Jackie Smith supervises more than a dozen employees in the Arkansas Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Division, which is responsible for assisting insurance consumers with complaints and inquiries regarding policies, companies, producers and adjusters.
Smith started her working career in 1972 at Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, where she worked in various divisions from the mailroom to customer service. She then went to work for the HMO company American Health Care, which is no longer in business, as the claims manager, where she supervised 11 employees and wrote the claims-processing manual. She also developed the coordination of benefits and subrogation area for the company.
Smith started with the Insurance Department in 1991 as an investigator and was promoted to consumer protection manager in 1994. She is a member of the State Disaster Coalition and the Governor’s Dislocated Workers Task Force.
What are the most common kinds of consumer complaints your department deals with?
So far this year it has been health insurance, followed by casualty.
Health complaints center on denials and provider networks. Many consumers don’t know what is in their policy or wait to ask questions about their policy until it is too late. We recommend that once consumers get any insurance policy, they read what the exclusions are first.
On the casualty side, most complaints center on the value of the total vehicle in settling claims. We suggest that consumers provide the company with the actual cash value of that same vehicle in their areas. It is our experience that if producers and adjusters spent just a few minutes more with consumers explaining the details of the policy or claims process, it would save the department making a phone call to them or their company.
What is the biggest consumer misconception about insurance?
The belief that since a consumer paid his or her premium, that all claims should be paid regardless of the terms of the policy. Consumers should know what their policy states as to what is covered. Agents making sure to go over policies and declarations pages with their customers will help them be better informed.
“Surprise” health costs have become a political issue. What recourse does a consumer have when an insurer refuses to pay a claim, or says it was improperly filed?
Consumers should contact our office and file a complaint so that we can make sure the company did not violate insurance laws or department regulations in processing the claim. As far as the improperly filed claim by a provider of service, the consumer can contact the attorney general’s office.
What attracted you to this position? What’s the most satisfying part of the job?
The opportunity to help people is the answer to both questions. I want the insurance-buying public to know what we do and how we can assist them in understanding their policies and claims.
Additionally, many people don’t realize what the Arkansas Insurance Department does in response to natural disasters. The department, through its Consumer Services Division, is part of the state’s response plan for natural disasters like the historic flooding that occurred earlier this year. Our staff participated in both the FEMA-sponsored Disaster Recovery Center program and the Arkansas Red Cross Multi-Agency Resource Centers. We deployed to DRCs in the following locations: Houston, Mulberry, Dardanelle, North Little Rock, Mayflower, Pine Bluff, west Little Rock and Dumas. We were also at the Pine Bluff and Conway MARCs. All told, we met with more than 150 families affected by the flooding — providing assistance to them on what their insurance policies covered and how to start the claims process. I am very proud of the work the CSD performs for our neighbors when natural disasters strike.