Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tips for holiday travelers

Are you traveling for the upcoming holiday? Here are some travel tips to help keep you safe and informed.


Traveling by plane
Other travel tips

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Columbia United Providers will notify enrollees about withdrawal from Washington market

Columbia United Providers (CUP) this week informed the Office of the Insurance Commissioner that it is voluntarily withdrawing from the individual health insurance market.

The company, which is based in Vancouver, Wash., also said that it intends to sell its Medicaid business to Molina Healthcare. That proposal is subject to approval by the Insurance Commissioner.

Here are answers to some questions about CUP’s announcement:

Why did CUP voluntarily withdraw from Washington?

The company cited business reasons for the voluntary withdrawal.

How does CUP’s withdrawal affect the Washington health insurance market?

CUP offered individual plans in Clark County only. As of November 2015, CUP had fewer than 100 enrollees in the individual market. These plans were offered only through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. The company also managed insurance coverage for about 55,000 enrollees in Medicaid plans in Clark County. The Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) oversees Medicaid in Washington.

HCA is aware of CUP’s withdrawal from the Washington market and its proposal to sell its Medicaid business to Molina Healthcare.

How does this affect those who enrolled in Exchange plans?

The Health Benefit Exchange is aware of CUP’s withdrawal and proposed sale. The Exchange is reaching out to any enrollees who selected CUP for 2016 to assist them in choosing another plan. CUP 2015 enrollees will be covered through the end of the year and can select alternate coverage for 2016. Any CUP enrollee who wants to change coverage for the remainder of 2015 may request a special enrollment.

How will current enrollees be notified CUP’s decision?

The company is responsible for notifying, by Nov. 19, 2015, all individuals who have purchased individual coverage through CUP, to be effective on or after Jan. 1, 2016, that their coverage is terminated. The company’s plans will no longer be listed on the Washington Healthplanfinder.

Even with CUP’s voluntary withdrawal, Washington remains a competitive market with a wide selection of choices. There are five companies that sell individual plans in Clark County. Overall in Washington, there are 14 insurers and more than 200 plans available for consumers for coverage in 2016.

Will existing claims be paid?

Washington state insurance law requires that all claims be paid and that company make plans for payment. At this time there is no concern about the company paying existing claims for enrollees in its Washington plans.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

OIC has saved auto insurance consumers nearly $26 million since 2010

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner's rate decisions have saved auto insurance consumers nearly $26 million in premiums since 2010.

Personal auto insurers are required to file their proposed rates and rating plans with our office whenever there's a rate change. Our actuaries review the proposed rates, rating plans, and supporting documentation to be sure that the rates are not excessive, inadequate or discriminatory.

From 2010 through 2014, the rates we approved for the top 20 personal auto insurers in Washington saved consumers nearly $26 million in premiums.
  • 2014: $6.2 million 
  • 2013: $8.9 million 
  • 2012: $5.6 million 
  • 2011: $2.7 million 
  • 2010: $2.7 million 
Read more about auto insurance in Washington state.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Washington wildfire victims: Hire smart when repairing, rebuilding

As Washington consumers begin to rebuild and repair their homes and businesses after this summer's wildfires, we are partnering with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to share this message: Hire registered contractors.

Unregistered contractors often have no bond or liability insurance, don’t get building permits, and fail to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees. It’s a risky combination that leaves property owners financially vulnerable if workers are injured on their property or the contractor does shoddy work – or takes a down payment and never returns.

Construction contractors are required to register with L&I. In turn, L&I confirms that they have a business license, liability insurance and a bond – requirements that give property owners some monetary recourse if something goes wrong.

Hiring registered contractors provides the best chance for success and to protect your investment.

Hire Smart to avoid rebuilding and repair headaches
  • Verify your prospective contractor’s registration at www.ProtectMyHome.net or call 1-800-647-0982.
  • Get at least three written bids.
  • Check contractor references.
  • Pay only as work is completed.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Moda will honor health coverage according to current contracts

The announcement this week by Moda Health that it’s withdrawing from the Washington insurance market has understandably raised questions from its current enrollees.

Enrollees should be aware that their current policies will remain in effect according to the terms of the contracts. Moda said it will fulfill its obligations for plans signed on or renewed by Oct. 31, 2015. That includes policies that have already been sold that start on Nov. 1 or Dec. 1, 2015. Policies that start on Jan. 1, 2016 or later will be terminated.

That’s true for individual, small- and large-group employer plans.

Moda this week notified the Washington Health Benefit Exchange of its decision to quit doing business here. The Exchange is reaching out to its customers to let them know.

You can read that notification here.

In Washington state, Moda has:
  • About 18,000 people enrolled in the individual market inside and outside of the Exchange.
  • About 29,000 people covered through large-group plans.  
  • Another 900 enrolled in small-employer plans. 
Moda said it is withdrawing from Washington to focus on its business in Oregon and Alaska.

By the first week of November, the Oregon-based company is expected to notify all of its enrollees of its withdrawal from Washington.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Do you need flood insurance? Now is the time to do your research

Residents in Eastern Washington are facing increased risk of flooding after extreme wildfires the last two summers destroyed much of the vegetation there that would normally help prevent landslides and mudflows.

Flood damage is not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Consumers who want to protect their property must purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most properties qualify for NFIP, as long as it is located in a community that participates in the NFIP.

NFIP has told to us that Okanogan County and most towns within the county will be able to purchase flood insurance.

Typically, there is a 30-day waiting period before your flood insurance policy takes effect. Here is information on how to find an agent near you who sells flood insurance policies through NFIP.

Read more about flood insurance: Are you protected against flood damage?

Eastern Washington fires burned down much of the vegetation that prevents flooding.
Photo courtesy Washington Military Department. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

OIC partners with the American Indian Health Commission on Medicare training

 Terri Osborne, SHIBA, right, speaks with 
AIHC Executive Director Vickie Lowe. 
Earlier this year, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler signed a contract with the American Indian Health Commission (AIHC) to support providing Medicare and other related training to tribal staff throughout the state.

The Commissioner's State Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) held its first quarterly training on Oct. 21 at Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal facilities in Kitsap County to 35 staff from several Western Washington tribes.

SHIBA will provide training throughout the year to tribes all over the state. Next up is a training in Spokane for tribes in the region.

The goal of the training to provide tribal assisters with information about Medicare eligibility, benefits and coordination with Medicaid for tribal elders and tribal members who need health care.
Dale Ensign with SHIBA provides
training to tribal staff about Medicare.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mold, mildew, rot typically not covered by homeowner’s insurance

Living in the Northwest, it is not unusual for homeowners to discover mold, mildew or rot damage to their homes as a result of things like a leaking pipe, a hole in the roof, a failing window seal or improper venting.

Such damage is considered wear and tear and is typically not covered by homeowner's insurance. Insurance is designed to cover sudden and accidental damage caused by specific perils, such as a windstorm, fire or explosion. Some policies may cover mold or mildew damage discovered and reported within two weeks of the leak that caused the damage and some insurers offer limited mold coverage. Consumers should check their policies to find out what is covered.  

We do hear from consumers who are unhappy to find out this type of damage is not covered by their insurance. If the policy specifically excludes such damage, we can't compel the company to pay for the repairs. 

Here are some perils that homeowner's insurance policies typically do not cover:
  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Mold damage
  • Damage due to animals or rodents
  • Foundation settling 

Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Do you have a teen driver? Five tips to cover with your teen

This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week, sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 14- to 18-year-olds in the United States. In 2013, 2,614 teen drivers were killed in crashes and an estimated 130,000 teens were injured. Yet, a recent survey shows that only 25% of parents have had a serious talk with their kids about the key components of driving.

The “5 to Drive” campaign addresses the five most dangerous and deadly behaviors for teen drivers. The idea behind the campaign is to give parents the words to use when they talk with their teens about the rules of the road. NHTSA’s website, has detailed information and statistics about the five rules designed to help save the lives of teen drivers.
  1. No drinking and driving: Nearly one out of five (19 percent) of the young drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, even though they were too young to legally buy or possess alcohol. 
  2. Buckle up. Every trip. Every time. Front seat and back: 64 percent of all the young (13- to 19-year-old) passengers of teen (15- to 19-year-old) drivers who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 weren’t restrained. 
  3. Put it down. One text or call could wreck it all.: The age group of 15 to 19 years old has the highest percentage of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use and involved in a fatal crash. In 2013, 318 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted teen driver. 
  4. Stop speeding before it stops you: In 2013, almost one-third (29 percent) of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding. 
  5. No more than one passenger at a time: The risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional passenger. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Medicare pages on OIC's website, including new Advantage plans

SHIBA is happy to announce today's launch of the new and improved Medicare webpages on the OICs website. Last spring, SHIBA staff and OIC's Web Services team conducted a usability study on the agency's Medicare webpages. After several months of research, and writing and editing content, the new section should provide content that is more user-friendly and easier to navigate for consumers.

In addition, the 2016 Medicare Advantage and Special Needs plans by county are now available on the OIC's website. Medicare open enrollment started today and ends Dec. 7. Read more about Medicare open enrollment.