Daily Archives: January 6, 2013

Despite New Health Law, Some See Sharp Rise in Premiums | Katonah NY Real Estate

Particularly vulnerable to the high rates are small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own.

In California, Aetna is proposing rate increases of as much as 22 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 26 percent and Blue Shield of California 20 percent for some of those policy holders, according to the insurers’ filings with the state for 2013. These rate requests are all the more striking after a 39 percent rise sought by Anthem Blue Cross in 2010 helped give impetus to the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, which was passed the same year and will not be fully in effect until 2014.

In other states, like Florida and Ohio, insurers have been able to raise rates by at least 20 percent for some policy holders. The rate increases can amount to several hundred dollars a month.

The proposed increases compare with about 4 percent for families with employer-based policies.

Under the health care law, regulators are now required to review any request for a rate increase of 10 percent or more; the requests are posted on a federal Web site, healthcare.gov, along with regulators’ evaluations.

The review process not only reveals the sharp disparity in the rates themselves, it also demonstrates the striking difference between places like New York, one of the 37 states where legislatures have given regulators some authority to deny or roll back rates deemed excessive, and California, which is among the states that do not have that ability.

New York, for example, recently used its sweeping powers to hold rate increases for 2013 in the individual and small group markets to under 10 percent. California can review rate requests for technical errors but cannot deny rate increases.

The double-digit requests in some states are being made despite evidence that overall health care costs appear to have slowed in recent years, increasing in the single digits annually as many people put off treatment because of the weak economy. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that costs may increase just 7.5 percent next year, well below the rate increases being sought by some insurers. But the companies counter that medical costs for some policy holders are rising much faster than the average, suggesting they are in a sicker population. Federal regulators contend that premiums would be higher still without the law, which also sets limits on profits and administrative costs and provides for rebates if insurers exceed those limits.

Critics, like Dave Jones, the California insurance commissioner and one of two health plan regulators in that state, said that without a federal provision giving all regulators the ability to deny excessive rate increases, some insurance companies can raise rates as much as they did before the law was enacted.

“This is business as usual,” Mr. Jones said. “It’s a huge loophole in the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

While Mr. Jones has not yet weighed in on the insurers’ most recent requests, he is pushing for a state law that will give him that authority. Without legislative action, the state can only question the basis for the high rates, sometimes resulting in the insurer withdrawing or modifying the proposed rate increase.

The California insurers say they have no choice but to raise premiums if their underlying medical costs have increased. “We need these rates to even come reasonably close to covering the expenses of this population,” said Tom Epstein, a spokesman for Blue Shield of California. The insurer is requesting a range of increases, which average about 12 percent for 2013.

Although rates paid by employers are more closely tracked than rates for individuals and small businesses, policy experts say the law has probably kept at least some rates lower than they otherwise would have been.

“There’s no question that review of rates makes a difference, that it results in lower rates paid by consumers and small businesses,” said Larry Levitt, an executive at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which estimated in an October report that rate review was responsible for lowering premiums for one out of every five filings.

Federal officials say the law has resulted in significant savings. “The health care law includes new tools to hold insurers accountable for premium hikes and give rebates to consumers,” said Brian Cook, a spokesman for Medicare, which is helping to oversee the insurance reforms.

“Insurers have already paid $1.1 billion in rebates, and rate review programs have helped save consumers an additional $1 billion in lower premiums,” he said. If insurers collect premiums and do not spend at least 80 cents out of every dollar on care for their customers, the law requires them to refund the excess.

As a result of the review process, federal officials say, rates were reduced, on average, by nearly three percentage points, according to a report issued last September.

In New York, for example, state regulators recently approved increases that were much lower than insurers initially requested for 2013, taking into account the insurers’ medical costs, how much money went to administrative expenses and profit and how exactly the companies were allocating costs among offerings. “This is critical to holding down health care costs and holding insurance companies accountable,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

While insurers in New York, on average, requested a 9.5 percent increase for individual policies, they were granted an increase of just 4.5 percent, according to the latest state averages, which have not yet been made public. In the small group market, insurers asked for an increase of 15.8 percent but received approvals averaging only 9.6 percent.

But many people elsewhere have experienced significant jumps in the premiums they pay. According to the federal analysis, 36 percent of the requests to raise rates by 10 percent or more were found to be reasonable. Insurers withdrew 12 percent of those requests, 26 percent were modified and another 26 percent were found to be unreasonable.

And, in some cases, consumer advocates say insurers have gone ahead and charged what regulators described as unreasonable rates because the state had no ability to deny the increases.

Two insurers cited by federal officials last year for raising rates excessively in nine states appear to have proceeded with their plans, said Carmen Balber, the Washington director for Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group. While the publicity surrounding the rate requests may have drawn more attention to what the insurers were doing, regulators “weren’t getting any results by doing that,” she said.

Some consumer advocates and policy experts say the insurers may be increasing rates for fear of charging too little, and they may be less afraid of having to refund some of the money than risk losing money.

Many insurance regulators say the high rates are caused by rising health care costs. In Iowa, for example, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, a nonprofit insurer, has requested a 12 to 13 percent increase for some customers. Susan E. Voss, the state’s insurance commissioner, said there might not be any reason for regulators to deny the increase as unjustified. Last year, after looking at actuarial reviews, Ms. Voss approved a 9 percent increase requested by the same insurer.

“There’s a four-letter word called math,” Ms. Voss said, referring to the underlying medical costs that help determine what an insurer should charge in premiums. Health costs are rising, especially in Iowa, she said, where hospital mergers allow the larger systems to use their size to negotiate higher prices. “It’s justified.”

Some consumer advocates say the continued double-digit increases are a sign that the insurance industry needs to operate under new rules. Often, rates soar because insurers are operating plans that are closed to new customers, creating a pool of people with expensive medical conditions that become increasingly costly to insure.

While employers may be able to raise deductibles or co-payments as a way of reducing the cost of premiums, the insurer typically does not have that flexibility. And because insurers now take into account someone’s health, age and sex in deciding how much to charge, and whether to offer coverage at all, people with existing medical conditions are frequently unable to shop for better policies.

In many of these cases, the costs are increasing significantly, and the rates therefore cannot be determined to be unreasonable. “When you’re allowed medical underwriting and to close blocks of business, rate review will not affect this,” said Lynn Quincy, senior health policy analyst for Consumers Union.

The practice of medical underwriting — being able to consider the health of a prospective policy holder before deciding whether to offer coverage and what rate to charge — will no longer be permitted after 2014 under the health care law.

Online Video Weekly News Round Up – New Year’s 2013 Edition | Bedford Hills Realtor

Happy 2013! If 2012 was any indication on where online video is going, then 2013 is set to be a major year again for several parts of the industry. As we watch it unfold it’s always nice to see what’s going on in areas that we don’t quite cover here at ReelSEO, including, daily news.

It was both a short week and a fairly quiet one with the holiday and the tech industry practically holding its breath waiting for CES next week. So hang in there for now. Next week we’ll see what the TV makers will be pushing this year. I have to believe it will be a lot of connected TV and multi-device options.

Washington Post Political Video Channel In Works

The Washington Post is set to offer around 30 hours of online video for a dedicated political channel by summer 2013.

Source: Washington Post

Sony Looking to Become Virtual MSO Provider?

Variety reports that Sony is set to create its own multichannel TV service, which would most likely send content to its line of Bravia TVs and Playstation consoles most likely.

“The Japanese conglomerate is in active negotiations with at least two major content companies about licensing their channels for a package that could roll out in the U.S. later this year, according to sources.”

YouTube Expanding Content Beaming to More Devices and Players

We all know Google and Apple have been going at it on a variety of fronts with the latest being remote playback of content, or beaming content from one device to another.

YouTube’s take on AirPlay allows users to browse videos with the YouTube Android app for phones and tablets, and then initiate playback on the TV screen with the click of a single button. Device discovery is facilitated automatically as long as the devices are in the same network. Previous iterations of YouTube second-screen control functionality required users to first manually pair their devices.

Source: GigaOm

Rovi Selling VOD Venture

Rovi has announced that it will sell its CinemaNow, which powers Best Buy, but will retain the rights to the DivX codec.

In announcing the decision, Rovi president and CEO Tom Carson said the company is aligning “primarily around delivering enabling solutions for our service provider customers and using those efforts to also generate growth with our consumer electronics and other customers.”

Source: Multichannel News

Samsung Upgrading Smart TVs

A new year, a new CES, an upgraded Smart TV from Samsung. It makes sense.

The company’s Evolution Kit, announced a year ago, attaches into the back of select 2012 Samsung Smart TV models. The module provides additional processing and memory to provide faster Internet browsing speeds, enhanced voice and motion controls, and app multitasking while watching TV, according to Samsung.

Source: Multichannel News

Intel Stumbles on its Virtual MSO Service

With so many trying to get into the game, is it any surprise they’re having content licensing issues as well as hardware?

One person familiar with Intel’s thinking on Monday predicted the company would launch its offering by mid-2013. Another person said a service might not arrive until as late as the fourth quarter, citing delays in reaching content-licensing agreements with entertainment companies that own major TV channels.

Source: WSJ

Mortgage Brokerage Firms Continued Hiring in November | Chappaqua Real Estate

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning that employment in the mortgage industry edged up in November as hiring by mortgage brokerage shops continued for the 10th straight month.

Friday’s job report shows mortgage brokers hired 1,200 new employees in November while other mortgage lenders trimmed their payrolls for the second straight month.

BLS reported that employment in the mortgage banking and brokerage sector edged up to 284,900 in November from 284,600 in October.

Mortgage companies have added 22,800 full-time employees to their payrolls since January 2012. Mortgage brokerage firms are responsible for 14,200 of those new hires.

Meanwhile, Friday’s report shows the U.S. economy created 155,000 new jobs in December, compared to 161,000 in November. The November figure was revised up from 146,000.

The December report also shows a 30,000 jump in construction jobs, including 12,000 residential specialty trade contractors. In November, the bureau reported a 20,000 decline in construction workers which surprised many economists. One private economist said BLS is revising the way it estimates construction jobs.

(There is a one-month lag in reporting mortgage employment data.)

Mount Kisco Realtor | Fear of Fed reversal overdone

First the real stuff, then the Wheelchair Accessible Fiscal Door Sill.

Long-term interest rates rose sharply this week, the 10-year T-note’s 1.93 percent the highest since last April, and mortgages above 3.5 percent, the top since summer.

Three forces are in play: First, December meeting minutes released yesterday suggested the Fed may scale back or end QE4 bond-buying this year; second, hints of a better economy; and third, markets less than thrilled by fiscal substance-abusers.

Fear of Fed reversal is overdone. It is buying $85 billion a month in Treasurys and MBS, a $1 trillion per year pace that was never likely to continue for long.

The Fed’s commitment to a zero percent cost of money stands unchanged, linked to a 6.5 percent unemployment rate (not soon), and that zero percent cash will hold down long-term rates. Nearly every Fed forecast for the economy since 2008 has been wrong on the high side, and the economy is now entering protracted period of fiscal drag.

As always the economy trumps all, and the first week of each month brings the freshest data. December payrolls grew on forecast — 155,000 jobs, but no change in trend.

The ISM manufacturing index in December flipped from just below stall speed at 49.5 to just above, 50.7; and its service-sector twin popped from 54.7 to 56.1. No recession, no acceleration; theories behind either are as suspect as ever since 2009.

The Cliff. The politics of this week’s resolution say a lot.

Imagine if in mid-November the president gathered the usual suspects and said, “We all know we’ve got to rig a miniature deal by New Year’s Day. We have a series of tough collisions ahead, ugly ones, but just this once, nothing at stake but easy horse-trades, how about we let the country think we know what we’re doing, smile a lot, say ‘bi-partisan’ in every other sentence, and carve this baby up by Thanksgiving?”

Our assessment of blame for bad politics is blinded by our biases: Boehner is impossible, or the Tea Pots are to blame, or Reid, or Obama. But how this week’s deal got done requires a lift of the ol’ eye patch.

At all accounts, by the Sunday before New Year’s Day, the only person able to get out of the box was anti-telegenic Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the tough and smart Minority Leader, who picked up the phone to Joe Biden and said, “Can anybody down there cut a deal?” (“Down” is the physical slope of Capitol Hill to the White House.)

Joe Biden has been treated from day one as the Official Fool by the court of Prince Barack. Funny Old Joe. Can’t stop talking, says crazy things, has impossible ideas, like Afghanistan is a bust to be escaped quickly. Cartoon-relic politician. Doesn’t get the transformational importance and infallibility of the Prince.

Within 36 hours and without a public word, Old Joe and McConnell had a deal. The Prince is a professor whose key skill is lecturing established wisdom. He has not progressed as a negotiator, although new opportunities lie immediately ahead in the debt limit and the State of the Union agenda. Also in the choice of a new Treasury secretary. We need someone like Erskine Bowles, but it looks as though we’ll get Jack Lew, current White House chief of staff, another lawyer/professor ignorant of markets.

In the last years’ fiscal arguments, the Right-side Republicans win the prizes for bad manners and stingy vision. However, the Left takes the overall crown for “Who took my cheese?”

Inclusive of this mini-Cliff deal, the 2013 federal deficit will remain about $1 trillion. As is, the deficit will fall by 2015 to $750 billion, but no Fed to buy the bonds. Then by 2017 the inexorable rise to $1.25 trillion in 2022, and $2 trillion and beyond by 2030, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alone consuming all tax revenue in 2035.

If the economy does better, then tax revenue will go up. But this week’s all-tax-no-cut deal already includes a lot of those expectations for new revenue. Can’t jack ’em forever. Whether the economy does better or not, one year soon we’ll pay more to roll over five-year T-notes than today’s 0.75 percent. Each percentage point increase will add $150 billion to each of those future-annual deficit numbers, depending on how much we’ve borrowed by then.

And you, on the Left, think those debt-limit votes are a tiresome sham?

What to Expect in Online Video for 2013: Industry Leaders Predictions | North Salem NY Real Estate

Predictions are always a tricky thing. In the past couple years it’s been easy. There were gaping holes in video advertising as compared to other forms, but last year saw many of them closed. With 2013 now here the question is, what will the new year bring with it? I spoke to a couple industry leaders about just that and have a few thoughts of my own on it.

Because of the cost of both video production and video advertising I think the main drive to continued expansion will have to be better real-time data. Without being able to quickly see the trends and react to them it’s hard to hit the highest ROI possible. I think we’ll see a refining process or perhaps a fine-tuning process in the information that is being provided to the ad buyer. Many of the metrics that we have are based on older forms of advertising and aren’t exactly the best they can be. Views are subjective, iGRP is still in its infancy, etc. As all of these metrics mature we will eventually see a ‘perfect fit’ which combines several of these major metrics to give ad buyers a quick idea of how well their campaigns are performing.

In terms of actual video advertising? More interaction is the way of the future. There are still loads of video ads I see that are nothing more than digitized TV ads. Many advertisers seems to still be missing out on the whole interaction thing and with the rise of connected TV, interaction is going to continue to grow as well. That means some new, more interesting video ad forms will evolve into interactive experiences instead of lean back. It also means that viewers should have more control over the ad experience by being offered more choice in what ads are offered.

Finally, I think it’s safe to say that by the end of 2013, you will need to be showing over one billion video ads a month to make it into the comScore video metrix charts for video ad properties. December saw the 10th place network, Tremor Video, showing 703 million and the number one network, BrightRoll showing over 1.77 billion ads. Hopefully everyone will manage to maintain that low frequency, clearly Hulu is going in the opposite direction and I bet they hit 80 ads per viewer each month (62.5 as of December).

Suranga Chandratillake – Blinkx Founder

Suranga gives a broader overall view including mobile, enterprise and connected TV across several predictions for 2013.

  1. Mobile break-point: we’re going to see a number of key activities on the web occur more on mobile than on desktop.  Local Search will be the first to fall (may have already fallen), but I think regular search, social networking (especially micro-social networking like twitter and photo-based), and even news-consumption hit the break-point in 2012. Given that very few companies actually have a meaningful business model for mobile this is both an exhilarating and terrifying change.
  2. Enterprise is back: the investors have already spoken with their feet, but in general I think we’re going to see some really interesting companies come out of Enterprise vs. Consumer next year.  In particular, I think we’re going to see cloud-models that were built for consumers or pro-sumers (think of things like DropBox) get translated over and I think a lot of really interesting big data stuff is going to happen in enterprise, not consumer.
  3. Connected TV: I put this one on every year, more out of hope than any precise belief.  Someone has to crack the killer app that makes Connected TV make sense for regular consumers.  It won’t come from second screens (reputedly have atrocious engagement rates) and I don’t think Google or Apple are going to figure it out.

Jeff Whacott – Brightcove CMO

Jeff gave me a few minutes of his time to tell us what he thinks will be going on in online video for marketing in 2013:

  • The use of video will be the single fastest growing tactic for content marketers.
  • Live event streaming will continue to grow as marketers and media companies figure out how to use live to build and engage their audiences.
  • This will be a make or break year for Windows 8 tablets and phones. Many organizations are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see if Windows 8 devices will take off before they invest in targeting content and apps for the platform.
  • HTML5 proceeds through the hype cycle. 2011 was the year of impossible expectations for HTML5. 2012 was the trough of disillusionment. 2013 will be the year everyone recognizes that HTML5 is not a panacea, but it is tremendously powerful when used skillfully for the mobile web and hybrid apps.

Tod Sacerdoti – BrightRoll CEO/Founder

Tod just wrote something up for someone else so I have to pull some of that in. He believes that brands will start moving toward single-platform solutions, there will be more video exchanges, audience delivery guarantee will be the target metric and mobile ad inventory will expand to about video ad inventory size.

For more on what Tod had to say about each of those, head over to the blog post.

Chris Young DBG (Digital Broadcasting Group) CEO

Chris gives us his view of the upcoming year which breaks down into three areas, branded content, mobile video ads and big data.

There’s no question that from both a content and distribution perspective, 2012 was a banner year for online video. With the groundwork laid for what figures to be an even more exciting year ahead in 2013, let’s take a look at some of the trends I think will shape the next 365 days in our industry.

Brands Will Become Broadcasters
This first theme has really taken shape over the last few months, and that’s the idea that through a combination of original content created for social channels and branded entertainment, more brands will become broadcasters. In today’s incredibly fragmented digital landscape, finding a consumer is becoming more difficult than ever before. In addition to the 30-second spot or display advertising, our conversations in the marketplace are signaling that more brands are using BE to supplement their already existing online advertising strategies.

Emphasis on Mobile Video Advertising
Mobile video audiences have increased 77% over the last two years according to Nielsen, so it’s no surprise that online advertisers have taken a liking to mobile ads. The promise of the third screen has been touted for some time now, but with stats like that, it’s safe to say that the third screen is no longer coming soon – it’s here.  And with its arrival has come a significant, rapid uptick in mobile video pre-roll, something that I expect we will only see more of in the next 12 months.

The Importance of Big Data and Content Adjacency Will Come into Focus
If the quality of online video is being compared  to that of television, there’s no reason why marketers shouldn’t be allowed to buy their advertising in a similar fashion. Quality programming is evolving and garnering large audiences, but those audiences aren’t just coming through sites anymore – they’re coming through social channels as well. That’s why I’d expect 2013 to be a year in which marketers will buy advertising with greater specificity, focusing on the content itself rather than the host site. But how will marketers know which shows to buy against? The answer lies in big data and analytics tools, which will continue to disrupt the online video space in the year ahead.

Dailymotion Thought Leaders

Roland Hamilton, Managing Director Dailymotion US on the online video space at large:

“You’re going to see a breakout of new and innovative discovery options for finding and consuming video content this year on all platforms. With content now available on virtually any device in the household, and debuting on new services every day, we won’t just see more video this year but an ever growing number of ways to find it — and technologies that pair it to the viewers’ interests. The explosion of mobile consumption on smart phones, tablets and set-top services like Xbox live means top video providers need to make themselves available everywhere that audiences are going to consume content.”

Neil Gladstone, VP Content for Dailymotion US on content trends for the year:

“More independent and artistic creators are producing high-quality, original content than ever before, redefining what it means to be a ‘premium provider.’ With multiple programs available from top video sites such as our Motionmakers program, anyone with a brilliant idea and the capacity to execute it can enjoy prominent venues to distribute fresh material to a wide audience. It’s more important than ever for creators to craft succinct, targeted material catering to niche and specialized audiences to really generate traffic and get traction with communities of viewers.”

Happy New Year!

Overall video looks to be ready to mature as well as grow this year. Branded content and mobile video are both set to expand and connected TV should finally become a force. There are connected TVs in 25% of American households. A jump to even 50% this year could make them a major way for people to interact with that traditionally lean back content.

What Every Successful Blogger Should Do Before Breakfast | Cross River Real Estate

Most people think that breakfast should be the first thing a person does in the morning, but the savvy minorities know that the time prior to breakfast can be the most productive.

This is because it is when a person may focus, because they have not yet encountered the worries and distractions that haunt the honest citizen’s day.

Here’s a way we bloggers can use this precious snippet of time in the most productive and efficient way.

The night before

We all have to-do lists, but the most effective to-do lists are written the night before.

Bullet point all the tasks you need to do before you have breakfast the next day. When the morning comes, you must go down the list, one bullet point at a time, until you reach the bullet point that says “breakfast.”

The trick is to single-mindedly complete each bullet point in turn. Do not try to do two at the same time, or try to change the order. Take on one task until it is done, then move onto the next.

Add to your ideas journal

This is a file into which you put all the ideas that come to you during the day. It contains notes and things to research that relate to your ideas.

How you make this file is up to you; you can create a list, or create a folder and put different folders inside for ideas, notes, research, questions, and so on.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, then create an ideas journal on there so that you can add to it during your day.

Check your mail

Once you have added any of your early morning ideas to your ideas journal, you should check your mail.

This is going to alert you to anything that may disrupt your day. It also keeps you up to date on what has been happening while you were asleep.

Plan your day

Spend a few minutes coming up with five tasks that you must complete today.

If you have the time free, then come up with a detailed plan, but just keep an eye on the time. You don’t want your breakfast to turn into lunch.

Create a comment answering window

If you have a successful blog, then you are going to get comments 24/7. These could take you forever to answer, but regularly replying to your comments is a very good way to keep the conversations alive on your blog.

So you need to section off a part of your morning to answer comments. Dedicate ten minutes to non-stop comment answering. You won’t get them all, but you will get enough so that you keep the online conversation moving (poke the fire a little).

You can do more commenting and give fuller answers to people’s comments later in the day, if and when you have the time.

Check for updates

We all hate updating Java, iTunes, WordPress plugins, and so on, but it must be done. So do it in the morning.

Pick something to update (you are often prompted by your computer) and set it in motion while you cook and eat your breakfast. By the time you have finished eating your breakfast it should be done.

If you keep your software updated, it’s less likely to be hacked, to run slowly, or to crash. This way, you are using your “down time” (while you’re eating) in a very efficient way.

What’s your morning routine?

How do you use the time before breakfast to set yourself up fro a full day (or less if you’re juggling other commitments) of blogging? Share your secrets with us in the comments.

This guest post is by Julie Carr of Plagtracker.com. Julie J Carr is a freelance writer. She writes for new free-to -use plagiarism checker – Plagtracker. She is keen on new technologies, adores flavoured coffee and books, and likes to visit places where she can enjoy the latter two at the same time. You can mail her at juliej.carr@yahoo.com