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Bell Supports Strong Rules for PPACA Navigators

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; Sept. 24, 2013:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), September 24, 2013 – Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) said today that Navigators operating in Tennessee under the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) should be registered with the state as proposed in rules recently filed by the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Bell also said he favors providing strong consumer protections, including those to safeguard privacy of medical and financial information.

Navigators, or Application Counselors, are individuals or entities who facilitate enrollment in insurance exchanges pursuant to the PPACA, which is also known as Obamacare. The General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year directing the Department of Commerce and Insurance promulgate rules to oversee them. Those rules, which are already in effect on an emergency basis, are scheduled to be heard by the General Assembly’s Joint Government Operations Rule Review Committee on November 13.

“I want to see strong consumer protections in place as these Navigators will have access to private consumer health and financial information,” said Chairman Bell. “Although this is a federal mandate that the state opted not to participate in, we are still responsible to ensure Tennessee consumers are protected. We continue to see monumental implementation problems with this massive program which was rushed through Congress without due diligence. Our Committee will look very carefully at the emergency rules that have been filed by our state’s Commerce and Insurance Department to ensure that they provide adequate protections.”

Among other provisions, Tennessee’s proposed rules call for applicants to be at least 18 years old, be of good character and integrity, maintain a principal place of business in the state, pass a background check, and complete the federal training program for Navigators or Certified Application Counselors. The proposed rules also provide parameters in which the Navigators can operate and prescribe consequences for violation of the registration including fraudulent, coercive or dishonest practices.

“We need appropriate training requirements, criminal records checks, conflict of interest disclosures, and a code of professional conduct to protect consumers,” added Bell. “For example, it is important that we keep convicted felons from gaining access to a consumer’s financial information.”

“There are a wide variety of professions in Tennessee where similar rules apply,” said Bell. “This helps to ensure, to the best of our ability, that Tennessee consumers are working with knowledgeable and trustworthy professionals.”

PPACA marketplace enrollment begins on October 1.

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Press Releases

Gov’t Warns Lonely Tennesseans to Beware of Online Dating Scams as Valentine’s Day Nears

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance; February 4, 2013;

NASHVILLE, TN – Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and some consumers are banking on online dating as a way to hatch a serious relationship. Unfortunately, some fraud artists are also banking on online dating as a way to scam people out of their money.

Relationship scams, also known as sweetheart swindles, often follow this pattern:

You meet someone on a dating site and things get serious. You send messages, talk on the phone, trade pictures and maybe even make marriage plans. Soon, you find out the person you met, who claimed to be an American professional, is going to Nigeria or another country for work. Once he or she is there, that person needs your help, asking you to wire money.
The first transfer may be small, but it’s followed by requests for more. You’re told your money is needed to cover costs for a sudden illness, surgery for a son or daughter, or for a plane ticket back to the United States. The promise is always to pay you back. You even might get documents or calls from lawyers as “proof.”

But as genuine as the relationship and requests for money might seem, they’re part of an elaborate scam. The money that was wired – and the person you thought you knew and loved – will be gone.

“These relationship scams are often a long, drawn-out process where the con artist nurtures a relationship, then persuades the victim to send money,” Commerce and Insurance’s Consumer Affairs Director Gary Cordell said. “These scammers have been known to steal even the real names and photos of U.S. service personnel to set up a fake profile, and prey on the sympathy and patriotism of victims. They also have also been known to use religious singles sites, using religion as a ploy to gain trust before asking for money. Any time someone you’ve never met in person asks for money, it’s usually a warning sign that something isn’t right.”

“Always use caution and common sense when dealing with someone you haven’t met in person,” Cordell said. “Never wire money to someone you meet online, no matter how compelling their story or how strong their appeal to your emotions might be.”

Signs that you may be dealing with a scammer:

  • The pictures posted on the person’s profile mostly seem to be professional quality model images, instead of candid pictures from a person’s everyday life. If a picture looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • The online companion professes love way too early in your interaction with him or her.
  • You are asked to send money for gifts, a sick relative or a plane ticket to the U.S.
  • The person claims to be a U.S. citizen working in another country, claims to be well off or a person of important status.
  • The person makes excuses about not being able to speak by phone.
  • The person’s writing includes frequent spelling or grammar mistakes.

Proceed with caution with online dating. Even if you use only dating sites whose reputations are well-established, still keep your wits about you.

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Press Releases

TCA Opposes Bill Establishing Automatic Agreement to Insurance Policy Changes

Press Release from Tennessee Citizen Action, April 20, 2012:

Tennessee Citizen Action Asks the Haslam Administration and Their Department of Commerce and Insurance Why They Support a Bill That Will Erode Consumer Protections

Nashville, Tenn. (April 20, 2012) — Yesterday, the sponsor of a bill that would further erode consumer protection in Tennessee stated that the Department of Commerce and Insurance was aware of, and supported, the bill. The bill, SB2271 (HB2454) by Rep. Charles Sargent and Sen. Jim Tracy, states that a consumer or small business is bound to a change in their insurance policy by the simple act of paying their premium – either by check or by automatic bill payment. In other words, a consumer’s cashed check or automatic bill payment is enough to allow an insurance company to completely change their policy.

“The sponsor of HB2454/SB2271 said that the Department of Commerce and Insurance reviewed his bill ‘and they are very fine with this legislation…’” said Mary Mancini, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “Since the mission of the Department is to protect “the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight” and this bill would create an unfair financial advantage for insurance companies over consumers and small businesses, we would like to know why they are “very fine” with it.”

A vote on SB2271/HB2454 was rolled in the House until Monday, 4/23.

Amendment Summary: (b) The payment of premium for an insurance contract, or amendment thereto, by an insured shall create a rebuttable presumption that the coverage provided has been accepted by all insureds under the contract.

Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization. Our mission is to work to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee