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Insurance Matters
Bruce Sackrison's Insurance Matters: Why you need ordinance or law coverage

If your home is severely damaged due to a fire, you may not have enough insurance to rebuild your home... even if you have replacement coverage!

How can that be? Simple. Your homeowners policy covers rebuilding your home to the “same quality” and “similar materials” that existed before the fire.

Your policy specifically limits or excludes the cost to rebuild to new building codes. It will also not pay for demolition of undamaged parts of your home.

This is critical coverage in California because our building codes and local laws are constantly changing. So, I’ll do my best to explain what this coverage is, and why you should care.

A typical “ordinance or law coverage” endorsement covers three things:

Coverage A: Loss of the undamaged part of your home

Hapless Hank survived the fire. But his beautiful home was badly damaged. The county said that since 58 percent of his home was destroyed, the entire home had to be demolished before he could rebuild. He thought he was OK since he had replacement coverage.

But he wasn’t OK.

The insurance company would agree to pay for only the 58 percent that was damaged, not the 42 percent of his home that was undamaged. Insurance doesn’t pay to fix or replace perfectly fine things.

Ordinance or law coverage could have protected him against this terrible event.

Coverage B: Cost to demolish the undamaged part of your home

Frustrated Fred had a similar problem. Sixty percent of his home was destroyed. Instead of rebuilding, he took the insurance settlement and went shopping for a new home.

But the county required him to demolish his entire existing home, due to excessive damage.

Again, insurance was not going to pay to demolish the 40 percent that wasn’t damaged, just because local officials required it. Frustrated Fred had to pay $20,000 of demolition costs out of his own pocket.

Ordinance or law coverage could have covered this.

Coverage C: Increased costs to meet new building codes

Surprised Sally lost her entire home in the wildfire. She was glad that she had purchased replacement coverage a few years ago. She looked forward to her home being rebuilt.

So, imagine the surprise when she found out that her home, which was built in 1973, would need to be rebuilt to current building codes, and that it was going to cost far more than she had imagined!

She checked her policy, and she had ordinance or law coverage for this. Yay! But it was limited to just 10 percent of the total insured amount. So, she had just $30,000 in coverage to meet new building codes.

But new building codes required an additional $70,000 in construction costs.

Surprised Sally wasn’t going to be able to rebuild her beloved home.

My advice

Many of our neighbors in Napa and Sonoma counties experienced these surprises in coverage last fall when the tragic fires hit us hard. They thought they had enough coverage... and they didn’t.

Too many homeowners, business owners, and landlords have a limit of just 10 percent of the dwelling amount for this, when in fact they may need 25 or 50 percent coverage.

Please call your local agent to make sure you have enough ordinance or law coverage on your policy.

Why cinematography may be the most gender-biased job in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES—Last month, the American Society of Cinematographers’ annual “meet the nominees” day saw a sudden surge in interest. More than 1,300 people turned out to chat and network with the professionals shortlisted for the group’s film and television prizes, an increase of nearly 30 percent from previous years.

Many of the new attendees were women who came to meet Rachel Morrison, the 39-year-old cinematographer of “Mudbound” and “Black Panther,” according to Kees Van Oostrum, the president of the ASC. Weeks earlier, Morrison had become the first woman ever nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography for her work on “Mudbound,” Netflix’s historical race drama.

“It was remarkable—so many young women who either hoped to be cinematographers or who were already working in the profession just wanted to meet Rachel,” said Van Oostrum. “She’s had this incredible effect on showing people a goal is reachable.”

A cinematographer—also known as a DP, for director of photography—dictates the movement and gaze of a camera, hugely influencing a movie’s feel. For years, women have been shut out of having that influence. Men vastly dominate its ranks, meaning that movies have been quite literally subject to the male gaze in a way audience members may not even be aware.

The percentage of female cinematographers on the box office top 250 sits at only 4 percent, the lowest of all the major film jobs, according to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. By contrast, female representation among directors is 11 percent, and 25 percent among producers. Cinematography straddles the line between the technical and the creative—but its dearth of women is similar to other technical areas such as sound and visual effects with similarly low representation.

Still, the cinematography number represents at least a small uptick: female representation has doubled from 2 percent since 2013, statistics show.

“There are a lot of barriers that should have fallen down a long time ago, and cinematography is a big one,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. “I hope we’ll soon see a lot more women getting behind the camera.”

Cinematography’s statistics distill the film industry’s inequities—and its small signs of progress.

Membership in the ASC, which confers the cachet that attracts employers, has grown painfully slowly for women. The first woman joined in the 1980s—more than 60 years after the group was founded—and as of 2005, the group had only five women out of some 350 members. Today there are 18, still a fraction of the roughly 375 members.

Morrison represents a kind of poster child for a business struggling to vanquish its diversity devils. Cinematography was the last Oscar category to never see a female nominee.

“I’m realizing that I’ve become a role model and then that visibility is giving a lot of women the courage to keep going, or the courage to get started, or it feels like a light at the end of the tunnel,” Morrison told The Washington Post last week. Still, she didn’t win Sunday night.

The reasons cinematography is so overwhelmingly male run deep in Hollywood. Classes at films school haven’t historically gone out of their way to encourage female enrollees, said Van Oostrum, while the clubby nature of the sector has made it harder for women to break through out in the professional world.

And because of the technical aspect—the work involves lighting and lenses—hiring has also been subject to existing prejudices. “I remember when people would say a camera was too heavy for women to lift,” said Van Oostrum. “That’s how bad it was.”

Studios have also run very few of the women- and minority-centric “shadowing” programs designed to encourage new talent in cinematography—unlike directing, where such programs are common.

The International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, the union that represents many craftspeople behind the camera, has only in the past few years started to increase its efforts to recruit women, with craft seminars and a negotiating session to help younger women stand their ground for equal pay.

Steven Poster, the national president of the International Cinematographers Guild, said that he believes some the bleakness is now overstated. “Has there been exclusion by unconscious bias or even conscious bias? Yes, that has certainly existed. But we’re a society and an industry right now that’s breaking those rules, and it’s getting better all the time.”

The ASC’s male skew is in part the result of the high barrier to entry for the group. Membership is invitation-only, and three existing members must offer their sponsorship. The group also generally only chooses people with scores of credits (because they’re not involved with development or postproduction, cinematographers tend to have many credits), which makes it hard to change the demographics overnight. That limits younger women’s numbers in the ASC—which in turn further prevents them from getting hired.

Cinematography combines a unique blend of traits, which can make it vulnerable to existing biases.

“I think because it involves both technical and creative skills—what has traditionally been thought of as both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ qualities—it can be hard for people to wrap their head around what a cinematographer does,” said Autumn Eakin, a cinematographer who has worked on projects for FX, NBC and Hulu. “So someone doing the hiring just makes an assumption of capability for men and incapability for women.”

Several years ago, Eakin started Cinematographers XX, a web-based hiring resource for directors and producers. “I think part of the problem is people saying ‘we don’t know where to find them,’” she said. “So we gave them a place to find them.”

At the Academy Awards’ Dolby Theatre on Sunday, Morrison lost to “Blade Runner 2049” cinematographer Roger Deakins, an industry legend and a kind of unofficial inspiration to Morrison when she was coming up, according to Morrison.

Deakins had been nominated 13 previous times before winning Sunday, and from the audience Morrison could be seen clapping enthusiastically at another underrecognized cinematographer finally getting his due.

As Deakins won, many Oscar guests who had taken a break from the show to gather in the Dolby’s lobby bar watched him take the stage via a closed-circuit monitor. Toward the back of the bar a guest could be heard commenting on the Morrison reaction.

“I hope,” she said, “one day they’re clapping for her.”

American Express joins chorus declaring gender pay parity

American Express Co. will disclose data on its gender pay gap by the end of the year, according to a shareholder activist that’s been pushing Wall Street to release the information.

The credit-card company pledged to report to shareholders by the end of 2018 any findings on pay disparities, Arjuna Capital said Wednesday in a statement. New York-based AmEx said in a memo to employees that it regularly reviews pay policies to make sure they support pay equality and transparency.

“Based on the most recent comprehensive pay analysis we conducted with a third-party consulting firm, we are confident that our colleagues are compensated equitably, regardless of gender,” the company said in the memo. “The review found no evidence of bias in our compensation processes and indicated we were effectively at parity.”

AmEx’s decision, which came after pressure from Arjuna, follows similar moves by Mastercard Inc. and most of the biggest U.S. banks. All of them reported that women and men were paid substantially the same amount, but none of the companies said how they calculated the figures and all were adjusted for factors such as seniority and job role.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. all have said this year that they paid women roughly 99 percent of what men earn.

Women make up 50 percent of American Express’s work force and only 30 percent of managers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. gender pay gap has been stuck at around 20 percent for the past decade, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

“Women are still 20 percent more likely to leave a career in finance than any other industry—that’s bad for business, and it’s bad for investors,” said Arjuna Capital managing partner Natasha Lamb, who filed a shareholder proposal seeking the pay disclosure at American Express and eight other companies this year. Calling equal pay “a critical first step” to retaining top talent, Arjuna withdrew its proposal in response to AmEx’s pledge.

In her withdrawal letter, Lamb said AmEx’s review will include base, bonus and equity compensation, and the company will adjust pay to get to 100 percent equality. It will also disclose its methodology, according to Lamb.

While some analysts have questioned banks’ assertions about a 1 percent pay gap, “these companies along with a handful of tech and consumer firms, are at the leading edge” in U.S. gender pay equity, Lamb said.

“With assurances that women will be paid fairly, we can focus more confidently on the next step: moving women into higher paying leadership positions,” she said in an email.

Health Insurance Guys
Health Insurance Guys: Boss’ coverage or get my own?

Dear Tom and Alan:I’m heading toward 66-years-old but still working.

The boss and I are on great terms with each other and I have no plans to retire in the near future. He says my monthly health insurance costs are enormous (he pays 50 percent for me).

My Medicare card says I have Part A. Is there any way for me to lower my healthcare costs but still be covered?


Tom: Yes, indeed. Go directly to the Social Security Office and sign up for Medicare Part B. When you have both A and B, you will be covered at 80 percent for medical.

Part A costs you nothing, Part B will probably be $134 per month. Not bad for 80 percent coverage and most likely much cheaper than your current 50 percent through your employer.

Al: The other thing you have with Parts A and B in place is the opportunity to sign up for a Medicare Supplement (plus a drug plan, Medicare Part D), or for an Advantage Plan (aka, Medicare Part C).

As if Medicare Parts A, B, C and D weren’t confusing enough, Medicare Supplements are also listed alphabetically: Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M and N. Plans E, H, I and J were eliminated in 2010, Plans C and F are going away in 2020.

Tom: In 1990, Congress standardized all Supplement plans so that whichever insurance company offered the plan, the benefits would be the same.

So, basically, Medicare Supplement Plan N, for example, will look exactly the same for Blue Shield, Anthem, AARP, Mutual of Omaha, Cigna, or Health Net. The only difference is the price.

Using Plan N as an example, the current rate for Owen is $113.06. Add that to the cost for Part B ($134), and you have some excellent coverage for less than $250 per month.

Al: We’re required to provide each prospective customer with the brochure “Choosing a Medigap Policy” from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). On page 11 is a summary of all plans A through N.

Plan A doesn’t cover much at all; Plan F has a high deductible option at about a third of the price of regular Plan F; Plans K and L each have an out-of-pocket annual maximum.

Tom: A few columns ago, we mentioned a new variation from Anthem Blue Cross beginning just this year: “Innovative Plan F.”

The benefits are the same as regular Plan F, but include vision and hearing as a bonus. Also, the new one costs less than regular Plan F.

Unfortunately, Innovative Plan F is going away for new subscribers in 2020 along with Plans C and F. If you have it you can keep it, but it won’t be available for those just turning 65.

Once again, we ran out of room for drug plans!