New York State is offering Storm Sandy relief for consumers in about 10 counties through its insurance and banking regulatory authority to impose a moratorium for 30 days or until further notice, prohibiting termination, cancellation or non-renewal of any “covered policy” under insurance law, along with other easements for consumers.
In an order amended November 5 and in effect back to Oct. 26, Ben Lawsky, Superintendent of Financial Services for the state, suspended certain provisions of insurance and banking law in the affected counties. New York, Bronx, Kings, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Orange suffered the greatest damage and are the designated counties.
With regard to insurance, Lawsky also lifted any automatic policy renewal provisions within a covered policy during the moratorium but noted a policyholder could voluntarily terminate a policy during the moratorium.
Lawsky also issued insurance-specific guidelines that, in effect, tell health insurers that they should relax their prior authorization requirements for the provision of urgent services.
“Members should be allowed to seek urgent care from participating and non – participating providers, as necessary. Similarly, providers should not be required to request authorization to treat enrolled members for the provision of urgent services and should be reimbursed accordingly,” the guidelines state. They were issued before the storm hit but remain in effect, according to a Department of Financial Services (DFS) spokesman. Another storm is expected to hit the area midweek and the “state of emergency” remains in effect regardless. The main DFS offices themselves on State Street and Beaver Street, close to the waterfront in lower Manhattan flooded and remain without power. Employees are working remotely or in other designated locations.
Health insurers should also relax limitations on prescription refills so that persons needing to get prescriptions filled in advance of the impending noreaster or at non participating pharmacies during and right after the storm will have access to their medicines, the DFS told insurers.