Health Care Risk

As Congressional leaders debate how to fund a wholesale overhaul of the nation’s health care system, a new study finds that women are more likely than men to feel the pinch of rising health costs and eroding health benefits. A new Commonwealth Fund study finds that about half (52 percent) of working-age women report problems accessing needed care because of costs, compared to 39 percent of men. Women who are insured but have inadequate coverage are especially vulnerable, with 69 percent of underinsured women having problems accessing care because of costs, compared to 49 percent of underinsured men. Overall,  seven of 10 working-age women, or an estimated 64 million, have no health insurance coverage or inadequate coverage, medical bill or debt problems, or problems accessing needed health care because of cost, according to the study. The findings underscore the need for affordable and high-quality health insurance coverage for all. For more on the administration’s plans for health care reform check out this May 11 Wall Street Journal article by Janet Adamy. Check out further I.I.I. facts and stats on health insurance.  
  

  

Road Costs Report

American drivers are paying for the rough state of the nation’s roads multiple times, according to a report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). It reveals that one-third of major highways, including Interstates, freeways, and major roads are in poor or mediocre conditions. In high traffic urban areas the situation is even worse with one in four roads in poor condition. AASHTO says the American public pays for poor road conditions twice – first through additional vehicle operating costs and then in higher repair and reconstruction costs. For the average driver, rough roads add $335 annually to typical vehicle operating costs and up to $746 annually for drivers in urban areas. Sustaining deteriorating roads also costs significantly more over time than regularly maintaining a road in good condition. It costs $1 to keep a road in good shape for every $7 you would have to spend on reconstruction, according to AASHTO. Earlier this year the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assigned a grade of D- to America’s roads.

Cautionary Outlook on Workers Comp

Slowing job creation during the economic downturn led to a continuing decrease in workers compensation claims frequency in 2008, according to the annual “State of the Line† report from NCCI Holdings Inc. It reported that workers comp claims frequency declined by 4 percent in 2008, compared to a decline of 2.6 percent in 2007. NCCI’s research indicates that the recession puts additional downward pressure on frequency. Its analysis showed that the workers comp 2008 calendar year combined ratio was 101, unchanged from the final 2007 number. NCCI said low interest rates together with dismal equity market performance left the line with post-tax returns that barely meet the industry’s cost of capital. It went on to flag some challenges for the workers comp line. Among them, the rising pace of medical and indemnity costs, low investment returns, uncertainty in the underwriting cycle and uncertainty due to the changing political landscape. For these reasons, NCCI’s short-term view of the line has changed from optimistic to guarded while the long-term outlook for workers comp is cautionary. Check out I.I.I.  facts & stats  on workplace safety/workers comp.

Microinsurance: Growing Market

A growing number of insurers are providing low cost insurance to individuals in developing countries. For example just last week Munich Re announced a pilot project with Indonesian insurer Asuransi Wahana Tata and GTZ, the German government’s international development agency, to offer flood insurance coverage to low-income households in Jakarta. Instead of a lengthy policy document, the insured receives a simple protection card that guarantees a one-time payment in the event of a flood. Munich Re notes that with just 3 percent of low-income individuals currently having access to insurance products in the world’s 100 poorest countries, the microinsurance segment is a growing market. Microinsurance products tend to be much less costly than traditional products and thus extend protection to a much wider market. Check out I.I.I. facts & stats on microinsurance.  

P/C Rate Update

Online insurance exchange MarketScout said the average property/casualty rate decrease was 7 percent in April 2009, the same as in March 2009  and compared to a double-digit rate decrease of 12 percent a year ago. Rates were unchanged in all segments except the following: workers compensation rates decreased 8 percent, while D&O, EPLI, fiduciary and crime rates all increased slightly, according to Richard Kerr, founder and CEO of MarketScout. Commercial property, general liability and workers comp experienced the largest rate decreases at 8 percent. The lines experiencing the smallest decreases were D&O liability and fiduciary (4 percent). Check out I.I.I. information on the p/c insurance cycle.  

Rising Obesity Rates

Some interesting comparisons of social trends and policy developments in Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries are offered in the latest edition of Society at a Glance. For example, we learn that the French spend more time sleeping and eating than anyone else in OECD countries, while the Japanese sleep nearly an hour less every night and also spend longer at work and commuting than they do indulging in leisure activities. When it comes to Americans, we learn that around an hour and a quarter is devoted to eating every day, slightly more than only Canadians and Mexicans, but less than half the eating time spent by the French. But less is more and not in a good way. Despite this limited time spent eating, the report notes that America’s obesity rates are the highest in the OECD. Some 34.3 percent of the adult population in the U.S. has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 30, compared to 10.5 percent in France, 3.9 percent in Japan and the OECD average of 15.1 percent. Mind you, the fact that Americans are not getting taller can’t be helping — the OECD reports that the U.S. is the only country where men and women aged 45-49 are no taller than those aged 20-24 years old. America is also not alone in facing an obesity epidemic as obesity rates are increasing across the OECD. Check out I.I.I. information on obesity risk.  Ã‚  

  

Flood Insurance Reminder

Countdown to the official start of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season is underway. We’re now just 27 days away, but as there’s a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect, no time like the present to stress the importance of buying flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Web site has a clock counting down the hours, minutes and seconds to the start of hurricane season. As the NFIP says: “Hurricane season is flood season.† The I.I.I.’s 2008 Insurance Pulse  found that only 17 percent of Americans have a flood insurance policy. Check out further I.I.I. facts & stats on flood insurance.  

ID Theft Rules: More Time to Comply

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has given financial institutions and creditors a further three months – until August 1, 2009 – to comply with the so-called “red flags rule† which requires them to develop and implement written identity theft programs. This is the second time the FTC has delayed enforcement of the new rules which were originally slated to take effect November 1, 2008. For entities that have a low risk of identity theft, such as businesses that know their customers personally, the FTC also said it will soon release a template to help them comply with the law. The red flags rule requires financial institutions and creditors with covered accounts to implement prevention programs to identify, detect and respond to patterns, practices or specific activities that could indicate ID theft. During 2007, the FTC received 813,899 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints, an increase of 21 percent over 2006. The new rules stem from the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Check out I.I.I. info on ID Theft.