Daily Insurance Report   
Walt Bernard Podgurski,  Editor,  440-773-1108, 
Walt@DailyInsuranceReport.com


Friday, 05/01/20
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Do NOT Sell Life Insurance in Person: Pennsylvania
Insurance may be essential, but, in Pennsylvania officials' eyes, agent-client air sharing is not.
By Allison Bell / Think Advisor

Agents and brokers in Pennsylvania who complete insurance sales in person now run their risk of losing their licenses.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has issued a “stay at home” order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many mayors and governors, Wolf has been trying to slow the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) — the virus that causes COVID-19 pneumonia, COVID-19 heart inflammation, and COVID-19 kidney inflammation — by calling for many workers to stay at home.






Employee Benefits as Payroll Costs under the Paycheck Protection Program
Haynes and Boone LLP / LEXOLOGY

Businesses that received a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) are eligible for forgiveness of that loan if, among other things, the loan proceeds are used to cover “payroll costs” incurred over the eight-week period after the loan is made. Payroll costs, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee (i.e., $15,384 over the eight-week period), are broadly defined to include, among other things:

Salary, wages, commissions, or tips;

Employee benefits costs, such as for vacation or paid family or medical leave (other than wages for which a credit is received under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act), group health care costs, retirement plan contributions, and severance benefits; and

State and local taxes assessed on employee compensation.

As of the date of this posting, no guidance has been issued by the IRS or the Department of Treasury to further clarify what specific items qualify as payroll costs. In the interim, employers should consider applying a common-sense approach when determining which expenses qualify as payroll costs by limiting such expenses to payments made in the normal course of the employer’s operations. For instance:






EMPLOYEES FACE 'REALLY TOUGH CHOICE' AS STATES SAY RETURN TO WORK OR LOSE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
BY BRENDAN COLE /

Americans worried about contracting the coronavirus at work are facing the tough choice of having to decide whether to return to their jobs or risk losing their unemployment benefits as states start to reopen.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot has given the go ahead for movie theaters, retail stores and malls to reopen on Friday. But the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has said that to be eligible for unemployment benefits, workers must be "willing and able to work all the days and hours required for the type of work you are seeking," The Texas Tribune reported.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that social distancing in 77 out of 99 counties would be loosened due to a decline in new cases or no new cases at all for the past two weeks, one of the requirements for states to reopen.

While the TWC has since said it "may need to review" situations "on a case by case basis," the opening up of states, some of which have not met government guidelines for a decrease in COVID-19 cases, has raised questions over how and when workers should return to work.



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Beware of fake insurance products
BY RUSSELL KENT / Galion Inquirer

COLUMBUS — Ohio Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment today issued a consumer alert warning Ohioans that individuals claiming to be licensed insurance agents are contacting consumers to sell fake insurance products. In most of the situations identified, the individuals are calling from phony telephone numbers, do not hold an insurance license or work for a licensed insurance agency or insurance company, and are heavily marketing the so-called insurance product as providing some sort of COVID-19 coverage. Scammers are also using robocalls and websites to market fake insurance policies.



EBSA issues relief, guidance for employee benefits plans
BRIAN CROCE / Pensions & Investments

The Labor Department will give retirement plan officials more time to furnish benefit statements, annual funding notices and other disclosures required by ERISA due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Retirement plan officials will have more time to furnish benefit statements, annual funding notices, and other notices and disclosures required by ERISA "so long as they make a good-faith effort to furnish the documents as soon as administratively practicable," according to a relief notice filed Wednesday by the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration.

The notice, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, indicates that "good faith" includes the use of electronic alternative means of communicating with plan participants and beneficiaries who the plan fiduciary reasonably believes have effective access to those types of communication, including email, text messages and continuous-access websites.

The Labor Department said it recognizes that some employers and service providers might not be able to forward participant payments and withholdings to employee pension benefit plans within prescribed time frames during the coronavirus pandemic.



Obamacare May Help Many Laid-Off Workers Get Health Insurance
BY STEVEN REINBERG / U.S. News & World Report

Many of the newly unemployed might not know they can get public insurance or subsidies for coverage through the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplaces, according to an analysis published this month by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.

The study estimated that about 60% of the 24 million uninsured workers in the most vulnerable industries and their family members are eligible for Medicaid or Obamacare insurance subsidies -- even if they're getting unemployment benefits.

The more than 14 million people in this group include workers in retail, restaurant, hotel, entertainment, dry cleaning, home health, day care and transportation services, the researchers said.

Coverage varies in states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not, however.



Can API vendors solve healthcare’s data woes?
Jonathan Shieber / TechCrunch

While hospitals, urgent care facilities and health systems have stored patient records electronically for years thanks to laws passed under the Clinton administration, those records were difficult for patients themselves to access. The way the system has been historically structured has made it nearly impossible for an individual to access their entire medical history.

It’s a huge impediment to ensuring that patients receive the best care they possibly can, and until now it’s been a boulder that companies have long tried to roll uphill, only to have it roll over them.

Now, new regulations are requiring that the developers of electronic health records can’t obstruct interoperability and access by applications. Those new rules may unlock a wave of new digital services.

At least that’s what companies like the New York-based startup Particle Health are hoping to see. The startup was founded by a former emergency medical technician and consultant, Troy Bannister, and longtime software engineer for companies like Palantir and Google, Dan Horbatt.



U.S. health insurers benefit as elective care cuts offset coronavirus costs
by Thomson Reuters

As Americans delay elective surgeries and avoid doctors and hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare spending declines have more than offset the added costs of COVID-19 care, insurance executives and experts say, boosting U.S. health insurer profits.

Those gains, however, could be short term, depending on how quickly the coronavirus outbreak subsides and healthcare business begins to return to something close to normal.

UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health insurer, last week posted first-quarter earnings above Wall Street expectations and kept its profit forecast in place for 2020, despite an economy battered by massive layoffs and business shutdowns to slow the spread of the virus.

When Anthem Inc, Humana Inc and Cigna Corp report their first-quarter results this week, Wall Street analysts expect a similar trend. CVS Health, a pharmacy company that owns health insurer Aetna, reports in May.






Archives

Monday - 04/27/20 - - Insurers To Sell More Obamacare As Coronavirus Hits Employer Coverages

Tuesday - 04/28/20 - - Governor’s quandary: Who should get California workers’ comp benefits for COVID-19?

Wednesday - 04/29/20 - -  Pandemic prompts insurance carriers to change employee benefits eligibility requirements

Thursday - 04-30-20 - - How the Trump administration accidentally insured over 200,000 through Obamacare

Friday - 04-24-20 - - She got a forgivable loan. Her employees hate her for it.


Editorial Mission Statement: The goal of this publication is to provide readers a broad selection of what is being written about the insurance industry and related issues. Some articles may have a “tilt” towards a particular perspective one way or another. Inclusion in this newsletter is not an endorsement of any views or content; but report the various and differing views appearing in media.
Contact Us
Walt Bernard Podgurski - - Editor
440-773-1108
Walt@DailyInsuranceReport.com