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Volume 4, Issue 11

Consumer Advocacy Outreach Event & Medicare Information
Connections for Independent Living Expo (Booth)
Date: November 7, 2013
Time: 9 am - 1:30 pm
Location: Robicheaux Recreation Center
1919 Eraste Landry Road, Lafayette, LA

Consumer Advocacy Outreach Event & Medicare Information
BeeFit 2013 9th Annual Community Health Fair
Date: November 8, 2013
Time: 8 am - 11:30 am
Location:
Bogalusa Y.W.C.A.
411 Avenue B,
Bogalusa, LA

Consumer Advocacy Outreach Event & Medicare Information
4th Annual Your Community Health is Wealth Fair
Date: November 9, 2013
Time: 12 pm - 5 pm
Location: BREC Howell Community Park
5509 Winbourne Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70805

Consumer Advocacy Outreach Event & Medicare Information
Organizing For Action
Date: Nov. 13, 2013
Time: 2 pm
Location: EBR Parish Library - Jones Creek
6222 Jones Creek Road Baton Rouge, LA

Consumer Advocacy Outreach Event
PIA of Lafayette Luncheon
Date: Nov. 19, 2013
Time: 11:45 am - 1 pm
Location: Petroleum Club of Lafayette
111 Heymann Blvd. Lafayette, LA 70503

Consumer Advocacy Outreach Event & Medicare Information
Central Community Alliance
Date: Nov. 19, 2013
Time: 7 pm
Location: DEMCO
16262 Wax Road Greenwell Springs, LA

Consumer Advocacy Outreach Event & Medicare Information
Opelousas Elderly Awareness Seminar (Booth)
Date: Nov. 20, 2013
Time: 8 am - 1 pm
Location: The New Opelousas Civic Center
1638 Creswell Lane Opelousas, LA 70570

To find out if Consumer Advocacy will be in your area or to request a speaker for your organization or group, call (225) 219-0619 or send an email to
consumeradvocacy@ldi.la.gov

If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter please send an email to the following address with "REMOVE FROM CONSUMER ADVOCACY MAILING LIST" in the subject line.
public@ldi.la.gov

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Rate Reform Update

Efforts continue at both the state level and in Washington, D.C. to find relief for homeowners and businesses being impacted by flood insurance rate increases. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is seeing significant changes as a result of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. The Act was intended to reduce the more than $25 billion debt of the federal flood program by bringing rates more in line with the actual flood risk and losses in flood-prone areas. It is resulting in extreme flood insurance rate increases in many areas and pricing entire communities out of their homes. These NFIP rate increases have already begun affecting home sales and are impacting numerous states. While the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) does not regulate the NFIP, approve its rates or changes, or have any authority over the program, the Department does monitor how these changes impact policyholders in Louisiana.

The Biggert-Waters NFIP rate increases have been of particular interest here in Louisiana, where of the approximately 480,000 homes and businesses insured through the NFIP, some 18,000 are immediately impacted by Biggert-Waters rate increases and another 50,000 homes will be impacted when they are sold.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has indicated he is working towards pursuing legal action. In September, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney filed an affordability-based lawsuit in the federal district court for the Southern District of Mississippi to try to stop the NFIP rate increases imposed by Biggert-Waters. In October, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott indicated that his state would support Mississippi’s suit. Commissioner Donelon has said Louisiana may either join Mississippi’s suit or file a separate action in our state.

Commissioner Donelon has also met with federal and state officials over the last several months to discuss the problems with the Biggert-Waters Act. He was part of a delegation of state, local and congressional officials who met with NFIP Administrator David Miller in New Orleans in August. He also participated in a U.S. Government Accountability Office roundtable discussion which was required by Biggert-Waters in an effort to study the privatization of flood insurance. Insurance professionals representing many sectors of the industry participated in this panel. These included FEMA officials, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, The Reinsurance Association of America, Center for Economic Justice and representatives from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Two bills were introduced in Congress on October 29 resulting from a bipartisan agreement. H.R. 3370 – Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013 and S. 1610 – Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013. Both bills call for a four-year delay in most rate increases and require FEMA to complete an affordability study which was mandated in Biggert-Waters but not undertaken. The study is estimated to take up to two years. Congress must propose subsequent regulations that address affordability issues within 18 months after the completion of the study. Once new regulations are proposed, Congress has six months in which to review the proposed regulations. The entire process pushes back the effective date on NFIP rate increases on most properties for four years. Properties included in the proposed delay include primary, non-repetitive loss residences that are currently grandfathered; all properties sold after July 6, 2012; and all properties that purchased a new policy after July 6, 2012. Additional allowances, requirements and protections are also provided in this bipartisan deal, such as the reimbursement of policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination.

The desired result is that a more acceptable solution will be derived not only for Louisiana’s working coastal property owners, but also for many others who are impacted across the nation.

Smoke Alarm Check-Up

According to data from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 2,000 residential fires occur annually on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., resulting in an estimated average of five deaths, 25 injuries, and $21 million in property loss each year. Cooking is the leading cause of all fires that occur on Thanksgiving Day. Twenty percent of these fires occur in homes where smoke alarms are not present making now a good time to conduct a smoke alarm test or purchase a smoke alarm if you don’t already own one.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) suggests checking with your insurance company to see if they offer premium discounts for the use of smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and indoor sprinkler systems. 

Below are a few tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to help with the installation and maintenance of your smoke alarm:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, making sure that there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area.
  • Hard-wired smoke alarms operate on your household electrical current and can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location.
  • Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery backups in case of a power outage, and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • If you or someone in your home is deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights, vibration and/or sound.
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed four to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  • Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
  • Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • Replace all smoke alarms after 10 years of use.
What's the Worst That Could Happen?

The day before Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the heaviest travel days of the year. With so many people traveling to visit family and friends for the holidays, events that could hinder your travel plans such as increased traffic around the airport, wrecks, cancellations and overbooking are to be expected.

When making travel plans, events such as these don't usually cross our mind. Instead, we think to ourselves “what’s the worst that could happen” or, “that could never happen to me.” Other instances that are not caused by the airline may also come up, causing you to place your trip on hold. Personal reasons such as death of a family member, medical emergencies, financial problems or jury duty are a few examples.

Travel insurance can help protect you against the loss of non-refundable travel costs, such as airfare, hotel and tour expenses when instances such as these arise. Travel insurance typically costs between four and eight percent of the total trip cost and may be an option to consider.

But before you buy travel insurance, make sure you review the policies you have now. If you have life, health or homeowners insurance, you may not need to buy certain types of travel insurance. Read your policy and speak with your insurance company or agent to learn what personal property and medical coverage you have while you're traveling. Also, ask what insurance benefits you may have if you use a credit card to pay for the trip.

Major Types of Travel Insurance

Trip Cancellation/Delay/Interruption Insurance

  • Trip Cancellation – Reimburses you for pre-paid travel expenses if you aren’t able to take your trip because you or a family member becomes ill or dies.
  • Travel Delay – Reimburses you for pre-paid expenses if you aren’t able to take your trip because of a travel delay, such as a flight delay or cancellation.
  • Trip Interruption – Reimburses you for pre-paid expenses if your trip is cut short because you, or a family member, become ill or die, or because of any other misfortune listed in the policy. Covered reasons might include bad weather, airline strikes, terrorism, bankruptcy, jury duty, or fire or flood damage to your home.

Medical/Accidental Death Insurance

  • Medical/Health – Reimburses you for medical and emergency dental expenses that you have because of an illness or injury while you’re traveling.
  • Medical Evacuation – Provides emergency transportation to take you either to a hospital in the geographic region where you are or for transportation back to a hospital near your home.
  • Accidental Death – This coverage is usually split into three parts:
    1. Air Flight Accident – Covers death or dismemberment during flight only.
    2. Common Carrier – Covers death or dismemberment while traveling on public transportation such as a plane, ferry, train, bus or taxi.
    3. Accidental Death – Covers death or dismemberment at any time during a trip.

Baggage/Rental Car Damage Insurance

  • Baggage Loss – Reimburses you for lost, stolen or damaged personal items. This usually doesn’t cover personal items that may be lost or damaged by an airline. If you buy baggage insurance be sure to review the policy for the list of property that wouldn’t be covered. Some of your property may exceed the limits allowed.
  • Rental Car Damage – Reimburses you for damage or loss to a rental vehicle. If you have this coverage, you may decline the “collision damage waiver” rental car companies offer. This coverage doesn’t provide liability protection.

No policy can guarantee your safety when you’re traveling, but knowing you’re covered for medical emergencies or the loss of personal property may help you relax and enjoy your vacation.

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Office of Consumer AdvocacyP.O. Box 94214Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9214
(225) 219-0619 or (800)259-5300www.ldi.la.govconsumeradvocacy@ldi.la.gov