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FTC secures $100 million in refunds from predatory health insurance company

The agency says the company misled consumers and charged them junk fees

Anyone who has ever looked for a health insurance provider knows that it’s anything but easy. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says some unprincipled companies may be feasting on that confusion by trying to convince consumers that they have an easy, clear-cut answer.

Officials say they have discovered a trick used by one insurer that involves deliberately misleading consumers into signing up for insurance or health products that don't deliver. To make matters worse, ca...

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    Walmart goes all in on Medicare health plans

    Instead of going head-to-head, it’s cutting deals with major Medicare providers to offer consumers more options

    If you’re a senior citizen and Medicare insurance subscriber, you probably know that open enrollment is nearly upon us. This year, Walmart has decided to enter the Medicare insurance arena.

    During the annual enrollment period (AEP) beginning October 15 and running through December 7, Walmart’s new licensed insurance brokerage -- Insurance Services, LLC -- will help interested parties enroll in insurance plans. While it’s not calling out its competitors, Walmart is posturing itself by saying it’s simplifying what has historically been a “cumbersome, confusing process.” 

    “Health care can be complicated. But we think quality health care should be within reach of everyone, and pricing should be transparent and affordable,” said Lori Flees, SVP and COO, Walmart U.S. Health & Wellness, in the company’s announcement.

    “Our money-saving $4 generic prescription program and, more recently, Walmart Health locations are helping customers save money and live healthier. Similarly, our Healthcare Begins Here program has helped customers navigate the very complex health insurance system for years.”

    Ready for competition

    Walmart has its geographic ducks in a row and is licensed in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., but its move into Medicare insurance won’t be a cakewalk. There are beaucoup insurance brands offering direct-to-consumer Medicare plans already. However, Walmart thinks it has a way to circumnavigate all those issues. 

    At launch, Walmart Insurance Services will provide Medicare plans (Part D, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans) offered by many of the larger insurers: Humana, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Simply Health, Wellcare (Centene), Clover Health and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. 

    And that’s just the starting point. Flees said that more carriers may be added in the future. 

    If you’re a senior citizen and Medicare insurance subscriber, you probably know that open enrollment is nearly upon us. This year, Walmart has decided to e...
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    State Farm and Nationwide join other auto insurers in giving coronavirus relief to customers

    Local communities will also take part in $5 million contributions to help their efforts

    Auto insurance customers have a couple more insurance company jingles to sing out loud. State Farm and Nationwide have joined Allstate, Geico, and American Family in announcing dividends that will go directly back to its customers. 

    State Farm’s Good Neighbor Relief Program

    The total program:  $2 billion

    The amount of credit per customer: On average, State Farm Mutual auto customers can expect to receive a credit of about 25 percent of premium on their coverage. The percentage will vary state-to-state.

    Dates the credit applies toward: The credit applies to coverage from March 20 through May 31 

    When the credit will go out: State Farm says that every single auto insurance customer will receive credits applied against bills, beginning as early as June.

    Could this continue if COVID continues: The company didn’t say if it would extend the program should COVID-19’s rampage continue, but it did say that it would “continue to monitor our loss experience and respond appropriately.”

    Nationwide’s premium refund

    Nationwide also announced that it is offering a one-time premium refund on top of existing discounts that customers may have already earned.

    Here are the program’s particulars:

    Who will receive the refund? Anyone who has a personal auto policy active as of March 31, 2020. PowerSports and motorcycle policies are excluded.

    The amount per policy: A one-time payment of $50 -- equivalent to about 15 percent in Nationwide’s estimation.

    Dates the credit applies toward: Nationwide said the refund is for two months worth of premiums, but it did not specify exact dates. 

    What customers have to do: “You don't need to do anything,” Nationwide wrote in an email to its customers. 

    How it will show up:  It will be returned to customers in the last form of payment they have made, whether electronic or paper. The refund will arrive in the next 30 days and is subject to individual state regulatory approval.

    When will customers see theirs? “Refunds will automatically be credited to your most recent method of payment (for example, automatic withdrawal, credit card, personal check) within the next 30 days, subject to regulatory approval,” Nationwide said. 

    Could this continue if COVID-19 continues: The company didn’t say if it would extend the program should COVID-19’s rampage continue.

    As a side note, Nationwide is also offering extended payment terms for customers who might be experiencing hardship due to the pandemic. 

    Giving back to the communities

    State Farm and Nationwide are both taking a chunk of what they’ve saved in out-of-pocket costs during COVID-19’s impact on traffic.

    State Farm is taking its good neighbor mantra past the customer level by providing $5 million in donations across the country. Nationwide is matching that with a $5 million contribution from its  Nationwide Foundation. The company said those funds will be directed toward local and national charities to support pandemic response efforts.

    Questions?

    As it typically goes with things like this, consumers are going to have questions that State Farm or Nationwide didn’t cover in their announcements. 

    If that’s the case, State Farm and Nationwide both have FAQ pages that might answer any additional questions. State Farm’s can be accessed here, and Nationwide’s can be found here.

    Auto insurance customers have a couple more insurance company jingles to sing out loud. State Farm and Nationwide have joined Allstate, Geico, and American...
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