Beware of health insurance scams

Shopping for health insurance coverage now that health reform has passed? Buyer beware of health insurance scams. That’s the message from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which is alerting consumers that scammers and shady operators have been surfacing since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 (PPACA). Some insurance regulators on the state level are reporting that they are receiving complaints about scam artists going door-to-door or setting up toll-free phone lines to sell bogus “ObamaCare” insurance policies.
Here are some NAIC red flags to alert you to potential fraud:

  • Time-limited offers or policies with limited enrollment periods. Reputable health insurance concerns will not ask you to make a quick decision!
  • A claim that the coverage is required by law. There are no coverage requirements until 2014.
  • The salesperson doesn’t explain the coverages included in the policy or does not provide a full list of the coverages.
  • The salesperson claims the coverage will be “grandfathered” or exempted from changes required by the health care reform law. The only policies that would be “grandfathered” are those which were in already in force before the law was signed.

Your state insurance authority is your most important resource to check insurance company and insurance agency licensing information. If you have any suspicious sales calls – either by phone or in person – trust your instincts and take the time to check things out.
If you suspect fraud or have a complaint, NAIC offers a resource to file a report.

Meet the Class of 2013 – wired, hip … and hopefully adequately insured

Each August since 1998, as millions of freshmen prepare to embark on their college years, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, which provides a look at the cultural environment that has shaped the lives of those students. For those of us with a few more years under out belts, the list can be startling. For the Class of 2013, “… Carter and Reagan are as distant to them as Truman and Eisenhower were to their parents. Tattoos, once thought “lower class,” are, to them, quite chic. Everybody knows the news before the evening news comes on.”
For this year’s freshmen, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead. Smoking has never been glorified, books have always been available on an electronic screen, and wars have always unfolded on TV in real time. We’ve given you a sampling of the data points, but the entire list makes for some fun reading. You can also check back to 1998 for archived lists.
Some things never change
While the cultural zeitgeist might change, one thing never changes: Parents want to ensure that students are safe and secure while away at school. As your students head off to school, it’s important take steps to ensure that they are adequately covered by insurance and make sure they understand the coverage and benefits that are available to them. If your student will be living away from home, you should ensure that they have emergency contact numbers and that they know how to report a claim if a loss or accident occurs. Some of the insurance coverage issues you need to consider include:
Health insurance – Will your student be covered under your policy or will you need to arrange coverage? Many family policies will cover full-time students but you need to check how the insurance company defines full time. Also, check your plan’s benefits, coverage area, and coverage requirements. If your student is an athlete, check coverage limits – you may need to arrange for additional coverage.
Auto insurance – Will your student have a car full-time at their college? If so, they may need their own policy. If not, you may be able to save money on your policy if they are only using your car intermittently. Ask if any “good student” or “safe driver” credits are available to your student – availability may depend on the state and the insurance company.
Personal possessions – Theft is the most common crime on college campuses. If your student will live in a dorm, personal possessions may be covered under your existing homeowner’s policy, but if they are living in an apartment, they may need rental insurance. Don’t assume that the college or the landlord will have coverage that will encompass your child’s possession in the event of fire, theft, or loss – check your homeowner’s policy to learn the extent of your coverage – you may need additional insurance if your student has expensive electronic equipment.
Of course, these are just the basics. There are other issues like ID theft, credit cards, life insurance, and more. Remember, many insurance matters are state-specific and governed by state laws. Often, state insurance bureaus offer consumer alerts so check with your state’s website.
Here are more resources to help you plan for the insurance needs of your college students:
College Insurance Needs – issued in 2008 from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance
Parents: Know your insurance policies before your student goes off to school – a 2009 Consumer Alert from the Kansas Insurance Department
College-Bound? Keep an Eye on Your GPA and Your Personal Possessions – insurance advice and safety tips from the Insurance Information Institute
What Your College Student Needs to Know about Identity Theft – a Consumer Alert from the National Association of Insurance Commisioners
Heading Off to College With an Empty Wallet? – tips for managing money while away at school from the Insurance Information Institute
College Athletes Often underinsured
College Health and Safety Tips
Campus Safety Tips

Congratulations on your new baby, August parents! Don’t forget insurance …

group of babies needing insurance
Have you just had a new baby or are you expecting one soon? If so, you are part of a demographic trend. More babies are born in August than in any other month, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. September is the second-highest month, and while Tuesday has traditionally been the highest day of the week for births, Wednesday has been edging it out in recent years. See more interesting facts on birth and motherhood at the US Census Mother’s Day press release. The government keeps track of a lot of interesting data related to births. You can find out the most popular baby names by year on the Social Security website – or view the cute video version of top baby names. You can even find the most popular names by region.
Now check your insurance!
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) suggests steps that new parents should take to protect their growing family by checking insurance coverage. Anytime you experience a major life event – such as a marriage, a birth, a death, a new home – it’s important to remember to review your insurance policies. With a new baby, health insurance and life insurance are both coverages that should be reviewed to ensure that you are adequately protected. NAIC suggests there may also be auto and homeowners insurance considerations.
The Social Security office also reminds parents to register your child for a Social Security number, which you need to claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return, and may be necessary for medical coverage, setting up financial accounts, or eligibility for government-sponsored services.