The following are some important items you may have missed in the midst of celebrating the holidays.

On Dec. 22, President Bush signed without comment a two-year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

The bill was virtually identical to an austere version of a TRIA extension passed by the Senate the week before Thanksgiving. Senate and House negotiators drafted a final bill of the TRIA extension on Dec. 16, which was passed by the Senate that night and by the House the following day.

The legislation will scale back the scope of TRIA’s coverage.

Group life was not included in the bill, whose aim is to protect insurers from catastrophic losses in the event of a severe terrorist attack. Under the final version, commercial auto, burglary-theft, surety, professional liability and farm owners multiple peril will no longer be covered.

Under the revised TRIA, the property-casualty industry’s retention level will rise from the current 15% to 17.5% next year and 20% in 2007. The bill will also raise the program trigger from an event of $5 million in insured losses to $50 million in April and to $100 million in 2007.

–By Arthur D. Postal

Both houses of Congress have passed a long term care partnership provision strongly supported by the life insurance industry.

The provision was included in a budget bill the House passed by a 212-206 vote and which the Senate passed 51-50.

Due to slight differences between the two versions of the budget bill, it must now go to a reconciliation committee representing both houses. Once the two sides agree, the revised bill then can be resubmitted to both houses for a new vote.

The LTC provision of the act would eliminate barriers that prevent states from sponsoring LTC policies. Although four states currently offer such partnerships, federal law as it now stands makes it impossible to launch new ones.

Under the budget act’s partnership provision, an individual could purchase an LTC insurance policy approved by a state government. In return, the state would guarantee that should the policy benefits be exhausted, the government would cover the costs of continuing care through Medicaid. The senior would not be required to spend down all his or her assets first, as under current Medicaid rules.

For example, if a consumer buys an LTC partnership policy with $100,000 in benefits that are eventually exhausted, he or she then can protect an equal amount of assets, or $100,000, before using Medicaid.

In a statement following the Senate vote, the American Council of Life Insurers lauded Congress for advancing the legislation. “The long term care partnership provisions in the Deficit Reduction Bill of 2005 will go a long way toward providing consumers with the tools they need to protect their nest egg and plan for a secure retirement,” said ACLI President and CEO Frank Keating.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. said it has completed its acquisition of PacifiCare Life and Health Insurance Company.

Under the agreement, stockholders for PacifiCare, a subsidiary of PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., Cypress, Calif., are to receive $21.50 in cash and 1.10 shares of UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis, for each share of PacifiCare common stock.

The announcement came after the Department of Justice approved the merger.

According to a report in Reuters, the DOJ’s antitrust division imposed some provisions on the deal aimed at preserving competition in the marketplace.

The division approved the deal after UnitedHealth agreed to shed parts of PacifiCare’s commercial health insurance business in Tucson, Ariz., and Boulder, Colo.

The division also required the companies to revise and eventually end a network access agreement with CareTrust Networks, a unit of Blue Shield of California, according to the report.

California regulators had earlier approved the merger after the companies agreed to make investments and charitable contributions to help underserved communities.

Scottish Re Group Ltd. said it has completed two deals that will provide about $2 billion in collateral.

The collateral will fund statutory reserves associated with term life policies that Scottish Re, Hamilton, Bermuda, assumed about a year ago when it acquired a large individual life reinsurance business from ING Re, Minneapolis, a unit of ING Groep N.V., Amsterdam.

The deals, with HSBC Bank USA, New York, and an unnamed reinsurer, will help finance about 40% of the “Triple-X” reserves associated with the ING Re term life block, according to Scottish Re President Scott Willkomm.

The HSBC Bank deal set up a 20-year, $1 billion collateral finance facility, and the reinsurance deal set up a $1 billion, “long-term reinsurance facility,” Scottish Re says.

Scottish Re says it will report the facilities as liabilities under the heading “collateral finance facility liabilities” in its financial statements.