Monthly Archives: October 2014

3 Ways Your Health Insurance Company Is Scamming You

The growing number of consumers taking up health insurance plans has led to the mushrooming of scam health insurance providers. These providers often target new retirees and the elderly individuals and small-business owners, who can’t negotiate better rates with legitimate insurers. Be very cautious before you invest in any health policy. Read on to get an idea about 3 ways in which your health insurance company can scam you.
1. Failure to pay claims
Usually fraud health insurance agents sign up a huge number of people quickly by offering them lucrative deals. These insurance providers keep paying small premium amounts and medical claims, but if there is a substantial claim amount or regulators catch them, these illegal companies vanish as if they never existed.
So, just beware if you are getting delayed payments or your service provider is offering fake excuses for the failure to make the payments. If you have signed up for these illegal plans, you may be liable for the medical bills of your employees as well.
2. Non-licensed health plans
If the company from which you have bought your health care policy is not licensed by State Insurance Commissioner, you can be in trouble. If all the protections of insurance regulation do not apply on your service provider, then the company may be phony. In this case your service provider is scamming you by selling non-licensed health plans.
Insurance agents are not allowed to sell any legitimate ERISA or union plan as federal law governs them. So, if your insurance agent tries to dupe you by selling an “ERISA” or “union” plan, report them to your state insurance department.
3. Unusual coverage offered at lower rates
If you are offered an unusual coverage irrespective of your health condition and that too at lower rate and much more benefits in comparison to other insurers, its time for you too hit the panic button. Do not get fooled by the lucrative offer, else you can be taken for a ride. The ‘scamsters’ aim to collect huge amounts as early as possible so, they try to sell maximum number of policies at attractive prices.

Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment


The 2014-2015 open enrollment period is a classic story of good news and bad news:

The good news is that ever since the troubled rollout of HealthCare.gov in 2013, enrollment processes have been getting progressively better in not only the federally facilitated marketplaces and state-run exchanges – but even off-exchange.

The once sluggish exchange sites are now whirring – and an estimated 7.88 million Americans have enrolled in qualified health plans through the state and federal exchanges. More carriers are offering plans in the exchanges and in many states, premiums are decreasing.

The bad news? Open enrollment, which starts November 15, promises to be a whirlwind of activity as millions of already enrolled Americans re-enroll and millions more enroll in qualified plans for the first time.

Never fear; there’s actually more good news for our readers. Contributing Editor Louise Norris, a health reform expert and author of more than 120 healthinsurance.org articles about the Affordable Care Act, has penned a 38-page insider’s guide designed to make enrollment a breeze.

The Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment (2014-2015) is filled with insider information designed to give you a head start on plan shopping before November 15 – and then shorten the time you spend actually applying for coverage. To download the FREE eBook, simply provide a valid email in the form below.

It’s definitely time to enroll – or re-enroll

Norris, a licensed agent for more than a decade, has been studying the health reform law and its provisions for years – and has been keeping a close eye on private plan enrollment through during the first year of ACA enrollment activity. The author also personally contacted representatives of each state-run marketplace and HealthCare.gov to gauge exchange efforts to make enrollment more consumer friendly.

Based on those interviews, she says she’s definitely optimistic as consumers head toward “Round Two” of open enrollment. In fact, the improving exchanges is one of “10 reasons why it’s time to enroll” – the introductory chapter of her nine-chapter guide.

Different avenues to coverage

There’s no question in the author’s mind that all Americans should have comprehensive medical insurance, but as she points out in several chapters of her book, there are different avenues to coverage.

In “Do you have to enroll in an exchange,” she explains that you don’t necessarily have to enroll through the marketplaces to get a qualified health plan. And, as Norris reveals in “Re-enrolling: Should I stay or should I go?” consumers who already have enrolled in QHPs will have different re-enrollment requirements, depending on the state where they’re enrolled.

And some Americans will be surprised when they read, “Can you keep your grandmothered plan?” In that chapter, Norris reveals that – again, depending on their state – many policy holders may be able to re-enroll in a “grandmothered,” non-compliant pre-ACA plan.

Saving money, saving time

Regardless of whether they’re enrolling, re-enrolling or shopping on or off exchange, readers will definitely want to read the guide’s chapters on “shopping” wisely – and beating the crush of the crowd.

The chapter, “Looking beyond the lowest premium,” offers a consumers a straightforward process for selecting a plan not based just on the lowest premium, but on all plan costs – from deductibles to co-pays and co-insurance. “5 ways to beat the open enrollment crush” helps readers “work ahead” through research that doesn’t have to wait: comparing plan premiums, benefits and provider networks and more.

“How to spend less time enrolling” offers time-saving enrollment tips – some as obvious as asking for help by phone or in-person. And if readers do decide to ask for help, “Agents and brokers and navigators … Oh my!” will help them figure out which way to turn.

No reason to wait

“As an agent, I can tell you that it’s not unusual for families to be concerned about finding a health insurance plan that will cover their needs … or worry that they’ll have to pay too much for decent coverage,” says Norris. “My hope is that people who read this guide will gain some reassurance that the health law is actually going to give them increasing options for solid coverage, but also that the process of selecting a plan doesn’t have to be lengthy and frustrating.”

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healthinsurance.org

3 Warnings Before Switching Auto Insurance Companies

We’ve all been bombarded with ads, emails, commercials, and billboards saying how much we can save on our auto insurance by switching to another company. It’s a competitive industry. Just because another company is offering a better rate doesn’t mean you should rush to call and cancel your insurance and switch. There are a few things you need to make sure of before you do.

Here are a few things to watch out for before you switch your auto insurance to another company.

If you’ve been with one company for many years and they offer a credit that waives the first accident you have, you may want to stay or see if the other company can match it. Sometimes this is referred to as good driver discount or a longevity discount or accident forgiveness. The company rewards you for your loyalty by waiving the first accident you have.

This discount can be pretty significant. Since most accidents can raise your rate by 40% for 3 years the potential savings could be several hundreds of dollars over that 3 year period. But when you switch companies, you lose this credit you’ve built up. If you have an accident with that new company how much are you going to regret not having that accident forgiveness by seeing your rates jacked up by 40%?

Another thing to be mindful of is to make sure the company you are switching to is not offering you just a teaser rate for the first 6 months to get your business and then bump you up 6 months later once they’ve got you on their books. Since auto insurance is a profitable industry, companies may offer you a low ball rate to get you to switch and then once they’ve got you increase your rates at the renewal. If the rate the new company quotes seems too goo to be true do more research. Check out insurance forums or search Google for “XYZ insurance + Reviews.”

Watch out for hidden fees. This is one that can surprise you. Some companies charge you for making monthly payments – usually $3-$5 a month. Over the course of a year that comes out to $36-$60. That one fee can take a big bite out of your potential savings so make sure you factor that into the rates you are comparing. Make sure you are really saving money when you switch.

Two other things to keep in mind when shopping around for auto insurance are the new company’s website and hours of operation. Make sure their hours work with your hours. If they are only open from 8-5 and you work 8-5, when are you going to be able to call them if you have a question or need to make a claim? If you do all your business online you want to make sure the company you are looking at has a capable website that can help you 24 hours a day.

You can save money by shopping your auto insurance around. Just be sure to keep in mind the things I’ve mentioned to make sure the deal you’re looking at is really a great deal.

Jerry Seinfeld: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee Season 5

We’re big fans of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Yesterday, Seinfeld shared the promo video for season 5, premiering next week, and it looks like it’s going to be another great season filled with appearances including Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Hart.

Source (Facebook)

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Celebrity Cars Blog

What’s happening with Samsung?

They’ve now had 4 straight quarters of disappointing sales reports, 3 in a row with declines and this last one was devastating. In Q3, Samsung Elec, as a company, saw operating profits drop 60% YoY. Their big profit center for SE, their Mobile division (IM) which includes their smartphones and tablets, saw a drop of 74%. Sales for SE were down 20% and IM was down 34%. All of this is after a Q2 report that saw SE op profits slide 25% YoY and IM drop 30% YoY. These were considered exceptionally massive declines at the time, yet they look almost desirable in light of the newest report. A 30% drop in profits followed by a 74% decline is crisis time. That’s massive. That’s like Nokia and RIM on the wrong side of their inflection points bad.

I’ve read that they has lost ground with their cheaper phones, which generate the bulk of the unit sales, to companies like Xiaomi and OPPO and Micromax. But Samsung’s report actually says they saw a slight increase in unit sales driven by mid to low end devices. So, it would seem that while growth is mostly stalled in the cheap side of their business, it isn’t decreasing and can’t be blamed for the bottom falling out of the profits and sales numbers. In fact, IDC reported that Samsung’s overall unit sales dropped by “only” 8%.

For an 8% drop in unit sales to create a 35% drop in sales revenue and for that to then crater their profits by 74%, that can only be explained by a complete implosion of their high margin phones, like the Note and G series. I suspected those weren’t selling well, but I had no idea they had collapsed so completely like this.

I’m not posting this to bash Samsung. I really find it an interesting case study. They came from being a bargain basement brand in mobile to suddenly dominating the entire industry overnight. They seemed unstoppable. Their sudden rise happened faster than RIM or Nokia and it seems their decline is happening even faster.

So, what happened? How is it that their high-end signature devices could go from overnight miracle to overnight failure? Xiaomi and the rest are challenging them on the low-end, but they seem to still be holding their own there. Where did all the high-end, high-margin sale go to?

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New rules for annuities and target date funds inspire products race

Retirement plan service providers are revving up their product development engines now that the Treasury and Labor departments are paving the way for annuities to be paired with target date funds in 401(k) plans.

Plan service providers have long awaited guidance from regulators on whether plan sponsors can use these products as qualified default investment alternatives. For instance, BlackRock’s LifePath Retirement Income — which paired target date funds with deferred income annuities from MetLife Inc. — was launched about seven years ago. But lack of regulatory clarity on whether plan sponsors could use such products, along with other concerns, kept it and other products from taking off, noted Chip Castille, head of BlackRock’s U.S. Retirement Group.

“Fortunately, at least with this kind of product, those issues are something we can now address,” he said. “We have guidance on how it can work in a QDIA. We can have a more constructive conversation today.”

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS issued new rules on using deferred annuities to provide lifetime income via target date funds.

“We’ve been working on it intensely for the last month or two months,” said Bob Reynolds, president and chief executive of Great-West Financial and Putnam Investments. The company took a closer look at deferred annuities after the Treasury and IRS issued initial guidance in July to make it easier for plan participants to buy deferred income annuities that begin payout as late as age 85.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary at the Department of Labor, wrote a letter to J. Mark Iwry, senior adviser to the Treasury secretary, clarifying that target date funds’ investment in unallocated deferred annuity contracts as fixed income investments would permit those funds to meet the requirements necessary to make them qualified default investment alternatives in a retirement plan.

Per Treasury’s memo, in order for safe harbor to apply to the plan sponsor, he or she must choose the investment manager and the target date fund. Acting as a fiduciary, the investment manager must then choose the insurer providing the annuity. Both the investment manager and the insurer must be independent from each other.

Lincoln National Corp. is already working to address the issue of keeping investment managers separate from itself as an insurer. The insurer offers guaranteed withdrawal benefits — which aren’t addressed in the Treasury’s latest memo — in connection with target date funds.

Third-party advisers and consultants who act as fiduciary investment managers can craft their own fund line-up elsewhere or work with a fiduciary like Ibbotson Associates, and use guaranteed features offered by Lincoln, according to Bob Melia, vice president of product development at Lincoln’s retirement plan services unit.

Though the Treasury, IRS and DOL’s latest guidance makes it easier for plans to incorporate annuities as a part of their plan line-up, experts note that there is room for further clarification from additional guidance.

For one thing, the fact that the investment manager is responsible for selecting the insurer takes a weight off the shoulders of employers.

“That addresses a concern that plan sponsors have had for a long time: ‘What is our liability for choosing the provider if they don’t meet the payments down the road?’” said Bradford P. Campbell, counsel at Drinker Biddle Reath LLP and former assistant secretary of labor.

But other questions remain. Mr. Campbell noted that the DOL’s guidance outlining the safe harbor as it applies to annuity selection seems subjective. For instance, those who choose the provider must “appropriately consider” the cost of the contract and the information sufficient to assess whether the provider can make payments.

“It’s hard to know whether you comply with the safe harbor and [whether] you are protected by it,” Mr. Campbell said.

There’s also the issue of what the pricing will look like, noted Marcia Wagner, managing director at the Wagner Law Group. “Will there be significantly different pricing depending on the age and age groups?” she asked. “What if people want to distribute their savings earlier than expected? Will there be a price adjustment?”

Finally, the guidance provided last week only applies to deferred income annuities, in which buyers pay premiums in the present in order to receive income many years into the future. Guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits and guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits are excluded from the guidance at the moment.

Treasury and the IRS are still weighing whether to provide guidance on the use of these features in defined contribution plans.

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Wink

5 Ways to Have a Healthy Halloween

Halloween: the night of haunted houses, freaky costumes, and yes, candy. We all know candy is not the healthiest option, especially for children. The average child eats a mind-blowing 3,500 to 7,000 calories just from candy on Halloween night. To ensure your child doesn’t become this statistic, here are a few tips to consider while trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Going trick or treatingSet Clear Limits

On the spooky holiday, 82 percent of parents set rules to keep their kids from going overboard on Halloween sweets and treats. Let your kids know before you head out trick-or-treating that they’re allowed to choose a certain number of favorite candies to enjoy once you get home. Try and avoid snacking as you go; that’s an easy way to lose track of how much you’re actually eating.

Provide Healthy Alternatives

Just 15 percent of parents offered trick-or-treaters healthy, non-candy alternatives, including bags of pretzels and small toys. Although kids might not always go for the healthy alternative, providing one at least gives them the choice. After seeing dozens of Kit Kats and Milky Ways, a small toy might look like an appealing alternative.

Fill Up on the Good Stuff

Filling up before heading out can curb hunger – at least for a while. Whip up a healthy meal for your kids before going door-to-door, and hopefully they won’t inhale chocolate when they get hungry. Serve something with lots of protein and fiber to ensure they stay full for the entire Halloween excursion.

Pick Up the Pace

Consider trick-or-treating as more than just a candy-gathering evening. Instead, make it a fitness activity for the whole family. Instead of driving while out for the night, walk to and from each house, and from your own house to different neighborhoods. That way, you’ll get a workout in to help burn off candy calories you’ll inevitably take in later in the night.

Indulge – at Least a Little

Sure, candy is not the best, healthiest choice available. However, Halloween only happens once a year, so don’t deprive yourself completely. It’s okay to enjoy the sweets and treats gathered that night in moderation. Just make sure not to overdo it.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

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RGA supports Mapfre’s entry into life insurance market

IBR Staff Writer Published 30 October 2014

Mapfre U.S.A, based in Webster, Massachusetts, has entered the life insurance market in the US with a term life product.

RGA Reinsurance Company (RGA), the principal operating subsidiary of Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated, provided key support to MAPFRE USA in connection with this product expansion.

RGA provided consultative assistance in the development of Mapfre’s initial life offering. RGA will also provide ongoing underwriting and risk assessment support for the product via AURA, RGA’s proprietary e-underwriting solution.

“RGA is very pleased to have been chosen by MAPFRE to support its expansion into the U.S. life insurance market. We look forward to our continued partnership with MAPFRE,” said Anna Manning, Executive Vice President, Head of U.S. and Latin American Markets, RGA.

Mapfre U.S.A. is the 19th largest provider of personal automobile insurance in the United States and is part of the MAPFRE Group, a global insurer with business in 47 countries on five continents.

The Mapfre Group is the leading insurer in Spain. It is also the largest multinational insurer in Latin America and among the top 10 European insurance companies by premium volume. The Mapfre Group has 36,000 employees and over 23 million customers worldwide.

RGA Reinsurance Company is the principal operating subsidiary of Reinsurance Group of America.

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IBR – Life Insurance & Pensions News

Video: Driving Like This Is As Dangerous As Driving Drunk

Did you know that studies show going 21 hours without sleep is the same for motorists as being legally drunk? Or that 100,000 accidents a year are attributable to insufficient rest? Watch the video above for a wakeup call from Cars.com’s Kelsey Mays with some tips on how to avoid the dangers of drowsy driving.

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KickingTires