Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico this week, with wind and rain surpassing levels recorded in Harvey and Irma earlier this month. Officials in Puerto Rico have the described the resulting conditions as "apocalyptic" for the island of 3.4 million U.S. citizens. Hurricane Maria caused at least 10 deaths, destroyed up to $85 billion of insured property, cut power, severed most of the telecommunications to the mainland, and is creating massive strain on the island's struggling economy and infrastructure. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló said the island faces a humanitarian crisis and urged Congress to approve a commensurate aid package as the U.S. commonwealth.
HARVEY DATA CALL
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) issued a mandatory data call for certain information related to claims resulting from Hurricane Harvey in more than 60 counties across the state. This data will help determine the financial impact of claims related to Hurricane Harvey on property and casualty insurers doing business in the State of Texas, including surplus lines and the property and casualty industry. TDI is offering assistance to insurance carriers for reporting the Harvey loss data. Companies must complete and return an initial response to this data call no later than October 31, 2017.
ARE WE OUT OF ORANGE JUICE?
Hurricane Irma significantly damaged Florida's orange belt, leaving a trail of uprooted trees, downed fruit, and flooded groves. This damage could potentially strike a fatal blow to orange juice, a product that has been slipping in popularity among Americans. The most recent estimates of the widespread damage to Florida's orange trees put the statewide losses as high as 70 percent. That could lead to orange shortages, price hikes, and, for farmers, lost harvests. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended the period of time for Florida's growers to make claims under federally-backed crop insurance programs.
FEDERAL CROP INSURANCE
In related news this this week, the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) released an analysis of the federal crop insurance portfolio titled, "The Risk Management Safety Net: Market Penetration and Market Potential." In 2016, crop insurance protected nearly $101 billion of crops and $533 million of livestock and was offered for nearly 550 unique crops and types in 2016. The USDA maintains that the insurance program is becoming more responsive to farm disasters and has expanded the number of crop types covered, up from 325 in 2000. While the report suggests that most produce coverage lags behind grains, there is a ray of hope from orange growers. A full 86 percent orange growing acreage in the United States is covered by insurance. We will continue to track the multi-faceted impact of this 2017 Atlantic storm season.
THE GIG IS UP?
London's municipal transportation authority has rejected Uber's business renewal application. The ridesharing company's London operating license is set to expire on September 30th. City officials cited the ridesharing company's use of software technology prevents regulators and law enforcement from monitoring the app. London mayor Sadiq Khan fully supported the decision to not renew the license, stating that innovative services must not be "at the expense of customer safety and security." Uber said in a statement that it would immediately challenge this action in the court system. Londoners can continue to use Uber during the appeal.
And back on this side of the Atlantic, Uber threatened to leave Canada's Quebec province in mid-October, saying the province's proposed ride-sharing regulations are too onerous and attempt to impose taxi rules on a completely new technological model. Quebec's regulations would force Uber to effectively operate like a taxi company with full-time drivers, all but eliminating a transportation network company's ability to attract and retain part-time or occasional drivers. We're reporting live from the intersection of emerging technology and the regulatory process.
Making Our Way Around The Country
The New York Workers' Compensation Board (Board) proposed new permanent impairment guidelines for schedule loss of use awards. The Board is required to adopt new permanency impairment guidelines for Statutory Loss of Use cases no later than January 1, 2018. The Board is seeking comments from all stakeholders in the workers' compensation system concerning the new permanent impairment guidelines and their enabling regulations. Survey style comments are due to the Board no later than October 23rd. The draft guidelines would not change the maximum possible compensation available to claimants, only how an impairment rating is decided for a worker who has a permanent or partial loss of the use of limbs, as well as for permanent vision and hearing loss, and permanent facial disfigurement.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released last week guidance and educational materials related to Liability Medicare Set Asides (LMSA). These instructions indicate that CMS intends to move forward with an LMSA and No Fault MSA (NFMSA) program, suggested in a CMS bulletin change earlier this year. The guidance document requires beneficiaries who have an MSA to disclose such arrangements to their physicians before treatment, and requires physicians in such circumstances to bill the MSA rather than Medicare for patient care.
Breathe easier, construction industry. Employers making good-faith efforts to comply with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) silica regulation can avoid citations this month, as the agency begins enforcing the rule. OSHA previously delayed enforcement of the rule, scheduled to begin on June 23rd, to Sept. 23rd. The safety agency sought to provide additional guidance on the silica rule's requirements for the construction industry. OSHA will render compliance assistance to assure that covered employers are fully and properly complying with its requirements.
HAVE A SAFE 19TH BIRTHDAY, GOOGLE!
Next week begins National Cyber Security Awareness Month which is an annual campaign to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. The Department of Homeland Security will engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, provide them with tools and resources needed to stay safe online, and increase the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident. So even though it's still September, remember to celebrate your birthday safely, Google!
About The Way
The Way is Gallagher Bassett's weekly governmental briefing on state and federal affairs that affect our industry. We thank you for starting your Wednesday morning with us. Please be sure to follow #GBTheWay for additional news and updates as we make our way throughout the country on the issues affecting our industry. For more information, please connect with GB on LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, or contact the authors, Greg McKenna or Cari Miller, directly.