Members of the life and health insurance industry are struggling to accept the all-but-incomprehensible possibility that dozens, or even hundreds, of their colleagues == individuals who supported countless fundraising campaigns – may now be displaced persons who need emergency assistance themselves.[@@]
The life company hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina may be Pan-American Life Insurance Company, a company once known for its spectacular headquarters in New Orleans.
Company representatives were not immediately available to talk about the company’s situation. But some Pan-American employees who have evacuated from New Orleans are trying to restore operations in offices near Dallas, and they are coping with all the difficulties involved with being displaced persons.
Pan-American is asking employees who have not contacted the company since Katrina hit to call it at (866) 725-4241.
Many companies based outside the Gulf Coast are still trying to locate and help employees in the affected region.
Humana Inc., Louisville, Ky., for example, had 220 employees in the New Orleans area before Katrina hit.
New York Life Insurance Company, New York, has not provided a head count, but it notes that it will be paying a $200-per-day stipend as well as offering salary continuation for displaced employees.
“Direct benefits are also being offered to agents in our training program if their assigned office is closed due to damage from the hurricane,” the company says.
Meanwhile, reports are filtering in suggesting that some evacuees from the life and health industry may be turning to local insurance trade and professional group chapters for help.
The Association of Health Insurance Advisors, an arm of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va., says Linda Ray, an AHIA board member who lived in the New Orleans area, is one of the evacuees.
AHIA believes many other members also were affected by the hurricane, the group says.
AHIA is asking members to donate to the Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund, which helps individuals evacuated to Baton Rouge, La., as well as to the disaster relief and recovery funds. Information about the displaced residents fund is at http://www.braf.org/page25206.cfm
Another group for health agents, the National Association of Health Underwriters, has estimated that 700 of its members were living in areas affected by Katrina before Katrina hit.
In addition to starting a relief fund and offering to match the first $50,000 in contributions, the Million Dollar Round Table Foundation, Park Ridge, Ill., is setting up a Web site that will give members affected by the storm to ask for help and for other members to offer help to other MDRT members as well as other Katrina victims.
A link to the relief fund is at http://www.mdrtfoundation.org
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, La., a company that had a major district in office in New Orleans, had to shut down operations throughout the state Aug. 29 and Aug. 30.
Operations have resumed in all offices except for the New Orleans and Houma, La., offices, and the Houma office will reopen Sept. 6, according to Louisiana Blue.
The company is donating $500,000 to American Red Cross relief efforts.
“Blue Cross stands committed to the residents of Louisiana and committed to helping rebuild this great state we call home,” Louisiana Blue President Gery Barry says in a statement.
Louisiana Blue also is helping customers by allowing early prescription refills.
Louisiana Blue is eliminating preauthorization requirements and extending the premium payment grace period for individuals and small groups in the following parishes: Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Washington.
In related news:
- New York Life has agreed to contribute $1 million to the American Red Cross, Washington, and match contributions from employees, agents and retirees dollar for dollar.
“New York Life understands that in time of hardship you need people to turn to,” New York Chairman Sy Sternberg says in a statement about Katrina. “For over 160 years, we’ve stood by our customers through our nation’s greatest struggles and disasters, and we are here for you now.”
The company has pledged to pay all claims swiftly.
The company also is offering emergency loans against the cash value of current policies to help in recovery and rebuilding. New York Life policyholders who need extensions on payments or help with replacing policies that have been lost or destroyed should call the company at 800-695-4331 for help.
- Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Minneapolis, has given $1 million to relief efforts, and it says it expects its policyholder members to raise another $2 million.
- The Atlanta-based U.S. operations of ING Groep N.V., Amsterdam, will be contributing $1 million to the American Red Cross Katrina relief efforts, and it will be contributing 50 cents for $1 that employees contribute to the Katrina relief effort.
- Allstate Corp., Northbrook, Ill., will give $1 million to relief efforts and is matching contributions from employees, agents and agency staff dollar for dollar.
- The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, expects to join with its member plans to donate at least $1 million to relief efforts.
- Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, is giving $1 million to the American Red Cross, and it has temporarily suspended automatic policy lapses and insurance account terminations for policyholders in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Northwestern Mutual also is expediting payments of policy loans, and it will be waiving all FedEx and bank wire fees for loan and benefit payments in the areas affected by Katrina.
- Humana says it will be contributing $1 million, with half of the money going to the American Red Cross and half going to local relief efforts.
Humana will let members in affected areas refill prescriptions early.
- CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, is donating $500,000 to the American Red Cross and will pay $2 for every $1 that employees contribute, up to a total of $500,000.
CIGNA also is opening its 24-hour, toll-free behavioral health telephone support line, at (888) 622-6470, to all residents of the Gulf Coast communities hit by Katrina. Trained counselors can talk to callers about grief, stress and other issues.
CIGNA will host a free, 1-hour teleconference for employers, at (888) 701-9724, starting 2 p.m. EDT Sept. 7. The passcode is 804819. There is also an alternative number at (800) 214-0745, passcode 363422.
CIGNA will let members in affected areas refill prescriptions early, and it is easing many claims requirements for members in affected areas.
- WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis, has announced an immediate contribution of $500,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, and it will be matching 50% of employee contributions to the American Red Cross, Washington.
- Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, Mass., will be contributing $250,000 to the relief effort and contributing $2 for each $1 that its employees and sales representatives contribute over the next 60 days.
MassMutual also is extending premium payment grace periods by 62 days for policyowners in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. The extension affects holders of MassMutual life insurance, long term care insurance and disability insurance policies as well as holders of certain annuity contracts.
- The Regence Group, Portland, Ore., a group of Northwestern Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, says it will contribute $100,000 to relief efforts.
- Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, is starting with a $75,000 contribution to the American Red Cross. It also will match contributions to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by employees, retirees and career agents dollar for dollar. The donations must be received by Sept. 16.
- Aetna Inc., Hartford, has temporarily lifted some medical and pharmacy policy requirements through at least Sept. 30 for members affected by Hurricane Katrina.
The program will help relief workers traveling to the catastrophe areas as well as victims in the affected areas and evacuees, Aetna says.
Aetna representatives are available at special toll-free number, (800) 443-AETNA, or (800) 443-2386, to help members affected by the disaster who need help finding care or who have lost their identification cards.
Aetna emphasizes that it will continue coverage for affected employers and individuals even if they are unable to make premium payments.
The announcement affects many Aetna members who are from or are traveling to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and the following Florida counties: Bay, Escambia, Holmes, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Washington.
Those members may receive in-network benefits for care out of their network in any state, and seek care from providers, including dentists, other than their designated primary care physicians; refill prescriptions early; and receive treatment covered under their plan without medical pre-certification, referrals, or notification of hospital admissions.
For physicians and hospitals treating victims of Hurricane Katrina, Aetna is temporarily extending claims- and appeals-filing deadlines outlined in contracts.
Aetna also is matching employee contributions to relief organizations dollar for dollar and offering use of its helicopters for relief efforts.
- Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, says it will continue to insure homeowners, automobile and commercial insurance customers hit by Hurricane Katrina if they are temporarily unable to make their insurance payments. The announcement affects customers in Louisiana and Mississippi and in the following Alabama counties: Baldwin, Clarke, Choctaw, Mobile, Sumter and Washington. The announcement also affects customers in the following Florida counties: Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Escambia, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, Santa Rosa and Sarasota.
- The American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, has issued a statement extending its sympathies to families affected by Katrina.
“As they have in the past, life insurers will respond promptly in delivering on the promise of financial security they have made to all policyholders,” ACLI President Frank Keating says in the statement.
The ACLI will be offering any assistance it can to help with officials in affected states cope with life insurance-related issues, Keating says.
- America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, will be funneling contributions from member companies through its Louisiana chapter, and it also will be working with member companies and emergency relief officials to make sure that members have access to uninterrupted health benefits, even in cases in which they have evacuated to locations far outside their usual health plan service areas, an AHIP spokesman says.
AHIP also has established a Web site that member companies can use to spread news about Katrina-related efforts.
- Ceridian Corp., Minneapolis, has posted several articles about ways to help Katrina survivors cope. The articles are at http://www.ceridian.com/myceridian/article/1,2481,12501-59368,00.html