Sunday, May 30, 2010

WPTF Radio Newsmaker Show Hosts Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin

Please be sure to hear last week's full recorded radio interview at this link, broadcast over the long-time popular WPTF and streamed on the Internet via Host Don Curtis discusses a wide range of insurance topics and questions - including current events regarding the federal health insurance reforms and State budget matters - with North Carolina's Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Are you Prepared for Hurricane Season? Insurance Commissioner Goodwin and DOI Offer Tips and Warnings

This week is national Hurricane Preparedness Week, and next week marks the beginning of hurricane season, June 1-Nov. 30. That's why Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is reminding North Carolinians to get a head start on disaster preparedness before a storm strikes.

"One of the most basic ways for people to get prepared is to review their insurance policies, inventory their home's contents and compile important documents in a safe place," explains Commissioner Goodwin. "Knowing what your coverage is now gives you the chance to make adjustments and have those adjustments take effect before a storm comes to North Carolina." A lot of homeowners and renters are not familiar with their policies and may think they have more coverage than they really do, Goodwin added.
Because hurricane season is just around the corner, that’s why Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is reminding North Carolinians to get a head start on disaster preparedness before a storm strikes.

"We want people to have the insurance coverage they need to weather any storm that comes to North Carolina,” said Commissioner Goodwin. “I also encourage North Carolinians to be on the lookout for unscrupulous businesses that take advantage of folks when they need help and are most vulnerable. I’ve heard from criminal investigators on my staff that storm-related scams are on the rise in North Carolina.”
Department investigators have seen an increase in companies who are conning consumers into repair work for damage that isn’t really there. According to investigators here’s how it works:

After a storm, roofing companies learn from news reports which areas may have storm, hail or wind damage. They go to those neighborhoods and travel door-to-door telling homeowners their roof is damaged and needs repairing or in some cases to be replaced. According to investigators, often there is no roof damage and sometimes the damage is even intentionally caused. This can be prosecuted as insurance fraud. At a minimum, unsuspecting homeowners end up paying a deductible for a new roof they did not need.

An estimated 10 cents of every dollar paid in premiums goes toward the payment of fraudulent claims. To report suspected fraud, contact the Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840.

To avoid being the victim of a scam, Commissioner Goodwin and your Department of Insurance suggest that North Carolinians follow these tips:

If you suffer property loss in your home or vehicle, contact your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible to arrange a visit from an adjuster. The Department of Insurance will be in close contact with top insurance companies doing business in the state. We will have up-to-date consumer hotline numbers available for those who need to contact their companies.

Before doing any repairs to your house, photograph and make a list of the damage.

Protect your home from further damage by making temporary repairs only, until your insurance company can advise you further. Save any receipts for materials purchased for repairs.

Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.

If necessary, rent temporary shelter. If your home is uninhabitable due to physical damage (not lack of power or water), most homeowners policies pay additional living expenses while your property is being repaired. Before renting temporary shelter, check with your insurance company or agent to determine what expenses will be reimbursed.

Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Deal only with licensed agents and companies.
The Department also urges citizens to remember these tips in preparing for hurricane season:

Homeowners should review their insurance policies with their agents annually. Ask, “What exactly does my policy cover, and what needs are not met?” Consider that homeowners policies do not cover flood damage, and some policies in coastal areas may not cover windstorm damage. Don’t wait until the storm is approaching to upgrade your coverage.

Flood insurance can be obtained by qualifying property owners by contacting your local agent or through the National Flood Insurance program. Call 800-638-6620 for more information.

Residents living in rental property should consider purchasing renter’s insurance to cover losses of personal property within the rental unit. Your landlord’s policy will not cover your personal possessions in the event of a loss.

Consider the type of coverage you purchase — actual cash value or replacement value. Replacement value will pay to replace your home at current building costs and with similar materials. This is usually a higher value and can cost a bit more, but this extra coverage can be important if your home is destroyed in a storm.

Make a list of your belongings and take pictures or videotape them. Include a close-up shot of the day’s newspaper to provide the date. Keep your inventory list along with purchase receipts, pictures and your insurance policy in a safe-deposit box or other safe place away from your home. If you are forced to evacuate, take a copy of your policy with you.
If you have any questions or problems concerning your insurance coverage, contact the Department of Insurance’s Consumer Services Division toll-free (in-state) at 800-546-5664.

For more information, go to the official website for the NC Department of Insurance or news media like The Laurinburg Exchange,WRAL-TV (including a brief analysis of the Top 5 hurricanes to strike NC in recent times), New Bern Sun Journal, the Raleigh News & Observer, et al., during hurricane season.

Map and photo: courtesy NOAA.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Insurance Commissioner Attends Luncheon With His Childhood Educators

Feeling like he was 12 years old again, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin joined a broad sample of his primary and secondary school teachers during a Hamlet luncheon last week at Sandhills Regional Hospital.

The Richmond County Retired School Personnel invited their former student from 25 to 35 years ago to reminisce and learn about the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) headed by Goodwin's agency, the Department of Insurance. The first Council of State member elected from Richmond County in more than 88 years, he also regaled them with anecdotes from his childhood, updates on his own children, and an overview of what he does as Commissioner of Insurance.

The teachers had spent years working for Fairview Heights Elementary School, Monroe Avenue School, Hamlet Junior High School, and Richmond Senior High School.

Goodwin also congratulated Ruth Robinson of Rockingham (pictured above). She had recently been named Volunteer of the Year by District 8 of the Retired School Personnel association. Robinson, a 1994 retiree, has volunteered for Relay for Life for many years.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When The Empire Strikes Back, What Does an Insurance Commissioner Committed to Public Transparency Do? Exactly What Commissioner Goodwin Did.

Skullduggery was afoot on Monday by one powerful state Senator that would have raised insurance rates on every North Carolina family, driver, and small business. (Yes, on automobiles, homes, workers compensation, businesses, etc., etc.)

Just in case you had not heard about it, Monday was indeed quite the day. In a move reminiscent of a 2007 ploy documented here and here at Wayne's World, it was "back to the future" with an "under cover of darkness" attempt to strip the Insurance Commissioner's authority to (a) control and cap insurance rates, (b) hold public hearings, and (c) otherwise hold accountable the insurance industry and protect consumers.

So what did Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin do in response? He went public to shine light on the shenanigans, conducting an emergency press conference immediately before the Senate committee was going to rubber-stamp the hidden provision. A bevy of TV, radio, newspaper and blogosphere journalists turned out as he revealed what was afoot.

Check out the news coverage first here at the Raleigh News & Observer's "Under the Dome" blog. One excerpt from that news story, appropriately titled "Goodwin Slams Senator's Attempt to Strip Insurance Commissioner of Authority (to Protect Consumers From Rate Hikes)":
"Using phrases like 'shocking' and 'irresponsible government,' Goodwin said that if passed, the bill would surely cause insurance rates for homes, vehicles and workers compensation to rise throughout the state. ... 'Working people do not need this piled on them,' he said."
Here is a link to another media source, NewsChannel 14, but scan ahead to the 1-minute mark in the accompanying video to hear about the relevant issue. WRAL-TV also had a blurb on the matter, found here at this link. Further coverage appeared in a subsequent Raleigh article.

Admittedly, the all-time best coverage of the matter was by a friend of "Wayne's World", Laura Leslie, uber-reporter for WUNC public radio. Her excellent analysis of "The Mystery Measure" is here. She's the best!

But, not to be outdone, Mark Binker of the Greensboro News & Record added a similarly well-done focus on the incident here within his "What Are They Drinking?" edition. And, courtesy of the News & Record, listen in on the audiotape made at the Senator's press interview about the subject.

Meanwhile, other newspapers and pundits across the State, including in the Beaufort Observer, Civitas Review, WataugaWatch, and BlueNC (both ends of the ideological spectrum, by the way), panned the attempted coup.

"Senators unintentionally sought both insurance deregulation and higher insurance rates for all North Carolinians in one fell swoop, without public input or consultation with the Department of Insurance responsible for protecting consumers," said Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin at the end of the day. "What were these Senators thinking?"
Fortunately due to Insurance Commissioner Goodwin's keen eye and resolute call to arms, Senators removed the "special provision" by late afternoon.

But Goodwin says the public needs to watch this situation with an eagle eye, particularly the Senators' proposal to replace the Insurance Commissioner's authority with that of a seven-member panel. (Only after it was stricken out did the proponent of the measure said he had intended to only strip some of the Insurance Commissioner's authority and instead put the panel in place for 20 coastal counties. Regardless, that Senator tried his maneuver surreptitiously, under the veil of darkness and outside the scope of public input, debate, and review. That's offensive and wrong.)

"They've tried it once before and then tried it again today. To protect consumers from outrageous insurance rates and an unstable market led by unaccountable, unelected, uninformed special interests that certain Senators want deciding your insurance rates, we must watch every move certain lawmakers make and beat back any future attempts."
Many observers said that they had never seen North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner so incensed over an issue. And they agreed with his reason because it goes to the very heart of protecting consumers.

Coverage in the Richmond County Daily Journal continued that drumbeat here and again with the editorial "Let Goodwin Do His Job." Along the same lines were editorials from the Raleigh News & Observer (here) and the Greenville Reflector (here), the latter asserting that the Senator wanted to undermine the democratic process and will of the State's voters.

In the New Bern Sun Journal and elsewhere, Barry Smith of Freedom Newspapers castigated Senate budget writers and said that "Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin was on the ball this week" while Senator Basnight and those who let the mystery provision slip into the budget were not on the ball. He added:
"The cost of insurance, including the Beach Plan, and coastal development are all legitimate issues to be discussed in the halls of the General Assembly....These issues should be decided out in the open, however, not by sticking a provision into the state budget. It’s quite ironic that the now-dropped budget provision would have called for more transparency, considering the apparent lack of knowledge that budget writers had about the provision’s origins."
Entitled "Insurance Chief Thwarts Attack," the Fayetteville Observer said:

"Demerit: For the stealthy attempt to strip N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin of his rate-setting authority. A measure that would turn that responsibility over to a board that would be more responsive to political pressure was slipped into the Senate version of the state budget and was discovered by chance. Goodwin went ballistic, as well he should have - and so should the state's consumers, whose interests Goodwin serves well.

After a chorus of denials, Senate leader Marc Basnight acknowledged that the measure came from his office, but he insisted it was only a proposal that was inadvertently placed in the budget.

Since coastal property owners have been smacked by sharply increased homeowners insurance rates, the measure was clearly retaliation against Goodwin. Consumers need to keep an eye on this one, lest it suddenly and mysteriously rise from the dead."
Commissioner Goodwin said it best, as quoted by the Associated Press:
"I'm the state fire marshal, too. I'm used to hearing three alarms and four alarms. I'm ringing the alarm, ladies and gentlemen."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Latest News for Tar Heel Senior Citizens from Commissioner Goodwin

A national blog dedicated to providing information about aging and disability issues has highlighted recent announcement by North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin about his Seniors Health Insurance Information Program. Find it here at this link.

Also, Goodwin notified senior citizens that any of them who are negatively affected by recent sanctions applied to Aetna may get assistance at the North Carolina Department of Insurance. For information, go to this link here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

NC Drivers Start Receiving $50 Million in Insurance Refunds Today!

Commissioner Goodwin orders approximately one million policyholders to receive checks totaling $50 million

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin wants to remind North Carolinians that starting this week, approximately one million policyholders will begin receiving refund checks from their auto insurance companies totaling more than $50 million. The refund distribution is a result of the 2009 auto rate settlement with the N.C. Rate Bureau (NCRB) that Commissioner Goodwin signed last July.

"These refund checks represent instances where North Carolina drivers were paying too much for their auto insurance, and I'm glad that these extra premium dollars plus interest will go back into their wallets," said Commissioner Goodwin. "The refund distribution will occur in two different waves, the first starting this week and the second starting on Nov. 1."
Refund checks will be mailed to eligible policyholders. According to the settlement language, companies writing only six-month policies and companies writing both six-month and 12-month policies that expire prior to May 1, 2010, should send out refunds May 1 - July 31, 2010. All other refunds should be sent Nov. 1, 2010 to Jan. 31, 2011.

Under the settlement, the NCRB may not file changes to auto rates until 2011, which means that the maximum allowable auto rates are locked in until Oct. 1, 2011 at the earliest.
"In addition to $50 million in refunds, the 2009 auto rate settlement saves North Carolina policyholders an estimated $545 million and is a good example of the on-going consumer protection efforts of this office," added Commissioner Goodwin.
For more information, go to or this link. Previous reference to the details are found, in part, at this additional link here.