California Health Insurance – Independent Health Life Agent Verses Insurance Company In House Agent

You have just completed an online form requesting a free health insurance quote and moments later you are being inundated with phone calls from insurance agents hoping to get your business. Try not to become overwhelmed or annoyed by these “pesky sales people” because they are really not telemarketers. Most of them are well-trained state licensed professionals who can really help you make a good decision regarding which health plan is best and most affordable for your individual or group coverage needs.You may be under the misconception that if you buy your health plan directly from the insurance company, and cut out the “middle person”, you will save money. This is absolutely not the case. In fact, insurance companies rely on agents for most of their business and that’s why they pay them commissions for bringing in customers. It does not cost a consumer one penny more to use a licensed California health insurance agent to obtain their insurance coverage.There are many differences between California health insurance and other states including how it is applied for.For example, while Blue Cross and Blue Shield are one company in other states, here in California, each is separate and applied to individually as Anthem Blue Cross of California and Blue Shield of California.California health insurance law AB 1672 is an improvement over the federal HIPAA law that covers all states in that it includes the following with regard to California group coverage:1. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions may change over to a new group health plan without an exclusionary period.2. It allows small businesses and professional organizations to have access to health plans providing they have between 2 and 50 full time employees.3. It keeps insurance rates from climbing after a claim is filed.4. Employees who have health problems may change jobs or health plans without being rated higher for having pre-existing conditions.That said, the very best health insurance agent for your individual and business needs is an “Independent Agent.” Why? Because they represent multiple insurance carriers, not just one. An independent agent can help you select the most appropriate cost-effective plan offering the most benefits for your dollar as available from the major carriers, rather than feeding you just one company’s line of health plans which may not suit your particular needs. Many people are too complacent and settle for what their current insurance company has to offer. They could use a good independent agent to sort through the many plans available from multiple insurance carriers to find and provide the best choice of options.Another misunderstanding you may have is that insurance agents set the premium rates for the health insurance plans they sell. Thinking if you shop around you may get a better price for the same plan. Premium rates are based on your age, zip code or county in which you reside and are controlled completely by the insurance companies. Every agent uses the exact same rate guides set by the insurance companies. The condition of your health may affect your premium, which may be rated up after the insurance company’s underwriting department has reviewed your medical records. Again, the insurance company, not the agent, determines that outcome.Now, let’s talk about the benefits of having a good insurance agent representing you. Most consumers neither know nor understand the benefits of a health plan being offered and need the expertise of an agent to explain the benefits to them in full. For example, do you know what the difference is between an “out-of-pocket maximum” and an “annual deductible?”An out of pocket maximum is the most you will have to pay in a given year for deductible and coinsurance for covered benefits before your insurance starts to pay 100% of most expenses until the year ends.An annual deductible is usually the amount you pay each year before your health plan starts paying anything for covered services. Generally, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Certain services such as prescription drugs carry separate deductibles. Plans may vary and sometimes benefits will kick in before you have to meet the deductible.A knowledgeable health insurance agent can be a guide through the maze and help you choose the right plan to meet your needs and budget while obtaining the most benefits for your dollars spent. An agent will also make clear how the benefits for a generic prescription may differ from the benefits for a brand prescription on a particular plan.After you have a health plan in place, a good, caring agent will remind you to pay your premium on time so the insurance company doesn’t cancel you. Your agent can also be an enormous resource for assistance if you run into a problem with a health insurance claim. Instead of waiting on hold at the insurance company’s 800 number for thirty to forty- five minutes, call your agent and explain your problem and if you have chosen the right agent, you will get help and may save yourself lots of time and frustration, maybe even some money by having an expert in your corner where your best interests come first.So next time you or someone you know, fills out one of those on-line forms for a health insurance quote and you get several phone calls from health insurance agents wanting your business, be grateful that a professional wants to help you for free to choose the right plan and you’ll have an important friend for life.

House Price Trend in Italy’s Top Resorts

The surveys conducted by Nomisma and F.I.M.A.A. (the largest Italian Realtors association) show that Italy’s tourist property market maintains a substantial stability in last two years, following a significant growth in the period 2001 to 2008.Comparing the historical series of house average prices for main Italy’s sea and mountain resorts, we notice a smoother trend for the sea resorts, with an overall increase of 62% in years 2000 to 2008 and values of growth between a minimum of 2% in 2008 and a maximum of 9% in 2003. In the same period (2000 to 2008) the curve for non-sea resorts is more nervous: it shows an overall growth in the house average price of 51%, with a pick of 9.8% in 2004 and a minimum of 2.1% in 2008. After 2008, prices begin a slight decrease, more pronounced for sea resorts (-06% for sea resorts, -0,1% for non-sea resorts). We can say then that Italian tourist property market prices hold up the impact of the world crisis, as well as the national property market.The F.I.M.A.A. surveys rank the ten sea and mountain resorts with the highest prices for best houses: i.e. they consider the average of highest sale prices observed (of course, the maximum prices can be considerably higher than the average). There are some interesting divergences between the group of top sea resorts and the top mountain resorts.The group of the best sea resorts shows a low mobility, featuring a list of only twelve localities which appear in the top ten ranking during years 2006 to 2010. Santa Margherita Ligure and Porto Cervo are competing for the supremacy, with two first positions each, while Campania resorts (Capri and Positano) boast the strongest price growth (round 14 % and 11%): Capri gains first place in 2010, with 13,100 Euros/SQM. The resort of Fregene, a favourite with Romans VIPs, is declining, leaving the top ten ranking in 2009 and 2010. Tuscany resorts (Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio) are ascending instead. Notice that the price variation refers to the price of the most expensive houses: i.e. the average of the highest prices observed.The low increases (in some cases decreases) are indicative of the market tendency to reduce the excessive prices achieved. Take Porto Cervo as an example: the average price of best houses was 13,500 Euros/SQM in 2007 (when Porto Cervo was number one), while in 2010 we find a price of 12,000 Euros/SQM. Really, the average of the twelve sea resorts has not substantially changed in 2010 (10,325) with respect to 2006 (10,225). The list of the twelve resorts is reported below, with the average position referred to the whole period 2006-2010 and the average price observed in 2010 for the best houses. Portofino, probably because of the very few property transactions, is not among the localities monitored by F.I.M.A.A.Top sea resorts (2006 to 2010).

Santa Margherita Ligure (Liguria): 1.8 – 12,500 Euros/SQM
Porto Cervo (Sardinia): 2.4 – 12,000 Euros/SQM
Forte dei Marmi (Tuscany): 2.6 – 13,000 Euros/SQM
Capri (Campania): 3.2 – 13,100 Euros/SQM
Alassio (Liguria): 5.6 – 9,200 Euros/SQM
Positano (Campania): 6.8 – 10,300 Euros/SQM
Porto Rotondo (Sardinia): 8 – 8,700 Euros/SQM
Viareggio(Tuscany): 8 – 9,500 Euros/SQM
Sestri Levante (Liguria): 9.2 – 9,000 Euros/SQM
Anacapri (Campania): 9.2 – 9,400 Euros/SQM
Fregene (Lazio): 10 – 8,200 Euros/SQM
Cinque Terre (Liguria): 10.4 – 9,000 Euros/SQMThe group of mountain resorts appears to be more dynamic. In fact, we find 17 localities which enter at least once in the yearly top ten ranking. Really, the top of the ranking remains well stable, showing constantly the same resorts at the first three positions: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Madonna di Campiglio and Courmayeur. Cortina d’Ampezzo is by far the winner, resulting every year the locality with maximum house price among both the sea and mountains resorts, featuring a price of 19,000 Euros/SQM in 2010. But in the lower part of ranking, things go differently. In fact, we see the strong decline of Piedmont resorts Sestriere and Bardonecchia, which had probably benefited from the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games. They shift from 5th and 7th place in 2006 to 18th and 17th in 2010, with a decrease in the best house price of 27.55% and 11.44% respectively.The performance of Cervinia is similar: it exits the top ten ranking in 2009 and 2010, moving from 6,030 Euros /SQM to 5,000 Euros in 2010. San Martino di Castrozza, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Canazei and Moena are the ascending resorts: all these were out of top ten ranking in 2006 and have entered the top ten only in 2009 or 2010. Gressoney-Saint-Jean achieved a price increase of 27.95%, bringing on a par with the twin village Gressoney La-Trinite’. Ortisei, San Martino di Castrozza and Moena achieve the best performance, with a price increase greater than 40%, and confirm the great attraction of Dolomites. Overall, the average price of best houses in the mountain resorts group is lower than in the sea resorts group (8,015 Euros/SQM vs. 10,325), but the increase 2006 to 2010 is far higher (17.68% vs. 0.97%).Top mountain resorts (2006 to 2010).

Cortina d’Ampezzo (Trentino Alto Adige): 1 – 19,000 Euros/SQM
Madonna di Campiglio (Trentino Alto Adige): 2 – 13,000 Euros/SQM
Courmayeur (Valle d’Aosta): 3 – 10,800 Euros/SQM
Corvara (Trentino Alto Adige): 4.6 – 9,000 Euros/SQM
Madesimo (Lombardia): 6.6 – 7,070 Euros/SQM
Gressoney L.T. (Valle d’Aosta): 8.6 – 6,500 Euros/SQM
Ortisei (Trentino Alto Adige): 9.2 – 9,000 Euros/SQM
Sestriere (Piedmont): 9.4 – 5,000 Euros/SQM
Bardonecchia (Piedmont): 11 – 5,500 Euros/SQM
Selva di Val Gardena (Trentino Alto Adige): 11.2 – 6,269 Euros/SQM
Champoluc (Valle d’Aosta): 11.4 – 6,000 Euros/SQM
San Martino di Castrozza (Trentino Alto Adige): 11.8 – 8,000 Euros/SQM
Cervinia (Valle d’Aosta): 12 – 5,000 Euros/SQM
Bormio (Lombardia): 12.2 – 6,130 Euros/SQM
Gressoney S.G. (Valle d’Aosta): 13.2 – 6,500 Euros/SQM
Canazei (Valle d’Aosta): 13.2 – 7,000 Euros/SQM
Moena (Trentino Alto Adige): 16.2 – 6,500 Euros/SQMBehind the top resorts, one of the best performances among the sea localities, is realized by Punta Marina, the small town in the Municipality of Ravenna, which achieved an increase of nearly 28% in the price of the best houses, following the similar growth already realized by Marina di Ravenna. These resorts are considered not only for holidays, but also as an alternative residence to the near town of Ravenna.
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Importance of a Complementary Educational Agenda for DR-CAFTA

LAYING THE GROUNDWORKIn September 2000, the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration. That document served as the launching pad for the public declaration of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which include everything from goal one of halving extreme poverty to goal two of providing universal primary education; all to be accomplished before the year 2015. Progress towards the first seven goals are dependent upon the success of goal eight – which emphasizes the need for rich countries to commit to assisting with the development of “an open, rule-based trading and financial system, more generous aid to countries committed to poverty reduction, and relief for the debt problems of developing countries.”1At first glance, the recent actions of Central American countries and the United States to liberalize trade seem to support, at least partially, successful realization of MDG Eight. However, upon closer examination, the picture blurs and the outcome seems uncertain.Following only a year of negotiations, the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) or DR-CAFTA (as a result of its recent inclusion of the Dominican Republic), was signed by the governments of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States in 2004. The agreement, committing each country to reduce its trade barriers with the other DR-CAFTA countries, was ratified by the United States Congress on July 28, 2005.2Rather than attempting to analyze all of the specific economic and social intricacies associated with liberalizing trade in Central America, this brief aims solely to cast light upon the overlap between countries’ efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goal Two/Education for All and their need to implement a complementary CAFTA agenda.Specifically, this document highlights the importance of educational priorities if economic development efforts are to be successful. The premise of the argument elaborated here is that without sufficient prioritized emphasis by Central American countries, multilateral organizations and targeted donor countries on a complementary agenda that directs resources towards education infrastructure, CAFTA will never succeed in assisting these countries in reaching an ever elusive state of “economic prosperity.” In fact, it may deter them from fully accomplishing the MDGs as well.CURRENT STATE OF EDUCATIONWith the need for collaboration between economic and educational efforts in mind, let us examine the current status of MDG Two implementation and broader educational reform in Central America:Over the past fifteen years, most Central American countries have implemented at least basic forms of educational reform. As a result, more children are entering school and spending more days and years enrolled than ever before. On an aggregate level, the larger Latin American and Caribbean region has made considerable progress toward the goal of universal primary education enrollment and according to the most recent UN Millennium Development Goals report, “Net enrollment rates at the primary level rose from 86 percent in 1990 to 93 percent in 2001. The region’s pace of progress in this indicator has been faster than the developing world average (which rose from 80 percent to 83 percent between 1990 and 2001). Net enrollment rates in 23 countries of the region (12 in Latin America and 11 in the Caribbean) surpass 90 percent.” 3 The reality is that, large scale disaster or other unforeseen event aside, all six countries are on target to reach the MDG enrollment targets.Unfortunately, progress towards the target of completing five years of primary education has been slower and few countries in the region can boast success in this arena. The lack of progress towards completion of this target is most directly related to inefficiencies in the education system and the socioeconomic conditions of poor children – both situations that result in high repetition and desertion rates and both situations that must be ameliorated if CAFTA is to succeed. Furthermore, while the number of children initially enrolling in school has increased, the poor quality of education throughout Central America is also certainly a factor in children’s failure to complete their primary education. Quality must therefore also be taken into account when considering educational infrastructure needs.While not necessarily relevant to MDG Two but quite possibly relevant from the CAFTA perspective of needing a skilled workforce, Central America’s educational woes most definitely extend beyond the primary school environment. In response to the recent Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, an Inter-American Development Bank representative wrote “It is difficult to avoid the impression that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are falling behind with regard to secondary education. Although this is not included in the MDGs, it is the single most important educational indicator separating upper and lower income groups in the region.” 4
When less than one third of a country’s urban workforce has completed the twelve years of schooling that your or I take for granted, how can they hope to compete in today’s technology-dense free trade environment?HISTORY LESSON -HAPPENING AGAIN?Upon an examination of the Mexico of today as compared to pre-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) times, a rise in the Mexican poverty rate over the last decade or so is apparent. Rather than being directly due to the implementation of NAFTA, it is more likely that this increase in the poverty rate is attributable to Mexico’s failure to simultaneously implement a complementary agenda; specifically, the inability of Mexico’s poorer southern States to improve their poorly trained workforce, infrastructural deficiencies and weak institutions in order to participate meaningfully in a liberalized trade environment. Rather than gain, the southern Mexican states lost even as the northern states benefited from the liberalized trade environment created by NAFTA.Dr. Daniel Lederman, co-author of the World Bank report entitled “NAFTA is Not Enough” (and issued ten years after NAFTA was originally enacted) explained in an National Public Radio (NPR) interview in 2003 that Mexico’s financial crisis in the 1990s was bound to deepen poverty there with or without NAFTA. Dr. Lederman said:Mexican income dropped in one year, 1995, by six percent. Wages across the board for all Mexican workers, on average, fell by 25 percent in less than a year…Still, NAFTA helped Mexico limit the damage, lifting per capita income at least 4 percentage points above where it would have been otherwise. The bottom line is, Mexico would be poorer without NAFTA today. Clearly trade alone won’t alleviate poverty. But if Mexico makes the right investments, especially in education, the next decade should be better. 5POTENTIAL FOR ECONOMIC SUCCESSAs was the case in Mexico, it is likely that the majority of households in Central American countries stand to ultimately gain from the price changes associated with removing trade barriers for sensitive agricultural commodities and other goods. However, in order for this to happen, as Dr. Lederman suggests above, each country must now make appropriate investments in development efforts (most especially in education) in order to guarantee an equitable distribution of the benefits of these efforts in the future.Simultaneously, it is of critical importance that each country provides for the needs of their most at-risk citizens. In order to guarantee that the children of these families are given the opportunity to be counted among those in school, countries must identify resources, both internally and externally, to provide incentives for families “to invest in the human capital of their children.” 6Examples of such incentives have been implemented through funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and several other organizations in Costa Rica (Superemonos), the Dominican Republic (Tarjeta de Asistencia Escolar), Honduras (PRAF), and Nicaragua (Red de Protecci├│n Social). Most immediately, these incentives (often in the form of conditional cash transfers) serve to increase food consumption, school attendance and use of preventive health care among the extremely poor. In the long run they are intended to assist with poverty and malnutrition reduction and to improve schooling completion rates. As reported by the IDB, “results are proving that it is possible to increase a family’s accumulation of human capital (measured by increased educational attainment and reduced mortality and morbidity) and, as a result, also raise potential labor market returns for the beneficiaries, as well as overall productivity. The programs have had a substantial positive long-term impact on the education, nutrition and health of its beneficiaries, especially children.” 7In the World Bank’s expansive document analyzing CAFTA’s potential impact on Central America, entitled “DR-CAFTA – Challenges and Opportunities for Central America” the authors repeatedly reference technology and emphasize the importance of a complementary educational agenda that is tied to each country’s stage of development and innovation. For example, “for those countries farthest away from the technological frontier -such as Honduras and Nicaragua– the best technology policy is likely to be simply sound education policy… in the more advanced settings of Costa Rica and El Salvador, where adaptation and creation of new technologies is more important, issues of education quality and completion of secondary schooling are more important.” 8 In fact, without ever making specific reference to the MDGs, the authors recommend that the former countries focus on the goal of achieving universal primary education while the latter countries focus their energy on expanding and improving secondary level education. Failing to do so is choosing failure in the open market.Ultimately, rather than seeing CAFTA as a first class ticket to a better economic end – with no strings attached, countries must acknowledge the critical importance of first implementing MDG Two – target three. This target, which says “by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling” 9 is a critically important step towards guaranteeing the emergence of a workforce that can respond to increased marketplace demand and evolving technologies. Without immediate investment in that future workforce via the education system, CAFTA will surely flounder and drag MDG Two along with it.Furthermore, as mentioned above, educational infrastructure must be put into place now that will not only guarantee a higher quality education but will also be made accessible and desirable to Central America’s most at-risk citizens. After all, based on Mexico’s experience, the likelihood of a positive outcome for both CAFTA and MPG Two is slim. Yet the possibility of economic success does exist if we agree to truly choose “Education For All.”CITATIONS1) Millennium Development Goals, Goal Eight, http://www.un.org2) At the time this brief was written (Dec 2005), the agreement still hadn’t been ratified by the Parliaments of Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.3) The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/mi/pdf/MDG%20Book.pdf4) The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC, Aug 05, http://idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=5910885) National Public Radio, All Things Considered, Interview with Daniel Lederman, Monday, December 8, 2003 http://web.lexis-nexis.com/6) The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, ibid7) The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC, August 2005, p. 568) DR-CAFTA – Challenges and Opportunities for Central America, Chapter VII: Obtaining the Pay-off From DR-CAFTA, p199.9) Millennium Development Goals, Goal Two, http://www.un.org

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