Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two insurers fined $250,000

A California insurer and its sister company are being fined $250,000 for multiple violations of Washington’s insurance laws.

Health Net Health Plan of Oregon, Inc. and Health Net Life Insurance Co., of Woodland Hills, Calif., have signed a consent order jointly agreeing to pay the fine.

The violations include:

• As an illegal inducement to keep customers, the companies offered an unapproved premium holiday – a month of free insurance -- to hundreds of customers. (State law says that insurers must use the rates they file with state regulators.)

• Customers were transferred to new plans with a different company, but were wrongly told that the change was simply a “renewal” of the policy.

• By not telling customers that they had been transferred to a different company, the companies also violated a state law requiring insurers to use their own names.

“I’m all for consumers getting a break on their health insurance premiums,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “But insurers have to follow the same rules their competitors do. If they say they’re going to charge a particular rate, that’s the rate they should use.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Our new, much different website

Yesterday (yes, during the Seahawks game, yes, yes) we launched our new, faster, and hopefully much-easier-to-use website.

It's the product of months of testing with a variety of demographics, and the site is designed to be much more intuitive than our former site. On the old site, consumers could complete only 1/3 of the typical tasks we gave them. Now it's over 80 percent, and we're going to keep tweaking things to try to improve that further.

Take a look.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Our website's about to change dramatically. Here's what agents/brokers/insurers need to know

On Sunday, Jan. 13, we'll be rolling out our new agency website. It looks a lot different. We've tested the design on a variety of consumers and industry professionals, we've overhauled the navigational structure, and we've given the whole site a distinctly different look and feel.

There's one thing we're sure of: The site will be much more intuitive and easy to use. Early testing showed that consumers had a 1 in 3 task completion rate on our current site. On the new version, that jumped to 80 percent. And we hope that further fine-tuning boosts it further.

Here's the important part for agents, brokers and companies: The new site immediately splits users into a "consumer" area for laypersons and an "industry professionals" section for the folks that have to interact with our site for licensing, continuing education reporting, tax filing, financial statements, etc.

Update: And it's live! At the top of the home page, you'll see a tab marked "For industry professionals." There you go.

Two of WA's largest nonprofit health insurers have $2.2 billion in surplus

From a press release we sent out today:
OLYMPIA, Wash. – With two of the state’s largest health insurers sitting on surpluses totaling $2.2 billion, Washington’s top insurance regulator wants to use some of that money to lower costs for consumers.

According to the companies’ most recent financial statements, Regence BlueShield’s surplus has grown to $1.05 billion. Premera Blue Cross’ surplus is $1.15 billion.

“These are non-profit companies,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “It’s hard to square their billion-dollar surpluses with the fact that families are struggling to afford health insurance.”

Kreidler is proposing legislation that would allow his office to consider surpluses when reviewing nonprofit health insurers’ proposed rates. As things stand now, his staff must ignore them.

“As I’ve said before, it’s like trying to ignore an elephant in the room,” Kreidler said. “And the elephant’s getting bigger.”

The surpluses of both Regence and Premera have more than doubled in a decade. In the first nine months of 2012, Regence’s grew by $60 million. Premera’s grew by nearly $182 million.

“It’s important to remember that these are not reserves, which are set aside to pay future claims,” Kreidler said. “These billion-dollar surpluses are in addition to their reserves.”