Insurance change angers some

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  A failure of notification regarding a change in life insurance policies apparently left several employees of the Carter County government disgruntled and worried about the status of additional coverage.
  The Canada Life Assurance Company -- a U.S. group business of Great-West Lifeco Inc. -- had provided life insurance coverage to the county government employees. Canada Life was purchased by the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation in January 2004.
  County Mayor Dale Fair confirmed on Friday the county employees' life insurance policies had been transferred to the publicly-traded MetLife Insurance Company shortly after the sale of Canada Life. He stated the county faced a substantial increase in life insurance premiums after Canada Life was purchased, thus precipitating the decision to switch providers.
  "I can't see the debate if you have a higher rated insurance company," Fair said of the issue on Friday. "The higher rated the insurance company, the better."
  The county presently provides $10,000 in life insurance to employees at no cost to them. If county employees wanted additional life insurance coverage, he or she has the option to purchase additional insurance over the $10,000 figure. Participating employees had a portion of each paycheck deducted to pay for the additional coverage.
  County employees who spoke with the Star on a condition of anonymity said they were concerned whether money allocated from the checks to fund additional life insurance coverage through Canada Life had continued with the new provider. Several said they were unaware of the change that purportedly was made in February one month after the sale of Canada Life. Others said they never received paperwork to update personal and beneficiary information for the new insurance company.
  County Finance Director Jason Cody said Friday any notion that life insurance coverage had lapsed was "not true" and all county employees retained the same life insurance coverage. Cody refused to comment on any specifics of the decision to change life insurance companies.
  Fair adamantly said that all life insurance policies for county employees were active and paid. He said he was aware of additional coverage purchased by employees, and those payments were directed to the new MetLife policies to cover all participating employees since the switch had been made.
  However, Fair said he was not made aware of the change in life insurance providers until last week. He said communicating the new provider to county employees could have been handled better.
  "The problem made was communication," Fair said. "It is not a lack of coverage, lapse in coverage, or quality of coverage."
  The MetLife company, which features the Peanuts gang characters such as Snoopy in many television and print advertisements, reported more than $35 billion in annual operating revenue and $2.2 billion of net income for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2003. The insurance and financial services giant reported second quarter 2004 net income of $842 million, a 45 percent increase of income over second quarter 2003 figures. The second quarter report released in July also found the company's total earned premiums and fees exceeded $6.1 billion, representing a 7 percent increase over the prior year period.