East Baton Rouge, La., city-parish government employees will not see an increase in their health insurance premiums.

The Metro Council on Oct. 14 refused to raise health insurance premiums for city employees. The decision will force the city to pull money from its reserves.

The Advocate reports the city-parish has already lost some $2 million since April because its been paying more for health claims than it has been receiving from employee health contributions.

To offset the problem, the city offered to pay $3.5 million extra for health insurance from its tax pools and asked for city employees to pay 8 percent higher premiums to generate an additional $1.3 million.

Department of Public Works union organizer Alvin Rattle and a couple of employees spoke against the higher premiums, complaining it would eat up their 2 percent pay raise from earlier this year.

The Metro Council could not generate enough votes to increase the premiums, forcing City Administrative Officer William Daniel to say the city will pull the $1.3 million from the health insurance reserves.

"Its fiscally irresponsible," Daniel said. "They have a fiduciary responsibility to run this city in a fiscally responsible manner."

The impact will be felt deeply in the city-parishs budget, Daniel said. Tax money that could have gone toward city services, youth programs and other services will now have to go toward paying health insurance for city employees, he said.

And Daniel is certain the problem will only get worse. The extra financial obligation from the city-parish would grow each year, as health insurance claims mount.

Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. has hit some choppy waters that could encourage competitors. But despite withdrawing from its deal to acquire RSA Insurance Group PLC. and the recent exit of several top executives, the insurer remains financially strong.

In late September, the insurer called off its tentative £5.6 billion ($8.79 billion) bid for RSA, just one day before the deadline to make

Now that local health plans are eliminating PPOs in favor of HMOs, we resurrect the canard that President Obama promised that under Obamacare if you like your doctor you could keep your doctor ("What about 'if you like your doc, keep him?' ").

As any rational person would understand, he meant that Obamacare would not require insurers or patients to switch doctors. But if you (or your employer) switch health plans, or the insurer eliminates your plan, you are in a new situation. Doctors move, retire, die, drop or are dropped by certain plans.

This churning is the direct result of market competition. But now, unlike pre-Obamacare, if you or your doctors circumstances change, you will still be able to get real, affordable, uncancelable health insurance, no matter the health status of you or your loved ones.

If you dont like sorting through the complicated mess of ever-changing competing plans from multiple insurance corporations, support single-payer health care.

-- Andrew March MD,Phoenix

People spend a lot of time during the winter doing two things staying inside and trying to keep warm.

So, if you do the math, it will come as no surprise that most births in the United States take place between May and October, with August usually leading the pack. Which means, about now, lots of people are, or should be, looking for life insurance.

Everyone, despite what many are told, does not need life insurance. However, if you have dependents such as a newborn child, you will need to be able to replace your income if you were to die. Accordingly, to decide whether you need life insurance, ask yourself the following question:

If I were to die tomorrow, with the loss of my current income, would those who are financially dependent on me (spouse, children) be able to continue to afford to pay for those things theyll need to pay for now (mortgage, rent, medical insurance, all other general living expenses) and in the future (college education, etc.)?

If the answer to that question is that they couldnt afford to pay for those things without your income, than you need to buy life insurance.

Remember, too, that some people while not earning an income per se do have a large economic value, and need to be insured. For example, because the death of a stay-at-home mom (or dad) would likely cause economic hardship due to the greatly increased day care fees and/or the greatly decreased earning time for the surviving spouse, the non-income-earning spouse, especially in a family with other dependents, should also be covered by life insurance.

Next question what type of insurance should you buy? With very few exceptions, you should always buy term life. Since the premiums on cash-value insurance (whole life, variable life, etc.) policies are so high, most people can only afford the amount of insurance coverage they need by buying the much less expensive term insurance. Just as importantly, even if cost is not a concern, because the investment portion of cash-value insurance policies in virtually all cases are, at best, only mediocre, its virtually always better to buy a term policy.

Additionally, when buying a term life policy, be sure you specifically purchase a level term policy, so that the premiums will remain constant over the entire term of the policy.

And, in most cases (certainly if you have a newborn), be sure that the policy is for a minimum of 25 years, so that by the time the policy term ends, those who had been financially dependent on your income will likely no longer be so.

Rick Shaffer hosts Biz$mart weekdays from 4-6 pm on Boston Herald Radio.

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