New York state has shredded some bureaucracy to speed the payment of insurance claims to 360,000 victims of Superstorm Sandy, while creating an online system to grade insurers whose state licenses are on the line as they respond to New Yorkers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he met with top insurance companies about the changes that should cut by more than half the time New Yorkers will have to wait for insurance adjusters. That new deadline is six days, from 15 days.
The adjusters must inspect homes and businesses before claims can be paid to policyholders, unless there is a health and safety issue. Sandy victims can make those repairs and make claims using receipts and other paper work.
"We're getting many, many complaints," Cuomo said from a Manhattan news conference in which he targeted insurance companies. "I understand their point of view and I understand the volume. I also understand the point of consumers and citizens who paid for coverage ... and now expect the insurance companies to do their job."
The governor is allowing some insurance adjusters from outside the state to obtain temporary state licenses to help address New York mountain of claims more quickly. He also approved adding "public adjusters" who help consumers through the process.
"There simply is no substitute for speed when it comes to insurance payouts after a storm," Cuomo said.
Cuomo had credited some insurance companies for creative efforts to reduce the backlog of claims.
"No one takes their role of helping customers more seriously than insurers," said Kristina Baldwin, assistant vice president for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
"Our companies have committed significant resources to help their customers during these difficult times, including sending mobile claims offices into the storm impacted neighborhoods to help expedite claims," she said.
"The claims professionals and adjusters for all of our members are working extraordinary hours to help every one of their customers in need, even in some cases as they deal with the storm's impact on their own families," Baldwin said.
The state Department of Financial Services will also post online report cards that will rate insurance companies' performance. The website is at www.NYInsure.ny.gov.
"They will be held accountable for their performance," said Cuomo, noting he regulates and licenses the companies.
State Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky is continuing a moratorium in Bronx, Kings, Nassau New York, Orange, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties that prohibits companies from canceling homeowners' and small business insurance for any reason, including nonpayment of premiums, through Dec. 15.