Medica weighs staying in Iowa’s health exchange next year

Iowa’s last health care insurer to sell policies to individuals statewide through the federal Affordable Care Act said Monday it needs to know more about how the state’s insurance market will function next year before making a final promise to stay.

Minnesota-based Medica has preliminary plans to sell insurance in Iowa next year in the individual market and expects to make an announcement soon, spokesman Larry Bussey said.

Monday, June 26 is the filing deadline for companies planning to participate in the Iowa market to file rate plans for 2018, but insurers have until September to make a final decision on whether to sell policies on the state’s exchange.

Iowa last week applied for a federal waiver that would allow government subsidies designed to lower costs for low-income and older participants to be used to entice younger people to buy insurance. It was viewed as an effort to keep Medica in the Iowa market while luring others back.

“It is our intent to stay in Iowa, but we can’t make a final decision until we have clarity on the rules for the market,” Medica spokesman Larry Bussey said. `”We went into Iowa with the intention of staying for the long term. There are a lot of people _ farmers, small business owners and others _ who are dependent on a thriving individual market. We want to contribute to making it work.”

Thousands of young, healthier people have fled the Iowa market as insurance rates increased, leaving a higher number of older, sicker people in a smaller individual market pool. That drove up costs and caused insurance companies to lose millions of dollars, Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said.

He added it’s unlikely Congress will make any changes to the ACA in time to keep Iowa’s individual health insurance market from total collapse, leaving nearly 72,000 people with no options to purchase insurance next year.

Medica is the only company offering coverage across Iowa that hasn’t announced that it will stop selling health insurance on the ACA exchange next year.

During the first week of April, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Aetna announced they were pulling out of the Iowa market after this year. That followed the announcement of withdrawal of United Healthcare in April 2016 and the failure in early 2015 of an insurance co-operative, CoOportunity, that had been set up by the ACA law.

Wellmark recently said it would consider selling insurance in Iowa next year if the government approves the Iowa waiver request.


Top GOP senator seeks action now to steady insurance markets

A leading Republican senator is calling for immediate action to stabilize shaky health insurance markets around the country, amid concerns that the GOP will get blamed if constituents’ lives are disrupted.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee called on the Trump administration Thursday, June 15, 2017 to guarantee payment of billions of dollars in disputed ” cost-sharing” subsidies at least through next year, and probably in 2019 as well.

The federal money allows insurers to reduce deductibles and copayments for people with modest incomes buying plans through and state-run markets. A GOP lawsuit cast a cloud over the payments.

Alexander, the health committee chairman, says guaranteeing the money would avoid the “real possibility” that millions of people will have no options for coverage next year.

He joins other Republican lawmakers calling for administration action.


Insurers: We’re off the hook, Duke Energy knew coal ash risk

Dozens of insurance companies say they’re not obligated to help pay for Duke Energy Corp.’s multi-billion dollar coal ash cleanup. They say the nation’s largest electric company long knew about but did nothing to reduce the threat of potentially toxic pollutants.

The claim is in a filing by lawyers for nearly 30 international and domestic insurance companies Duke Energy sued in March. The Charlotte-based company wants to force insurance payments to cover part of the utility’s coal ash cleanup in the Carolinas.

The insurers say they’re not paying because Duke Energy stored its coal ash in unlined pits as part of its normal business practices. Insurance company lawyers say no distinct pollution events triggered coverage.

Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury and other elements that may be hazardous in sufficient concentrations.


Chubb Increases Terrorism, Political Violence and War Insurance Capacity

Source: PR Newswire:

Chubb today announced that it will offer increased insurance capacity of up to US$150m/ €150m (previously US$100m/ €100m) for terrorism, political violence and war risks as it further builds its market-leading proposition in response to evolving threats and increased demand from multinational clients.

The new increased capacity will be available to brokers and their clients internationally and is designed to meet the needs of large, multinational businesses with growing global exposures.

Chubb has increased its terrorism and political violence capacity per account by 300% in the last two years. Since 2008 the company has steadily invested in building its terrorism and political violence insurance capabilities and provides brokers and clients with comprehensive cover for the full spectrum of perils. In addition to standalone cover, Chubb also offers an integrated proposition specifically designed to cover the gaps between traditional property and business interruption, terrorism and political violence insurance policies.

Piers Gregory, Terrorism and Political Violence Underwriting Manager, Overseas General Insurance at Chubb, said:

“The increase in capacity to US$150m demonstrates our commitment to responding to growing client demand for certainty and comprehensive cover across the full range of perils. As the needs of our clients become increasingly international, Chubb is one of the few insurers with the multinational capability to help them design the compliant global insurance programmes that they need in an ever more globalised operating environment.”

Chinese insurance tycoon detained

The founder of the Chinese insurance company that bought New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel during a global acquisition spree has been detained by regulators, a business news magazine said Tuesday, June 13, 2017 following reports of possible financial misconduct.

Anbang Insurance Group Ltd. Chairman Wu Xiaohui was “taken away by authorities” on Friday, June 9, 2017 said Caijing, citing unidentified sources. It said officials of the insurance regulator announced the action the following day at a company meeting but gave no details.

Spokespeople for Anbang did not respond to phone calls or emails Tuesday evening.

Anbang, founded by Wu in 2004, expanded rapidly to become one of the biggest companies in a staid Chinese insurance industry dominated by state-owned companies.

The industry has faced heightened scrutiny since late last year following complaints of reckless speculation by insurers in stocks and real estate. The chairman of the Chinese insurance regulator is under investigation by the national anti-corruption agency.

Anbang made a multibillion-dollar series of acquisitions in the United States, Europe and other foreign markets, including buying the Waldorf in 2016 for $2 billion. That prompted questions about how the company was paying for its purchases.

The company discussed possibly investing in a Manhattan skyscraper owned by the family of Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. Those talks ended in March without a deal.

Anbang, which is privately held, said the money for its global acquisitions was raised from shareholders.

The company denied accusations in April by another business news magazine, Caixin, that it improperly used payments by policyholders to increase its capital.

The company also denied rumours that spread on Chinese social media in April that Wu had been detained.

In May, Anbang was ordered to stop selling two financial products that regulators said violated industry rules.

Wu rarely talks to reporters or appears in public, but Caijing said he attended a series of public events in recent weeks. That included a May 12 meeting called by the insurance regulator to study a speech by President Xi Jinping about financial regulation.

Anbang said it raised 50 billion yuan ($8 billion) from investors in 2014 to pay for its buying spree. That increased its registered capital fivefold to 62 billion yuan ($9.5 billion), the biggest among Chinese insurers.

Caixin’s April report said at least 30 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) of that money really was payments from policyholders. The magazine said it was channeled back into the company through a complex ownership structure.

Anbang has more than 30,000 employees serving 35 million clients and has interests in life insurance, banking, asset management, leasing and brokerage services.


Acko is an ambitious digital play to disrupt India’s $10B insurance industry

Excerpted article by  |

Acko is an under-the-radar startup that wants to disrupt India’s insurance industry through a digital-only model. This week it stuck its head above the parapet and announced that it has raised $30 million to get started on its bold plan.

Founded by Varun Dua, the man behind insurance comparison site Coverfox, Acko is designed as a wholly digital take on insurance in India. The company is an independent general insurance provider that is wholly digital. Beyond operating online and without the expense of a brick and mortar footprint, Acko is aiming to unbundle insurance in India to make it both more affordable and relevant to consumers.

“India is a fairly nascent insurance market [with the same] traditional carriers that we’ve seen for decades,” CEO Dua told TechCrunch in an interview. “Acko will be the first internet-only carrier.”

Taking insurance in India online

Inspired by models such as Lemonade and Oscar Health in the U.S. and Direct Line in the UK, Dua sees a huge opportunity to tap into digital to take a shot at the current market — which is estimated to be worth over $10 billion annually — and reach a new segment of consumers who have been left out to date.

“The system of distribution in India does not provide information on the user at all. There’s not enough data to underwrite accurately on a real-time basis,” Dua said. “Sales are mostly offline and flat pricing, usually [insurance firms] don’t know much about a customer before underwriting him.

The Acko CEO believes his firm can offer a 30-40 percent discount on incumbents by pricing its policies more accurately by gathering information and data online. That’s in addition to cost savings by operating without a physical presence.

“We will probably start off taking away existing [insurance rivals’] customers,” he added. “It’s a relatively easier market because people are moving online year on year. That gives us the early pickings, [but we] will probably be launching smaller and unique products that don’t exist today later.”

In particular, he foresees opportunity around segment-specific insurance policies that can be sold online. That could include, for example, pregnancy insurance, or policies for ride-sharing companies. Beyond selling on the Acko website, the plan is to link arms with partners who already have relationships with consumers — for example an e-commerce store selling baby items, or the ride-sharing firm itself.

In a recent report, EY forecast that India’s insurance market is “poised for a strong growth” despite concerns around reaching new customers:

Despite strong improvement in penetration and density in the last 10 years, India largely remains an under-penetrated market. The market today is primarily dependent on push, tax incentives and mandatory buying for sales. There is very little customer pull, which will come from growing financial awareness and increasing savings and disposable income.

That’s a major focus for Acko.

“We want to make insurance so straightforward that consumers don’t need to talk to multiple people to get advice or fill up forms. Consumers should be able to access low prices in one click based on their risk profile, and be confident that at a press of a button — their claim will get paid in the fastest possible time,” Dua added in a statement.

Big name backers and big plans

To get started, Acko has raised $30 million from a range of top names that include VC firms Accel, SAIF Partners and Catamaran Ventures. Its angel investors include Venk Krishnan and Subba Rao of NuVentures, Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Hemendra Kothari of DSP Blackrock, founder and chairman of Hexaware Atul Nishar, and ex-investment baker and Arpwood Capital founder Rajeev Gupta.

Beyond that, Dua teased that there are undisclosed “global insurance groups” that own a stake of the business. Their names won’t be revealed for another month or so, but their presence has helped give the startup credibility in an industry that values corporate institutions.

Acko has received an R1 license and is currently awaiting its R2 license which has been applied for with India’s insurance authority. Dua anticipates that the final nod should come within three months, leaving the company ready to open its doors and launch products for consumers before the end of September this year.

The initial plan is to be active in three or four cities until Acko has shown that “the claims pieces is something we able to control and optimize,” according to Dua.

The team, which is currently around 20 people, is likely to grow to 45-50 by the year end, to help Dua hit his ambitious targets.

“We believe we should do close to $40 million in premiums over first year,” Dua said. “On a five-year perspective, we would love to reach anything from $500 million in premiums.”


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