The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about the way we live and work. To further complicate things, weather forecasters are predicting an above average hurricane season in the Atlantic. So, while it’s tempting not to think about it – we want to make sure consumers and insurance companies are prepared. Commissioner Vicki Schmidt of the Kansas Department of Insurance and chairperson of the NAIC Property and Casualty Committee talks with Mike Consedine, CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) about how the NAIC and the states are helping consumers prepare while maintaining social distancing throughout the process.
What can consumers do to be more proactive now that we’re living in a COVID-19 world, when the Home Depots or Lowes of the world aren’t as easily accessible to help residents prepare for hurricane season?
- (2:28-33) As insurance commissioner of Kansas, I am always worried about storm season and Kansas, that brings with it flooding, hail damage, tornados...
- (2:51-3:10) Whether it's storm season here on the plains, Or hurricane season on the coast, consumers face unique challenges with COVID-19...so now more than ever it's important to have a plan and be proactive.
What steps are states and FEMA taking to help people practice social distancing during severe weather?
- (5:19 – 6:09) When COVID-19 hit, the focus was all on health insurance and rightfully so, but as the stay-at-home orders increased, unemployment grew and driving decreased, reduced auto premiums was simply a common sense response and I was really pleased to see insurance companies step up for consumers… By and large the carriers for P & C have extended the grace period for non-payment of premium, they've issued credits or refunds for auto premiums and they've moved a lot of their processes online.
Insurance producers are in direct contact every day with Americans helping them make important decision on their financial and personal welfare. We have an absolute obligation to ensure that those producers have both the knowledge and personal integrity to fulfill those responsibilities. The testing facilities across the country closed as a result of the Stay at Home efforts. I understand that you were instrumental in getting testing centers open in your state. Can you tell us a little about why testing is so important and why you are so passionate about solving this issue?
- (7:53-55, 8:26-9:19) Producer licensing provided a lot of challenges for us... Many states took the temporary licensing route, but we didn't do that in Kansas. I feel very strongly that consumer protections built into the process should not be compromised due to this crisis... We took the approach that many private sector companies have had to take, be innovative and solve the problem. We secured insurance licensing exams as part of the essentials channel... We also developed a how-to finger printing video to help agencies and companies become more efficient.
There's been a rise in fraudulent activity during the outbreak of COVID-19 – for example individuals posing as a licensed agent or company and offering to help process a claim – only to scam a consumer out of their money. What are some indicators people should watch for to protect themselves from scams?
- (11:16-58) Folks are hurting financially... My dad always said if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is… If you get a phone call from a number that you don't know, let it go to voicemail.
Commissioner Schmidt you were a local pharmacist, a state legislator and now the Sunshine State's chief insurance regulator. What spurred your decision to run for insurance commissioner in Kansas?
- (13:28-14:15) My public service began when former Governor Bill Graves appointed me to the State Board of Pharmacy… I got prepared, I was all nervous about it…and let's just say one of the legislators fell asleep while I was testifying… I served 14 years in the KS Senate, I served 12 years on the insurance committee… I'm very honored that the citizens of the Kansas have allowed me to have this position.
When you're not handling the work of Kansans, regulating insurance for the state – what are you most passionate about?
- (16:08-57) Dinko is actually our grand-dog; it's actually my son's dog, we got the dog while they were moving. Now this COVID crisis hits and we still have the dog… we've enjoyed spoiling him and taking him on walks… Our biggest adventure during quarantine has been my husband, Mike, coloring my hair... He's been a really good sport about it.