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Insurance chief’s claim: health care law will inflate rates

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has filed an “emergency request” with the Obama administration to delay approval of rates for individual health plans that he said will cost some consumers more than double what they are paying today.

“In complete contradiction to every promise made by the President with regard to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, insurance companies in Georgia have filed rate plans increasing health insurance rates up to 198 percent for some individuals,” Hudgens said in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. He sent the letter Monday and released it publicly on Tuesday.

The state must approve or deny dozens of health plans to be sold on a new federally run insurance website, called an exchange, that is critical to the Affordable Care Act’s goal of insuring millions of Americans. The deadline to approve plans is Wednesday, but Hudgens is asking for a 30-day extension.

“I want to protect the consumers of the state of Georgia but when these things are going up, these prices are going up, I don’t want people to blame me,” Hudgens told the AJC. “I’m going to be up for re-election come 2014.”

Bill Custer, a Georgia State University health care expert who has reviewed the filings, said a 198 percent increase is nowhere near typical.

“The majority of Georgians with individual coverage will not see rate increases anywhere near that amount and many will see rate decreases,” Custer said.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department is reviewing Georgia’s request, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“We are working closely with states to help them meet all deadlines and ensure that the marketplaces are ready for consumers to begin shopping on Oct. 1.,” she said in a statement.

Outside actuaries have reviewed the plans and rates filed in Georgia by the seven companies seeking to sell insurance on the exchange and found six of them to be appropriately priced. Hudgens would not identify the seventh company. Even so, Hudgens said that before he approves the rates he wants Sebelius to assess whether the prices are appropriate.

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Olson Takes Over As President of Georgia Independent Agents

Betsy K. Olson was installed as president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia Inc. (IIAG) during the association’s recent annual convention in Amelia Island, Florida.

Olson is vice president of marketing for Tanner, Ballew, and Maloof in Atlanta. She has worked in the insurance industry for 40 years. Prior to Tanner, Ballew, and Maloof, she held marketing executive positions with Atlanta agencies McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Pritchard & Jerden and with the company SwissRe.

A life-long learner with a passion for professional development, Olson has earned designations from the Insurance Institute of America and the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors. She earned the Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation in 1990; the Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) in 1997; the Associate in Reinsurance (ARe) in 1999; the Certified Professional Insurance Women (CPIW) in 1993; the Accredited Adviser in Insurance (AAI) in 2008; the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) in 1994; and the Certified Risk Manager (CRM) in 2009.

Olson was first elected to IIAG’s executive committee in 2010. Prior to election on the executive committee, Olson held an eight-year term as IIAG education committee Chair and serves on the board of directors for the Ted Carleton Education Foundation.

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Georgia Officials Want Public to Celebrate Safely this Independence Day

The 4th of July is right around the corner and that means you'll hear a lot of fireworks.

Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens teamed up with

the Macon-Bibb Fire Department to show you how to properly use and get rid of


Hudgens is making stops in major cities across Georgia this week to remind

everyone to stay safe and only use legal fireworks.

Hudgens says the best way to know if fireworks are legal is to buy them in Georgia.

He also warns, going across state lines to buy illegal ones can be dangerous.

Misuses of sparkers and firecrackers cause serious injuries.

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State Insurance commissioner Ralph Hudgens is urging Georgians to prepare for severe weather by reviewing their property insurance policies.

Hudgens recommended Thursday that property owners make copies of their insurance policies and take an inventory of personal belongings. Hudgens says consumers should keep important documents in a safe and easily accessible place if they're asked to evacuate.

Hudgens says typical homeowners' insurance policies do not cover damage from floodwater, and a separate policy must be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program.

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Georgia Estimates Insured Storm Loss at $50M

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said violent weather that struck Georgia on June 13 caused an estimated $50 million in insured losses.

The storm caused two EF1 tornadoes in Cherokee and Cobb counties. More than 160,000 Georgia Power customers were left without service and several people were also injured by falling trees.

“That figure may rise when all claims are settled,” Hudgens said. “My staff will continue to make every effort to work with consumers and help them through this difficult time.”

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Georgia leads way in insurance claims for damage caused by lightning strikes

The chances of your home or business getting struck by lightning are statistically pretty low. But some new numbers also show when lightning does strike in Georgia, it causes a lot of damage.

"The state that led the way in lightning damage was Georgia, with $21 million in claims paid out. That came from 3,800 individual lightning claims," said Justin Tomczak, with State Farm Insurance.

State Farm said it paid out $200 million in claims nationwide in 2012.

"It is a big problem and an expensive problem. Obviously when a homeowner gets hit by lightning, it's an expensive process to rebuild that house and fix that damage. It is not a fun process," said Tomczak.

But there are ways to protect your property. Experts said the easiest thing to do is buy surge protectors for your computer, TV, stereo and other electronics, or you can install a home or business lightning protection system.

"This structurally protects your home from a direct hit," said Reagan Cortes, with Labeled Lightning Protection, Inc.

Cortes said the lightning rod system doesn't attract lightning, but will make lightning bolts harmless if they hit your home or business.

"Lightning, if it were to hit your home, it would hit our lightning rod, the lightning charge would run down our cable down to the ground, where it would dissipate," said Cortes.

Cortes said lightning prevention systems start at $1,300 and go up depending on the size of the structure. She suggested checking with insurance companies to see if they will provide a discount for installing one of the systems.

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