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State insurer, Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association, will stop issuing new policies for buildings standing in or built over water. Current policyholders can keep coverage as long as they own the building and pay their premiums. If water encroaches on a building not currently in or on top of water, coverage will be dropped. >> Steve Ostlund, life and health actuary for the Department of Insurance, awarded the Robert Dineen Award for excellence in leadership by the NAIC. Ostlund headed the Accident and Health Working Group and healthcare reform Actuarial Subgroup for NAIC this year.

Insurance Department changes filing procedure for continuing education hours. Providers of CE must now file completions electronically. The cost of filing is $1 per course and $1 per individual on the course roster. The cost of electronic filing can be passed on to the licensee. Providers are still required to send copies of rosters to the department for review and audit.

Average 3.4% increase slated for workers comp in 2011. First increase in a decade.

Symposium on property insurance market generates suggestions and statistics on losses. Non-hurricane losses up 65% since 2007, and two thirds of state’s 55 domestic property insurers are in the red, according to Guy Carpenter attendee Kevin Stokes. Citizens has paid almost $100 million in sinkhole claims on just $20 million collected premium. Cat fund needed additional $700 million in bonds. Reopened claims are plaguing the industry. Public adjusters need to be reined in. Some want sinkhole fund. Omnibus bill S.B. 2044 had many of the answers but was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Christ this spring over advice of Commissioner McCarty. >> Office of Insurance Regulation OKs 7.8% increase in workers comp rates beginning Jan. 1—first in seven years. The National Council on Compensation Insurance had requested an 8.3% increase. OIR uses a different medical trend factor than NCCI used, which led to the different rate calculation. >> Additional rate hikes for Citizens coverage of condo associations, commercial buildings, rental properties and other structures approved. Commercial, non-residential rates in high-risk coastal areas will rise by 9.9% and remain unchanged in non-coastal areas. Dwelling fire for rental properties to rise 10.4%; commercial residential condominiums, 8.1%; and condo association wind-only, 11%.

All those applying for a resident insurance license in the state must provide a full set of fingerprints. The law came into effect Nov. 1. Fingerprints may be submitted after a passing score is earned on licensing exams. Residents with active licenses are not affected. If applications for multiple licenses are submitted simultaneously, only one set of prints is required. The Insurance Division is no longer collecting $40 fee for criminal history record check and fingerprinting from residents or non-residents. Fingerprints are taken by appointment by FieldPrint, a vendor for the state.

Barbara Sherman resigned from the state Workers Compensation Commission in October. She had served on the commission for 20 years. >> Workers comp medical fees will increase 1.08% in 2011, based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index-U from Aug. 2009 to Aug. 2010, per state law. The Consumer Price Index-Medical increased 3.2% during the same period, but that doesn’t affect the workers comp rate.

Stephen Robertson appointed insurance commissioner, replacing Carol Cutter who died in September. Robertson has been executive director of the Department of Insurance since June, having first joined in 2008 as director of the Title Insurance Division.

State Supreme Court says employee’s injuries sustained in auto accident on the way to workers comp hearing aren’t eligible for workers compensation benefits. Dissenting judges on the court argued he should receive payments since travel to the meeting was mandatory.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the state’s largest health insurer, tells brokers there will be a 15% drop in small-group commissions starting in 2011. Add-on commission for large-group clients, usually 5%, will drop to about 3.5%, and brokers will need to negotiate with the employer group to make up the difference.

A dozen insurers have now settled with the state on charges they used inflated book values to rate motorcycles for coverage. Refunds of overcharged premiums total about $33.8 million.

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