Do You Need Short-Term Medical Insurance?

Temporary life situations sometimes require short-term medical insurance. You might be between jobs, a recent college graduate, newly divorced, or retired but not eligible for Medicare. Maybe you missed open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or you cannot afford ACA coverage because you do not qualify for subsidies.

A short-term medical insurance policy can help you bridge the gap between group or other health insurance on the one hand and Medicare or group health at your new job on the other.

What are the pros and cons?

Short-term health plans often take effect within 24 hours of application and premium payment. If you drop a short-term plan, it may impose no penalties and may refund the unused premium. Premiums may be lower than for ACA plans, and short-term plans may offer more doctor and hospital options.

However, if you have preexisting conditions, short-term plans either will not accept you or will accept you but exclude those preexisting conditions. Maternity care, preventive and mental health care, prescription drugs, and substance abuse are benefits that short-term plans may not cover. Additionally, you usually cannot renew your short-term policy but instead must buy a new one.

While it is easy to apply for short-term plans online, the plans vary widely. A licensed health insurance agent can help find the best plan for you, at no additional cost.

What changes are coming?

Previously, rules limited short-term medical insurance to three months. As of October 2018, new rules allow insurers to offer short-term policies of up to 364 days, and you can renew the same plan for up to three years.

However, in many cases, the individual mandate penalty (the fine paid if U.S. citizens don’t maintain health coverage that meets minimum standards) continues to apply until 2019 because these plans do not meet ACA minimal essential coverage.

Still, short-term medical coverage may be just what you need to fill a short-term gap in health coverage. Contact your health insurance agent for more information.

Life Insurance 101: Your Policy Options Explained

Life insurance may seem simple, but many people who purchase it don’t understand their myriad options.

The two most popular types of life insurance are whole and term, both of which pay your beneficiaries when you pass away. What’s the difference?

Term life insurance pays your beneficiaries if you pass away during the term of the policy. The term can vary. For example, policies can cover five, 10, or 15 years. Premiums on term life insurance are generally the most affordable of all life insurance premiums because the insurance company does not take on the risk that you will outlive the policy.

Whole life insurance pays your beneficiaries when you pass away, period. In other words, it is in effect for your entire life, as long as you pay the premiums.

But this benefit comes with a cost. As you age, your risk level increases, and your premiums are likely to increase as well. This does not appeal to most people, so to make these policies more palatable, some life insurance companies charge you higher premiums earlier in the policy’s term and lower premiums later.

A third type of life insurance is less known to most people. It is sometimes referred to as a separate type of insurance called “return-of-premium term life insurance.” Other times it is referred to as a “rider” or “add-on” to a term life insurance policy.

Regardless of terminology, it is similar to the term life insurance policy mentioned above, but if you haven’t yet passed away when the term expires, some or all of your premiums are returned.

The catch: Return-of-premium term life-insurance policies can be expensive. They typically cost about 30 percent more than term life insurance (but potentially less than whole life insurance).

Additionally, not all insurance companies offer return-of-premium term life insurance.

If you aren’t sure which kind of policy is best for you, a financial professional can help you decide.

Claims: What to Expect and How Your Agent Helps

You need to make an insurance claim for damage to your property. What should you do first? What can you expect?

If you’re not familiar with this process, it can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, your insurance agent will partner with you to walk you through the necessary steps. The following tips can also help clarify what to expect and what is considered “normal” for this process.

More than one check is normal. As you work through the claims process, you can typically expect to receive more than one check. Often, homeowners receive an initial sum that is an advance for repairs, but it does not represent the final settlement amount. You can still receive additional funds as expenses are documented and claimed. A separate check is also common for personal belongings, since insurance companies often cut checks for each category of damage. If you incur additional living expenses, such as hotel stays, you may receive yet another check for reimbursement of these claims.

Making direct payments is normal. In some cases, your insurance company may pay contractors directly for the work they complete on your property. However, use caution with this process, since it gives you less control of your claim. Make sure the work is done to your satisfaction before your insurer pays the contractor.

Mortgage company involvement is normal. Lenders often require borrowers to name them in their homeowner’s policy. If you have a mortgage on your property, the lender will likely be involved in the claims process. Checks for repairs may be made out to both you and your lender.

This lets lenders ensure the needed repairs are made on a property in which they have a vested interest. The same may be true if you are part of a homeowners’ association.

Many more questions are normal. Most homeowners have questions as they go through the claims process. Don’t hesitate to contact your agent with any inquiries. Your agent’s expertise is invaluable in helping your claim go as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

Pests on the Prowl: Protect Your Car from Wildlife

When you consider potential sources of damage to your car, what comes to mind?

Most people think of fender benders, major accidents, and natural disasters. There’s another category that many vehicle owners overlook: wildlife.

Did you know animals can cause serious damage to your car? This goes beyond a deer jumping in front of your vehicle on a country road. Other, smaller creatures can wreak havoc on your car, even while it’s parked. Squirrels, rats, mice, and even woodchucks have been known to nest in cars and chew wires or cause other damage.

To prevent these pests from wrecking your ride, use the following tips.

Hide it: One of the most effective ways to protect your car from wildlife is to park it in a garage. Keep in mind that rodents can squeeze through the tiniest openings, so it’s important to make sure the garage is well-sealed.

Clean it: If you make a drive-through run, don’t keep that burger wrapper in your car afterward. Keep your interior free of all food and garbage to avoid any enticing aromas or leftover crumbs that could attract pests.

Treat it: Products are available to treat your wires, making them less desirable to wildlife. Bad-tasting sprays and treated tapes are possible deterrents. These may prove helpful if you are unable to park your car indoors.

Drive it: Wildlife are most likely to infest cars that remain immobile for long periods of time. To keep critters at bay, drive your vehicle regularly.

Travel Insurance: When to Buy and When Not to Buy

You may already know that travel insurance usually covers your travel losses if you must cancel your trip. But did you know that travel insurance comes in many forms, from lost travel loyalty points and travel delay to emergency evacuation, known as repatriation? Due to its wide range of available coverage, travel insurance is a staple for many American travelers’ trips. So, when should you invest in this policy?

To buy: One of the most important times to buy travel insurance is when you travel abroad. If you are on Medicare, it pays anywhere in the U.S. if the practitioner accepts it. If you have a Medicare supplement policy, check to see whether your insurer covers you abroad and whether any coverage limits might apply. If not, you will definitely want travel insurance to meet the gap should a medical emergency arise outside of the U.S., because ordinary Medicare won’t cover the event.

Not to buy: If you are making a last-minute or inexpensive domestic trip, you probably don’t need travel insurance. In these cases, you aren’t at risk of losing large, prepaid deposits. You’re also staying within U.S. borders, so you don’t need to be concerned with evacuation coverage. If you’ve landed a great last-minute deal on a trip in the States, it’s likely your potential expenses don’t warrant travel insurance coverage.

Choosing travel insurance: Each policy differs significantly in what it offers. Fine-print coverage limitations can make choosing the best policy difficult. Ensuring your travel insurance pays as expected is easier when you buy it through your trusted insurance adviser. Work with your health insurance agent, who knows travel coverage and is familiar with which policies will best suit your travel plans.

Workplace Injuries: First Five Steps

An accident occurs at your place of business. Your employee is injured. What should you do first?

Your choice of response can take the situation in entirely different directions. Simple slips and falls can result in clear-cut claims or costly lawsuits. With the proper plan in place, you can achieve the former and avoid the latter.

If one of your employees suffers an injury, take the following initial steps to move the situation in the right direction.

1. Prepare: This step should already be completed before any injury occurs. It’s essential to have a plan in place for workplace injuries.

Your plan should be a written document that is posted for all employees to follow. Provide training to ensure everyone knows what protocols to follow in the case of an accident.

2. Examine: Assess the injury immediately. What type of injury is it? How serious is it? If you have any staff members trained in first aid, involve them in this initial examination.

For severe injuries, enlist the help of emergency medical professionals. For non-emergencies, speak with your employee about what medical care he or she may need in the immediate future, and decide on next steps.

3. Document: The incident should be well-documented. Remember that workplace injury plan you developed? You should have the proper forms readily available, and complete them right away.

Submit these to the appropriate parties, such as your insurance provider. Ensure proper forms are also provided for the employee’s doctor. The physician may need return-to-work authorization forms or temporary work restriction forms. This makes the process go more smoothly and keeps you, the employee, the insurance carrier, and the doctor on the same page.

4. Treat: Make sure your employee gets the medical attention he or she needs. An immediate visit to a clinic or an occupational health doctor will help establish the nature and extent of the injuries.

A delay can result in unnecessary complications, both physically and financially. Because of this, it can be helpful to establish an ongoing relationship with a specific medical facility or physician to handle any and all workplace injuries at your business.

The medical provider can have all your standard forms on file and remain familiar with your incident protocols. This relationship can help streamline the process for both you and the injured employee.

5. Follow up: Let the employee know you care about his or her welfare. Follow up to find out how the doctor visit went. Ask how your employee is feeling. Remove your boss hat for a moment and simply offer person-to-person concern.

Then, replace that employer cap and work with your employee to develop a return-to-work plan. Find out what else, if anything, the person needs from you to facilitate a full recovery.

Workplace injuries are never welcome, but following these crucial steps can make them less disastrous and keep the experience as positive as possible for all parties involved.

Your insurance agent can provide additional assistance with this process. With in-depth knowledge of workers’ compensation claims, your agent is an invaluable resource you should not hesitate to tap in these situations.

How to Reduce Your Commercial Property Insurance Costs

Owning and operating a commercial property involves myriad expenses. If you’re like most property owners, you strive to keep these costs to a minimum. Some are more challenging to shave than others. Fortunately, when it comes to your insurance, you can take several steps to reduce your premium and boost your bottom line.

Determine your deductible: If you can safely manage a higher deductible, you can lower your premium. Work with your insurance provider to determine what deductible amount makes sense for your needs. Set this figure as high as possible to keep your premium low.

Decrease tenant coverage: Are you insuring your tenant’s possessions? You don’t have to. To reduce your premium, exclude tenants from your policy and require them to obtain their own coverage for their belongings.

Ditch the land: Find out if your policy covers your building only or both the land and the structure. Since you typically won’t need to insure the land, you may be able to cut costs by altering your policy so it covers only the building.

Dig for discounts: Have you looked into all the discounts that might be available to you? Continuous coverage and multiple policies with your carrier often come with discounts. Additionally, if your property has protective features, such as a sprinkler system, a security system, or updated utilities, you may be eligible for discounts.

Consult with your insurance agent to determine whether there are other ways you can reduce your costs. An annual review of your policy is good practice to ensure your coverage meets your current needs.

Prevent Workplace Harassment and Resulting Lawsuits

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.” Conduct of this nature becomes unlawful when it creates “a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”

If an employee feels he or she has experienced workplace harassment, the company may be held liable. Resulting lawsuits can prove quite costly to the employer. This makes proper precautions to prevent workplace harassment vitally important to business operations.

To protect your employees from harassment and protect your company from lawsuits, take the following steps.

Create a written policy: Put your workplace harassment policies in writing. Be sure to include clear descriptions of various types of harassment, what employees should do if they feel harassed, and what actions will be taken by the company if this occurs.

Consult with professionals: To ensure your policy adheres to current laws, ask an attorney to review your statement. He or she can ensure that it clearly defines harassment and provides a complete picture of your policy. Your regional or district office of the EEOC is another good source for guidance in creating this written policy.

Revise the handbook: Once you have prepared your written policy, make sure it is included in your employee handbook. Your handbook should also include an equal employment opportunity statement and an at-will employment statement.

If necessary, revise the current book and redistribute copies to all employees. This may require some investment of resources, but it does no good to create a policy unless everyone is made aware of it.

Train your employees: Make training on workplace harassment mandatory for employees. This might involve a video, presentation, or a simple meeting to review your policy. Ensure every employee fully understands your procedures for the reporting, investigation, and resolution of workplace harassment complaints.

When employees complete this training, have them sign an acknowledgment form that states they understand the policy. Keep these forms in each employee’s file.

Take immediate action: If an employee reports an occurrence of workplace harassment, act on the complaint right away. Don’t ignore it. Don’t put it at the bottom of the priority pile. Fully investigate any claim of harassment.

Refer to your policy for proper protocols to handle the situation. An improper response can easily lead to a lawsuit or further incidents, so making the time is well worth the effort. An immediate response helps provide a safe work environment for employees and protects your bottom line.

Put coverage in place: Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) offers coverage in the event an employee files a lawsuit regarding workplace harassment. The policy covers claims regarding discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination as well as other employment-related matters. This insurance can be written as a stand-alone policy or may be provided as a Business Owner’s Policy endorsement.

Consult with your insurance agent to determine which type of policy and how much coverage are appropriate for your business.

Identity Theft: It Happens to Businesses, Too

In 2017, there were 10,000 cases of business identity theft in the United States. Credit agency Experian reports small and midsize businesses in North America are losing up to $1 billion a year to these imposters. Crimes include tax fraud, credit card use, and website ransom. Is your business protected?

Too often, smaller businesses are targets for fraudsters because thieves realize these companies have fewer resources devoted to protection.

Fortunately, there are several simple and affordable steps you can take to guard your company against identity theft.

Monitoring service: Businesses can enroll in a monitoring service that keeps watch over the company’s credit report. The service will monitor for red flags in credit activity.

EIN: Many entrepreneurs run their businesses under their personal Social Security number. To increase protection, obtain an employer identification number (EIN) and keep personal and business finances separate.

Data protection: If you maintain paper records, use a secure mailbox, shred unneeded documents, and keep sensitive information in locked files. To guard digital files, use firewalls, anti-malware technology, and antivirus software. Change passwords quarterly, using random password generators.

Insurance: Review your insurance coverage with your provider to verify appropriate policies are in place. Cyber insurance can help protect your company against significant loss related to identity theft.

Busted: Five Auto Insurance Myths You Might Believe

Of all the information circulating about auto insurance, what is rumor and what is real? Are you basing your choices on fact?

To cut through the fiction, keep the following myths in mind.

1. My car color affects my premium.

If you prefer hotshot red, go ahead and get it. You don’t have to worry about higher premiums because of the car’s color. Your insurance cost is based on several factors, but this isn’t one of them.

The car’s make, body type, model, age, and engine size affect the premium. The vehicle’s safety record, price, and the cost to repair it also come into play. If you want a lower premium, consider these factors rather than the paint job.

2. As my age increases, so will my premium.

Typically, the opposite is true. Those over 55 years of age may be eligible for discounts. These include reduced driving discounts and programs available through AARP. Discounts vary by region, so check with your insurance provider about your options and eligibility.

3. Bare-minimum coverage is sufficient.

Most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. However, it is generally recommended to obtain coverage that goes beyond this bare minimum.

A serious accident can quickly generate expenses far exceeding the minimum coverage. A good rule of thumb is to have $100K in bodily injury per person and $300K per accident.

4. When I give my keys to a friend, my friend’s insurance takes over.

In many cases, the policy that covers the vehicle is considered primary. If an accident occurs while your friend is driving your car, it’s likely that your insurance will be responsible for coverage, not theirs.

5. My car is fully protected from all types of damage.

This could be true, but it depends on your policy type. A standard policy may not include theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. For full protection, choose collision and comprehensive insurance.

Peer-to-Peer Home Rentals: Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you considering renting out your home, guest room, or basement? Peer-to-peer home rentals and services such as Airbnb have grown in popularity. Discovering the income potential in these opportunities may entice you to hand over your keys.

While this may be a good option for you, it’s important to first consider the insurance implications involved. Do you have the right coverage for peer-to-peer rentals? If a renter starts a fire in the home, will you be covered? Always consult with your insurance provider before pursuing any rental arrangements.

If you will be renting all or part of your property on a regular basis, your homeowner’s policy is likely insufficient. You may need business coverage, such as a hotel or bed-and-breakfast policy. Month-to-month home-sharing liability policies may also be available that suit your circumstances. On the other hand, if the rental situation is a one-time occurrence, you might be covered by your current homeowner’s policy, or you might be required to add an endorsement.

Either way, notify your carrier about your intent to determine whether your current coverage is appropriate. Your agent can help you make any changes needed to ensure you and your property are fully protected.

Additionally, if you are considering renting someone else’s peer-to-peer rental space, confirm your coverage with your carrier. Typically, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for stolen possessions and accidental injuries you cause to others. However, you should verify this with your agent before making any rental agreements.

Which Should I Choose – Medigap or Medicare Advantage?

Do you know the difference between a Medigap and a Medicare Advantage plan?

If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, you select one of many available plans, and the Advantage plan becomes your insurer. The plan sets the rates, determines copays, and chooses doctors in the network. Most Advantage plans have built-in drug plans.

If you have an Advantage plan, you are ineligible for a Medigap plan. For some of Medicare age, however, the Medigap plan may be more beneficial.

Medigap plans are known as Medicare Supplement Insurance. When you choose Medicare A and Medicare B as your primary health insurance, the Medigap plan covers the gap between what Medicare pays and what you are responsible for paying.

With a Medigap plan, if Medicare approves a procedure, Medigap pays the difference. With an Advantage plan, your doctor in the Advantage network manages your care subject to the insurer agreeing to the procedure. With Medigap, if your doctor accepts Medicare, they also accept your Medigap plan. If your health conditions require a higher level of care, a Medigap plan may be your best alternative. Choosing the best Medigap plan depends on your current medical conditions, where you are located, and how much you want to pay.

Medicare and Medigap do not offer prescription plans, so if you purchase a Medigap plan rather than an Advantage plan, you should purchase a stand-alone prescription plan as well.

Selecting a plan is one of the most important health decisions you will make. Don’t go it alone. An experienced agent can help you determine which plan best suits your needs.

Natural Disasters: Is Your Medical Bag Packed?

Fires. Tornadoes. Floods. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that natural disasters in the United States are on the rise. Are you and your family prepared if a natural disaster strikes your community?

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the first step in emergency preparedness is to formulate an emergency plan. A critical part of this plan is to ensure access to your medications in an emergency. Since many people are on multiple medications, the first place to start is the development of a comprehensive list of all medications and dosages. Include your own, those of family members, and any pet medications.

Next, remain prepared with an ample supply. If storms are brewing that may result in a loss of access to your pharmacy, be sure to obtain early refills. If your drug plan provider resists, call and explain why you need the early refill. Never wait until the last minute to obtain refills. Keep at least seven to 10 days’ worth of medication on hand, including pet medications.

If you use a mail-order pharmacy, and a storm or another natural disaster is on the horizon, provide an alternative shipping address where your provider can send your medications. Additionally, take a picture of your health card, including the pharmaceutical information, in case the card is lost or damaged. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends keeping your pets’ medical records with you in case you must board your pet after a disaster. Proof of vaccinations and medications will be vital to your furry friend’s safety.

To further prepare, ensure your medications are in watertight containers if flooding may occur. If the disaster contaminates local water supplies, and your medication requires water, use only bottled water to reconstitute medications. Also keep in mind that power disruption often accompanies a natural disaster. Consider how you will store any medications that require refrigeration.

If you believe a catastrophe may have compromised your medications, contact your health care provider or a local pharmacy before you take them.

Looking for Life Insurance After Health Problems

Buying life insurance on the open market when you have had health problems can be a challenge, and it can be expensive, too. But it is not impossible.

When buying life insurance, you may have to complete a written and/or verbal medical questionnaire and complete a health exam, which could include blood and urine samples. Individuals in the best health typically get better rates on policies.

But what if you have had (and have recovered from) a health scare, such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer? How do you get life insurance then?

First, look to your employer, which may offer coverage above and beyond your regular policy that doesn’t require a medical review.

If you cannot obtain more life insurance through your employer, another option is to search for so-called guaranteed-issue policies. These policies do not require a medical review, but they come with a cost. They are generally much more expensive than policies that require medical reviews.

Another option is to investigate a mortgage-term life-insurance policy. Offered by an insurance carrier working with the company that holds your mortgage, these policies, generally available for 15- or 30-year terms, are designed to provide your loved ones with money to cover your mortgage in the event of your untimely death.

They are simply another type of life insurance, and they may not be necessary for healthy individuals who already have life insurance. But those who have struggled with health problems may be able to get such a policy without a medical review.

Also note that once your illness is behind you by several years, and if you have a good prognosis, you may begin to find that insurance companies offer more options. Many cancer survivors, for example, find that they can get life insurance after being cancer-free for five years.

Consult with an insurance expert to determine the best options for your individual situation.

The FAQ on Cyber Insurance

You’ve heard the term “cyberspace.” You may have visited a cybercafé. You know of businesses that have suffered from cybercrime. But are you familiar with cyber insurance? It’s one of the best weapons businesses can wield against the effects of cybercrime.

What is cyber insurance? 
This type of insurance is designed to cover a company’s liability if data breaches occur that release sensitive information such as customers’ Social Security numbers, health records, or credit card numbers.

Doesn’t liability insurance cover these situations?
Cyber coverage is often excluded in a general liability insurance policy. The general policy typically covers property damage and bodily injuries resulting from a company’s operations or services. This does not encompass the issues that arise with cybercrimes.

What does cyber insurance cover?
Policies vary and may be customizable to suit each company’s needs. Typical coverages include:

Legal fees: Even a small data breach can generate significant legal expenses. From lawsuits filed against the company to those the company needs to file, cyber insurance covers the many expenses involved.

Notifications: If a data breach occurs, the business must notify its customers. This could take the form of snail mailings, phone calls, emails, or other forms of communication. Cyber insurance covers the expenses incurred with these notifications.

Restoration: A cybercrime might result in one affected customer or thousands. The company affected might be responsible for restoring personal identities for each of these customers. The cyber insurance policy will ensure coverage for the cost of customer restoration.

Recovery: Data that has been compromised needs to be recovered. Whether the attack was via ransomware, stolen files, or viruses, the company under attack must expend resources to get the affected data back under its control.

Repairs: Cyberattacks often damage computer systems. Cyber insurance offers coverage for the cost to make these repairs.

Who needs cyber insurance?
Almost every modern business relies on cyberspace for some aspect of its operations. If you’re not sure whether you need cyber insurance, ask yourself the following questions about your company. Do your employees rely on computers to complete their work? Does your company manage or store personal customer data? Do you use cloud services? Could your company financially survive a cyberattack?

The answers to these questions will clarify whether or not your business is in need of cyber coverage.

How can I prevent cybercrime?
Of course, the optimal scenario for any business owner is to never fall victim to cybercrime. Business owners can take steps to prevent these offenses. First, put proper security measures in place. Protect computers with appropriate security software. Second, educate employees. Make them aware of common scams that result in data breaches. Train them on proper security protocols. Lastly, keep a close watch on your systems. Track security logs and analyze systems for suspicious activity. Watch account balances carefully. Take immediate action if something seems off track.

How much cyber insurance do I need?
This depends on your business size, operational costs, and risk level. Consult with your insurance carrier to determine the right coverage for your needs.

Insurance Solutions for Green Businesses

Some modern entrepreneurs are in search of ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Business owners who are looking for environmentally friendly methods to deliver their products and services may encounter obstacles. They may be required to make significant investments in new equipment to change their business processes. Fortunately, the insurance industry is making it easier for businesses to go green. Here’s how.

Green Endorsements: Business owners may be able to add a green endorsement to their commercial property insurance. Options include Green Materials and Equipment endorsements and Green Construction and Related Costs endorsements. The first covers the additional cost if you decide to rebuild with environmentally friendly equipment that is more expensive than your original property. The second covers the cost of green certification, design, and engineering.

Green Coverage: Other customizable options may be available to further your green efforts. For example, you may need longer business interruption coverage to allow time for green rebuilding. You may also need expanded policies to cover new environmental features that would extend beyond standard coverage.

Green Savings: Your green initiatives may result in savings on your insurance premiums. Does your business use hybrid vehicles? You may be eligible for a discount on your commercial vehicle policy. Have your green construction methods made your building more stable and disaster-resistant? You may be able to save on your property insurance. Contact your insurance agent for more details.

How Much Homeowner’s Insurance Do I Need?

Your home is worth $250,000 in the real estate market. Does that mean you should have $250K in homeowner’s insurance coverage?

Not necessarily. When determining the amount of homeowner’s coverage you should have, several factors come into play. You should consider each of these as you work with your insurance agent to set up your policy.

The Structure: What will it cost to rebuild your home if disaster strikes?

To calculate this figure, multiply your square footage by per-square-foot building costs in your area. Your insurance agent can help provide these figures. As you calculate, keep in mind the style of your home, the type of materials used, the features and upgrades, and any additions you have made since initial construction.

The Codes: Have building codes changed since the construction of your home was completed?

If you have to rebuild, you may need to adhere to new codes, which can require additional expense. If you suspect this might be the case, consider adding an endorsement to your policy that allows funds for bringing your house up to code.

The Possessions: Don’t forget everything inside your home. You’ll need coverage to replace your personal property as well. Conduct an inventory of your belongings. This will help you estimate the cost of replacement, and the record will be helpful to have on file if you ever need to make a claim.

The Liability: Homeowner’s insurance also covers your liability as a property owner.

If you are sued due to bodily injury (your dog bites a neighbor) or need to repair property damage (your child’s baseball shatters the neighbor’s window), your liability insurance will cover the associated costs.

Most policies provide at least $100,000 in liability coverage, and it is often advisable to increase this amount to $300,000-$500,000 to ensure sufficient coverage.

What Ingredients Go into My Auto Insurance Cost?

It’s not a secret family recipe, but your auto insurance cost does include three unique ingredients: you, your car, and your coverage. These three factors combined determine the risk and cost that shape your premium.

You: Your insurance carrier considers your driving record, age, and gender. Those with clean driving records generally pay lower premiums. As for age and gender, statistics show that women get into fewer accidents and younger, inexperienced drivers get into more. As a result, adolescent males typically pay higher premiums than 30-something females.

Your car: What is the price tag on your vehicle? Will it be expensive to repair if damaged? Some cars cost more to repair than others. How much you drive your car also matters. The more you’re on the road, the more likely you are to have an accident. Similarly, where you drive the vehicle also affects your coverage cost. Highly populated areas experience more fender benders and theft.

Your coverage: The final ingredient is the amount and type of coverage you prefer. While some coverage is mandatory in certain regions, you typically have a lot of say about how this ingredient is mixed into the recipe. Many coverages, such as collision and comprehensive, are optional. You can also decide what level of deductible to carry on your policy. The decisions you make about coverage will affect the final total of your premium.

To ensure you create the perfect blend, consult with your insurance agent. His or her expertise can help you maximize your ingredients for the best results.

Do You Need Whole or Term Life Insurance?

Life insurance doesn’t always last for your entire life:

For some individuals, it could last for a specified period of time, such as 10 or 15 years. This type of policy is referred to as “term” life insurance. So how is it different from whole life insurance?

Life insurance policies that stay in effect for your entire lifetime are called “whole” life insurance policies. As long as you continue paying premiums, you have insurance until you die.

On the other hand, there are “term” life insurance policies. These policies provide coverage for a limited period of time.

If you choose a 15-year term, for example, the insurance company will pay your beneficiary the death benefit if you pass away during the next 15 years.

Which type of policy you need depends on your individual circumstances.

Whole life insurance policies are well-suited to individuals who want to provide for a beneficiary if they die, regardless of changing circumstances.

Term life insurance policies are better for individuals whose beneficiaries will not rely on them financially forever.

Let’s say you have coverage primarily for your children, and at some point, you expect your children to be grown and providing for themselves. In this case, you may not need life insurance anymore.

In this situation, a term life insurance policy may be a good choice – because term life insurance policies generally cost less than whole life insurance policies.

The conditions available with term life insurance vary, but generally, longer terms have higher premiums. But there are factors to consider other than cost when choosing between a whole and term policy.

One is reinsurability. If you acquire a terminal illness during the term of a policy, and you still need a policy when the term expires, you may not be able to get one.

An insurance agent or other such advisor can help you weigh these issues and decide which policy is best for your situation.

Is an E-Visit in Your Medical Future?

If telemedicine, also called an e-visit, is not a regular part of your health care, it soon may be.

Telemedicine is a mobile application that lets you visit a physician using video chat. You can send photos of a rash or cut or describe your symptoms and often receive a diagnosis and prescription – all from your home or office.

This innovative approach offers several benefits that are causing more Americans to consider telemedicine when they need a doctor.

One of the top benefits is avoiding a room crowded with other sick people while you wait to see a doctor. Minimizing exposure to germ-infested areas could make telemedicine a top solution for reducing outbreaks. Other benefits include reducing co-pays and wait time, eliminating commutes, and improving access to health care. Reduced cost is also a perk. In one study presented in San Diego at the June 2018 AHIP expo, in-person visits cost an average of $114 while e-visits came in at $38.

Telemedicine pros and cons depend on particular circumstances, but an e-visit may be the answer for common symptoms like a cold, the flu, an insect bite, asthma, cellulitis, or a sprain. Additionally, consider how much e-visit benefits could mean to Americans in remote areas with limited access to hospitals and doctors.

Is this covered by insurance? Some insurers cover and even encourage e-visits. Your health insurance may recommend using Skype, Facetime, or your insurer’s portal to visit your health provider electronically from your home. Medicare’s website lists when it will reimburse for telemedicine. Private health providers may offer e-medicine access. Check with your insurance carrier to determine providers and co-pays if you choose to participate in e-medicine.

From tele-psychiatry to tele-ophthalmology, both health care providers and consumers have discovered the benefits of tele-medicine. An e-visit may lower your co-pay and allow you to stay home when you are ill. Check with your health care professional to see if this option is right for you.