TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2017
Drones are exploding in popularity in the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia area, and so are the news stories about someone flying too close to a commercial aircraft or shooting down a drone. These are real incidents, but with these five dos and don’ts of drone operation, you don’t have to experience one.
Do know your drone — and your capabilities. Practice your maneuvering skills, including safe landings, in an open field or empty parking lot. You could even join a local club to learn how to fly. Once you do, be sure to stay away from people, wildlife, public events and, yes, your neighbor’s pool party.
Don’t forget to register your drone. In the eyes of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), your drone isn’t a toy. It’s an Unmanned Aircraft System, one you need to register with the agency.
Don’t fly above 400 feet or within 5 miles of an airport. If you do, you’ll violate FAA guidelines. Though flying near an airport may be possible after first obtaining clearance from the facility and control tower.
Do get authorization for commercial use. If you use a drone for commercial purposes, such as taking photos for your real-estate business, you must get FAA authorization first. Just using a drone for personal recreation? No authorization required.
Do understand the risks. Drones can weigh up to 55 pounds, so there’s the potential for them to cause some serious damage – damage for which you might be liable. However, not all homeowners insurance policies provide liability coverage for hobby or model aircraft. Give us a call to find out what kind of coverage you might have.
Hey, we get it. Drones are affordable, fun to fly and have a number of interesting uses, such as aerial photography. Just remember to be smart and safe while yours is in the sky. And, if you’re being impacted by someone else’s drone use, it’s best to talk it through. Because we here at PMA Insurance Services, LLC don’t want to see you on the local news!
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2016
by Caitlin Bronson | Jan 07, 2016, Insurance Business America.
Insurance companies have a crisis of faith on their hands.
According to a new poll from Morning Consult, American ire over rising healthcare costs is increasingly focused on their carriers, even more so than on the federal government or pharmaceutical companies.
A full 31% of poll respondents hold health insurance companies responsible for the last 10 years of risig healthcare costs, compared to 25% who blame the government and 13% who think pharmaceutical companies are causing the rise.
The scrutiny is particularly strong as the Department of Justice is continuing to review the proposed mergers of four of the nation’s largest insurers. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have also held hearings on the proposals, and Hillary Clinton has included rhetoric in her campaign that target insurers in her healthcare plan.
That public anger, which eclipses public anger against pharmaceutical companies, makes sense, says Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Public opinion of both industries is relatively low right now,” Levitt told Morning Consult. “But, people generally have a conflicted view of drug companies. People are worried about high drug prices, but they also recognize that pharmaceutical companies make products that keep people healthy and in some cases save their lives.
“So, people are possibly more likely to blame insurers for rising health costs.”
Additionally, insurance is increasingly falling short in shielding policyholders from financial difficulty. According to another recent survey from Kaiser and The New York Times, one in five working-age Americans with health insurance reported having problems paying medical bills in the past year that cause serious financial challenges and changes in employment and lifestyle.
Specifically, insured Americans who face problem medical bills reported delaying vacations or major household purchases (77%), spending less on food and clothing (75%), using up most or all of their savings (63%), taking an extra job or working more hours (42%), increasing their credit card debt (38%), borrowing money from family or friends (37%) and even changing their living situation (14%).
While those statistics make the frustration against insurance companies understandable, however, the shifting of blame is not entirely fair. The causes of rising healthcare costs are diffuse and may actually be led by hospitals and doctors, said Levitt.
“Drug costs are the fastest rising part of the health system right now, but over the last decade hospitals and physicians have contributed much more to the rising health costs than drug companies,” Levitt said.
The results of the poll come on the heels of another survey from Kaiser and The New York Times that suggests even those with insurance coverage struggle to afford medical bills.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2016
December 7, 2015Volume 25Issue 43
Several publicly-traded health systems reported elevated numbers of uninsured patients at their facilities in the third quarter of 2015, raising questions among health insurance industry watchers about the long-term viability of the exchanges. But hospital executives and advisers say there are a number of underlying causes at play, and that it’s far too soon to panic.
“A lot of the insurers were saying basically when they were reporting third quarter results that they were seeing a lot of attrition in the Affordable Care Act policies,” says Steve Zaharuk, senior vice president at Moody’s Investor Service. Insurers were reporting faster rates of attrition than in 2014, which Zaharuk says could be attributed to any number of factors, including failure to pay premiums or acquisition of employer-sponsored insurance. But higher premiums and other cost factors very well may have driven people off the exchanges, he says.
“We’ve seen some regions where the increases in premium, the increases in copays and out-of-pocket [costs], and the decreases in the network are saying there’s a big change afoot as far as the attractiveness for these policies for 2016,” he says. “Maybe this is the beginning of a trend, because there are some signals out there that there could be a problem with these policies for 2016.”
Higher patient volumes translate to a plus for hospitals, as long as the patients making the claims have insurance. Gallup on Oct. 8 pegged the uninsured rate to 11.6% in the third quarter, down from 11.9% in the first quarter, which is why hospital conglomerate HCA Holdings, Inc.’s reported increase of uninsured patients set off a few alarms.
The health system’s uninsured admissions went up 13.6% in the third quarter when compared with the year-ago period, totaling approximately 4,400 admissions. HCA saw the numbers increasing in the second quarter, Chief Financial Officer Bill Rutherford said during the third quarter earnings call.
But it’s too soon to tell if it’s a trend, says Dean Diaz, senior vice president at Moody’s Investor Service. Diaz points out that HCA has a large concentration in two states that did not expand their Medicaid programs: Florida and Texas.
In the call, Rutherford conceded that while the elevated number of uninsured was seen across its markets, those two states accounted for nearly 75% of all uninsured admissions. Rutherford attributed one quarter of the increase to processing delays in Texas and Kansas for newly eligible Medicaid recipients, and 10% of the total to exchange members who lost their insurance.
Uninsured Rates Are Fluctuating
Matthew Borsch, lead health care research analyst at Goldman Sachs, asked if HCA executives thought something could be “brewing” in terms of whether exchange members see value in health coverage, given that when they’re uninsured, most of their care is written off due to inability to pay.
HCA President of Operations Samuel Hazen said that the effects of health reform have been “materially in line” with HCA expectations, and that exchange growth is up year over year. “So we are still seeing solid growth,” he said. “Now the issue of seeing some reduction in terms of lives in the exchanges is reality as well. I don’t have data through the third quarter; I have CMS data through June where I can compare the number of lives in the exchange as of end of March as compared to end of June at 2015. And there is a decrease at the end of June. Nationally it’s about 2.3% fewer lives in the exchange and for HCA states it’s about 3%.”
Rosemarie Day, president of Massachusetts-based Day Health Strategies, believes the uninsured rate has remained stable, since just about all observers aside from a few hospitals are reporting flat or decreased uninsured rates.
“The uninsured rates have totally gone down, no question about it,” she tells HPW, citing data from Gallup and the U.S. Census Bureau that said both employer-sponsored coverage and direct purchase rates have either maintained or increased. “Overall, bottom line is, [a] reduction in the uninsured [and] more people with insurance of all types.”
Tenet Healthcare Corp. also reported a 3.7% uptick in the number of charity and uninsured patients compared with the third quarter of 2014, pointing to Florida and Texas as well. In response to a question from Morgan Stanley analyst Andrew Schenker, Tenet Chief Financial Officer Daniel Cancelmi said the company has actually seen a decline in the number of uninsured year-to-date.
“We feel very confident about what we can generate in terms of additional growth from exchange patients as well as some growth in Medicaid expansion states,” he said. “So, there’s nothing in particular that we saw that seems like a trend that we are overly concerned about.”
President of Hospital Operations Britt Reynolds added that exchange growth in Texas and Florida had increased significantly, and CEO Trevor Fetter said the market has been a major plus for the company.
“[The exchange market has] been a great product for us. We continue to drive substantial gains in volumes in this quarter,” he said. “It was 53% in the exchange volumes, and I think those are well established now as a marketplace for individuals to buy insurance. And as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, one of our strategies has been to have very attractive offerings on those exchanges that include our hospitals, and we hit a record high of 90% of our hospitals being in the lowest cost silver plan networks.”
At Community Health Systems, the uninsured rate remained flat for the quarter at 5.8% year over year, with the hospital pointing in part to another non-expansion state, Tennessee, along with Florida. But a November report from accounting and consulting firm Crowe Horwath found that hospitals on the whole experienced a 31.2% decline in their uninsured rates from January 2014 to September 2015.
Still, the shifting dynamics of the exchange market are likely to blame for at least some fluctuation in the uninsured rate. Jim Whisler, national leader of Deloitte’s health actuarial practice, says he has also seen a few hospitals reporting increases in the number of uninsured patients.
“With the large rate increases in many of the exchanges, the federal government admits it’s getting harder to attract people to the exchanges, because you know initially they got a lot of the sick people who really needed insurance, and now they’re trying to attract the healthier people who may make the decision to pay the penalty versus getting the insurance. So maybe what they’re seeing is that this trend of reduced uninsurance is starting to reverse itself. I guess I wouldn’t be too surprised if that’s a recent phenomenon.”
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2015
How to Drive in Winter Weather
Blowing snow. Low visibility. Icy conditions. Winter calls on drivers to use skills that just aren’t needed throughout the rest of the year. So, brush up on yours with these tactics and tips. Because, even if you're an expert winter driver, plenty of other people out there are not.
- Don’t just jump in the car and go. First things first, make sure you and your car are ready for the conditions ahead. You should be well-rested and focused. Your car (preferably front-wheel or four-wheel drive) should have a full tank of gas, working windshield wipers, the right tires and the necessary emergency supplies. Completely clean off and defrost the windshield and windows, turn on your lights for visibility and buckle up.
- Do start, stop and steer steadily. Flooring it, slamming on the brakes and jerking the steering wheel wildly can all lead to trouble. Instead, do everything gradually. Accelerate slowly so your wheels don’t spin out. Brake early and gently to maintain control of the vehicle. Finally, make slow, moderate adjustments to the steering wheel when you need to change lanes or make a turn.
- Don’t use the cruise control. Even if your car is skidding, your cruise control may attempt to maintain a constant speed, potentially accelerating the vehicle and spinning the wheels as you’re trying to regain control. Hitting the brakes to deactivate the cruise control could cause further harm.
- Do let off the accelerator if your car starts to skid. We know it’s easy to panic, but try to remain calm and, once you feel your tires regain traction, slowly turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. Be prepared to counter-steer and stay off both the gas and the brake until you have control of the vehicle again.
- Don’t follow too closely. Increase the space you leave between you and other vehicles both when following another car and pulling over in front of one after passing it, especially snowplows or large trucks. You also need more lead time when pulling out in front of a car.
- Do consider the terrain. When driving in winter weather, certain areas signal the need for greater caution. These include bridges and overpasses, which can freeze over before other parts of the road, freeway on- and off-ramps that snowplows may have skipped and any area that doesn’t receive direct sunlight and may have black ice.
Above all, remember the most basic tenet of driving in any type of inclement weather: Give yourself ample time to respond. So, slow down. Or, just stay home, if you can. Because, even with careful driving and these tips, something could still happen. And, staying home sure beats being stuck in a snowy ditch!
Your Car Insurance Helps Protect You in All Types of Weather
Having the auto insurance coverage you want can help keep you on solid ground, even in slippery conditions. So, regularly review your policy with your independent insurance agent to ensure you’re happy with your deductible, your coverage levels and your options, such as roadside assistance. Feel free to contact us here at PMA Insurance Services at (703) 449-1327 so we can assist you and to get started building your auto policy.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2015
by James Middleton | Nov 30, 2015
The combined forces of alternative capital resources and overabundance in the property/casualty market have ushered in a surprisingly strong soft market cycle, and a recent report from Willis North America anticipates widespread rate decreases for the following year.
However, in spite of this environment, the risk advisory and brokerage firm has identified five P/C lines it expects to buck the trends in its “Marketplace Realities 2016” report, with cyber leading the way and effecting other lines in its wake.
“There is no escaping cyber exposure,” said Matt Keeping, chief broking officer with Willis. “Cyber also impacts errors and omissions, as breach incidents are often covered in part by E&O policies; this was the only line that moved from the ‘flat’ category into ‘expecting increases’ category since the spring.”
In full, the five lines expected to carry rate increases in 2016 include:
1. Cyber – Non-POS Retail and Large Healthcare flat to +15% and POS Retail and Large Healthcare +1-% to 150%
Large losses in the retail and healthcare sectors have caused a few markets to stop writing large accounts and others to increase their premiums significantly. Underwriting requirements also continue to rise, and carriers are becoming more selective about the risks they take on.
2. Employee Benefits – Self Insured +4% to +5% and Fully Insured +7.5% to +8.5%
New prescription drugs in the biologic and biosimilar categories are contributing to a rise in prescription costs, pushing employee benefits to higher costs. The industry is also continuing to embrace wellness programs, but is moving on from a return-on-investment focus on medical costs to a value-on investment focus on a broader set of criteria, according to Willis.
3. Errors & Omissions – Self Insured +4% to +5% and Fully Insured +7.5% to 8.5%
Rising claims are expected to cause slight increases for many buyers in the month ahead, though competition from new carriers and traditional carriers seeking to expand market share is limiting upward pressure on rates to low single digits or even flat renewals. Willis expects industries most at risk for large claims and litigation to see the most upward pressure on rates.
4. Fidelity – Flat to +5%
Several of the largest fidelity markets lost money or earned only marginal profits last year, resulting in large losses. However, the balance of the market has achieved favorable results and large increases are not expected. Employee theft remains the leading source for claims under both commercial crime and financial institution bonds, with a particular rise in electronically enabled theft.
5. Kidnap and Ransom – Flat to +5%
Kidnapping risk for employees is up as political tensions escalate, leading to potential increases for buyers with overseas exposures – particularly in Mexico, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Lebanon. Closer to home, however, buyers with exposures in the US can actually expect flat renewals and even potential rate decreases up to 5%.
The Willis report also included a list of lines predicted to deliver a mix of small increases and decreases. These include: workers’ compensation, auto, construction, directors and officers, employment practices liability, environmental and fiduciary.