Tuesday, February 21, 2017

OIC recovered $11.3 million for consumers in 2016

An OIC consumer advocate helps
a caller with an insurance question. 
A big part of what we do is to help protect consumers from financial harm.

In 2016, our consumer advocates:
  • Fielded 7,195 consumer complaints and helped recover $11.3 million for consumers. 
  • Answered 67,405 calls to our consumer hotline. 
  • Responded to 5,449 written inquiries from consumers. 
  • Responded to 1,676 consumers via our live-chat feature on our website, which started in March. 
  • Mailed 1,905 insurance publications to consumers who requested them. 
Our consumer advocates can help you:

More resources for consumers:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Distracted driving may cost you more in premiums, fines – even death

The Washington state Traffic Safety Commission released a report this week that revealed some somber statistics:
  • Nearly 1 in 10 drivers in motion was distracted by something – 9.2 percent
  • Most of the distractions were an electronic device – 6.9 percent
  • The remainder were distracted by children, their radio, eating, or something else. 
The distraction rate increased by half in drivers who were stopped at an intersection – jumping to 14.2 percent.

That’s the kind of thing that can lead to higher insurance premiums and worse – death.

The report observed more than 22,000 drivers in 23 Washington counties during 2016. It’s the first report of its kind by the commission and will serve as a benchmark for future annual reports.

These numbers are important because distracted drivers cause collisions. The commission’s most recent collision report, from 2014, shows that distracted drivers crash every 12 minutes. Distraction was a factor in 40 percent of all collisions, the single most frequent contributing factor in all collisions that year.

Distracted driving was a factor in 123 fatal collisions.

The number of collisions in your region contribute to increased insurance premiums. If the number of collisions increases, your rates are likely to as well.

In Washington state, it is illegal to hold a phone or text while you drive, and it’s a violation for all new drivers to use a phone at all. The state Legislature is considering a bill that would broaden restrictions on using electronics devices and increase the fines for people who violate the law more than once. If adopted, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Related news:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Kreidler examining how proposed U.S. rule may affect Washington’s health insurance market

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule this week that could significantly affect health insurance plans for 2018. We are working closely with our health care stakeholders, including health insurers, medical providers and consumer advocates, to ensure that any proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) do not harm our state’s stable health insurance market.

The federal government's 71-page proposed rule contains several approaches to market stability. We are evaluating the regulations for their effect on Washington state law and our market. One option in the proposal would shorten the annual enrollment period for consumers from three months to six weeks.

All states have been asked to provide comments on the proposed rule by March 7 – a quick turnaround.

Our analysis will consider Commissioner Kreidler’s three key values for any changes to the ACA:
  • No reduction in people covered by insurance.
  • No reduction in benefit levels or affordability.
  • No increased financial obligation for our state.
Washington independently adopted many aspects of the ACA, and we have a state-based Exchange that recently saw more than 200,000 residents enroll in coverage for 2017. Kreidler’s office is coordinating its review of the proposed rule with experts at several Washington state agencies and the national level to ensure a comprehensive analysis.

We are tracking potential changes to the ACA; you can sign up to receive notifications when we have new information. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Get a CLUE – it’s a report that can influence your insurance rates

KING 5 recently reported on a little-known database called CLUE—Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange—that can affect consumers’ property and auto insurance rates without their knowledge.

KING 5 interviewed a consumer named Mike Schultz whose auto insurance rates went up because of an error in his CLUE report. After doing some digging, he found out that his CLUE report erroneously listed a collision that he witnessed, but was not involved in.

So what should consumers know about CLUE?
  • It’s a report generated by LexisNexis that contains up to seven years of your personal auto and property claims history. The data comes from insurance companies when they close claims you file.
  • Insurance companies review the CLUE data and use it to set the rates they charge you.
  • You have the right to request a free copy of your report:
LexisNexis, Consumer Center
866-312-8076
Request your personal report online
  • If you find mistakes in your CLUE report that you want to dispute, contact LexisNexis Consumer Center at 888-497-0011. 
Read more about CLUE. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Learn how to avoid falling victim to fraud at free event on Feb. 15

The OIC and AARP are hosting a free event in Puyallup on Feb. 15 where people can learn ways to avoid becoming victims of fraud.

Free breakfast starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by presentations and free Medicare counseling. 

The event wraps up at 1:20 p.m.

Who:
Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler will speak first, at 10 a.m. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Criminal insurance fraud unit investigated 150 cases in 2015, 2016

Many people don’t know that the Office of the Insurance Commissioner investigates criminal insurance fraud, much of which is referred to us by insurance companies themselves. The work is done by the OIC’s Criminal Investigations Unit (CIU), staffed by law enforcement and criminal analysts. They refer the results of their investigations to state and local prosecutors, who bring charges against the people who are suspected of committing the fraud.


CIU staff conduct a search during
an insurance fraud investigation
In 2015 and 2016, the CIU:
  • Received 3,571 referrals, which are questionable insurance cases that consumers and the insurance industry send to us to review.
  • Opened 150 criminal fraud cases.
  • Submitted 52 cases to a prosecutor.
  • Had 40 criminal cases charged; 37 of those were heard before a judge.
  • Had 44 convictions for various crimes.
  • Saved $3.6 million in immediate and projected insurance claim payouts. These efforts resulted in $857,353 of restitution ordered paid back to victims and $26,760 in court costs ordered back to the judicial system.
  • The vast majority – 73 percent – of the cases we investigate involve personal property or property damage. Bodily injury frauds are 11 percent, fraud by insurance agents and brokers (called producers) is 6 percent, and the rest involve disability, a medical provider, staged auto collisions or other types of cases. 
Other information about CIU:
  • CIU was established by the Washington state Legislature in 2006. Since then, we have pursued 434 cases and adjudicated 105 of them. Our workload has steadily increased each year.
  • It maintains a list of insurance fraud most wanted suspects, who have been charged with a crime but did not appear in court to face the charges. 
  • In November 2016, the CIU earned law enforcement accreditation from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), joining the 20 percent of law enforcement agencies in the state to have it.
  • CIU hosted the 19th annual 2016 Fraud Directors Conference, a gathering of more than 70 insurance fraud professionals from 26 states and DC. It was the first time the conference has been held in Washington state. 
  • The insurance commissioner is required by law to appoint a 10-member volunteer board to advise him on fraud investigations.
Read more in the CIU’s most recent report to the Legislature.