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Anthem to Return Nearly $8 Million to Missouri Policyholders
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), August 6, 2014 - The Missouri Department of Insurance said it has reached a regulatory settlement with Healthy Alliance Life Insurance Company and HMO Missouri, Inc, subsidiaries of Anthem BlueCross BlueShield of Missouri, which are part of WellPoint, Inc.
As part of the settlement, these insurers agreed to return $7.8 million to Missouri policyholders. The settlement is the largest settlement of a Missouri market conduct examination by the department.
The insurers will, as required by the settlement, identify and contact affected policyholders and return premiums directly to those affected. Consumers with questions about the settlement may contact Anthem directly at 877-889-1954.
"Part of our mission of consumer protection is to ensure that consumers are fully informed about their insurance coverage options when they buy insurance," said John M. Huff, director of the department. "Missourians should know the department will remain vigilant and utilize all of its regulatory authority when companies fail to do that. Our department will continue to investigate and remedy practices by any insurer that it believes are unfair and which could violate Missouri law."
The Anthem settlement focused on allegations that some policyholders in the St. Louis region were charged materially more premium than other consumers with substantially equivalent health plans. The settlement found these health plans, beginning Jan. 1, 2007, were identical in benefits and substantially equivalent in terms of their provider networks. However, some consumers were charged materially more for their health plan.
The department also alleged that consumers in the higher priced plan were not fully informed of the substantially equivalent lower priced plan. The plans were sold and marketed to consumers in the St. Louis area between 2007 and 2010. With this settlement, the Missouri market conduct section has recovered over $33 million in consumer restitution and fines since 2009.
Home Security System Telemarketers Stopped from Calling Missouri Consumers
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), August 6, 2014 - Attorney General Chris Koster said he has reached settlements with ISI Alarms NC, Inc. of North Carolina and JVersacio Corporation and its owner Joseph Versacio of Florida, over alleged violations of Missouri's No Call and Telemarketing Laws.
Together, the companies will pay $17,500 in civil penalties, with the possibility of up to $200,000 in penalties if they violate the terms of the agreement. The settlements resolve lawsuits filed in March 2014 as part of the Attorney General's initiative to crack down on illegal telemarketing practices in Missouri.
Koster said his office received hundreds of consumer complaints regarding unwanted telemarketing calls attempting to sell home security products. To solicit customers, telemarketers for ISI Alarms claimed that the FBI had reported break-ins and burglaries in the consumers' neighborhoods.
Koster alleged that JVersacio Corp., which operated as "Central Security," made thousands of automated "robocalls" to consumer telephone numbers listed on Missouri's No Call Registry soliciting home security systems. Many Missourians reported receiving additional calls even after following instructions for removing themselves from further calls by pressing a specific number.
Gen Y Now Buying More New Vehicles Than Gen X, but Still Trails Boomers
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), August 3, 2014 - Gen Y consumers are now accounting for a larger percentage of U.S. new-vehicle retail sales than their older Gen X counterparts, according to an analysis by J.D. Power.
Year to date in 2014, Gen Y (born 1977-1994) has accounted for 26 percent of new-vehicle retail sales, putting sales to that generational group ahead of those to Gen X (born 1965-1976) for the first time. Gen X buyers purchased 24 percent of new-vehicles in the same period, according to data collected by the Power Information Network® (PIN) from J.D. Power.
Boomers (born 1946-1964) are still the largest group of buyers of new vehicles, accounting for 38 percent of new vehicles sold during the first half of the year.
In 2013, Boomers accounted for 40 percent of new-vehicle retail sales, followed by Gen X at 24 percent and Gen Y at 23 percent.
Gen Y sales volume is on pace to grow 17 percent for the full year 2014, compared with 2013, while Gen X sales volumes are expected to increase 6 percent during this time frame.
"As Gen Y consumers enter new life stages, earn higher incomes and grow their families, their ability and desire to acquire new vehicles is increasing," said Thomas King, vice president of PIN. "As new-vehicle demand among Gen Y consumers increases, it will be important for automakers to respond to the needs of these consumers, not only in terms of the vehicle design, but also the marketing, sales and service experience."
PIN data shows that Gen Y customers tend to favor smaller vehicles, with compact/small vehicle segments accounting for nearly half of all Gen Y purchases. In contrast, Gen X slightly favors midsize vehicles.
Compact car is the most popular segment for Gen Y, with 20 percent of every vehicle sold to the group coming from this segment. For Gen X, compact SUV is the most popular segment, accounting for 15 percent of sales to this generation.
Midwest, East: Cool Weather to Fade, Summer Heat to Arrive in August
A shift in the jet stream is forecast during the middle of August that will lead to longer-lasting warm weather over much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation and less extreme heat over the Northwest. Graphic courtesy AccuWeather.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), August 3, 2014 - While persistent waves of cool weather have some people in the Midwest and East saying that 2014 is the year without a summer, a forecast pattern change during August could have people thinking otherwise, AccuWeather.com reports.
A shift in the jet stream is forecast during the middle of August that will lead to longer-lasting warm weather over much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation and less extreme heat over the Northwest.
The jet stream is a river of high-speed air, high above the ground that guides storm systems and air masses along.
According to AccuWeather Long Range Expert Paul Pastelok, "We expect the jet stream to flatten out over the West and retreat northward over the Central and Eastern states."
A break in the cool pattern is forecast next week for the Midwest and East, but the long-lasting warmth will hold off until mid-August.
"The jet stream will split apart prior to fully flattening out and will allow some warmth to build from the Tennessee and Ohio valleys to the East during the middle of next week."
Only brief, limited cooling is likely for parts of the Central and Eastern states later next week.
During the middle of the month, an area of warm air and generally fair weather is forecast to build westward from the Atlantic. This system is known as the Bermuda High.
"It is possible that during the period from around Aug. 14 to Aug. 24 areas in the Midwest, Texas and the Northeast will have their warmest weather of the summer," Pastelok said.
The upcoming pattern is good news for kids and adults hoping for warmer swimming weather. Area lake and ocean water temperatures typically peak during August.
However, the surge in warmth will also mean an uptick in cooling costs. In portions of the Midwest, the weather during July has allowed some people to use 30 to 40 percent less energy to cool their homes and businesses.
Students heading back to schools without air conditioning during the second half of August could struggle with the warmth.
The pattern shift may be most dramatic for those over the Central states, where the cool conditions thus far this summer have been the most extreme.
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