California Department of Insurance Names Yang Deputy Commissioner

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has named Amorette Yang to deputy commissioner of the California Department of Insurance’s community programs and policy initiatives branch.

Yang was chief of the branch. She’s replacing Chris Shultz, who has accepted an appointment as the chief deputy director with the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Yang joined the CDI after serving as capacity building manager for the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.

She has both public and private sector experience, including a background in public policy, nonprofit capacity building, community organizing, and strategy consulting.

The CDI is the largest consumer protection agency in California.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Leavitt Group Names Gardner Chief Sales Officer in Idaho

Leavitt Group of Boise Inc. in Idaho has named Kevin Gardner chief sales officer and partner.

In addition to managing his business clients’ risk management programs, he will lead the sales department, including recruiting and mentoring sales staff.

Gardner has more than 20 years of sales and leadership experience, including 10 years in the insurance industry.

Kevin Gardner

He was most recently the West regional sales manager for healthcare enterprise for Oracle. He was with Benefitfocus, and then ADP before that.

Leavitt Group of Boise is part of Leavitt Group, a privately-held insurance brokerage.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Drug Pricing Transparency Law Signed by California Governor

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed state legislation requiring drug companies to report certain price hikes for prescription medicines in a move that could set a model for other states to follow.

The law, which aims to provide more transparency around pharmaceutical and biotech company pricing methods for their medicines, requires drug manufacturers to give a 60-day notice if prices are raised more than 16 percent over a two-year period. The law also requires health plans and insurers to file annual reports outlining how drug costs affect healthcare premiums in California.

“Californians have a right to know why their medication costs are out of control, especially when pharmaceutical profits are soaring,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement on his website announcing the new legislation.

The bill has been opposed by drugmakers, who argue that wholesale price increases do not reflect the actual prices paid for medicines after discounts and rebates.

Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the leading biotech industry trade group, issued a statement condemning the bill and arguing that it would not serve its intended purpose.

“This law will neither provide meaningful information to patients nor lower prescription drug costs,” the group said, adding that the law “seriously jeopardizes the future of California’s leadership in this innovative industry.”

California is home to hundreds of biotechnology companies.

Pharmaceutical companies have so far dodged stricter federal oversight despite growing public and political outrage over pricing practices for both branded and some generic medicines.

But states, struggling to cover rising healthcare costs, have been addressing the issue rather than wait for federal help. At least 176 bills on pharmaceutical pricing and payment have been introduced this year in 36 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A new Maryland law takes aims at egregious price hikes on generic versions of older off-patent drugs that are supposed to be far cheaper than the original branded medicines after some companies took massive increases on generic drugs not facing competition from other distributors.

Amid the furor some drugmakers, including Allergan Plc and AbbVie Inc, have voluntarily pledged one annual price increase of under 10 percent on branded prescription medicines. It had been common industry practice to raise prices twice a year, often by double-digit percentages.

However, even annual price hikes of 9 percent over a two-year period would put a company in the crosshairs of the new California legislation.

(Reporting by Berkrot in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright 2017 Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Judge Wants Evidence in Las Vegas Massacre Secured for Lawsuit

The Las Vegas resort from which a gunman unleashed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history has been ordered to preserve photos, surveillance video and gambling records of the shooter and notes by investigators.

A Clark County District Court spokeswoman said Judge Mark Denton last week approved a temporary order sought by lawyers for a California woman who was critically wounded at the country music festival on Oct. 1.

The order covers records kept by MGM Resorts International. Other defendants are the concert promoter, the Texas company that manufactures a device police say the gunman used to make semi-automatic weapons fire almost continuously, and Stephen Paddock’s estate.

MGM Resorts says it has no intention of renting the suite Paddock used and is cooperating in the investigation, including preserving evidence.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/26/2018 at 19:40

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Drought-Ending Rain Built up Fuel to Feed Deadly California Fires

There’s a dark side to the torrent of precipitation that ended California’s long drought earlier this year: Rain and snow pumped life back into bushes, shrubs and grasses and created ideal fuel for infernos.

They’ve been raging since Sunday in the wine country north of San Francisco, claiming at least 21 lives, and also in Orange County near Los Angeles. Vegetation that blossomed in May and June dried out when summer temperatures soared, to record levels in some areas. Once-welcome green foliage crumbled into a parched stockpile for a disastrous fall fire season.

Then came gusty autumn winds – the bad luck of two weather systems colliding – and the stage was set for massive wildfires that have so far charred almost 170,000 acres.

“The conditions are just ripe – the recipe is just right,” said Amy Head, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CalFire for short, who was in the field with crews at the Tubbs Fire between Calistoga and Santa Rosa on Wednesday.

The combination of high winds and dry conditions set up what the National Weather Service calls a “red flag warning.” And it’s not over. Head said another warning will likely be issued through Thursday.

Fire has consumed or significantly damaged at least five wineries in Napa Valley in a blow to an industry that pumps $58 billion annually into the state’s economy, and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and other structures, according to CalFire. The toll of death and destruction is expected to rise. Governor Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency in several counties. Hundreds of people are still reported missing.

At this point, the exact sparks that ignited the various fires haven’t been determined; the culprit could be Mother Nature or human stupidity, or a combination. Some are pointing fingers at power lines knocked down by strong gusts of wind. But it seems clear that the greenery the state welcomed in the spring after so many years of drought has played a big role.

“It’s one of the things you have to work through — you get that relief but then you have that follow-on fall where conditions are ripe for fires to be extreme,” said Mike Anderson, the California state climatologist in Sacramento.

For all the lesser foliage that flourished earlier this year, many trees didn’t revive – they need a lot more moisture – and a bark-beetle infestation left a swath of dried trunks vulnerable to sparks. In June, Head estimated California had 100 million dead trees.

All of it primed the state for disaster when two weather patterns got into position to play their roles in the drama. One was a low-pressure system spinning counter-clockwise over the U.S. Southwest, the other a high-pressure ridge in the Pacific rotating the other way. They meshed like gears to pull dry air and high winds into northern California, Anderson said.

Is there hope on the horizon? Anderson said the strongest winds might start to ease up over the next 48 hours. Even so, the weather service is maintaining a fire weather watch through the weekend.

There is a chance of rain next week. But even then, Anderson said “we’re we’re just catching the dregs.”

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Posted by Insurance - 05/23/2018 at 19:40

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Gas Line Explosion in California Desert Destroys Equipment

Southern California authorities say nobody was hurt when a natural gas line caught fire and exploded, destroying heavy construction equipment in the western Mojave Desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The San Bernardino Sun reported blast was reported Sunday just south of Interstate 40, about 25 miles east of Barstow.

Ryan Vaccaro, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, says a crew of about 16 workers was evacuated before the explosion when somebody smelled a gas odor.

The newspaper says the blast destroyed equipment, created a crater in the ground and sparked a small brush fire.

The line belongs to Southern California Gas Co., according to spokeswoman Christine Detz. She tells the newspaper a drop in pressure within the transmission line preceded the explosion.

The cause is under investigation.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:41

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California Transit Agency Fined $220K in Worker Deaths

A Northern California judge has fined the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency $220,000 for the deaths of two workers accidentally hit by a commuter train.

The two workers were killed in 2013 while inspecting a track east of San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission sought the fine and three years of probation after determining the transit agency’s safety rules and procedure were inadequate. The agency will have to pay an additional $440,000 if it violates terms of its probation, which include tightening its safety rules and submitting more detailed safety reports.

BART spokespeople didn’t return phone and email inquiries.

The two workers had their backs to the train when struck in violation of agency safety rules. One member of inspection crews is always supposed to be watching for trains.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:40

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California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Surplus Lines Association Backed Bill

Assembly Bill 1641, legislation offered and lobbied by the Surplus Line Association of California that is designed to give the California Department of Insurance more flexibility in deciding which coverages to add to the Export List, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill unanimously passed both chambers of the California legislature.

The new law will be crucial in ensuring coverage for commercial consumers and also for emerging new technologies, including high-speed rail and autonomous vehicles, as well as other large commercial projects, and new risks such as legal, recreational cannabis and cybersecurity risks, according to the SLA.

AB 1641 was introduced and sponsored by Assembly Insurance Chair Tom Daly, D-Anaheim.

Surplus Lines Association of California Executive Director Benjamin McKay.

“We commend Governor Brown for signing this important bill,” Benjamin McKay, the SLA’s executive director, said in a statement. “The governor has demonstrated a forward-thinking vision and an embrace of innovation, and we are grateful to him for enacting this law.”

The Export List is a list of coverages, maintained by the CDI, which are eligible for placement in the surplus line market without the necessity of a broker obtaining three declinations from the admitted market. Coverages are placed on the Export List after the CDI holds a public hearing and determines that the coverages are not readily available in the admitted market.

The SLA operates as a self-governed private organization that serves as the statutory surplus line advisory organization to the CDI and facilitates the state’s capacity to monitor and direct surplus line brokers’ placements of insurance with eligible non-admitted insurers.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/05/2018 at 19:40

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San Francisco Airport Experiences Another Air Canada Jet Safety Issue

Another Air Canada safety issue at San Francisco Airport is under investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration said this week it is investigating the second serious safety issue in three months involving an Air Canada passenger jet landing at San Francisco airport.

Six times the control tower at San Francisco International Airport ordered an incoming Air Canada plane to abort its landing, fearing another plane might be on the runway. Each time, the order went unanswered.

Finally, air traffic controllers Sunday night took out an emergency red light and aimed it outside their window toward the jet to try to get the pilots’ attention. That didn’t work either, the plane landed and one of the pilots then radioed that he was having problems with the radio.

“That’s pretty evident,” the controller responded.

In July, an Air Canada jet with 140 people on board nearly landed on a taxiway where four planes were waiting before takeoff, prompting the FAA to issue new rules for nighttime landings and control tower staffing at the airport.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/05/2018 at 19:40

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Worker Safety, Regulation Overload Among Highlights of Drone Expo In California

Drones may already be impacting the world of workers’ compensation.

Fewer workers on communications towers are falling to their deaths, according to Todd Schlekeway, executive director of the National Association of Tower Erectors.

Schlekeway, who was speaking at a panel on Tuesday at the Drone World Expo in San Jose, Calif., which runs through Thursday, was citing an OSHA study of 135 deaths on communications towers recorded since 2003.

Schlekeway was moderating a panel to talk about how drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are transforming the communications industry, along with Thomas Camp, in business and product development with Verizon’s innovation program, Christopher Moccia, executive vice president of telecommunications for Measure, and Art Pregler, UAS program director for AT&T.

Todd Schlekeway (left), with the National Association of Tower Erectors, moderated a panel to talk about how drones are transforming the communications industry, along with Art Pregler, with AT&T, Christopher Moccia, with Measure, and Thomas Camp, with Verizon.

The OSHA study shows that after a spike in deaths in 2013 and 2014, when a massive amount of communication tower building took place to keep up with an explosion in cellular demand, the number of deaths have been falling.

There were four deaths in 2015, seven deaths in 2016 and two deaths so far this year, although the year isn’t over and there were some recent deaths that have yet to be reported, according to Schlekeway.

He noted that there are now 1.2 smartphone devices per person in the U.S., and there are more than 308,000 cell sites and towers. With demand continuing for more towers, and maintenance required of all of those towers, Schlekeway and his fellow panelists said drones are increasingly important in helping to keep workers safer.

Drones are being used often to check out towers for natural hazards like bee hives and raptor nests, to look for infrastructure defects that could injure or kill someone ascending a tower, and to determine what tools will be needed when workers get to their destination high in the air to save trips up, the panelists said.

Rules and Regulations

Despite some consensus followed by some decision making from Congress and the FAA on drone regulations over the past few years, just who is calling the shots when it comes to making drone laws and regulations is far from decided.

It was a difficult question members of one panel tried to tackle, including Charles Raley, unmanned aircraft systems team lead for enforcement, policy and outreach for Federal Aviation Administration.

He and fellow panelists attempted to give a picture of the state of laws and regulations concerning drones, which are being hammered out from federal down to local levels.

“The current state is there’s a lot of tension in this area, and there’s a lack of clarity as well,” Raley said. “Unfortunately, there’s not exactly a clear answer as to who controls what.”

Speaking for the FAA and what it controls, he offered that “we think it’s a lot.”

He said many laws already on the books of state and local governments, such as nuisance ordinances and laws governing acts of voyeurism, that will cover most issues that are being created by drone operators.

Drone Insurance

The lone insurance presence with a booth at the expo was BWI Aviation Insurance, a Corona, Calif.-based broker specializing in drone and other aerospace coverage.

Wesley Ellish, who was working the booth with a few fellow brokers, said they decided to take a spot at the expo in hopes of selling polices and educating drone users on the need for insurance.

“It kind of seems like insurance is on the backburner for some of these guys,” Ellish said.

She said that while several attendees who stopped at the booth felt insurance was the last of their worries, they were able to give dozens of quotes for basic liability policies to offer drone operators coverage.

Quotes were given to a mix of operators, ranging from startup companies to companies that were already considered mid-sized with growing fleets of drones, but by far the class of business that showed the biggest interest in buying drone insurance were instructors, she said.

“I’ve noticed we’ve had quite a few instructors coming up,” she said.

She said they were interested in a training policy that covers the drone and property damage incurred while they or their students were operating the drone.

Panels on Wednesday include “Drones in the Insurance Industry,” “Follow the Money: Exploring the Drone Investment Climate,” and “Drone Response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.”

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Posted by Insurance - 04/29/2018 at 19:41

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