Fender Bender? Take These Key Steps After an Accident

Even the best drivers are at risk of fender benders. With so many variables on the road, accidents happen. In the U.S. alone, an average of 6 million accidents occur each year. If you’re among this number, it’s important to know the next steps to take. If you find yourself in a car crunch, follow these procedures:

Safety first: If possible, pull your vehicle to the side, out of traffic, but in a safe, public place. Use caution when engaging the other driver if you suspect road rage is involved.

Damage assessment: Find out if anyone is hurt and call 911 if medical assistance is needed. After personal injuries are taken care of, assess the damage to the vehicles. Take pictures to document any damage.

Information gathering: Record the names of everyone involved. Try to get witness information if possible. Include in your records the car registration, insurance, car make and model, and license information for all drivers. If you hit a parked car, don’t leave the scene before finding the owner. If you can’t locate the owner, record the details of the accident and leave a note with your contact information.

Police notification: Contact law enforcement to alert them of the accident. Document the names and badge numbers of the officers involved and find out how you can get a copy of the accident report. If officers don’t come to the scene, go to the nearest police station to file a report. You may also be able to do this online.

Claim process: Notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible to start the claim process. By following the procedures above, you will have all the information and documentation you need to make this process as smooth as possible.

Don’t Let Halloween Décor Haunt You

Will your porch feel incomplete without a jack-o-lantern on your doorstep this Halloween?

If you plan to carve up a pumpkin to greet your trick-or-treaters this year, use the following tips to make your sculpting simpler and safer.

Bottoms up: Rather than cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin, remove the bottom. The hole will allow you to place your carved pumpkin on top of a candle rather than reach inside to awkwardly place or light one.

Knives down: For the best results, don’t try to carve a pumpkin with the same tools you use to prepare dinner. Kitchen knives aren’t designed for jack-o-lantern creation, but pumpkin carving kits are. These are fairly inexpensive and can be found in most big-box stores. They include specially designed tools that can cut through rinds, scoop innards, and poke intricate holes to create the fantastical face you desire.

Candles out: If you light your pumpkin with a candle, never leave it unsupervised. It might be tempting to leave that jack-o-lantern burning while you trek the neighborhood trick-or-treating, but this puts your home at risk. Always blow out candles before leaving the home or going to bed for the night.

Flames in: Another precaution with candle-lit pumpkins is location. You want to ensure that the flames stay within the pumpkin. Keep lit jack-o-lanterns far from objects such as window treatments and other décor. Keep in mind that hay bales and other straw decorations are often quite flammable. The National Fire Protection Association reports that decoration fires result in an average of 41 injuries and $13 million in property damage each year, and nearly half of these incidents are started by candles.

Kids’ costumes can be flammable, too, so place jack-o-lanterns strategically so they don’t come in contact with flowing capes or large tutus that make their way onto your porch.

Lights on: To reduce the risk of fire, consider using lights inside your jack-o-lanterns instead of candles. LED candles or other similar products are widely available now. Some even flicker to imitate natural flames. It’s worth the investment to avoid a fire. Plus, you can reuse these next Halloween, so you don’t have to buy fresh candles every year!

Medicare Advantage Now Paying for Home Care

If you have ever tried to recover from surgery or a serious illness without assistance, you know how hard it can be just to manage your daily chores.

Having a home-care specialist arrive in your home a few times a week can make a tremendous difference in your recovery as well as reduce the stress and depression that can accompany an injury or serious illness.

For those who will be encountering these challenging situations, there’s good news. Many Medicare Advantage (MA) plans recently started paying for home services, also known as “custodial care.” This new benefit can include tasks like light housekeeping, shopping, getting dressed, medication reminders, and meal preparation.

Why the change?

Exploring possible cost savings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) found that providing home care to sick and injured patients reduced CMS costs by preventing hospital readmissions. Research reported by HealthLeaders found that hospital readmissions declined 25 percent after the addition of home care services.

Since early 2019, CMS added in-home care as a MA benefit, hoping to reduce costs further. Before this change, Medicare covered home health care like skilled nursing, wound care, and similar skilled health services, but less-skilled services like home care were not covered. Patients had to pay these costs out of pocket.

In fact, this change in the law is so broad that MA plans may be able to provide other nonmedical services like respite care for family caregivers. With this important addition to Medicare benefits, MA plan administrators are already employing these strategies to keep their clients at home rather than in the hospital.

Over one-third of those receiving Medicare benefits also purchase an Advantage plan to defray the additional copays and other costs not covered by Medicare. Are you eligible for these benefits, including custodial care? If you currently do not have a Medicare Advantage plan, contact us to discuss the potential advantages of adding or switching supplemental plans.

What Are the Options? Coverage for All Situations

Just as there are many types of families, there are many types of life insurance policies. This can make it challenging for couples to decide what coverage is best to meet their family’s needs.

Do you know what coverage would be best for your situation? Here’s the breakdown for a few of the most common scenarios.

Growing families: Parents with small children often have the greatest need for life insurance. The children will not be capable of caring for themselves financially for many years.

If one partner passes away, he or she is leaving behind a big burden to shoulder alone. If both parents pass way, the children will be in definite need of funds to help cover their care.

Empty nesters: Older couples with grown children can also use life insurance. This is especially true if one spouse works and the other does not, or one earns significantly more than the other. In this case, life insurance should be purchased for the life of the higher-earning partner so the lower-earning partner does not face a bill he or she can’t pay at some point in the future.

DINKS and SINKS: Dual income no kids (DINKS) and single income no kids (SINKS) couples may also want to carry life insurance policies. The benefit can help the remaining spouse pay off a mortgage or cover other expenses that will be hard to pay without the help of the deceased.

Unconventional circumstances: These can create even greater challenges. Consider, for example, a couple who has lived together for a decade but never married. Perhaps the woman has significant assets, including the house the couple lives in. The man has fewer assets, but he has heavily contributed to renovations on the house.

If the woman plans to leave the home to her children from a previous marriage, a life insurance policy can provide funds to allow the man to purchase a different house on his own after her passing.

Wondering if one of these might be a good fit for your needs? Contact our office to discuss your situation and receive professional insight into the best insurance solutions for your unique needs.

Open Enrollment for Affordable Care Act Coming Soon

Each year, open enrollment allows new enrollment in the  Affordable Care Act (ACA). This period also gives those already enrolled a chance to review their coverage, change deductibles, and fine-tune their ACA plans.

For example, according to CNN, the average deductible for a Bronze plan is about $5,900, with an average out-of-pocket limit of a little under $7,000. Upgrading to a Gold, Silver, or Platinum plan will cost more per month; however, this could allow you to lower your out-of-pocket costs. How? A Bronze plan covers about 70 percent of your medical costs per year while a Platinum plan covers about 90 percent of your yearly health care costs.

Our no-obligation consultation about your 2020 ACA coverage can help you determine if you should stick with your current plan or consider upgrading to save on annual health care costs.

We do get busy during open enrollment, so do not hesitate to call us now. We can discuss your options and help you determine if you want to make the switch when open enrollment begins November 1, 2019. If you miss the last day of open enrollment (December 15, 2019), you will not be able to enroll for 2020 unless you qualify for coverage due to a special life event, like losing your group insurance.

Do not wait until the last minute to discuss your ACA options with us. Plans sold during the 2019 open enrollment period go into effect on January 1, 2020. If you had coverage under the ACA in 2019, your re-enrollment is automatic. However, your plan’s cost may increase, or you may find that you have different medical needs and would like to switch plans.

Don’t struggle alone with the online options when professional help is available. Contact us today.

Don’t Let Vandals Get the Best of Your Business

Candy. Jack-o-lanterns. Costume parties. Halloween can be full of fun. It can also be full of mischief.

While some people are out trick-or-treating, others are out vandalizing. Whether they are simply trying to impress their peers with a prank or are serious criminals set on destruction, vandals can do significant damage to businesses. Statistics database reports that graffiti alone costs U.S. cities $12 billion a year in cleanup.

Is your business protected from such incidents?

This prankster season, take a few steps to keep your company out of harm’s way. Try the following tips.

Put a policy in place. Is your company covered by vandalism and malicious mischief insurance? This type of policy protects against losses you experience due to vandals.

This coverage is part of many basic commercial policies, but it’s important to confirm that you have this coverage in your package.

Vandalism and malicious mischief insurance can also be written as an endorsement to your policy if it is not included in the basic coverage.

This insurance is particularly important for properties that are not occupied 24/7. If vandals know your business location is empty at night, for example, they know when they can strike with less risk of detection.

Of course, business owners would rather avoid acts of vandalism in the first place. In addition to getting insurance coverage, take these steps to deter vandalism on your premises.

Use good security measures. Install adequate lighting to keep your property well-lit at all times, and replace any burned-out bulbs immediately. Consider break-resistant glass if your property features large windows or glass-door entries. Equip the property with video cameras to monitor activities. The presence of cameras may deter vandals completely, or, if not, you can at least use the recording to catch the criminals.

Establish a perimeter. Use fencing or even shrubbery to keep vandals at bay. Choose plants that feature thorns or scratchy leaves to discourage close encounters with your property.

Partner with the police. Always report any acts of vandalism to neighboring businesses or to your own. If the police aren’t aware of it, how can they help? If they know of high-incidence areas, officers may be able to increase patrols in those regions.

Ask around. Have any other businesses in your area experienced vandalism? Gathering information can help you detect any patterns or particular risks for your region. With this information, you can take appropriate steps to prevent future attacks.

Form ranks. You may have heard of neighborhood watch groups. Did you know similar groups exist for businesses? Business watch group members help reduce crime by watching one another’s properties. If one doesn’t exist in your community, check the National Neighborhood Watch website for information on how to start one.

Respond rapidly. If vandals do cause mischief on your property, act swiftly to make repairs. This lets vandals (and customers) know that you care about your property. A good insurance policy can help cover your costs to make these quick repairs more feasible.

Contact me today with any questions you may have about your insurance needs for the approaching holiday seasons.

Gone Phishing: Don’t Take the Bait

The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report indicates that one third of cyberattacks involve phishing traps. These scams involve imitating a reputable source to induce staff to reveal sensitive information. As companies increase awareness of these cons, cyber criminals increase their efforts, making tactics more sophisticated.

How can you protect your company?

First, educate yourself and staff about current phishing techniques. Cybercriminals often use links embedded in emails to direct employees to unsecure sites. A second common method is to spoof a sender email address and request secure data. Scammers may also impersonate a known IT department or vendor and ask for sensitive information over the phone. Recently, phishing tactics have expanded to texting, which can be particularly effective, since staff may be more distracted and less vigilant when it comes to these informal interactions.

In addition to education, protect your business from phishing methods by using appropriate security software and remaining current on all updates. Use spam filters and web filters to block malicious content. Develop solid security protocols for password protection and encrypt all sensitive business data. Don’t forget to require encryption for telecommuters, too.

Even with the best measures in place, you may be susceptible to attacks. To fully protect your business, establish appropriate insurance coverage. Cyber insurance policies offer protection for these situations. If you suffer a data breach, data loss, business interruption, or other expenses due to cybercrime, insurance is essential for covering the resulting costs.

Contact our office to find out more about available coverage for your company.

Home Disasters: Do You Need Extended Coverage?

Do you know the limit on your homeowners’ insurance policy? Every policy has a limit, which is the maximum amount of payout you can receive for a claim.

Most homeowner policies today are written with Replacement Cost terms. This means the insurance carrier will pay the full replacement cost for damages, even if the item being replaced has depreciated.

For example, if you need to replace your computer, and a new one costs $1,000, your Replacement Cost policy will cover this entire cost. It does not take into consideration the depreciated value of your two-year-old computer, which may now only be worth around $500. Since it costs $1,000 to replace it, the Replacement Cost coverage provides the full amount. When it comes to homes, this Replacement Cost can get tricky.

If your house suffers significant damage and you need to completely rebuild, you might hit the limit of your Replacement Cost policy before you reach the full cost of rebuilding your home. If this happens, you might not be able to afford the repairs, even though you have homeowners insurance coverage.

This is where Extended Replacement Cost policies come into play.

With this coverage in place, the homeowner policy will pay up to a certain percentage over the policy limit if extra funds are needed to fully replace your home.

These policies are commonly written at 120 to 125 percent of the stated limit of the basic coverage.

These additional funds are crucial when rebuilding costs are at a seasonal high or suddenly spike due to other economic conditions. The extended coverage makes home replacement possible, even when you encounter such costs that are higher than expected.

Do you need this coverage? This will depend on a variety of factors, including the value of your home, current construction and material costs, and the limit of your policy.

Feel free to contact me for a quick review of your coverage to determine if this policy would be in your best interest.

Bonfire Safety Tips for Your Next Backyard Blaze

Fall is a great time for campfires and backyard bonfires. Here’s how to stay safe (and avoid insurance claims) while you roast your marshmallows.

Contain it. Establish a safe zone for your fire that prevents it from spreading. Create a ring of rocks on the outside of the bonfire area. Clear away any grass and leaves around the bonfire, creating a 10-foot circle of dirt around the fire. To further establish this dirt-only zone, dig a hole two feet across and six inches deep for your bonfire, then pile dirt around this pit.

Extinguish it. Never leave a fire unattended. When the bonfire party is over, make sure the fire is completely out. To ensure it is extinguished, douse the fire with water, then stir the embers to make sure everything gets wet. Scrape any partially burned logs to remove hot embers, then mix the ashes and embers with some dirt. Before you leave the area, everything should be cool to the touch, including the ring of rocks.

Plan it. Before you light a bonfire, consider the environment. Check the National Weather Service for Fire Weather Warnings. If there is a Red Flag Warning, consider postponing your bonfire. Other conditions to watch for are dry air (low humidity, which increases the risk of wildfires) and high winds, which can quickly blow embers and ashes onto flammable objects.

Prevent it. Whether you use a portable pit or build a stone ring in your yard, make sure the bonfire is situated at a safe distance from your home. Keep in mind that embers can travel a significant distance from the source. Before you light the fire, take the necessary precautions so you remain safe and won’t have to worry about an insurance issue resulting from your bonfire.

Technology Insurance vs. Cybersecurity Coverage

In today’s business world, most companies are dependent on technology for some or all of their company’s operations. While this makes many new processes and services possible, it also leaves businesses vulnerable to a new realm of risk.

Cyber crimes, computer crashes, and software malfunctions are just a few of the technological risks that modern companies now face. Since technological incidents can cost a business anything from a few minutes of inconvenience to millions of dollars, it’s essential for companies to have appropriate insurance coverage.

Enter technology insurance and cyber insurance.

These two types of policies provide the protection businesses need to recover from technological disasters. Not only is their coverage important, but businesses need to know that these policies are not one in the same. They apply to different circumstances, and a company might need one policy or the other, or both. Here’s the scoop.

Technology Insurance

Technology Errors & Omissions (E&O) policies cover companies that provide technology services (such as data storage) and technology products (such as computer software). The terms of the policy are designed to provide protection for loss and liability. Such losses might be related to liability for media content, damages due to security breaches, or losses due to business interruption. It can also cover extortion threats and crisis management expenses. Technology insurance also typically pays for groundless liability claims and all associated investigations.

Cyber Insurance

While Tech E&O policies are designed to protect technology providers, cyber insurance is intended to protect technology consumers (the company’s customers). It covers situations in which customers’ identities, credit cards, health records, or other sensitive information is compromised. The policy pays for any damages incurred.

Overlap

Cyber insurance policies and technology insurance do have some overlap. Either policy may provide coverage if a business experiences a loss related to technology. Since many situations impact both the technology provider and the consumer, this overlap is inevitable. However, the specifics of each policy’s terms will determine which situations are covered and which are not included.

Who Needs Coverage?

Since most businesses rely on technology for at least a portion of their operations, some form of coverage is recommended for a majority of companies. Those that serve customers and store sensitive customer information should strongly consider a cyber insurance policy.

For high-tech and internet-based businesses, technology business insurance is recommended. Such companies would include IT businesses, website developers, internet service providers, and programmers. Additionally, those who rely heavily on technology solutions as part of their operations (intranet communications, customer e-mails, database management) may also want to add this coverage.

Does your business fall into any of these categories? Are you properly protected with insurance for the tech side of your operations?

If you’re not sure which policy would be right for you or are unsure about your current coverage, contact our office. I’d be happy to review your current policies and coverage options to make sure you are prepared for any technological incidents that may come your way.

How Telematics Is Transforming Insurance

Technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, and insurance is no exception. Insurance carriers are tapping into automotive telematics to guide insurance premiums.

What is telematics? This is a form of communications technology that can be used for monitoring a vehicle to determine driving behaviors. Using a combination of GPS, Bluetooth, and mobile devices, insurance companies can review customers’ driving habits and reward safe behaviors with reduced premiums.

For example, a telematic device can monitor the times of day drivers are on the road, their mileage, and sudden changes in speed (which indicate rapid accelerations or hard braking).

Insurance companies can use this data to predict driving habits and generate a reasonable premium based on these behaviors. Drivers are typically required to have the device in their vehicle for a set period of time before a premium is established. The premium may also fluctuate as driving changes. As vehicle operators drive more safely, the premium lowers.

Of course, if drivers have poor driving habits, this can cost the policyholder. If the telematics data shows risky behaviors, the premium could go up! However, the knowledge that they are being monitored and the incentive of monetary savings may actually help drivers develop better habits on the road.

Do your operations rely on any commercial vehicles? These safe-driving programs are a growing trend and could provide significant savings on your premiums. To find out more about telematics and how it can help you save money, contact our office.

Is Vision Coverage Worth the Investment?

Should you purchase vision coverage? To decide whether the cost outweighs the benefits, consider what the insurance will cover.

Your eye doctor (optometrist) likely will refer you to a medical eye doctor (ophthalmologist) if your eye exam reveals a medical issue, such as an eye infection, sties, or glaucoma. In the case of a significant vision-related medical issue, your health insurance protects you from serious financial loss.
However, vision insurance usually covers the following:

  • Annual or biannual eye exams
  • Eyeglass lenses, frames, and scratch protection for lenses
  • Contact lenses
  • Break-resistant lenses for children under 18 years old

Vision insurance typically costs between $5 and $20 per month, whether your employer offers coverage or you must buy it individually. Adding family members costs somewhat less per person. In addition, you may pay part of the visit cost, a part of any recommended treatment, and a co-pay of $10 to $25.

FAIRhealth.org analyzed annual vision costs, with and without vision insurance. Without insurance, a routine eye exam costs about $128 per year, and a new patient eye exam costs around $200 per year. Insurance that covers the routine eye exam costs $192 annually, and that covers the new-patient eye exam. If your exam shows you do not need glasses or contact lenses, you might come out ahead without insurance.

However, according to the National Eye Institute, 66% of Americans 18 and over use glasses, contacts, or both. In addition, without a regular eye exam, you might not find one of the serious vision-related medical problems mentioned previously. If you have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, you are more at risk for eye problems.

It might be the best choice to obtain vision insurance. The low cost greatly reduces your chances of undetected vision problems.

Contact our office for more information and a free quote.

The Sandwich Generation Seeks Solutions for Parents

While the majority of today’s long-term care buyers average age 60, millennials are showing interest in these policies, too. This interest stems from an important question: Will their parents have the assets to take care of themselves in their older years?

According to one provider of long-term care insurance, in 2018, an assisted living residence that didn’t include special care cost about $4,000 per month. Nursing-home care in 2018 cost about $8,300 per month. These costs can drain a well-planned retirement fund in just a few years.

While many seniors purchase long-term care coverage to protect themselves in the event that they require assistance, millennials are taking an active role to ensure their parents have long-term care (LTC) coverage. With today’s easy access to virtual meetings, many financial planners assist the children of aging parents in providing LTC insurance for their parents, even when those parents live in other states.

If you’re considering LTC insurance for yourself or an aging parent, determining which policy to buy can be challenging. Here are some critical details an agent can help you understand.

Covered services: An LTC policy should cover home health care, nursing-home care, and assisted-living care.

Coverage triggers: Cognitive impairment like memory loss or a need for help to complete several daily living activities usually triggers the start of the coverage.

Inflation endorsements: If today’s LTC policy pays $150 per day, how much will you need after factoring for inflation? We can help you choose an adequate level of inflation coverage.

Long-term care coverage can provide you with peace of mind. Call us today to discuss options for yourself or your parents.

How to Avoid Losing Life Insurance Coverage

How secure is your life insurance?

Given how important it is to an individual’s financial plan, it seems like something that would be guaranteed. Without a stable provider, this might not always be the case.

Consider the recent bankruptcy of retail giant Sears, which announced earlier this year that it would end life insurance benefits for many of its 90,000 retirees.

According to the leader of the retirees’ association chapter in upstate New York, Sears sent notices to people in their 80s who had maintained life insurance coverage for a significant period of time. Affected retirees were given few appealing options, and one reported that he will have to pay more than $3,000 annually to maintain current coverage with another company.

Granted, this is an unusual case, but no one wants to end up in that situation. So, regardless of how you obtain your life insurance, it is worth exploring its security and considering options.

It is critical to choose a financially strong life insurance company, because you want the company to be around to pay your beneficiary, whether you die in five years or 50.

You can research a life insurance company’s financial strength through independent rating firms, including Moody’s Investor Services, Fitch Ratings, A.M. Best, and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.

Ratings can be viewed for free on the firms’ websites, although registration may be required. Each of these firms has its own rating system, so you may not be comparing apples to apples.

You also may want to avoid judging a company’s stability based on its size. Smaller companies often offer the same longevity and reliability as the bigger insurance names.

Are you looking for a stable life insurance provider you can count on?

I’d be happy to review your options with you and ensure you have solid coverage to protect your future. Simply contact my office today.

Key Personnel Insurance: What Is It and Who Needs It?

Is the success of your business dependent on a single person or a key group of people? Could your company survive without you or other leaders?

Many small businesses would suffer greatly from the death of one valuable employee. This is where key personnel insurance comes in.

If a company could face closure after the loss of an important employee, key personnel insurance can provide the financial stability for the business to survive this loss. In instances where it is not feasible for the company to go on without the key employee, the funds from this policy can provide severance to employees, funds for investors, and a budget to close the business smoothly.

This coverage is available in two forms: key person life insurance and key person disability insurance.

The life insurance policy pays the business if the key employee dies. The funds can be used to pay off debts, buy out surviving shareholders, cover costs of replacing the employee, and provide for revenue that is lost due to the employee’s absence. The policy can be set up as term or whole life insurance.

The disability policy provides funds to the business if the key person becomes unable to work, either entirely or partially. Rather than pay the employee as typical disability insurance would, the policy provides funds for the company to compensate for lost revenue or to hire a replacement.

The amount of coverage for either policy should be based on the key person’s income and the portion of the overall business revenue that this reflects. These funds could provide the lifeline a company needs to survive a significant employee loss.

Why Is an Insurance Lapse So Bad for Business?

Small-business owners have a lot on their plates. Managing multiple moving parts, wearing many hats, and juggling the responsibilities of work and home can prove challenging.

In the midst of all this, something may occur that shouldn’t: a lapse in insurance coverage.

Whether the premium payment was overlooked or other circumstances caused the owner to cancel a policy, when there is a lapse in coverage, the business is left without insurance protection.

This isn’t a good thing. In fact, it can have serious repercussions. Four of these consequences top the list.

1. No net. While a tightrope walker can perform without a net, it’s risky. The same goes for business owners, although the risk is usually even higher. When insurance lapses, the business is left with no liability coverage, no property insurance, and no funds for defense during litigation. One incident without insurance to cover the costs could potentially close the company’s doors forever.

2. No discount. In most cases, businesses can receive a continuous coverage discount for maintaining constant coverage. Avoiding any lapses demonstrates stability to insurance companies, and they reward it with better rates. If the business experiences a lapse in coverage that lasts more than 30 days, this discount is usually lost.

3. No long-tail coverage. Maintaining constant coverage with the same insurance company offers advantages. One is long-tail coverage. If you carry a liability policy that includes a standard completed operations portion, the work your company performs is typically covered for the entire duration of the policy.

For example, if you opened the policy four years ago and you are sued for something that happened three years ago, the liability policy will kick in, even if the project in question is not a current job. If you experience a lapse in coverage, you will no longer be eligible for this long-tail coverage.

4. No reputation. A lapse in insurance coverage can hurt the reputation of your business with insurance underwriters. Since most small-business coverage is handled on a case-by-case basis, the underwriter must decide in each situation whether a business is a good fit or worthy of risk. If they see a lapse (or multiple lapses) in coverage, underwriters will be less likely to want to extend the coverage to the company. This can mean denial of coverage or higher premiums.

There may be some situations in which a lapse in coverage seems entirely appropriate, such as for seasonal businesses. However, it’s important to weigh the consequences of this lapse with the benefits of maintaining continuous coverage. And for those who may believe that a lapse in coverage is “no big deal,” it’s important to remember the risks involved when running a business without protection.

To keep insurance coverage in place, try not to think of it as an expense. It is a necessity. By avoiding any lapse in coverage, you’ll set your business up for better savings, smoother operations, and greater success.

We’re here as your resource and are happy to answer any questions you have about continuous coverage and how it can benefit your business.

Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for 2019 under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins November 1, 2019, and ends December 15, 2019.

What It Is

Open enrollment is the annual time when individuals may buy health plans through the state’s online health insurance exchanges. If you enroll during this time, coverage begins January 1, 2020. If you miss this important window, you cannot buy coverage from the “Marketplace” until the next open enrollment period, during late 2020. While individuals can use the government website to enroll, a trusted insurance agent makes navigating the process easier.

How It Works

In the past, a tax penalty applied to Americans without health insurance. The current administration eliminated that penalty for 2019. If you were uninsured in 2018, however, you have to pay in 2019: $695 for adults and $347.50 for children, or 2 percent of your yearly income, whichever is greater.

In 2017 and previously, open enrollment ran 92 days, through January 31. Buyers had more time to research coverage and enroll. That changed in 2018, with the open enrollment period decreasing to 45 days.

While the window is tight for open enrollment, certain circumstances such as a job loss or a loss of coverage because of divorce can qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period of 60 days.

How We Can Help

Rather than going it alone on the government website, use our agency to help you find a plan that meets your needs. Copays, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts vary by plan, so working with a professional can help you decide which plan is best for you and your family.

Choosing health care insurance is one of the most important decisions you can make in your financial planning, so don’t go it alone. Contact our office to help guide you through the plans, which range from Bronze to Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

As open enrollment nears, we often receive a number of phone calls for assistance. Be proactive and contact us a few weeks prior to open enrollment to discuss your options, so you have plenty of time to choose a plan and enroll.

Who Pays the Medical Bills If You’re Injured in a Ride Share?

Need a ride? Today all it takes is a smartphone and a downloaded app like Uber or Lyft. However, if you’re injured during the journey, whose insurance covers you?

Ride-share companies have gone to great lengths to be sure that accidents that arise out of their operations are insured. Like any business, a ride-share company does not want to be in the courtroom, where jury awards and expensive legal fees eat into profits. However, which insurance applies can be confusing.

From when the driver logs in to the app until a passenger leaves the vehicle, coverage varies. Each “period” of driver/rider interface falls under different insurance coverage.

While you’re occupying a ride-share vehicle, the ride-share company’s insurance provides coverage. If you’re injured, the ride-share company should handle your claim.

If another driver is at fault and has no insurance, ride-share operators usually carry uninsured and underinsured coverage through the company, as well. The maximum limit of liability coverage is $1 million, which is usually enough to cover most injuries and health concerns.

However, your own auto policy may respond. Although policy wording varies, most auto policies provide medical payments to cover your injury.

Additionally, if the ride share’s limits of liability are insufficient to cover an uninsured motorist event, you can file a claim with your own insurer to determine if your coverage applies.

Feel free to contact our office with any questions about ride-sharing coverage. As your go-to source for insurance info, we are happy to help.

Understanding Taxes on Life Insurance

One of the greatest things about life insurance, other than that it provides for your loved ones in the event you should pass away unexpectedly, is that the proceeds that go to your beneficiaries generally are not taxable.

That said, there are situations in which part of the payout may go to Uncle Sam, and it is a good idea to be aware of them.

First, when the payout is made to a beneficiary after someone dies, it is not taxable. This is the most common use of life insurance, so you can rest easy knowing your insurance beneficiaries will not be hit with a tax bill.

A life insurance payout is also not taxed if it is made while the insured is terminally or chronically ill and there is a so-called terminal illness rider in place. In this case, the payout is generally treated as if it were paid upon the policyholder’s death.

So, when is a payout of life insurance taxable?

One instance is when payouts are made in installments instead of in full. Installment plans may help individuals who fear they will blow the lump sum all at once. If this is the case, and the payout is in installments, the death benefit is not taxable, but the interest that accrues on the payouts is.

Another situation that can make a life insurance payout taxable is having a large estate. In 2019, this applies to an estate that is worth more than $11.4 million. Why? In 2019, the Federal Estate Tax Exclusion amount is $11.4 million for individuals. If you have an estate valued above that amount when you die, any amount above $11.4 million is taxed at 40 percent. The part of your estate that your spouse inherits is exempt.

So, if your beneficiary is a parent, sibling, or child, the amount he or she receives is subject to the tax. This can happen when a spouse beneficiary passes away before the policyholder.

Are you concerned about taxes that may be due on a life insurance policy? Feel free to contact our office with any questions. We are happy to review your options and help you find the best solution based on your individual financial and insurance needs.

Boat Insurance Basics You Need to Know

A spin around the lake or a cruise down the river can be a great way to spend an August afternoon. Just make sure you have the necessary coverage to protect your boat (and your wallet).

The type and amount of boat insurance you need depend on the kind of vessel you own and how you use it. Simple craft such as kayaks, smaller sailboats, and small powerboats may be covered by your homeowners policy. Larger, more powerful vessels such as yachts and Jet Skis require separate coverage.

A boat insurance policy typically covers damage to the boat itself, theft, and general liability. Additional coverage, including protection for trailers and boating accessories, may also be available.

These insurance policies typically offer one of two types of coverage: actual cash value or agreed amount value. Actual cash value pays for the cost of replacement minus the depreciation of the boat. Agreed amount value policies pay the total that you and your insurer have agreed upon as the value of the vessel. Under this coverage, old items are replaced with new without subtracting depreciation.

As a boat owner, you may be eligible for discounts to your insurance premiums. Common discounts include those for multiple policies with the same provider, safety equipment onboard the vessel, and crew’s completion of safety education courses. Remaining claims-free for a certain period of time may also qualify you for a discount.

In addition to obtaining proper insurance, maintain best practices to protect your boat and its passengers. Equip your vessel with proper lighting, an emergency signal (horn, whistle, or bell), and life jackets. Stock your boat with an emergency kit that includes fresh water, a flashlight, a radio, flares, tools, and a first aid kit, and keep a fire extinguisher readily accessible. Lastly, always adhere to marine traffic laws.

Not sure if you have the coverage you need for your boat? Give us a call to review your current coverage and discuss the options available. We’ll make sure you and your vessel are well protected the next time you set sail.