Wineries in the North Bay on average saw a 5 percent cost increase on employer-sponsored health insurance last year, in tune with national averages and down from previous years, but a majority don't have specific plans to deal with the Affordable Care Act, according to a survey by Woodruff Sawyer & Company.

The annual Wine Industry Health and Welfare Benchmarking Survey, part of a broader Bay Area survey on employee benefit trends, found that 73 percent of wineries who offer health benefits have not completed a formal analysis on how the Affordable Care Act would impact costs, while 27 percent said they had.

Wineries surveyed range in size, averaging between 75 and 100 employees and case counts of between 50,000 and 100,000.

While only a handful have done actual analysis on health care reform, wineries were overall in  agreement that the ACA would increase their costs: about 40 percent said it would increase costs by more than 3 percent, while 13 percent said it was going to increase costs by more than 10 percent.

[caption id="attachment_76326" align="alignleft" width="160"] Chris Reiter[/caption]

"A fairly high percentage know or believe it's going to impact their costs negatively," said Chris Reiter, vice president of Woodruff's employee benefits practice in Novato.

Wineries do tend to have generous plan designs, with the average plan being a PPO with a $350 deductible, $25 copay and 80 percent of coverage paid for by employers.

"That's the most prevalent plan they're offering to their employees," Mr. Reiter said.

Overall, 39 percent of wineries are offering PPO plans, while 31 percent are offering HMO plans. Another 30 percent are offering a variety of so-called consumer-driven plans, typically in the form of health savings accounts or health reimbursement accounts.

"For companies offering those plans, they're typically funding more than half of the deductible. Between 60 and 75 percent are funding the deductible, which is higher than some places in the country and is pretty generous," Mr. Reiter said.

Increasingly more wineries are either offering or interested in offering wellness programs for employees, according to the survey.

"Some are as basic as encouraging walking; others include conducting annual health fairs," Mr. Reiter said, pointing to well-known examples like Trinchero Family Estates, which in recent years has won several accolades for its wellness initiatives.***

[caption id="attachment_76327" align="alignright" width="161"] Andrew Torrance[/caption]

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company named Andrew Torrance as its new president and chief executive officer.

Mr. Torrance will assume his new role later this summer, according to the Novato-based insurer. He is the fifth executive at Fireman’s Fund since 2007.

The previous top executive, Lori Fouche, left for Prudential Financial Inc., according to the trade publication Insurance Journal. She was promoted to CEO two years ago, filling a vacancy left by Michael LaRocco.

Most recently, Mr. Torrance, who has over 30 experience in the insurance industry, served as CEO of Allianz UK, a larger general insurer and part of the Allianz SE Group, the parent company of Fireman’s Fund and one of the largest property-casualty carriers in the world. Before that, Mr. Torrance was director and head of the Allianz broker division. He’s also held senior and board positions at consulting firms and insurers, including London & Edinburgh and Boston Consulting Group.

His appointment needs to be approved by the board of directors of Fireman’s Fund.

“I’d like to thank Lori for her contributions and welcome Andrew to Fireman’s Fund,” said Gary Bhojwani, chairman of Fireman’s Fund and an Allianz SE board member, in a statement. “I am confident that Andrew will successfully lead Fireman’s Fund to become an expert provider of specialized insurance solutions. He has a track record of executing on established priorities and delivering consistent profitability in a challenging business environment during his 14-year career at Allianz.”

Mr. Torrance holds a degree in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge and a master’s degree from the London Business School.***

[caption id="attachment_76328" align="alignright" width="140"] Jeffrey Ribordy[/caption]

Fairfield-based Partnership HealthPlan of California announced that pediatrician Jeffrey Ribordy has been selected as the new regional medical director for Humboldt-Del Norte-Western Trinity counties,  starting in September.

Dr. Ribordy has worked for the past 15 years at Eureka Pediatrics, a rural health clinic with offices in Eureka and McKinleyville.  He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.  He has a master's in public health from the University of California, Berkeley.

Partnership HealthPlan of California is the official "county organized health system selected by the state to provide a Medi-Cal Managed Care delivery system to eight new counties, starting on September 1, 2013.  The new counties are Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity, Siskiyou, Shasta, Modoc, Lassen and Lake.  The organization currently serves six counties: Solano, Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino.***

Fireman's Fund has partnered with R.V. Nuccio & Associates, a Southern California agency that specializes in insuring special events.

The coverage is geared toward concerts, auctions, wine tastings,  sports tournaments or other small events and is known as the "Short Term Event Program," or STEP.  It covers: general liability, commercial hired and non-owned auto liability, third-party property damage (with deductible), collapse of a temporary structure, fire damages, host liquor liability, commercial liquor liability and medical payment....

Submit items for this column to Business Journal Staff Writer Dan Verel at 707-521-4257 or dverel@busjrnl.com.