The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is trying to help consumers affected by Hurricane Ike, by directing local insurance carriers to provide “prompt and immediate relief” in the form of suspended premium payments and continuing coverage.
In a statement issued to the press, representatives of TDI said that it would work with insurers to minimize the regulatory effects of such measures, and emphasized that suspension of premiums does not mean a forgiveness of debt, but merely an extended grace period for policy holders to pay the premiums that are due.
The text of the bulletin said, “Carriers are encouraged to work with policyholders in the collection of premiums, including payment plans.”
TDI has also cautioned carriers that re-rating, cancellation, non-renewal or refusal of coverage solely because a customer was a victim or evacuee of the massive hurricane was “inappropriate.” Specifically, they stated that it was also not reasonable, “� to change policyholders’ rating classifications or increase their insurance rates solely because they are victims or evacuees of Hurricane Ike.”
An edict was handed down to TDI’s Division of Workers’ Compensation as well, stating that insurance companies should provide, “provide all injured employees impacted by the hurricane with methods for reporting a change of address and to use all available means to provide to injured employees prompt and immediate relief, including but not limited to processing and delivery of benefit checks and necessary medical care, services, and supplies, including physical therapy, pharmacy, or medical equipment.”
Both the DWC and TDI as a whole have instructed insurers to waive restrictions and penalties on injured employees and health care providers if care is provided by out-of-work clinics or physicians because of the storm.
TDI stresses that these rule alterations are temporary, and apply to residents of the following counties, regardless of where they have been relocated because of the disaster: Angelina, Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Chambers, Cherokee, Fort Bend, Galveston, Gregg, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Walker, Waller, Washington, and Wharton.
Representatives of TDI will visit shelters in East Texas, as well as the cities of Austin and San Antonio, to offer assistance to displaced policyholders.