Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Does your homeowner’s insurance cover theft from your storage unit? The answer might surprise you.

There’s a reality show on A&E about people who bid – sight unseen – 
on the contents of abandoned storage units. Yep, that's a thing.  

Self-storage is a booming business these days, according to Bloomberg. New warehouses are being built at a record pace to store Americans’ extra belongings. Nearly 10 percent of Americans rented a storage unit in 2015, according to Sparefoot.com, a storage unit comparison site. There are even luxury storage units to store your vintage car collection or to give you another space to hang out in.

Before you rent a storage unit, luxury or otherwise, you should be thinking about what happens if your belongings are damaged or stolen.

Generally, if your homeowner or renter policy covers contents that you store offsite--say, at a storage unit--they limit the coverage to a certain dollar amount, and they do not cover theft from the storage unit. That’s really important information to know before you fill a storage unit full of your belongings.

It may not be a good idea to store items of high value, like art, antiques, jewelry, collectibles, furniture or rugs, in a storage unit. Unless you have had the items appraised and insured for those amounts, it’s likely the dollar limits on your coverage will not be enough to pay to replace your possessions if they are damaged.

If you need to store valuables of that nature somewhere other than your home, talk to your agent or insurance company.

Most storage unit businesses offer their own insurance policies, but are they a good deal? That depends on if you already have coverage through a renter’s or homeowner policy. If not, read the policy offered by the storage company. What does it cover? What does it not cover? What is the dollar limit for the coverage? Is there a time limit for the coverage? What is the deductible on the policy?

Storage businesses that sell these policies are required to be licensed insurance producers. That means if you have trouble, you can file a complaint with us.

Here are some tips if you rent a storage unit:
  • Read your policy or talk to your agent or insurer about covering any contents you are storing anywhere other than your residence
  • If your renter’s or homeowner policy does cover offsite storage, there may be limits on:
    • The dollar amount of coverage.
    • How long things in storage will be covered – think temporary, not long-term or indefinite storage.
    • The types of losses that will be covered – theft likely is not covered.
  • Create an inventory of what you are keeping in storage. It can be as basic as taking photos with your phone, or you can download an app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, your insurer, or some other app. Or, you can make a list that you store somewhere safe. 
Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Deadline for Jan. 1 coverage through Exchange extended to Dec. 23

Washington consumers can sign up for health and medical plans through Washington Healthplanfinder until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 23 for coverage that starts Jan. 1.
  • Online: 24/7 at wahealthplanfinder.org.
  • By phone: 1-855-WAFINDER (1-855-923-4633). Normal hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every weekday. Extended hours:
    • Dec. 15 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
    • Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • Dec. 23 from 8 a.m. to midnight.
  • Find help in person with a navigator or a broker.
If you don’t qualify for a subsidy, you can purchase a plan on the individual market directly from an agent or broker. The deadline for Jan. 1 coverage varies by plan.
If you miss the Dec. 23 deadline, you can still get coverage. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31 for coverage that will likely start March 1. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Direct practices lose 3 percent of patients statewide

Each year, the OIC reports to the Legislature on the status of direct health care practices in Washington state. In a direct health care practice, a health care provider charges a patient a set monthly fee for all primary care services provided in the office, regardless of the number of visits. No insurance plan is involved, although patients may have separate insurance coverage for more costly medical services. Direct practices are sometimes marketed as “retainer” or “concierge” practices.

The December 2016 report contains data from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016, two fiscal years’ worth of information.

Some highlights from this year’s report, as of June 30:
  • There were approximately 11,272 direct-practice patients in Washington, a 3 percent drop from fiscal year 2015. That figure represents .016 percent of the state’s population. 
  • There were 30 practices in the state. Two new practices opened in Battle Ground and Edmonds. Five clinics in Seattle, Richland, Spokane and Colville reported they no longer participate in direct practices. 
  • Monthly fees at direct practices ranged from $25 to more than $1,082. The average monthly fee weighted by the number of patients was $154.65, a 15 percent increase from fiscal year 2015.
  • The OIC received no consumer complaints regarding direct patient practices. 
The Affordable Care Act requires consumers to purchase a health insurance plan or pay a tax penalty. Direct practices do not meet the requirements of the ACA and therefore do not qualify as a health insurance plan. That may explain why the number of consumers who purchase direct practice plans has dropped since 2014. However, the incoming federal administration has vowed to alter the ACA, which may drive more consumers to direct practices for primary care. At this point, it’s too soon to tell.

View the full report.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

OIC has saved auto insurance consumers $32 million since 2010

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner's rate decisions have saved auto insurance consumers more than $32 million in premiums since 2010.

Personal auto insurers are required to file their proposed rates and rating plans with our office whenever there's a rate change. Our actuaries review the proposed rates, rating plans, and supporting documentation to be sure that the rates are not excessive, inadequate or unfair. 

From 2010 through 2015, the rates we approved for the top 20 personal auto insurers in Washington saved consumers more than $32 million in premiums. 
  • 2015: $6.2 million
  • 2014: $6.2 million 
  • 2013: $8.9 million 
  • 2012: $5.6 million 
  • 2011: $2.7 million 
  • 2010: $2.7 million 
Read more about auto insurance in Washington state.