would have taken effect this spring — would have required health insurance companies to make clear to policyholders which providers are included in their network, and thus covered by their health plan.”

Excerpted from: Deuell to Kitzman: Reconsider Consumer Rules, by Becca Aaronson, Texas Tribune (AP) 8-28-12

Abandonment.  “Texas’ top insurance regulator has rescinded new rules designed to help consumers avoid a common pitfall when they seek medical treatment — big bills for out-of-network care — a move that angers consumer advocates and doctors groups.”

“The rules were meant to give more than 4 million Texans covered by preferred provider organization health plans, or PPOs, more information about whether they’d pay the higher out-of-network costs if they were hospitalized and seen by a specialist. Many have been surprised to be on the hook for higher bills for the specialists’ services, even though the hospital itself was part of their insurer’s preferred network.”

“But state Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman suspended most new protections against “balance billing” in December… Earlier this summer, she dropped several of the disclosure requirements from a proposed rewrite of the rules, agreeing with health insurers that they weren’t needed, despite advocacy for them by her predecessor, Mike Geeslin.”

“Her decisions could cost consumers thousands of dollars on top of what they might expect to pay for a major health issue, if Kitzman rules that the extra costs don’t have to count against a patient’s maximum charges under their policies.”

Excerpted from: Rules to help Texans avoid surprise hospital bills are pulled, by ROBERT T. GARRETT, Dallas Morning News 8-21-12

This is going to hurt.  “Think getting into an auto accident is bad? It's about to get worse. Starting March 1, one Texas town will start charging drivers extra to respond to wrecks.”

“Cash-strapped municipalities across the country have started charging victims for responding to accidents and other emergencies. Sometimes a person's insurer will pick up the tab, but a growing number are refusing to -- that means on top of paying for vehicle damages and insurance hikes, motorists are now being slapped with thousands of dollars in additional fines.”

“In Missouri City, Texas, drivers involved in an accident will be charged up to $2,000 even if they don't call for help. According to Fire Chief Russell Sander, insurance companies will be forced to pony up the cash, not victims.”

“Sander… says drivers shouldn't be worried.… he doesn't "think they're going to see much difference in our services or their cost that's out of their pocket."

“But many argue that insurers will push the penalties onto their customers by increasing deductibles, premiums or limiting coverage.”

Excerpted from: Insult to injury? Texas town joins trend of imposing 'crash tax' on accident victims,, Feb 20, 2013

Colossal Colossus.  “Claims software used by many large auto and homeowners insurance vendors in the U.S. has allowed the companies to manipulate claim payments and "low-ball" customers, according to a new report from the Consumer Federation of America.”

“Injury evaluation software, including CSC's Colossus package, allows insurance companies to "tune" payment perimeters and reclassify injuries as less serious than the diagnosis from a doctor, said the report…”

“Insurers can also use the software to downgrade, en masse, the diagnosis of certain injuries, or pair the claims software with medical repricing software that reduces the "usual and customary" medical costs to be reimbursed, the report said.”

Excerpted from: Consumer group: Claims software helps insurers 'low-ball' customers, by Grant Gross, 6-4-12.

Texas is #1 – again. “Texas homeowners are still paying the highest insurance premiums in the nation, although residents of two other Gulf Coast states are paying almost as much, new figures from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners show.”

“Texans pay sky-high premiums for policies that have more holes than a block of Swiss cheese,” said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch, a consumer group active in insurance rate issues. “Prices continue to climb while coverage is getting slashed.”

“Winslow said the Legislature needs to consider a proposal that would require insurers to offer a standard policy so homeowners can do comparison shopping.”

“It would give consumers a benchmark choice to make meaningful comparisons and determine which policy provides the best value for their hard-earned dollars,” he said.”

Excerpted from: Texas homeowners still paying nation’s highest insurance premiums, by Terrence Stutz, Dallas Morning News 12-18-12

Check for injuries; call an ambulance when in doubt.  “The fender bender you were just in appears to be minor. No one looks injured and there is minimal damage to the vehicles. First breathe a sigh of relief – then take these precautions to help prevent your small accident from becoming a big problem.”

“Don’t assume there aren’t injuries…Even low-impact collisions can cause injuries, some not appearing until days after the accident.”  Excerpted from: The Do’s And Don’ts of A Minor Car Accident, State Farm Insurance Learning Center Website 2-15-12

Trash junk policies.  “The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has found that the overwhelming number of homeowners policies provide less coverage for continuous or repeated leakage from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning; backup of sewers and drains; and damage to foundations and slabs. Other coverage that has been slashed includes damage caused by theft, freezing pipes, falling trees, sudden discharge from heating or air conditioning systems, mold, and vehicles. Overall, reductions in coverage range up to 45%.”

“To make matters worse, insurance companies are forcing policyholders to shoulder more and more of the burden by switching from set dollar-based deductibles to percentage-based deductibles, with some going as high as 5%.” Excerpted from: Insurance Myth #1: “YOU’RE COVERED.”, Texas Watch (Eye on Texas Blog) March 21, 2012.

Infrastructure, Wind damage & Sinkholes.  “As home insurance premiums skyrocket this year, many insurers are cutting back on what used to be standard coverage.”

“…weakening coverage comes at an already challenging time for homeowners. Insurance premiums are estimated to rise 5% this year to $1,004 on average, according to the Insurance Information Institute -- and in some cases, deductibles are rising too. In December, State Farm began informing policy holders in Texas with homes insured for at least $100,000 that their deductibles would move from a fixed dollar amount (starting at $500) to at least 1%...Company spokesman Gary Stephenson says the intention is "to minimize small or frivolous claims that some [policyholders] might have a tendency to file."  Excerpted from: 3 Ways Home Insurers Charge More, Cover Less, by ANNAMARIA ANDRIOTIS, SmartMoney March 9, 2012

Please State Farm, define “in the end”.  "Southeast Texans need to get ready to find another home insurance provider if you're insured with State Farm.”

“Beginning on May 1, 2012, State Farm says it will no longer renew home insurance for 11,000 homeowners living near coastal areas.”

“The leading insurance company in Texas, State Farm says it can't afford to insure those living in areas prone to storms.”

"These changes will ensure that we are there for all of our Texas homeowner customers in the end," says State Farm Spokesperson Kevin Davis.”  Excerpted from: 11,000 to lose home insurance by Courtney Francisco, KCEN-TV 2-1-2012

Junk paper. “Texas homeowners paid the most expensive insurance premiums in the country for the second year in a row… according to new figures from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.”

“For as long as anyone can remember, Texas has had among the highest insurance rates in the nation,” said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch…”

"The flip side is that coverage for most homeowners is getting slashed while their rates keep going up. With higher deductibles, expanded exclusions and a growing number of junk policies, Texas policyholders are being forced to pay more for less,” he said. “It’s like being forced to pay Cadillac prices and getting stuck with a clunker.”  Excerpted from: Texas homeowners pay highest insurance premiums for second year in a row, By TERRENCE STUTZ, Dallas Morning News 1-9-12

Texas beats the trend. “Texas employer-sponsored health insurance is costing more and buying less….”

"The state-by-state report [by the The Commonwealth Fund]…found that between 2003 and 2010 such premiums in Texas rose 52 percent for families and 46 percent for individuals. In addition, both groups' deductibles more than doubled…”

"This is a national trend, but Texas' numbers are particularly pronounced," said Cathy Schoen, the report's lead author…”

“Schoen noted that Texas' numbers stand out because incomes in the state remained below the national average during the same time.”

“Schoen said average premiums will rise by 72 percent by 2020 if current trends are not slowed.” Excerpted from: Texas health premiums cost more, buy less, by Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle 11-17-11.

Deny, delay, collude…"The House Insurance Committee passed a bill overhauling the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. Gov. Rick Perry put the matter on the special session's agenda…The bill now goes to the full House for consideration and if approved, on to the Senate."

"Following Hurricane Rita, there were numerous allegations of collusion between claims adjusters and the association. More than 1,900 policyholders sued the association for failing to pay for legitimate damages. The Texas Department of Insurance placed the association under administrative oversight in February."

"The proposed bill would eliminate claims for punitive damages."

"Ware Wendell, legislative director of the consumer advocacy group Texas Watch, said the measure takes away vital rights to sue that people with policies issued by for-profit insurance companies can currently use to force insurers to fulfill their policies."

"Those protections are important for a number of reasons. They do deter bad conduct, they do compel prompt payment," Wendell said. "And more importantly, they make more likely that the aggrieved, deserving policy holder will be made whole." Excerpted from: Texas lawmakers OK changes to hurricane insurance, by CHRIS TOMLINSON, Beaumont Enterprise (Associated Press), June 7, 2011

Warning: Tweet with Caution. “Now there's another reason to be careful about what you post on Facebook: Your insurance company may be watching.”

“Investigators who once followed people with cameras now …[mine] databases and searching Facebook," said Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau…”

“More ambitious insurance companies are even exploring the possibility of using online data to help underwrite policies.”

“…life insurance companies could find social media especially valuable for comparing what people will admit about lifestyle choices and medical histories in applications, and what they reveal online.”

"The situation is coming up more and more in court where lawyers for insurance companies lay traps for the insured based on pictures or postings on Facebook or Twitter…"

Excerpted from: Insurers are scouring social media for evidence of fraud, LA Times by Shan Li, 1-25-11.

Blame it on the rain. “Farmers Insurance filed for a 3.9 percent rate increase in homeowners insurance…”

“The rate hike is necessary to handle the increasing cost of claims in Texas, mostly related to weather losses, said Luis Sahagun, a spokesman for Farmers…”
Excerpted from: Farmers Insurance files for homeowners rate increase in Texas by TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News 11-23-2010

Texas Beats Out Florida!  “Texas has reclaimed the distinction of having the most expensive homeowners insurance premiums in the nation, according to new figures from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners”.

“…with an average annual premium of $1,460 for the most common type of homeowners policy sold across the country”.

“Florida was second at $1,390, and the national average was $791. Only five states had average premiums higher than $1,000 a year”.
Excerpted from: Texans paying highest home insurance rates nationwide by TERRENCE STUTZ Dallas Morning News November 17, 2010

Dubious Distinction.  “In Texas we like being No. 1…”

“We've been paying among the highest homeowners insurance rates in the nation for as long as anyone can remember.”

The fact is that our current system of insurance regulation favors powerful insurance companies and their lobbyists over consumers and homeowners.”

“The insurance industry's "trust us" message just rings hollow. We've tried it that way; now we need to do it the right way. Maybe then we can truly lead the nation by guaranteeing real insurance protection that all Texans can afford. That would be something all Texans can really be proud of.”
Excerpted from: Op-ed: Consumers pay more while insurances companies sue by Alex Winslow, Fort Worth Star Telegram 10-26-2010 (N. Alex Winslow is executive director of Texas Watch, a statewide citizen advocacy organization.)

Please excuse our mess…“State auditors found muddled chains of command, incomplete or missing files and a massive backlog of cases when they dug into the enforcement process at the Division of Workers' Compensation…The audit is ongoing, but it supports the claims of former employees who exited the division this year amid complaints of stalled action on dozens of cases against physicians accused of abusing the system.”

“…hundreds of cases in which medical quality reviewers recommended doctors for sanction or removal from the system sit untouched, unsupervised or lost in a paperwork jungle. According to the audit, 81 cases were never logged, more than 20 percent of cases were closed without clear documentation, and 661 enforcement cases have been open for an average of 15 months without action. One case has been open since 2006, and more than 60 cases are assigned to staff members who were fired last year.”
Excerpted from: State Audit Finds Massive Backlog at Workers' Comp by Elise Hu, Texas Tribune 7-16-10

Notoriously severe actualities.  “Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the Insurance Information Institute…will tell the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee….that a proposed increase in the limits for environmental liability from an oil spill….is beyond the capacity of the insurance industry.”

“Collectively, the impact could be less drilling…. These rigs could be relocated to some other part of the world where operating costs are lower.”
“He said that “raising the limit to $10 billion will significantly increase the demand for such coverage, and increase exponentially the risk and uncertainty…”

“The reason, Mr. Hartwig said, is that “very low probability but extreme severity events are notoriously difficult for insurers to underwrite.”
Excerpted from: Liability Cap Hike Could Drive Drillers Out of U.S. Waters By ARTHUR D. POSTAL National Underwriter - Property & Casualty, June 8, 2010

Fair and Objective or Weak and Ineffective.  “…the failure to seriously discipline rogue doctors [by TDI’s Division of Workers Compensation] over a period of several years has resulted in an open revolt by staff. The spiked cases are just a sample of the hundreds of cases reviewed over the years by physician fraud investigators Bill Nemeth, the worker's comp division's former medical advisor, and Ken Ford, its former assistant medical advisor. Nemeth quit serving as medical advisor in 2007, citing frustration over what he termed a lack of action on valid fraud cases. Ford resigned in March, after the termination of Lockhart and a nurse paralegal, Ronnie Glenn, who also was fired for “clandestine” research, records show. In April, the current medical advisor, Howard Smith, notified Bordelon he would be resigning at the end of May. Also leaving is Clark Watts, a doctor and attorney who reviewed cases as a consultant for the division.”
Excerpted from: The Workers' Comp Whistleblowers, Texas Tribune 5-12-10

The Neighborhood Bully. “To leading lawmakers and even some insurance industry experts, State Farm hasn't exactly been like a good neighbor in recent dealings with state regulators.”

“The state's largest property insurer shows no sign of compromising on its marathon legal battle over the state's ruling that it overcharged homeowners hundreds of millions of dollars”.

“The insurer – which had an improved bottom line in 2009, according to figures released by the state – has yet to pay a penny to policyholders.”

“After filing twice in eight months to increase rates, company officials gave a cold shoulder last month to state Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin, who suggested State Farm needed to give its customers a break.”

“…State Farm will take Geeslin and the TDI to court in an effort to keep the agency from publicizing documents related to the rate spikes, which represent a statewide increase of 13 percent.”

“One industry insider with close ties to many legislators said he was "amazed at how belligerent State Farm has been in dealing with the Insurance Department." He also voiced concern that the disagreements could lead to legislation next year that would put a tighter grip on insurance company premiums.”
Excerpted from:  State Farm stiff-arms Texas regulators, but insurer says it's protecting clients By TERRENCE STUTZ, Dallas Morning News April 13, 2010

TDI v. The Good Neighbor.  “An unprecedented move by the Texas Department of Insurance to publicize recent rate hikes by State Farm Insurance sparked a legal challenge from the company…”

“The legal action followed the Insurance Department's decision to post on its Web site two State Farm rate proposals – filed over the last eight months – that increase homeowner premiums an average of 13 percent for the company's 1.2 million Texas customers.”

[Department spokesman Jerry Hagins] “Hagins said the decision to publicize State Farm's rates is partly the result of the company filing increases so close together – a move that state regulators warned could cause "instability" in the home insurance market.”

"We're disappointed that we've encountered resistance from State Farm on this," Hagins said.” 
Excerpted from:  State Farm sues Texas over Web posting of its rate hike requests By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News, March 31, 2010

No end in sight.  “The number of middle-class Texans without health insurance increased 41 percent between 2000 and 2008, with nearly 500,000 middle-class workers no longer covered through their job or private insurance, according to a study released today by the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation”.

“Insurance premiums for family coverage rose 76 percent in Texas between 2000 and 2008, while median income in the state declined 4 percent. Nationwide, costs for a family insurance policy rose 81 percent while income fell 2.5 percent”.
Excerpted from: Middle-class Texans slammed by loss of health insurance by Dianna Hunt, Fort Worth Star Telegram 3-17-10

Ah, to live in Phoenix. Or Columbus, Ohio..."Workers in all those cities - along with others - pay a lot less than Houstonians for their health care, according to the human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates."

"Experts cite several reasons that individuals in Houston pay hundreds of dollars more each year for premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The factors include the unpopularity of managed care, a higher-than-average population without health insurance, and expensive health care providers."

"According to Hewitt, employees in the Houston area will pay an average of $4,791 next year for individual health insurance premiums as well as co-pays and deductibles."

"That's 19 percent more than the U.S. average of $4,023..."

"Houston employees and employers have paid more than the national average for health care premiums and out-of-pocket expenses every year since 2002, according to Hewitt."
Excerpted from: Column by L.M. SIXEL - Health care is pricier here, Houston Chronicle 10-30-09

Flipping & flopping. "The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, facing hundreds of lawsuits stemming from hurricanes Ike, Dolly and Rita, wants to limit how much it pays if it loses in court."

"TWIA argues it's an instrument of a government agency, and as such is entitled to sovereign immunity..."

"In a 2008 e-mail to a Houston Chronicle reporter after Hurricane Ike, TWIA's general manager wrote it was not subject to open records rules: "TWIA is a private company that was set up by legislation. It is a nonprofit company."
Excerpted from: Windstorm insurer seeks immunity in lawsuits By PURVA PATEL, Houston Chronicle 11-11-09

Texas Ranks Dead Last "Health care in Texas ranks among the worst in the nation, dragged down by large numbers of uninsured and by the nation's most porous safety net, according to a scorecard and analysis released Thursday by the health care-oriented Commonwealth Fund."

"Texas ranked 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia...Texas was ranked last in access to health care, and in equity-a measure of how minorities and low-income patients fared in the state's medical system. Texas has some of the nation's strictest eligibility requirements for Medicaid insurance."
Excerpted from: Health care story ranks Texas 46th, by JIM LANDERS, The Dallas Morning News, 10-8-09

Good hands? "The outcome of a battle between the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and state regulators could set a precedent for how future roof claims are handled after a hurricane..."

"The lifted shingle issue is not limited to TWIA," said Alex Winslow, head of Texas Watch, ...Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin "can either make sure these claims get paid or he can allow TWIA and the other insurance companies to keep denying them."

"Policyholders say Hurricane Ike winds blew their shingles back, breaking the seals that keep them adhered to each other and that prevent water from leaking through.

But TWIA...doesn't consider loose shingles damaged. It also argues...policyholders must prove their shingles were sealed before Ike."

"...the ultimate decision lies in Insurance Commissioner Geeslin's hands."
Excerpted from: Windstorm insurers, state regulators spar over shingles, By Purva Patel, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 5, 2009

What goes up - must come down. NOT! "Here we go again. As we enter another hurricane season, State Farm announced it plans to raise its homeowners rates by as much as 8.5 percent. The insurer raised rates by 2.8 percent last year. Not to be outdone, Allstate has said it will raise rates by an average of 5.5 percent statewide, with bigger hikes in coastal areas."

"This is the Ike backlash. Homeowners who dared to use the policies they paid for to settle hurricane damage last year are now taking it in the premiums."

"The poor-mouthing by insurers grows as tiresome as the perennial rate hikes...if an insurance company can't adequately protect itself from risk, do you really want to buy a policy from them?"
Excerpted from: Loren Steffy - Insurance rate hike? Must be hurricane season, Houston Chronicle, 7-16-09

A damning portrait. "Congressional committees heard a lot this month about the devious schemes used by health insurance companies to drop or shortchange sick patients.'

"A House oversight subcommittee took a close look at..."rescission," in which insurance companies cancel coverage for some sick policyholders rather than pay an expensive claim....When executives for the three companies were asked if they would...limit rescissions to cases where the policyholder deliberately lied on an application, all said they would not."
"...the Senate Commerce Committee was getting an earful from a former head of corporate communications for Cigna...He charged that the industry deliberately confuses its customers..."dump the sick" through rescissions and by purging small businesses whose employees' claims exceed what underwriters expected."
Excerpted from: Editorial: Insurance Company Schemes, The New York Times, June 29, 2009

The cost of getting paid. "Insurance administration costs can take a big bite out of a practice's revenue. A recent Weill Cornell Medical College study found that a third of the money received by primary care physicians pays for interactions between a doctor's practice and patients' health plans."
Excerpted from: If All Doctors Had More Time to Listen, By JULIE WEED, New York Times 6-7-09

Advice to the insured: Don't get sick. "The study [by Harvard University, published in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine] found that medical bills, plus related problems such as lost wages for the ill and their caregivers, contributed to 62% of all bankruptcies filed in 2007."

"Medical insurance isn't much help, either. About 78% of bankruptcy filers burdened by healthcare expenses were insured..."

"Health insurance is not a guarantee that illness won't bankrupt you," said Steffie Woolhandler, one of the authors...

..."So you can be insured and still end up with big bills....even if you have good insurance through your employer, you can lose it if you get sick and can't work."

"Most people who filed medical-related bankruptcies "were solidly middle class before financial disaster hit," the study says. Two-thirds were homeowners, and most had gone to college."
Excerpted from: Medical bills play a role in 62% of bankruptcies, study says, By Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times 6-4-2009

A Never-Ending Scandal, er, Story. "A senior member [Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-MD] of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants his panel to investigate whether insurance giant AIG Inc. and other providers have unnecessarily denied and delayed costly medical treatment for civilian contractors injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The letter cited media reports last week disclosing that insurance companies routinely challenged serious injury claims of civilian workers returning from the war zones. Private contractors have been forced to battle for basic medical needs...
Last year, the government reform committee determined that AIG had collected $1.3 billion in premiums on the insurance between 2002 and 2007, while it had paid out about $800 million --leaving the company with a nearly 40% profit. The Pentagon has recently begun an inquiry into whether such premiums can be lowered."
Excerpted from: AIG faces inquiry over medical care for U.S. contractors, Los Angeles Times By T. Christian Miller 4-22-09

Turning the tables: Begging for comfort. "Health insurance companies...offered to reduce rates for millions of women and accept close federal regulation..."

"The industry is trying to head off creation of a government health plan that would compete with them to enroll middle-class workers and their families."

"We are not asking people to trust us, we are asking people to trust government," Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, told a Senate panel..."

"Instead of a government plan as a check on their industry, insurers are offering to accept a series of consumer protections they contend would add up to a fairer marketplace and cut into the...50 million uninsured."

"We are comfortable with that," Ignagni told the Senate Finance Committee..."

"Insurers have already offered to stop denying coverage to sick people and...the practice of charging higher premiums to those with a history of health problems. In exchange, the industry wants Congress to require all Americans to carry health insurance..."
Excerpted from: Health insurers ask gov't to police their industry, By Ricardo Alonso Zaldivar, Erica Werner contributed to this report, The Associated Press, 5-5-09

Climate change. "With a less-friendly political climate and a downright hostile economic climate, U.S. property/casualty insurers are anticipating renewed legislative and regulatory battles in the states in 2009."

"It is early for determining which states will see the most significant actions on these issues, but the overall trend is one of "defense, defense, defense," said Joe Thesing, state affairs director for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. "
Excerpted from: Insurers Anticipate a Year of 'Defense' in 2009 by Sean Carr, BestWeek, 1-12-2009

Hungry Hungry Hippos. "On Friday and over the weekend, four insurance companies with no history of banking joined the hippo parade as they scrambled to buy up small savings-and-
loans. Doing so allows the insurers to qualify as banks and thus become eligible for federal bailout money".

"While some of the targeted thrifts are tiny, the insurers acquiring them all have been hit hard by the credit crisis and need capital injections -- and, apparently, government assistance -- to survive".
Excerpted from: Insurers Jump on the Bailout Bandwagon, Zach Lowe, The Am Law Daily, 11-18-08

Post-Katrina: Insurance Industry Prevails. "Initially, the court victories came easily. On the stand, telling their tales of battling to get their insurance claims paid, the homeowners almost always won, often with bad-faith penalties."

"But on appeal, in both federal and state courts, insurers prevailed, winning key legal precedents and knocking down monetary judgments if the parties had not settled."

"In Louisiana, most of the major questions of insurance law have been decided, and courts sided with the industry."
Excerpted from: In the hard fought battle after Hurricane Katrina of homeowner versus insurance company By Rebecca Mowbray, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 27, 2008

Technology age side effects of prescription drugs. "Health and life insurance companies have access to a powerful new tool for evaluating whether to cover individual consumers: a health "credit report" drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans."

"When an insurer makes an online query about an applicant, Ingenix or Milliman's [data providers] servers scour the data and within minutes or less return reports to a central server at the [insurance] company. Then comes the analysis. ...[the tool] provides insurers a "pharmacy risk score," or a number that represents an "expected risk" for a group of people..."

"Some health experts worry that insurance companies can make faulty assumptions by looking at prescription drug records..."I had a patient on Amitriptyline for migraines and they were denied life insurance because it's also an antidepressant," said physician Kate Atkinson of Amherst, Mass. Another patient was on Prozac -- not for depression, but for menopausal hot flashes. "I wrote an appeal letter, and they still wouldn't give it to her..."
Excerpted from: Prescription Data Used To Assess Consumers Records Aid Insurers but Prompt Privacy Concerns by Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, August 4, 2008

Who knows you best? "New Technology: The consolidation of insurance industry claims databases has put a valuable new tool in the hands of investigators. ClaimSearch is the world's largest comprehensive database of claims information...Predictive Knowledge, collects and analyzes information that can be disseminated to detect, investigate and prevent
insurance fraud...a program called CATfraud, identifies potentially fraudulent catastrophe/weather-related insurance claims."

"...Software can verify the accuracy of information provided by prospective policyholders... insurers can use a number of different software tools, ranging from voice stress analysis and "red flag" identifiers to datamining and database searching."

"Privacy: An emerging issue for insurers using data sharing services is...privacy. Financial institutions, including insurers, must respect the privacy of their customers and protect their personal information, a practice that may deter efforts to combat fraud."
Excerpted from: Issues Updates - Insurance Fraud, February 2008, Insurance Information Institute

Insurance Industry: "We're just misunderstood." The insurance industry has realized it has a public relations problem. That was a prime topic of conversation among 1,600 senior insurance executives at the annual meeting of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America this week in Boston....

"Enhancing our image and reputation will not be easy, nor will it occur overnight. But it is possible, and we must make this a priority for PCI and the industry." [said the group's president] PCI conducted focus groups in Florida this past year....

The pollster who conducted the research [is] Frank Luntz, chairman and chief executive of Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research....
[Luntz' Advice to the Insurers]

•    "You're supposed to be about safety and protection. Instead, you're about insecurity and anger."
•    "You need to let them know you live in their neighborhoods, and your house was destroyed as well."
•    "You need to make them see that you will make them whole again. That's what they want."
•    "If Trent Lott comes to you with a claim for his house that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, pay it."
Excerpted from: Image is everything, insurers say, 11/03/07, New Orleans Times Picayune

Insurance Claims: 90% Good Hands, 10% Boxing Gloves. Insurers often pay 30-60 percent of the cost of rebuilding a damaged home -- even when carriers assure homeowners they're fully covered, thousands of complaints with state insurance departments and civil court cases show.

Paying out less to victims of catastrophes has helped produce record profits. In the past 12 years, insurance company net income has soared -- even in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.
Excerpted from: Home Insurers' Secret Tactics Cheat Fire Victims, Hike Profits, 08/03/07,