Iowa Insurance Division Announces Iowa Fraud Fighters Webinar Series

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen announced today that the Iowa Insurance Division (IID) is offering an Iowa Fraud Fighters – Shield Your Savings public education webinar series this month.

“Fraudsters target seniors because they know these hardworking Iowans have saved for their retirements and that is where the money is,” said Commissioner Ommen. “Being a victim is not a weakness; these perpetrators are professional con artists who have scammed the most sophisticated of investors.”

A True Link report on elder financial abuse estimated 1 in 3 Americans ages 65 and older were affected by financial abuse over a five-year period, with seniors losing $36.5 billion dollars each year to financial exploitation, criminal fraud and caregiver abuse.

Each webinar will feature a video of Martha-Jo Ennis, a retired schoolteacher from Marion, Iowa, who lost her retirement savings and the money she invested from the sale of her family farm, totaling over $1 million, to a Ponzi scheme.

The webinar series will educate and empower Iowans to combat and report investment, consumer and insurance fraud — including Medicare fraud.

“Scammers are after Iowans’ Medicare card numbers to defraud the government and are using the pandemic to commit identity theft upon our seniors through fake COVID-19 test scams,” said Commissioner Ommen. “If you suspect Medicare fraud, call Senior Medicare Patrol and SHIIP, which are housed within the Iowa Insurance Division.”

Jeanne Mentel, Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program manager, will discuss common Medicare scams at two webinars alongside Commissioner Ommen, who will focus on elder financial exploitation and investment fraud.

An individual can grant an agent a power of attorney and a court can appoint a conservatorship or guardianship powers to make decisions related to the individual’s healthcare decisions or financial matters. Financial exploitation occurs when those decision-making powers are improperly used to take advantage of the protected individual’s financial assets.

“Oftentimes a trusted family member or friend can be called upon to fill this decision-making role,” said Commissioner Ommen. “However, it is important Iowans have someone who will put their wishes first, despite what their family or friends might later ask for or try to impose. We all need to be good Iowa neighbors and help watch for signs of financial exploitation of older Iowans isolated from family, caregivers and other support networks.”

Ommen said promissory note schemes are one of the most common types of investment fraud he sees, noting there are always new scams circulating in Iowa.

“Iowans should be on the lookout for scam artists trying to use the market downturn and the coronavirus to scare investors into so-called safer or guaranteed investments,” said Commissioner Ommen. “Con artists seek to capitalize on fear and uncertainty during troubled times. Before making a new investment, double-check with the insurance division to make sure the investment is registered and the person making the offer is licensed.”

The Iowa Insurance Division collaborates with other state agency partners to cover the scams that fall outside the division’s jurisdiction, including the Iowa Attorney General’s Office (AG). Al Perales, an investigator from the AG’s Office, will join Commissioner Ommen to discuss common consumer scams, including pandemic-related fraud and many online scams. Online scams affect every generation, including Millennials.

“One of the worst online scams is the sweetheart scam because this romantic scammer breaks your heart and their number one goal is to steal your money and information,” said Perales. “They scan social media and online dating sites to target the lonely, build an online relationship and then need money because of a terrible misfortune or to afford travel to come see their newly beloved — but they never show up.”

To RSVP for a webinar, fill out the online form at IowaFraudFighters.gov at least 24 hours in advance of the webinar. Each webinar will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube and will feature a video, short presentation and a moderated panel with the opportunity for participants to ask questions.

 

About the Iowa Insurance Division

The IID has general control, supervision and direction over all insurance and securities business transacted in the state and enforces Iowa’s laws and regulations. The IID investigates consumer complaints and prosecutes companies, agents and brokers engaging in unfair trade practices. Consumers with insurance or investment questions, or complaints, may contact the IID toll-free at 877-955-1212 or visit http://www.IowaFraudFighters.gov or http://www.IID.Iowa.gov.

New Version of SBS

On Thursday, June 11, 2020, the Iowa Insurance Division is going live on the newest version of State Based Systems (SBS), a web-based NAIC application that supports state insurance regulation functions. This flyer reviews how this transition will affect you and the new tools you’ll have access to.

Motor vehicle service contract companies, residential service contract companies and retiremement facilities should visit those specific pages for additional directions.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources

As the State of Iowa responds to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Iowa Insurance Division is closely monitoring the situation and actively communicating with insurance companies that operate in the State of Iowa. The Division provides answers to some commonly asked questions below and will update this page as necessary.

The Commissioner reminds Iowans that they can help prevent the spread of illness by following simple daily precautions including washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill. It is currently flu and respiratory disease season, and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommends getting the flu vaccine. Influenza activity is widespread in Iowa and as long as flu viruses are circulating, it's not too late to receive the vaccine.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

Information concerning COVID-19 is available at the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The IDPH has also issued frequently asked questions and helpful guidance on cleaning and disinfecting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a brief guide for measures every American can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa provided by IDPH can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has created a Disaster Distress Helpline for resources related to mental health and coping. You may contact the hotline by dialing 1-800-985-5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746.

How do I find out if my insurance will cover testing and treatment related to COVID-19?

Four of the major health insurance carriers in Iowa have all committed to waive cost-sharing and copayments for testing of COVID-19. Self-funded plans may differ in coverage. More information is available in each insurer's press release.

Medica Press Release
Aetna Press Release
Wellmark Press Release
UnitedHealthcare Press Release

The Iowa Farm Bureau Health Plan has also agreed to waive cost sharing related to testing.

The Division encourages consumers to utilize telemedicine if offered by their health care provider and covered by their insurance company.

Will Medicare cover testing and treatment?

Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19 with no out-of-pocket costs when the test is ordered by your doctor or other health care provider. Medicare also covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 and might otherwise have been discharged from the hospital after an inpatient stay, but you need to stay in the hospital under quarantine.

While there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, if one becomes available, it will be covered by all Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D).

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have access to these same benefits. Medicare allows these plans to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests. Many plans offer additional telehealth benefits beyond the ones described below. Check with your plan about your coverage and costs.

Medicare also covers "virtual check-ins" (also known as telemedicine), so you can connect with your doctor by phone or video or an online patient portal to see if you need to go in for a face-to-face visit. The Division encourages consumers to utilize telemedicine to seek treatment.

To stay informed about Medicare coverage and coronavirus, along with tips to keep yourself safe, visit medicare.gov.

Will my travel insurance cover trip cancellation costs?

Most travel policies will not cover cancellations due to coronavirus.  If your policy does provide benefits, the benefits may be very limited.  You should check your policy and call your insurer if you have questions regarding coverage.

Travel insurance policies vary depending on the insurance carrier and the optional endorsements added to the policy. We recommend reviewing any policy in detail prior to purchase to verify what benefits, if any, may be payable in the event of cancellation.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has provided some guidance regarding travel insurance.

Iowa Proposes Best Interest Regulation to Put Consumers First

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Des Moines, Iowa – The Iowa Insurance Division today filed proposed regulations to require annuity agents and securities agents to act in the best interest of their customers.  These standards ensure consumer’s interests are put first.

This follows efforts by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to develop a model Suitability in Annuity Transactions Model Regulation that is harmonized with rulemaking by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen, who is also the state's securities regulator, offered the following comments.

“I was proud to help lead the NAIC’s effort as we worked toward a harmonized ‘best interest’ standard with the SEC for broker-dealers and agents that makes sure the consumer’s interests are put first.” 

“Our experience in Iowa has proven that varied advisory models offer incredibly valuable consumer access to retirement education and security.  Iowans choose professional financial services either through fee arrangements or through transactional commission arrangements based on their particular needs.  Requiring high quality financial advice that fits the particular needs, objectives and situation of the individual Iowan has always been our primary purpose.  This model regulation will preserve consumer choice so that many more middle class Iowans will retain access to retirement education and security that they choose.”

“I’m very pleased that we were able to propose a detailed regulatory framework that promotes informing consumers about risks, benefits and costs of any recommended transaction.  I look forward to other states joining with us in this effort to protect consumers.”

Deputy Administrator for Securities Andrew Hartnett added the following comments.

“This standard requires the financial professional to always put the consumer’s interest first and to only make recommendations that match the particular Iowan’s needs, objectives and situation.  This proposal is consistent with the efforts of the SEC and will be very beneficial to consumers.” 

Click here to view the proposed regulation.

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Transitional Policies Extended; Commissioner Urges Congress to Return More Flexibility to States

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Des Moines, Iowa – Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen today issued a bulletin providing guidance to Iowa consumers and insurers regarding the CMS decision to allow transitional policies to be extended through calendar year 2021.

“I appreciate CMS taking the action to extend transitional policies.  Without this action, roughly 1.1 million individuals nationally and 72,000 Iowans would be forced off their healthcare plans and Iowans would be forced to choose between going uninsured or purchasing an ACA policy with a premium that has tripled since 2015,” Ommen said.  “As we’ve seen over the past few years, the collapsed ACA market has caused those bearing the full cost of the premiums to simply leave the market.”

“Thousands of Iowans have expressed their preference for health coverage flexibility in their choice to keep their transition plan first purchased in 2013.  The ACA transition plans are good plans and despite the inability for insurers to sell new policies, thousands of Iowans like their transition plans and want to keep them.  With annual federal government relief and despite the ACA’s actual prohibition on such flexibility, thousands of Iowans have held onto their “transition” insurance plans. Iowans should be assured that they have access to a policy that fits their needs and not be forced to go without affordable insurance coverage,” Ommen said.  “Ultimately only Congress can fix the structural flaws in the ACA. Until Congress acts, transitional policies need to be extended, but time is of the essence to fix the ACA.”

The Iowa Insurance Division has continually called on Congress to address the structural flaws of the ACA. 

“Only Congress can fix the problems created by the ACA, although states, like Iowa, have been able to increase affordable options for some through the extension of short term limited duration coverages, approval of association health plans, and the authority for a nonprofit agricultural cooperative to offer health care plans.  Section 1332 or state empowerment waivers continue to offer some potential adjustments, but real opportunity for consumers to choose from affordable plans that fit their families’ needs will require Congress to act. Whether the “fix” is amending the ACA, or replacing the ACA with a law by a different name with some of the same coverage guarantees, it is clear that the federal law must be changed so states can protect consumers and return affordable coverage plans to the individual insurance market,” Ommen said.  “Iowa can properly regulate our own market in a manner that best serves Iowans.”

ACA Background

For further background information and charts on the ACA in Iowa, visit https://iid.iowa.gov/aca-background.

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Global Insurance Accelerator and State of Iowa Collaborate to Improve Insurance

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Iowa Insurance Division recently met with the 2020 cohort of the Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA), which includes eight InsurTech startups working to improve insurance through the accelerator’s annual 100-day program.

GIA and IID“This year's cohort includes early-stage startups and founders who are solving big and important insurance problems,” said Nicole Gunderson, managing director of the GIA. “Not only will this year’s teams benefit from guidance designed to help them succeed in the complex U.S. regulatory environment and the in-depth look the GIA is able to provide into the processes and needs of insurance companies, but our regulator mentors also learn from exposure to new ways of approaching existing industry problems and innovative technology solutions.”

The State of Iowa, long noted for creating a regulatory environment which favors responsible innovation, is home to more than 200 insurance companies, with over 80 located in Des Moines, home to the GIA. The long-standing collaboration between the Iowa Insurance Division and the GIA helps produce stronger InsurTech companies and solutions with track records of success.

“When you combine the collective expertise of the insurance companies domiciled in Iowa with a world-class accelerator, you get results,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “With our insurance heritage and great business climate, Iowa is the perfect spot for these startups to innovate and to develop a platform from which to continue to grow and succeed.”

The GIA’s 2020 cohort includes companies from all over the U.S., as well as Singapore, focused on managing care and service providers, increasing customer engagement, improving individual behaviors and performance, delivering or distributing on-demand insurance, automating manual tasks, reducing claims, and even providing solutions for at-home disease testing. The program mentors, including insurance professionals from the GIA’s 15 investors, extended industry network, and the Iowa Insurance Division, will engage with these InsurTech innovators in the months to come via 1:1 meetings, educational sessions, and networking opportunities.

“I’m honored that our staff is able to bring their expertise to bear in collaborating with these startups,” said Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen. “These startups are made up of folks that are problem solvers and that is good for our insurance industry and insurance consumers.”

The culmination of the program is a “Demo Day” on the main stage at the Global Insurance Symposium on April 22, 2020.

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About the Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA)

The Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) promotes innovation in the insurance industry through a mentor-driven, 100-day accelerator program for InsurTech companies. The GIA supports an annual cohort by providing each accepted company a $75,000 investment in the form of a post-money Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) which converts to five percent of the company. During the program, cohort members get insurance-specific mentoring via 1:1 meetings, basic business infrastructure assistance, coaching on pitching and presentation skills important to garnering investments, help developing go-to-market strategy, and product-specific insights into strategies for increasing applicability to and feasibility for the insurance industry. For more details please visit www.globalinsuranceaccelerator.com

ACA Open Enrollment Begins November 1

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Des Moines, Iowa – Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment begins tomorrow, November 1, 2019, for Iowans purchasing or changing their ACA individual health coverage to become effective January 1, 2020.

“As the open enrollment season begins, Iowans considering individual plans should talk with a licensed insurance agent to thoroughly research all coverage options to determine the best plan for themselves and their families.  The ACA-compliant insurance market is available to Iowans, however, many Iowans have been priced out of that market,” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said. “Changes made at the Iowa state legislature and by the federal government have provided a few more options in addition to ACA-compliant coverage for Iowans to review as they plan out their health needs for 2020.”

Iowans who wish to purchase ACA-compliant coverage need to complete enrollment between November 1, 2019, and December 15, 2019, to have coverage effective by January 1, 2020.  During open enrollment, Iowans may call 1-800-318-2596 or visit healthcare.gov for information regarding enrollment and to calculate applicable tax credits.

Local insurance agents, assisters and Iowa’s navigator are available to help Iowans review which insurance plan may best fit their needs.  Iowans can find local help by visiting https://localhelp.HealthCare.gov/.

Important information about individual coverage for 2020

  • Medica, Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa and Wellmark Value Health Plan will be offering ACA-compliant individual health insurance plans to Iowans for plan year 2020.  Iowans in every county will have a choice of at least two carriers.
  • If you currently have coverage through the exchange and do not choose a plan for 2020 by the end of open enrollment, you will be re-enrolled into the same or similar plan.
  • If you are considering changing insurance carriers, double-check to ensure your preferred healthcare provider(s) are in-network and your prescription drugs will continue to be covered.
  • ​Changes in federal and state regulation are opening other options for Iowans to find health coverage through a health benefit plan sponsored by a non-profit agricultural organization or through short-term limited-duration plans.

ACA Background

For further background information and charts on the ACA in Iowa, visit https://iid.iowa.gov/aca-background.

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