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In Brief


Colorado State team cuts storm projection

The Colorado State University hurricane forecasting team has lowered its 2007 hurricane estimate to eight for this year's Atlantic hurricane season from the nine forecast on May 31. The team also reduced its estimate of named Atlantic and Gulf Coast storms to 15 from 17 forecast in May. The number of intense hurricanes predicted by the team dropped to 4 from 5 forecast in May.

Katrina water damage not covered: Court

A three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled that the flood exclusion in Louisiana commercial and homeowners policies precludes recovery for water damage sustained when levees failed after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in September 2005. A group of about 40 policyholders held that the exclusion should not apply because the levees had been poorly designed and built. The panel, in overturning a lower court decision, noted the policyholders' arguments but held "we conclude, however, that even if the plaintiffs can prove that the levees were negligently designed, constructed or maintained and that the breaches were due to this negligence, the flood exclusions in the plaintiffs' policies unambiguously preclude their recovery."

Beacon Mutual fined, to refund $7 million

Rhode Island's dominant workers compensation insurer, Beacon Mutual Insurance Co., has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty and return $7 million to eligible policyholders as a result of a market conduct exam that revealed improprieties. The exam of Beacon by Rhode Island's Department of Business Regulation also resulted in 79 recommendations related to board practices, financial controls, underwriting procedures and management structure. The insurer said that the problems stem from activities carried out before it implemented reforms and changes in April 2006.

Premium growth slows among U.S. captives

Premium growth for U.S.-domiciled captive insurers slowed last year, but captives' combined ratios improved dramatically, according to a new report. The report by A.M. Best Co. Inc. found that net written premiums of captives based in U.S. domiciles rose just 2.7% in 2006 to $10.2 billion. That increase is significantly lower than the 7.3% average written premium increase over the last five years. Additionally, year-end surplus climbed to $18.8 billion at year-end 2006, up 10.3% from year-end 2005, while captives' combined ratios improved to 94.1% at year-end 2006 compared with 102% at year-end 2005. The information is based on captive insurers for which Best was able to obtain financial statements.

URAC launches PBM accreditation

Nonprofit health care accreditation organization URAC has developed voluntary quality accreditation standards for the pharmacy benefit management industry. URAC has launched a program for health plans and standalone PBMs in the commercial market to receive accreditation that they have met quality standards set by the Washington-based nonprofit for consumer protection and empowerment, appropriate access to drugs and pharmacies, patient safety, and disclosure of pricing and contracting terms, according to a statement.