Your state insurance department has resources to help if you have a problem


When’s the last time you got money back for insurance overpayment? If you live in the “show me” state, you might have recently had such a a windfall. Missouri’s Department of Insurance has been successful in returning nearly a million dollars a month to insurance consumers as a result of mediation efforts on behalf of those who had filed complaints. Common consumer complaints included insurance companies’ claims handling, as well as marketing and sales practices. Health insurance had more complaints than any other type of insurance, followed by homeowners and life.
This good news story isn’t an anomaly: Insurance officials in Maryland and Connecticutt have recently announced consumer restitution for auto insurance policies after investigations revealed incorrect charges, improper claim settlements, and other problems. And in Florida, millions in restitution will be paid out to workers compensation claimants who had been victims of a fraud scheme.
What do you do if you have a complaint against an insurer or think that you have been overcharged? If you have a trusted independent agent, that’s a good place to start. Independent agents are knowledgeable, licensed professionals who advocate on your behalf. They understand the terms in your policy, insurance industry standards and norms, and state insurance laws.
But if you don’t have an agent, or if your complaint is with your agent, you should familiarize yourself with the consumer services that are available from your state’s insurance bureau. Insurance is regulated on a state basis and each state has their own insurance bureau or division to oversee insurance laws and operations. Consumer protection is a primary mission, and one of the most important functions of any state bureau is to ensure the solvency of any insurers conducting business in the state. State oversight bodies also supervise insurers to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.
Because there are 50 different oversight bodies, consumer services can vary quite a bit from one state to the next. Some common services might include license verification for agents and insurance companies; the ability to find out if your employer is paying workers comp; hotlines for filing complaints, reporting fraud or requesting an investigation; access to mediation services or an insurance ombudsman; and online consumer information about state laws and your rights as a consumer. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a clickable map with links to state insurance departments. NAIC also offers a service where you can search for insurance company complaint and financial information, as well as extensive consumer resources to learn more about insurance.