New car? Call your insurance agent

New car? Call your insurance agent

If you take advantage of a good end-of-the-year deal on a new vehicle, be sure to report it to your insurance company right away, and don’t forget to ask them for a quote for Debt Payoff Coverage. This coverage will pay off the outstanding loan balance if your vehicle is destroyed in a covered claim and its current market value is less than your outstanding loan. Your agent and insurer can answer your questions and provide more detail on how the coverage works.


Learn more about auto insurance in Washington state.

Did a furry new family member join you this holiday season?

If Santa brought you or someone in your household a puppy or kitten, you may be thinking about purchasing pet insurance.

Pet insurance is relatively new in the insurance world. It helps pay veterinary bills for preventive care or if your pet is ill or gets hurt. Most plans limit coverage to dogs and cats, so you can stop reading now if you got a new bearded dragon or bunny. Most also require a health screening to make sure your dog or cat is healthy; if you have an older pet, it likely won’t qualify for coverage.

Be a smart shopper – make sure the insurer is licensed in Washington, compare plans’ coverage, deductibles, copayments, coverage limits and exclusions.

Read more of our tips on pet insurance.

OIC hiring program analysts to work with insurers, consumers

OIC hiring program analysts to work with insurers, consumers

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner is hiring two Functional Program Analyst 3 positions, one in Rates and Forms and the other in Consumer Protection.

OIC’s Rates and Forms Division regulates insurance companies that do business in Washington. The person in that position is responsible for reviewing insurance policy forms to ensure they comply with state and federal laws and rules and working with insurance companies. It requires customer service experience, good communication skills and ability to work timely and accurately. This position is open until filled. Read more about the position and salary.

Our Consumer Protection Division helps consumers who have complaints about insurance companies. The person in this position will staff our consumer hotline and enter calls into our consumer protection database. They also research and resolve consumer complaints, including analyzing whether insurance companies’ solutions to consumer complaints comply with insurance rules. This position closes Jan. 12. Read more about the responsibilities and salary.

Did you miss the deadline for health insurance coverage in January? You still have time to get covered by February.

Did you miss the deadline for health insurance coverage in January? You still have time to get covered by February.

The deadline for applying for medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act for coverage that starts in January was Dec. 23. If you did start your application, you have until Jan. 15 to select a plan and pay your premium for coverage that back-dates to Jan. 1.

If you were unable to do that, open enrollment closes March 31. You can still obtain coverage starting in February or March, depending on when you sign up. For February coverage, the deadline to enroll is Jan. 23.

If you qualify for a subsidy or Medicaid, you should obtain medical insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder, our state’s health benefit exchange. If you do not qualify for a subsidy, you can buy a health plan directly from an insurance company. Here’s a list of the plans that are available in Washington.

Before you rent a car or loan out yours, consider a few things

Before you rent a car or loan out yours, consider a few things


Will you need to rent a car during your holiday travels? Does your brother want to borrow your car while he’s home from college? Here are a few things to consider.

What should I know about rental car insurance?

If you are renting a car while you travel, you will likely be offered insurance by the rental car company. Before you decide, check with your agent to find out if your personal auto insurance policy covers damage to cars you rent. Many policies do not cover costs that aren’t directly related to damage, such as the daily fee charged by the rental agency for each day the car is out of service being repaired. In that case, you may want to consider buying coverage from the rental agency.

Read more about rental car insurance.

If I loan my car to someone and they cause a wreck, can my auto insurance increase even if I wasn’t driving?

It’s likely, since your insurer will have to pay a claim under your policy. We recommend you contact your agent to find out for sure. Unless you have a restricted policy that only covers you as a listed driver, a standard auto policy will typically cover people whom you allow to drive your vehicle. If the wreck involves a crime—fleeing the scene, driving under the influence or using the car to commit a crime – then your coverage would not extend to their use.

In general, unless you have a restricted policy or you didn’t authorize the use of your car, when you loan your car, you loan your insurance.

Read more about what most auto insurance policies cover.
Finishing up your holiday shopping? Here are a few things to consider.

Finishing up your holiday shopping? Here are a few things to consider.

What should I do if gifts are stolen from my car?

Tired after a long day of shopping and you don’t unload your car? Or did you load your car with packages that you need to mail? If you find yourself the victim of a car break-in when you have a car full of gifts, your homeowner or renter insurance will cover the contents. If you do file a claim, make sure you have receipts for what was stolen, and you should be prepared to turn in a copy of the police report, if one exists. Damage to your car would be covered by your auto insurance.

Read more about understanding your auto insurance.

Is warranty worth buying for gifts or high-ticket items?

We encourage consumers to carefully read the terms of the warranty before making a decision. We also encourage consumers to find out if a warranty company is registered to do business in Washington state.

Complaints we get from consumers generally focus on warranty claims that the companies say aren’t covered, or consumers requesting a refund when they change their mind about the warranty. The warranty contract will tell consumers how they can request a refund; state law requires a 10-business-day window to request a refund of a warranty.

If you are unhappy with the service you receive with a warranty you purchase, you can file a complaint with us.

Read more about warranties and service contracts.

Should I buy travel insurance?

Should I buy travel insurance?

If you are getting ready to travel for the holidays, here are some things to consider about travel insurance before you decide if it's worth it.

Many travel companies—airlines, cruise lines, resorts—offer travel insurance that will refund most or all of the cost of the trip in certain circumstances. Policies typically cover things like trip cancelations due to illness, civil unrest, job loss, or the carrier going out of business. They’ll also pay for fees incurred by missed connections and delays; baggage damage or loss; medical expenses incurred by an injury or illness while traveling; emergency evacuation; car rental damage; and accidental death.

Before you decide whether to purchase travel insurance, you should consider:
  • What your medical insurance covers when you travel.
  • What your homeowner or renter insurance covers in the event of lost or stolen belongings.
  • What your life insurance policy covers in the event of accidental death while traveling.
  • What the cancelation policy is for the travel insurance.
  • Read the policy's fine print. Some don't cover certain activities such as hang-gliding, bungee jumping or other physical contact sports. Some also exclude certain pre-existing conditions from the medical coverage they offer.
  • .
  • You should also make sure the travel insurance company is licensed to sell insurance in Washington.

Read more about travel insurance on our website.
The Definition of "Dependency" Under the SABS

The Definition of "Dependency" Under the SABS

Does an adult child attempting to become self-supporting qualify as a "dependent" under the SABS? The answer may be "yes", depending on the person's circumstances at the time of the accident.

In State Farm v. Bunyan, 2013 ONSC 6670 (S.C.J.), Mr. Bunyan was a pedestrian who was catastrophically injured in a motor vehicle accident.  He moved out of his mother's house after high school, lived with a girlfriend and had a child.  He moved twice to Alberta to find work, but came back to his live with his mother each time.  At the time of the accident he had $0.24 in his bank account and was covering his daily expenses with money from his mother.  He had problems with alcohol.  Corbett J. was satisfied that Mr. Bunyan would have continued relying on his mother's support until she refused help or he obtained help with his alcohol issues.

Corbett J. held that "dependency" must be assessed looking at four factors:

1.  Amount of dependency;
2.  Duration of dependency;
3.  Financial or other needs of the alleged dependent; and
4.  The ability of the alleged dependent to be self-supporting.

Corbett J. held that Mr. Bunyan was principally dependent on his mother: although he was seeking to become self-supporting, more than half of his day-to-day expenses were covered by his mother, he had not found permanent accommodation, had not obtained transportation, had not established that he could keep steady employment, was not paying child support, had no savings, and had problems with alcohol.  He therefore qualified as an "insured person" under his mother's policy.


OIC web-based applications will be down tonight

OIC web-based applications will be down tonight

Starting at 5 p.m. tonight, OIC’s website applications will be unavailable while the state Department of Consolidated Technology Services—the state’s IT agency—moves our applications to new servers. We expect the applications will be available early tomorrow morning. Our website, www.insurance.wa.gov, will remain live.

The outage will primarily affect insurance companies, insurance agents and brokers, consumers who have complaints and State Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) volunteers.

Most of our online services will be unavailable, including:

  • Agent and broker online licensing
  • Online consumer complaints
  • Agent and company lookup
  • Online filing search
  • SHIBA online

We appreciate your patience.

Washington receives $192,293 from multistate insurance settlement

Washington receives $192,293 from multistate insurance settlement

Washington state is receiving $192,293 as part of a multistate settlement against Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. and two of its affiliated companies.

Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., Lincoln Life and Annuity Co. of New York, and First Penn Pacific Life Insurance Company—part of the Lincoln Group Companies—agreed to a $12.6 million settlement regarding its policies and procedures for identifying and paying customers and their beneficiaries for life insurance policies, retained asset accounts and annuity contracts.

Six states’ insurance commissioners led the case--California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. The settlement terms require Lincoln to reform some business practices and regulatory oversight for several years, culminating in a final review in five years.

In Washington, fines paid by insurance companies are deposited in the state's general fund to pay for state government operations and public K-12 education. Life insurance pays a predetermined amount of money to beneficiaries upon the death of the policyholder. Read more about life insurance on OIC’s website.

People in federal high-risk insurance pool get extra month of coverage

People in federal high-risk insurance pool get extra month of coverage

President Obama’s administration announced yesterday that people who participate in the federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will be covered through Jan. 31, 2014. The extension affects about 443 Washington residents and about 135,000 nationwide. The pool covers people who were previously ineligible for health insurance because of chronic pre-existing health conditions including cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. The extension allows people in the pool more time to find coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Approximately 3,675 Washington residents are covered under the Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP), which is the state’s insurance plan for people with chronic health conditions. People in that plan will keep their coverage through the end of 2017. Both the federal and state high-risk insurance pools are closed to enrolling new members.

WashingtonHealthplanfinder, Washington’s health benefit exchange, has been unavailable for many people this month. Yesterday, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler advised people who are not eligible for a subsidy and are still tyring to find insurance before Jan. 1 to find health insurance from a private broker or agent. Washington residents with incomes of up to $45,960 for an individual and up to $94,200 for a family of 4 are eligible for subsidized insurance plans through the Washington health benefit exchange. Read the news release.

Early Warning Signs of Cancer: Are You at Risk?

Many of us don’t know the warning signs of the most common—and deadly—forms of cancer. An alarming new survey reports that 26 percent of Americans can’t name even one symptom of lung cancer, the leading cancer killer of both men and women.
Overall, fewer than half of those polled identified shortness of breath as a warning sign of lung cancer, and only 39 percent a cough. Some respondents correctly identified more specific symptoms of concern, such as cough that gets worse or coughing up blood. The survey was conducted in 21 countries by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC).
The findings are frightening, given that the disease kills nearly 160,000 Americans a year. “Patients are often diagnosed at a very late stage when treatment is no longer an option,” says Matthew Peters, MD,  chair of GLCC, in the press release. “If we can get patients diagnosed earlier, we can treat them and save lives. That is why being aware of the symptoms is so important.”

Warning Signs: When to See a Doctor

It’s tragically common for patients to ignore warnings of other types of cancer, adds Dale Shepard, MD, PhD, a cancer specialist in the department of solid tumor oncology at the Cleveland Clinic. “Cancer can almost always be cured if it’s caught early, but all too often, people wait so long to see a doctor that the disease has spread to the point that it’s no longer curable.”
If you notice any of the following unexplained warning signs, don’t delay—make the time to consult a doctor promptly.
  • Unexplained weight loss. While most people would be happy to drop pounds without dieting, unexplained weight loss (of 10 or more pounds) or sudden loss of appetite are among the most common warning signs of cancer, says Dr. Shepard. This symptom is most likely to occur with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus or lung, reports the American Cancer Society (ACS). It may turn out not to be cancer—there are a number of other serious health conditions that may cause this symptom, including an overactive thyroid, diabetes, liver disease, and depression.
  • Persistent low-grade fever. This can be the first symptom of certain cancers, particularly leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Low-grade fever—meaning a temperature between 99.8 and 100.8—can also be caused by a wide range of infections. 
  • Worsening fatigue. “If you suddenly can’t get through the day without taking a 3-or 4-four nap, when you never need one before, that can be suggestive of cancer,” says Dr. Shepard. According to the ACS report, this symptom is particularly likely to occur with leukemia, as well as cancers that cause blood loss, such as colon cancer or stomach cancer. Other medical conditions that cause profound exhaustion include anemia, sleep disorders, heart problems, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.
  • A sore that doesn’t heal or skin changes. You probably know that moles that are asymmetrical (one half doesn’t match the other), have irregular borders, contain a variety of colors, or are larger than a pencil eraser can bewarning signs of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. What’s not well known, however, is that skin sores or changes (including a persistent rash) can also herald other forms of cancer. Dr. Shepard had a patient whose first symptom of colon cancer was a sore on his scalp that didn’t heal. He has also had patients with lung cancer and lymphoma whose symptoms included persistent rashes.
  • Trouble swallowing or chronic hoarseness. These symptoms, along with lip sores that don’t heal, unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth, and chronic sore throat, can herald oral cancer. Other reasons for chronic hoarseness can include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), allergies, cancer of the throat or laryngx, smoking, and underactive thyroid, reports the National Institute of Health. A wide range of esophageal disorders can impair swallowing.
  • White patches in your mouth. Also known as leukoplakia, these thickened whitish or gray patches on the gums, inside of the cheeks, or the tongue are often mistaken for thrush (an infection that causes white patches). Unlike thrush, which can be scraped away, leukoplakia cannot be removed in this manner. While the condition isn’t always harmful, oral cancer often occurs near leukoplakia patches, the Mayo Clinic reports, and the patches themselves can develop cancerous changes.
  • Blood in the toilet. This symptom is frequently dismissed by patients, says Dr. Shepard. “People are quick to think that the problem is a urinary tract infection even if they’ve never had one before. However, blood in the urine can also be a sign of bladder cancer and needs to be investigated by a urologist. Oftentimes, bladder cancer isn’t diagnosed until it reaches an incurable stage because people wait so long to see a doctor.” Similarly, it can be a dangerous mistake to dismiss blood in the stool as being triggered by a hemorrhoid, since it could also be a warning sign of colon cancer, as is any change in your normal bowel habits.
  • Unexplained pain. This can be an early symptom of testicular or bone cancer. A headache that doesn’t get better with treatment, such as taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, may signal a brain tumor, while back pain can mark colon or ovarian cancer, the ACS reports. “Unexplained pain is one of the more common symptoms of cancer and always warrants a consultation with your doctor,” says Dr. Shepard.
  • A lump or thickening. Several types of cancer, including those of the breast, testicles, and lymph nodes can be felt through the skin. A lump or thickening can either be an early or late sign of cancer, ACS reports. Also be aware that in some cases, breast cancer can cause red or thickened skin, rather than the expected lump, so any change in how your breast looks or feels needs to be checked out. 
  • Any persistent, unexplained or troubling symptom. “If something doesn’t seem right, don’t assume it’s nothing,” says Dr. Shepard. ”Listening to your body and getting this symptom checked out sooner rather than later could save your life if the problem turns out to be cancer.”
Are all of the contents of my home covered by my insurance policy?

Are all of the contents of my home covered by my insurance policy?

Maybe, maybe not. Some policies offer limited coverage for items such as jewelry, art, coins, stamp collections, furs, guns or business-related property. If you own these types of items, talk to your agent to determine if you need to buy increased coverage or a separate policy to cover the value of those items.

You will be expected to prove your ownership of the items with receipts or with photos of the damaged or missing items. Don’t wait until you have a loss to find out what your policy covers and requires.

Read more about understanding your homeowners insurance.

The Standard of Care in Parking Lots

The Standard of Care in Parking Lots

The Divisional Court recently considered an appeal involving the standard of care in a parking lot.  The primary conclusion is that the Highway Traffic Act does not generally apply to parking lots.

In Bossio v. Ramsahoye, 2013 ONSC 6878 (Div. Ct.), the parties were in a motor vehicle accident in a GO Train station parking lot.  The plaintiff was driving northbound in the centre lane of the parking lot, and the defendant was westbound in one of several exit lanes.  The trial judge's charge referred to the location of the accident as "a completely neutral intersection". The jury dismissed the action and the plaintiff appealed.

The plaintiff alleged that the trial judge erred by failing to instruct the jury that the common law duties of drivers approaching an uncontrolled intersection set out in the Highway Traffic Act would apply.  The defendant submitted that:

47. The absence of any reference to the Highway Traffic Act at first instance was not inadvertent. The Highway Traffic Act generally has no application to private parking lots. While the Act and the rules of road therein have been found to apply to certain peculiar parking lot situations (i.e. where the parking lot has a dual function as a thoroughfare, or where the Act provision at issue does not use the word “highway” or any word that incorporates the word “highway in its definition), this was not the case at hand and there was never any dispute as between the parties on this point.
48. The authority cited by the Plaintiff does not support her assertion that there are duties at common law equivalent to those found in the Highway Traffic Act, applicable where the Act is silent. At most, the “rules of the road” are distillations of what amounts to reasonable care and offer guidance to situations not covered by the Act.
49. Had the Highway Traffic Act applied, this would have been to the benefit of the Defendant, not the Plaintiff. Under the rules of the road, and specifically subsection 135(3) of the Act, when two vehicles enter an uncontrolled intersection of highways at approximately the same time, the driver on the right (the Defendant in this case) has the right of way.
The Divisional Court agreed with the defendant's submissions and dismissed the appeal.  
 

The 8 Worst Snacks for an Afternoon Slump

It's 3 p.m. You're hungry again and feeling sleepy. You might be tempted to reach for one of these common -- and deceptively healthy -- treats to perk yourself up, but don't. Our nutrition experts offer smarter picks to avoid an afternoon crash and stay full until dinner.
1. SKIP: Pretzels
 You may feel virtuous reaching for a bag of fat-free pretzels instead of fried potato chips. But don't do it. "It's not a snack that will energize you or keep your blood sugar level steady to get through the rest of your afternoon alert and focused," says registered dietitian Elisa Zied, author of Younger Next Week. "It provides calories, refined carbohydrates, too much sodium, and not much else to keep you nourished and satisfied long term."
Try instead: A whole-grain, high-fiber cereal mixed with two tablespoons of nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans, says Zied.
2. SKIP: Baked potato chips
 It's true that baked chips aren't bad as the regular variety, but they're still mainly fast-acting carbs (hello, blood sugar spike) with very small amounts of protein, fiber, and fat. Even so, "There are so many better, more filling foods that provide these nutrients that won't lead to the blood sugar crash that saps your energy," says Samantha B. Cassetty, M.S., R.D., nutrition director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. 
Try instead: A different kind of crunch: dry roasted edamame. "A 1/4 cup serving has a whopping 14 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber with less salt than traditional chips," says Cassetty. "They're even a good source of iron -- a nutrient that many women fall short on."
3. SKIP: Sports and energy drinks
 Don't let healthy-sounding names deceive you. Like soda, energy drinks are pretty much straight sugar, which can cause -- you guessed it -- a sugar-fueled roller coaster ride. "Because there's no fiber and these drinks are often consumed on an empty stomach, the sugar will be absorbed rapidly," says registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor at Boston University and a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 
Try instead: Sipping on zero-calorie water or fun, flavored seltzers (also calorie-free). People often mistake thirst for hunger.
4. SKIP: An apple
Don't gasp. Yes, fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but eating it alone won't keep you going. "Adding a little protein to the mix will help make it even more filling," says Cassetty.
Try instead: Pairing your fresh fruit with a few nuts, a dip made from nonfat Greek yogurt, a small schmear of nut butter, or a slice of protein- and calcium-rich cheese (think mini Babybel). 
5. SKIP: Frozen yogurt
The word "yogurt" makes it sound like a smart pick, right? Alas, frozen yogurt is full of sugar and calories (about 120 calories in a half cup). And it doesn't have as many probiotics or as much calcium as regular yogurt. Plus, it's very tempting to add some candy-based toppings.
Try instead: If you can't resist, indulge in moderation. "Get the smallest you can," says Blake. "And instead of adding candy on top, try fresh fruit." Better still: Grab a Greek yogurt topped with berries.
6. SKIP: Pita Chips
 "They have this huge health halo," says registered dietitian Karen Ansel, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "But they're really just straight carbs." And straight carbs will just cause your energy levels to crash. 
Try instead: Munch on the whole grain version of these chips -- or better yet, fresh veggies -- with a small amount of hummus.
7. SKIP: Smoothie
"If it's a smoothie just made with fruit and juice (all sugar), then you know you're going to crash," says registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. Fruit is primarily carbs, which digest quickly in your body and that can lead to a slump. "And juices tend to be made with lots of fruit -- and therefore have lots of sugar," adds Cassetty. "Juicing also eliminates the fiber -- the filling part of fruit that also helps modify its impact on blood sugar." 
Try instead: Green tea is an energy-boosting options, say Ansel, because it contains an amino acid that aids alertness and concentration. Or, if you can't pass up the smoothie, go for a small size made with unsweetened yogurt.
8. SKIP: Candy bar
Tempting as it is, candy is obviously a no-no. "A little chocolate with its hint of caffeine can definitely perk you up," says Zied. "But your blood sugar will rise and fall flat soon after because candy's loaded with sugar and very low fiber."
Try instead: If it's a sweet treat you're after, get a nutty-chocolate fix from a protein-rich, low-sugar granola bar, like KIND or Kashi Dark Chocolate Coconut Layered Granola Bars.

12 Ways to Slim Down Your Diet

Maybe it was a Top Chef marathon or the realization that you could probably buy a new wardrobe with the money you were shelling out on kung pao chicken. Whatever the reason, you traded your takeout menus for cookbooks. But even though you're spending more time in the kitchen (whipping up healthy meals, no less), your pants aren't getting any looser. What gives? Chances are, you're making a few all-too-common mistakes. Before you throw in the dish towel, read on for the super simple fixes that can help you look Padma-esque in time for summer.
Fat trap 1: Overcooking pasta  Take that pot off the stove a little early and your bucatini will have a satisfying bite and keep you full for hours. "Hot water breaks down the bonds between starch molecules," says Johanna Burani, RD, the author of Good Carbs, Bad Carbs. The longer you boil your pasta, the quicker your body converts those carbs into fuel. This sets off a rapid rise in blood sugar that is followed by a hunger-inducing plunge. Al dente noodles take longer to digest, delivering a steady stream of energy.
The fix: Go with the shortest time in the recommended range on the back of the box, then bite into a slightly cooled strand. "There should be a tiny white circle of raw pasta in the center," Burani says. The residual heat will continue to cook the noodles, so they'll be perfectly al dente by the time you serve them.
Fat trap 2: Picking poultry instead of beef  Although turkey breast is about as lean as it gets, ground turkey often contains dark meat and skin, which edge up the calorie count. A four-ounce serving of ground turkey packs 204 calories and 14grams of fat, while the same amount of lean ground beef contains just 155 calories and six grams of fat.
The fix: Whether you're buying beef or turkey, "look for labels that say the meat is at least 90 percent lean," suggests Diane Henderiks, RD, the founder of Dishwithdiane.com. Or ask the butcher to grind up turkey breast or sirloin steak. Saute either in heart-healthy olive or canola oil (about 1 tablespoon per pound) to keep the meat moist for fewer than 30 extra calories a serving.
Fat trap 3: Adding hot sauce to everything Sure, it gives your eggs, tacos, and pizza a no-cal kick. But just a teaspoon of certain brands uses up nearly 10 percent of your daily sodium allotment, and too much of the mineral can take a toll on your waistline. According to a study from the University of California, San Francisco, people who ate a high-sodium diet gained more weight -- about one extra pound over a five-day period -- than those who consumed low-sodium versions of the same high-calorie meals. The researchers believe excess sodium increases your body's production of insulin, a hormone that turns sugar into fat.
The fix: "Fresh peppers, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper add heat without any sodium," Henderiks says. Miss the sauce? Try Tabasco, which contains a mere 35 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon, just 2 percent of the 2,300 milligrams most of us shouldn't exceed in a day.
Fat trap 4: Baking with gluten-free flour Whether it's because you have celiac disease, are gluten intolerant, or just want to experiment with nonwheat options, you've decided to pick up one of the new wheat-free flours or baking mixes. Unfortunately, just because they're gluten-free doesn't mean they're good for you. "Many of these flours and blends are made from white rice or potatoes, so they may contain a minimal amount of filling fiber," Burani says, but just as many calories and carbs as the regular stuff.
The fix: At the supermarket, scout out options made from brown rice, teff, or quinoa, such as those by Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills, and make sure a serving provides at least two grams of fiber.
Fat trap 5: Removing the chicken skin  Each piece of skin contains 69 calories and six grams of fat, so it makes sense to separate it from the breast before popping it in the oven, right? Not really. The skin locks in moisture, so you get tender, more flavorful chicken for not a lot of extra calories, explains Amy Myrdal Miller, RD, the director of culinary nutrition at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, California.
The fix: Don't remove the skin until right before serving, and the chicken won't need as much calorie-rich sauce, salad dressing, or mayo. The exception: If you're making soup or a casserole, the fat from the skin will drain into the dish, Myrdal Miller warns, so peel it off it beforehand.
Fat trap 6: Coating the pan with nonstick spray This healthy staple may not be as low in calories as you think. "Many people spray it on for about six seconds," says Bonnie Liebman, the director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. That's 36 calories and four grams of fat. While that doesn't sound like much, it adds up: If you coat your pan before saut?ing spinach, for example, and then again before folding in the eggs, you tack 70-plus calories onto that scramble.
The fix: To cut down on the amount of spray you need, use nonstick pans for cooking and a silicone mat or parchment paper for baking whenever possible. Or forgo the stuff altogether: "You can substitute chicken broth when sauteing vegetables," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Just heat a few tablespoons in a pan and stir in the veggies, adding more liquid as needed until they're cooked through. 
Fat trap 7: Skipping a step when you make meat sauce  Ground beef is one of the easiest ways to add protein to your pasta dinner: All you have to do is saute, season, and serve. But if you're not blotting the meat after it's cooked, you're missing out on a quick way to slash four grams of fat per three-ounce serving, according to scientists from Iowa State University. "This removes excess fat without altering the flavor," says Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD, a food and nutrition specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service.
The fix: Drain cooked crumbles on a paper towel-lined plate for one minute, then pat the top with more paper towels. Or go a step further and rinse the beef. Doing so will remove more than half the fat, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Just put the cooked meat in a strainer over a large bowl and pour hot water -- about four cups per pound -- over the top before mixing the beef into your marinara.
Fat trap 8: Dicing vegetables into tiny pieces You've been making oven-baked shoestrings instead of the fried kind -- hooray! But according to a Dutch review of research, switching to steak "fries" could help you cut even more calories. "The more pieces you cut something into, the more surface area there is for the oil to cling to, which equals extra calories and fat," Myrdal Miller says.
The fix: To ease up on the grease, chop potatoes and veggies at least a half inch thick, then pat them dry. Research suggests this helps create a crust that blocks oil from being absorbed by food. Cut calories even further when roasting or baking by using an oil mister to lightly coat the pieces instead of drizzling them with EVOO from the bottle.
Fat trap 9: Giving produce a quick rinse Fresh fruits and vegetables are a dieter's dream, but the pesticide residue on them can keep your calorie-burning machine from performing at its peak. In an International Journal of Obesity study, dieters with the highest levels of pollutants in their bodies had markers of slower metabolism than those with the lowest levels. "Pesticides may affect your thyroid's ability to function," explains lead author Angelo Tremblay, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at Laval University in Canada. And there's evidence that they also harm the functioning of mitochondria, the parts of a cell that convert fuel into energy.
The fix: Government researchers say you need to scrub fresh produce for at least 30 seconds to remove the residue. You can also minimize your exposure by purchasing organic produce, especially the kind with an edible peel, as well as organic beef and dairy products, because regular cattle feed can contain high concentrations of pesticides.
Fat trap 10: Sipping Pinot as you prep When you're adding wine to your risotto, it's tempting to pour yourself a glass. But that aperitif can pack on the pounds in more ways than one. According to a study in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sipping the equivalent of two drinks on an empty stomach slows your flab-burning capacity by as much as 73 percent for up to six hours. "Instead of converting fat into fuel, your body uses alcohol for energy," explains study author Marc Hellerstein, MD, PhD, a professor of endocrinology, metabolism, and nutrition at the University of California, San Francisco. And alcohol not only messes with your metabolism, but it also loosens your inhibitions and can encourage you to eat more.
The fix: Wait until you're seated with your meal before you start imbibing. Food slows the absorption of alcohol, which can offset its diet-damaging effects.
Fat trap 11: Serving veggies on the side There's nothing wrong with setting out a dish of steamed broccoli or roasted asparagus, but sneaking them into your main course can boost their benefits. Researchers from Penn State found that people who ate meals that incorporated vegetables -- think chicken casserole with squash and carrots -- consumed 350 fewer calories a day than those who had veggies only as a side dish. The likely explanation: Produce bulks up main dishes and adds filling fiber, so you feel satisfied and take in fewer calories.
The fix: "Experiment with mild-tasting vegetables that aren't overpowering," advises Jessica Shapiro, RD, a dietitian at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. She suggests adding cauliflower puree to macaroni and cheese, diced zucchini to lasagna, and shredded carrots tochicken salad.
Fat trap 12: Holding all the fat Banishing high-cal ingredients, such as cheese and nuts, seems smart. "But fat takes longer to digest than protein and carbs, so it keeps you full longer," Dr. Gerbstadt says. "It also adds flavor, which ups satisfaction." And the benefits extend even further: A study in the journal Health Psychology showed that people produced less of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin after drinking a shake that was labeled "indulgent" rather than an identical one described as "sensible."
The fix: Sprinkle nuts or seeds over your salad or spread pesto on your sandwich. Besides whittling your waistline, you'll also increase your nutrient intake: Purdue University scientists found that just three grams of monounsaturated fat -- the amount in less than a teaspoon of olive oil -- helped the body absorb more cancer-fighting lycopene, lutein, and beta-carotene.
Witness smokes out insurance fraud by business owner

Witness smokes out insurance fraud by business owner

A Renton business owner has been sentenced after being found guilty of insurance fraud and first-degree theft, both felonies.

Cassk Thomas, Jr., owner of Sams Pitt II Mobile BBQ, filed a claim in August 2011 with American Family Insurance that the barbecue smoker and trailer he used to operate his mobile barbecue business were stolen. He sought reimbursement for $24,668 in lost business and $32,243 that he said he paid for the smoker and trailer. American Family Insurance paid him a total of nearly $56,000 – $30,474 for the smoker and trailer and the full amount he claimed for lost business. A witness later provided proof that the smoker and trailer were purchased by a former business partner for $9,740.

Mr. Thomas was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 120 hours of community service, and faces restitution to American Family Insurance. The full restitution amount will be determined by May 2014.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s Special Investigations Unit investigates insurance fraud. You can report suspected insurance fraud on our website.
Pipes freeze and break, tree hits your roof – does insurance cover these?

Pipes freeze and break, tree hits your roof – does insurance cover these?


Winter conditions are setting in around the state, so now is a good time to prepare for cold, snow and ice and familiarize yourself with what your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers in the event of weather-related damage.
We have a page of frequently asked questions about winter weather and insurance coverage on our website.
You can read more about winter weather preparedness and holiday safety on the Washington Emergency Management Division’s website.
Attendant Care Benefits under SABS-2010

Attendant Care Benefits under SABS-2010

Can an insurer pro-rate attendant care benefits payable based on the hours of work lost by the attendant care provider?

Tyrone Henry was left a paraplegic after a motor vehicle accident in September 2010. His mother took an unpaid leave of absence from work to provide the full-time care he required. Gore Mutual Insurance took the position that the attendant care payments were limited to the number of hours that Tyrone Henry’s mother had been working as a proportion of the total attendant care hours assessed as reasonable.

Tyrone Henry brought an Application before the Ontario Superior Court (Henry v. Gore Mutual Insurance Company2012 ONSC 3687) taking the position that he was entitled to the total attendant care hours. The judge agreed. At issue was the interpretation of the Statutory Accident Benefits Scheduleeffective September 1, 2010 (“SABS-2010”). Justice Ray commented that the intent of SABS-2010 was “to prevent a member of an insured’s family who was not ordinarily an income earner or working outside the home, from profiting from an attendant care benefit, when they would likely be at home anyway and would have looked after the injured person without compensation”. This was not the case with Tyrone Henry’s mother who was employed full-time. Justice Ray held that Gore Mutual was obliged to pay to Tyrone Henry all reasonable and necessary attendant care expenses he was obliged to pay his mother, not limited to the economic loss she sustained from leaving her 40 hour per week job.

Gore Mutual appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal (Henry v. Gore Mutual Insurance Company 2013 ONCA 480). The appeal was dismissed. The Court held that Justice Ray was correct in concluding economic loss was a threshold for entitlement to, but not a measure of, reasonable and necessary attendant care benefits to be paid by an insurer. Once Tyrone Henry’s mother sustained an economic loss, attendant care benefits were payable with respect to all the care she provided to him.
As a result of this case, regardless of the attendant care provider's amount of lost income, as long as they experience a loss of income, they will receive the entire benefit.  This will result in some attendant care providers earning more than they would have if they had not left their employment and others earning less. 
Commissioner Kreidler to testify before U.S. House of Representatives

Commissioner Kreidler to testify before U.S. House of Representatives


Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health on Dec. 4  about the Affordable Care Act and how it’s working in Washington state.
The Affordable Care Act is the first major step toward making changes that will improve the lives of millions of Americans. For the first time, people have access to affordable, comprehensive medical insurance that doesn’t penalize them for their gender or for having existing medical conditions. Americans will not be subject to limits on their lifetime or annual medical benefits, which unfairly targets people with chronic medical conditions. 

Commissioner Kreidler, a board member of Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange, will touch on our state’s experience in enrolling more than 100,000 citizens through Washington Healthplanfinder.
The hearing starts at 7 a.m. Pacific time and will stream live online.  

 

The 15 Jobs That Are Most Damaging to Your Health

In order to analyze jobs by their impact on workers' health, we took O*NET measures of six health risks in each of the 974 occupations in the database: exposure to contaminants; exposure to disease and infection; exposure to hazardous conditions; exposure to radiation; risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings; and time spent sitting, since studies show that frequent inactivity shortens your lifespan. O*NET scores these factors on a scale from 0 to 100, with a higher score indicating an increased health risk. 


15. Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors

Overall unhealthiness score: 55.0

What they do: Collect and dump refuse and recyclable materials into trucks.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to contaminants: 97
Time spent sitting: 69
Exposure to disease and infections: 63

14. Nuclear Equipment Operation Technicians

Overall unhealthiness score: 55.2

What they do: Operate equipment used for the release, control, or utilization of nuclear energy to assist scientists in laboratory or production activities.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to radiation: 89
Exposure to hazardous conditions: 77
Exposure to contaminants: 65

13. Medical, Clinical, and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Overall unhealthiness score: 55.3

What they do: Perform complex medical laboratory tests for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to disease and infections: 96
Exposure to hazardous conditions: 69
Exposure to contaminants: 68

12. Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

Overall unhealthiness score: 55.7

What they do: Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo.

Top three health risks:
Time spent sitting: 93
Exposure to radiation: 73
Exposure to contaminants: 68

11. Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas

Overall unhealthiness score: 56.0

What they do: Rig derrick equipment and operate pumps to circulate mud through a drill hole.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to contaminants: 100
Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 93
Exposure to hazardous conditions: 91

10. Surgical Technologists

Overall unhealthiness score: 57.3

What they do: Assist in operations, under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel. 

Top three health risks:
Exposure to disease and infections: 82
Exposure to contaminants: 81
Exposure to hazardous conditions: 59

9. Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Overall unhealthiness score: 57.7

What they do: Operate or maintain stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or industrial processes.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to contaminants: 99
Exposure to hazardous conditions: 89
Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 84

8. Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators

Overall unhealthiness score: 58.2

What they do: Operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to contaminants: 97
Exposure to hazardous conditions: 80
Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 74

7. Immigration and Customs Inspectors

Overall unhealthiness score: 59.3

What they do: Investigate and inspect people, common carriers, goods, and merchandise, arriving in or departing from the U.S. or between states to detect violations of immigration and customs laws and regulations.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to contaminants: 78
Exposure to disease and infections: 63
Exposure to radiation: 62

6. Podiatrists

Overall unhealthiness score: 60.2

What they do: Diagnose and treat diseases and deformities of the human foot.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to disease and infections: 87
Exposure to radiation: 69
Time spent sitting: 61

5. Veterinarians and Veterinary Assistants/Technologists

Overall unhealthiness score: 60.3

What they do: Diagnose, treat, or research diseases and injuries of animals and perform medical tests in a laboratory environment for use in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases in animals.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to disease and infections: 81
Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 75
Exposure to contaminants: 74

4. Anesthesiologists, Nurse Anesthetists, and Anesthesiologist Assistants

Overall unhealthiness score: 61.8

What they do: Administer anesthetic or sedation during medical procedures, using local, intravenous, spinal, or caudal methods or administer anesthetic, adjuvant, or accessory drugs under the direction of an anesthesiologist.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to disease and infections: 94
Exposure to contaminants: 79
Exposure to radiation: 71.8

3. Flight Attendants

Overall unhealthiness score: 62.3

What they do: Provide personal services to ensure the safety, security, and comfort of airline passengers during flight. Greet passengers, verify tickets, explain use of safety equipment, and serve food or beverages.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to contaminants: 88
Exposure to disease and infections: 77
Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 69

2. Dentists and Dental Hygienists/Assistants and Dental Lab Technicians

Overall unhealthiness score: 62.9

What they do: Examine, diagnose, and treat diseases, injuries, and malformations of teeth and gums. May treat diseases of nerve, pulp, and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. May fit dental appliances or provide preventive care.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to disease and infections: 87.8
Exposure to contaminants: 76.2
Time spent sitting: 73.6

1. Histotechnologists and Histologic Technicians

Overall unhealthiness score: 63.8

What they do: Prepare histologic slides from tissue sections for microscopic examination and diagnosis by pathologists.

Top three health risks:
Exposure to hazardous conditions: 94
Exposure to contaminants: 91
Exposure to disease and infections: 75