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Commissioner Bell Issues Bulletins Aimed at Protecting Consumers

Grace Period Made Formal; Access to Health Care Improved

Contact: Ragan Ingram, Assistant Commissioner

334-241-4146

9/9/2005

Click Here to View Bulletins

Insurance Commissioner Walter A. Bell released two bulletins today – one to all insurers to provide a grace period to those who will have claims related to Hurricane Katrina and another to health insurers to treat displaced citizens of any state as “in network” patients.

The bulletin directed to all insurers and insurance premium finance companies calls for a 60-day grace period for consumers who have Katrina-related claims so that the consumers will not have their policies canceled due to non-payment of premiums. The directive is identical to one issued by the Alabama Department of Insurance in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.

Under the health insurance bulletin, insurers should waive restrictions to “out-of-network” access to health care and prescription services. Additionally, insurers should reimburse providers at its contracted network rate or highest benefit level – whichever is higher. The intent is to limit displaced consumers’ out-of-pocket expense. Policy provisions regarding co-payments, deductibles or co-insurance remain in effect.

Commissioner Bell said an overwhelming majority of insurance companies have already instituted some form of grace period. The bulletin, dated September 8, is retroactive to August 29 and expires after October 29.

“What this does is put every consumer on a level playing field and clears up any questions among the companies about what to do and how to do it,” he said. “This does not mean that consumers won’t have to pay their premiums, but it does give them 60 days grace period from being canceled or non-renewed because of non-payment.”

Regarding the health insurance bulletin, which was dated today, Commissioner Bell said it was necessary in a time of emergency.

“There are a lot of people who need a lot of help, and we need to tear down the walls that could prevent access,” he said. “Not only will Alabamians need this relief, but evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi as well.”

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