When the financial crisis from the coronavirus pandemic first hit, many insurance companies began extending payment relief to policyholders who were struggling to pay the premiums on their life, auto, and property insurance.
Unfortunately, a lot of those programs have now expired, or are about to, having reached their 60- or 90-day limits.
Auto insurers, for one, have trumpeted givebacks in premiums due to reduced driving, fewer accidents, and lower claims costs, and if those trends continue, more such rebates or refunds may be coming over the summer and fall. But the struggle to pay premiums endures for many policyholders — for their car insurance and other coverage.
Fortunately, there are still steps you can take if a premium payment looms and you can’t afford it. Here’s a rundown of payment-relief programs ordered by states and provided by individual insurance companies — and what to do if neither is available to you.
States That Have Ordered Relief
State governments have helped drive consumer-friendly payment changes during the pandemic. But in most states, commissioners have chosen to issue notices “encouraging” or “urging” companies not to terminate policies due to non-payment and to offer flexible payment plans and other measures to aid financially strapped customers.
That approach has been effective enough, according to Douglas Heller, an insurance expert with the Consumer Federation of America. State commissioners “generally did a good job of cajoling the companies” to provide relief, he says.
Some states did issue orders mandating insurers to temporarily adjust their payment practices. Most often, the order called for a moratorium on cancelling policies due to non-payment of premiums, at least until the statewide emergency orders triggered by coronavirus remain in effect.
Many of these orders had a built-in expiry date that has already passed. But here are 10 places where they're still in place, according to a list assembled by insurance law firm Faegre Drinker. Click on the name of the jurisdiction to see the specifics of those provisions. Be aware, though, that these provisions may expire when a state of emergency is lifted.
Relief Programs from Insurers
If relief isn’t mandated in your state, it’s time to turn to your insurer. Call up the company ASAP and ask if it still has a formal relief program in place and what it covers.
As a rule, these measures include one or more of these provisions:
- A moratorium on policy cancellations and non-renewals so coverage won't lapse if a premium bill is not paid on time.
- An extension of payment due dates with no penalties or late fees.
Some companies are also offering free identity theft protection, according to Mark Friedlander, a spokesman for the industry-sponsored Insurance Information Institute (III). Typically extended for the rest of 2020, this freebie is driven by policyholder concerns that “increased usage of the internet from home...has made Americans more vulnerable to identify theft and financial fraud,” he says.
Here are programs still in effect for some of the biggest insurers in the country, with links to each company's coronavirus information page.
This isn't an exhaustive list, and as you can see, some relief policies expire soon. But no matter who your insurer is, you always have the option to call and talk about continuing aid. If you’re in arrears now on paying your premiums, and don’t think you’ll be able to pay by the expiry date, call the company in advance of that date.
For some customers, Allstate is offering a special payment plan that delays payments without penalty upon request. Free identity protection coverage is also available to all U.S. residents, regardless of whether they're Allstate customers, for the duration of 2020. Sign up by June 30 for service through December 2020.
Geico's moratoriums on policy cancellations in select states, mostly due to state orders, with the earliest date on which GEICO will lift them: California (7/15/20), Missouri (6/15/20) , North Carolina (6/26/20), and Oregon (8/22-20).
Moratorium on late fees and “temporarily pause” on personal automotive and home coverage cancellations due to non-payment through June 15, 2020, or as later directed by your state.
Temporary pause on cancellations due to non-payment of premiums until June 23, 2020. There won’t be any interest charges for late premium payments, late fees, returned payment fees, or negative credit reporting to the major agencies for any missed payments until that date.
Cancellation and non-renewal of coverage due to nonpayment suspended through June 15, 2020. No interest, late fees or penalties during this period.
Cancellation and due to non-payment or fees on late payments suspended through June 17, 2020.
No Program? Call for Help
If your insurer isn’t listed above, you should reach out to them for help, preferably in a phone call and before the due date of your premium payment.
Every company we researched for this article provides a phone number to call to seek relief, usually on its COVID-19 page. The number is sometimes accompanied by details of the measures the company will consider, including payment plans for unpaid premiums that are in arrears.
Insurance companies that have already canceled their formal relief programs are giving policyholders the short end of the stick, says Doug Heller of CFA. “With all the financial stresses some consumers continue to face, it isn’t fair to add the burden of calling and having to plead your case with the insurance company,” he says — especially, he adds, in the absence of much or any evidence that policyholders who are flush are abusing the programs.
For now, making that call is the best option most insurance companies offer. You could find a receptive ear, says Dmitriy Golodriga, a San-Francisco based insurance broker.
"Carriers are being much more lenient on a case-by-case basis," he says. "[They] understand that the circumstances that we're in are very unique and we're all going through it together."
If you do reach out, the III’s Friedlander recommends that you “explain your personal situation and ask what options are available, such as establishing an installment payment plan.” Indeed, it’s standard advice when handling creditors to agree to some payments, however modest they are, in order to show good faith and to reassure the company about your commitment to clearing the debt.
With the financial forecast still cloudy for many families, you could, of course, experience further hardship, and the prospect of missing those agreed-upon installments. Again, the best practice is to reach out ahead of missing the due date, explain your situation, and try to reach a revised solution.
For more information on how COVID-19 could impact your finances, check out Money®'s special coverage.
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