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Gov. Robert Bentley has established a 24-member panel to examine state’s insurance market and recommend improvements. Baldwin County probate judge Tim Russell heads the commission. Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling is also on the panel, along with legislators, agents, policyholders and carrier reps.

A.B. 315 signed into law, allowing only the insured’s home state to tax surplus lines premium and regulate surplus lines transactions. Brokers in the state will have to determine if an applicant for non-admitted insurance is a California insured. The law allows the home state to be determined by where an insured has the greatest percentage of taxable surplus lines premium if none of the risk exposure is located in its state of domicile (which conflicts with new federal law). Brokers must maintain records of how they determined the insured’s home state; how they decided if a commercial purchaser or insured was exempt from the “diligent search” requirement; and how they allocated premium to the states, in cases when that is required. Under the law, state tax applies to 100% of surplus lines premium. Stamping fee applies to full premium. California has not agreed with other states on tax allocations. Eligibility requirements for home-state placements must conform with the NRRA. Carriers on the List of Eligible Surplus Lines Insurers are grandfathered into the List of Approved Surplus Line insurers through the expiration of all policies in effect as of July 21, 2011. If brokers want to use an ineligible carrier, they need to file for approval on behalf of the company, or the non-admitted insurer has to file on its own. Policies issued or renewed prior to the July 21, 2011, effective date of the law are governed by the old rules through expiration of the policies.

Robin Westcott named as insurance consumer advocate. She is a lawyer and was most recently acting deputy commissioner for property and casualty in the Office of Insurance Regulation. She will continue as executive director of Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force. >> New law allows injured workers to receive workers comp benefits via prepaid card. >> New assessment rates for Special Disability Trust Fund have been set for workers comp insurers and some self-insurers at 1.46% of net written premiums from July 1 through Dec. 31. The rate drops to 1.44% as of Jan. 1, 2012. >> Employer workers compensation premium audits are no longer required unless mandated by the insurance policy or requested by regulators or insureds. >> Effective date of cancellation of workers compensation policy has been changed to the date requested by the insured or the date of the written request for cancellation if no date is specified. >> Under new law, notices of renewal premiums or non-renewal of a policy may be sent only to the location that administers the policy instead of to all named insureds.

Tom Donovan appointed deputy director of Department of Insurance. He was lead attorney for the department on assignment from the attorney general. He replaces Shad Priest who is now a lobbyist with Regence Blue Shield of Idaho.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance has filed for 8.8% decrease in voluntary advisory insurance rates, effective Sept. 1. Changes to state medical fee schedule expected to account for 7.4% of the drop. >> Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council approves upgrade of levees in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties. Improvements could be completed by 2014, in time for FEMA certification of the levees in 2015.

Receives waiver on healthcare medical loss ratio requirements that at least 80% of premiums in small plans and 85% in large be spent on medical care and quality assurance. Insurers in the state have until 2013 to meet the goals but must hit interim benchmarks between now and then. The timetable requires a 67% MLR this year and 75% next. Wellmark holds 84% of the individual market and spent 92% of premiums on care, but none of the six other top insurers in the state met the 80% standard last year. >> Woodbury County is working with regulators to keep dikes, berms and levees that were set up as temporary protection against Missouri River flooding. Water released from dams upstream will keep the river above normal levels through the fall in western Iowa.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants special commission set up to look at the Corps of Engineers’ handling of its reservoirs and releases into the Missouri River. The Corps says heavy rainfall and higher than average snowmelt required water releases, but others wonder if the Corps is attentive enough to flood control.

Receives deadline extension on MLR. Regulators sought a 65% ratio, increasing to 75% by 2013. Instead, Health and Human Services granted 75% target for 2011 and 80% for 2012. HHS found that the state’s major health insurer wasn’t likely to leave the state. >> Former commissioner Roy Woodall (1966-1967) has been nominated by Pres. Obama to serve on federal Financial Stability Oversight Council. He recently retired as senior insurance policy analyst at U.S. Treasury and was previously president of the National Association of Life Companies and an executive with the American Council of Life Insurers. >> Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark chosen to head NAIC’s Market Regulation and Consumer Affairs Committee.

Joins Nonadmitted Insurance Multi-State Agreement (NIMA). >> New workers compensation medical treatment guidelines are now in effect. They cover treatment for the spine, upper and lower extremities, neurological and neuromuscular disorders, and pain. The new guidelines can be found at http://www.laworks.net/WorkersComp/OWC_MedicalGuidelines.asp.

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