Louisiana Department of Insurance Office of Consumer Advocay
Volume 1, Issue 3

Southeast LA Hurricane Preparedness Expo
6/2/2010
3:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Pontchartrain Center
4545 Williams Blvd.
Kenner, LA

"Celebrating
Homeownership Month" Housing Fair
6/5/2010
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Lutcher Senior Center
2631 Louisiana Ave.
Lutcher, LA

Community Housing and Resource Fair
6/5/2010
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
First Pilgrims Baptist Church
1228 Arts Street
New Orleans, LA

American Red Cross 2nd Annual Faith Summit
6/9/2010
9:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Robert W. Merrick Building
2640 Canal Street
New Orleans, LA

Insurance Professionals of Shreveport-Bossier, Inc.
6/10/2010
2 p.m.
Ralph & Kacoo's Restaurant
Bossier City, LA

Ascension Parish Retired Educators Association
6/10/2010
4:30 p.m.
Police Jury Building
Chetimatches Street
Donaldsonville, LA

11th Annual Home Buyer's Fair sponored by Neighborhood Counseling Services
6/19/2010
9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Heymann Center for Performing Arts
1373 S. College Road
Lafayette, LA

Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards' Advisory Council Meetings
6/28/2010
6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Beacon Light Baptist Church
7513 Prescott Road
Baton Rouge, LA

 

To find out if Consumer Advocacy will be in your area or to request a speaker for your organization or group, call (225) 219-0619 or send an email to
consumeradvocacy@ldi.state.la.us

If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter please send an email to the following address with "REMOVE" in the subject line.
consumeradvocacy@ldi.state.la.us

Preventative Health Screenings - Needed or Not During a Tough Economy?

In the tough economic times we are currently experiencing, you may think of skipping doctor advised routine preventative health screenings such as physicals, eye exams, mammograms, or other screenings such as a colonoscopy. However, putting off doctor advised screenings in order to save money, could end up costing you more in the long run. Preventative health screenings can save you and the health care system through reduced emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and premature deaths. The health insurance industry understands the benefits of preventative health screenings and as a result, may cover many of these screenings, often with little or no cost to the policyholder. While some of these are mandated benefits in Louisiana, many of them are not. A delay in doctor advised preventative health screenings could have an opposite effect on your bank account and place your health at risk with undetected medical issues.

Some tips which may help keep medical bills to a minimum:

  • Schedule annual checkups - this includes adults and children.
  • Follow doctor recommendations for vaccinations and annual flu and pneumonia shots.
  • Get blood pressure checks and cholesterol screenings as recommended by your doctor.
  • Get other preventative screenings as recommended by your doctor, such as a colonoscopy, a mammogram, a prostate exam, or a diabetes screening.
It is recommended that you read your policy to find out which preventative health screenings are covered and at what cost to you. If you are still unsure after reading your policy, contact your producer (insurance agent) or company for guidance.
Seminars Target Senior Citizens - How free is this meal?

I get to enjoy a free meal and I just might learn something?  What do I have to lose by attending an “educational” seminar?   Does my “nest egg” really make me a target of investment scammers?
 
Senior citizens have become targets of individuals perpetrating scams that advertise free lunches or dinners in an attempt to lure them to investment seminars. Not all investment advisors and producers are “out to get you," but you should be aware of this growing trend. Once the seniors are there, investment advisors use high pressure sales tactics and play on the emotions of the attendees in an effort to persuade them that they need to take action to possibly increase or multiply their current savings.  In some cases, the products being pitched sound legitimate and can even be tempting.  However, the products that are being marketed are not always the best options for individuals who have attained a certain age or financial status.  For example, a variable annuity product with a 20 year payout may not be appropriate for an 85 year old person since payouts would not begin until the person turns 105 years old.  A variable annuity often has a high penalty for early withdrawal, and an elderly person may need to access his cash for health expenses or for other reasons.

Tips to protect you from becoming a victim:

  • Do not let a producer scare you into making an investment decision quickly, especially one that will prohibit you from being able to use your money if an emergency occurs.
  • Take the time to research the investment that is of interest to you and ask questions before making any final decisions.
  • Make sure that you are clear on the total amount of the investment and if there are any fees and/or restrictions that may limit your ability to use the money you have invested just in case you need those funds at a later date.
  • Confirm that the individual selling the investment is licensed with the Department of Insurance (800-259-5300 or 225-342-0860). 
  • Contact the Office of Financial Institutions Securities Division (225-925-4660) to verify that the investment is registered to be sold in Louisiana.
Please protect your life savings by being informed.  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
How and Why to Report Fraud

As kids we were told not to be a tattle-tale. Yet, even as kids, we knew that if someone was hurt or being bullied, the brave thing to do was to tell an adult who could do something about it.   Well, now as an adult, it’s still our responsibility to be brave and to tell when someone is getting hurt. Insurance fraud hurts us, the consumer, with increases in premiums and in goods and services.  You might say that, whether I report insurance fraud or not, my insurance premiums are going to increase. And, while that may sometimes be true, any action we can take to reduce the impact of insurance fraud, the better it is for all of us.

The law protects persons who report suspected insurance fraud by granting them civil immunity.  That means that a person who reports suspected insurance fraud to the LDI Fraud Section has a legal defense against any lawsuit for libel or slander unless it can be proven that the report was made with malice, fraudulent intent or bad faith.

Insurance fraud can occur in various forms:

  • A policyholder and a body shop worker agree to inflate the auto damage estimate to cover the deductible.
  • A homeowner falsely claims that his home was burglarized and valuable items were stolen.
  • A doctor bills an insurer for payment of services that were not provided.
  • A driver and his co-conspirators stage accidents, while unscrupulous doctors and lawyers "handle" the subsequent medical claims and lawsuits.

Insurance fraud is one of the most costly white-collar crimes in the country. Insurance fraud costs approximately $115 billion a year.  At least ten cents of every insurance dollar paid goes to defray the cost of insurance fraud.

The Fraud Unit of the Louisiana Department of Insurance has been successful in investigating and aiding in the prosecution of fraudulent activities of insurance companies, producers, and individual claimants for over ten years.

You may report insurance fraud to the LDI Fraud Unit by mail, fax 225-342-7393, or online at www.ldi.state.la.us.

EDITOR'S LETTER

Insurance is a subject that most people don’t like to talk about until there is a loss.  Premiums are often high and many times the coverage provided doesn’t seem to be enough.  Even though we complain, the fact remains, we would rather have insurance than be without it.  We know it is better to have an insurance company assist in covering our major losses instead of having the cost come completely out of our pockets. 

So what can we do about the cost and the coverage issues?  SHOP AROUND, just like we do when we go shopping for food, clothing, or other necessities.  Pay extra attention to available premium discounts, understand any policy endorsements or exclusions, and be prepared to cover deductible amounts.  We should also get referrals from our friends and families.  Above all, we should avoid making impulse purchases.

 In Louisiana, competition for our insurance dollar is steadily increasing, so better pricing and coverage options are more available.  Look for coverage that is the best match for your particular risk.  Oftentimes, the lowest priced policy may not be the best policy.  The lowest price may equate to minimal coverage and reduced customer service. 
 
When shopping for an insurance policy:

  1. Review, compare and ask questions about your current and potential policies.
  2. Think about your family’s needs instead of letting someone else make all the decisions as to what your family’s needs are.
  3.  Talk to your friends and family about your insurance company and your producer.
  4. Know your rights as a policyholder (click here for link to “Policyholder Bill of Rights”).
  5. Call the Office of Consumer Advocacy for help!

Clarissa A. Preston, CIC, APIR
Deputy Commissioner

Office of Consumer AdvocacyP.O. Box 94214Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9214
(225) 219-0619 or (800)259-5300www.ldi.la.govconsumeradvocacy@ldi.la.gov