Raleigh Business Owner Charged With Illegally Dropping Health Insurance for Employees

North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner, Wayne Goodwin, and the Department of Insurance are going after yet another person charged with illegally dropping health insurance for employees of a small business. See the accompanying WRAL-TV video about it or check out the official press release from the Department here.

According to WRAL-TV:

Tonja Jordan Austin, 38, of 109 Hilary Place in Cary, was arrested Thursday and charged with two counts each of failing to pay group health insurance premiums and failing to properly notify people covered by the policy that the premiums were no longer being paid.

Austin was the co-owner of Integrated Family Solutions, a community-based mental health agency that recently closed its offices in Raleigh and Durham. The state Department of Insurance said Friday that she didn't pay premiums to United Healthcare, and the nonprofit's health policies were terminated on Dec. 1 and April 1.

State law requires that employers give workers 45 days written notice if they are canceling or terminating health coverage.

"In instances like this, most people will not know until it's too late," Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said.

One Integrated Family Solutions [employee] complained to the DOI, prompting the state investigation, after amassing more than $13,000 in medical bills that weren't covered by insurance, Goodwin said.

"It causes tremendous heartbreak and havoc for family finances," he said.

Goodwin said such cases occur more often in a soft economy because companies try to cut costs by dropping insurance coverage. So far this year, the DOI has investigated 41 cases, resulting in eight arrests and two convictions.

"These are serious allegations and certainly serious criminal acts that affect anywhere from a few employees to thousands of employees," he said.

People who have health insurance through their employer should double-check that the premiums are up to date before before having a major procedure, he said.

The Tar Heel state Insurance Commissioner actively fights insurance fraud of all kinds, and indicates that such crime has dramatically increased over the last year or so, directly resulting from the worst economy in our lifetimes.