Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New report: More than 740,000 homes nationwide at high or very high risk of wildfire

A private research firm, Corelogic, has produced a report estimating wildfire risk in 13 western states, including Washington.

The upshot: More than 740,000 homes are ranked as high risk or very high risk for wildfire damage. All told, those homes represent $136 billion in total property value, according to Corelogic. The states with the highest number of properties at risk at California, Colorado and Texas.

Here in Washington state, the company estimates, there are more than 9,000 homes at high or very high risk, with a combined value of $1.3 billion. The study also takes a closer look at several high-value metropolitan areas with high fire risk, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Boulder.

The report is free, although you have to register to read or download it.

It comes on the heels of a July statement by specialized insurer Lloyd's, which predicted "more frequent and severe wildfires as a result of climate change." Lloyd's warned that traditional risk assessment and pricing by insurers could understate the actual fire (and financial) risk.

"I own a business, but don't offer health coverage. Will I be penalized in 2014?"

Starting in 2014, under federal health care reform, some employers who fail to offer affordable health coverage to their employees will have to pay penalties of $2,000 to $3,000 per employee.

Small businesses won't be affected. Under the law, if an employer has fewer than 50 employees, the penalties do not apply. (If you have 25 or fewer workers and average wages up to $50,000, your company may be eligible for a health insurance tax credit to help offer coverage to your workers.)

If you're a medium- or large employer, though, you could be hit with the penalty unless you offer employees affordable coverage.

So what's affordable? The Kaiser Family Foundation has built this simple flowchart to determine what qualifies as affordable health coverage and what doesn't. It also explains which penalties apply in each case.