Members of the armed services can be deployed on short notice, leaving little time to address their personal business affairs. Insurance coverage, in particular, can be affected when someone moves out of state or spends an extended period away from home.
In recognition of this need, the Ohio Department of Insurance urges military personnel and their families to ask questions before purchasing any insurance policy. If you do have questions or need to file an insurance complaint, please call us at 800-686-1526.
If you will be deployed for an extended period of time and no one will be driving your vehicle, you may be able to suspend some of your auto insurance coverage to save on premium payments. Not all states – or insurance companies – allow for coverage to be suspended.
If you want to suspend auto coverage, contact your agent and state insurance department for the specific laws and policy limitations applicable in your state. You may want to ask whether the following types of coverage can be suspended while you are deployed: liability, collision, uninsured/underinsured motorist, medical payments and personal injury protection (PIP).
If your state mandates automobile insurance coverage, you may need to file an affidavit of non-use with your state's department of motor vehicles to avoid being fined for failure to maintain insurance. If you suspend coverage, you may not be able to recover money for damage to your vehicle due to weather (i.e. hail or tornado damage), Acts of God (i.e. earthquake or flood) or acts by another individual, unless you keep the coverage known either as "comprehensive" or "other than collision" in force (i.e. vandalism or hit-and-run).
Many reservists and National Guard members have health coverage for themselves and their families through an employer-sponsored health plan. Some may wish to continue that coverage, particularly for their dependents, during their active duty period. Talk with your benefits administrator to learn what will happen with your health coverage when you are called to active duty. While employers are not required to pay the cost of health coverage for you and your dependents while you are on active duty, some employers may choose to continue benefits at their current level.
If you are on active duty for more than 30 days, you and your dependents should be covered by military health care. Dependents have medical and dental services provided through uniformed services facilities subject to availability and are eligible for health benefits from civilian sources through the federally funded TRICARE program, the triple option benefit plan available for military families, formerly known as CHAMPUS (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services). Contact your military unit for more information on these programs.
Your right to continue health coverage under an employment-based group health plan is covered by federal laws. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides health coverage continuation rights to employees and their families after an event such as reduction in employment hours. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is intended to minimize the disadvantages that occur when a person needs to be absent from civilian employment to serve in the uniformed services. Both COBRA and USERRA generally allow individuals called for active duty to continue coverage for themselves and their dependents under an employment-based group health plan for up to 24 months. If military service is for 30 days or less, you and your family can continue coverage at the same cost prior to your short service. If the duration of your military service is longer, you may be required to pay one hundred percent of the full premium plus a two percent administration fee to continue this coverage for you or your family. You should receive a notice from your plan explaining your rights.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) may give you and your family rights to enroll in other group health plan coverage if it is available to you (for example, if your spouse's employer sponsors a group health plan). Yu and your family have the opportunity to enroll outside of the plan's official enrollment periods. However, to qualify, you must request enrollment in the other plan (for example, your spouse's plan) within 30 days of losing eligibility for coverage under your employer's plan. After this special enrollment is requested, the health care plan must provide coverage no later than the first day of the first month following your enrollment request. If you are on active duty more than 30 days, coverage in another plan through special enrollment can be cheaper than continuation coverage because the employer often pays a part of the premium. When considering your health coverage options, you should examine the scope of the coverage including: benefit coverage and limitations, visit limits, dollar limits, cost of premiums, cost-sharing (including co-payments and deductibles) and coverage waiting periods.
An individual policy can be used for your family members. But speak with your agent as there is a war exclusion that might make coverage for the military personnel void. Should you purchase an individual military-focused policy, check with your agent to make sure it does not duplicate coverage for your family that could be obtained elsewhere.
Many homeowners policies have a "vacancy clause" that may be triggered if you are deployed for an extended period of time and your family has moved to a new location. Such policies might not pay claims if your house is vacant for 60 days or more. A house is considered vacant if there are no occupants and it is unfurnished, while a house is considered unoccupied when it is furnished, but there are no occupants. Some companies offer an endorsement that specifically allows coverage for your house to continue, even if it is vacant for an extended period of time. Consult with your insurance company to learn how it defines "vacancy" and whether the claims for a vacant house will be paid.
It is a good idea to review your homeowners policy with your agent before you leave for military duty. Doing so could help you avoid a dispute in the future. Also make sure your policy limits are sufficient to cover your home and your personal property at today’s costs. Consider increasing your coverage if you have made additions or improvements to your property.
While homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover personal property that you take with you while traveling, most policies exclude damages caused directly or indirectly by acts of war. The military generally will not pay to repair or replace property that is damaged or lost in military housing or in a war zone. Talk to your agent about whether personal items that you take with you during your deployment will be covered if they are lost, stolen or damaged.
Anyone who sells life insurance at military installations is required to obtain permission from the Department of Defense to be an authorized solicitor. Such an individual must also have a license from a state insurance department. When dealing with an agent, ask to see his/her permits and licenses to be sure you are dealing with a legitimate individual.
Currently, many private insurance carriers do not offer coverage for Acts of War. Military personnel are provided some death benefits, but may purchase a limited amount of additional coverage through the Service Members' Group Life Insurance (SGLI), a low-cost group life insurance program, which includes benefits for death resulting from Acts of War. Be sure you understand the benefits paid by the policy if you were to die in a war zone or were to be killed through an act of war. If you purchase an individual military-focused policy, check with your agent to make sure it does not duplicate coverage for your family that could be obtained elsewhere.
Service members can contact their Flight, Payroll and/or Finance Office for further details on premium payment and refund issues. Service members and their beneficiaries should contact the Office of Service Members' Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) for pending claims.