February 23, 2011

Missouri DIFP employee voted State Employee of the Month

Six-year veteran assists consumers with health insurance complaints

Jefferson City, Mo.  - An employee of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) has been named Missouri's State Employee of the Month for January 2011. Suzie Comstock, a Tipton resident and health insurance specialist at the department, was recognized by Gov. Nixon and given a proclamation in a ceremony Wednesday in his office.

Comstock, a six-year veteran of the department's Consumer Affairs Division, handles inquires and complaints from consumers about life and health insurance. She was selected by the State Employee of the Month Committee, which consists of employees from five state agencies.

In addition to complaints, she and her colleagues provide technical assistance to consumers daily, which includes helping them understand their health insurance policies, informing them of their rights under Missouri law, verifying their agents are licensed and many other topics.

The demand for these services from Missouri consumers continues to grow: the number of consumers contacting the department on life and health insurance has doubled in the past eight months.

DIFP had previously honored Comstock as its Employee of the Quarter for the fourth quarter of 2010. In his announcement of the award, DIFP Director John M. Huff called Comstock a leader who goes above and beyond for Missouri consumers on a daily basis.

"In today's health insurance world, employees like Suzie are invaluable to our department and Missouri consumers," said Huff. "Health insurance can be complicated and expensive, and consumers have more questions than ever before about their coverage."

 "Our goal is to see that consumers get the benefits they've paid for in their insurance policies," said Comstock. "It's a great honor to me and my co-workers that state leaders have chosen someone in my position for this award."

Some of the department's more memorable cases in the past year include:

  • A consumer whose health insurer denied his claim for emergency surgery after a heart attack he suffered while out of town. The insurer said he was out of network. After a complaint was filed with the department, the insurer overturned the decision, saying it was a true emergency and all claims - $55,000 - were paid as if they were in network.
  • A woman who called because her husband was in critical condition in a hospital in a foreign country. The hospital refused to provide life-saving treatment without proof of health insurance. Comstock and her supervisor were able to contact the husband's employer to get proof of insurance and send it to the overseas hospital within a few hours.
  • A woman whose health coverage from her former employer was about to be cut off after nine months of coverage. Comstock pointed out to the health insurance company that Missouri law required 18 months of coverage, and the company agreed to comply.

The insurance Consumer Affairs Division returned nearly $10 million to consumers who filed complaints in 2010. The division fielded more than 4,200 formal complaints and assisted another 20,000 consumers over the phone.

Consumers with questions or complaints about insurance can file complaints online at insurance.mo.gov or by calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.