Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Our IT staff keeps us on track

Today is National  IT Professionals Day, and we want to take a moment to recognize the people here at the OIC who keep our systems running so we can accomplish our mission of protecting consumers and regulating insurers.
Some of the OIC's stellar IT staff 

Here are some the ways our IT staff help us protect consumers and regulate the insurance industry:

  • Consumers can file online complaints against insurance companies, agents and brokers, and get help from our consumer advocates. 
  • Insurance agents and brokers can apply for or renew their licenses online. 
  • Insurance companies can pay their premium taxes online, which goes to the state's general fund to pay for state government operations. 
  • Insurance companies file their rates electronically to use for review. 
  • And, of course, our IT folks keep our computers up and running so we can do our work every day. 
You can find all of those online services on our website, www.insurance.wa.gov




Thursday, September 14, 2017

New Medicare card design revealed today


Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a first look at the new Medicare card design. The new card contains a unique, randomly assigned number that replaces consumers' Social Security numbers. The purpose is to prevent fraud, combat identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars.

CMS will stagger the mailings of the new card to people with Medicare benefits, starting April 2018 through April 2019. 

In addition to today’s announcement, people with Medicare will also see the new design of the Medicare card in the 2018 Medicare & You Handbook, which will arrive throughout the month of September.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Some property insurers are not selling policies in wildfire-affected areas

Some property insurers have temporarily stopped selling insurance in areas affected by the Eagle Creek, Norse Peak and Jolly Mountain fires in Washington state.
Photo courtesy Washington state
Department of Natural Resources 

What does that mean? 
If you are in the process of buying real estate or if your homeowner insurance policy is up for renewal, you may have a hard time finding a policy.

What should I do? 
Contact your agent or broker and ask what your options are. If you need a policy and don’t have one, shop around.

Consumers also have access to the property insurer of last resort in our state, called the Washington Fair Plan. The plan offers basic property insurance to consumer who are unable to obtain insurance in the standard insurance market. Consumers have to obtain coverage through a licensed insurance agent or broker, and you can work with whomever you choose. If your company won’t offer you coverage, your agent can help you get coverage through the Fair Plan.


Other considerations about wildfires
Even if you maintain insurance coverage on your home, you should learn about ways to decrease your risk of losing your home to fire. Here are some resources in Washington state.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Medicare fraud costs taxpayers $60 billion each year

Today, is National Report Medicare Fraud Day. We all pay the price for Medicare fraud, abuse and waste, which contributes significantly to rising health care costs. In fact, Medicare fraud costs taxpayers $60 billion every year.

What you can do to help stop Medicare fraud
  • Protect your Medicare number, located on your Medicare card. Treat it like a credit card and don’t carry it with you unless you need to use it.
  • Don’t give out your Medicare, Social Security or bank account numbers over the phone or in person, unless you made contact – and you trust the person.
  • Remember, nothing is ever free. Don’t accept offers of money or gifts for "free" medical care.
  • Ask questions. You have a right to know everything about your medical care, including the costs billed to Medicare.
  • Check your Medicare statements to make sure they are accurate and match the services you actually received.
  • Be wary of medical providers who tell you the item or service isn’t usually covered, but they “know how to bill Medicare” so Medicare will pay.
  • Be cautious if a company requests you pay for premiums in cash, pay a year’s premium in advance, or pressures you to buy right away because it’s your “last chance.”
  • Check with the insurance commissioner to make sure an insurance company or agent is allowed to do business in Washington state.
How you can report Medicare fraud

If you suspect fraud or have questions about fraud, call our Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-562-6900 and ask to speak with our Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program. SHIBA is Washington state’s Senior Medicare Patrol, a federally funded grant through the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that works to reduce Medicare fraud.

If fraud or abuse is suspected, we will work with you and the appropriate state and federal agencies to investigate.