Last week, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) looked back on the efforts it has made to protect Floridians in 2020.
“In an unprecedented year, thanks to Governor DeSantis’ decisive leadership, the Office of Insurance Regulation was able to act quickly to take proactive steps to protect consumers,” said Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. “I remain resolute in my commitment to consumer protection, and while 2020 has provided challenges, we have risen to meet them. As we move forward, OIR will continue its work to promote a stable and competitive insurance market for Floridians.”
The following items highlight the actions taken by OIR in 2020.
Responding to COVID-19
OIR has taken significant action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, OIR has issued seven Informational Memoranda providing guidance to insurers and other regulated entities regarding important consumer protections.
Cost-Sharing for Testing and Treatment
On March 6, 2020, in response to the Executive Order 20-51 issued by Governor Ron DeSantis, OIR issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-01M to all health insurers authorized to do business in Florida to consider all practicable options to reduce the barriers of cost-sharing for testing and treatment of COVID-19.
Insurers were directed to use every channel available to them to communicate with their policyholders and share official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Florida Department of Health (DOH) information, devote resources to inform consumers of available benefits, and work with public health officials to do everything possible to prepare and respond.
Shortly following this Memorandum, multiple insurers notified OIR of their intention to waive cost-sharing for testing, and in a recent survey of the industry every major medical insurer regulated by OIR has indicated they continue to waive cost-sharing for testing and more than half are waiving cost-sharing for treatment.
Early Prescription Refills
On March 10, 2020, following Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-52, OIR issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-02M to all health insurers, health maintenance organizations and other health entities authorized to do business in Florida as a reminder of Florida law regarding early prescription refills.
The opportunity for early prescription refills remains available for Floridians until the Order is rescinded or expires.
Continuity of Operations for Insurers
On March 16, 2020, understanding recommended COVID-19 prevention and treatment measures may disrupt normal business operations, OIR issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-03M. The memorandum directed all insurers and entities regulated by OIR to review and update their Continuity of Operation Plans immediately to provide a framework for the continuation of key insurance functions, and also account for CDC and DOH guidance surrounding COVID-19, including executive orders issued at the state and national level. Additionally, insurers were instructed to contact OIR immediately if there was any disruption in operations.
OIR remained in constant communication with insurers and has not received notice that insurance company operations were interrupted for consumers.
Leniency on Premium Payments
On March 25, 2020, OIR issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-04M to all insurers and regulated entities encouraging them to be flexible with consumers’ premium payments in order to avoid a lapse in coverage. Regulated entities were encouraged to only consider cancellation of policies if all possible efforts to work with consumers to continue coverage have been exhausted.
OIR has worked with numerous insurers to swiftly implement over 110 COVID-19 relief filings that provide for premium relief, moratoriums on cancellations, and other relief. Of these filings, approximately half were related to personal and commercial auto policies. OIR continues to monitor these commitments and work with insurers to implement premium credits to provide immediate benefit to Floridians.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
On April 6, 2020, in response to Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-51 and Executive Order 20-52, and Chief Financial Officer Patronis’ Directive 2020-05 providing workers compensation coverage for public servants on the front line of COVID-19, OIR issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-05M to all insurers and entities authorized to write workers’ compensation insurance.
First responders, health care workers, and others who contract COVID-19 due to work-related exposure would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under Florida law. OIR expects workers’ compensation insurers to continue to comply with all provisions of Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law and will take appropriate action in the event of non-compliance.
On April 6, 2020, OIR issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-06M to provide guidance to all health insurers and other health entities regulated by OIR on the use of technology to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and encouraging insurers to broaden access to care for telehealth services.
Telemedicine has helped ensure individuals can get the care they need from the safety of their own home. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, and through guidance provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Health, the Agency for Health Care Administration, and numerous stakeholders, Floridians have experienced wider access to telehealth services.
Since the issuance of the Memorandum, health providers have greatly expanded telemedicine access and contracts with vendors to provide additional services. Of the major medical insurers OIR regulates, all companies have increased telemedicine access, including access to mental health services and behavioral therapy. OIR continues to monitor the industry and these commitments.
Commissioner Altmaier was selected to participate in the Industry Working Group on Agriculture, Finance, Government, Healthcare, Management and Professional Services for the Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force Industry Working Group.
On a national level, Commissioner Altmaier continues to collaborate with other state insurance commissioners and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to share information and resources.
OIR published a policyholder resource guide that connected consumers with assistance being offered by insurers in response to COVID-19.
Preparing and Responding to an Active Hurricane Season
OIR actively prepared for the 2020 Hurricane Season with COVID-19 in mind. Considering social distancing and other important safety measures in response to COVID-19, OIR encouraged insurers to identify new ways of doing business, such as deploying virtual claims handling, to protect consumers and increase efficiencies.
Virtual Claims Handling
On June 25, 2020, OIR issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-07M providing guidance to insurers on preparing and responding during the 2020 Hurricane Season. Insurers were directed to review all aspects of their claims reporting, inspection, adjustment, and payment processes to determine what in-person processes could be provided virtually.
OIR encouraged insurers to leverage technology to protect and best serve policyholders. Insurers were also advised to review and consider COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as FEMA guidance on remote claims handling.
In preparation for catastrophe claim data calls, OIR updated its Catastrophe Reporting Form for 2020 and hosted a technical assistance webinar for all companies required to file. OIR uses data collected from insurers to provide the general public with information concerning the impact of a catastrophic event and in relation to regulatory activities.
This year, OIR has issued six catastrophe claims data calls, collecting data for Hurricanes Sally, Michael and Irma. Insurers are directed to do everything possible to respond to the needs of Floridians affected by a catastrophe, restore a sense of normalcy, and facilitate restoration and recovery in impacted communities.
Workers’ Compensation Rate Decrease
Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier issued a Final Order granting approval to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) for a statewide overall decrease of 6.6 percent for Florida workers’ compensation insurance rates. This applies to both new and renewal workers’ compensation insurance policies effective in Florida as of January 1, 2021.
This further reduction in workers’ compensation insurance rates for 2021 reflects a continued commitment to safety and innovation in Florida workplaces. The decline in workers compensation claims, which is reflected in lower rates, is a positive indicator for Florida businesses.
Private Flood Insurance Market Expands
The private flood insurance market in Florida continues to grow. As of June 1, 2020, there were a total of 89,505 primary personal residential private flood insurance policies in force. This is up from 82,968 policies as of September 30, 2019, for admitted insurers, and a 330 percent increase since 2017.
OIR continues to make the development of the private flood market a priority in the state and encourages companies to participate as flood writers. OIR’s flood resources webpage provides consumers with information on purchasing flood insurance and provides insurers seeking to write coverage in Florida with information and resources. There are currently 35 insurers writing primary personal residential flood coverage in Florida.
Flood damages are not typically covered in a homeowners’ insurance policy and flood coverage must be purchased separately or as an endorsement to their current policy. Consumers are encouraged to reach out to their insurance agent to consider flood insurance coverage. Even a small amount of water in a home can be very costly.
Promoting Stability in Florida’s Property Insurance Market
The Florida insurance market is one of the most complex in the world. Currently, companies are being significantly challenged as the frequency of claims increases and those claims become more expensive. OIR will continue to use every tool at its disposal to promote a stable and competitive insurance market, and work closely with the Florida Cabinet, legislators and other stakeholders to further protect and educate consumers.
OIR is requesting additional company financials to look at the full scope of the fiscal health of an insurer, including its access to additional financial backing, to adequately approve rates and make recommendations. Through targeted financial examinations, OIR is supplementing its ongoing activities to evaluate MGAs and other affiliates within the insurance holding company system. OIR is also identifying ways in which insurers can be more efficient in their claims handling and is conducting multiple market conduct exams related to claims handling practices.
OIR encourages consumers to talk with their agent to find coverage that best suits their needs. Consumers can also view sample rates by county available through the CHOICES rate comparison tool. As always, OIR’s goal is to ensure that insurance products are affordable, reliable, and available for Floridians.