Thursday, May 23, 2013

Insurance tips: Why are my life insurance premiums increasing?

Here's are some life insurance tips from our consumer advocacy department, which gets a lot of insurance questions:

With long-term products such as whole life insurance, annuities, or long-term care insurance, it can be difficult to know which product or company is the best. Companies often give an estimate of how they expect the products to perform, but realistically, only time will tell which company and product will perform the best. Don’t fall for high teaser interest rates or low-ball premiums that are adjustable.

Our agency receives a lot of complaints from people whose universal and other whole life policies are underfunded and become too expensive to maintain. It’s important to realize that when you buy a whole life product, you’re actually buying a schedule of mortality rates.

No matter how young you are when you buy the policy, as you age, your mortality charges will increase so you’ll need to pay more to keep the policy in effect. Review your annual statements and illustrations to stay on top of how your policy is performing so that you can make sure that you pay enough premiums to keep the policy in effect.

And then there's this issue: A lot of people who have life insurance policies don’t tell the beneficiaries that the policy exists. As a result, the beneficiaries don’t collect on the policies when the policyholder dies. (Partly as a result of this lack of communication, there’s an estimated $200 million in unclaimed life insurance benefits in the U.S.) Also, life insurance policies often lapse when a dying or disabled person quits paying the bills. Remember to keep your life insurance beneficiaries informed so that they can make a claim on the policy after you’re gone and so that they can make sure the policy doesn’t lapse beforehand.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The proposed health insurance rates for 2014: Where to find them and what they say

A lot of people are wondering how health care reform will affect premiums for health insurance, including those plans that will be sold through the new Washington Healthplanfinder, our state's health insurance exchange.

The insurers selling plans inside and outside the Exchange have filed their proposed rates with our office. These rates include those for small businesses and for individuals buying insurance coverage on their own.

Our actuaries are reviewing the proposed rates, which we've posted on our website.

From what we've seen so far, we're pleasantly surprised. Many people will see rates similar to what they're paying now, or in some cases, lower -- and with substantially better benefits. While we have a lot of work to do in reviewing these proposals, and the final rates could change, we're definitely not seeing the huge rate increases that some insurers had predicted.

In most cases, the benefits are substantially better, particularly for the individual market. Today, most individual health plans don't cover prescription drugs or maternity care. When the Affordable Care Act takes full effect in January, they'll have to cover those things.

Also, in many cases, deductibles in the new plans are much lower than today and the new plans include approximately $500 worth of free preventive services, such as a wellness visit, some immunizations, cancer screenings, etc.

Finally, federal subsidies will help with the costs. If you earn less than $45,960 (or $94,200 for a family of four) you may qualify for a federal subsidy -- in the form of tax credits -- to help you pay your premium. You can get an estimate of that subsidy at the Washington Healthplanfinder site.

Job opening: Deputy insurance commissioner for our Company Supervision division

We're recruiting to fill an exempt position for the deputy insurance commissioner in charge of our Company Supervision Division.

The successful applicant will manage a wide variety of situations and influences the course of insurance affairs at the state, national and international levels.

The position is responsible for the financial and market examination and supervision of all Washington-organized insuring entities and all other insuring entities licensed to do business in this state. The position’s mission is to protect insurance consumers, the public generally, and the state’s economy by ensuring the safety and soundness of insuring entities, and to ensure that they comply with applicable law.

In addition, the position has broad statutory discretion and specific statutory authority involving the registration/licensing, operation, supervision, receivership, liquidation, and merger of insuring entities.
For more specifics, duties, salary, and more please see the full job listing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

When an insurer forgets to bill you -- and then suddenly remembers

Q: "My insurer is supposed to take my monthly payment out of my checking account, but didn't do it for three months. Now they want me to pay for three months all at once. Can they do that?"

A: Sorry to tell you, but the short answer is yes, since they provided coverage for those three months. But since they erred by not taking the payments on time, it's worth asking if they'll allow you to pay in installments, so you don't get hit with a triple bill all at once.

When you know that a monthly insurance premium is supposed to come out of your bank account and you notice that it doesn't, don't wait and hope that that means you get free insurance. Call your agent or insurer and find out what's going on.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Job opening: Senior market analyst

We're recruiting for a senior market analyst position at our Tumwater, Wash. office.

This position is responsible for conducting market analysis of regulated entities under the direction of the Chief Market Analyst. This position protects consumer's interests and promotes a healthy business environment in this state by providing regulatory oversight of market interactions between consumers and insurance carriers.

For more specifics, duties, salary, timeline, etc., please see the full job listing.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 9 hearing set to consider Washington Dental Service reorganization and merger plan

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. on May 9, 2013, in Olympia to consider whether he should approve or deny the request for the merger of Washington-based Washington Dental Services (WDS).

WDS has filed an application for its plan of reorganization and merger transaction that includes a proposed reverse merger of Washington Dental Service with and into a DD of Washington subsidiary to become a subsidiary of an existing holding company.

Here's a summary of the proposal, including background, history, and a brief explanation of the hearings process and what we look at. If the proposal is approved, WDS would become a subsidiary under a new holding company system. WDS would later change its corporate name to Delta Dental of Washington.

To view filed documents and information about the hearing process, go to Washington Dental Service #13-0115. (Scroll down a bit after clicking on that link.) Those documents include the notice of hearing, the reorganization plan, board resolutions, organizational charts, and other requests for transactions filed in this proceeding.

The hearing is open to the public. Any interested parties may submit letters of support or concerns or objections and/or may participate in the hearing by appearing in person or by telephone at no charge. For street address or directions on dialing in by phone (as well as more background on the proposal), please see the hearing order.