Top regulators from the states hit by Hurricane Katrina are asking insurers to show compassion for the survivors.[@@]

Officials at an emergency insurance summit in Atlanta drafted emergency consumer protection declarations that would ask insurers to suspend the usual cancellation rules temporarily.

The declarations also would order health care insurers to honor in-network plan provisions for out-of-network care and even for out-of-state care. Relaxation of the usual reimbursement rules for out-of-network care are important because many hospitals affected by the storm are not operating, according to Louisiana Insurance Commissioner J. Robert Wooley.

“We have to give our citizens a way to access normal health care without added cost,” Wooley says.

Wooley participated in the insurance summit with Alabama Insurance Commissioner Walter Bell and John Wells, director of the rating division at Mississippi’s insurance department.

Other officials in attendance included: Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Diane Koken, who is president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.

The summit also attracted 480 representatives from the insurance industry.

Wooley says the declarations the regulators have drafted are similar to the notices Florida issued last year in response to the wave of hurricanes it faced.

In addition to cancellations, non-renewals and health plan rules, matters addressed in the declarations include premium increases and claims adjusting.

Officials are asking insurers and producers to comment on the proposed declarations by Sept. 14. Final declarations are due Sept. 16.

Scott Cipinko, a lawyer with the Atlanta office of Lord Bissell & Brook L.L.P. and interim director of the Life Insurers Council, Atlanta, was one of the industry representatives at the meeting.

Questions that came up at the meeting included:

- How do you reach displaced insurance contract holders who are supposed to receive regular annuity or disability payments?

- What do consumers do if they need to make a claim and their independent agent’s business has been wiped away by Katrina?

- What do storm survivors do if the hurricane has wiped out the employer that provided their health coverage?

- How do you prove death if insureds who died cannot be identified?

Some information in this article was contributed by Mark E. Ruquet.