Fla. Regulator Advises Residents of Their Options After Losing Coverage

January 8, 2004

In the wake of one of the state’s largest health insurers announcing that it will not be renewing the policies of its individual health customers, Florida’s chief insurance regulator is cautioning the affected consumers to be aware of their options.

Director of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Kevin McCarty, said he sincerely regrets that United HealthCare has chosen to non-renew all of its individual health insurance policies, particularly at a time when a number of other companies are exploring entering the Florida individual health insurance market. The Office recently spent considerable time and resources working with United to provide its individual policyholders with a redesigned Florida approved policy that met United’s business needs.

“Consumers affected by this action must make important decisions, and we want them to be fully apprised of their options,” said McCarty. “They should be aware that by choosing a Florida approved policy they are assured that statutorily required protections, particularly in regard to premium rates, are included in their policy. United Healthcare is nonrenewing their policies of individual health insurance coverage and is offering policyholders coverage in its out-of-state group entity, Golden Rule Insurance Company. Consumers should carefully weigh the differences in policy provisions between an out-of-state group policy, that is not subject to regulations which provide the important consumer protections, and a Florida approved policy.”

Under Florida law individual policyholders that have at least 18 months of continuous credible coverage, as of the date of policy termination, are eligible for guaranteed issue individual coverage with any other individual carrier. The Office of Insurance Regulation has reportedly negotiated to assure that the approximately 8,000 United HealthCare customers affected by this action will have their coverage continued for at least an 18-month period.

United HealthCare is required to send a letter to all of its individual health policyholders, which explains the non-renewal of their policies and the dates of termination. This notice must be given within 180 days of their non-renewal. Consumers may reportedly find that they have better options, and McCarty is advising that they not wait until their policy is terminated to begin evaluating their options for replacement coverage.

McCarty advised consumers when shopping for replacement coverage to:

– Check with the Department of Financial Services to determine whether the coverage they are considering is a Florida approved policy;
– Avoid buying products offered from an unauthorized entity;
– Recognize the difference between medical or health discount cards and health insurance. Discount plans will not provide the coverage of health insurance.

A list of licensed companies offering individual coverage is available from the Department of Financial Services at www.fldfs.com/consumers/imc.htm. Note that this list includes both Florida regulated companies and companies licensed outside the state of Florida (and therefore not regulated by state laws).

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