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In Brief


The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will stop accepting applications after May 5 as the $5 billion program's funds are being depleted rapidly, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said last week. The program, created by the health care reform law, partially reimburses employers and other early retiree care plan sponsors for claims incurred by retirees and their dependents. As of March 17, $1.8 billion had been distributed.

A New York federal judge has dismissed some claims against American International Group Inc. related to losses sustained by its employee pension plans, but also refused to dismiss others. Defendants in the suit, In Re American International Group Inc. ERISA Litigation II, include AIG and 59 individuals, including former CEOs Martin Sullivan and Robert Willumstad. While U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain dismissed some allegations in the lawsuit, other charges she refused to dismiss include misrepresentation or omission to plan participants, duty of prudence and duty to monitor, among others. She dismissed all claims regarding a plan covering employees in Puerto Rico, finding the plaintiffs had no standing to sue.

The Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. has established a political action committee called RISK PAC. Terry Fleming, the immediate past president of RIMS, is chairman of the RISK PAC trustees committee. The committee, consisting of RIMS members, will govern the political action committee report back to the RIMS board. The political action committee will support the campaigns of candidates running for Congress, according to RIMS.

Douglas G. Elliot will join Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. as president of commercial markets effective April 6, the insurer said. Previously, Mr. Elliot was president and CEO of HSB Group Inc., a unit of Munich Reinsurance Co., and president of Specialty Insurance.

Employees no longer could receive tax-free reimbursement from their flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts for out-of-pocket expenses related to most abortions under a bill the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee approved. Under the bill, which the committee cleared on a 22-14 vote, FSA or HSA reimbursement for abortion-related expenses would be added to the employee's taxable income. Under current law, such reimbursements are tax-free.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed into law a bill that extends the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to 20 years after they become an adult, or 20 years after they discover they were abused as minors, whichever is later. The law, which takes effect July 1, is expected to increase the number of lawsuits against employers of accused pedophiles, such as schools, day care providers and churches.

There is little evidence that self-insured health insurance plans deny claims at a higher rate than fully insured plans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report. “Overall, we find little evidence that self-insured plans differ systematically from fully insured plans in terms of benefit generosity, price or claims denial rates,” the report found. The report noted that self-funded employers have an incentive to approve claims.

Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters cost insurers more than $43 billion in 2010, according to a sigma study by Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd. That's an increase of about 60% from 2009's estimated $27 billion in insured damages, according to reinsurer. Swiss Re estimated that catastrophes last year caused about $218 billion in economic damage, more than triple 2009's $68 billion. The bulk of the insured damage—about $40 billion—stemmed from natural disasters while Swiss Re attributed the remaining $3 billion to man-made disasters.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission has granted Liberty Insurance Co. Ltd. approval to establish a branch in Guangzhou, parent Liberty Mutual Group Inc. said. The Chongqing-based unit received approval this week to begin preparations for a provincial branch in Guangzhou, furthering the insurer's overall international strategy, Liberty Mutual said.