Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seattle insurance producer loses license

The OIC revoked the license of Christopher S. Gloria, 39, of Seattle effect Sept. 26. Gloria was licensed as a Washington state insurance producer and was initially licensed in July 2012. We revoked his license for misrepresentation and fraudulent activity in his dealings with a Washington couple. 
In March 2013, the couple met with Gloria to find out if they could find equal or better whole life insurance for a lower premium than they had on their existing policy. They told Gloria they didn’t want to give up their existing policy, they simply wanted some comparison quotes. Gloria gave the couple documents to sign, which he said were necessary to obtain a quote, but in fact allowed him to replace their existing policies with new ones, underwritten by a different insurance company. Gloria also requested a voided check, which the couple gave him.  
Once the couple realized that their old policies had been replaced with new ones, they instructed Gloria that they wanted their old policies restored. From March through September 2013, the couple repeatedly contacted Gloria and he repeatedly told them it was in the works, even when the old company told the couple their policies were still not reinstated. 
Gloria is not allowed to sell insurance in Washington state or to Washington consumers. He has 90 days to appeal the revocation of his license. You can read the OIC order revoking his license here
If you feel you have been treated unfairly or have questions about insurance in Washington state, contact our consumer advocates online or by phone at 1-800-562-6900.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Visit OIC at the Small Business Fair in Renton this Saturday

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner will be available to answer your insurance questions at the Washington Small Business Fair this Saturday in Renton. 
We can answer your questions about: 
  • How to get health insurance, either as an individual or as a small business.
  • Benefits that health plans must cover under the Affordable Care Act. 
  • Options for small businesses that want to provide health plans for employees.
  • Other types of insurance that small businesses may want to consider.
The fair is free, with plenty of free parking and no advance registration necessary.
There will free seminars that cover important, up-to-date topics for all stages of business ownership. Savvy business experts share their knowledge and real-life experiences with you. 
Attendees will be able to connect with 30 federal, state and local government agencies, and business and trade associations.  
Here are the details:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Insurance Information Institute: Only 37 percent of renters have insurance

The number of people who rent a place to live instead of buying continues to rise, especially in high-cost urban areas. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), only 37 percent of renters have insurance on their belongings, compared to 95 percent of homeowners who have a homeowners policy. Read the full report.

“Renters insurance provides a very important financial safety net when there is a disaster,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and chief communications officer for the I.I.I. in a news release. “And, renters insurance is relatively inexpensive — the average cost of a renter’s policy is only $187 per year, or less than four dollars per week.”

Homeownership has fallen for over the past decade, according to Pew Research. The Northwest Insurance Council reports that up to 45 percent of people in the Puget Sound region rent rather than own their residence. That trend is mirrored in other major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, where renters outnumber homeowners, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.

Landlords typically have insurance to cover the value of the property and structure, but that coverage does not cover the renter’s belongings (contents). A standard renter’s policy covers contents, personal liability, premises medical coverage if someone is injured on the property you rent, and additional living expenses if you have to temporarily relocate from your rental property.

Read more about renter insurance. Need help? Contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Be in the know with electronic updates from OIC

The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner recently launched a new digital communication service to help consumers, media, partners and insurance professionals stay informed about Washington insurance news. 
Features include:
  • Electronic notification: Receive alerts by email or text message—no password is required.
  • Subscription management: Manage your profile online, including subscription topics and frequency of updates.
  • Automated web alerts: Receive notification when new website content of interest to you is posted.
You can select your subscription preferences, update your subscriptions or cancel this service here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Washington businesses refunded more than $1 million in overcharged commercial insurance rates

This month, Zurich North America insurance group completed reimbursing Washington businesses $1.02 million and more than $123,000 in interest on 568 commercial auto policies that had been overcharged.

In October 2013, the OIC took action against a handful of Zurich North America’s companies for overcharging Washington businesses for commercial auto insurance policies. The companies are American Zurich Insurance Co., American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co., Colonial American Casualty & Surety Co., Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Maryland, Zurich American Insurance Co. of Illinois, and Zurich American Insurance Co. 

The companies agreed in a consent order to pay a $50,000 fine and to refund policyholders, including 8 percent interest, who overpaid based on the incorrect rates.

This month, we closed out the case when Zurich North America reported it had completed the terms of the agreement. The overcharges happened because the companies failed to notify the OIC that they were going to continue to use their old rates, rather than charging new rates filed on their behalf by an insurance rating organization they belonged to. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

OIC orders unlicensed golf tournament insurer to stop doing business in Washington

Yesterday, the OIC ordered L & B Enterprises Inc., also called Tournament Pros, to immediately stop selling insurance in Washington state. Tournament Pros, based out of Maryland, has sold at least 18 insurance contracts for golf tournaments in our state since 2012 without being authorized to do so.

Golf tournaments often buy insurance to pay hole-in-one prizes or prizes for chipping or putting contests. These tournaments are popular fundraisers, as players pay an entry fee and fees to participate in contests.  

The OIC received a complaint after a May 2013 armed forces golf tournament at Bremerton's Cascade Course at Gold Mountain. The tournament organizer purchased a contract for a $10,000 hole-in-one prize on the 185-yard third hole, but a golf course employee mistakenly hung the prize sign on the 14th hole. According to the tournament sponsors, a sailor who had flown in from another state to participate in the tournament got a hole-in-one on hole 14, which was longer at 228 yards from the tips and more difficult. The tournament sponsor reported that it asked Tournament Pros to pay the prize; the company declined but offered to give the golfer $500. The tournament sponsor then complained to the OIC, and our legal team found out the insurer is not authorized to sell insurance in Washington. 

Tournament Pros has 90 days to request a hearing to contest the order. It also can choose to become an authorized insurance producer in Washington, at which point it would be allowed to continue to do business here.

In February 2014, a hole-in-one insurer who had been illegally doing business in Washington and had defrauded several charity golf tournaments and golfers was sentenced in King County Superior Court to $15,000 in restitution to his victims. Kevin Kolenda of Connecticut had been defrauding people in a handful of states for more than two decades and was extradited to Washington to face the charges.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

OIC is looking for health care network, consumer advocacy professionals

OIC opened two new jobs this week, both working in our Tumwater headquarters.

The first job will help us ensure that health insurance plans have adequate networks of medical providers across the state. The position is a Functional Program Analyst 3 in our Rates and Forms Division. The person in this position will review network access reports and provider agreements that health insurance companies submit to us. The position reports to our Healthcare Consumer Access Manager and plays a crucial role in our state's implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The position is open until filled. Read more about the position or apply at careers.wa.gov.

The second job is an Office Support Supervisor 2 in our Consumer Protection Division. We have a robust consumer protection program, working directly with Washington consumers and insurance companies. This position will supervise our consumer hotline staff, oversee consumer hotline operations, serve as the public records coordinator for the division and report on the division's performance.

This opening closes on Sept. 25. Read more about the position or apply at careers.wa.gov.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Can my age be used as a rating factor in auto insurance?

While it may sound like age discrimination, the answer to this question is "yes." A person’s age can be and usually is used as a factor in determining auto insurance rates. Age is connected to risk and is linked to accident frequency, accident severity, and claim costs, so insurers are allowed to factor it into rates. 

There are other rating factors typically used by insurers, which you may review on our website.         

If you find yourself experiencing a little sticker shock when you see your auto insurance premium, it’s always a good idea to shop for competitive auto rates every now and then. We recommend people do that in order to determine if they can find lower rates for the same coverage. Young drivers can sometimes get discounts for good grades and senior drivers can sometimes get discounts for taking driving classes for people aged 55 or older. Ask your agent or insurer about possible discounts.

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

Seattle Children’s Hospital officially withdraws legal complaint

Seattle Children’s Hospital officially withdrew its legal challenge with the OIC on Sept. 5 after it reached an agreement with Regence Blue Shield to include some services in Regence’s health provider networks for 2014 plans.

Seattle Children’s Hospital initiated legal proceedings about a year ago when Premera, Regence Blue Shield and Coordinated Care decided against including the hospital and research facility in their medical networks because of cost concerns. Seattle Children’s argued the OIC shouldn’t have approved 2014 plans from the three carriers because they excluded the facility from their networks for routine pediatric medical care. The plans argued Seattle Children’s charges for routine pediatric medical care would drive up their costs; Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler sided with the plans in favor of “narrow networks” to be able to provide cost-effective services for consumers. No families who needed specialty pediatric care were turned away from Seattle Children’s or had to pay out of pocket for those services.

Seattle Children’s and Premera Blue Cross last month reached an agreement to include the hospital in its medical networks, effective Sept. 1. Coordinated Care earlier this year made a deal to include the hospital in its network and was removed from the case.  

OIC is in the process of reviewing 2015 plans that are sold outside of the Washington health benefit exchange. At the end of August, OIC approved 90 health plans for sale inside the Exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, with a record low 1.9 percent average rate change.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pierce County woman ordered to repay insurance company for fraudulent car claim

A Pierce County woman was sentenced to 60 days of electronic home monitoring and ordered to repay $17,426 to Travelers Insurance for attempting to collect insurance money for a car she claimed was stolen and destroyed in a fire. Donica Santos, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree theft and one count of insurance fraud in Pierce County Superior Court last month.

In March 2012, a driver reported Santos’ vehicle was on fire on the side of Reservation Road in north Thurston County at about 1:40 a.m. on March 16, 2012. Santos reported to Travelers’ Insurance Co. later that day that her car had been stolen from her Tacoma home and was a total loss. Santos told investigators that she had last seen her vehicle the previous night and had not left her house or used her cell phone between 10:30 p.m. and 2:50 a.m., when police arrived at her house to investigate.

However, Santos’ cell phone records showed she used her phone repeatedly late the evening of March 15 and the early morning hours of March 16; several of the calls were made in Thurston County, near where her 2006 Chrysler 300C was found on fire. 

Travelers denied the claim, but was required by state law pay off the car loan balance of $17,426.

Santos was charged in December 2013 after she was investigated by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s Special Investigations Unit.