Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Insurance needs are a factor in retirement planning

This week is National Retirement Planning Week, organized by the National Retirement Planning Coalition. The group aims to help people create a comprehensive plan for retirement, which can seem daunting or, for some, too far away to contemplate. Its website,, offers tools based on your age, retirement and saving calculators and plenty of information about ways you can be prepared for retirement.

Insurance needs also should be factored into your retirement plans. Medicare plans carry a cost for premiums, doctor visits, prescription drugs and hospitalizations. However, Medicare typically does not cover long-term care, so some people opt for long-term care insurance to pay for home health care, adult day care, nursing home care or group-living facility care.

If you are considering annuities as part of your retirement planning, we have information about the benefits, the types of annuities and payouts.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thank you to our SHIBA volunteers!

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler meets SHIBA volunteers from South Sound Outreach in October 2014

In honor of National Volunteer Month, we’re recognizing the more than 400 people who volunteer their time to our Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program. SHIBA's outstanding volunteers are an integral part of the consumer protection work we do at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. In 2014, they helped nearly 65,000 Washington consumers understand Medicare in plain English, resolve Medicare disputes and choose a plan that best fits their needs in a timely manner.

Our volunteers donated nearly 90,000 hours in 2014 to helping their fellow citizens. We honor and celebrate our volunteers for their dedication and kindness. Thank you SHIBA volunteers for your time, dedication, commitment and service.

Read more about SHIBA services and where to find help in your area.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

OIC helps develop training for examining, analyzing insurers’ climate change risk

As the state’s insurance regulator, one of the things the Office of the Insurance Commissioner does is examine and analyze insurers’ finances to make sure they have enough money in cash and investments to pay consumers’ insurance claims. Climate change is increasingly a risk to insurers’ business, both from a claims standpoint and from an investment standpoint.
Some of OIC’s friendly financial examiners participate in a dry run of a new training for state regulators to evaluate insurers’ climate change risk.

Commissioner Kreidler has led the climate change work group for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) since 2006. As part of that work, the OIC led a work group that developed the guidance for other state regulators to use when evaluating insurers’ climate change risks and investments during financial examinations and analyses. Last week, the OIC’s financial examiners and analysts were given a dry run of the training to offer feedback before it is presented to other state regulators. In essence, insurers are expected to identify climate change-related risk to their business and evaluate how these factors may affect their claims and how they invest their money.

Washington is not new to working with insurers on climate change. Since 2010, our state has been one of a handful that requires insurance companies to answer an annual survey about how they are addressing their risk related to climate change.

You can read more about Commissioner Kreidler’s work with climate change and read the most recent report about how insurers are addressing climate change.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tacoma woman trades guilty plea, diversion program for dismissed charges in insurance fraud

Isabel Osorto, 23, of Tacoma, pled guilty to insurance fraud and agreed to complete a diversion program in exchange for the charge being dismissed.

The charge stems from a December 2012 collision in which Osorto hit another car. Later that day, she purchased insurance for her car and filed a $9,000 hit-and-run claim on her car three days later. The insurance company was tipped off that something was amiss when the driver of the car she hit contacted her insurance company about the damage to his car, which was supported by the citation she was issued by Washington State Patrol. She was charged with one count of insurance fraud in September 2014.

The terms of the diversion program include pleading guilty, full repayment of the restitution amount, payment of all administrative fees and full compliance with all program requirements. In this case, the restitution amount is zero because the insurance company did not pay Osorto’s $9,000 claim. The charge against Osorto will be dismissed once she completes the terms of the program. If she fails to complete the program, the charge against her will be reinstated.

The OIC’s Special Investigations Unit investigates insurance fraud and works with the Attorney General’s Office or local law enforcement—in this case, Pierce County – to prosecute criminal cases. Consumers can report suspected insurance fraud on the Insurance Commissioner’s website.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Will my insurance pay to replace a damaged convertible top?

The unprecedented sunshine we are experiencing in the Pacific Northwest may be enticing drivers to take their convertibles out for a spin. But do you know what your insurance policy will cover if something happens to your top or interior? 

Depending upon the age of your vehicle, your insurance company may not pay for the full replacement cost of the convertible top if it is torn from the vehicle or someone damages it. Some companies apply what they call “betterment” to the value of the car, taking into consideration the car’s age and condition. Another way of describing betterment is thinking about life span – car parts have different life spans and once they near the end of their life span, paying the full cost of replacing those parts would result in your car being in better shape than it was when it was damaged, thereby increasing its value.

The same idea applies to the interior of your vehicle. If someone damages the interior while your open convertible is parked somewhere, the insurance company may not pay the full cost of replacement or repair. It is also important to note that standard auto policies do not cover any personal property in the vehicle and any equipment that was not installed by the manufacturer. After-market items like sound systems, paint jobs and other special or upgraded equipment very well may not be covered by your policy.

Talk to your insurance agent about what your policy covers and does not cover.

Read more about auto insurance on our website. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Insurance Commissioner offers considerations about sharing economy

Forbes estimates up to one quarter of the population participates in some form of the sharing economy, whether it be ridesharing, renting out your home or sharing something you already have to make money.

We put together some information and tips for entrepreneurs and consumers alike to consider before they participate in the sharing economy. You can find that information here. 

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

Protecting insurance consumers all year round

This week is National Consumer Protection Week and the OIC is one of the many government agencies that helps protect consumers from financial harm.

So what does that mean for Washington consumers?

Consumer protection is part of the OIC’s mission, which is reflected in the way we do business. Our consumer advocates can help:
In 2014, our consumer advocates fielded 6,135 consumer complaints and helped recover more than $9.5 million in insurance billings, refunds and other claims-related issues for Washington citizens. Read more about the ways we helped consumers in 2014.

We share information of interest to insurance consumers on this blog and through our social media channels. Many of our blog posts are generated by questions our consumer advocates receive from Washington citizens.

More resources for consumers:

Consumer advocates Andy and Barb helping consumers on the phone.   

Monday, February 23, 2015

Warranty buyers beware - know what you are paying for

Consumers can buy warranties on any number of products these days, ranging from a new vehicle to a small gadget or appliance. Before you lay down more money for a warranty, here are a few things you should know:
  • Be sure you fully read any warranties before you buy them and don't be afraid to ask questions if something you read needs clarification.
  • Warranties do not cover all damage. For example: Vehicle warranties may exclude damage related to after-market modifications to engines, power trains or suspension systems. If you buy a used vehicle that comes with these types of modifications, the warranty may not cover damage to or in the event that those modifications fail. Be sure you understand the limitations of any warranty you are thinking about buying.
  • Some warranties require you to pay a fee or copayment if you need to use the warranty. For example, smartphone warranties often require you to pay a fee each time you use them.
  • Do the math. Weigh the cost of the warranty over the time period it covers. Would it cost you the same or less money to replace the item if it broke during the warranty period?
  • Does your homeowner or renter's insurance cover the item? Your policy may cover you if the item is stolen or destroyed in a fire or other incident. Check your policies and deductibles first, and remember that insurance policies typically don't cover damage to items that you break. 
Read more about warranties and service contracts on our website. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Does your insurance premium seem high? Make sure your agent has right info

If you receive your homeowner or automobile insurance renewal and think the premium doesn’t seem right, it’s a good idea to check in with your insurance agent to make sure the company is using accurate information in the rating of your policy. Insurers use many factors to determine the amount you pay for insurance, some of which include where you live, the type and value of the property you are insuring, your driving record, marital status and your driving habits.  

You should confirm all of that information is accurate, including your social security number, which insurers collect for to get your credit score. Most insurance companies use information in your credit history and other factors to calculate your rate. Each company weighs these factors differently, so your credit score’s effect on your insurance rates will vary from company to company. Read more about credit scoring and insurance

If your insurance agent or company has any of this information incorrect, it can result in you paying more—or less--than you should for your insurance.

If you have questions about insurance, contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Consumer alert: Recent widows are target of life insurance scam

We’ve received reports that a scammer is targeting people who recently lost a spouse in the Spokane area.

The scammer has called several women who recently lost their husbands. The caller says there’s a life insurance policy on the spouse, but the policy hasn’t been paid on in recent months. The caller instructed the surviving spouse to send cash or gift cards in order to get the life insurance benefit. In all cases, no policy existed.

If you get an inquiry from someone who says they have an insurance policy you’ve never heard of, document as much information as you can in case you need to report it to the police. Then, call the insurer and determine whether there is in fact a policy. You can look up insurance companies and their phone numbers on our website. If you find out someone is attempting to scam you, report it to your local law enforcement agency. You can find a list of law enforcement agencies on the state's 211 website.

An insurance company will never call you and ask you to send them cash or gift cards in order to get a life insurance benefit. Sadly, even during a time of grief, consumers have to be on guard against scammers.

More information: