Friday, June 27, 2014

Total loss claims for customized vehicles

There are a lot of car buffs among us who like to customize their vehicles with a new set of wheels and tires, a custom paint job or a high-end sound system. While that money may be an investment in the resale value of your car, it may not transfer to the value of your car in the event of a total loss.

If you are in an auto accident, your insurance company will determine if it will cost more to repair your vehicle than it is worth. If that's the case, it will declare the vehicle a total loss and report it to the state Department of Licensing.

The insurance company will try to establish a fair market value for your vehicle by locating comparable vehicles in where you live and park your vehicle. Even if your car has been customized or has added features, the value of the car may not be as high as you expect it will be in comparison to the cars around you.

Read about what happens if your vehicle is a total loss.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How long is this claim going to take?

Consumers who call our hotline often ask us how long insurance companies can take to settle their claims. Waiting for a decision on an insurance claim can be frustrating when you are trying to get on with your life.

Insurers have 30 days from the time they receive a claim to complete their investigation and make a coverage decision, unless it is unreasonable to get it done in that timeframe. Depending on the circumstances, some claims may require more time. Insurers are required to perform reasonable investigations of claims, which often includes activities like scheduling interviews with other parties, obtaining police or engineering reports and site inspections that can extend the investigation time beyond 30 days.

If you are dealing with your own insurance company, your policy may require you to provide statements of the circumstances of the loss, fill out proof-of-loss forms, obtain estimates or supply police reports or medical information. You can speed the process by keeping records, including purchase receipts, maintaining an inventory of your possessions, staying in contact with your adjuster, and being available to assist the adjuster if they need your input.

Finalizing a claim, including the paperwork and arranging for payments, commonly takes longer than 30 days. Complicated claims can take months to resolve. Whether you are dealing with your own insurer or someone else’s insurer, we recommend that you take an active part in the process, ask questions and provide requested information to help process your claim.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly or have questions about insurance in Washington state, contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What is Obamacare?

The United States is midway through its first year of health benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed by Congress in March 2010 to reform the nation's health care system. The Affordable Care Act is the short name for the official act, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and often referred to in the media as Obamacare.

There has been much confusion about the ACA and Obamacare since those terms joined our national lexicon. Late night show host Jimmy Kimmel illustrated that last fall when he interviewed people "man on the street" style about how they felt about the ACA versus Obamacare.

Regardless what your personal opinion is about the ACA, the act is complex and far-reaching. It seems no matter how much you know about the ACA, there is always more to learn. Journalist Sarah Kliff with Vox, an online media outlet, posted an interactive overview of all things ACA from a national perspective.

Take a look at Everything you need to know about Obamacare.

Other resources:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eastern Washington at risk for wildfires with dry conditions

The Office of the Washington State Climatologist report for May says that while Western Washington was wetter than normal, the lack of low-elevation precipitation in Eastern Washington has warranted drought concerns in some areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Benton, Franklin, Chelan, Lincoln, and Walla Walla counties as natural disaster areas due to the dry conditions. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, a red flag warning has been issued for Chelan and Douglas counties, meaning there’s a higher chance of wildfires in those areas. 
Here are some tips for people who live in areas that are prone to wildfire:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Kreidler, state officials stand up for same-sex married couples' benefits

Yesterday, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sharon Ortiz today released a joint letter to Washington state employers, insurance companies and benefit plan administrators regarding employee health care benefits for same-sex married couples.

The agencies learned that some health plans have provided dependent coverage for opposite-sex spouses of employees or other insureds, but failed to provide the same coverage to same-sex spouses. This practice violates Washington state law, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 2006.

“The Attorney General’s Office will work to protect the legal rights of all Washington residents and enforce state laws prohibiting discrimination,” said Ferguson. “If an employer provides benefits to opposite-sex spouses, it must provide the same benefits to same-sex spouses.”

Washington was one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2012.

Kreidler, Ferguson and Ortiz and their agencies are charged with protecting Washington residents from unfair or discriminatory practices. Earlier this year, Ferguson investigated O’Reilly Automotive Inc. for denying benefits to same-sex spouses; the company’s ultimately extended health benefits to same-sex spouses.

“Most health insurers doing business in our state understand they cannot discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation,” said Kreidler. “But we’re taking this extra step today to ensure they understand their responsibility to do due diligence when selling insurance policies in Washington.”

“The Washington State Human Rights Commission works to prevent and eliminate discrimination,” said Ortiz. “Discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal under the law.The Commission has jurisdiction over insurance discrimination and is prepared to receive complaints for investigation.We will work in partnership with the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Insurance Commission to resolve these issues.”

The letter is accompanied by frequently asked questions about health care benefits for same-sex spouses.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Career opportunities: Insurance fraud detective, insurance technician

We have two jobs open, both of which close on June 18.
The first is an Insurance Fraud Detective in our Special Investigations Unit. This position is responsible for directing and conducting statewide investigations of major criminal insurance fraud. Investigations often involve multiple victims, multiple suspects, federal & state criminal statutes and multiple jurisdictions. 
Duties include:
  • Conducting complex criminal investigations.
  • Case review and expert consultation.
  • Task force participation.
  • Training.
View a full description of duties or apply for this position on
The second job is an Insurance Technician 3 in our Consumer Advocacy program. This position provides senior-level paraprofessional lead support to the Consumer Advocacy Program (CAP) support staff. This position acts as the technical expert on IT issues involving support staff and as a liaison to the Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisors (SHIBA) program regarding technical applications that interface with hotline functions. This position also answers consumer hotline calls and routes them for assistance.
View a full description of duties or apply for this position on
See a full list of jobs open at OIC.  

Insurance policies are hard to read, but it’s important to do so

When you buy any type of insurance policy—for auto, home, or any other type of insurance—it’s important to review it to make sure the information is accurate. Here are a few things you should check and the reasons you should check them:
  • Your name, address and contact information: This seems self-explanatory. However, in addition to being sure you are the person who is covered, the company needs to be able to send you billing and policy information. If they send the bill to the wrong physical or email address and you don’t pay the bill, they will cancel your policy for nonpayment. If they send you a cancellation notice and you don’t receive it, you won’t know you aren’t covered against a loss. Avoid all of that and make sure your personal information is accurate.
  • Items to be covered, covered amounts and premiums: Are the items listed in the policy the same items you sought coverage for? Is the coverage amount adequate to replace the item if it’s destroyed or stolen? Does the premium being billed the match the amount you were quoted?
You should receive a copy of your policy no later than 30 days after you purchase it. If you don’t receive one, contact your agent or insurer as soon as possible.  You can find agents, brokers and companies' contact information on our website.
It’s your responsibility as the consumer to review the information in your policy and notify your insurance company of any corrections that need to be made. Silence on your part is considered acceptance of the policy contract and all of its content. If there’s something incorrect in your policy, you may experience problems when you have a claim.
Read more about your insurance on our website. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We are hiring a market analyst in Olympia area

We are hiring a permanent Market Analyst (Functional Program Analyst 3) in our Tumwater headquarters. This position is responsible for conducting market analysis of regulated insurance companies under the direction of our Chief Market Analyst in our Company Supervision division. The person in this position protects consumer's interests and promotes a healthy business environment in Washington by providing regulatory oversight of market interactions between consumers and companies.

The duties in this job are heavy on insurance company data gathering and analysis. We are looking for someone who has a bachelor's degree in business administration or a related field, two years' experience with life, health or property and casualty insurance company operations, and experience with data queries, project management, Internet research and auditing.

Read more about the position's duties, requirements, salary and how to apply on