CUENCA, ON-LINE ISSUE 04
By: Sara Canez.
Photos: Courtesy of Blue Box
When looking to buy Insurance in Cuenca, the best option is Blue Box Insurance. Blue Box Insurance was awarded “Best Insurance Agency” this year in GringoPost, and is most deserving of this award. Not only is Blue Box one of the top 10 agencies in Cuenca based on premiums sold, Carlos Ramirez, the owner, believes in selling a good product for a good price and providing the very best customer service. In Ecuador, you can buy insurance directly from any insurance company, but if you buy from a larger agency like Blue Box, the agency not only gives you an additional discount, owing to their large client base but also offer services that a carrier won’t provide.
Carlos is a true entrepreneur and always wanted to sell. When he was 10 years old, he asked his mother to buy him a watermelon and cut it up into slices. He sold the slices and with the proceeds bought more to sell. He continued selling items this way until he was 14 and went to work for his uncle. After graduating from the University of Salesiano in Cuenca with a degree in automotive engineering, his uncle advised him to sell insurance as people will always need it.
To be an insurance agent, Ecuador requires four years’ work with an insurance carrier so Carlos went to work for an insurance company in the Claims Department. During his fourth year with the company, he completed a year-long required course in selling insurance. Soon after completing this course and after his four years in Claims, Carlos opened his agency in Cuenca, calling it Blue Box. For each line of insurance that he wanted to sell, he had to pass a difficult test for that coverage. He started out as the only employee but quickly began to grow the business because of his hard work, research in the markets, and his knowledge of excellent customer service.
Blue Box’s six employees (three of whom, including Carlos, speak excellent English) will shop all the best insurance markets to provide the customer with the best possible coverages and explain to the buyer exactly what is being purchased. When a client incurs an insured loss, the agency will assist with all claim needs. For an auto accident, call Carlos immediately! He will come to the accident site to take pictures and obtain the contact information of the other driver and lead the damaged cars to the body shop (or get them taken to the shop). This author has personally experienced this service and can verify that Carlos will drop everything to help his clients. For health claims, the agency staff will go to your doctor’s offices and clinics for any required documents, submit the claim and manage the follow-up details.
Carlos sells 23 different kinds of insurance. The majority of the insurance sold by Blue Box are as follows:
Automobile, Homeowners and Renters Contents, Health, Life (often included in a health policy), Financial/building construction, Civil Liability, Cargo (transporting goods inside Ecuador and international) and Travel Medical insurance.
Carlos spends much time doing research with carriers and their policies. Every six months, the government sends out a financial listing of all carriers doing business in Ecuador and Carlos verifies that all his clients’ policies are with good carriers. Each client’s annual policy renewal is carefully scrutinized, and if Carlos determines that the customer can get a better policy for a better price than the current company’s renewal price, Carlos will facilitate changing the policy to a new carrier. Carlos has staff who will even pick up your vehicle (for a small fee) and take it to EMOV for testing and licensing so that you don’t have to wait in line or do all the steps to get an auto licensed annually.
Insurance in Ecuador can sometimes be seen as very different from insurance in the USA. Typically, insurance in Ecuador works in a similar manner, but it helps to have Blue Box and Carlos’s expertise to help navigate the different procedures.
Automobile insurance in Ecuador, just like in the USA, depends on the value and age of the auto, but in Ecuador, it is usually much less expensive. However, only about 15% of cars in Ecuador are insured.
Automobile Coverage sold by Blue Box always includes theft, damage and civil liability but can also be written to cover a replacement vehicle while your car is being repaired. Legal assistance and “Fianza” coverages can also be written into the policy. Legal assistance helps if you are hit by someone without insurance and you want to sue that owner for damages, or if you hit someone and need legal representation. Court cases in Ecuador can take a long time and this coverage will help pay for a lawyer to handle the case on your behalf. Fianza coverage is needed if you hit or damage any government property, such as a light pole or a tree in a local park. If this happens, your car will be impounded, but with Fianza coverage, the insurance company will help pay the damages and liberate your car on your behalf. If you are involved in any type of accident, call Carlos! He will handle all details and issues for his clients.
Carlos notes that expats usually ask for more civil liability automobile coverage than the maximum coverage he can sell, which is $50,000. Civil liability is the part of the policy that pays for damage to the other vehicle and the driver when you hit another car. Carlos states that most cars in Ecuador can be repaired for less than $50,000. The amount of the value of all cars in Ecuador is published by the government every six months. Policies are sold with these government set valuations of coverage, and a vehicle cannot be insured higher or lower than the assessed value. A car is deemed totaled if the damage is equal to 70% of this published value.
Health insurance coverages, as many expats have discovered, can be very different in Ecuador but typically cost much less. Policies can be sold with a maximum amount of reimbursable claims payments of a set dollar amount per year, or the policy can set a maximum limit of reimbursable payments per incident of diagnosis. These limits can be set at $10,000 per year or up to $100,000 and even higher. For example, your policy may pay $30,000 per year in total for all health expenses. In the next example, your policy may pay out $30,000 per year for all your heart problem expenses but then also pay out another $30,000 in that year for all expenses related to your knee or hip replacement. Carlos wants his customers to understand their policies because the specifics are in the contract. He will explain these provisions in detail, particularly issues about pre-existing conditions, limitations and exclusions.
Most Ecuador health insurance companies offer discounts for use of network doctors and hospitals, similar to many policies in the United States. Deductible choices are offered, but deductibles are usually not high, and often only apply to hospitalization charges. Medical expenses in Ecuador are much less costly than in the United States or Europe.
Homeowner’s and Renter’s Contents Insurance sold by Blue Box include a number of different policies, which are delivered to the client packaged together. Carlos always includes Theft, Damage (which includes water, earthquake and fire losses), Electronics coverage, and Civil Liability, which pays for medical costs for someone other than family members who may be hurt in your home. Coverage can also be included for living expenses in the event your home is too damaged to live in. Policies are not expensive: Per Carlos, coverage for $10,000 of Renter’s Contents Insurance is about $135 per year; for Homeowner’s Insurance, a house valued at $100,000 can be insured for about $350 per year.
The Ecuadorian government regulates timelines in regard to claims activities. A policy owner has 90 days with which to submit a claim; after 90 days, the carrier has the right to decline. The carrier has 30 days after receipt of the complete claim to send you a liquidation or explanation of benefits. The law also states that if nothing is received from the carrier after 30 days and if the customer sends a complaint letter to the company including proof of submission dates, the carrier is required to respond within five days. If no response is made in five days, the carrier must pay the requested claim immediately.
Insurance Adviser 2020
Carlos recently completed a course with the University CEREM in Madrid, Spain, obtaining a Masters of Business Administration degree. He was due to travel to Madrid upon completion of the courses to receive the degree but because of the pandemic was delayed. He is hoping to be able to travel in March.
Customers can meet with Carlos in his office, in their own home, or even at a coffee shop, as he wants his clients to feel comfortable meeting with him. If you don’t have an agent, or you want to move your policies to Blue Box, this can be done easily. Blue Box Insurance has grown tremendously recently and has been so well received by the expat community in Cuenca that Carlos is now planning to open a branch office on the coast, either in Salinas or Manta.
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