About 700 members of the National Association of Health Underwriters live in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.[@@]

NAHU, Arlington, Va., still is assessing the best way to help all victims of the hurricane, including NAHU members who have fled from the storm or now are in the hardest-hit regions.

But NAHU plans to start the effort by asking members to contribute to relief programs on the list organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The FEMA relief program list is on the Web at http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=18473

The programs on the FEMA list are good targets for early donations “because they’re providing immediate cash assistance to the victims,” says NAHU Chief Executive Officer Janet Trautwein.

NAHU also would like to find some way to help improve communications systems in New Orleans and other affected areas, Trautwein says.

“Our members are normally very generous with things like this,” Trautwein says.

Some of NAHU’s own members may prove to need help.

“We’ve heard from some that have pretty much lost everything,” Trautwein says.

NAHU expects to learn more about Gulf State members’ needs over the next few days, Trautwein says.

Elsewhere in the life and health insurance industry:

- Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Minneapolis, kicked off the industry fundraising effort for storm victims by announcing $3 million in relief funding contributions. The fraternal insurer will contribute $1 million, and it expects its member-policyholders to contribute another $2 million.

- Scott Cipinko, interim executive director at the Life Insurers Council, Atlanta, says New Orleans and other areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina are major markets for many of the small and midsize insurers that belong to the LIC.

LIC member company agents “know their insureds,” Cipinko says. But “phone lines are down, electricity is down,” and insurance company representatives, such as adjusters, have no choice but to wait until the situation settles down before they can check on customers.

When Cipinko was interviewed, authorities were talking about Katrina death tolls running into the hundreds, not thousands, and Cipinko says LIC member companies are expecting the vast majority of their Katrina-related claims to be property-casualty claims.

“If there were significant loss of life, that would be extremely difficult on these small companies,” Cipinko says.

- Humana Inc., Louisville, Ky., has put out a statement emphasizing that health benefits and customer service for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi members affected by Hurricane Katrina are in force and will continue without interruption.

To help health plan members in those 3 states cope with Katrina, Humana is suspending its usual 30-day restriction on early prescription refills for all commercial and Medicare members in the states.

“We’re committed to providing uninterrupted coverage and services to our membership at this critical time,” says Dr. Hassan Rifaat, chief executive of Humana’s Southeast region.