Texas Regulators Suspend Premium Payments for Ike Victims

September 16, 2008

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the Texas Department of Insurance has directed insurance carriers to “to provide prompt and immediate relief” to residents and policyholders impacted by the storm, “including but not limited to the suspension of premium payments to allow continuing insurance coverage.”

TDI reported it will work with carriers to minimize the regulatory effects of a carrier’s suspension of premium payments, specifically in regard to financial review requirements. Regulators emphasized that the term “suspension” is not intended to mean forgiveness of the premium. Instead it extends to the policyholder a grace period for the payment of any premium due.

“Carriers are encouraged to work with policyholders in the collection of premiums, including payment plans,” the insurance commissioner’s bulletin said.

TDI also determined “that it is inappropriate for insurers to re-rate, cancel, nonrenew, or refuse to provide coverage due solely to an individual’s status as a victim or evacuee of Hurricane Ike.” Nor is it “reasonable to change policyholders’ rating classifications or increase their insurance rates solely because they are victims or evacuees of Hurricane Ike,” the department stated.

Additionally, TDI’s Division of Workers’ Compensation said insurance carriers should “provide all injured employees impacted by the hurricane with methods for reporting a change of address and to use all available means to provide to injured employees prompt and immediate relief, including but not limited to processing and delivery of benefit checks and necessary medical care, services, and supplies, including physical therapy, pharmacy, or medical equipment.”

TDI and the DWC instructed insurance carriers to waive penalties and restrictions on injured employees and health care providers when the injured employee is subject to a certified network and obtains necessary emergency and non-emergency health care out-of-network as a result of the disaster.

The temporary rules apply to residents of: Angelina, Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Chambers, Cherokee, Fort Bend, Galveston, Gregg, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Walker, Waller, Washington, and Wharton counties, regardless of where those residents have temporarily relocated.

TDI staff will visit shelters in Austin, San Antonio and in East Texas to offer displaced consumers assistance with contacting their insurance companies to begin the claims process.

Source: Texas Department of Insurance, www.tdi.state.tx.us

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