All posts by Claire

Pride Month

June is Pride month and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, widely recognized as a milestone in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights movement. Here’s a round-up of some of the latest news and developments affecting the LGBT community that may be of interest:

 ·Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Same sex marriage has now been legalized in six states (three via a court ruling, three via the legislature): Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. A same-sex marriage bill has also passed the New York State Assembly, but has yet to progress in the Senate. In California, the state Supreme Court has upheld the validity of some 18,000 same sex marriages that took place in 2008 but same sex marriage is no longer legal in the state after passage of a constitutional amendment that was upheld by the court. It’s important to recognize that state laws do not extend any of the benefits on a Federal level.

 ·Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Aetna last October became the first U.S. health insurer to link its site to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s (GLMA) database. As a result, Aetna’s DocFind online health care provider directory is now linked to GLMA’s growing database of more than 1,200 LGBT-friendly medical professionals. The database includes primary care providers, specialists, therapists, and dentists who welcome LGBT patients.

 ·Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Insurers (Metlife, Chubb, Nationwide, Marsh & McLennan Cos, New York Life Insurance Co and Progressive) were among 259 businesses to earn the top rating in the seventh annual Corporate Equality index published by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) last September. The Index rates employers based on their treatment of LGBT employees, customers and investors. Ratings are based on factors such as nondiscrimination policies and domestic partner benefits.

 ·Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   As companies look to reach out to the LGBT market, they may like to know that a recent national survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that gay and lesbian adults are more likely to read blogs and to use social networking tools. For example, more than half (55 percent) of gay and lesbian respondents reported reading some type of blog, compared to only 38 percent of heterosexuals. Gay and lesbian adults are also choosing to connect online through social networking sites more often, with some 23 percent of gay and lesbian respondents reporting being members of the business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn, compared to 13 percent of heterosexual adults.

EPA Declares Asbestos Cleanup Emergency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday said it has determined that a public health emergency exists at the Libby asbestos site in northwest Montana. This is the first time the EPA has made a public health emergency declaration under the Superfund law (CERCLA). “This determination recognizes the serious impact to the public health from the contamination at Libby and underscores the need for further action and health care for area residents who have been or may be exposed to asbestos,† said the EPA in a press release. It noted that investigations performed by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry have found the incidence of occurrence of asbestosis in the Libby area staggeringly higher than the national average for the period from 1979-1998. In 1963, W.R. Grace, a construction materials and chemicals company bought Zonolite, a Libby, MT company that mined vermiculite, a mineral contaminated with asbestos. Last month a Montana federal jury acquitted W.R. Grace and three former executives of criminal charges related to the contamination. The Libby asbestos site has been on the EPA’s Superfund national priorities list since 2002, and cleanup has taken place since 2000. The mine closed in 1990. Check out I.I.I. information on asbestos liability.

Regulatory Reform: Insurance Impact

The Obama administration will unveil its plan to overhaul financial regulation later today. Latest reports suggest that the plan includes proposals to create an Office of National Insurance within the Treasury department, but stops short of federal regulation of the insurance industry. According to a June 16 Reuters article by Kevin Drawbaugh and Patrick Rucker, The Office of National Insurance would monitor the industry and advise on policy issues. The office could also recommend to the Federal Reserve that large insurers be subject to strict capital and risk rules that would apply to large financial holding companies under other aspects of the Obama plan, according to Reuters. Legislation to create a federal office of insurance information was recently reintroduced in the House by Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-PA. Check out I.I.I. information on regulatory modernization.

  

Driving Hazards

The importance of road safety at home and abroad is underscored by two new reports. In its first global status report on road safety, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that only 15 percent of countries have the comprehensive laws needed to address five key risk factors: speeding, drink-driving, seatbelt use, child restraints and the use of helmets. Where laws on these risk factors are in place, they are often inadequately enforced, particularly in low-income countries. WHO noted that enacting and enforcing legislation is critical in influencing exposure to the risk of a crash, crash occurrence and injury severity. Road traffic fatalities are predicted to rise to the fifth leading cause of death by 2030, resulting in an estimated 2.4 million fatalities per year, according to WHO. Check out I.I.I. info on U.S. highway safety.

  

Meanwhile, New York has jumped from third to first ranking to claim the title as the worst city in the U.S. for road rage. According to the fourth annual In the Driver’s Seat Road Rage Survey, commissioned by auto club AutoVantage, New York is joined by Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul as the five worst cities for road rage. This year’s survey sought to define road rage and responses pointed to two key attributes: angry drivers, including drivers who overreact and lose their tempers, and aggressive driving, including cutting into lanes, tailgating, speeding and honking. Behaviors by other drivers that cause stress for commuters and can lead to road rage include: drivers who talk on their cell phones (84 percent see this every day); driving too fast (58 percent); tailgating (53 percent); drivers eating or drinking while driving (48 percent); and texting or emailing while driving (37 percent). Check out this I.I.I. video on road rage.

Medical ID Theft Risk

Increasing use of electronic records in the health care system means a growing number of people are falling victim to medical identity theft. A June 12 article in the New York Times by Walecia Konrad focuses on this emerging risk. It estimates that in 2007 more than 250,000 Americans a year were victims of medical identity theft, a number that is increasing. Â  A World Privacy Forum report published in 2006 found that despite the profound risk it carries medical identity theft remains the least studied and most poorly documented of all identity theft crimes. The report estimated that there could be as many as a quarter to half a million people who have been victims of this crime. Medical ID theft occurs when someone uses a person’s name or other parts of their identity such as insurance information, without the person’s knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods or to make false claims for medical services or goods. Â  The World Privacy Forum notes that victims may find it more difficult to recover from medical identity theft as medical errors are disseminated and redisseminated through computer networks and other medical information-sharing pathways. ID theft remains the number one consumer complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), accounting for 32 percent of all fraud complaints in 2007. Some 258,427 identity theft complaints were reported to the FTC in 2007, up 5 percent on the previous year. Medical identity theft accounted for 1.6 percent of all identity theft victims, according to the FTC. Check out I.I.I. info on identity theft.

Levee Risk

Some 127 levees across the U.S. are at risk of failing, according to a list released today by the Army Corp of Engineers. We note that the ill-maintained levees are spread across 26 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. From California, to Florida, to Massachusetts the listed levee projects have been  given an unacceptable maintenance rating meaning that one or more deficient conditions could prevent them from functioning as designed. Animal burrows, erosion, tree growth, movement of floodwalls or faulty culvert conditions are just some examples of the deficiencies. We have two words on this:  flood insurance. View I.I.I.’s latest statistics on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at https://www.iii.org/media/hottopics/insurance/xxx/  Ã‚  Ã‚  

  

Let the Game Begin

Less than a week to go until this year’s Super Bowl, and the likely winner is all in the numbers according to the sports statisticians. In his Stat of the Week, John Dewan, owner of Baseball Info Solutions, presents a system that has correctly predicted the Super Bowl winner 14 of 16 times. The system consists of 12 statistics based on the regular season for the two Super Bowl teams; broken into five defensive statistics, four offensive and three overall. Each of the 12 predictors successfully predicts the Super Bowl winner roughly 55 to 70 percent of the time. To see whether your money should be on the Bears or the Colts, go to: http://actasports.com/sows.php  Ã‚  

It’s Not Just About Paying Claims…

Our industry also has a powerful story to tell in terms of the major contribution it makes to state, local and national economies. The Insurance Information Institute’s online publication “A Firm Foundation† shows the myriad ways in which insurance supports the economy. The I.I.I. has also created state-specific editions which concentrate on the insurance industry’s role as a key player in the California, Florida, Maryland and Texas economies. Dozens of charts highlight the economic support provided by the insurance industry, from defraying the costs of catastrophes, to providing employment, to fueling the capital markets.

Satisfying, and Keeping, Your Customer

In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, it’s not surprising to hear that  a satisfied  customer is not necessarily a loyal one  when it comes to insurance. How to attract new customers and retain existing ones is an ongoing challenge for this industry, as any other. In their inaugural World Insurance Report, consulting group Capgemini and the European Financial Management & Marketing Association (EFMA), offer insurers tips on how to better meet customer needs. The report throws out some interesting findings. For example, while price is the most important factor overall in choosing an insurance product, the degree of price-sensitivity varies substantially by insurance type and by country. American customers, in particular, also view product and brand/trust as key factors when purchasing insurance. Further, despite customers showing a strong preference for buying insurance via the Internet, the number actually buying online is low.