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.