Thursday, September 24, 2009

Contact GEICO for storm claims at 1-800-841-3000 or

(BUSINESS WIRE)--GEICO urges policyholders whose vehicles have been damaged in the recent Atlanta area flooding to report their claims as early as possible. To reach GEICO’s claims team at anytime, 24 hours a day, call 1-800-841-3000 or report the claim on

“Our adjusters have been in Atlanta and the local areas all week assisting policyholders with damaged or flooded vehicles,” said Gary Musolf, head of GEICO claims in the region. “If you notice damage to your vehicle, contact GEICO right away so we can make arrangements to take care of your claim and get you back on the road.”

GEICO advises residents to heed all weather warnings and road closures. However, if driving is necessary, GEICO recommends these rain and flood driving tips to keep you safe:

* Heavy rain can make it difficult for other drivers to see you. Keep your headlights on and drive slowly, keeping your eyes out for on-coming traffic.
* If you see a large puddle or standing water, go around it or choose a different route. That puddle could be hiding a deep hole.
* Give yourself plenty of time to brake and do so gently in order to avoid hydroplaning.

“The safety of our policyholders and the quick and quality repair of their vehicles is our first priority during stressful times like these,” said Musolf.

GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) – as part of Berkshire Hathaway – is the third-largest private passenger auto insurer in the United States*. GEICO provides auto insurance coverage for 9 million policyholders and insures more than 16 million vehicles.

In addition to auto insurance, GEICO offers customers insurance products for their motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), boats, homes, apartments and mobile homes. Commercial auto insurance and personal umbrella protection and life insurance are also available.

As a member of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies, GEICO is rated A++ for financial strength by A.M. Best Company and ranks at the top of several national customer satisfaction surveys. For more information, go to

*A.M. Best 2008 market share data

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Launches Zagat Health Survey Tool

/PRNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA) today announced the launch of the Zagat Health Survey tool, an online survey tool that will allow its members to share their physician experiences with other members throughout the state.

"Zagat is widely known and trusted for its ability to help people share and learn from other consumer experiences. By working with them we are able to create a trusted resource for our members that will actively engage them in sharing and using that information," said Monye Connolly, president of BCBSGA. "We are committed to providing our members with useful information to better help them navigate the health care system. Making information available, such as the patient experience information contained in the Zagat Health Survey, along with other quality and cost transparency information, is part of that commitment."

The Zagat Survey enables BCBSGA to address an unmet need for peer-to-peer interaction among health care consumers. The Zagat Health Survey tool provides a vehicle for members to review physicians based on a set of distinct criteria, creating a trusted resource to support informed member decision-making. The criteria are solely designed to reflect a consumer's experience with a physician and not to reflect the quality of care received. This tool not only helps members, but is also designed to assist doctors in understanding members' experiences.

The online survey tool allows consumers to review their doctor visits based on:

-- Trust - Confidence in the physician's approach
-- Communication - Physician's bedside manner, responsiveness and rapport
-- Availability - Convenience for making appointments and physician's
-- Environment - Condition of the office, staff helpfulness, atmosphere
and amenities

Members are also asked whether they would recommend their doctor to others. The survey also features a comments section, allowing members to explain their ratings.

The online entry will display physician contact information, ratings on a 30-point scale for each of the four categories, and the percentage of members who recommend that physician. The most recent comments will be displayed first, and members will have the option to rate the usefulness of comments and report suspicious comments. BCBSGA members can complete the Zagat Health Survey by logging on to the secure member portal on the BCBSGA Web site.

"For physicians the Zagat survey tool can provide valuable, objective feedback on how their patients feel about them and their practice, information that often remains unknown," said Dr. Robert McCormack, medical director for BCBSGA. "For consumers, the survey can provide information to help them select a physician who is most likely aligned with their personal style and who will meet their health care needs. All-in-all, it is a viable mechanism that could very well change the way health care is measured and delivered throughout Georgia."

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Analysis Shows Narrow Age Rating Would Raise Premiums by Nearly 50 Percent, Causing Many Young and Healthy to Forgo Coverage

/PRNewswire/ -- Allowing age adjustments more restrictive than 5 to 1 would cause dramatic premium spikes for the young and healthy in the individual insurance market, making coverage unaffordable for many according to a new analysis.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) released today new data, prepared by Oliver Wyman's Actuarial and Health and Life Sciences practice, showing that a 2 to 1 age rating ratio would increase premiums for the youngest and healthiest Americans in the individual market in many states by nearly 50 percent in the first year, relative to a 5 to 1 age rating ratio.

Currently 42 states permit health plans to vary premiums based on age by 5 to 1 or more -- the primary benefit being that premiums are kept affordable for younger individuals to encourage broad participation. If more restrictive age ratings are implemented, younger people would opt out of purchasing coverage. Oliver Wyman estimates that, over a five year period, more than 1 million younger members would leave the market, resulting in a 10 percent premium increase overall for individuals in some parts of the country.

"An affordable, sustainable insurance market requires broad participation across all age groups to maintain more affordable premiums. As this analysis shows, overly restrictive age rating regulations would hurt a large portion of those with individual coverage -- making coverage less affordable and undermining the key goals of healthcare reform," said Scott P. Serota, president and CEO of BCBSA. "To ensure the long-term sustainability of healthcare reform, we must strike the right balance on age rating to avoid disproportionately burdening one segment of the population over another. For this reason, we support a 5 to 1 age rating similar to what the vast majority of states permit today."

The Oliver Wyman analysis also finds that restricting age rating ratios to 3 to 1 would increase premiums in many states by as much as 30 percent for younger people, relative to a 5 to 1 ratio.

"Younger individuals are much more sensitive to the costs of health insurance compared to older individuals. The bottom line is that if premiums are too high, young and healthy individuals simply will not purchase insurance and their needed cross-subsidies for older, sicker people will be lost, increasing the cost of healthcare for everyone," Serota said.

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Vice President Biden, Secretary Sebelius Issue New Report on Seniors and Health Insurance Reform

Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today hosted a town hall meeting with seniors in Silver Spring, Md., and released a new report,
Health Insurance Reform and Medicare: Making Medicare Stronger for America's Seniors. The report, authored by HHS, outlines how health insurance reform will help seniors and answers key questions about President Obama's health insurance reform plan. The complete report is
available now at

"We will protect seniors -- not burden them with out of pocket costs," said Vice President Biden. "The bottom line is, seniors will be better off under what we are proposing, and not a dollar from the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for health insurance reform."

"Under health insurance reform, seniors will get better care and their health care costs will go down," said Secretary Sebelius. "Reform will strengthen Medicare, cut drug costs, and help ensure all seniors get the high-quality, affordable care they deserve."

The report highlights several problems in the current health care system and health insurance reform solutions such as:

* Preserving and strengthening Medicare.
According to the Medicare Trustees 2009 report, the Medicare Part A
Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2017. Health insurance reform will
extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by an additional four to five
years -- and delivery system reforms included in health insurance reform
have the potential to keep the Trust Fund solvent even longer into the
future. Health insurance reform will also reduce overpayments to private
plans and will clamp down on fraud and abuse to strengthen Medicare for
all seniors. Coupled with improvements in the quality of care, expansion
of the health care workforce, and reductions in out-of-pocket costs,
health insurance reform will ensure that Medicare will continue to
provide the high-quality, affordable coverage that America's seniors
deserve and expect.

* Cutting high prescription drug costs.
Prescription drug costs represent a significant expense for seniors.
While Medicare added a prescription drug benefit, this benefit includes
a coverage gap commonly called the "donut hole." In 2007, over 8 million
seniors hit the "donut hole." For those who are not low-income or have
not purchased other coverage, average drug costs in this coverage gap
are $340 per month, or $4,080 per year. Health insurance reform will
close the coverage gap in Medicare Part D over time, so seniors do not
have to worry about losing coverage for their drug costs. While the
closure of the coverage gap is phased in, health insurance reform will
also provide seniors with a discount of 50 percent on their brand name
medication costs in the coverage gap, saving thousands of dollars for
some seniors.

* Making preventive services free.
Many seniors do not receive recommended preventive and primary care,
leading to less effective and more expensive treatments. For example, 20
percent of women aged 50 and over did not receive a mammogram in the
past two years, and 38 percent of adults aged 50 and over have never had
a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. Seniors in Medicare must pay 20 percent
of the cost of many preventive services on their own. For a colonoscopy
that costs $700, this means that a senior must pay $140 -- a price that
can be prohibitively expensive. Under health insurance reform, a senior
would not pay anything for a screening colonoscopy or other preventive
services. Reform will eliminate any deductibles, copayments, or other
cost-sharing for obtaining preventive services, making them affordable
and accessible.

* Ending overpayments to private insurance companies that cost all
Medicare beneficiaries.
The federal government pays private insurance companies on average 14
percent more for providing coverage to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries
than it would pay for the same beneficiary in the traditional Medicare
program. There is no evidence that this extra payment leads to better
quality for Medicare beneficiaries, and all Medicare beneficiaries pay
the price of these excessive overpayments through higher premiums --
even the 78 percent of seniors who are not enrolled in a Medicare
Advantage plan. A typical couple in traditional Medicare will pay on
average nearly $90 next year to subsidize private insurance companies
that do not provide their Medicare benefits. Health insurance reform
will eliminate excessive government subsidies to Medicare Advantage
plans, which could save the federal government, taxpayers, and Medicare
beneficiaries well over $100 billion over the next 10 years.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Report Outlines Importance of Health Insurance Reform for Young Americans

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released a new report, Young Americans and Health Insurance Reform: Giving Young Americans the Security and Stability They Need. The report highlights the vulnerability young adults face in the current health care system and the urgent need for health insurance reform. The complete report is available at

"More and more young adults wake up the day after their nineteenth birthday or on graduation day and find themselves uninsured," said Secretary Sebelius. "I've seen this problem first-hand. When my son graduated, he faced the challenge of finding health insurance. Unfortunately, too many of his peers are forced to go without the care they need. Health insurance reform will help insure young Americans have access to the affordable health care they need and deserve."

While seventeen percent of adults (those aged 30-64) are uninsured, thirty percent of young adults do not have health insurance. When young adults lose access to their parents' health insurance, they find it increasingly difficult to afford the high cost of health insurance.

Young adults are often less likely to work for employers who offer health insurance benefits. Nearly half of young people work part-time, and part-time workers are less likely to be offered coverage. Young people are also more likely to work for smaller firms, which tend to offer less coverage. Among young adults working in firms of fewer than 50 employees and who had coverage in 2006, one in four lost that insurance in the following two years - more than twice the rate of older adults.

The report also shows that 33 states allowed insurance companies to charge unrestricted premiums based on age, health status and even gender. In some states, a 22-year-old woman can be charged twice as much for her premium than a 22-year-old man.

The health care status quo is significantly impacting young Americans. In a recent survey, two-thirds who had gaps in healthcare admitted to forsaking health care because of costs including skipping recommended tests and treatment and neglecting to fill a prescription. Even with cost-saving measures, more than one-third of all young adults with coverage report having problems paying medical bills.

Health insurance reform would ensure young adults have access to quality, affordable health coverage, deter mounting health problems and ensure young people are not left with crushing medical debt after an accident or illness. Capping out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays and
deductibles while limiting arbitrary premium increases would provide affordable health care options for young adults as well.

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Senate Finance Committee Plan Goes Far To Achieve Reform But New Taxes Raise Affordability Concerns

/PRNewswire/ -- Scott P. Serota, president and chief executive officer of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), issued the following statement regarding the chairman's mark released yesterday by Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and members of the Senate Finance Committee:

"We strongly support healthcare reforms that expand coverage to everyone, improve quality, and rein in costs. This chairman's mark achieves many of these goals.

"The mark addresses many necessary insurance reforms, the foundation of which is a proposal advocated by BCBSA to guarantee coverage to everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions. We commend Chairman Baucus for including in his mark a personal responsibility requirement to obtain and maintain coverage -- the linchpin to making insurance reforms work.

"We also support the mark's age rating provision which allows discounts to young people to encourage them to purchase coverage. Age rating provisions in other bills would preclude these discounts and would result in major premium increases to young people causing many to forgo coverage. Making insurance affordable for young people, who account for as much as 40 percent of those without insurance, is critical to reducing the number of uninsured and will help to lower the cost of health insurance for everyone, including older Americans.

"We strongly support the goal of making coverage affordable. However, we are greatly concerned that burdensome new taxes and fees aimed at insurers and other healthcare industry stakeholders would severely undermine the reforms that the chairman's mark aims to achieve. These unprecedented new taxes would make coverage much less affordable for individuals, their families, and employers.

"We look forward to continuing a vigorous and productive discussion with the Senate Finance Committee. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve meaningful and sustainable change in our healthcare system, and BCBSA will continue to advocate for reforms that expand access to everyone, improve quality, and rein in costs."

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