Bill White Issues Statement

William White has issued the attached statement on his termination as DISB Commissioner earlier this month. The AM Best article below offers additional information.

Best’s News Service – November 25, 2013 04:06 PM

Fired DC Commissioner Releases Letter Defending His Criticism of ACA Rule Change ‘So I Can Move On’

WASHINGTON – Former Washington, D.C. Insurance, Securities and Banking Commissioner William White has released an open letter to address his firing after he criticized President Barack Obama’s announced rule change regarding insurance policies that do not meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum standards.

White told Best’s News Service he "wanted to get my side of the story out there, so I can move on."

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray dismissed White on Nov. 14 — one day after White released a statement saying the rule change would "undercut the purpose of the exchanges, including the District’s DC Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate."

White was referring to Obama’s Nov. 14 announcement that his administration will waive some requirements of the law and allow insurers to renew plans without all 10 of the minimum essential benefits mandated under the ACA for an additional year. The rule change will affect current enrollees.

In a Nov. 25 letter, which was first posted on Captive.com, White said the purpose of his previous statement was not to criticize Obama, but rather to call into question the course of action being suggested to state insurance commissioners.

White said his statement echoed a separate statement released by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

"It is regrettable that in this instance, other aspects of the situation were allowed to override what I believe were the more important marketplace concerns," White said. "I did and said what I thought to be right in my role as the District’s top insurance official, but there will always be differences of opinion with sensitive matters of policy. I am disappointed this has ended the way it did. We had worked hard to build something of real value for the District, and I thought I was doing my job by trying to protect it."

White said he was not speaking on Gray’s behalf and "not one single decision or action that I have taken or refrained from taking as commissioner has ever been politically driven or motivated, and I have never acted on the political urging of anyone."

White thanked all of those who reached out to support him after his termination.

While White is the sole insurance commissioner to lose his job over it, many insurance commissioners have come out against Obama’s rule change.

On Nov. 22, Connecticut became the ninth state to have refused to allow extensions.

The same day, Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, voted to reject the rule change over the opposition of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who has pressured insurers into extending non-ACA-compliant health plans. In a 5-0 Nov. 21 vote, Covered California’s board decided to push forward with an existing plan to phase out more than 1 million individual health insurance plans that do not adhere to the ACA’s minimum essential health benefits requirements. Those plans are set to expire at the end of the year (Best’s News Service, Nov. 22, 2013).

In all, 22 states and the District of Columbia have said they will allow insurers to extend non-ACA compliant policies; and another 19 states have yet to make a decision (Best’s News Service, Nov. 25, 2013).

Obama recently met with NAIC President and Louisiana Commissioner Jim Donelon, Chief Executive Officer Ben Nelson and commissioners Tom Leonardi of Connecticut and Wayne Goodwin of North Carolina. The meeting focused on the potential problems associated with extending hundreds of thousands of policies that had been set to expire. Immediately after the Oval Office meeting, Donelon said it continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market by leading to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond.

(By Jeff Jeffrey, Washington Bureau manager: jeff.jeffrey)

Bill-White_ACA Statement_Final-Thoughts.pdf

November 25, 2013 – Deadline for Jan. 1 health coverage extended by 8 days

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6 ways leaders can better engage workers | Deadline for Jan. 1 health coverage extended by 8 days | HealthCare.gov’s capacity to double by month’s end with tech enhancements
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6 ways leaders can better engage workers
Offering constructive performance-based feedback, having consistent expectations and letting employees know the larger strategy are three keys to engaging workers, Steve Adubato writes. "Sometimes, as a leader, sharing a difficult question or challenge with employees and asking for their feedback will engage them in identifying a possible solution," he writes. The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.) (11/24)

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Industry Insight

Deadline for Jan. 1 health coverage extended by 8 days
The application deadline for consumers seeking insurance coverage by Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act was moved Friday by the White House from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23. "We want to give people time to make their decisions," CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said. The change affects coverage that begins on Jan. 1, while the deadline for 2014 coverage is still March 31. Politico (Washington, D.C.) (11/22), The Washington Post (tiered subscription model)/Wonkblog (11/22)

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HealthCare.gov’s capacity to double by month’s end with tech enhancements
Hardware and software additions this past weekend and this week will allow HealthCare.gov to handle 50,000 users simultaneously by Nov. 30, the tech team’s Jeff Zients said. The website, which can currently handle 25,000 users at a time, will be able to accommodate at least 800,000 users on a daily basis because of these additions, he estimated. Politico (Washington, D.C.) (11/22)

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§ CMS: Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov will be ready at end of November
The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model) (11/24)

Annuities, hybrid products offer new options for long-term care
Clients searching for practical ways to pay for long-term care have a variety of new tools to meet their needs through innovative products that combine annuities or life insurance with long-term care insurance, write professors William H. Byrnes and Robert Bloink. Clients can even fund long-term care insurance with tax-deferred contributions already made to an IRA through the use of an IRA annuity, they note. National Underwriter Life & Health (11/21)

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Other News

§ Supreme Court considers taking case on corporate religious freedoms under ACA
The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (11/24)

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Market Trends

Consumers see success with online brokers
Consumers have had better luck enrolling in health insurance plans through online brokerage sites than through the federal exchange, but the sites cannot yet process Affordable Care Act tax credits. For people who aren’t looking for credits, the sites provide a way to resolve coverage questions now, and they allow access to the expertise of insurance agents. USA Today (11/23)

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More patients pay greater attention to medical bills
A TransUnion poll showed 55% of patients reported paying greater attention to their medical bills in the past 12 months. Researchers also found the Affordable Care Act made 62% of patients more concerned about out-of-pocket costs and 60% more concerned about total medical expenses. BeckersHospitalReview.com (11/21)

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Health Insurance Plan Company News

§ AHIP Coverage: ICYMI – AHIP’s Karen Ignagni Lays Out Priorities for November 30th

§ AHIP Coverage: Coming Soon – The Hidden Tax on Health Insurance

§ AHIP Coverage: Word of the Day – Cost

§ Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will continue effort to transition members and enroll new customers into ACA-compliant health plans

§ Regence Announces Renewal of Individual and Small Group Health Plans Through 2014

§ Delta Dental of Tennessee: Give Smiles this Holiday Season

§ Word & Brown Companies | Joppel: Family Gatherings – How Medicare Choices Affect Your Family

Vendor Company News

§ Johns Hopkins Medicine and Walgreens Expand Health Care Collaboration with Opening of New Store, Bringing Health and Wellness Services to Campus Community

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AHIP News

Refine your exchange strategy, Dec. 12 in D.C.
AHIP’s final 2013 Exchange Conference, Dec. 12 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., will address the progress of open enrollment and the implementation of various Exchange models. You’ll enjoy general sessions including "Looking Forward: Preparing for the Next Enrollment Cycle" and "Early Experiences on the Operational Frontlines." Register now.

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AHIP’s Year-End Sale offers 30% off online courses
AHIP is offering 30% off nearly 40 self-study online courses. Browse our course catalog today. Sale ends Dec. 31. For more information about AHIP’s Year-End Sale visit our website.

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POLITICO: Older hill aides shocked by Obamacare prices

Older hill aides shocked by Obamacare prices
By: Jonathan Allen and Jennifer Haberkorn
November 21, 2013 06:00 PM EST
Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure.

“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO. “Simply unacceptable.”

In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, and federal regulations, many congressional staffers — designated as “official” aides — were forced to move out of the old heavily subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits program and into the District of Columbia’s health insurance marketplace exchange. Others designated as “unofficial” were allowed to stay in the FEHB program. Managers had to choose whether aides were “official” or “unofficial” by Oct. 31, and Ta said that wasn’t enough time to make an informed decision about who would benefit and who would lose out by going into the new system.

Moore’s office was one of those in which all staff were designated as “official” and pushed into the exchanges. That ended up being a problem for older staff, who weren’t accustomed to paying higher premiums because of their age.

But age is one of the few factors insurers can use to adjust prices under Obamacare — and older people will often pay much more than younger people.

For instance, the premiums for gold-level Aetna HMO plans in D.C. cost an average of $684.40 per month for a 55-year-old. A similar plan would cost an average of $287.11 for a 27-year-old. The gold-level CareFirst HMO plans have an average premium of $573.07 for a 55-year-old — more than double the $240.41 average for 27-year-olds. That’s before the federal employee contribution toward the premium.

In an interview with POLITICO, Ta emphasized that “employees are not dissatisfied with the Affordable Care Act” and that some younger staffers have seen their premiums fall. But, he noted, congressional aides are treated differently now than other federal employees, and he would like to be able to offer the best health insurance option available to his employees — even if that means some of them are covered under the old system and others jump into the exchanges.

He wrote in his email that he had asked Democratic staff on the House Administration Committee whether she could redesignate some of the aides on Moore’s payroll as nonofficial office staff so that they could avoid the exchange and keep their FEHB plans.

“So far the answer is no, and that we have the opportunity next year to redesignate staff,” Ta wrote. “I am asking for a solution now though because I will lose staff in my office because of this snafu and I mentioned to payroll and House Admin[istration Committee] that it was unfair for our offices to make this designation without allowing our staff the ability [to] actually go on the DCshop to compare rates. I would have made a different decision on the designation of my older staff.”

Ta concluded by asking other chiefs of staff to join him in petitioning the Administration Committee for an immediate fix. Glenn Rushing, chief of staff to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, quickly replied to the group that he would join the fight.

‘Challenges and obstacles’ are delaying Gray probe, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. says

‘Challenges and obstacles’ are delaying Gray probe, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. says

By Mike DeBonis and Ann E. Marimow, Published: November 20 | Updated: Thursday, November 21, 12:20 PM

Mayor Vincent C. Gray acknowledged Thursday that the ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign has kept him from making a final decision on whether to seek a second term, a day after the District’s top prosecutor cited “challenges and obstacles” for the delays in finishing the probe.

“Obviously . . . we’d love this situation to be over with,” Gray said during a morning interview on NewsChannel 8. “It’s gone on for a very long time. And it would be better to have that behind me.”

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said Wednesday evening that some of those calling on him to finish his sweeping corruption probe are not cooperating with it.

“Some of the same people who are saying ‘Hurry up, hurry up’ may also be involved in not coming forward with the information we need,” he said.

Machen did not name any particular individuals, and Gray on Thursday demurred when asked about the comments. “I think [Machen] would have to further explain that himself,” he said. “I don’t know who he’s referring to or what he’s referring to, frankly.”

Machen’s comments, among the most extensive he has made on the nearly three-year-old investigation, came during an evening interview at a Capitol Hill community center with WRC (Channel 4) reporter Tom Sherwood.

Machen said he was well aware of the high-profile case and its potential influence on the upcoming mayoral election. But he said that the election calendar would not dictate his timetable for bringing charges, saying “we can’t just wrap up an investigation when we’re still in the midst of gathering information.”

“We know the situation; we know there’s a sense of urgency,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand the situation, with all the challenges and obstacles. . . . The people of this city want us to get it right.”

Among the obstacles, Machen said, is his recent and ongoing dispute with D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan over access to documents relating to the city’s 2011 settlement with a health-care firm owned by businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson.

Thompson, several people with knowledge of the investigation say, is the unnamed executive described in court documents as funding a secret “shadow campaign” on Gray’s behalf. Nathan has said the documents Machen is seeking are protected by attorney-client privilege, and he has defended the settlement as aboveboard.

Machen on Wednesday did not acknowledge Thompson’s alleged role in the investigation or many other specifics when Sherwood pressed him for details.

But Machen said that it would be a mistake for the public to believe that the lack of recent charges indicates that the probe has stalled indefinitely.

“You’ve got four people associated with a mayoral campaign who have pled guilty to felonies,” he said. “It’s not like we’ve been looking at this for three years, and there’s no there there. I mean, there’s there there, and we’re trying to gather information, we’re trying to get documents, and we’re trying to talk to people.”

Gray (D), in his public comments on the investigation, has denied engaging in any wrongdoing and has said the investigation should run its course. But he is now under considerable pressure to announce his reelection decision as challengers, including four sitting D.C. Council members, line up to run in the Democratic primary.

On Thursday, Gray said he has gone “back and forth considering these things” but made it clear he did not hold any of his potential successors in particularly high regard.

“It’s very difficult for those who are running to find anything substantively to talk about in terms of the performance of this administration over the last two years and now 11 months,” he said.

Gray said he hasn’t set an “ironclad date” for making a decision but acknowledged that it will become more difficult to gather the necessary voter signatures to appear on the April 1 primary ballot as an early-January deadline approaches.

“I have no control over [the investigation],” he said. “I have no say in that. So, you know, I will have to make a decision based largely on the facts in front of me at this stage.”

When pressed by reporters after the Wednesday event, Machen repeated that the election calendar would not influence the course of his investigation.

“We’re going to keep looking at all of these matters until we can reach a resolution, one way or the other,” he said. But he added, in general “we try not to influence elections.”

Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.

13 Insurers See Ratings Updates

13 Insurers See Ratings Updates

MetLife, Travelers and 11 others receive updates.

Ratings Corner, November 20, 2013

Jennifer Morrell

A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s (S&P’s) released ratings updates. The following are some of the most recent:

Allied World Assurance Co. Holdings AG and its subsidiaries

A.M. Best has upgraded the issuer credit ratings (ICR) to “a+” from “a” and affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) of Allied World Assurance Co. Ltd. (Allied World) and its operating affiliates. The outlook for the ICRs has been revised to stable from positive, while the outlook for the FSR is stable.

A.M. Best also has assigned an FSR of A (Excellent) and an ICR of “a+” to Allied World’s reinsured subsidiary, Vantapro Specialty Insurance Co. The outlook assigned to both ratings is stable.

Concurrently, A.M. Best has upgraded the ICRs to “bbb+” from “bbb” of the ultimate parent, Allied World Assurance Co. Holdings AG (AWH), and its downstream holding company Allied World Assurance Co. Holdings Ltd. (Allied World Holdings Bermuda). A.M. Best also has upgraded the debt ratings to “bbb+” from “bbb” of Allied World Holdings Bermuda. The outlook for these ratings has been revised to stable from positive.

Arrow Reinsurance Co. Ltd.

Moody’s has downgraded to Baa1, from A3, the insurance financial strength (IFS) rating of Arrow Reinsurance Co. Ltd. (Arrow Re), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (Goldman Sachs; senior debt at Baa1 Stable). The outlook on the rating is stable.

The rating action follows on Moody’s downgrade of the rating of Arrow Re’s ultimate parent, Goldman Sachs to Baa1 from A3, with stable outlook.

Moody’s Baa1 IFS rating on Arrow Re reflects the benefit of implicit and explicit support provided by its parent, Goldman Sachs. Arrow Re’s standalone credit profile reflects its very strong capitalization relative to its in-force exposures, offset by the opportunistic and sporadic nature of its flow of new business, limited diversification across product lines and counterparties, and uncertain profitability. However, without parental support, Arrow Re’s standalone credit profile is lower than Baa1.


Cigna Corp.

Moody’s has affirmed the Baa2 senior debt rating of Cigna Corp, (Cigna) and the A2 insurance financial strength (IFS) ratings of its operating subsidiaries and changed the outlook to positive from stable following the company’s 2013 third quarter earnings release.

Commenting on the change in Cigna’s outlook to positive, Moody’s stated that Cigna’s financial profile has improved as a result of consistent financial results for the last few years, and in addition, strategic developments have improved the company’s risk profile. Moody’s said that, in particular, Cigna’s financial leverage (adjusted debt to total capital), which has historically been high relative to the company’s rating at around 45 percent, is expected to be managed to below 40 percent over next 12 months.

In addition, the acquisition of HealthSpring in 2012 provided the company with a significant presence in the Medicare Advantage market, adding diversification benefits, and the reinsurance transaction with Berkshire Hathaway Life Insurance Co. of Nebraska eliminated a significant amount of the interest rate and market exposure risk associated with Cigna’s run-off reinsurance operations.


General Electric Capital Corp.

Moody’s affirmed the ratings of General Electric Capital Corp. (GE Capital; A1/Prime-1 stable) after parent GE (Aa3/Prime-1 stable) announced plans to exit GE Capital’s North American retail finance business (Retail Finance) in a multi-step transaction beginning with an IPO of 20 percent of the unit’s shares in 2014.

In Moody’s view, GE’s proposed IPO and eventual exit of Retail Finance does not materially alter GE Capital’s risk profile over the medium term, due to expected neutral effects on the firm’s capital, liquidity and overall franchise strength and diversification. However, in the short term GE Capital will provide transitional support to Retail Finance, resulting in a significant credit risk concentration and exposing GE Capital to the transaction’s execution risks.

During its support of the transaction, GE Capital will relinquish control of Retail Finance and will forgo the benefit of its earnings. Moody’s believes that GE’s ownership and support of GE Capital continues to be a source of ratings strength. GE Capital’s A1 rating includes a three-notch uplift from its baseline credit assessment of baa1 in recognition of GE’s support.

Harmony General Insurance Co. Ltd.

A.M. Best has affirmed the financial strength rating of B+ (Good) and issuer credit rating of “bbb-” of Harmony General Insurance Co. Ltd. (Harmony). The outlook for both ratings is stable.

The ratings reflect Harmony’s solid risk-adjusted capitalization, overall earnings in recent years and conservative reinsurance program. Harmony is owned by ABH Holdings Ltd., a privately owned holding company.

Overall earnings in recent years have enabled Harmony to enhance its capitalization, and it continues to maintain solid risk-adjusted capitalization for its current business profile. Despite operating in a region that has historically been less prone to catastrophic events, Harmony maintains a very conservative reinsurance program, which limits its exposure to natural disasters.

Marsh & McLennan Cos.

S&P has raised its corporate credit rating on Marsh & McLennan Cos. (MMC) to ‘BBB+’ from ‘BBB’. At the same time, S&P raised its rating on MMC’s senior unsecured debt to ‘BBB+’ from ‘BBB’. The outlook is stable.

S&P said the upgrade reflects MMC’s continued trajectory of improved operating performance over the past year, which has contributed to the belief that the company can sustain a business and financial profile commensurate with a higher rating.

Since S&P revised the outlook to positive after MMC reported its first-quarter 2013 results, the company has continued to perform well. For the first nine months of 2013, MMC reported consolidated organic revenue growth of 3 percent, because the company’s global and product diversification mitigated ongoing economic weakness in some of its markets. Its bottom-line operating results also continue to trend favorably, fostered by improved operational efficiencies and operating leverage.

MetLife Inc.

A.M. Best has assigned a debt rating of “a-” to the recently issued $1 billion, 4.875% senior unsecured notes, due Nov. 13, 2043, of MetLife Inc. (MetLife). The outlook assigned is stable.

The proceeds from the debt offering will be utilized for general corporate purposes, which may include the repayment in whole, or in part, of $1.35 billion of outstanding senior notes, due in 2014, upon their maturities. A.M. Best notes that MetLife’s overall financial leverage is expected to remain below 30%, while interest coverage is expected to remain above five times. Both measures are within A.M. Best’s guidelines for MetLife’s current rating level.

The rating recognizes MetLife’s diverse business mix, prominent market position and brand recognition in several business lines, favorable operating results and significant operating scale. MetLife continues to report solid operating earnings while maintaining adequate risk-adjusted capital ratios in 2012 and into 2013.

Platinum Underwriters Holding Ltd.

Fitch has affirmed the ratings of Platinum Underwriters Holding Ltd. (PTP) and subsidiaries as follows:

Senior unsecured notes at ‘BBB+’Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) rating at ‘A’Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘A-.’

The rating outlook is stable. The affirmations reflect Platinum’s history of solid capitalization, moderate financial and operating leverage, and high-quality and liquid investment portfolio, as well as a materially reduced exposure to United States and international catastrophe losses.

The company reported a 62.3 percent calendar year combined ratio in the first nine months of 2013, improved from 75.2 in the prior-year period. These results are in line with the strong performance that Platinum has reported over the long term, with significant favorable prior year reserve development, including reserve releases from prior year catastrophe events such as Superstorm Sandy and the Tohoku earthquake in Japan.

Prudential Plc.

Fitch has affirmed Prudential Plc.’s (Prudential) Long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘A+’ and senior unsecured debt at ‘A’. The agency has also affirmed Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd.’s (PAC) Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) rating at ‘AA’. At the same time, Fitch has affirmed Prudential’s U.S. subsidiaries Jackson National Life Insurance Co. and Jackson National Life Insurance Co. of New York’s (collectively, JNL) IFS ratings at ‘AA’. The Outlooks on the group’s Long-term IDRs and IFS ratings are Stable.

The affirmation reflects Prudential’s continued strong and resilient capital position, operational scale and strong business position in each of its key markets, the United Kingdom, the United States and Asia. Prudential has strong cash generation and a strategy focused on high-margin products with short pay-back periods and a profitable asset management business. Prudential’s ratings also benefit from the group’s strong geographical diversification across the United Kingdom, United States and 12 countries in Asia.

At end-1H13, the group’s regulatory solvency ratio was 230% and its United Kingdom with-profits fund had working capital of GBP7.8bn. The group’s U.S. operations have a strong regulatory risk-based-capital ratio (end-2012: 423 percent). In the United Kingdom, it also maintains a large credit default reserve (end-1H13: GBP2.0bn).

QBE Insurance Group Ltd. U.S. subsidiaries

A.M. Best has affirmed the financial strength rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) and issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “a+” of the pooled and reinsured members of QBE North America Insurance Group (QBENA Group). These companies are key operating subsidiaries of QBE Insurance Group Ltd. (QBE) (Australia), the non-operating holding company of the QBE group of companies. The outlook for the FSR is stable, while the outlook for the ICRs is negative.

All QBENA Group members are important to the expansion of QBE’s operations in the United States. QBENA Group is a significant contributor to the worldwide operations of QBE, one of the largest global insurance organizations, representing about 36 percent of QBE’s global business.

Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Plc.

S&P lowered to ‘A’ from ‘A+’ its financial strength and issuer credit ratings on Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Plc. (RSA) and its core operating entities. S&P also placed all credit ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications.

Last week, RSA twice lowered its earnings guidance, due to the impact of weather-related losses, issues identified in RSA’s Irish claims and finance functions, and adverse bodily injury trends in Ireland. As a result, S&P has lowered the ratings, because RSA was unlikely to meet the previous expectations of capital strengthening.

S&P revised its capital and earnings assessment to lower adequate from upper adequate, which, in turn, weakened the financial risk profile to lower adequate. Combined with a very strong assessment of RSA’s business risk profile, this produces an ‘a-‘ anchor. S&P’s capital and earnings assessment remains dependent on RSA continuing to strengthen capital adequacy through management actions and retained earnings through 2015.

Travelers Insurance Co. Ltd.

A.M. Best Europe has affirmed the financial strength rating of A (Excellent) and issuer credit rating of “a+” of Travelers Insurance Co. Ltd. (TICL). The outlook for both ratings is stable.

The ratings of TICL reflect the full support provided by St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co. (SPFM) in the form of an explicit guarantee covering all of TICL’s liabilities arising from its underwriting activities. SPFM is a subsidiary of TICL’s ultimate parent, The Travelers Cos. Inc. (Travelers). The ratings also reflect TICL’s strong stand-alone risk-adjusted capitalization and solid business profile. Offsetting these strengths is the company’s weak underwriting performance.

TICL is expected to maintain risk-adjusted capitalization at a strong level, underpinned by a large capital base. Shareholders’ funds are expected to deteriorate in 2013 from the GBP 575 million reported in the previous year. Nonetheless, the substantial margins incorporated within TICL’s risk-adjusted capitalization are expected to support future growth plans and provide a cushion against unexpected loss exposure.

Virginia Surety Co. Inc.

A.M. Best has affirmed the financial strength rating of A- (Excellent) and issuer credit rating of “a-” of Virginia Surety Co. Inc. (Virginia Surety). The outlook for both ratings has been revised to stable from positive.

The rating affirmations for Virginia Surety reflect its favorable earnings prospects, supportive capitalization and leadership position in the extended warranty market. Virginia Surety also benefits from its extensive database, broad administrative capabilities and ability to integrate its products and services across its broad client distribution channel. The ratings also take into consideration the unlimited guarantee and indemnification provided by National Indemnity Co. for the run off of all non-warranty business written prior to the 2006 acquisition of The Warranty Group Inc. and its subsidiary, Virginia Surety, by the current owner, Onex Corp.

These positive rating factors are offset by the substantial dividends paid to The Warranty Group Inc. over the last few years, its long-term ownership uncertainty under Onex Corp. and the inherent credit risk associated with ceding a significant portion of its business to non-rated unauthorized captive reinsurers.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Officials: Fed Tech Issues Hurting State-Run Exchanges

Officials: Fed Tech Issues Hurting State-Run Exchanges

by: Brian M. Kalish, Benefit News

November 18, 2013

The technology issues plaguing the federal exchanges have hampered enrollment in state-run exchanges — which are largely free of glitches – causing some states to modify their marketing techniques.

On a Monday call organized by FamiliesUSA, four state exchange leaders said they have experienced decreased enrollment numbers and are frequently asked whether their sites are working. However, the full carryover from the federal problems is yet to be known.

“We need to remind everyone that … Americans are enroll[ing] through state-based marketplaces,” said Covered California’s Executive Director Peter Lee. “For those Americans, they are having an experience [very] different then federally.”

Lee said that almost daily at his speaking engagements across the Golden State he is asked if the site is functioning. Across the country, on the Eastern seaboard, AccessHealthCT’s CEO Kevin Counihan said his office receives similar questions.

“It has impacted enrollment, there is clearly confusion,” Counihan said.

To overcome these problems, California has shifted its exchange advertising away from an accent on affordability, to the message “We are not having technical issues,” Lee said. Further, Ron Pollack, executive director of FamiliesUSA, also serves on the board of Enroll America and said that organization has a “significant set of ads” ready to move online in states with their own exchanges.

Lee hinted that the numbers speak for themselves: in California 69% of those who enrolled said it was an “easy process,”’ and Counihan explained that in his state, 96.5% of enrolled residents said they were satisfied with the enrollment process. Further, 82% say they are likely to recommend AccessHealthCT to a friend or colleague.

Lee said the Federal Hub, which complies information from the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Homeland Security, and through which state-run exchanges verify their data, has largely functioned properly. However, Danielle Holahan of the New York State Health Benefit exchange noted there have been some instances where it has gone down, prohibiting the Empire State from completing enrollments. In late October, the data hub went down for a few days.

Minimum wage of $11.50 proposed for the District

Minimum wage of $11.50 proposed for the District

By Mike DeBonis and Aaron C. Davis, Published: November 18

The D.C. lawmaker tasked with writing a bill to raise the city’s minimum wage said Monday that he will ask his colleagues to support an increase of more than $3 an hour, making the wage one of the nation’s highest. But a coalition of liberal activists announced plans to push the wage a dollar higher than that through a ballot measure.

Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) said the D.C. Council committee he chairs plans to meet next Monday to hash out final details of the bill and vote to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $11.50.

The nearly 40 percent jump would be realized over three annual increases. On July 1, the District’s minimum wage would increase $1.25, to $9.50. A year later, it would become $10.50, and on July 1, 2016, the city’s minimum would reach $11.50. Thereafter, it would be indexed to inflation, likely increasing a few pennies each summer.

Orange repeated Monday that his preference would have been to get to $12.50 per hour, but that $11.50 had become the regional compromise, recently gaining the key backing of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Orange said he expects to secure a veto-proof, nine-vote majority on the council for the $11.50 wage. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on Monday pledged his support for the $11.50 bill.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Monday he was not prepared to support that figure and instead would propose his own. “We’ll have something out soon . . . about what we can support and what we can’t,” he said.

He criticized the council for not confronting the issue more deliberatively.

“I really wish we had not had a rush to judgment, that we could have gotten a study done on this issue and then we all could have been in the same place in terms of factors that need to be considered,” Gray said. “One of the things, for example, that is not answered is to what extent will this impact jobs? We don’t really know.”

Orange pushed back on Gray’s criticism. “We did not pick this number out of thin air,” he said. “We have the answers to the mayor’s questions” — which will come, he said, in the committee’s report.

The $11.50 rate is a dollar less than the “living wage” that the council earlier this year voted to impose on large retailers — including Wal-Mart, which will soon open its first stores in the city. Gray vetoed that bill, citing its impact on development and jobs, turning the debate to a broader minimum wage hike.

The group D.C. Working Families, a newly launched coalition of labor, clergy and other liberal activists, is set on Tuesday morning to launch a campaign to put a proposal for a $12.50 minimum wage on the ballot for next year’s November general election.

To do so, the activists must convince the D.C. Board of Elections that a minimum wage hike is a legal subject for a ballot initiative — then collect the signatures of more than 23,000 District voters.

As with the bill Orange supports, the group proposes to phase in the higher rate over several years and then index it to the cost of living.