Friday, July 31, 2009

Washington insurance news

-From National Public Radio's Morning Edition: "Health Care Costs Measured in Cupcakes" -- the story of a Seattle cupcake company owner and how health care costs have affected the bottom line. (Fun fact: employee health coverage accounts for about 25 cents of each $2.50 cupcake.) Click hear to read a print version of the story.

-From the (Vancouver) Columbian: A local woman saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in health care bills is lobbying her lawmakers -- in person -- in Washington, D.C. Click here to read the story.

Insurance regulators respond to NYT article...

Responding to a New York Times story (see the post below this), the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said today that AIG is stronger than the story -- "After Rescue, New Weakness Seen at A.I.G." -- would suggest.

"We are convinced, based on a complete, broad and deep ongoing review of all current material information, that the claims-paying abilities of these companies remains appropriate," the NAIC said in a letter sent to the Times this morning. "If this status changes, we are prepared and fully able to step in on behalf of policyholders and protect their interests."

The letter was written by Acting New York Insurance Superintendent Kermitt Brooks and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario. Here's a link to the full text of the letter, and here's a link to more on the the NAIC response.

In the news this morning...

-"After Rescue, New Weakness Seen at A.I.G" -- The New York Times, citing state regulatory findings, reported this morning that the American International Group "shows signs of considerable weakness even after their corporate parent got the biggest bailout in history.
Click here to read the story.

(Speaking of A.I.G., here's a consumer factsheet, written to answer policyholders' questions, from the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.)

-Also in the Times, economist Paul Krugman recounts the moment when a man at a town hall meeting told U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis to "keep your government hands off my Medicare" -- and then apparently wouldn't believe that Medicare was run by the federal government.

"It's a funny story -- but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation," writes Krugman. Click here to read the story.

-And New York Liquidation Bureau head Mark Peters, in an op-ed piece in the Albany Times-Union, argues against proposed changes that would allow insurers to choose whether to be regulated by the states or the feds. Click here to read the story.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

As sun and wildfires toast parts of the state, here are some fire tips

With record summer heat -- and in some places, wildfires -- scorching the state, here are some quick reminders:

-Many rural homeowners fear that human-caused fires aren't covered by insurance because they fall under an arson exclusion. Not so. Fire is one of the "basic perils" listed in homeowner's insurance, and all fires should be covered, so long as they were not intentionally set by the insured person.

-Rural homeowners should do everything possible to limit exposure to wildfires. At a minimum, clear a firebreak around your home and outbuildings, using driveways or well-watered green lawn areas as a buffer between the buildings and trees, brush and uncut fields.

-For more tips, including advice on insurance coverage and protecting family keepsakes, see this checklist.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Legislation wrap-up: new rules for flood insurance, organ transplants, annuities and discount health plans

Get your medical bills lowered.” A solution so simple, it’s brilliant.” “The savings do not stop there.”

As people struggle to find affordable health care, many are turning to discount health plans. And some buyers, who mistakenly think they’ve bought insurance coverage with full benefits, are discovering that the discounts are much more limited than they thought.

Several new laws, including one requiring more regulation and disclosure for such plans, took effect yesterday. The others include laws shortening the insurance waiting period for some people getting organ transplants, consumer-protection changes involving flood insurance, and new rules for annuities.

Click here for more information on the specifics.

"We've got to have reform"

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler testified recently about health care reform before the state Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee.

An excerpt:

This is going to take some time to take place. I know what's going to happen if we do nothing. We're going to spend $33 trillion over the next 10 years, get the results of a Third World country, and outspend everybody else by two to one. That is unacceptable to the American people. We've got to have reform.


Welcome to the blog of the office of the Washington state Insurance Commissioner.

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