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Agent Groups, Insurers Mobilize for Harvey

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Agent groups and insurers continued today to wrestle with the mammoth impact of Hurricane Harvey on areas in Texas and Louisiana on and near the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and Health Agents for America are two groups that are now starting to talk about their response to the storm.

Harvey Continues to Threaten the Gulf Coast

Harvey’s winds began to smash Texas communities like Rockport and Bay City starting Friday.

Since then, massive of flooding has turned many of the roads in and around Houston into temporary rivers, or lakes. Although parts of Houston started to drain today, and some stores began to reopen, problems with a reservoir and a levee caused floodwaters to rise two stories or higher in other parts of the city.

(Related: 3 Ways Harvey Is Touching the Life and Health Community Now

Now, Harvey is attacking Baton Rouge, La., and nearby communities. National Weather Service forecasters say the storm could lead to a storm surge and heavy rain there.

The official death toll stood at 14 today. Officials were not yet saying how many deaths they think the storm has caused. Rescue crews are still rescuing people affected by the flooding from their rooftops. Some people in Houston have been waiting to be rescued for so long that they have put up tents on their roofs. The storm may has damaged hundreds of thousands and forced tens of thousands of people to move into shelters, or into friends’, relatives’ or neighbors’ homes.

Agent Groups’ Response

Kevin Mayeux, the chief executive officer of NAIFA, which is based in Falls Church, Virginia, put out a letter telling the group’s members that the “thoughts and prayers of the entire NAIFA family are with our friends and colleagues affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

NAIFA has also given members links to five charities they can use to make contributions to Harvey recovery efforts.

HAFA, which is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, put a message to members in its email newsletter for member agents. HAFA is offering members, their families and members’ clients its prayers, and it also hopes to offer some hands-on help.

A reporter for Fox 26 Houston shows how Harvey is disrupting transportation in the city.

“We would like to offer shelter, transportation and/or rescue for anyone that needs assistance,” the group says. “HAFA is a family, and we will work together to help those in need.”

HAFA is also offering to take phone calls for members who have lost their offices.

Insurers’ Response Expands

The Texas Department of Insurance announced in bulletins issued before the storm began that health plans in the state must waive their usual in-network care rules while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Harvey disaster proclamation is in effect, and let enrollees renew prescriptions for up to 90 days. In-network pharmacies must replace medications lost or damaged due to the storm.

Humana announced Monday that it was offering its employee assistance program services to all people in the area affected by Harvey.

Aetna said it was opening up its EAP services to residents of the affected area, and making at least $250,000 in donations to storm recovery efforts.

Here’s a look at more companies’ Harvey-related moves (including some others that may have been announced on or before Monday).

  • Amerigroup Texas, a health insurer, posted a list of emergency telephone numbers for its plan members. The company is paying $25,000 to Portland Strategies Inc. to help rescue crew teams help older people and people with disabilities; moving portable USB solar chargers and power banks into the great Houston area; and agreed to match all employee donations to its employee assistance fund and the American Red Cross at 100% through Sept. 30. The company already gives at least $1 million per year to the American Red Cross.

  • AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana, a health insurer, has posted emergency numbers and said it is making the kinds of storm-related benefits adjustments that the Texas carriers are making. The changes affect Calcasieu, Cameron, Vermilion, Jefferson Davis and Beauregard counties.

  • AXA Financial Inc. says four major life subsidiaries will relax the usual premium-payment grace period rules. The four companies will extend the grace period to Oct. 31, 2017, for the cancellation or non-renewal of policies for non-payment of premiums for life, health and disability policies due from Aug. 25 through Oct. 30. The grade period starts on the date the policyholder’s damage occurs. The four life companies involved are AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, AXA Equitable Life and Annuity Company, MONY Life Insurance Company of America and U.S. Financial Life Insurance Company.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas has posted a page of telephone numbers aimed at people affected by Harvey.

  • Cigna Corp. and the Cigna Foundation are adjusting benefits in the affected areas in Texas, making a free, 24-hour help line available to all affected Texas residents through Oct. 15,  and making a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross. The company is activating an internal website that will let Cigna employees ask for matching funds for donations to the Red Cross.

  • Foresters Financial is offering disaster relief grants to eligible members living in the affected area. The company is also donating $50,000 to the American Red Cross to support Harvey relief efforts in Texas.

  • New York Life Insurance Company has put out an announcement giving emergency contact numbers and reporting that it will be donating $500,000 to Harvey relief efforts, including $150,000 to the American Red Cross, $100,000 to Save the Children and $100,000 to Feeding Texas. The company will also provide up to $150,000 in matching contributions for employees’ and agents’ donations, and it has helped to arrange for food and housing for Red Cross workers and volunteers in the Austin, Texas, area.
  • UnitedHealth Group and its Optum unit have adjusted health plans benefits in the affected area and opened up help line services to all people in the region. The company is donating to $1 million to Harvey relief efforts.

— Read Louisiana Agents Battling Catastrophic Flood on ThinkAdvisor.

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