Thursday, October 11, 2018

Beware of open enrollment scams

We are rapidly approaching 2019 open enrollment for Medicare (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7 and health insurance for individuals and families (Nov. 1 – Dec. 15). That also means we’re starting to see scammers try to trick consumers into buying illegal products.

An OIC employee recently received a phone call from an insurance agent who tried to sell her a health insurance policy. The agent—who isn’t licensed in Washington state—told the employee that if she provided the address of a friend or relative from out of state, he would sell her a policy using that address that would be covered under a “national plan.”

Here’s what’s wrong with in this scenario:
  • Consumers can’t buy an ACA-compliant health insurance plan outside of open enrollment unless they qualify for a special enrollment.
  • It’s not legal for agents and brokers to sell consumers a policy using someone else’s address. 
  • It’s not legal for agents and brokers to try to circumvent state insurance laws by selling a policy that’s valid in another state. 
  • It’s not legal to solicit or sell insurance in Washington state without a license. 
The agent is now the subject of a legal investigation.
If someone tries to sell you a health insurance plan outside of those dates, you are probably not getting the coverage you think you are. Here are some red flags to watch for:
  • NEVER give an agent any financial or payment information before you review the policy. 
  • If the agent refuses to give you any plan information in writing until you have signed up, “locked in,” “reserved a spot” or provided financial information. 
  • The agent may direct you to website to check your provider network. Before you sign the policy, contact your medical providers directly to ask if they accept the plan. 
For Medicare-related plans, it’s illegal for agents and brokers to initiate unsolicited door-to-door visits, phone calls, or emails to consumers.

Here’s where you can find more information:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

This is a good time of year to think about flood insurance

It's early October, which for those of us in Western Washington means the rainy season is about to get started.

A North Carolina resident rescues a cat in the flooding
that resulted from Hurricane Florence.
Photo courtesy Associated Press
Most people do not have flood insurance. Washington state has 43,000 flood policies among individuals/homeowners. Western Washington isn't the only place where it's worth thinking about. Eastern Washington is also at risk for flood. Areas that have been struck by wildfires are subject to heavy water runoff due to the vegetation being gone. 

Consider North Carolina, which is currently recovering from Hurricane Florence. In a state with 10 million people, only 134,000 homes were covered by flood insurance. You can read more about what's happening there from Mike Causey, the insurance commissioner in that state.

Here are some facts you should know about flood insurance:
  • Your homeowner policy does not cover floods, or any loss due to flooding. That includes mudslides and land movement that were caused by water.
  • There's a 30-day waiting period for most new flood insurance policies to take effect.
  • Many policies are sold through the National Flood Insurance Program, but there can be policies available outside of the federal government. Your agent or broker can give you more information.
Read more about flood insurance on our website. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or call 1-800-562-6900.