Woodruff-Sawyer & Company recently announced the launch of BizInsure, a website that aims to make shopping for commercial insurance easier.

The website (bizinsure.com) is the result of a collaboration with BizCover Pty. Ltd., an online division of Australia-based Mega Capital. The new site comes after two years of research, technical development and negotiations with top insurance companies that the San Francisco-based brokerage, which has a Novato office, hopes will offer "a new way of thinking, a new way of underwriting, and a new way of pricing professional liability insurance for independent professionals and small to midsize businesses."

According to Woodruff-Sawyer, the insurance industry generally has been slow to adapt to technological innovations, and the new BizInsure website aims to correct that by giving employers "simplicity, convenience, reliability and affordability" when seeking coverage. Businesses with less than $2.5 million in annual revenues in particular will be targeted.

"We recognized that this is a great way to reach new customers," said Charles Russon, chief executive officer of Woodruff-Sawyer.

Currently, BizInsure provides insurance needs for 225 professionals is all 50 states.***

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is expected to increase by 11 percent in the next year, and premiums will remain steady, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Premiums on such plans have dropped by about 10 percent, while enrollment is up by 20 percent since the Affordable Care Act was signed in 2010, according to the department.

The average Medicare Advantage premium in 2013 is projected to increase by $1.47 from the previous year, according to HHS.

Since the health overhaul was enacted in 2010, 5.4 million people with Medicare have saved more than $4.1 billion on prescription drugs, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.***

The National Committee for Quality Assurance ranked Kaiser Permanente Northern California as the eighth-best commercial plan in the country and the third-best Medicare plan in its most recent survey, Kaiser announced recently.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California is the highest-ranked commercial plan in the state, and it scored among the top 10 in the nation in 20 of the 49 national measures of clinical excellence covered in the survey, according to the Oakland-based HMO. Such measures include screening for cancer, diabetes and hypertension; management of high-blood pressure; and screening and management of body mass index (BMI).

 "The (committee's) annual rankings are based on a wide range of real and meaningful clinical indicators, and they showcase the high quality of health care Kaiser Permanente physicians, nurses and staff provide to our members and patients," said Gregory Adams, regional president of Kaiser Permanente Northern California. "Preventive care has been a cornerstone of the Kaiser Permanente model for more than 65 years, and by consistently screening for chronic conditions and catching and treating health problems early, we are helping our members and patients live full, active and productive lives."***

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 53, which requires the state's top 200 insurance companies to report on their efforts to procure goods and services from businesses owned by minorities, women and disabled veterans. The state Department of Insurance supported the bill.

Insurers with more than $100 million in premiums will have to report to the department on outreach efforts to diverse businesses by July 2013. The department cited research from the U.S. Small Business Administration and Center for Women's Business Research that such businesses constitute one of the fastest-growing segments of the national economy. Minority-owned business also employ nearly six million workers, while women-owned businesses employ 19 million and generate $2.5 million in annual sales. ***

The California Legislature recently agreed to shift some 880,000 lower-income children from the Healthy Families program to Medi-Cal, which reimburses providers at a lower rate.

That would reduce annual patient reimbursement to Santa Rosa Community Health Centers by 1.2 percent and West County Health Centers by 3 percent, according to the centers.

Proponents of the Healthy Families program, which serves uninsured children whose parents earn more than the federal poverty line, have been critical of the move, arguing that the shift could impact access to care for children and that children would likely lose their pediatricians.

But the federal health overhaul, which expands Medicaid, will require that the state shift those children to Medi-Cal by 2014. Gov. Jerry Brown argued that it would be more efficient to do so now versus waiting.•••

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