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In response to consumer complaints about annuity sales and investment transactions, the Arizona Department of Insurance now offers a “Consumer Guide to Annuities for Seniors.” It is available online or by calling 602.354.2499. www.id.state.az.us

Approves a 12.8% decrease in workers comp rates effective July 1, 2008—a 52% decrease since 1995. Rate reductions are optional for insurers. >> Smaller hospitals in Arkansas have asked Insurance Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman to revise her interpretation of a law governing insurer payments to hospitals. They say their payments are less than reimbursements to large hospitals and sometimes don’t even meet costs. Bowman is expected to make a decision in the next couple of months. www.insurance.arkansas.gov

Commissioner Poizner announces emergency regulations governing California’s prior approval insurance rate system. The rules are intended to make the rate filing process more efficient and accurate while increasing transparency. The emergency is necessitated, says the commissioner, by an anticipated spate of prior approval filings this summer as a result of last-minute efforts to comply with the Auto Rating Factor deadline of July 14. At least one consumer group fears the emergency regulations will allow rate hikes and not enforce previous mandates for investment in poorer communities. >> The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) begins using the new Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast model, which standardizes the measurement of seismic risk throughout the state. The next CEA rate review this summer will rely on the new model. www.insurance.ca.gov

The state House Business Affairs and Labor Committee approves H.B. 1407, which not only increases maximum penalties up to 500% against insurers judged to unfairly deny claims, but also eases the insurance commissioner’s standard for evaluating whether claims were unfairly denied. It moves from determining willful, wrongful and reckless behavior on behalf of insurers to assessing insurer actions as unreasonable. Additionally, the bill allows people whose claims are denied to collect up to twice actual damages. The bill still must go through the House Appropriations Committee. www.dora.state.co.us/insurance

The state senate approves a first-of-its-kind U.S. law allowing small businesses to join with the state in offering 401(k) employee retirement plans. Advocates hail the plan as a means of saving employers 50% in administrative costs and bringing retirement plan availability to under-served workers. www.ct.gov/cid/site

An order to stop Allstate agents from writing new business is rescinded by Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal, which blames a clerical error that allowed the order’s premature release in violation of operating procedures. Allstate was suspended in January for allegedly failing to comply with subpoenas for documents on pricing. >> Senate Bill 2860, which passed the Senate in April and has the insurance commissioner’s support, mandates that property insurers use the “file and use” filing procedure for rate changes that exceed the most recently approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation, extending its effective closing from the end of 2008 to the end of 2011. www.floir.com

Commissioner John Oxendine announces gubernatorial run in 2010. He dropped his announced bid two years ago for lieutenant governor after political consultant Ralph Reed announced. Reed got caught in the federal Abramoff scandal and lost the race. >> The state senate has sent a bill to the governor eliminating state and local insurance premium taxes for high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). The bill includes an employer tax credit for enrollment in HDHPs and a tax deduction for participating individuals. www.inscomm.state.ga.us

The state Intermediate Court of Appeals rules that fees the state charged insurers were unconstitutional. Some of the money, which is supposed to go into the state’s compliance resolution fund in the state Insurance Division, was diverted into the state general fund. Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt argues the decision will bankrupt the Insurance Division by January. www.hawaii.gov/insurance

The state senate votes to allow continued payments to insurers that begin writing homeowners policies along the hurricane-exposed coast. The Louisiana Incentive Program reportedly had an excess of $60 million last year and was slated not to be extended. This bill also changes the appropriation of unused funds, dedicating leftover money for homeowners to offset their insurance bills. www.ldi.state.la.us

Governor Tim Pawlenty signs bad-faith bill, S.F. 2822, which excludes third-party bad-faith cases and punitive damages, places a $250,000 cap on damages and $100,000 in attorney fees, and requires proof of knowledge that a reasonable basis for a claim denial didn’t exist before a bad-faith claim can be brought. www.commerce.state.mn.us

Commissioner Mike Chaney approves an average 11% rate reduction request filed by the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association. Reductions depend on geographic zones, should take effect after June 1, and apply to new policies and policy renewals. To qualify for wind pool coverage, all new construction and reconstruction of 50% or more must comply with International Residential Building Codes or International Commercial Building Codes. >> Bulletin 2008-4 notifies insurers of increases in certain fees for services provided by the insurance department. Some fee increases are very large, including Form A Filing—rising from $25 to $2,000—and Larger Fraternals, Preliminary to Admission, which increases from $25 to $1,000. For information call 601.359.3569 or go online. www.doi.state.ms.us

Gov. Matt Blunt nominates Doug Ommen, Department of Insurance director, to the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission, which is an independent, administrative tribunal that decides disputes involving state agencies and other parties. www.insurance.mo.gov

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