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Regulatory News

Budget cutbacks force closing of Department of Insurance’s Tucson office. Anyone needing Department services should contact the Phoenix office.

Commissioner Poizner issues $1 million grant to Fresno District Attorney’s Office for the fight against insurance fraud. Other grants are planned for Kings, Madera, Tulare and Merced Counties. >> Appellate court rules that simultaneous but distinct industrial injuries must be compensated separately in a permanent disability case, upholding a 2004 reform measure regarding claims apportionment.

Insurance lobbyists, the Department of Insurance, and the Department of Economic and Community Development support a bill in the state legislature to allow the state to join the Interstate Compact organized by the NAIC to create a central point for filing, reviewing and approving insurance products based on uniform national standards. The bill faces opposition from Attorney General Blumenthal, who is wary of out-of-state regulatory control and cumbersome processes for rejecting insurance products approved at the national level.

Licenses 22 captives in 2008, bringing total to 40. Officials cite tax incentives and improved regulatory environment.

Jury awards $8 million to widow of smoker in case against Philip Morris. An appeal is certain. Some 8,000 cases against tobacco interests have been filed since 2006. >> Office of Insurance Regulation subpoenas State Farm policyholder data as part of State Farm’s plan to withdraw from the Florida market. State Farm intends to drop 1.2 million personal policies, and it plans to discontinue coverage for boats, commercial property and accidents. Commissioner McCarty says the data ordered will assist his office in finding alternate insurers for dropped policyholders.

Studying possibility of allowing employees to designate primary care provider for treatment of a workers comp injury and forbidding employers or their insurers from coercing or influencing the choice of a doctor. Supporters say care would be improved. Opponents say the costs and associated management of the claim would drive employers out of Iowa.

National Council on Compensation Insurance loss cost filing lists 17.4% drop for the state. Department of Insurance approves it, and companies are expected to begin filing for rate decreases shortly.

Workers comp system audit finds insurers are mishandling claims and underpaying benefits at about $3 million a year. Auditor recommends the state hire an ombudsman to assist workers in the injury compensation process. Auditor also says state labor department comes up short in enforcement of laws on employer coverage and in billing uninsured employers for reimbursement to the state when workers comp benefits are paid from the state fund.

Gov. Nixon appoints John Huff as Director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Regulation. He moves from Swiss Re. State Supreme Court rules that employees affected by accidental injuries that were removed from the state’s workers comp coverage in 2005 are not under exclusivity provision and can sue employers for compensation.

State house passes captive minimum-tax relief that prorates tax based on the quarter a company is licensed, preventing those licensing late in the year from having to pay the entire yearly premium tax. Awaits further approvals. >> Laura McGee appointed assistant deputy insurance commissioner in State Auditor’s Office. McGee graduated from Browning High School and is a registered member of the Blackfeet Tribe.

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