Tuesday, September 22, 2009

California and Missouri companies ordered to stop selling unauthorized insurance in WA

The Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner today ordered companies in California and Missouri to immediately stop selling unauthorized insurance in Washington state.

Claims & Benefit Management, of Chino, Calif. and the Association for Lifestyle Reform, a Missouri corporation, were ordered "to immediately cease and desist" from:

-Engaging in unauthorized insurance business in Washington, including collecting premiums and advertising,
-and soliciting insurance business in the state.

The order, issued Tuesday, also included Brad Wessler, a California resident who owns both companies. Wessler was also named in similar orders last year in Utah and in Colorado.

Investigators at the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner found that the companies were selling insurance and medical care discount cards in the state. Neither the companies nor Wessler were authorized to act as an insurer or health care service contractor in Washington.

The companies, according to the order, are believed to have used misleading "fax blasts" of unsolicited faxes touting "affordable health care" and $10 doctor visits. The company is also believed to have required customers to provide bank account or credit card information for automatic withdrawals "and then refused or delayed making refunds" when consumers complained.

Tuesday's cease-and-desist order also orders Wessler and his companies to provide a list of all Washington customers and to report any premiums paid.
The companies must also notify all Washington customers of the order and, upon the insured person's request, replace any unauthorized insurance with coverage issued by an authorized insurer.

The cease-and-desist order is posted on the insurance commissioner's website.

Which insurers trigger the most complaints?

Or the least?

Washington's state insurance commissioner's office has built an online tool that allows you to easily compare complaint rates by insurer.

The results include a "complaint index," which compares the number of complaints to the  company's market share. You can also compare the complaint rate based on the total premiums charged here in Washington. The data's broken down by insurance type: auto, homeowners and health. We've got four years' worth of data built into the site (calendar years 2005-2008), so you can also look at who's improving or getting worse.

Inevitably, of course, there's a caveat: Be sure to also look at the total number of complaints. For insurers with a very small number of policies here, even a single can push the complaint index quite high.

Click here to go to the "Complaint Comparison Tool."