Greek debt relief closer than ever but creditors must act, Greek


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Greek debt relief ‘closer than ever’ but creditors must act, Greek prime minister says

ATHENS Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras kept up his demand for debt relief from international lenders on Tuesday, saying Athens was close to securing a solution to ease its debt mountain but that creditors must meet there commitments.

Greece wants to wrap up negotiations with the lenders — the European Union and International Monetary Find — on reforms and on debt relief this month.

It needs another tranche of bailout money, wants to qualify for inclusion in the European Central Bank’s bond-buying program, and seeks to return to bond markets immediately afterwards.

“We are closer than ever to a substantial solution on debt relief,” said Tsipras reiterating that Greece had already agreed to apply more austerity after its current bailout expires and it was its lenders’ turn to fulfill their promises of discussions about debt relief.

“Τhe ball is no longer in our court,” he told reporters referring to lenders’ statements on debt relief in past years.

Despite Greece’s recent statements and a bailout review agreement at staff level, sources close to the lenders have been less optimistic seeing talks on debt relief lasting longer than May.

This is because of sharp differences between the IMF and Germany, Europe’s paymaster, over the Greece’s fiscal targets. The former says Greece’s target and debt are unsustainable; the latter, with an election coming, is less willing to drop its hard line.

After six months of tense talks, Athens and the lenders reached a deal last week on a set of additional reforms the country needs to implement in 2019-20, two years after its current, 86-billion euro bailout program expires.

Greece wants euro zone finance ministers to approve the reforms’ deal at a scheduled Eurogroup meeting on May 22 — a key condition for unlocking vital loans — but also agree on a formula to make its debt sustainable in the medium-term and long term.

Debt sustainability is key for the European Central Bank and the Washington-based IMF, which participated financially in the country’s first two rescue packages, but has yet to announce whether it will join Greece’s current program, the third since 2010.

Greek lawmakers are expected to vote on the new austerity package by May 18, before euro zone finance ministers assess the country’s progress.

Tsipras, who is sagging in opinion polls and whose term expires in 2019, controls 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament and he is expected to pass the bill.

But the delays in the negotiations have slowed projected economic growth and have exacerbated reform fatigue after seven years of austerity hurting the government’s popularity further.

Asked whether he was considering a cabinet reshuffle, Tsipras ruled it out.

“We are not considering it. Our aim now is to speed up work as much as we can,” he said during a visit at the education ministry, where he announced a planned education reform.

(Additional reporting Angeliki Koutantou Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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03/11/2017

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Discount Health Care Programs Resource Page #discount, #health, #care, #programs, #tdlr,


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Discount Health Care Programs Resource Page

Discount health care programs are not insurance. The discount programs typically sell cards that provide members with discounts for health care services from participating physicians and providers. The program member is responsible for paying the full discounted cost of the medical treatment. The programs can provide a value to consumers who do not have health insurance by helping to reduce the out-of pocket cost of health care.

Discount health care programs are required to be registered to sell their programs in the state. Check a company’s license status by visiting the Discount Health Care Program Operator and Marketer Listings page. Consumers should also make sure their doctors, dentists, and other health care providers accept the program and offer discounts before buying a discount health care program.

Registering a Discount Health Care Program with TDI

File a Complaint

You can file an insurance complaint using our Online Complaint Portal . You can also fill out a complaint form that is available on the portal page or by calling the Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 . Also read about TDI’s consumer complaints process in the Helping You With Your Insurance Complaint publication.

Help Stop Medical Discount Card Fraud

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) needs your help in halting a surge in the fraudulent marketing of medical discount cards. In these schemes, marketers typically represent that consumers will receive low-cost health insurance or medical benefits. In reality, consumers do not receive health insurance or any meaningful medical benefits. Instead, they receive a card that purports to provide discounted rates with medical providers. Consumers find that the promised discounted rates are illusory.

These bogus medical discount programs are marketed to consumers in a variety of ways, including illegal recorded telephone calls (robocalls), unsolicited faxes, radio and television ads, and web sites. Regardless of the medium, the ads often target seniors, claiming that the discount cards will supplement Medicare.

The FTC, which is the federal government’s consumer protection agency, brings federal court law enforcement actions to stop fraud and obtain refunds for consumers. If you have information about a medical discount card scheme, or learn of a victim of such a scheme, call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 .

Prevent Insurance Fraud

Insurance fraud is a crime. If you believe you’ve been a target of insurance fraud or you become aware of a fraud operation, report it to the TDI Fraud Unit online or by calling the Consumer Help Line.

Get Help from TDI

For insurance questions or for help with an insurance-related complaint, call the Consumer Help Line or visit our website.

For more information, contact:

Last updated: 03/30/2016


13/09/2017

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Asset sales plan secures EU backing for $130 billion Dow, DuPont


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Asset sales plan secures EU backing for $130 billion Dow, DuPont merger

The Dow logo is seen on a building in downtown Midland, Michigan, in this May 14, 2015 file photograph. Rebecca Cook/File Photo

(Reuters) – Dow Chemical and DuPont won the blessing of the European Union for their $130 billion merger on Monday by agreeing to sell substantial assets including key research and development activities.

The European Commission had been concerned that the merger of two of the biggest and oldest U.S. chemical producers would leave few incentives to produce new herbicides and pesticides in the future. The deal is one of a trio of mega mergers that will reshape the industry and consolidate six companies into three.

Asset sales would ensure competition in the sector and benefit European farmers and consumers, the Commission said.

“We need effective competition in this sector so companies are pushed to develop products that are ever safer for people and better for the environment,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“Our decision today ensures that the merger between Dow and DuPont does not reduce price competition for existing pesticides or innovation for safer and better products in the future.”

The two other big deals in the industry are ChemChina’s [CNNCC.UL] $43 billion bid for Syngenta and Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto.

Dow and DuPont said they were still on target for $3 billion in cost synergies and $1 billion in growth benefits.

The deal is still to be approved by regulators in the United States, Brazil, China, Australia and Canada, but the companies said they were confident of clearance in all remaining jurisdictions.

“This regulatory milestone is a significant step toward closing the merger transaction, with the intention to subsequently spin into three independent publicly traded companies,” Dow spokeswoman Rachelle Schikorra said in an email.

The EU approval may be a sign that U.S. regulators would follow suit because the agencies have traditionally coordinated on reviews and remedies for large multinational mergers, said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute non-profit group.

However, any required asset sales would likely reflect antitrust concerns in the local marketplace.

“In the U.S. there are very high shares in corn and soybean seeds. We would expect those problems to be significant enough for enforcers in the U.S. to remedy them,” Moss said.

Weighty Decision

DuPont products are shown for sale in a hardware store in National City, California, December 9, 2015. Mike Blake/File Photo

The 1,000-page decision underlined the significance of the merger. In return for the EU green light, DuPont will divest large parts of its global pesticides business, including its global research and development organization.

The unit makes herbicides for cereals, oilseed rape, sunflower, rice and pasture and insecticides for insect control for fruits and vegetables.

Dow, in turn, will sell two acid co-polymer manufacturing facilities in Spain and the United States, as well as a contract with a third party through which it buys ionomers. The company has already found a buyer in South Korea’s SK Innovation.

“The main surprises here are the inclusion of the pesticides and the exclusion of any kind of seed assets,” Bernstein analysts wrote in a note. The analysts also said they had expected EU to be concerned about the concentration of seed sales, and that they would require Dow to divest its corn seeds business.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference after Dow Chemical gained conditional EU antitrust approval on Monday for their $130 billion merger by agreeing to significant asset sales, one of a trio of mega mergers that will redraw the agrochemicals industry, in Brussels, Belgium March 27, 2017. Yves Herman

“We see the required divestments here as smaller than we originally expected, due to the exclusion of seed assets”.

Antitrust experts said the regulator’s demand to sell large swathes of R editing by Robin Emmott/Keith Weir/Sriraj Kalluvila

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10/09/2017

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ISO 9001: 2015 and the telecoms industry – the easy and


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Telecoms.com

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Sheronda Jeffries explores the nuances and implications of the ISO 9001:2015 standard.

TL 9000 is a two-part quality management system standard aimed at meeting the supply chain requirements of the global information and communication technology (ICT) or telecom industry. TL 9000:2016 (Release 6) is scheduled to be the first sector standard released based on ISO 9001:2015 allowing TL 9000 Certified companies more transition time than other industries like aerospace or automotive.

The standard consists of the TL 9000 Requirements Handbook, which contains all of the auditable requirements of ISO 9001 and additional requirements specific to the ICT sector such as:

  • Service Availability (24/7)
  • Program, product, project, and service planning
  • Continuity of supply
  • Maintenance, including long-term & end of life
  • Product security
  • Disaster recovery

The TL 9000:2016 (Release 6) Requirements Handbook is slated for publication in Q2/Q3 2016 with an effective date of September 2016 and for the first time, instead of the customary one year transition, TL 9000 certified organizations will be allowed two years to transition their existing certifications to the new release of the Handbook. This will allow alignment with ISO 9001:2015’s three year transition as agreed by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), the organization that provides oversight to Certification Bodies and Accreditation Bodies that grant TL 9000 certification.

How can ICT or telecom organizations best manage the ISO 9001:2015 and TL 9000:2016 (R6) transition? Let’s look at two buckets: easy versus hard.

The ‘easy bucket’ includes the concept of risk-based-thinking, which has been a major subject of concern and conversation for ISO 9001:2015 along with the introduction of “context.”

ISO 9001:2015 does not introduce the term “risk management” or terms like “risk mitigation” or “risk treatment.” Instead ISO 9001:2015 introduces the term “risk-based thinking” and clearly states that the concept of “risk-based thinking” was implicit in previous versions. The ISO 9001 standard now promotes a systematic approach to considering “risk” rather than treating the concept of preventing “risk” as a separate clause. Although many believe that “risk” applies only to negative consequences, the effects of “risk” can be either negative or positive.

Most telecom organizations have long utilized “red-yellow-green” indicators on dashboards and performance reports. In the past, yellow was an indicator for the need for caution or quite simply it was an indicator that there may be a need to take action to prevent potential nonconformities as in “preventive action.” The adoption of the concept of “risk-based thinking” is in line with “red-yellow-green” indicators that are used throughout the telecom industry and quite frankly other industries as well. This is a very basic application of risk-based thinking that is widely used and effective.

Many telecom organizations maintain certification or compliance with multiple management system standards. For example, Cisco Systems maintains ISO 9001, TL 9000, ISO 14001 and ISO 27001 Certifications. So the inclusion of core text from Annex SL will make things a lot simpler. In the telecom world, many organizations rely on tools and spreadsheets and the “high-level structure” (i.e. clause sequence, common text and terminology) will simplify the numbering and the text fields within the tools and spreadsheets.

The TL 9000 standard includes a focus on performance data that really fits well with the introduction of organizational “context” in ISO 9001:2015 – understanding the relevant needs and expectations of relevant interested parties. TL 9000 has long included additional requirements or “adders” for “Customer Communication,” “Customer Input” and “Supplier Input.” Additionally submission of monthly performance data allows TL 9000 Certified organizations to analyze their performance against their TL 9000 Certified competitors to evaluate whether their TL 9000 measurements performance meets “industry average” or is “best-in-class” or even “worst-in-class” for their products.

So transition to ISO 9001:2015 and TL 9000:2016 (Release 6) shouldn’t be that difficult – but what about the hard bucket?

One clause of ISO 9001:2015 contains the words “when addressing changing needs and trends.” For ICT or telecom, change is a way of life – markets and products are rapidly changing. With this in mind, telecom organizations may have some difficulty maintaining “organizational knowledge” when “addressing changing needs and trends” as change is almost constant in the industry.

Another consideration is that due to the rush to transition or re-certify by the IAF deadline, Certification Bodies will be backlogged and it may be difficult for telecom organizations to schedule their transition audits. Quite frankly, there are not a lot of Certification Body auditors qualified to conduct TL 9000 audits.

Other changes will impact TL 9000 Certified organizations as they transition. For example, the “Code of Practice for TL 9000 Certification Bodies” was revised to include a requirement that an installation or construction site be audited for initial certification at least once during each three-year certification cycle for specified organizations and a companion Code of Practice Checklist Guideline was created for Certification Bodies. An optional TL 9000 Measurements Checklist was revised and enhanced and a post-Audit Feedback Survey to gather anonymous input from auditors, auditees, and observers about their Certification Body audit experiences was recently implemented. Many of these changes were made as a result of the Validation Audits conducted by QuEST Forum.

The Validation Audits were undertaken by QuEST Forum to gather data to assess the effectiveness of the TL 9000 Certification process by confirming there are no major nonconformities in the requirements to be included in every audit, according to the “Code of Practice for TL 9000 Certification Bodies.” Organizations evaluated were chosen at random, while ensuring a representative regional distribution. Based upon the results, QuEST Forum continues working towards improvements in the TL 9000 Certification process.

The publication of the TL 9000:2016 (Release 6) Requirements Handbook continues QuEST Forum’s dedication to positively impacting the quality and sustainability of products and services in the ICT industry. QuEST Forum will continue to examine and address key ICT issues affecting reliability, performance, and security in future releases of its TL 9000 standard and associated TL 9000 measurements.

Hopefully, this focus will allow TL 9000 Certified organizations to have a lighter bucket load during future ISO 9000 transitions. For more information on ISO 9001:2015, ASQ Quality Management Standards .

Sheronda Jeffries is the Integrated Global Quality Chair for QuEST Forum, an industry collaboration of companies dedicated to ICT or telecom supply chain quality and performance, at the USTAG TC 176, ISO TC 176, ISO CASCO STAR and the IAF, where she serves as a Director representing Users and Industry.

Sheronda is responsible for providing internal consulting support at Cisco Systems and has more than 20 years experience serving as a third-party quality auditor and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies, specializing in quality management systems implementation and auditing. Her experience spans many industries, including ICT and telecom, plus the following types of manufacturing: electrical, mechanical, paper and plastic.


19/08/2017

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The Life Insurance Industry – s Big Secret #life #insurance #regulation,baby


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The Life Insurance Industry’s Big Secret

How do life insurance companies make money? When I ask this question of my friends, I get a variety of interesting answers — aside from a bunch of odd looks. One mathematically inclined acquaintance said insurance companies use complex actuarial tables which enable them to predict, very accurately, how long people will live and the insurers figure that, over time, they will collect more money than they pay out. To this answer, I nod in slight agreement. The latter part is true but not because of any actuarial brilliance. Insurance companies make money because a massive amount of all life insurance coverage lapses. (Note: In an earlier version of this post, we published a statistic regarding lapse rates. We removed it at the request of the source.)

Most people pay into a term or whole life policy for years, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then allow those same policies to lapse — and the insurance company never pays out a penny. Yes, if the insured passes away, then the company pays a death benefit, but this is a fairly rare occurrence due to the high lapse rates. Some sources suggest that less than two percent of term policies ever result in a death claim. (Hundreds of millions of death benefits also go unclaimed by the beneficiaries, but the insurance industry’s culpability in these cases is a whole other topic.)

As you can imagine, the insurance industry likes its profitable business model: Collect a lot of money and pay very little out. Have consumers buy their product, make regular payments, and then let that same product be rendered useless after allowing it to lapse some years later. It adds up to a lot of money for insurers to line their pockets, continue to buy commercials during golf tournaments and expand their general wealth like Warren Buffett.

However, as times have gotten tougher, insurance regulators have taken notice of lapse and surrender rates and the tremendous economic losses that befall consumers. Two years ago, the National Council of Life Insurance Legislators decided to do something about it and passed The Life Insurance Consumer Disclosure Act with the goal of helping consumers understand the alternatives to lapsing a policy.

As a bit of background, the insurance industry is regulated on the state level. There is no “federal department of insurance” to dictate how the industry should be policed — it falls on the states. On occasion, state regulators get together and tackle tough issues by creating “model acts” which are viewed as guidance for future state regulation. Such acts don’t have to be followed by states, but they often are.

In 2010, NCOIL created its consumer disclosure act which requires life insurance companies to provide written notice of alternatives to the lapse or surrender of life insurance policies, specifically to insureds who are 60 or older or who are known by the insurer to be terminally or chronically ill.

The alternatives include: (a) accelerated death benefits available under the policy or as a rider to the policy; (b) the assignment of the policy as a gift; (c) the sale of the policy pursuant to a life settlement contract, including that a life settlement is a regulated transaction in the state (as applicable); (d) the replacement of the policy pursuant to appropriate regulation; (e) the maintenance of the policy pursuant to the terms of the policy or a rider to the policy, or through life settlement contract; (f) the maintenance of the policy through loans issued by an insurer or a third party, using the policy or the cash surrender value of the policy as collateral for the loan; (g) conversion of the policy from a term policy to a permanent policy; and (h) conversion of the policy in order to obtain long-term care health insurance coverage or a long-term care benefit plan.

To date, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin are the only states that have adopted the disclosure act. California has passed similar legislation and disclosure bills have been proposed in Florida and Georgia.

Let’s look at a few of the options that anyone older than 60 should consider before allowing their life insurance policy to lapse:

Accelerated death benefits. For terminally ill policyholders, an accelerated death benefit enables them to receive cash advances against the death benefit.

Assignment of the policy as a gift. A policyholder can give away ownership of a life insurance policy by signing an assignment or transfer document and notifying the insurance company of the change. After the policy is transferred, the new owner is responsible for making premium payments.

Life settlement. Individuals older than 70 can sell their policies for more than the surrender value but less than the death benefit. A life settlement provider continues to pay the purchased policy premiums, collecting the full amount when the policy seller passes away. The amount received for a life settlement varies depending on the life expectancy of the policyholder at the time of sale, and the ongoing premiums necessary to keep the policy in force.

Convert life insurance to long-term care coverage. A life insurance conversion program is the sale of a life insurance policy to a third party in exchange for monthly payments made to a long-term care services provider such as an assisted living residence or home care provider.

Convert from term to permanent insurance. Some term life policies can be converted to permanent insurance, without having to undergo a medical exam or provide health information. This enables an insured to keep coverage that would otherwise lapse at the end of the term. Permanent insurance provides coverage until death.

Many options exist which are far better for consumers than letting their insurance policies lapse. So far a few states have taken action to demand disclosure, but in general the insurance industry’s big secret remains intact.


09/07/2017

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