September 24, 2009

Missouri Department of Insurance to returning military members: make sure you are still covered

Jefferson City, Mo - As thousands of military personnel prepare to return from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming months, they should review their insurance coverage to make sure they and their families stay protected no matter where they are, according to the Missouri Department of Insurance.

"With frequent moves and changes in deployment status, members of the armed services face a unique situation when it comes to insurance," said John M Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration. "By staying on top of their insurance options, military personnel can make sure that they have the right coverage for any situation regardless of where they may be stationed."

The department offers the following tips for those in the armed services.

 Auto insurance

  • Most insurance companies will not allow you to suspend auto insurance coverage while you're away. And even though you won't be driving your car, you still want to be covered in case it is stolen or damaged. If your car is in a garage that is destroyed, homeowners insurance does not cover the damage to the car.

Homeowners insurance

  • Many homeowners policies have a "vacancy clause" that may be activated if you are deployed for an extended period of time and your family has moved to a new location. Such policies might not pay claims if your house is vacant for 60 days or more. Consult your insurance company to make sure your home is protected while you're away.
  • While talking with your company or agent, make sure your policy limits are sufficient to cover your home and your personal property at today's costs.

 Health insurance

  • Many reservists and National Guard members have health coverage for themselves and their families through an employer-sponsored health plan. Some may wish to continue that coverage, particularly for their dependents, during their active duty period. Talk with your benefits administrator to learn what will happen with your health coverage when called to active duty.
  • If you are on active duty for more than 30 days, you and your dependents will most likely be covered by military health care.
  • Your right to continue health coverage under an employment-based group health plan is covered by federal laws. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides health coverage continuation rights to employees and their families after an event such as reduction in employment hours. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is intended to minimize the disadvantages that occur when a person needs to be absent from civilian employment to serve in the uniformed services. Both COBRA and USERRA generally allow individuals called for active duty to continue coverage for themselves and their dependents under an employment-based group health plan for up to 24 months.

 Life insurance

  • Anyone who sells life insurance at military installations is required to obtain permission from the Department of Defense to be an authorized solicitor. When dealing with an agent, ask your superiors to show you how to verify that you are dealing with an authorized insurance agent.
  • Many private insurance carriers do not offer coverage for Acts of War. Military personnel are provided some death benefits, but may purchase a limited amount of additional coverage through the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI), a low-cost group life insurance program that includes benefits for death resulting from Acts of War. Be sure you understand the benefits paid by the policy if you were to die in a war zone or were to be killed through an act of war. Before you purchase an individual military-focused policy, check with your agent to make sure it does not duplicate coverage for your family that could be obtained elsewhere.

Consumers with questions or complaints can contact the Department of Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-726-7390 or visit insurance.mo.gov.

About the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) is responsible for consumer protection through the regulation of financial industries and professionals. The department's seven divisions work to enforce state regulations both efficiently and effectively while encouraging a competitive environment for industries and professions to ensure consumers have access to quality products.

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