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In Brief

Posted On: Feb. 20, 2011 12:00 AM CST

Federal regulators have approved 94% of requests—mainly from sponsors of “mini-med” and other limited benefit plans—for waivers from having to meet a key requirement of the health care reform law, according to information released in conjunction with a congressional hearing. The waivers are needed because most, if not all, mini-med plans run afoul of federal rules in the health care reform law that set a minimum annual dollar limit on essential benefits that health care plans must provide in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Asbestos and environmental losses jumped approximately 50% in 2009 after a 47% decline in 2008, according to an analysis by A.M. Best Co. Inc. It estimated that asbestos losses ultimately will cost the U.S. property/casualty insurance industry about $75 billion and environmental losses will cost about $42 billion. Previously, Best estimated asbestos losses for the industry would be $65 billion, and environmental losses of $56 billion.

The U.S. Senate has approved legislation that would repeal the health care reform law requirement that employers furnish 1099 statements whenever they do more than $600 in business with a corporate vendor. The provision is part of the broader bill, S. 223, that the Senate approved last week on an 87-8 vote.

Enterprise risk management continues to gain favor among financial institutions, according to “Navigating in a Changed World” by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. It found that 52% of the financial institutions surveyed reported they had an ERM program in place, and an additional 27% said they were implementing ERM. In 2008, 36% of the respondents said they implemented ERM, and 23% were in the process of doing so.

Kentucky licensed 25 captives in 2010, bringing the state's year-end total to 127 as Kentucky continued its rapid growth as a captive insurance company domicile. A majority of the new captives were small and qualify for favorable tax treatment under Section 831(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. Under that section, up to $1.2 million in premiums can be paid to the captive without the premiums being included in the captive's taxable income. The number of new captives licensed last year was down somewhat from the record 39 captives licensed in 2009 and 35 in 2008.

The Department of Health and Health Services said it expects to distribute about $3.6 billion in reimbursements during fiscal 2011 to employers and other sponsors of early retiree health care plans. The remaining $1.4 billion of the $5 billion fund authorized under last year's health care reform law would be distributed during fiscal 2012, HHS said.

The Swiss Re Cat Bond Performance Indices indicate the cat bond market has recovered, Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd. said in a report. Key global index metrics “indicate that the cat bond market has fully recovered from the financial crisis and is currently comparable to the pre-crisis environment of 2007. Increased demand for cat bonds has pushed the market value of the index above the par value for the first time since August 2005 and to the second-highest year-end market value, $12.2 billion.” for 2010.

The National Flood Insurance Program once again has made the Government Accountability Office's list of high-risk federal operations. In a report, the GAO said the NFIP is not likely to generate enough revenue to repay the billions of dollars borrowed from the Treasury Department to cover claims from hurricanes in 2005 or future catastrophes. The lack of revenue underscores structural weakness in the program's funding, according to the report.

Aon International Energy Inc. has agreed to a $36,000 settlement with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control in placing coverage and paying premiums for facultative retrocession reinsurance associated with petrochemical projects in Iran in 2005. OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes. The settlement is the first publicly announced resolution of an enforcement action involving the reinsurance industry, said Deirdre G. Johnson, a partner with law firm Crowell & Moring L.L.P.