Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Woman who pretended to be employer in lost-wage claim pleads guilty to insurance fraud

A woman who pretended to be an employer to help her son allegedly file a fake lost-wages insurance claim has pleaded guilty to insurance fraud.

Sherryl Rose Brongil pleaded guilty on Monday in King County Superior Court to one count of insurance fraud.

According to an investigation by State Farm and our Special Investigations Unit, Brongil's son, Larry Kwant, was accelerating out of a parking lot in her Cadillac when he lost control of the car and caused $26,000 in damage to it. He filed a claim, including 23 days of lost wages at $25 an hour. The form was signed by a "Linda Lee."

Linda Lee turned out to be Sherryl Brongil. Not only did she sign the form, purportedly showing that her son had worked at a company where he'd never worked. She'd also pretended to be administrative assistant "Linda Lee" when contacted by a claims adjuster.

She was sentenced to three months in jail.

As for Kwant, he's been charged with insurance fraud and identity theft.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Common questions about Medicare and health care exchanges


We've been getting a lot of questions about whether the new health care exchanges affect people on Medicare.

The short answer is no. If you have health coverage through Medicare, you don't need to do anything. It will not affect your coverage.

Among the other questions we're hearing frequently:

Do I need to re-enroll in my Medicare plan through the new health insurance Exchange?

Nope. Medicare's open enrollment is not part of the Exchange. If you are on Medicare, do not sign up for a plan in the Exchange.

Will I lose my Medicare coverage due to health reform and the Exchange?

No. Health care reform and the Exchange do not affect your Medicare coverage. You still have the same benefits and security you have now with Medicare.

Will people on Medicare be fined for not buying a health insurance Exchange plan?

No. In fact, it's against the law for someone who knows you have Medicare to sell you an Exchange plan.

Can I go to the Exchange and get a subsidy to help pay for my Medicare coverage?

Sorry, but no. If you're on Medicare, you're not eligible for the subsidies, which are for people buying coverage through the Exchanges.

For more questions -- including how the Exchange and Medicare work for recent immigrants, for those about to turn 65, etc. -- please see our new "popular questions about Medicare and the Exchange" web page.

Changes mean quicker responses to your insurance complaints

We've launched a new complaint response system that's speeding up the time between consumer insurance complaints and resolutions.

As Washington state's insurance regulatory agency and an advocate for consumers, we help with thousands of consumer complaints each year. Typical complaints involve wrongly denied claims, delayed payments and cancelled coverage.

The new online system, which is a secure link between our office and insurance companies we regulate, allows us to quickly get those complaints (along with our questions or concerns) to insurers. They'll look into the case and often reconsider their initial decision.

For years, largely in the interest of protecting complainants' private information, this process was handled by mail. Insurance companies were allowed 30 calendar days to respond to a complaint. 

The new online system is also secure -- and it's dramatically faster. Now insurers must respond electronically within 15 business days.

In other words, we've cut the time to process consumer complaints against insurers by more than 25 percent.

Got a complaint about your insurer? You can file a complaint online or call our Consumer Hotline 1-800-562-6900.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Insurance questions: Does my homeowners policy cover lightning?

In most cases, yes. Lightning is a covered peril in standard homeowners policies. Typically, both direct physical damage -- like burns, shattered windows, melted wiring -- would be covered. And if the lightning sets your home on fire, your fire coverage would also kick in.

How about lightning-caused damage to your electronics, like a TV or computer? Also typically covered.

And what about your car? If that gets hit by lightning, is the damage covered? Again, in most cases yes -- IF you have comprehensive coverage. (A man riding his motorcycle near Chehalis yesterday was struck by lightning, but is apparently doing well, other than a partly melted helmet. Really.)


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Health care reform questions: Where can I get help?

Q: Will there be health care advocates for people who are not able to understand the complexities of the health care process? I have a family member who cannot work and is in dire medical need and struggling with doctor and drug costs. What help will they get from the health care reform?

A: Yes, there definitely will be advocates to help people navigate the complexities of finding the right health coverage. Health care reform includes a network of navigators and other people to help, and many insurance agents and brokers can help as well. Here's a list of the organizations that have received grants to provide in-person assistance here in Washington state.

Here in Washington state, you can sign up with the Washington HealthPlanFinder to be contacted by assistance staff within the first two weeks of October. They can answer your questions and help with enrollment in the exchange, if that's the best option for you. The coverage would start in January 2014.

In this particular situation, with your relative struggling today to pay for medical care and prescription drugs, feel free to give our consumer advocacy staff a call. They can walk you through the options, including free or low-cost medical, vision and dental clinics, help paying for drugs, and how to appeal when a health insurer won't pay for a treatment or prescription.

The hotline number is 1-800-562-6900. (Don't live in Washington state? Here's how to find your own state's insurance regulator.) You can also email us at AskMike@oic.wa.gov.


WA: Two more Exchange health plans approved for King, Pierce, Spokane counties

From a press release we put out this morning:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Sept. 4, 2013
Media contact: Public Affairs (360) 725-7055

Kreidler settles with another health insurer – approves two more Exchange plans for King, Pierce, Spokane counties

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has reached a settlement with Molina Healthcare of Washington, Inc. (Molina) and approved its two plans for sale in Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange, the Washington Healthplanfinder.

Consumers in Washington will now have 43 choices in the Exchange when open enrollment begins Oct. 1. Molina’s two plans will be available in three counties: King, Pierce and Spokane.

Previously, Molina only participated in the Medicaid market. Its approval to sell inside the new Washington Healthplanfinder guarantees Medicaid enrollees continuity of care and creates even more competition in the marketplace.

Molina was one of five companies Kreidler disapproved for sale in Washington’s new Exchange. Molina, Coordinated Care Corp., Kaiser, and Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) all appealed Kreidler’s decision. Molina later dropped its appeal, but reactivated it Aug. 29.

The reactivated appeal allowed a settlement. Specifically, Molina corrected information in its provider contracts to gain approval.

Kreidler began discussions with only those companies he believed could make the necessary fixes in time before the federal deadline of Sept. 5. Ten plans from Kaiser and Community Health Plan of Washington were approved Aug. 30.

The Executive Board of the Health Benefit Exchange is schedule to certify the final list of approved plans today at 1 p.m. It is scheduled to submit its final list to the federal government Sept. 5.

“I made the tough decision to disapprove some plans on July 31 because I didn’t believe they were good for consumers,” said Kreidler. “I’m pleased that we’ve reached a settlement with some of these companies to bring more quality plans to the Exchange and that consumers will be protected.”

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Kreidler achieves settlement with health insurers - approves 10 more Exchange plans


Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has reached settlements with Community Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest and approved their 10 plans for sale in Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange, the Washington Healthplanfinder.

 Consumers in Washington will now have 41 choices in the Exchange when open enrollment begins Oct. 1. Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) will have three plans available in 26 counties.

 Kaiser will offer an additional seven plans in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

 Kreidler said the additional 10 plans meet the same high standards held for the other approved companies. They also ensure continuity of care for Medicaid enrollees and create more competition in the marketplace.

 The Exchange set an initial July 31 deadline for the Insurance Commissioner’s review and approval of plans for inclusion in the Exchange, where subsidies for health coverage will be offered as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

“We had 31 health plans approved by the Exchange’s deadline. Washington consumers now have an additional 10 quality plans to choose from,” Kreidler said.  “We took the initial deadline seriously, but we also followed our own legal process and it worked. The Exchange cannot delay any further. It must take action and approve these plans by Sept. 5.”