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Politics and Government

Cuomo changes insurance rules to help Sandy victims

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is taking steps to speed up insurance claims processing after Superstorm Sandy. Cuomo says 360,000 Sandy victims have filed insurance claims for damage to their homes, cars and other property.  And he says insurance companies have not been quick enough to respond.

“We’re getting many, many complaints from people,” Cuomo said.   

The governor says he is issuing emergency regulations that scrap the normal 15-day time frame for adjusters to visit damaged properties, and instead require that they come in just six days.  Insurance companies that do not meet the six-day requirement will be fined -- $1000 per violation. The changes will make it easier for temporary public adjusters, who are consumer advocates, to be hired.

Cuomo says the new rules also allow home owners to begin repairs without waiting for an insurance settlement, if the damage presents a health or safety threat, as long as they document the spending and keep the receipts.

And the governor says his Department of Financial Services is starting a website, which will track the records of all of the insurance companies that have policy holders in the state, to let everyone see how they are performing.

“They may want to take that into consideration when they shop for policies in the future,” Cuomo said.

The governor was furious with the state’s utilities companies for what he said were delays in restoring power. Cuomo set up a special investigatory panel, which has already subpoenaed Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority.

Cuomo seems more understanding of the insurance industry, saying he realizes they are overwhelmed with claims. But he says he wants to make sure that they are held accountable.

The governor continues to seek $41 billion from the federal government  to cover repairs and rebuilding as well as mitigation for future storms.  He says he knows the request will have more trouble in the Republican-led House of Representatives, and is counting on support from Long Island GOP Congressman Peter King.

“My guess is it’s going to be trickier on the House side,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says he is working with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and now Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, in a joint request for aid, something President Obama asked for. The governor says he will visit Washington to lobby for the funds personally, if it is helpful.