Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Got an insurance question or problem? We'll try our best to help. (And we won't try to sell you anything.)

Got an insurance question or problem? Call or email our consumer hotline staff at 1-800-562-6900 or AskMike@oic.wa.gov.

We're the state agency that regulates the insurance industry in Washington state.

Our analysts help Washingtonians get millions of dollars in denied or delayed insurance claims each year. They help people get insurance reinstated when it's wrongly canceled, and they can show you how to appeal if your health insurer denies a treatment.

We can tell you what your rights are, help you file a complaint, and would be happy to contact your insurance company on your behalf to find out more. If you don't have health insurance -- or can't afford the insurance you have -- we may be able to find options that are a better fit for you. We can give you some tips on how to push for the maximum value for your totaled car.

And on and on. Just email us or call.

What if you don't live in Washington? Most state insurance departments offer similar help. Here's a handy map, courtesy of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, showing how to contact your local department.

"My insurer wants me to repair the roof and paint the siding or they won't insure me. Can they do this?"

A written, advance notice is required when an insurer is going to cancel (or "non-renew") a policy. If you got that notice in writing at least 45 days beforehand, then yes, the insurer can do this.

Often, the problem for homeowners is the timing. They simply don't have enough time to find contractors or do the work themselves. In such a case, you might be able to talk to your insurer and figure out a repair plan that will satisfy them. If not, you'd better start shopping for alternative coverage.

You might also ask your agent to talk the insurance company. There's no guarantee that the company will change its mind, but it might help.