Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Another Oustanding Customer Service experience

Now and then, we go off-topic to congratulate and thank companies which go above and beyond in servicing their customers. Sometimes, it's as simple as actually fulfilling a promise, but with alacrity and a pleasant voice. This time, it's that, plus just a really great attitude. My only regret is that I didn't write down the name of the delightful young lady who provided this amazing service.

As far back as I can remember, we've always used, and enjoyed, Pyrex brand glass measuring cups for cooking, baking, you name it. We have a decent set: 1, 2, 4 and 8 cup versions, all in regular service, all go into the dishwasher after use.

A few months ago, we noticed that the lines on the 8 cup unit had faded (which was weird), but these aren't big-ticket items, so we popped over to the local purveyor and picked up a replacement. Fast forward a few months, and this weekend we took it out to use it, only to find that the entire bottom half was missing its lines.

This was unacceptable.

So this morning, I called up the Pyrex folks to lodge a complaint.

The young lady who answered (dang it! I am so disappointed that I forgot to write down her name) could not have been more delightful, professional or helpful. She agreed that this wasn't supposed to happen "they're dishwasher safe!" and immediately offered to send a replacement. Again, this is really how things are supposed to go, but I had no receipt or proof of purchase (or damage). I've always been pleased with the product, now I'm delighted with the service.

Thanks and kudos, Pyrex!

Tale of Two DI's: Part 1

Disability Insurance cases, that is.

Case the First is a neurologist who recently (a little over a year ago) started his own practice, after having been employed by a local hospital system for years. He came to me asking about protecting his income if he became disabled, and I agreed to get some numbers for him.

His new income is significantly lower than when he worked for the hospital, but (at least) two carriers are actually willing to issue policies with benefits based on that prior income. Given that he was making north of $120,000 a year, and is now making about 60% of that, the difference is profound: $6,500 per month benefit  versus about $4,000. Of course, there's quite a premium differential, but the upside is pretty significant:

"Average Neurologist Income:  A Neurologist usually gets a wage ranging from 144000 - 216000 depending on seniority levels."

And so it came to pass that we met to review the quotes I'd gotten. He asked some interesting questions, and then wondered aloud why he should even consider buying this coverage because, after all, he'd never been disabled. Now, I could have pointed out that it was his idea to look into it, but I decided to try another tack. I asked if he'd ever had a claim on his homeowners policy. He replied that he hadn't, and so I asked him why, then, did he have homeowner's insurance? He replied - and I'm still taken aback by this - "because it's the law."

Um, what?

When I explained that no, it is not the law, but a requirement by the mortgage holder, he began arguing with me, telling me that he'd been told this was the law his whole life, and now he has to question everything I've told him.


At that point, we agreed to close things down, and I haven't heard from him since. Which is just as well, because I really don't know whether or not I want someone like that as a client.

Oh, for grins and giggles, I asked my favorite P&C Guru which government agency he notified when he sold a homeowner's policy, and he was also bemused when I explained why I was asking.

Stay tuned for Case 2, with a very different set of circumstances, and results.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Tick, Tock (Redux)

Just a friendly reminder that folks have until midnight tomorrow (January 31) to enroll in a 2017 ObamaPlan, or else risk paying the ObamaTax. If you do miss out, remember that the bureauweenies in DC have made SEP (Special Election Period) qualification more onerous.

The more you know...

Exploring the "How"

Much ink (and many pixels) has been spilled over various ways that the ObamaTax can be replaced (and I have my own idea on that...), but I liked this suggestion from Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner:

"[W]hatever else is in their upcoming Obamacare bill, that it include one measure: a provision to freeze new enrollment in Obamacare. That is, they could continue allowing those who have benefits to receive them, but then prevent anybody from enrolling in the law's expanded Medicaid program who was not already on the books as of the date the bill is signed into law. Additionally, nobody would be eligible for subsidies for Obamacare's exchanges who did not already sign up for coverage by Jan. 31 — the last date of open enrollment for this year."

This is eminently sensible and as fair as possible to those already caught up in the train-wreck. This would help mitigate the possibility that lots of folks would be signing up for plans that are going to be going away shortly, leaving them even further behind. It also means that, by creating a "date certain," it will be much more difficult for Congress to keep punting (although not for lack of trying, bless their hearts).

There are a few other benefits, as well, but I really don't want to steal Philip's thunder.

Recommended (both the article and the proposal).

Friday, January 27, 2017

From the P&C Files: Is there an "Idiot Clause?"

Because there really should be an Idiot Clause:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Post-Inauguration Health Wonk Review is up

Health Wonk Review co-founder Joe Paduda hosts this week's terrific compendium of health care bloggetry.

Do check it out.

CanuckCare: Free, and Deadly

^^^Warning: this is a truly disturbing story.^^^

We've written before that euthanasia seems to be the newest form of health care rationing, specifically in those countries with national health care schemes. It appears, though, that our Neighbors to the North© have decided to up the ante:

"Euthanasia became legal in Canada in June and by December Quebec bioethicists had already published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics calling for organ donation after euthanasia."

This is a truly chilling development. There's an inherent, and insurmountable, conflict of interest when the state both controls access to health care and sets the law about who lives and who dies.

To be fair, both Belgium and Britain have become (in)famous for euthanasia availability; just a few months ago we noted "[t]he first child to be killed by “assisted suicide” since Belgium legalized the practice for minors has had his life snuffed out." But even in that horrific case, harvesting the victim's child's organs wasn't mentioned (or even implied).

Oh brave new world...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tick, tock

Next Tuesday marks the end of this year's dreadful, pitiful ObamaCare Open Enrollment. Folks who sign before time runs out will have a March 1 effective date.

Which of course means that they're uninsured for a month or so, so perhaps a Short Term Medical plan is in order.

It will be interesting to assess the final numbers for the current debacle. Those counting on a last-minute surge are likely to be disappointed.

[Hat Tip: Cornerstone]

Friday, January 20, 2017

Universal Life's Rocky Road: The Latest

As we've been saying for a long time, the first few Universal Life iterations contained the seeds of their own destruction. Flashing forward a bit, we more recently noted that carriers themselves seem to have a penchant for, shall we say, tweaking that downward decline:

"[P]erhaps inspired by the TA litigation, policyholders of other carriers are also suing their insurers, citing much the same legal reasoning."

The newest to enter the fray are those ostensibly On Your Side©:

"In his six-page ruling on Jan. 9 denying Nationwide's bid to dismiss, Senior U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton wrote the family's claims that Nationwide increased its fees to boost profits while disregarding factors included in the policy are plausible."

What's this mean in English?

Basically, that Nationwide (apparently) got greedy, and then got caught with their hands in the till by lying about various charges and fees. Interestingly, the principle invoked here is called "the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing." Which, while quaint, seems to me to be the most important underpinning of any contract, perhaps especially life insurance. After all, what else is it but a promise to deliver full value at some unspecified future date, when the original buyer is obviously in no position to contest any abuse by the insurer.

It's not unheard of for older policies (especially underfunded ones) to begin to go "underwater" as regards the cash value. But the real problem here is that the policy owner (in this case, a trust) was unable to obtain accurate, timely information from nationwide that might have helped save the policies.

That's just not right.

So, the case will go forward, and we'll keep readers posted on its progress.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Failure to Resuscitate

A couple weeks back we shared the news that Obamacare enrollment was flatlining. However, there were still four weeks left in open enrollment which gave hope to resuscitation.

Yesterday HHS released another data set with two additional weeks of open enrollment. The prognosis is now dire and indications are showing a failure to resuscitate. The enrollment figures released show only 63,190 new plan selections since January 1st. This is compared to the 2016 open enrollment when 153,631 plan selections were made during roughly the same time period. Overall enrollment is slightly lower by 10,557.

Comparing the press releases from 2016 and 2017 is quite somber. Note the tone (and figures) used by HHS.

Since Open Enrollment began on November 1, about 8.8 million consumers signed-up for health coverage through the HealthCare.gov platform or had their coverage automatically renewed. This week’s snapshot includes weekly and cumulative data for enrollment through HealthCare.gov, a breakdown of cumulative data for 38 states using the HealthCare.gov platform, and cumulative data for local markets.

“As expected, consumer interest is beginning to increase again as we near the deadline for 2016 coverage,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. “We know we have more work to do and as we count down to the January 31 final deadline, we’re focused on making sure consumers understand that they must act soon to find affordable health coverage and avoid the fee for choosing to not have health insurance in 2016. Consumers should know that we’re here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

More than 8.8 million Americans were signed up for 2017 coverage through HealthCare.gov as of January 14, 2017. This compares to about 8.7 million sign-ups as of January 14 last year, as Americans continue to demonstrate strong demand for 2017 Marketplace coverage.

“With almost 9 million people signed up for 2017 coverage just in HealthCare.gov states, it’s clear that Marketplace coverage is a product Americans want and need,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Strong demand is especially striking in light of the unique headwinds created by discouraging rhetoric from ACA opponents. More than 40,000 people have contacted our call center expressing concerns about whether they should sign up for coverage, with a sharp uptick in these questions last weekend. My answer is a resounding yes: in fact, I’ll be signing up for Marketplace coverage myself by the end of the month. If you still need coverage for 2017, visit HealthCare.gov or your state Marketplace before January 31, and join me and millions of other Americans in purchasing affordable, quality coverage.”

Today’s report covers the period from January 1 through January 14, 2017. Enrollment weeks are measured Sunday through Saturday. Since this year Open Enrollment began on a Tuesday, the totals reported in this snapshot reflect two fewer days than in last year’s published Week 11 snapshot. Measured over the equivalent time period, plan selections this year are almost 100,000 higher than last year.

Not surprisingly, the government still isn't giving up hope. But based on the enrollment my guess is that many of the insurance companies playing in the market are even closer to issuing DNR orders.

Your Record Drives Underwriting

It makes sense that your driving record would impact your auto insurance. If you've got a spotless record, you're going to pay less than your twin with the multiple DUI's (assuming similar vehicles, of course). But did you know that it also affects how much you'll pay for life and homeowner's insurance, as well?

I did know that it plays a role in life insurance underwriting: after all, applications ask for your driver's license number, and I've seen cases where really bad records result in less favorable underwriting results (which means higher premiums).

But I didn't know that it also comes into play when underwriting homeowner's (and, one presumes, tenant's) insurance, too:

"Allstate, meanwhile, is using driving records to help price home insurance. The company began doing so in 2011 in Oklahoma ... Home insurance prices are based mostly on a home’s reconstruction cost and location. Allstate started looking at driving records to learn about homeowners’ behavior."

To be sure, this makes sense: if you're prone to risky driving behavior, you're probably not going to be the most careful homeowner:

"Poor home maintenance or careless security can lead to damage and home insurance claims."

Which also makes sense.

But as it turns out, that doesn't really matter:

"Insurers don’t have to explain why certain behavior leads to claims. They only have to show a correlation between the variables and claims." [ed: emphasis in original]


Now, this practice isn't widespread - yet - but don't be surprised if your homeowner's insurer runs a motor vehicle report at renewal time.

And drive safely.

[Hat Tip: ‏@LexisInsurance]

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Anthem and AllClear ID

I just received notice from Anthem about the expiration of the AllClear ID protection that was provided after they were hacked:

Identity Protection Services due to expire soon

January 13, 2017 As you know, individuals impacted by the 2015 cyber attack against Anthem were offered two years of AllClear ID Credit and Identity Theft Monitoring Services (called PRO). That two-year time frame is coming to a close.

We’re writing to let you know that beginning in the next day or so, individuals who chose to enroll in these services will receive a courtesy AllClear ID email 30 days prior to the expiration of those services. ONLY those individuals who chose to enroll in these services will receive a courtesy AllClear ID email. The email will inform them that their AllClear ID services are set to expire and provide renewal options for the individual. Note that enrollment and expiration dates vary, but the earliest expiration date will be in February, and the latest expirations will be in August 2017.

It's nice to know that the Chinese have erased all the stolen data and that ID protection is no longer required.  If that's not the case, might I suggest that Anthem pays for the renewal?  It is, after all, necessitated by their IT department's unbelievable incompetence.

Times are tough all over

In places like England and Hong Kong (to name but two), private insurance is available (indeed, mandatory) for any number of folks, including ex-pats and the like. And just like here, the cost of care continues to increase, even (especially?) in places with "Universal" (ie government-run) health care schemes.

But it's the cost of these medical insurance plans that caught my attention in this article at LifeHealthPro:

"The cost of international private medical insurance is climbing globally, with an inflation rate of 9.2 percent reported for 2016."

In fact, the author's company ("a global insurance advisor") recently concluded a study of almost 100 different countries to see if they could ascertain the primary factors driving these increases. And they seem to have found them:

"[A]n increase in the demand for international quality private care, increases in the cost of health care, new regulations, and fraud."

Regular IB readers will remain nonplussed at this revelation, but it's still interesting. And note, too, that this is different than medical tourism, which involves leaving one's home country specifically for a particular health issue.

The more you know...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Everything old is new again

Pretty much everyone's heard of universal, whole and term life. These are usually bought to replace income that would be lost at one's death, or to pay off the mortgage, those kinds of things. And they generally cover one person at a time (although one can buy spouse and children's riders, these usually come with an expiration date).

When the estate tax was a big deal, one often saw Second-to-Die plans that covered a couple; the plan paid off at the death of the remaining spouse, when the (bulk of) the estate tax was due.

What I haven't seen in a while are First-to-Die plans. As the name basically states, these plans insure two (perhaps more) lives and pays off at the first death. They can be handy for buy-sell agreements, or if a couple has a specific need for one. They're also budget-friendly, in that your insuring two folks for a little bit more than one. They can also be helpful savings vehicles for college funds and the like.

Nothing really ground-breaking, of course, just interesting to see a resurgence.

[Hat Tip: Donna S]

Friday, January 13, 2017

ObamaCare in a nutshell

Actually, it's a license you're required to buy for the privilege of then paying for your own health care.


[Hat Tip: FoIB Rich W]

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#ACA_Fail: Laurie Ann's story

For all of the sob stories about what may happen under Repeal/Replace, there's the reality of the very real, very human cost of the ObamaTax's implementation:
[click to embiggen]

Click here for the full (tragic) story.

[Hat Tip: @DaveinTexas]

Words Matter: Health Wonk Review is up!

HWR co-founder and all-around good egg Julie Ferguson hosts this week's eclectic round-up, focusing (natch) on the upcoming Repeal/Replace/Repeat(?) efforts now underway in DC. But there's plenty of other posts, as well, including one from David Harlow on Big Data, and a terrific video from (our favorite economist) Jason Shafrin on health care spending.


Uninsured as Medicaid Failure

Every time I see something like this:

It reminds me of this

Ten years later.  No solution.  Same problem worse.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Even *More* Flatlining

The other day, Patrick posted an excellent piece laying bare the unmitigated failure that marks the current Open Enrollment season. In it, he notes that enrollment was waaay off expectations (and goals), and explains why that's important.

Today, FoIB Allison Bell, writing from her familiar perch at LifeHealthPro, alerts us that the overwhelming majority of folks who did sign up for individual health insurance plans had "either a major health problem, such as cancer, or a serious but less severe health problem, such as high blood pressure or depression."

This, of course, is what happens when you make what used to be an insurance plan into a guaranteed issue one with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

To reiterate: this is exactly the same thing as buying a car, wrecking it, and then calling up your agent to insure it and pay the claim. No one thinks that makes sense when dealing with auto or home insurance; I've never understood why folks think it makes sense for health insurance (since they're all based on the same underlying insurance principle of indemnity).


(Un?)Intended Consequences, ObamaTax style

Truth bomb:

[Click here for original article]

And then there were 5

The dictionary defines attrition as "a reduction in size, numbers, or strength." And that certainly applies in spades to the ObamaCare Co-Op program. What began as a promising healthcare financing option has gradually, relentlessly gone downhill:

"Eighteen of the original 23 Obamacare CO-OPs have failed at a total cost to taxpayers of more than $1.8 billion."

But hey, it's only (your) money, right?

[Hat Tip: John Goodman]

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

MVNHS©: Dodging Bullets

With the incoming administration ostensibly Repeal-bound, perhaps we may avoid our own full-blown version of the Much Vaunted National Health System©:

"Nearly a quarter of patients waited longer than four hours at A&E last week with just one hospital hitting its target."

[ed: A&E being "accident and Emergency" care facility]

On top of that, there were almost 20,000 "trolley waits" (how long patients must wait for a hospital bed after being admitted in an emergency) of over 4 hours. The "target" is 4 hour (maximum), but only one hospital even ht that.

But hey, free!

[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]

Monday, January 09, 2017

About that $2500 Savings... [UPDATED]

Funny how I don't recall hearing this from 2008-2016.
-President Obama on January 6th, 2017 during an interview with Vox.com's Sarah Kliff and Ezra Klein

[Update from HGS]:


Friday, January 06, 2017

Flatline: Lagniappe

Yesterday, Patrick's excellent post really pulled back the curtains on this year's Open Enrollment fiasco season, exposing just how poorly it really went. But it actually gets better (well, for certain values of "better"). A trusted source tells me that:

"Only 40% of the people who EVER bought on [404Care.gov] kept coverage for 12 continuous months. 40%." Now that's a stable market"

[ed: Based on study done in Dec 2015 on data from Jan 2014 until then, but unlikely to be much different this go 'round]

What that means is that folks have figured out that gaming the system is quite easy, and lots of them have done so.

The challenge is that carriers incur acquisition costs for each policy they issue. This is pure overhead, before any claims (or, often, premiums) have been paid. If the majority of the policies issued are dropped by the client in that first year, that makes it even more difficult for carriers to make a profit. So, another reason so many carriers have dropped out of the market, leaving fewer choices and increase costs.

And there's this: many folks only buy ObamaPlans to help pay for a pre-existing condition, especially an acute or catastrophic one: insurance pays for the bulk of services rendered, then no longer needed. This results in a major loss for the carrier, and no way to recoup it (since Risk Corridors went away).

Another reason is to avoid the penalty fine tax itself, but of course for many that's nominal, and certainly a lot less than actual premiums.

Can you say "Death Spiral?"

[Hat Tip: @MikeBertaut]

Thursday, January 05, 2017


Yesterday - with little fanfare - HHS released the Obamacare enrollment snapshot from week 9. This release is for the Federal exchange (healthcare.gov) from November 1st through December 31st and includes all plan selections (not paid plans) effective for January 1st as well as those who selected plans after December 15th that will be effective February 1st.

Other than a Sylvia Burwell tweet this uninspiring report got very little media attention (a Google search confirms it). This is because the numbers just aren't good. Compared to last year the increase in plan selections is a mere 154,123. Worse yet, all of the growth is attributed to renewals. New enrollment is down by more than 350,000 from last year.

That statistic should be troubling to ACA supporters. With a little over a month remaining in OE4 the prospects of hitting enrollment targets is next to impossible. Even when factoring in the state based exchanges there would need to be another 2 million or so NEW enrollments to hit the revised numbers.

There is little reason to rejoice in Obamaville this year. The signature achievement is showing its true colors to a much broader swath of the general population at a much higher cost than we were promised. Medicaid expansion is way over budget and will soon be costing states who expended billions in additional cost. Premiums are up significantly in the individual market, insurer participation is down, provider networks are razor thin, and benefits like deductibles are rising to unattainable levels. In the near future employer plans will also take a hit negatively impacting wages and benefits for middle class workers.

If the new Congress and President elect are smart (which is questionable) they would begin pointing out these flaws immediately. The narrative needs to be changed from an emotional viewpoint (see #makeamericasickagain) to a financial and practical viewpoint.

Then again, when has the Fantasyland known as Washington DC ever been fiscally responsible or practical? When one can only get reelected by playing on our emotions the answer is never.

"You know better than to trust a strange computer!"

I've been making fun of home office folks for pretty much my entire career, so I probably should have seen this coming:
"Insurance firm Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is making 34 employees redundant and replacing them with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI"

Followers of Jeopardy are familiar with the machine, which can sift through millions of data points instantaneously to quickly discern the correct answer. In this case, it appears that the machine will be replacing almost 3 dozen folks in the carrier's claims unit:

"The technology will be able to read tens of thousands of medical certificates and factor in the length of hospital stays, medical histories and any surgical procedures before calculating payouts"

Plus, it doesn't take coffee or smoke breaks, paid vacations or require health insurance benefits.


[Hat Tip: FoIB Jeff M]

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Yeah, about those $2500 rate decreases

Remember this?

Well, here's 1,000 words on how much ObamPlan premiums are going up in every state. :

 [click to embiggen]
[Hat Tip: Jason C]

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

From the P&C Files in a Galaxy (Not) Far Away...

Over the weekend, my family saw the new Star Wars movie. It was bittersweet, of course: while the plot explains the events that lead up to the first Star Wars, it was only marginally about the Skywalker clan. Still, the recent passing of Princess Leia - Carrie Fisher - was on all of our minds.

Which brings up an interesting quandary: now that one of the principal characters is (apparently, although not necessarily) unavailable, what will happen to the series?

A few months ago, we discussed how rap star Kanye West's health issues, which forced cancellation of some of his shows, might be covered by a special events insurance policy. Such a plan was apparently also in place for the late Ms Fisher:

"[Disney] ... could receive $50 million thanks to an insurance policy the company took out in the event Fisher was unable to fulfill her three-film contract."

What's more, it's apparently "the largest single personal accident insurance claim payout ever" (although how one could possibly know that is unclear - I'd take it with a grain or two of salt). Still, it's obviously a lot of money; whether it will truly offset her loss on the big screen only time will tell.