Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Behind the scenes in our Consumer Advocacy program...

Not enough people know about it, but our consumer advocacy staff run a free phone hotline -- staffed by live people, not some endless phone tree -- to help you get answers to insurance questions and problems. It's 1-800-562-6900.

People call when they're unhappy with what their insurer's offering for their wrecked car, for example. They call, increasingly, because they cannot find affordable health coverage and are desperate to find coverage for loved ones. (We also have a special program, called Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors, that trains hundreds of volunteers to help provide information on health insurance and Medicare options. They can be reached through the same number.)

One person called because he was unhappy with the value that an insurer put on his goat, which had met with an untimely end. (True. For what it's worth, we helped get him an extra $25 for his goat.)

Not everyone, however, speaks English-- or at least well enough to get into the details of an insurance claim and policy exclusions. So we have staff who can speak Spanish and Filipino/Tagalog, and others certified to interpret American Sign Language. We have a TTY machine. Some of our publications are available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian.

And when that's not enough, we tap Language Line Services, a telephone interpreter service that can translate English into more than 150 languages (and vice versa) 24/7.

So if you know someone who's having trouble with an agent or insurer, needs help finding health coverage, etc., have them give us a call: 1-800-562-6900. We speak their language.

Seattle woman pleads guilty in insurance fraud case

A Seattle women has pleaded guilty to filing a false claim in an insurance case -- a class C felony -- after allegedly smashing her van into two parked cars and then filing an insurance claim saying the van had been stolen.

Luom Vo, 38,  was sentenced in King County Superior Court to 30 days community service and more than $4,000 in restitution and other costs.

According to Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's Special Investigations Unit, Vo was driving on Seattle's Beacon Avenue just before 2 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2009 when she hit two parked vehicles: a Volvo station wagon and a Pontiac Vibe. Her Honda van was disabled in the crash. Neighbors said they saw Vo then climb into a friend's car and leave.

Later that day, Vo filed a claim with her insurer, PEMCO, saying that the van had been stolen. She subsequently insisted to a PEMCO investigator that she was not driving it when the crash happened.

The SIU investigation found that the van had not been stolen, and that she was, in fact, behind the wheel.