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Novato-based Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. announced in late June that policyholders with Energy Star buildings are eligible for a 5 percent discount as the property and casualty insurance company seeks to expand its green insurance.

There are more than 10,000 Energy Star buildings, according to Fireman’s Fund, which consist of buildings that use 35 percent less energy and emit 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than average buildings. Such buildings typically include bank branches, offices, financial centers, retail stores, data centers, courthouses, hotels, K-12 schools, supermarkets, dormitories and warehouses.

Fireman’s Fund, one of the first property and casualty insurance companies to offer green insurance in the commercial marketplace, also said it can identify under-performing buildings of policyholders, develop energy-management goals and track performance – and savings – over a period of time.

“We are excited to expand our discount to include Energy Star buildings, as this enables Fireman’s Fund to recognize some of the most energy-efficient buildings in the U.S.,” said Alyssa Quarforth, the company’s program manager for Energy Star Commercial Properties at the Environmental Protection Agency. Fireman’s Fund is a member of the Allianz Group.

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Medicare reimbursement rates in Sonoma County, as well as 13 other counties in California, were recently debated as GOP senators targeted $400 million that could alter the federal medical insurance reimbursement rates for physicians. Sonoma County is considered a rural county despite having some heavily populated areas, and as such the reimbursement rates are lower than that of urban counties such as Alameda or San Francisco. Proponents of altering the reimbursement rate, such as Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said data and studies by the Government Accountability Office show that the formula for determining what is rural versus urban is outdated, and Medicare payments have been adversely affected. Some Republicans in Washington, however, have labeled the $400 million as a special deal for California, most notably Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma.

The pending legislation would permit Medicare to expand the number of metropolitan counties in 2012, which would include Sonoma as well as Sacramento, Yolo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernadino counties, among others.

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California’s State Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee recently approved five insurance bills by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento.

Green insurance Assembly Bill 1011 expands investment opportunities for insurance companies that have projects that directly benefit the environment, enhance clean-energy sources and promote green technology in California. It passed 8-2.

Assembly Bill 1597 would extend the low-cost auto insurance program past 2010, which aims to ensure that low-income, good drivers continue to have access to affordable auto insurance. It passed 10-0.

Assembly Bill 1868 would ban “discretionary clauses” in disability insurance by prohibiting life and disability policies from including clauses that give insurers the power to determine benefits, coverage or interpret the policy. It passed the committee on a 10-0 vote.

Assembly Bill 1871 aims to ensure that California residents who allow their car to be used in a car sharing pool do not inadvertently invalidate their car insurance polices. It also passed the committee on a 10-0 vote.

And Assembly Bill 2411 – standards for pet insurance – attempts to improve disclosure amounts paid for various procedures and makes clearer to the purchaser what types of conditions will not be covered by the pet insurance. It passed on a 8-2 vote.

The car sharing bill, AB 1871, will move directly to the Senate floor for consideration in August. The other four will be considered in the State Senate’s Appropriations Committee in early August.

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Submit items for this column to Dan Verel at dverel@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.