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Insurance commissioner rebuts company's ads

Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher, accusing an Indiana insurance company of trying to rip off elderly Floridians, is countering a $200,000 television blitz by the Golden Rule Insurance Co. with a new advertisement of his own. Gallagher is accusing Golden Rule of foisting a "bait and switch" scheme on the elderly by offering a Medicare supplement insurance that is too cheap to cover claims. Only 2,500 of the state's 780,000 Medigap policy holders are insured with Golden Rule.

The Insurance Department tried to order Golden Rule to raise its rates on new policies to a level that department actuaries calculated would cover likely claims. But the company refused, saying the increase wasn't warranted. It no longer is permitted to sell Medigap policies in Florida.

Golden Rule is contending that Gallagher wants to raise all Medigap rates, which he firmly denies. The company's TV ad shows paramedics taking an unconscious, elderly man away in an ambulance, while an elderly woman looks on in apparent fear.

"Gallagher means higher Medigap rates," concludes the commercial, which contains a disclaimer stating that it is a political advertisement.

In his ad Gallagher warns viewers about Golden Rule's campaign, and says that he will allow "no bait and switch in Florida."

Gallagher, who is facing a tough re-election fight, criticized his opponent George Stuart for statements he has made in support of Golden Rule. Stuart said he has nothing to do with the Golden Rule campaign, but supports its effort to fight the rate increase.

Gallagher says Golden Rule has a spotty history in Florida, having canceled the medical insurance policies of 12,000 Floridians last year.

The firm also tried to force an 85 percent rate increase on 40,000 Ohio medical policy holders last year, according to the Columbus Dispatch. It also has sued the North Carolina insurance commissioner for not approving a rate increase, according to the Associated Press.