February 24, 2005                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

Morrison encourages Montana Residents to "Get Smart" about insurance policies Information is the key to avoiding insurance problems and scams


      Each month, the bills arrive - home mortgage, car payment, credit cards. Usually bills covering the expenses from the month before.
      
      But what about your insurance bills?
      
      Often overlooked, insurance is one of the most costly bills we pay each month. That's why State Auditor John Morrison encourages Montana consumers to keep a watchful eye on your insurance bills. "With all the fake insurance policies being sold today, it makes sense to stay alert when it comes to your monthly insurance statement," Morrison said Thursday.
      
      The General Accounting Office reported 144 fake health insurers sold bogus policies that affected more than 200,000 policyholders between 2000 and 2002, resulting in $252 million in unpaid claims. In the same time period, the number of fake insurers almost doubled.
      
      "With the growing numbers of bogus policies, it's more important than ever for consumers to be informed about insurance," said Morrison. "That's why I am encouraging consumers check the State Auditor's Office toll-free hotline at 1-800-332-6148 to confirm whether a policy is legitimate."
      
      Consumers are urged to call the State Auditor's Office toll-free at 1-800-332-6148 to confirm whether a policy is legitimate. The Montana State Auditor's Office serves as an objective source of information that can help consumers understand the complexities of insurance coverage. The Montana State Auditor's Office offers five free consumer insurance guides on the following topics: auto Insurance, health insurance, homeowner insurance, Medicare supplement insurance and long-term care insurance.
      
      "Information is the key to avoiding insurance problems and scams," Morrison continued. "My office is here to give consumers free and objective information in order to make sure their families are properly and legitimately covered."
      
      "Get Smart" tips for consumers
      
      To get smart about insurance, John Morrison is encouraging consumers to take several steps to become more educated about their insurance coverage.
      
      "We strongly encourage consumers to shop around before they commit to a policy," Morrison says. "Plenty of information is available for Montanans to make smart choices about their insurance. We also can't stress enough the need to confirm the legitimacy of a policy before moving forward - in today's age of fake insurance policies, this has become a crucial step in getting educated about insurance."
      
      Other tips from Morrison include:
      

  • Fight fake insurance by remembering to Stop, Call, and Confirm before signing up for any new policies.
      
  • Call the Montana state insurance department at 1-800-332-6148 to request a free consumer guide prior to purchasing health, auto, home, long-term care or Medicare supplement coverage.
      
  • Schedule a routine "check-up" with your insurance providers at least once a year. Inquire about the cost benefit of opting for higher deductibles.
      
  • Ask specifically about discounts for good driving records, good health, good grades, special education, or training.
      
  • Shop around for identical products and services. Not every company charges the same rate.
      
  • Remember an insurance policy is a legal document. Read it carefully.
      
      "We highly recommend all consumers contact the Montana State Auditor's Office," Morrison added. "We are not only your best source for all insurance-related questions, but we also have the best understanding of the insurance issues specific to Montana."
      
      "Get Smart" is part of a national campaign launched each year around this time. The campaign is organized and promoted by a committee Morrison chairs nationally under the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "At my urging," Morrison said, "the campaign this year focuses on fake health insurance which is a problem both locally and nationally."