August 3, 2021

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United Policyholders: A Brief Look Back at the Past 30 years

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This year, United Policyholders celebrates a tremendous milestone – 30 years of successfully providing information to and advocating on behalf of policyholders nationwide.

In their own words:

United Policyholders (UP) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to be a trustworthy and useful information resource and an effective voice for consumers of all types of insurance in all 50 states.

UP is not your average non-profit organization. UP has distinctively positioned itself in a class of its own and has withstood the test of time. UP has done this by consistently providing educational information and advancements in consumer protections. Whether you’ve heard of UP, if you’re a consumer or professional in the insurance industry, UP has likely helped you out in some way, shape, or form.

Where they began

UP was co-founded in 1991 by Amy Bach. Amy has been a professional advocate for insurance policyholders since 1984 and an attorney since 1989. She serves as the Executive Director and primary spokesperson for the organization. Like Chip Merlin, she is a leader and pioneer for insurance consumers. That said, it shouldn’t be a surprise that UP’s beginning was triggered by an event of insurance consumers in need:

The spark for UP was an urban area wildfire that destroyed 3,000 homes in Northern California. In the aftermath of the disaster, the residents struggled with serious and unexpected gaps in their insurance coverage and a claim process that was often adversarial. UP was formed to help level the playing field between insurers and insureds.

Where they’ve been

UP’s work is divided into three programs:

  • Roadmap to Recovery provides tools and resources for solving insurance problems after an accident, loss, illness or other adverse event.
  • Roadmap to Preparedness promotes disaster preparedness and insurance literacy through outreach and education in partnership with civic, faith based, business and other non-profit associations.
  • Advocacy and Action advances pro-consumer laws and public policy related to insurance matters.

For the past 30 years, UP has prided itself on growing its volunteer corps of disaster survivors, lawyers, insurance professionals, financial planners, CPAs, construction experts, patient advocates, and retired judges to assist their professional staff in advancing the above program initiatives.

Under the Roadmap to Recovery™ program, “boots on the ground” assistance in disaster impacted areas and Disaster Recovery Help Libraries are two of the most impactful services UP provides. Beginning after the Oakland firestorm of 1991, UP has also provided assistance to survivors of the following catastrophes, to name just a few:

The Advocacy and Action program has also grown extensively throughout UP’s tenure. UP files “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) briefs to assist the court interpret and effectuate consumers’ reasonable expectations of coverage. UP recently surpassed another huge milestone in submitting its 500th amicus brief this past year.

Merlin Law Group understands the importance of weighing in on insurance cases across the country and has drafted numerous amicus briefs on behalf of United Policyholders on a pro bono basis. One of the most recent amicus briefs MLG drafted involved an appraisal issue – Klass v. Liberty Mutual. The entire amicus library can be found here.

Elected officials, academics, and journalists throughout the U.S. have increasingly sought United Policyholders’ input over the past 30 years. UP’s unbiased voice for insurance consumers has earned them the respect to influence legislation and regulations. Visit UP’s Advocacy and Action – Working With Elected Officials page to view letters of opposition to improper insurance rate oversight all the way back from 2008 to 2020, and letters of support for laws that codify coverage minimums, mandate advance payments, and increase claim handling protections.

Where they’re going

As UP said themselves, “2020 was a tough year, but we didn’t miss a beat.” UP adapted and provided their usual in-person resources online this year. Further, UP launched three initiatives in 2020, highlighted in their newsletter:

COVID-19 Loss Recovery Initiative:

As soon as COVID-19 public safety orders began causing businesses to be unable to operate, UP launched a national initiative to facilitate insurance payments to offset their losses.

Just as we help and guide individuals impacted by large-scale disasters, we are helping businesses assert their right to Business Interruption, Event Cancellation and Civil Authority benefits to stay afloat and resume operations when it is safe to do so

WRAP Initiative:

[UP] made significant progress toward establishing the nation’s first statewide wildfire risk reduction and insurance reward program through our WRAP initiative.

RISC Initiative:

[UP l]aunched and secured a major underwriter for a national initiative (RISC) to counteract the trend of insurers’ raising deductibles and adding exclusions that hollow out coverage and undermine essential financial protection for property damage.

In Sum

I had the pleasure of working for United Policyholders before joining Merlin Law Group. I cannot say enough good things about UP. Moreover, I am proud to have joined a firm that recognizes the importance of UP’s work. Chip Merlin and Merlin Law Group are helping underwrite the RISC initiative referenced above with the understanding of how important it is to the wellbeing of insurance consumers nationwide.

UP is funded by donations, foundation grants, and volunteer labor. They do not accept money from insurance companies. During my time at UP, I learned how far every dollar donated went. It is easy to talk about change in the industry, but it’s another thing to do it. I often heard Amy say, “Chip Merlin puts his money where his mouth is and is making a difference!” I encourage you to do the same.

In a follow up post, we’ll explain why MLG values supporting UP and why you should too. If you don’t need any further convincing, you can support UP here.

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