Careful Consideration of Insurance Plans Urged During Special Enrollment Period

Consumers should be wary of non-marketplace plans that offer limited benefits

Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro is joining commissioners across the country in cautioning residents who may be considering purchasing an insurance plan that does not adequately meet their needs or comply with Affordable Care Act (ACA) benefit requirements. The Special Enrollment Period, which started February 15, is a great time to review and enroll in insurance plans offered on the Marketplace. However, non-compliant off-marketplace plans may be heavily advertised during this period, and may appear attractive despite often being more expensive and far less comprehensive.

One health insurance alternative that is being marketed quite a lot is short-term limited benefit health insurance. This not a recommended form of coverage, and these plans do not provide coverage for pre-existing medical conditions – anything that a person has been diagnosed with or sought treatment for within the past five or more years. Limited benefit plans only cover a set number of doctor visits for a limited dollar amount and may have very high deductibles and copay requirements. These plans do not qualify for or replace a major medical, ACA-approved health insurance policy, and policies are only effective for three months and are not renewable.

Other products contain similar flaws that could put the consumer at risk of significant medical bills, including lack of coverage critical needs. Coverage for prescriptions, pre-existing conditions, surgery and outpatient procedures, hospital and emergency visits, maternity and pediatric care, and mental and behavioral healthcare could all be excluded from these plans. Non-insurance products, such as health care sharing ministries, are not regulated, and as such are not required to cover a person’s needed care. Trade association plans and other limited plans can offer low-quality coverage that does not meet ACA standards and may not meet a consumer’s needs. None of these plans offer the financial subsidies and tax credits of ACA plans, which about 86 percent of Delaware enrollees are eligible for.

Delaware consumers can ask themselves questions to better recognize problematic plans:

  • Is the policy underwritten by a reputable insurer?
  • Does this policy cover pre-existing medical conditions?
  • Are plan details, such as coverage for maternity care, available in writing?
  • Is the plan found on an official Marketplace website, like HealthCare.gov or ChooseHealthDE.com?
  • Can a person enroll without any auxiliary payment, such as an enrollment fee, subscription, or membership fee?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, the plan may not be legitimate, and the consumer should reconsider the policy. Even if these red flags are not found, residents should scrutinize plan content, and, if working with an agent or broker, verify their license with the department.

While the Delaware Department of Insurance has not seen significant increases in fraudulent contact or limited benefit plan sales, the pandemic has emboldened bad actors who aim to capitalize upon unusual circumstances, including the Special Enrollment Period.

The Special Enrollment Period was authorized by President Biden and will allow Marketplace enrollment through May 15 on HealthCare.gov. Individuals who are uninsured, regardless of the reason for their lack of insurance, can enroll during this period. Existing Marketplace participants have the option to move to another plan. Local coverage navigators are available to direct consumers to appropriate plans, visit the Choose Health DE website to get connected to a local navigator, or call (800) 318-2596.

More information about the Special Enrollment Period


Consumer Alert: Liberty Mutual Policyholders Experienced Difficulty Filing Claims, Receiving Response

Company corrections ordered and completed

Commissioner Trinidad Navarro has released a consumer alert for Liberty Mutual policyholders. In early December, the Delaware Department of Insurance became aware of unacceptable difficulties in contacting the company and filing claims by phone. The department ordered these issues corrected when discovered, and recently deemed the problems resolved.

Policyholders reported long wait times and dropped calls when contacting Liberty Mutual by phone, as well as an inability to connect with a live representative. The company’s system was also pushing consumers online to file a claim.

“The digital divide is still present in our state, and consumers must have access to claim filing processes by phone. A person’s access to the internet or technology should not define the level of difficulty they encounter in interacting with their insurer, or amount of time it takes to file a claim,” said Commissioner Navarro.

Liberty Mutual actively worked with the department to investigate the issues when they were uncovered and has now resolved the problems.

If you are a Liberty Mutual policyholder and you continue to encounter this issue, or if you are experiencing an insurance problem with another company, contact the Delaware Department of Insurance’s Consumer Services Division by emailing consumer@delaware.gov or calling (302) 674-7300.


Department of Insurance Announces 2020 Year-End Data

Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro highlights successes, resilience

The Delaware Department of Insurance published today a series of statistics outlining performance and productivity during 2020. These metrics show successes notwithstanding the pandemic and operational changes such as working remotely. These data have been shared visually in the Department of Insurance 2020 Year in Review infographic.

“Despite facing challenges including COVID-19 and natural disasters, our team showed resolve and resilience in serving residents over the past year. From conducting our first ever Mental Health Parity examinations, to returning $21.5 million in health premiums to residents and small businesses, to responding to thousands of consumer inquiries and complaints, the challenges of 2020 did not slow us down,” said Commissioner Navarro. “I couldn’t be prouder to lead a department that makes a difference every day.”

As COVID-19 arrived in Delaware, the department acted swiftly to ensure cost did not hinder residents seeking testing or care and prepared for the eventual vaccine. Over several months, the department kept in frequent contact with both insurers and healthcare providers, supporting the Governor and General Assembly in efforts to increase access to telemedicine and working with the Governor’s office on a temporary moratorium on policy cancellations as the economy adjusted. With the pandemic came increased scam attempts, and as chair of the National Anti-Fraud Task Force, Commissioner Navarro helped identify national trends in these efforts, while also serving on the Coronavirus Anti-Fraud Coalition locally. Throughout the year, the department’s fraud unit took on 545 cases, and joined the Healthcare Fraud Prevention Partnership.

Voices for change sang loud throughout 2020, and the department joined them, participating in the NAIC Special Session on Race and Diversity in the Insurance Sector, and the Special Executive Committee on Race and Insurance. In this group, regulators from across the nation are examining diversity and inclusion within the industry, engaging with stakeholders on these issues and how they impact access to the industry and insurance products, and analyzing the sector to find and correct processes that would disadvantage people of color either directly or by proxy.

In August, Delaware experienced multiple catastrophic storms. Tornadoes ravaged communities and homes, and the department arrived in those neighborhoods shortly after to talk to residents and assure them that assistance would be provided. 7,125 total claims were filed as a result of the estimated $10 million in damages caused by these events.

Throughout the year, the department’s Consumer Services Division managed 3,630 complaints, recovering $941,104 for residents. When the department could not solve claim complaints through contact with insurers, the arbitration team helped residents earn fairer settlements without having to go to court. 302 settlements put a total of $702,000 in the pockets of policyholders.

The Delaware Medicare Assistance Bureau (DMAB), which provides Medicare beneficiaries counseling and assistance with plan selection, enrollment, and any Medicare issues, quickly implemented virtual meeting options and held 24 total outreach education events. DMAB provided 5,118 one-on-one counseling sessions to residents, an increase over 2019 despite the lack of in-person events and meetings. The work of this team in assisting with the selection of plans saved beneficiaries $286,956 in premium costs.

While DMAB worked with Medicare beneficiaries, the department worked to decrease the cost of care for all residents while increasing accessibility, including through long-term efforts like regulating Pharmacy Benefit Managers and standing up the Office of Value-Based Care. Partly as a result of successes in creating affordability, $21.5 million was returned to health insurance marketplace policyholders and participating small businesses, as the insurer’s Medical Loss Ratio calculation showed they were spending less on health claims. For the second straight year, the department approved a decrease to Health Insurance Marketplace rates, and ultimately saw a 5% increase in 2021 plan enrollment.

In 2020, the department completed the state’s first Mental Health Parity exams. Thousands of violations were uncovered, resulting in $597,000 in fines as insurers worked to correct issues and create a less discriminatory environment in the future. In total, the Market Conduct Division completed 12 exams and one multi-state exam. Insurers were fined a total of $1.1 million, the most in recent years.

Commissioner Navarro’s approval of a rate decrease in Workers’ Compensation saved Delaware employers $4 million throughout the year. This fall, he confirmed the fourth consecutive decrease in rates, which will be an 11.56% decrease in 2021 loss costs and an 8.8% decrease in the residual market. Increasing safety in the workplace decreases accidents and helps these costs stay low, and the Workplace Safety Program engaged 1,083 participating companies, earning a total safety credit of $7 million on their combined total premium of nearly $66 million.

After being named a finalist for the International Captive Insurance Domicile of the Year, the Captive Division licensed 70 new captives in 2020, including 67 conditional licenses. To date, no other state has released data to indicate they licensed more captives than Delaware last year. The work of the captive division reduced taxpayer burden by contributing $1 million to the City of Wilmington and $2.9 million to the State of Delaware General Fund in Fiscal Year 2020.

The department licensed a total of 220,977 professionals, 37,885 whose licenses were processed by the department over the last year. The rates and forms team reviewed a total of 1,251 rates, forms, and advertisements related to life and health insurance, and 27,258 property and casualty submissions. Through the department’s participation in the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s Life Policy Locator, $1.45 million was found and returned to beneficiaries.

The department’s milestone year began with an in-depth, months-long process of accreditation with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) inside the Bureau of Examination, Rehabilitation and Guaranty (BERG) and the department as a whole. While undergoing the arduous accreditation process, BERG also conducted 55 financial examinations of companies in 2020, with 56 exams currently in progress.

“Each year, people ask me what my priority will be,” said Commissioner Navarro. “But my answer is always the same: the residents of Delaware. We will continue to prioritize consumers each and every day, and we are proud to show such strong results after a challenging year.”

Department of Insurance 2020 Year in Review infographic


Commissioner Navarro Signs Health Policy Letter to President-Elect Biden

Joins ten Insurance Commissioners in providing short- and long-term recommendations to the incoming administration

A group of the nation’s state insurance commissioners joined together in a pledge to work with President-elect Joe Biden by providing health policy recommendations to the incoming administration.

The commissioners share President-elect Biden’s vision that no American should have to go without health care coverage. They believe comprehensive and progressive health care is essential to addressing urgent public health priorities, such as the COVID-19 and opioid crises, addressing racial disparities in the health care system, and ensuring enforcement of mental health parity.

“President-elect Biden knows the healthcare needs of Delaware residents first-hand. So many of the healthcare challenges we face are being felt across the country, and I am proud to join Insurance Commissioners from coast to coast in recommending short and long-term policy solutions,” said Delaware Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro.

A letter sent by the group of commissioners detailed six immediate or critical policy recommendations and six longer-term recommendations for the Biden administration to consider.

Immediate policy recommendations

  • Ensure immediate access to the federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov, through a special enrollment period.
  • Provide immediate relief from Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidy clawbacks created by COVID-19 uncertainty.
  • Provide clarity on COVID-19 testing coverage requirements, especially in regard to tests that are ordered as part of state-based contact tracing efforts.
  • Partner with states in actively focusing on programs and practices that address the needs of historically marginalized communities.
  • Address problematic elements of the recently proposed Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters (NBPP) for Plan Year 2022.
  • Allow flexibility for states aiming to pursue progressive policy aims by empowering them to apply for ACA innovation waivers beyond reinsurance.

Longer-term policy priorities

  • Reverse policies, such as the weakening of non-discrimination protections and the public charge rule, that undermine the ACA and deny health care coverage to many people.
  • Encourage both people and small businesses to enroll in ACA programs, and stop encouraging enrollment in insurance plans that do not provide the ACA’s most critical consumer protections.
  • Improve income counting rules to allow consumers greater flexibility.
  • Extend premium tax credits to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients so that legally present noncitizens have access to health care coverage.
  • Modernize Department of Labor oversight of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to ensure all health insurance coverage is held to similar standards.
  • Consider a national reinsurance program to stabilize health insurance markets and improve affordability of health insurance coverage.

Enacting these policy recommendations will provide immediate relief to many Americans affected by the COVID-19 crisis, provide states with flexibility to strengthen health insurance markets, remove discriminatory barriers to health coverage, protect the coverage needs of Americans with pre-existing conditions, and ensure comprehensive health insurance access is available to all Americans.

The following state insurance commissioners developed these recommendations and are committed to working with the Biden administration on its national health care plan:
Commissioner Ricardo Lara, California
Commissioner Michael Conway, Colorado
Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, Delaware
Commissioner Colin M. Hayashida, Hawaii
Director Anita G. Fox, Michigan
Temporary Commissioner Grace Arnold, Minnesota
Commissioner Andrew R. Stolfi, Oregon
Commissioner Jessica K. Altman, Pennsylvania
Health Insurance Commissioner Marie Ganim, Rhode Island
Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Washington
Commissioner Mark Afable, Wisconsin

View the Commissioners’ Letter


New Report Outlines Plan for Strengthening Primary Care in Delaware

Provisional Affordability Standards aim to strengthen primary care in Delaware through increased investment

Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro announced the release of the Office of Value-Based Health Care Delivery’s initial provisional Affordability Standards as part of a new report, Delaware Health Care Affordability Standards: An Integrated Approach to Improve Access, Quality and Value, which includes plans to more than double primary care spending in the commercial fully-insured market by 2025.

The Affordability Standards announced today also include decreasing price growth for certain healthcare services and expanding the use of payment models that aim to improve healthcare value. The Affordability Standards and targets were informed by data from Delaware health insurers, the Delaware Health Information Network Health Care Claims Database, publicly available sources, and the perspectives shared during more than two dozen stakeholder interviews.

“An effective healthcare environment requires a strong primary care system, but it also requires shared standards that define success and progress. The multi-pronged approach announced today aims to increase primary care investment without increasing the total cost of healthcare or health insurance premiums,” Commissioner Navarro said. “We are grateful to our many partners who shared their data and experience during the process of building these guidelines. Now we ask the public as a whole to share their feedback on this report.”

The department will be accepting public comment on the report until January 25, 2021. Anyone may submit comments via email to DOI-legal@delaware.gov.

The Office of Value-Based Health Care Delivery was created through the passage of Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 116 in 2019. The General Assembly recognized the importance of a strong system of primary care and the need to help bend the healthcare cost growth curve, directing the department to establish the office in order to “reduce health-care costs by increasing the availability of high quality, cost-efficient health insurance products with stable, predictable, and affordable rates,” and charged the office with three tasks:

1. Establish Affordability Standards for health insurance premiums based on recommendations from the Primary Care Reform Collaborative and annually monitor and evaluate these standards;
2. Establish targets for carrier investment in primary care to support a robust system of primary care by January 1, 2025; and
3. Collect data and develop annual reports regarding carrier investments in health care, including commercial reimbursement rates for primary and chronic care services.

The Office is meeting these directives by conducting extensive research on Delaware’s healthcare market, and used that research to inform the development of the interim Affordability Standards, including targets for increased investment in primary care.