Volume 2, Issue 1
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According to some industry experts, overall loss estimates for Hurricane
Katrina will exceed both the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack and Hurricane
Andrew. However, the full extent of the damage will not be realized for months
if not years.
To better understand how this catastrophic event may immediately impact the disability industry, the GUAA disability committee conducted a survey to understand company responses. Below we provide a copy of the results.
Handling quoting, mail delivery and premium remittances:
• We will quote if the prospect's place of business is intact, power and communication restored, and otherwise the same as pre-storm.
• So far with respect to quote activity we're not doing anything differently.
• We are providing options to policyholders who may be unable to pay their premiums on time, and to claimants who are unable to receive benefit payments through the US Postal Service due to delivery disruptions. Policyholders and claimants are being encouraged to contact us to establish alternative arrangements. We are continuing to develop answers to the benefits processing questions and other questions arising due to the after effects of Hurricane Katrina.
Assisting Claimants in affected areas:
Here is some initial information about what we are doing to assist claimants in the affected areas:
• Incoming Calls: The professionals in our call center are receiving calls from areas experiencing severe flood damage. The immediate concern is seeking help in stopping disability benefit checks or having them forwarded to an alternate address. Our professionals are offering to redirect the disability check as calls are received to an address designated by the caller.
• Incoming new claim submissions: For telephonic calls, we identify these claim submissions and notify our claims team. If medical information is needed (for paper or telephonic claims), but we cannot reach the treating physician, we will use any diagnostic information provided by the claimant. The claims examiners will contractually review the claims and issue a 3-week courtesy payment if benefits are payable.
• Existing claims: We are taking a more lenient approach while waiting for follow-up information, understanding that it is currently difficult or impossible to provide medical information from the treating physicians’ office. We will grant extensions to allow claimants in these areas to have more time submitting additional information that may be required.
• We are continuing to review other alternatives to assist with lost, returned or misdirected checks and will provide additional information shortly.
• We are very sensitive to the current events surrounding the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe and we are making every effort to make our claims practices as flexible as possible for our customers during this time of need. To that end, we are taking the following steps to best serve our impacted customers:
• We are offering benefit payment options outside of our usual claim practices. We will accommodate claimant requests to send their disability checks to:
i. An open employer location,
ii. A third party address where the claimant is staying, and
iii. Via electronic funds transfer directly to the claimant’s financial institution for short-term disability and long-term disability payments.
• We will accept requests for a temporary address change via telephone from the impacted states without requiring that the request be initially submitted in writing or confirmed by a written request.
• To ensure claimant security and identity, we will ask callers some additional questions about their account before making any check distribution changes.
• Over the next 60 days, customers in the impacted areas will remain active and will not experience any lapse or termination of coverage due to non-payment of premium.
• Website identifying news releases from affected gulf states is hptt//www.naic.org/http://www.naic.org/
• We are still in the stages of assessing exactly what we have in pending inventory for current prospects and recent quotes plus renewals and policy changes. We must assess both home office and field underwritten business. Each case will really need to be evaluated on its own merits considering all the unique factors that may come into play. Unfortunately there is no one answer that is going to be the right one for all business.
Frequently Asked Questions:
• How will electronic fund transfers be handled? Deposits continue to be sent to each claimant’s financial institution, as previously directed by the insured. Those transfers are continuing to go through. Claimants will need to contact their bank or credit union for specific information about availability of those funds. If the bank or credit union is inoperative due to the hurricane, we can stop the future electronic payments and start sending regular checks through the mail to the insured customer at the address they provide. We can also stop sending checks temporarily if requested to do so.
• Can I change the address my benefit checks are sent to? Yes. We are waiving the normal 10-day waiting period for changing a customer’s address. We can also stop sending checks temporarily if U.S. Postal Services (USPS) delivery to their address has been temporarily suspended. Customers can also provide a forwarding address to the USPS at a local post office or by going to http://ribbs.usps.gov and selecting “Change of Address” under the Quick Links section.
• Will there be a delay in the delivery of my benefit check? There could be and we are extremely sensitive to this situation. Our check processing has not been interrupted due to Hurricane Katrina. However, we do expect some mail delays due to the disruption of U.S. Postal Services in affected areas.
• Are alternate billing procedures being put into effect for impacted customers? We will continue to bill customers impacted by the recent tragedies, but are working to determine correct addresses and contacts. We are extending grace periods by an additional 60 days through October 31, 2005 for our customers who are located in the affected zip codes. This extended 60-day grace period through October 31, 2005 will also apply to those businesses located in areas declared a disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).
• What do I need to supply to get a claim processed/paid? We know that information regarding covered lives, beneficiary designations and amounts of supplemental coverage – all normally provided by the employer – may be difficult to obtain. We have developed contingency approaches for all of these issues and are working to be very responsive to each individual situation.
• Is there an expedited process for submission of claims related to the events of Hurricane Katrina? Yes. Streamlined protocols for life claims have been developed. This specialized approach includes modified requirements for Life/Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) claims and temporary telephonic intake for Life/AD&D cases that do not already have that provision.
• Will you continue insurance for employers who have to suspend operations because their space was destroyed? In coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, survival and putting lives back together is the top priority. For plan administrators or individual policyholders who are concerned about keeping their coverage inforce, no policies will be terminated in the impacted areas over the next 60 days. This is an interim step and may be extended as this developing situation warrants.
• How will you execute RTW programs when there is no place to RTW? To be determined…. Currently we have a 31-day grace period, but it will most likely be extended to allow customers time to make payments. What that temporary, extended grace period will be has not been determined, but as soon as the information is available, we will communicate it to you.
• We have begun an outreach program that involves contacting planholders in the affected areas. We will track customers that are contacted and will ensure that all temporary residence information is secured. A plan is underway to develop a process for storm victims who have lost policies, bills, identification or any other supporting documentation related to claims processing. We are focused on providing customers with options but in the realm of ensuring that their information and assets are protected.
• We have created one toll-free phone number that any customers impacted by Hurricane Katrina can call. A specialized CRU team has been created to manage these calls and to provide our customers with top-level service during such a stressful time.
• We have:
• announced appropriate extensions of deadlines for things like premium payments, receipt of medical info, and other time sensitive policy transactions such as conversion requests, etc.
• announced toll free numbers, staffed 24/7, to assist claimants with filing or general information. In some circumstances, we are able to accept alternate proofs of claim, death or disability.
• begun contacting claimants/beneficiaries to obtain viable methods of delivering benefit checks, where mail and direct deposit may be temporarily interrupted or suspended.
• expanded EAP service telephone helpline, staffed with trained counselors 24/7, to help all residents of the Gulf Coast communities - membership in this coverage is not required.