Monday, May 12, 2014

OIC employees earn awards for their work

Two OIC employees will be honored for their work on behalf of Washington state.
Rebuilding OIC's financial examination program has earned Patrick McNaughton a 2014 Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management.
McNaughton is the chief financial examiner, based in our Seattle office. He manages 23 credentialed examiners who are responsible for auditing 45 domestic insurance companies, 90 charitable annuity issuers, and certain public entities, such as the state Health Care Authority. 

 “Pat was instrumental in rebuilding our financial examination program,” said Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “Financial exams are conducted to ensure insurance companies in Washington honor the promises they make. The impact of a well-regulated insurance industry cannot be overstated in terms of our state’s economy. Washington’s $28 billion insurance industry impacts virtually every adult, family, and business in the state and provides about $500 million annually for the general fund.”
McNaughton’s work enabled the OIC to regain accreditation by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and helped create a new system of risk-focused financial analysis and examination. 

McNaughton will join other award recipients at a luncheon with Gov. Jay Inslee on June 3. 
Detective Bennie Hamilton in our Special Investigations Unit (SIU) received the 2014 Community Relations/Partnership Award from the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). The Olympic Mountain Chapter of ASIS recognized Hamilton due to his outreach and partnership development with scores of insurance companies, other private companies and public sector agencies that combat fraud. Due to these efforts, Hamilton has successfully worked hundreds of criminal insurance fraud cases resulting in numerous convictions for theft, attempted theft, filing false insurance claims, forgery, perjury and other offenses. Hamilton is a 35-year law enforcement veteran in Washington state, serving the past seven years with SIU.

“Bennie’s work has made a difference to Washington consumers,” said Kreidler. “It is fitting that Bennie received this award during Public Service Recognition Week, because the work he and his colleagues do every day is worthy of recognition. This award also embodies the nature of the work we do through SIU, which relies on partnership and collaboration with law enforcement, other governments and insurance companies to combat fraud and protect consumers in Washington state.”

SIU identifies and investigates for prosecution criminal organizations and individuals engaged in fraud schemes that target the insurance industry. Partnerships with insurance industry professionals and a variety of private and public sector entities and individuals are critical for success in combating fraud while protecting consumers.

Friday, May 9, 2014

OIC is hiring analyst to review health plan filings

We are hiring a Functional Program Analyst 3 in our Tumwater office to review health insurance policy forms to ensure they comply with state and federal laws and requirements. This position plays an important role in making sure health plans meet Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other requirements and working closely with the insurance companies that file their plans with our office each year. This position works with other health policy analysts in the agency and our legal division.

This position works in our Rates and Forms division and reports to the Health and Disability Manager, which we are also hiring.

We are looking for candidates who have a bachelor's degree and at least two years' experience in government regulation, insurance, insurance code, or experience with the ACA. We will start reviewing applications on May 19.

Read more about the position or apply at

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Climate change taken seriously by government, insurers

Doubters of the science on climate change and its effects on the nation and in the Pacific Northwest should be chastened by the third U.S. National Climate Assessment that the White House released this week.

It’s noted as the most comprehensive scientific assessment of climate change and its effects. Changes in snowmelt, more wildfires, rising sea levels and more findings are included in the assessment about the Northwest. The news is sobering.

But as Gov. Jay Inslee notes, efforts are being made in Washington to mitigate climate change -- reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energy, boosting fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and constructing buildings that use less power, among other things.

The insurance industry long ago determined that climate change is real, as noted most recently in the 2013 climate risk survey of over 1,000 insurers in Washington, California, Connecticut, Minnesota and New York.

Commissioner Mike Kreidler is chair of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners working group on Climate Change and Global Warming. This group regularly reviews how climate change affects insurers and the way they do business.

While Commissioner Kreidler maintains a continuing focus on reforms to the nation’s health care system, he’s also been a longtime advocate of protecting the environment for future generations. Insurance has a role, as he mentions in an article he wrote for the United Nations.

Read more about Commissioner Kreidler's work with climate change.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ride-sharing businesses cause confusion among consumers, drivers

Ride-sharing through Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), including Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, are causing a stir nationwide from an insurance perspective. These services are available to consumers through a smartphone app and allow drivers in certain cities to use their personal vehicles to give people rides, like a taxi.

A handful of states have issued consumer notices about these companies, including California, Hawaii, Ohio and, most recently, Connecticut. The debate revolves around when drivers and passengers are covered in a collision. Most personal auto policies have an exclusion for “livery,” which means times when drivers are being paid to transport people. In that case, the drivers would need a supplemental policy to cover the commercial use of their vehicles.

Today, a TNC called Lyft announced it is partnering with MetLife insurance to “develop insurance solutions that further protect Lyft’s drivers and passengers when utilizing this new sharing economy platform.” However, that’s about all the information that appears to be available at this time.

The TNCs advertise their own liability policies for drivers. Here’s an example from Lyft: “The Lyft platform now provides drivers with excess liability insurance up to $1,000,000 per occurrence.” Uber seems to offer a similar policy. Sidecar offers a little more information on its site, including a disclaimer that its $1 million policy “is liability only and does not provide coverage for collision, comprehensive, or wear and tear damage to a driver’s vehicle.”

Lyft is available in Seattle and recently announced it is expanding into Spokane. Uber is available in Tacoma, Seattle and Spokane. Sidecar is available only in Seattle. 

This issue is sure to stick around as more consumers start using ride-sharing services. The Seattle City Council is currently considering how to regulate TNCs. You can read about one Seattle blogger’s experience with Lyft when he was involved in a collision.

If you have a problem with an insurance company, you can contact our consumer advocates at 1-800-562-6900 or online.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Unlicensed jewelry service contract company makes things right with OIC

Zale Delaware Inc., a company connected to Zales Jewelers, Gordon Jewelers and Piercing Pagoda, and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner recently agreed that Zale would pay $300,000 fine and more than $290,000 in unpaid premium taxes for unauthorized sales of service contracts for jewelry repairs. Companies pay a 2 percent premium tax on all service contracts, which is deposited into the state’s general fund. All disciplinary fines are also deposited into the state’s general fund.
Zale sold more than 425,000 jewelry service contracts worth $14.5 million to Washington consumers from 1999-2013 without being licensed. Washington state law requires that all service contract providers be registered with the Insurance Commissioner; the law took effect in 1999 as a way to protect consumers. Zale self-reported to our office that it was selling the contracts without being licensed, and it agreed to suspend further sales until it could comply with state law.

Like insurance companies, companies that sell service contracts assume a certain level of risk and it’s our job to make sure they are able to provide consumers the service they paid for when they purchase the contract.

Noteworthy in this case is that the company approached our office in order to comply with state law. Often, we find out about unlicensed service contract sales from consumer complaints. It is unusual for a company to approach us in the interest of following the law. Zale agreed to pay the fine and the premium tax within 30 days.

Before you buy a service contract, you can make sure the company islicensed to sell contracts in Washington.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Health insurers' proposed 2015 rates due today

Today is the deadline for all health insurance plans that are sold in Washington to be filed with our office. All health insurers must file their individual and small group health plans and rates for plans sold both inside and outside the Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. The review process will likely continue through the summer.

The rates will be available to the public 10 days after the filing is determined to be complete by our office – most likely on May 10. Consumers can sign up to receive an email when the rates are posted on our website. You can select one just company or all of them. If you sign up before May 10, you will receive an email alert once the new proposed rates are posted. And you’ll get an email once we’ve made our decision.

We also have information about how rates are reviewed and frequently asked questions.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

OIC seeks innovator who wants to help implement ACA statewide

OIC has a unique job opening in our Rates and Forms Division as a Health and Disability Insurance Forms/Contracts Manager (WMS Band 3). The position reports to the Deputy Commissioner for Rates and Forms, which is the division that reviews insurance plans and rates.
This is an exciting opportunity for someone who wants to work on the cutting edge of Affordable Care Act implementation in Washington state. We need someone who can lead a team of expert staff; work closely with people in the division who review rates and provider networks; and who understands insurance and contracts. The person in this position needs to be innovative and adaptable.
Here are a few of the position’s duties, as outlined in the job announcement:
  • Serves as the statewide expert on health and disability forms filings.
  • Plans and directs the review and approval or disapproval of health and disability contracts submitted by regulated entities; analyzes filing data to discover complaint trends or patterns of unfair, inequitable or unlawful insurance practices; prepares files and recommends referral of such practices for enforcement action.
  • Attends and participates in assigned and agency training to enhance requisite skills and knowledge needed to supervise professional staff.
  • Represent the OIC on a local and national level, attending NAIC events, speaking on behalf of the agency, and providing leadership on work groups and task forces.
We are requiring:
  • A bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree.
  • Expert knowledge of insurance products.
  • Expert knowledge of the insurance code and related rules and case law related to insurance products.
  • Extensive experience analyzing contracts, and providing effective oral and written communication.
  • Five years' supervisory experience of professional-level staff.
The salary will depend on qualifications, with a maximum of $80,000 per year.