Some insurance policies may cover living expenses for those displaced by wildfires

Families displaced from their homes due to wildfire evacuations may be eligible to be reimbursed for their additional living expenses if their insurance policy provides for such claims. Examples of those expenses include lodging, meals and purchasing toiletries if a consumer is displaced by the wildfire or as a result of an evacuation order.
One of several Blackhawk helicopters that is fighting wildfires in Eastern Washington. Photo courtesy of Washington state Emergency Management Division. 
Consumers in several areas in Eastern Washington have been ordered to evacuate at different points during the wildfires. We are hearing reports that some insurance companies are requiring consumers to provide a copy of the municipality�s emergency evacuation order before they will pay for additional living expenses. There is nothing in state laws or rules that prohibits an insurance company from asking for this information. If you need a copy of an evacuation order, contact the emergency management teams in your area.

If you have access to your insurance policy, read it to find specific information about what is covered, your deductibles, what kind of documentation is required and policy limitations or exclusions. If you don�t have a copy available to you, contact your insurance company, agent or broker.

Here are more resources from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner:

OIC is hiring IT Specialist 5 in Tumwater

OIC is seeking a highly motivated IT Specialist 5 (IT Security/ Network/ Server Administrator) in our Tumwater headquarters. The IT Specialist 5 is the lead IT security specialist for the agency and is responsible for planning, designing, configuring and supporting the agency�s network infrastructure and servers. The ideal candidate must have strong knowledge of IT network and server infrastructure, Microsoft Active Directory, LAN/WAN administration, configuring network hardware and software and enterprise backup software.

OIC supports employees through regular training and opportunities to implement new technologies and participate on multiple projects teams. We also offer tuition reimbursement, free parking and participate in the state's commute trip reduction program.

If you are interested in joining our team, view this and other jobs at OIC.

Burned Out & Sparkless As Of Late - #DOCBurnout2015

Diabetes Social Media Burnout blog Day  - Join in and reignite your Diabetes Social Media spark!
Burnout - It�s a very real thing - in life and life with diabetes - Burnout is also real when it comes to Social Media and the Diabetes Online Community. 
We live the diabetes life 24X7, with no time off for vacations or good behavior, and we spend an incredible amount of time online in a community that has literally reinforced that: 
1. We are not alone
2. Our voices (diabetes and otherwise,) matter
3. Connecting with others who "get it," saves our sanity 93% of the time but has the ability to makes us bonkers at least 7% of the time.
Sidebar: My  math skills aren't the greatest and I've pulled those numbers out of my head  and FTR, they have no scientific value.  
As always, YDOBMV (your degree of bonkers may vary,) online and off, d related bonkers and otherwise. ;) 

Diabetes Social Media Burnout has been the reason my blog has been quiet the past couple of weeks - Things were getting crazy with life, but more than that, I needed a diabetes Social Media  timeout - both mentally and physically. 

I needed to take a beat and regroup - more on that tomorrow. 

Speaking of tomorrow, Tuesday September 1 is the designated day that the Diabetes On-line Community will officially celebrate Diabetes Social Media Burnout Blog Day, a.k.a., #DOCburnout2015 on the twitter. 

A day where we can talk about and tackle our diabetes Social Media burnout, discuss ways we can regroup, re-fuel, and refocus our energies. 

A day where those of us who blog; facebook, tweet, periscope, vine, instagram, etc, can share examples and tips on how we handle D Social Media burnout and discuss things that spark the diabetes social media burnout. Included, but not limited to:  online disagreements/ bullying from having a different DOC, POV, diabetes information overload, 
Diabetes burnout combined with Diabetes Social Media burnout and general feelings of malaise. 

I�ll be participating and I�m looking forward to reigniting my Diabetes Social Media spark, via learning from my community (YOU,) that has given me so much. 
Also, the very act of writing this blog post is making me feel a bit sparkly, already!

One last thing, to find a list of all Diabetes Social Media Burnout Day blog post links, visit tomorrow and look for the article, "Diabetes Social Media Burnout Day," read & find the participating blog links in the comment section~

Health Care and Sonograms

When expectant mothers go to the doctor to check on their pregnancy, one of the first procedures that the OB/GYN schedules is a sonogram. This unique tool allows the technician, the physician, and the Mom to see how the baby is developing. In some cases, the sonogram tech can predict the due date of the baby more accurately than the physician.

Technically, the sonogram is an image orgraph representing a sound, showing the distribution of energy at different frequencies�a diagnostic medical image created using ultrasound echo (sonographic), equipment.

A sonogramis the image generated during ultrasonography, which is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses ultrasound to visualize anything inside the body. Ultrasoundis sound with a frequency above the range audible to humans, about 20 kHz. In common parlance, both words are used to refer to the ultrasonography procedure, according to Diffen. The sonogram also helps physicians observe growth of a fetus, calculate age and due date and see presence of multiple fetuses. Plus, it�s used to diagnose pelvic bleeding or locate cancerous cells.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, an ultrasound exam is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to scan a woman�s abdomen and pelvic cavity, creating a picture (sonogram) of the baby and placenta. Although the terms ultrasound and sonogram are technically different, they are used interchangeably and reference the same exam.

There are basically seven different ultrasound exams, but the principle process is the same. Here are the various types of exams:

         Transvaginal Scans � Specially designed probe transducers are used inside the vagina to generate sonogram images. Most often used during the early stages of pregnancy.

         Standard Ultrasound �Traditional ultrasound exam which uses a transducer over the abdomen to generate 2-D images of the developing fetus .

         Advanced Ultrasound � This exam is similar to the standard ultrasound, but the exam targets a suspected problem and uses more sophisticated equipment.

         Doppler Ultrasound � This imaging procedure measures slight changes in the frequency of the ultrasound waves as they bounce off moving objects, such as blood cells.

         3-D Ultrasound � Uses specially designed probes and software to generate 3-D images of the developing fetus.

         4-D or Dynamic 3-D Ultrasound �Uses specially designed scanners to look at the face and movements of the baby prior to delivery.

         Fetal Echocardiography �Uses ultrasound waves to assess the baby�s heart anatomy and function. This is used to help assess suspected congenital heart defects.

Your healthcare provider will use hormone levels in your blood, the date of your last menstrual period and, in some cases, results from an ultrasound to generate an expected date of conception. However, many differences in each woman�s cycle may hinder the accuracy of the conception date calculation. Much more detailed information about this subject can be found at this website: .

In many pregnancy cases, especially when there is thought about aborting the baby, an actual-size sonogram at nearly seven weeks' gestation is usually done; 33 percent of abortions occur before then. Sonograms are a vital tool in showing the growth and any movement of the baby in the womb.

When a pregnancy is planned, a sonogram marks a joyful beginning, according to Glamour Magazine. Soon-to-be parents post the grainy images on Facebook, tape them up on refrigerator doors, or paste them into baby books as first entries. But for the 3.4 million women across the country who face an unintended pregnancy every year, the scan can be a different story. This is where a sonogram complicates that decision to move forward with aborting the new life now growing in the mother.

Sonogram laws, which require doctors to offer or perform an ultrasound before any abortion, are part of a dramatic increase in antiabortion legislation sweeping the country. As of late 2014, over 220 of these restrictions have passed�35 more than in the entire previous decade:Some of them ban the procedure outright after 20 weeks of pregnancy; others mandate that facilities meet specifications such as a certain width for hallways.

Although the images have become politically charged, the science behind sonograms is straightforward. When an ultrasound sensor is placed inside a woman's vagina or on her belly during an exam, the sound waves produce a moving picture. At six weeks the sonogram can often show a fetal heartbeat.

At eight weeks�the point at which two thirds of abortions have occurred�a distinct shape is just starting to emerge. At nine weeks the beginnings of arms and legs are visible. By 13 weeks�when 92 percent of abortions will have taken place�the fetus weighs nearly an ounce, with a hint of facial features.

Most abortion providers routinely use ultrasound to help determine how far along a pregnancy is, but now in several states the test is required in virtually all cases. In Texas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin, the law mandates that women be shown the image and hear it described (a doctor will detail the exact dimensions of the embryo, for example, or the internal organs of the fetus). In the nine other states (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia), women must be offered a view of the sonogram.

In most of these states, if the women don't want to look, they must sign a waiver. More details about the use of sonograms by abortion clinics is found at this site:

Ultrasound images are captured in real-time, allowing them the ability to show the structure and movement of the body�s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through the vessels. Ultrasound scans are completely noninvasive, and unlike x-rays, they do not use ionizing radiation, according to Envision Radiology.

Ultrasound scans help physicians diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions, and help evaluate symptoms such as pain, swelling, and infection. Ultrasound is useful in examining many of the body�s organs, including the heart and blood vessels, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, liver, bladder, thyroid, uterus, ovaries, and scrotum.  Most ultrasound procedures are fast and painless, being completed within 30 to 60 minutes.

Sonogram machines emit sound waves, often known as ultrasound waves, that bounce off of organs, bones, and muscles. The machines are able to calculate the distance between waves in order to generate a very accurate picture, which is displayed on a specialized computer screen, according to WiseGEEK. In most cases, the waves are both sent and received from a wand-like instrument known as a transducer.

A trained technician will usually gently touch the wand to the skin above the area of interest. Jelly or lubricant is often applied first, both to help the wand glide and to amplify the sound waves to generate a clearer, more accurate picture. Most sonogram sessions result in pictures from many different angles, which technicians and medical professionals look at in sequence to get an idea of what is happening internally.

To mitigate the possible risks to a developing child, most medical professionals use sonograms only intermittently in pregnancy. Though parents often want to see images of their growing baby at each doctor visit, this is not usually permitted unless there is a legitimate medical need. Limiting the number of sonograms administered is one of the ways that medical professionals protect babies from potential risks.

Listening to the fetal heartbeat and monitoring the mother�s blood work are often just as effective at making sure the baby stays healthy as a real-time picture is. More information about this topic can be found at this website:

Sonograms can and should be used for any type of non-invasive medical evaluation, including pregnancy, cancer, and other health care needs. As long as you use a certified technician qualified to do the procedure, you should have minimal discomfort. The results that are generated can give a clearer picture of what is going on inside your body. For all medical situations, visit a certified medical or health care practitioner.

Until next time.

Fires continue to devastate Eastern Washington

More than 780,000 acres have burned in 11 counties and tribal lands in Eastern Washington. President Obama has signed an Emergency Declaration that authorizes FEMA to assist with equipment and resources.

The fires have claimed an estimated 80 homes and displaced families and affected agriculture, businesses and countless communities. The weather forecast calls for rain over the weekend, but there's also a possibility of lightning in some areas. Several of the fires were started by lightning.
A photo from a wildfire in Wenatchee in July 2015 (OIC photo)

The Insurance Commissioner�s website has information for consumers about wildfires and homeowner�s insurance, including things you should talk to your insurance agent about and tips for protecting your home and belongings. We also have tips for filing a claim after a natural disaster and how to find disaster resources.

Here are resources from other agencies:
  • Follow news about the fires on Twitter at #WaWILDFIRE.
  • The Washington Department of Natural Resources has the most recent fire information available on its website and through its @waDNR_fire Twitter feed
  • Governor Inslee has declared a state of emergency and instituted a statewide burn ban in June. You can view the Governor�s Wildfire Resource Page at
Some experts are predicting wildfires will continue into September. Here are some tips for preparing for wildfire risk:
  • Check your policy to make sure damage from wildfires is covered. Some policies include coverage for emergency shelter, such as a hotel, if a home is uninhabitable. 
  • Review your policy to make sure you have enough coverage. Things like fine art, jewelry and computer equipment may have limited coverage under a standard policy. But you can buy special coverage that gives you more protection for those types of items, called a rider. Contact your insurance agent or broker to ask about supplemental policies. 
  • Catalog your home�s belongings in case you need to make an insurance claim. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a printable home inventory checklist or you can try free iPhone/iPad or Android apps. 
  • You can help protect a rural home and limit the danger by clearing a natural fire break between your home and surrounding trees, brush and uncut fields. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has information on how to protect yourself and your home before, during and even after a wildfire. 
  • Have an emergency kit and a family communication plan. Know the location of your valuable papers, including insurance policy and contact information, mementos and anything you can't live without, so you can evacuate with them, if needed. 
  • Here's a list of recommended emergency supplies to keep on hand in the case of an evacuation. 
  • Don�t forget about planning for your pets. has tips for pet owners
Consumers can seek help with their insurance or ask insurance-related questions by calling our consumer advocates at 1-800-562-6900 or contacting us online.

Wordless Wednesday: An Unexpected Smile~

In case you needed something or someone to make you smile today~

Grant aids veterans in need of mental health services in Tacoma area

A $1.6 million grant and expansion of a Tacoma-area golf course that is a second home for many wounded veterans took center stage Aug. 18 at an event focused on the importance of mental health counseling services.

Commissioner Kreidler joined veterans, their families and representatives of the United Health Foundation in the gathering at the American Lakes Golf Course in Pierce County.

The event centered around the presentation of a $1.6 million grant to benefit "Give an Hour," a national nonprofit organization providing free confidential  mental health services to military members and their families.  The award from the United Health Foundation will be split between Tacoma and Houston.

The grant will help "Give an Hour" raise awareness of available programs, grow its mental health care provider network, and help veterans and their families access services.

"No one deserves more than those who wear the uniform," said the commissioner, a retired Lt. Colonel of 20 years in the Army Reserves.

Others speaking at the event were Dr. John Mateczun, president of UnitedHealthCare Military and Veterans; Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, president and founder of Give an Hour; and Lourdes "Alfie" Alvarado-Ramos, secretary of Washington state Department of Veteran Affairs.

The featured speakers, though, were veterans and devoted golfers Jim Martinson and Aaron Boyle.  Both noted the importance of mental health services for wounded vets.

Martinson lost his legs to a "Bouncing Betty" land mine in Vietnam in 1968. Another land mine blew off the right leg and arm of Boyle in Afghanistan several years ago. Both cited the availability of mental counseling in helping them through their lengthy recoveries, physical and spiritual.

"These services are desperately needed by many veterans and their families in our community," Boyle said.  "Give an Hour will benefit so many who need help."

Multiple fires threaten Eastern Washington

Over 40 wildfires are burning in 11 counties in Eastern Washington lands of the Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, causing Gov. Inslee to request a Federal Emergency Declaration. 

Our hearts go out to the families of the three firefighters  who lost their lives in the fight to save the town of Twisp and to the other firefighters who were injured.

These fires have claimed more than 50 homes and over 235,000 acres of land. Several communities are under evacuation orders. Weather conditions over the next few days will create the potential for these fires to spread to neighboring communities. 

Follow news about the fires on Twitter using #WaWILDFIRE.

The Insurance Commissioner�s website has information for consumers about wildfires and homeowner�s insurance, including things you should talk to your insurance agent about and tips for protecting your home and belongings. We also have tips for filing a claim after a natural disaster and how to find disaster resources.

Here are some other resources:

Wildfires are predicted to be extensive this summer. Here are some tips for preparing for wildfire risk:
  • Check your policy to make sure damage from wildfires is covered. Some policies include some coverage for emergency shelter, such as a hotel, if a home is uninhabitable. 
  • Review your policy to make sure you have enough coverage. Things like fine art, jewelry and computer equipment may have limited coverage under a standard policy. But you can buy special coverage that gives you more protection for those types of items, called a rider. Contact your insurance agent or broker to ask about supplemental policies. 
  • Catalog your home�s belongings in case you need to make an insurance claim. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a printable home inventory checklist or you can try free iPhone/iPad or Android apps. 
  • You can help protect a rural home and limit the danger by clearing a natural fire break between your home and surrounding trees, brush and uncut fields. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has information on how to protect yourself and your home before, during and even after a wildfire. 
  • Have an emergency kit and a family communication plan. Know the location of your valuable papers, including insurance policy and contact information, mementos and anything you can't live without, so you can evacuate with them, if needed. 
  • Here's a list of recommended emergency supplies to keep on hand in the case of an evacuation. 
  • Don�t forget about planning for your pets. has tips for pet owners
Consumers can seek help with their insurance or ask insurance-related questions by calling our consumer advocates at 1-800-562-6900 or contacting us online.


Dialoging About Diabetes With Hope Warshaw ~

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that the Diabetes Online Community has connected me with so many amazing people who have diabetes; who love someone with diabetes, or who are Diabetes Healthcare Professionals. 
I know I�m not alone when I say that connecting with people who �get it,� makes our lives easier; expands our universe, empowers us - both as patients and people - and those connections continually reinforce the fact that we are not alone in our lives with diabetes. 
One of the people who �get it,� is Hope Warshaw, a type 3 Dietitian; RD, CDE, BC-ADM, Author, Speaker and Diabetes Advocate  and the 2015 President-elect of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. 
I first *met* Hope the way I met most of you, online. In 2012 I had the opportunity to meet Hope IRL (in real life,) at ADA in Philadelphia  - and lucky for me, our paths continue to cross - which is awesome because I�m a huge fan of Hope in all diabetes dimensions!

Recently, Hope interviewed me for the section of her blog called, "Dialoging About Diabetes,"series of interviews with Diabetes Activists. 
The primary goals of these interviews is "to help make living with diabetes�just a bit easier. Goal two is to enhance the two-way street � to help more PWD connect and encourage more DHCPs to connect PWD to the value of social networking."  
It was a pleasure and an honor to be interviewed by Hope and dare I say, I hope you checkout the interview by clicking, HERE :) 

Residential mental-health services now on par with medical coverage

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has clarified to insurance companies in Washington that mental-health services must now be offered in parity with medical services.

The commissioner updated rules on mental-health parity in 2014 and asked insurers to review previous mental-health claims that had been denied under a blanket exclusion. He asked insurers to rectify those denials.

The need for clarification arose after a consumer filed a complaint with our office after being denied for residential mental-health treatment. The individual said this violated federal laws regarding mental-health parity.

The federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires insurers in Washington to provide residential mental-health benefits to consumers on par with similar medical health benefits.

Most insurers were already providing the mental-health services on par with medical services. The consumer complaint prompted further clarification.

Better access to mental-health treatment continues as a top public policy priority in Washington. Consumers with concerns can contact the commissioner�s office at any time for information. Consumer advocates are also available to take calls toll-free at 1-800-562-6900.

Read more about mental-health parity

OIC hiring six temporary customer service specialists

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) is hiring for six part-time, non-permanent Customer Service Specialist 1 positions. The positions are located in our Tumwater headquarters and are expected to work 20-30 hours per week. The expected duration of the appointments is four months, starting September 2015.

The positions provide customer service and technical assistance to the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) staff and volunteers surrounding the annual Medicare open enrollment period. The positions also assist in answering phone calls and consumer questions regarding their Medicare Part D options.

Duties of the positions include, but are not limited to:
  • Assisting consumers by telephone or email regarding technical questions or concerns regarding Medicare enrollment, coverage and options. 
  • Explaining to consumers available outreach, workshop and public media events in their communities.
  • Providing information about services available through the OIC, especially consumer advocacy. 
  • Resolving consumer concerns and issues with a thorough analysis and research and provide unbiased impartial information. 
The deadline to apply is Aug. 19.

To apply, or for more information, visit

Health Care and Nose Bleeds

Have you ever had a nose bleed? Some people get them more often than others. And, there is a variety of reasons why your nose would all of a sudden start to bleed for no apparent reason. Naturally, if you got punched in the nose on purpose or by accident, it may start to bleed. If you broke your nose for any reason, no doubt you would have a nose bleed. But what causes your nose to start bleeding just because?

The nose is an area of the body that contains many tiny blood vessels (or arterioles) that can break easily, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. In the United States, one of every seven people will develop a nosebleed some time in their lifetime. Nosebleeds can occur at any age but are most common in children aged 2-10 years and adults aged 50-80 years. Nosebleeds are divided into two types, depending on whether the bleeding is coming from the front or back of the nose. More info can be found at this site:

According to, nosebleeds (epistaxis, nose bleed) can be dramatic and frightening. Fortunately, most nosebleeds are not serious and usually can be managed at home, although sometimes medical intervention may be necessary. Nosebleeds are categorized based on where they originate, and are described as either anterior (originating from the front of the nose) or posterior (originating from the back of the nose).

Anterior nosebleeds make up most nosebleeds. The bleeding usually originates from a blood vessel on the nasal septum, where a network of vessels converge (Kiesselbach plexus). Anterior nosebleeds are usually easy to control, either by measures that can be performed at home or by a health care practitioner.

Posterior nosebleeds are much less common than anterior nosebleeds. They tend to occur more often in elderly people. The bleeding usually originates from an artery in the back part of the nose. These nosebleeds are more complicated and usually require admission to the hospital and management by an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist).

Nosebleeds tend to occur more often during winter months and in dry, cold climates. They can occur at any age, but are most common in children aged 2 to 10 years and adults aged 50 to 80 years. For unknown reasons, nosebleeds most commonly occur in the morning hours. More details can be found at this website:

Nosebleeds are common. Most often they are a nuisance and not a true medical problem. But they can be both, according to the Mayo Clinic. Here are a few tips how to stop them:

         Sit upright and lean forward. By remaining upright, you reduce blood pressure in the veins of your nose. This discourages further bleeding. Sitting forward will help you avoid swallowing blood, which can irritate your stomach.

         Pinch your nose. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch your nostrils shut. Breathe through your mouth. Continue to pinch for five to 10 minutes. Pinching sends pressure to the bleeding point on the nasal septum and often stops the flow of blood.

         To prevent re-bleeding, don't pick or blow your nose and don't bend down for several hours after the bleeding episode. During this time remember to keep your head higher than the level of your heart.

         If re-bleeding occurs, blow out forcefully to clear your nose of blood clots and spray both sides of your nose with a decongestant nasal spray containing oxymetazoline (Afrin, Mucinex Moisture Smart, others). Pinch your nose again as described above and call your doctor.

You should seek emergency care if the bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes, or if the nosebleed follows an accident, a fall or an injury to your head, including a punch in the face that may have broken your nose. Much more detailed information about nose bleeds can be located at this site:

Children are especially susceptible to nose bleeds. If your child gets a lot of nose bleeds, ask your pediatrician about using saltwater (saline) nose drops every day. Doing so may be particularly helpful if you live in a very dry climate, or when the furnace is on in your home. In addition, a humidifier or vaporizer will help maintain your home�s humidity at a level high enough to prevent nasal drying. Also tell your child not to pick his nose, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Also, you should contact your child�s doctor in the following situations:

         You think your child may have lost too much blood. (But keep in mind that the blood coming from the nose always looks like a lot.)

         The bleeding is coming only from your child�s mouth, or he�s coughing or vomiting blood or brown material that looks like coffee grounds.

         Your child is unusually pale or sweaty, or is not responsive. Call your pediatrician immediately in this case, and arrange to take your child to the emergency room.

         He has a lot of nosebleeds, along with a chronically stuffy nose. This may mean he has a small, easily broken blood vessel in the nose or on the surface of the lining of the nose, or a growth in the nasal passages.

Your child is almost certain to have at least one nosebleed�and probably many�during these early years. Some preschoolers have several a week. This is neither abnormal nor dangerous, but it can be very frightening. If blood flows down from the back of the nose into the mouth and throat, your child may swallow a great deal of it, which in turn may cause vomiting. For more details, visit this website:

Frequent nosebleeds may mean you have a more serious problem. For example, nosebleeds and bruising can be early signs of leukemia. Nosebleeds can also be a sign of a blood clotting or blood vessel disorder, or a nasal tumor (both cancerous and non-cancerous), according to this website:

Your doctor will try to find out where the bleeding is coming from in your nose. He or she will probably ask you some questions and examine your nose. If the bleeding doesn't stop on its own or when pressure is applied, your doctor may cauterize the bleeding vessel or pack your nose to stop the bleeding. That should help your situation, although it�s uncomfortable for a little while. An occasional nosebleed may make you worry, but there's no need to panic. If it becomes problematic or chronic, see your doctor for other options.

Until next time.

Gallup poll: Washington ranks 5th among states with drop in uninsured rate

According to a Gallup poll released today, Washington is one of five states to exceed a 10 percent drop in the number of uninsured people.

Seven of the 10 states with the biggest reductions have two things in common: they expanded Medicaid (called Apple Health in Washington) and established a state-based health exchange (ours is called Washington Healthplanfinder).

Washington state has seen record-low rate requests from health insurers in the past two years. Insurers proposed an average 5.4 percent increase for 2016. These plans are now under review and the average rate increase is likely to be lower.

For 2015 plans, insurers proposed an average rate increase of 8 percent. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler eventually approved an average 1.5 percent rate increase.

"I'm pleased to see the health insurers show an increased interest in the individual market and to see rates continue to come in relatively low,� Kreidler said when the 2016 rates were submitted in May of this year.

Open enrollment for 2016 health plans begins on Nov. 1.

Consumer alert: Life insurance mail scam still alive in Washington

Some Washington residents are receiving mailers from National Processing Center advertising a �state-regulated life insurance program to pay Final Expenses for just pennies a day�  Return this card today and you will receive the latest information on how this Special Program will pay 100% of all funeral expenses not paid by government funds, up to $25,000 (TAX FREE), for each Washington citizen covered.�

This is a mail phishing scam and we are alerting consumers to not return the card or provide any personal information.

Here�s what the mailer looks like:

Here are some red flags we identified in this mailer that consumers should be aware of:
  • The mailer doesn�t identify the name of the insurance company.
  • The mailer doesn�t give an agent or broker to contact.
  • The card gets returned to �National Processing Center,� which is not an insurance company.
  • The mailer gives no information about the policy.
The Virginia Better Business Bureau issued a consumer alert about the mailings in 2013.

A handful of companies are authorized to sell final-expense life insurance policies in Washington, which typically are purchased to cover funeral expenses. Before you buy any insurance, you should make sure the person or company selling the policy is licensed to do business in this state. If you are interested in finding one of the companies that sells final-expense life insurance, you can contact our consumer advocates at 1-800-562-6900 for a list.

Read more about life insurance and what to consider before you buy it.

Think your driving habits are the basis for your insurance rates? Think again

Consumer Reports recently reported on auto insurance premiums and rates, and is doing a social media campaign to raise awareness of the issue. They found that auto insurers use factors like your credit score, shopping habits and a loyalty penalty �your tolerance for rate hikes--when setting your insurance rates. The publication is urging consumers to contact state insurance regulators like Commissioner Kreidler to voice their support for premiums that are based on driving behavior.

Kreidler has long advocated for abolishing credit scoring, which is the practice of using consumers� credit scores to set rates. In 2002, it was his top legislative priority; the state Legislature did not support a complete ban on credit scoring but it did restrict the use of consumers� credit history in personal insurance rates. However, the use of credit history by insurers is not illegal and was in fact authorized by the federal government in the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act.

More recently, Kreidler issued an advisory to insurance companies about price optimization, which he calls a loyalty penalty because it penalizes consumers who don�t shop around for lower rates. �This practice discriminates against people who don�t shop around, and discriminatory pricing is against state law,� said Kreidler. �It�s hard to root out loyalty penalty pricing, but our actuaries are actively watching for it.�

We�ve also seen reports that insurers are using consumers� social media posts as a factor in setting rates. The practice is called social media risk scoring and it looks at things like if you post vacation plans, thereby leaving your home vacant and primed for burglary. But why stop there, who�s to say pictures of happy hour at the bar won�t result in higher premiums for your auto insurance? Or photos of you smoking while skydiving won�t result in increased life insurance premiums?

Our consumer experts have fielded more calls on this topic since the Consumer Reports information was posted, and we encourage people to keep contacting us. Our advice on this topic is to shop around. That�s really consumers� best option until state and federal lawmakers take on credit scoring and other factors that are not directly related to consumers� rates.

Do you have questions about this? Contact our insurance experts:

Health Care and National Immunization Awareness Month

Vaccinations are a hot topic, especially for mothers of infants, children and teens, and pediatricians. August is declared National Immunization Awareness Month by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), and health officials are urging parents to make sure kids are vaccinated before heading back to school this month and in September. 

Children need to be up to date on their immunizations, or obtain a waiver from their local health department. This month is the perfect time to get a head start on booking an appointment with a pediatrician.

The AAP has also provides impressive statistics and answering important questions about immunizations for parents. The statistics include:

         Out of 1,000 U.S. children who will catch the measles, one to three of them will die.
         The average number of annual cases of measles in the 20th century in the United States was over a half million. In 2010, thanks to successful vaccines, there were only 63 cases.
         38% of children younger than 5 years who had measles required hospitalization.
         85% of babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first trimester will have birth defects.
         More than 95% of people who receive MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine become immune to all three diseases.

According to the AAP, National Immunization Awareness Month begins with a focus on immunizations for preteens and teens. Use key messages as the basis for talking points, presentations, media interviews, news releases, social media messages or outreach materials. Preteens and teens are at risk for diseases like meningitis and HPV cancers and need the protection of vaccines to keep them healthy.  Vaccines are recommended for preteens and teens because:

         Some of the childhood vaccines wear off over time, so adolescents need shots to stay protected from serious diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).

         As children get older, they are at greater risk of getting certain diseases like meningitis, septicemia (blood infection), and infections that can lead to HPV cancers.

         Specific vaccines, like HPV vaccine, should be given during the preteen (11 to 12) years because they provide more protection when given at that age.

         Vaccines not only help protect preteens and teens from serious diseases, but also their siblings, friends and the people who care for them, like their parents or grandparents.

         Vaccines do more than protect your child. Some diseases, like whooping cough and the flu, can be deadly for newborns or infants who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. You can help protect our littlest community members from being exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases by making sure your child gets all the vaccines recommended.

         Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. Protecting your children from preventable diseases will help keep them healthy and in school.

         When a child comes down with a disease such as whooping cough or the flu, they may miss a lot of school while recovering. A sick child may also mean that a parent may miss work or other important events.

         Schools are a prime venue for transmitting many vaccine-preventable diseases, and school-age children can further spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact.

Vaccines are also an important component of a healthy pregnancy. Women should be up to date on their vaccines before becoming pregnant, and should receive vaccines against both the flu and whooping cough (pertussis) during pregnancy. These vaccines not only protect the mother by preventing illnesses and complications, but also pass on vaccine protection to her unborn child.  For more details about this issue, go to this site:

Immunization helps prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. To stay protected against serious illnesses like the flu, measles, and pneumonia, adults need to get their shots � just like kids do. Additionally, companies should also make note of the need to have healthy employees this month. According to WellNation, employers can take steps to encourage physical exams and immunizations in a variety of ways, including:

         Provide coverage for preventive health screenings. A common barrier to scheduling a physical exam or screening is the fear of it being a large expense. By communicating the insurance coverage related to preventive exams and immunizations, it can help ease this concern and make employees more likely to complete them.

         Offer your employees the convenience of vaccinations right at work. Collaborate with a local health organization to provide an onsite immunization clinic, such as a flu-shot clinic each fall.

         Provide vaccination or preventive screenings cards to employees to keep in their wallet or their health file. This can help employees keep record of which items they have completed or need to schedule.

Use this month to raise awareness about vaccines and share strategies to increase immunization rates with your community, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Here are just a few ideas:

         Talk to friends and family members about how vaccines aren�t just for kids. People of all ages can get shots to protect them from serious diseases.
         Encourage people in your community to get the flu vaccine every year.
         Invite a doctor or nurse to speak to parents about why it�s important for all kids to get vaccinated.

National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to promote vaccines and remind family, friends, and coworkers to stay up to date on their shots. For more details, visit this website:

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year in August, National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) provides an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan. Activities focus on encouraging all people to protect their health by being vaccinated against infectious diseases. In 2015, the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) is coordinating NIAM activities. More detailed material can be found at this website:

There are some parents and other health proponents who disagree with vaccinations, feeling that they do more harm than good. Until very recently, the US had just about eradicated many of the communicable diseases over the past fifty years. Now, with new unvaccinated individuals coming into the country from areas that have less stringent healthcare controls, and from a certain nominal no-vaccination movement--largely based more on fiction than fact--these diseases have shown up in certain regional outbreaks and are very difficult to control.

One recent example is the measles outbreak that started last December in Disneyland Park in California and was tracked back to human carriers who had not been immunized. Many individuals were exposed and developed the disease, which is highly contagious. It eventually spread to a half-dozen U.S. states, Mexico and Canada. The outbreak sickened 147 people in the U.S., including 131 in California. There were no deaths, even though many were hospitalized. The event took several months to contain until it was declared controlled.

Do yourself and your family a favor. Get your vaccinations up to date this month. Employers should also use NIAM to keep their workforce happy and healthy. Immunizations are for your own protection.

Until next time. 

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