Now that the pandemic is even affecting our insurance policies, Americans of all ages are afraid that they may face new forms of discrimination if they lose their jobs or become ill. It has also become difficult to find out if our insurance premiums may change – or if we might be granted any grace periods for payments so that we can hold on to critical homeowner insurance and auto policies.
Here is a brief review of some key insurance topics and a reminder that we must keep pursuing timely answers to our questions so we can stay healthy and remain afloat financially.
Regular health insurance policies, Medicare, Obamacare, and long-term care coverage
- Individual healthcare plans will likely vary. You will need to carefully read the COVID-19 coverage update page provided online by most insurers to see if yours has already waived cost-sharing for any testing or treatment. If your policy was issued by your employer, you can also pose questions to your benefits specialist. If your health insurance company is not waiving added fees for COVID-19 care, it will help to check fees before seeking care at any given hospital or other treatment center. You can visit this link to find out the names of specific insurers who have already begun responding to COVID-19 coverage questions.
- Medicare. Fortunately, seniors and the disabled covered by this program are learning that if their testing or treatment is ordered by a doctor or other formally recognized healthcare provider, testing and treatment fees will usually be covered. Of course, unique questions can still come up if you are signed up with one of the various Medigap programs. You must call your supplemental insurance group for further information and assistance.
- Obamacare or the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Since many of these plans vary, you should check in advance to find out if emergency room treatment, hospitalization and other costs will be covered. Fortunately, a few of these companies have waived cost-sharing expenses for their customers. (General ACA information is available here and a few more COVID-19 updates can be found at this location).
- Long-term care coverage insurance policies. While your individual policy rates may not be raised immediately, your insurance company may try to raise the rates for your group once actuarial figures become available to support such changes. It is best to put in regular, customer service calls to your insurers so you will not be faced with any unexpected fee changes (or denial of coverage) during the next year. If you can afford to keep your policy, be sure to request a fully executed, revised copy of it as soon as possible.
Basic auto and home insurance policies – expect much slower processing of claims
- Auto insurance claims. Since workers layoffs continue, it may take added time to get an insurance adjuster to come out and evaluate the damage done to your car after the accident. However, you must still call in any accident as soon as possible. And keep in mind that auto repair shops may have fewer mechanics on duty, so fixing your vehicle could take far more time during the pandemic.
- Home insurance policies. Some insurers are now letting both auto and home insurance policyholders file new claims virtually – over the internet. Be aware that it may be just as hard to get an adjuster out quickly to review damages to individual homes as for autos. In addition, fewer independent contractors are eager to enter homes to inspect them when residents may be infected with Covid-19.
Other insurance policies – workers compensation and business interruption
- Workers compensation. The coverage under these policies should remain the same, with insurance companies making doubly sure all claims are based on injuries causally related to the person’s assigned job tasks – and not just due to contracting COVID-19 at work.
- Property/business interruption. While your company may have stopped doing business due to the threats posed by COVID-19, many of these types of policies do not cover clients based on the possible presence of a communicable disease. Likewise, even if your coverage refers to work stoppage or business interruption caused by a government order, your policy will likely require proof of actual physical damages to the property. Be sure to speak to your Houston business law attorney about these complicated matters.
Collecting under current life insurance policies — or trying to obtain new ones now
- Be aware that your insurance company cannot increase your premiums simply because
you may contract COVID-19, face a higher risk of contracting it at work — or due to a recent trip to what is considered a COVID-19 high-risk “hot spot.” However, seeking a new policy at this time may be a bit more complicated. Experts are reporting that some insurance companies are raising their rates for new customers due to the high cost of covering so many people who are now requiring lengthy COVID-19 treatments.
In addition to a possible increase in fees for new life insurance policies, companies are now far more likely to require new prospective customers to undergo medical office testing and evaluation before providing new policies. This poses problems for many, since numerous medical offices are only open for a few hours each day — or will only provide virtual office visits using software programs like Skype and Zoom.
Finally, anyone seeking a new life insurance policy must be ready to answer written questions about their exposure to (or personal battle with) COVID-19. Many other health related questions must also be answered in writing that might not have been asked prior to the pandemic.
Please feel free to contact any of our Murray Lobb attorneys with questions you may have about your insurance policies. We also remain available to help you with all your general business, corporate, and estate planning needs — and can readily help you by drafting any contracts or other documents you may require.