The commissioner finds that some insurers limit, terminate, or deny coverage for personal injury protection insurance without adequate disclosure to insureds of their bases for such actions. To eliminate unfair acts or practices in accord with RCW 48.30.010
, the following are hereby defined as unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance specifically applicable to automobile personal injury protection insurance. The following standards apply to an insurer's consultation with health care professionals when reviewing the reasonableness or necessity of treatment of the insured claiming benefits under his or her automobile personal injury protection benefits in an automobile insurance policy, as those terms are defined in RCW 48.22.005
(1), (7), and (8), and as prescribed at RCW 48.22.085
. This section applies only where the insurer relies on the medical opinion of health care professionals to deny, limit, or terminate medical and hospital benefit claims. When used in this section, the term "medical or health care professional" does not include an insurer's claim representatives, adjusters, or managers or any health care professional in the direct employ of the insurer.
(1) Within a reasonable time after receipt of actual notice of an insured's intent to file a personal injury protection medical and hospital benefits claim, and in every case prior to denying, limiting, or terminating an insured's medical and hospital benefits, an insurer shall provide an insured with a written explanation of the coverage provided by the policy, including a notice that the insurer may deny, limit, or terminate benefits if the insurer determines that the medical and hospital services:
(a) Are not reasonable;
(b) Are not necessary;
(c) Are not related to the accident; or
(d) Are not incurred within three years of the automobile accident.
These are the only grounds for denial, limitation, or termination of medical and hospital services permitted pursuant to RCW 48.22.005
, or 48.22.100
The written explanation responsive to an insured's intent to file a personal injury protection medical and hospital benefits claim must also include contact information for the office of the Washington state insurance commissioner's consumer protection services, including the consumer protection division's hotline phone number and the agency's web site address, and a statement that the consumer may contact the office of the insurance commissioner for assistance with questions or complaints.
(2) Within a reasonable time after an insurer concludes that it intends to deny, limit, or terminate an insured's medical and hospital benefits, the insurer shall provide an insured with a written explanation that describes the reasons for its action and copies of pertinent documents, if any, upon request of the insured. The insurer shall include the true and actual reason for its action as provided to the insurer by the medical or health care professional with whom the insurer consulted in clear and simple language, so that the insured will not need to resort to additional research to understand the reason for the action. A simple statement, for example, that the services are "not reasonable or necessary" is insufficient.
(3)(a) Health care professionals with whom the insurer will consult regarding its decision to deny, limit, or terminate an insured's medical and hospital benefits shall be currently licensed, certified, or registered to practice in the same health field or specialty as the health care professional that treated the insured.
(b) If the insured is being treated by more than one health care professional, the review shall be completed by a professional licensed, certified, or registered to practice in the same health field or specialty as the principal prescribing or diagnosing provider, unless otherwise agreed to by the insured and the insurer. This does not prohibit the insurer from providing additional reviews of other categories of professionals.
(4) To assist in any examination by the commissioner or the commissioner's delegatee, the insurer shall maintain in the insured's claim file sufficient information to verify the credentials of the health care professional with whom it consulted.
(5) An insurer shall not refuse to pay expenses related to a covered property damage loss arising out of an automobile accident solely because an insured failed to attend, or chose not to participate in, an independent medical examination requested under the insured's personal injury protection coverage.
(6) If an automobile liability insurance policy includes an arbitration provision, it shall conform to the following standards:
(a) The arbitration shall commence within a reasonable period of time after it is requested by an insured.
(b) The arbitration shall take place in the county in which the insured resides or the county where the insured resided at the time of the accident, unless the parties agree to another location.
(c) Relaxed rules of evidence shall apply, unless other rules of evidence are agreed to by the parties.
(d) The arbitration shall be conducted pursuant to arbitration rules similar to those of the American Arbitration Association, the Center for Public Resources, the Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service, Washington Arbitration and Mediation Service, chapter 7.04
RCW, or any other rules of arbitration agreed to by the parties.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 48.02.060 and 48.22.105. 12-19-081 (Matter No. R 2012-13), § 284-30-395, filed 9/18/12, effective 4/1/13. Statutory Authority: RCW 48.02.060, 48.22.105 and 48.30.010. 97-13-005 (Matter No. R 96-6), § 284-30-395, filed 6/5/97, effective 7/6/97.]