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.