Health Insurance Basics: Learning the Lingo

Decoding health insurance lingo isn’t always easy but with a little planning and preparation you will soon be speaking the same language as your agent.

The first step is to understand the basic types of health care plans including:

HMO or Health Maintenance Organization. You select a primary care provider who coordinates care. Low co-payments are typical. Often the lowest cost option, HMOs only provide coverage for providers employed or contracted by the HMO.

Point of Service Plans or POS. POS plants are similar to an HMO except you act as your own coordinator for care options. Although a POS provides a greater degree of latitude in provider selection, the additional time requirements may add a layer of complexity.

Preferred Provider Organizations or PPO. PPOs are typically the most flexible care arrangements but cost varies according to whether the provider is “in-network” or “out of network”.  Typically PPOs tend to be more expensive than HMO options.

Fee-For-Service or Indemnity Plans. Indemnity plans provide extensive freedom but often require larger annual deductibles before insurance reimbursement begins. Monthly insurance premiums may also be substantially higher.

Catastrophic Coverage. Often the least expensive form of insurance, many catastrophic plans require high deductibles and exclude office visits or other day-to day-medical care. The emphasis is on major medical coverage for illness or hospitalization.

Short-Term Insurance. A policy that typically is used for 30, 90 or 180 days of coverage or to bridge the gap between jobs, prior to qualifying for employment-sponsored benefits of other situations where regular insurance has lapsed for a brief period.

Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs. A relatively unknown type of plan that combines a high deductible with a special tax-exempt savings account to keep premiums low.

June 2009

Think You Cannot Get Life Insurance? Think Again

Whether you have a chronic health condition, work in a high-risk occupation or simply find yourself nearing those retirement years, chances are you have faced the prospect of going without life insurance.
Instead of forgoing coverage, use these tips to find affordable coverage options and protect the financial future of your family.

Low-Cost Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is an especially helpful option for those deemed high risk. Ask about graded or high-risk policies that provide coverage for a set period of time (1 to 40 years) without a medical examination or questionnaire.  Typically the shorter the term, the less expensive it is. However, the benefits of locking in a lower price over a longer period of time could become more cost-effective in the future. Take time to review your individual insurance needs to weigh cost versus duration while taking the rate of inflation into account.


Supplement your primary policy with other options such as mortgage insurance or an accidental death policy. Mortgage insurance pays the premiums on your home, while an accidental death and dismemberment policy provides coverage in the event that you are hurt or killed due to an accident. Other supplemental policies are available to pay off your credit cards, car loans or other obligations at relatively affordable rates and without the need to take a medical exam. With a little planning, it’s possible to provide meaningful coverage for your family.

June 2009

Security Ideas to Cut Your Insurance Premiums

Learn how to protect your property and save big on premiums with these burglar-proofing and alarm ideas.

Perform a Personalized Review. Develop a plan of action based on existing security measures and needed upgrades. Create an inventory for each door, window and room in the house. Do you have dead bolt locks? Fire alarms with battery backup? Make a note of deficiencies; then visit a store to begin your own DIY upgrades.

Contact Your Insurance Agent. Now that you have taken care of the basics it is time to contact your insurance agent for more specific information. Be sure to mention the addition of deadbolts or other first-line-of-defense security measures implemented in step one above then ask about discount levels for each of the below to determine which is the best buy for your situation.

Evaluate Options. Most security systems fall into three general categories:

  • Passive DIY:  This is primarily an extension of other security measures you may have already put into place. For example, enhanced security lighting along the perimeter of the property, or sirens or alarms that sound in the event of a security breech, as well as other measures designed to prevent intrusion into the home. No monitoring or notification is included. Typical insurance discounts range from 2% to 5%.
  • Passive Monitoring: The advent of wireless technology combined with the Internet has created a new breed of security system within the reach of most homeowners. Security cameras along with standard alarms, locks and other devices provide passive monitoring and record the home and property with a visual backup of all activity in the event of a breech. No automatic notification is included. Typical discounts range from 5% to 10%.
  • Active Monitoring and Notification: Typically provided by a third party, this type of security system is available in a wide range of pricing plans. Security monitoring may include fire, burglary and even health threats, with 24/7 surveillance and immediate emergency notification. Discounts range from 10% to 20%.

June 2009

Simple Tips to Get the Right Insurance for Your Boat

If you are like most boat owners, then you believe only the best boat insurance will do. Unfortunately, buying boat insurance can feel like navigating stormy waters when you don’t understand a few basics. Use this checklist to make sure you encounter nothing but smooth sailing when buying or renewing your boat insurance policy:

Inside or outside? Collect basic information about where and how the boat will be stored when not in use. Is it secure? Weather protected? At home? Out of state? These and other location considerations can increase or decrease the cost of boat insurance substantially.

Exclusions and limitations? Always ask about exclusions or limitations to boat insurance coverage, especially if you have custom work or a rare vintage boat. Other common clauses to specifically review include those covering liability, boat trailer coverage, and hired workers performing labor or repairs to the boat on your behalf. It is often possible to purchase additional riders to make sure coverage is adequate for your needs.

Personal property coverage? Don’t assume your personal property, fishing gear or other belongings are covered by the boat insurance. Most policies require additional coverage, or these items may fall under another policy, such as homeowners insurance. When in doubt, ask your agent.

Perils? Vandalism, wrecks and physical damage are typically covered, but what about sinking, storm damage or hail? You might be surprised to learn that it often depends on the type of boat, your usage and other factors.

June 2009