Monday, May 15, 2017

Women’s rights to health care guaranteed in Washington state

This week is National Women’s Health Week, from May 14-20.

Here in Washington state, there are legal protections to preserve women’s rights to get health care.

Under state law (leg.wa.gov), health insurance companies must give female patients direct access to women's health care providers and to allow them to self-refer to services, including maternity care, reproductive services and gynecological care.

The Affordable Care Act further requires that FDA-approved contraceptives for women be covered without cost-sharing as part of preventative services. But contraceptive fairness is not new to Washington state. Commissioner Kreidler was one of the advocates for a 2001 law that required insurers to cover contraceptives if they covered other prescription drugs. The law was enacted under the state’s antidiscrimination laws.

A 2014 study found that insurers inside Washington’s health benefit exchange were not giving women correct information about how to get contraceptives, which are covered at no cost to the consumer. Kreidler met with the insurers and they agreed to update the training for their customer-service staff.

This year, the state Legislature passed a bill to allow women to get a 12-month supply of contraceptives at once and covered by their health insurance plan starting Jan. 1. Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign House Bill 1234 this week.

If you experience difficulty accessing benefits guaranteed to you under Washington state or federal law, you can file a complaint against your insurance company.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Don’t become a victim of Medicare card fraud

Have you heard that Medicare is sending beneficiaries new cards soon? The target date is not until April 2018, but scammers are already taking advantage of the confusion as a way to commit fraud.

Currently, most people’s Social Security number is their Medicare card number, which makes collecting Medicare numbers an easy target for scammers to steal your identity, open new credit cards or take out loans in your name. The new Medicare card number, however, will not be tied to your Social Security number and will provide more security.

How do the scams work?
Some scammers call beneficiaries claiming to be with Medicare and ask you to confirm your current Medicare number before you can get your new card. Others say there is a charge for the new card and are collecting beneficiaries’ personal information. Here are the facts: There is no charge for the new Medicare card and Medicare will never call you for your information. They already have it.

If you receive any calls or suspicious solicitations, hang up and call the Washington State Senior Medicare Patrol with our Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program at 1-800-562-6900.

We can also connect you with a SHIBA advisor in your area if you need help with your Medicare benefits.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Kreidler’s office helped thousands of Washington residents in 2016

Today, we published our 2016 annual report, which gives an overview of the work our office did last calendar year.
2016 annual report WA OIC

  Some highlights:
  • We regulated nearly 2,400 companies and 164,000 licensees.
  • We collected $534.7 million in premium taxes from insurance companies.
  • Of that amount, $521 million went to the state general fund to support K-12 education, higher education, human services and general government operations. 
  • We fielded nearly 8,000 consumer complaints and helped recover $11.3 million related to billings and claims.
  • Answered more than 67,000 calls to our consumer hotline.
  • Helped more than 83,000 people with one-on-one health insurance counseling through our SHIBA program.
Read the full report.