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Washington Statecar insurance Delays Public Long-Term Care Insurance Until April, Explores Changes auto insurance quotes and homeowners insurance quote

KIRKLAND, WA – AUGUST 24: Deborah Trigueiro (R) visits her husband Douglas Smith, at the Life Care … [+] Center of Kirkland. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)Getty Images home insurance quotes

Facing a lawsuit and political opposition, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has delayed until April a payroll tax aimed at funding the state’s first-in-the-nation public long-term care insurance program. Inslee said the delay will give the legislature time to address what he called “areas that need adjus small business insurance

In January, a state long-term care commission advising the legislature and governor will recommend a series of changes aimed at responding to some of these public concerns. Those revisions themselves are likely to be highly controversial car insurance quotes.

Employers were supposed to begin collecting a 0.58 percent payroll tax to fund the insurance program starting on January 1. The tax is mandatory for most wage earners. The program is scheduled to begin paying each eligible participant up to $36,500 in benefits starting in 2025.

Responding to critics

Conservative activists have made opposition to the program a major priority, filing a lawsuit and organizing an effort to repeal the program. The private insurance industry has quietly opposed it as well, fearing the state’s front-end benefit will compete with its products. In September, a long list of businesses and business groups urged Inslee to delay the tax until key issues can be resolved.

In response, Inslee and Democratic legislative leaders are moving to reform the program before the state begins collecting the tax.

They are likely to address some issues involving workers who pay into the program but are ineligible to collect benefits.  About 150,000 people work in Washington but live in Canada as well as Oregon, Idaho, and other states. Others may pay into the program as Washington residents but eventually move out of state. In both cases, they must pay the tax but could not receive benefits because only Washington State residents are eligible. In addition, some older adults may not pay into the program for long enough to become vested and thus are ineligible to receive benefits.

The vesting rules are complex. They require beneficiaries to pay into the program for at least ten years without a break of five or more years, or three of the last six years before they apply for benefits.  

The private insurance exemption

The state ran into other issues earlier this year as the result of a controversial provision that allowed workers to opt out of the program if they purchased private long-term care coverage by November 1. That opt-out drove a run on private insurance that eventually resulted in carriers temporarily ending sales in the state.

Because the law requires only a one-time snapshot, the insurers feared customers would pay premiums long enough to receive an exemption and then drop their coverage.

A median wage worker in Washington would pay about $300-a-year in premiums but far more than that in premiums. Still, almost 300,000 people applied for an exemption and the state is working through the requests.

Finally, the tax rate is too low for the program to be actuarily sound over the long term.

Suggested reforms

The advisory commission recommended changes to address most, but not all, of these concerns. Two big issues: Most of the solutions would be administratively complex and without other revisions they would result in higher premiums.

The commission proposed:

·      Allowing workers who retire before vesting to voluntarily continue paying premiums equal to what they paid while working, adjusted for inflation. Once they make a total of 10 years of contributions, they’d become fully vested.

·      Exempting non-residents who work in Washington from program and the tax. Those who move into the state would have to participate.  

·      Those who receive an exemption from the tax because they hold a private long-term care insurance policy would be required to recertify at least every three years that they still own a policy.

The commission did not recommend what to do about those who live, work, and pay premiums in the state but move elsewhere before claiming benefits. Allowing such full portability could significantly raise premiums and the commission said addressing the problem would take further study.   

Paying for changes

To cover the costs of these reforms and assure the program is actuarily sound, the commission proposed several other changes. Lawmakers oppose raising the premium tax, so the commission suggested allowing the state insurance fund to invest in “a full range” of assets rather than just conservative bonds. This would require a state constitutional amendment.

The group also said outside actuaries who price the program should assume it includes a 45-day waiting (or elimination) period before people can claim benefits. This is similar to the 90- day waiting period in most private policies.

As the first state to enact a public long-term care insurance program, Washington is experimenting—and inevitably making mistakes. It also has become a lightning rod for the those who oppose a public program for ideological or business reasons.

Policymakers—and consumers— around the country are watching closely to see if the state can get a politically and financially sustainable long-term care insurance program up and running. The next few months will be critical.

Pet Insurance Can Help Keep Costs For Your Furbaby In Check

“I’d say at least half of the clients I come in contact with have money concerns,” Dr. TB Thompson, a Phoenix-based veterinarian at Natural Pets HQ, said in an email. “When pets get into complicated, life-threatening medical trouble, costs add up fast.”

Pet insurance won’t reimburse you for every penny you spend at the vet, but it can help prevent you from being slapped with an expensive bill.

A policy will typically pay 70% to 90% of your costs after you pay a deductible, which can range from $0 to $1,000 or more.

“Consider buying pet insurance unless you can easily fund treating a pet emergency that costs $2,500 and up,” Thompson says.

There are a few types of pet insurance plans. Comprehensive plans, the most robust, help cover the cost of care due to accidents, illnesses and surgeries, as well as vaccinations and diagnostic tests. Accident and illness coverage helps pay for emergency care, surgeries, hospitalizations and prescription medications, while accident-only policies help cover expenses after an accident. Some insurers also offer wellness plans, which take care of certain tests, exams, vaccinations and preventive treatments.

Wharton Pals Sell Young Alfred, Online Insurance Agent, To Fox’s Credible

Credible, a San Francisco online lending site owned by Fox News’ parent company, has acquired Young Alfred, a Philadelphia digital start-up hatched by two Wharton MBA students to compete with your neighborhood insurance agent.

The company’s name, Young Alfred — its informal slogan is “At Your Service” — recalls problem-solving fictional butlers called “Alfred” from the Batman franchise to the 1991 slapstick movie Hudson Hawk. The company is the brainchild of investment banker David Stasie and engineer-turned-investment trader Jason Christiansen, who met in 2015 at Penn’s business school, where their curriculum included inventing a start-up likely to make money in digital America.

“We thought about drone insurance. But drones were too new,” and there wasn’t much data to estimate risk, the foundation of insurance, Christiansen recalled. “So we looked at renters insurance, then home insurance. We were amazed, excited, appalled by how big an opportunity it was, and how it still worked through all these local agents.

“We were thinking surely someone must have invested in a way to do this online by now. But no, no one did it really well. We figured, why can’t we build it? We were green. And focused. And stubborn.”

The companies won’t say what Credible paid. But it’s the latest in a string of deals in what has been a “torrid sellers’ market” for private businesses in general, and software companies in particular, according to GF Data Resources, a Conshohocken firm that tracks private-company sales.

Overall, the typical sale for companies worth under $250 million was priced at 7.6 times earnings — the highest since the firm began tracking in 2005 — as cash-rich corporations and private-equity firms fuel a buying spree.

Financial companies worried in the mid-2000s that young Americans weren’t buying homes (were they held back by student debt, or just forming families late?). But Christiansen figured that, by the time they had hired enough engineers to offer policies packaged for people accustomed to online convenience, “Generation Z would be buying houses and expecting a best-in-class online insurance-buying experience, and we’d have the pipes all ready.”

They collected start-up capital from Pear Ventures, ERA, and Newfund Capital. Then they applied for insurance licenses in every state, and put staff to work inputting all 50 states’ homeowner and auto rules into Young Alfred applications tailored for easy use. In late 2019 they raised $10 million from investors such as Google’s Gradient Ventures. They improved the software to make it more attractive to online brokers, and built an in-house broker staff to answer customer questions.

The hard part was persuading insurers to use a new online service. “You might think, ‘two young guys promising to work hard at this, why wouldn’t they appoint our company?’ But a lot of them saw us as two finance guys, shiny and new, why risk their career on us?” said Christiansen.

After a year and a half of rejections, one of the first to try Young Alfred was the nation’s oldest insurer, the Philadelphia Contributionship (known as the “Hand in Hand” for its distinctive four-hand-clasp marker on insured homes), founded by Benjamin Franklin and his partners in 1752. “An alumnus at Wharton connected us,” Christiansen recalled.

The Contributionship and two other early adopters “were just enough to get started.”

The partners claimed to offer not just convenience, but also accuracy.

“Insurance agents know a lot. They are well trained,” said Christiansen. But especially for homeowners’ insurance, “the questions companies ask applicants are very detailed, and sometimes [agents] forget one. ’What breed of dog do you have?’ [Risks vary with size and type.] ‘Is there a screen around the porch?’ Companies told us they found that agents have errors in about 30% of applications.”

Young Alfred’s automated application didn’t go through if it wasn’t complete and verified.

As policies started flowing, more insurers signed up. The service currently offers 46 insurance carriers, and a waiting list as staff process more.

Haven’t online sign-ups provoked pushback from established agencies? Christiansen says carriers tell them they are not displacing neighborhood agents, but reaching new customers — young people buying their first homes or cars, digital-savvy retirees moving to resort areas. “We’re in all 50 states now,” said Christiansen. “Older people in Florida are very happy with us. We get the customers who want to make their own path.”

In the past four years, Young Alfred sold $6 billion worth of home and auto insurance for large and local underwriters.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s still a tiny fraction of the $40 trillion U.S. Real estate insurance market, and that’s not counting cars.

Credible won’t say how much it’s paying for Young Alfred. That company’s online “lending marketplace” offers mortgages from a range of banks, and student loans from Citizens Bank, Wilmington-based College Ave., online lender SoFi, and others.

“We very much look forward to adding insurance products,” said Credible founder Stephen Dash in a statement.

Will Credible use Young Alfred to take over the agency business? “There’s so many of these” insurance software start-ups in recent years, noted Paul Melchiorre, a veteran Philadelphia tech executive who is a former president of iPipeline, an Exton-based online life insurance software company.

Melchiorre noted that San Francisco-based Lemonade, which went public two years ago, attracted a horde of initial investors — its IPO debuted at a higher-than-expected $69 a share, then more than doubled in a few months. But it fell sharply to below its initial trading price this year, after a series of quarterly reports showing expenses were nearly triple the company’s annual sales, and profits were not on the horizon.

“I think the real disruption in insurance is yet to come,” Melchiorre concluded. “Companies like Tesla and Amazon are likely to take over insurance over time, because they have all that customer data. They know your risks, your credit scores, the last time you went to the bathroom. They know when your wife gets pregnant before she does. Big Data companies could take over the whole insurance process.”

Even before its sale, Young Alfred had become less visible in Philadelphia. Stasie moved to Arizona as the pandemic shut East Coast cities, and hired a cluster of staff for the company there. Christiansen is raising his family in Connecticut.

Still in Philadelphia are Young Alfred’s lawyers, at Cozen O’Conner, though the acquiring company has counsel of its own. Also, the founders’ alma mater, out in University City, where students are thinking up more digital business plans.