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State: Raleigh exec let employees' health coverage lapse

Posted November 19, 2010

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— State regulators say an executive of a defunct Raleigh nonprofit didn't pay the health insurance premiums for her five employees, costing them their coverage and thousands of dollars in medical bills.

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 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.

Integrated Family Solutions State: Raleigh exec let employees' health coverage lapse

"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.

Austin, who was released on a $10,000 bond, declined to comment when reached by phone.

41 Comments

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  • jcassius Nov 19, 2010

    Guess she implied the notice when she passed out the pink slips.

  • Andiecat Nov 19, 2010

    I agree that the insurance companies should raise a red flag when they don't get the premium and before they cancel coverage. They should either notify the employees or at least the Insurance Department! I was involved in getting this law enacted. I tried to have it require that kind of notice -- but the insurance companies had so many lobbyists and influence at the General Assembly that it was a futile effort.

  • keneds Nov 19, 2010

    I bet she thought Obama care had started and every one was covered

  • zest4life77 Nov 19, 2010

    I also worked for this company. Our pay checks bounced several times, we were never offered Cobra after being laid off and I also had to pay for my Dr visits upon finding out she screwed us. Funny thing she is a church goer bible thumper who said she would pray for me when she laid us all off in May of last year,Pray for your self Tonja.

  • jeff27577 Nov 19, 2010

    obamacare to the rescue!!

  • cherijon Nov 19, 2010

    Im an EX employee of theirs, they were also doing a lot of MEDICAID FRAUD! I dont know whatever happened during the audit, but this shows you cant do UGLY and think your going to get away with it. I was FIRED for standing up for whats right. They GOT what they deserved, and more is to come out. I knew this day would come....OHHHH and they CHURCH going FOLK! A shame!!! And an embarrassment!!

  • awomnsptofview Nov 19, 2010

    My brother had cancer and worked for a firm in RTP called Microcraft. He worked their for several years. The owner collected premiums from his paycheck but never paid the insurance and his lapsed. Guess what?? NO ONE would insure him again!! The owner got fined by the DOI, sold the buisness, and filed bankruptsy. My brother is gone now and only God will help me heal this river of hurt and hate I have for this individual.

  • BULLDOZER Nov 19, 2010

    It will all be fine now that Obama care is coming

  • Go Figure Nov 19, 2010

    Guess she is going to need a little "mental health" help now...

  • Go Figure Nov 19, 2010

    All I have to say is....OH MY GOSH!

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