A Tennessee newspaper is reporting that some officials fear Hurricane Katrina might have killed as many as 40,000 people.[@@]
The Shelbyville (Tenn.) Times-Gazette has published an interview with Dan Buckner, a funeral director who will be volunteering with the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team. Buckner says in the interview that DMort has told him to expect to see up to 40,000 bodies.
Buckner predicts in the article that authorities may be recovering bodies for 30 to 120 days.
DMort is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Life insurers and insurance regulators agree that Katrina-related life insurance claims are still rare, because the storm happened so recently, communications systems are so hard-hit and so few of the dead have been officially identified.
But Katrina already has hit life and health agents hard.
The National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., fears that its 75 members from New Orleans may all be homeless, and Linda Ray, a board member of the Association of Health Insurance Advisors, an arm of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va., is one of the evacuees from New Orleans.
The Million Dollar Round Table, Park Ridge, Ill., has been active in efforts to help producers seek and offer Katrina-related assistance.
In addition to starting a relief fund and offering to match the first $50,000 in contributions, the MDRT Foundation has set up a Katrina message board at http://mdrtmember.blogspot.com
One MDRT member observes on the board that the flow of refugees into his town, Baton Rouge, La., has emptied grocery stores, and that his church is in desperate need of many kinds of supplies.
Another MDRT member says his business is under 10 feet of water.
Other insurance community responses to Katrina:
- NEW: Brooke Corp., Overland Park, Kan., a financial services distribution firm, has canceled its 2005 annual franchise convention, which was supposed to start in New Orleans Oct. 16. “However, to demonstrate our confidence that the great city of New Orleans will soon rebuild, we are planning to hold the 2006 annual franchise convention in New Orleans,” the company says.
- New York Life Insurance Company, New York, has agreed to contribute $1 million to the American Red Cross, Washington, and match contributions from employees, agents and retirees dollar for dollar.
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 is asking policyholders to call (800) 695-4331 for help with extensions on payments or help with replacing policies that have been lost or destroyed.
New York Life will be paying a $200-per-day stipend as well as offering salary continuation for employees displaced by Katrina.
- 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.
NEW: The fraternal insurer also has announced a 4-year, $105 million agreement with Habitat for Humanity International, Americus, Ga., a group that builds homes for people with low incomes.
The agreement will form the Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity home construction alliance.
Although $100 million in cash, volunteer labor and other resources will go to general housing construction program efforts, $5 million has been earmarked specifically for reconstruction of homes in the Gulf Coast region, Thrivent says.
Thrivent will donate 50 cents to Habitat for Humanity for each dollar that members give to the charity, up to a maximum of $300 per member per year.
- 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.
NEW: Allstate also has deferred payment periods of up to 90 days for customers in counties and parishes affected by Katrina.
“Deferred payment means that customers who are unable to make their premium payments will not be penalized with a loss of coverage during the deferment period,” Allstate says. “If a customer continues to make payments, even if it’s not the minimum amount due, their payments will be credited toward the outstanding premium amount. If a customer has a renewal policy offer pending during this timeframe, but is unable to make a payment, their policy will continue to be in effect. Additionally, installment fees will be waived during this timeframe.”
The deferred payments announcement affects Allstate life insurance and worksite benefits customers as well as the company’s property-casualty insurance customers, Allstate says.
Customers who do want to make payments but cannot mail the payments can use credit cards or debit cards to make the payments by calling (800) 255-7828. Customers also can use that telephone number to make check payments, Allstate says.
- 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 Inc., Louisville, Ky., 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 let health 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.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, La., is donating $500,000 to American Red Cross relief efforts.
Louisiana Blue also is helping customers by allowing early prescription refills, and the company is eliminating preauthorization requirements and extending the premium payment grace period for individuals and small groups in the parishes hit by Katrina.
- 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.
- NEW: Assurant Inc., New York, is giving $250,000 to the United Way’s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The company’s Milwaukee-based Assurant Health unit is donating $15,000 to Red Cross relief efforts and matching donations to the Red Cross by independent Assurant Health agents up to a maximum of $50,000.
- NEW: Standard Insurance Company, a unit of StanCorp Financial Group Inc., Portland, Ore., has agreed to help Portland cover the cost of sending 20 firefighters to the Southeast to help with relief efforts.
The company also has agreed to pay for the United Way to assign specially trained charitable assistance coordinators to the New Orleans 2-1-1 call center.
In addition, Standard will allow group benefit plan members who volunteer for the relief effort to keep their Standard coverage for up to 60 days while they are on approved leave.
The telephone number for group or individual customers affected by Katrina is (800) 521-9540.
- The Regence Group, Portland, Ore., a group of Northwestern Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, says it will contribute $100,000 to relief efforts.
- NEW: The Wellesley Hills, Mass.-based U.S. arm of Sun Life Financial Inc., Toronto, is donating $100,000 to the Red Cross. The company also will contribute $2 for every $1 that employees donate, up to a maximum of $50,000.
The U.S. arm has set up a special toll-free telephone number for policyholders affected by Katrina at (800) 253-9574. The direct number is (781) 446-6744.
- 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, is matching employee contributions to relief organizations dollar for dollar and offering use of its helicopters for relief efforts.
The company also 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.
The telephone number for affected customers is (800) 443-2386.
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.
- 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.
- NEW: Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, Columbia, S.C., a unit of UnumProvident Corp., Chattanooga, Tenn., has set up special telephone lines and e-mail boxes to make it easier for customers who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina to get support from the company.
The telephone number for policyholders affected by Katrina is (800) 325-4368, and the number for plan administrators affected by Katrina is (800) 256-7004.
Customers in affected areas will receive a 120-day grace period for premium payment, Colonial Life says.
Colonial Life operates as Colonial Supplemental Insurance.
- NEW: Petersen International Underwriters, Valencia, Calif., a company that helps clients buy specialized life, health and disability policies, says it will be offering an extra 30-day grace period for insureds in affected regions with payments due between Aug. 29 and Sept. 30. The firm also is granting an automatic, 14-day extension for any international major medical coverage set to expire between Aug. 29 and Sept. 30 for insureds located within the affected region.
- 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