Friday, September 21, 2012

Consumer alert: Real Benefits Association

Consumer alert

An unlicensed company named "Real Benefits Association" may be offering bogus discount health care plans in Washington state.

Again: This company is not licensed to do business in Washington state.

We've heard from consumers who said they paid monthly premiums to the Real Benefits Association, believing that they would receive legitimate medical and prescription drug coverage, but to date, the company has paid none of the health care claims they submitted.

Real Benefits Association and its owner, David Clark, were issued a cease and desist order by our office in January 2010. They are operating in violation of that order by collecting premiums for bogus discount health care coverage from Washington state consumers.

Friday wildfire update: We're hearing that some insurers have stopped writing new policies in the fire areas

The AP is reporting that wildfires in central Washington have merged and now cover more than 47 square miles, with officials urging more than 100 homeowners north of Ellensburg and in the Liberty area to evacuate. Here is a checklist of things to do if a wildfire is approaching a home.

Crews are digging lines, using bulldozers and trying to douse the flames and protect structures with fire retardant dropped from aircraft. Here are maps showing the areas that are burning. The fire began Sept. 8th with a lightning strike near Cle Elum. 775 firefighters are on scene, but fire commanders this morning ranked both the terrain difficulty and growth potential of the blaze as "extreme."

We have heard a few reports from consumers that some homeowners' insurance companies have stopped approving new policies in areas close to the fires. Nobody wants to hear this if they're trying to close a deal on a home, for example, but insurers are allowed to suspend writing new policies in cases like this.

It's a common practice, for example, with earthquake insurers to stop writing policies after a quake, for fear of aftershocks. And flood insurance typically comes with a 30 day waiting period, to prevent people from waiting until the storm clouds are overhead before they buy coverage.

Several other fires are burning in the state. Most of the state is now at high or very high fire danger.

U.S. 97 in both directions is closing today from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from milepost 150 (at the junction of SR 970) to milepost 177 (8 miles south of the junction of U.S. 2) for back-burning and fire containment operations.

Update: (5:02 p.m.) Some insurers have also stopped writing new auto policies in certain Eastern Washington zip codes due to the fires.