How Pre-existing Medical Conditions Are Handled

Many Americans have medical issues that insurance companies define as pre-existing conditions.

A pre-existing condition is a health problem that existed before the individual applied for a health insurance policy.

These health issues are taken into consideration by the insurance company regardless of whether the applicant sought treatment.

Minor conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol have generally been handled in one of two ways.

The applicant may be accepted on the basis that a higher premium is paid in order to cover the minor condition.

Or the insurance company may accept an applicant by placing a rider on the policy that excludes coverage for the specific condition, usually for a set period of time.

Most major health conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes have been cause for the decline in of health insurance policy applications.

For those with pre-existing conditions, however, President Barack Obama’s health care reform may offer some peace of mind. Insurance companies will be barred from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

At the same time, adults with medical conditions will be able to buy coverage through a temporary, subsidized high-risk insurance pool.

And starting in 2014, insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage to anyone with pre-existing conditions.

For those without health insurance, this could signal hope of soon being insured.

For the time being, those without pre-existing conditions should consider obtaining a policy or, if currently covered, keep their health insurance in force.

One of the best ways to safeguard against pre-existing condition issues is to have coverage already in place.

Having continuous coverage is a sure way to stay out of a potential health insurance crisis.

The Pitfalls of Buying Insurance Without an Agent

There are many disadvantages to buying insurance direct rather than through an agent.

Following are some of the pitfalls that can be associated with doing it by yourself:

1. Lack of Expert Advice

Unless you are an industry expert, chances are you may not fully understand the complex and confusing language used to describe various programs and alternatives when purchasing a policy.

Working with an agent provides the expertise you need to explore several different types of riders and addendums and also ensures that you get the right protection at the most competitive price without experiencing any gaps or duplicates of coverage.

2. Lack of a Local Advocate

Insurance is big business, but when it comes time to file a claim or ask individual questions, it’s important to have a personal advocate who is able to provide a single source of contact for all your needs.

Few things are more challenging than attempting to deal with a major loss or injury while having to hunt for the right names and numbers when dealing with insurance. Instead, one simple call to your reliable local agent is all that’s required.

3. Privacy Problems

Shopping for insurance online sounds convenient, but the reality is that it’s often far less appealing. Teaser websites, privacy problems and a flood of telemarketing calls are just a few of the common pitfalls associated with online insurance quotes.

Trying to make changes or adding specialized riders to a policy can quickly create confusion, if not outright chaos.

On the other hand, when working with a local agent it’s easy to verify the reputation of the agent and office well in advance. Plus, customizing a quote couldn’t be simpler.

Just ask your agent about the desired coverage or policy changes. You won’t have to fill out endless forms and wait for return calls from total strangers.

The Pros and Cons of Health Savings Accounts

A health savings account (HSA) is not health insurance but rather a savings account that is used in conjunction with a high-deductible health insurance policy. An HSA can help save money on out-of-pocket medical costs and provide funds for an insured who has a limited health insurance policy or one that excludes pre-existing medical conditions.

HSAs have been promoted as one way to help control health care costs. By reducing the money spent on care and putting more of the responsibility on individuals, insurers are less at risk.

There are advantages to having an HSA. For example, individuals can deduct HSA deposits on their annual income taxes. If an insured participates in an HSA through his or her employer, deposits may go into the account on a pre-tax basis. And, in some cases, employers may even contribute to employees’ HSA accounts.

But there are a few downsides. First, when money is withdrawn from an HSA for non-medical expenses before the account owner turns 65, those funds are taxed and incur a 10% penalty. Opponents of HSAs worry that the pressure to save and keep money in the account may actually cause individuals to avoid seeking preventive treatment for certain health conditions.

HSAs can be a good health care cost option for some. Prior to opening an account, however, it is important to consider an individual’s specific situation in order to determine whether an HSA will provide a true benefit.

Avoid These Common Auto Insurance Blunders

Great rates are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to auto insurance. Unfortunately, what you don’t know can cost you plenty when it comes time to renew or file a claim.

Following are some tips to ensure that you obtain the coverage that will keep your family safe and sound:

1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Auto insurance may not be sexy, but it’s super-important to actually open those notices sent out by the insurance company. Take time to carefully review policy changes, due dates and other pertinent information at least once every six months, or make a habit of calling your agent to review coverage options annually.

2. Update Upheaval: Life can be chaotic, so it’s not surprising that forgetting to update important information is one of the most common – and costliest – mistakes made. Adding or deleting drivers from the policy, updating contact information or simply asking for a new quote based upon changing conditions not only saves money but ensures that you have the right coverage in place for the entire family. Even a change in driving habits may qualify you for big discounts.

3. Customized Confusion: Before investing in performance tires, a super-sized sound system or other exclusive customization, be sure to obtain a rate quote. Remember, the insurance policy is typically based on an average utility package, so be sure to supply your agent with all the specifics for upgrades and other amenities.

4. Personal vs. Professional: For those who use a vehicle for both personal and business travel, it’s important to understand the coverage and limitations associated with a standard policy. When in doubt, ask your agent about obtaining additional riders or an addendum to supplement an existing policy.

5. Timing Troubles: Without a doubt, one of the most common and easily preventable problems encountered by most auto insurance buyers is forgetting to pay the premiums by the due date. Schedule an automatic payment at least two weeks prior to the policy expiration date to ensure continuity of coverage.

Four Quick Tips for Insuring Your Watercraft

Summer is the time of year when millions of Americans hit the waves for some fun in the sun.

Unfortunately, there is more than one way to get soaked if you aren’t up to date on the latest in watercraft insurance.

Following are some tips to help you get great rates on insurance for your boat or watercraft without sacrificing the protection needed to stay safe:

1. Make a List of All Watercraft: That includes boats, Jet Skis or other similar devices. Include the age, condition and identification numbers of each.

2. List All Drivers or Operators: It’s a good idea for all drivers to take a safety course to learn how to operate all personal watercraft and to verify that everyone has a valid driver’s license before allowing them to operate the craft even for a short period of time.

3. Discuss Storage Issues: Depending upon location, type of security system and other factors, it is often possible to reduce the cost of insurance by maintaining the craft in a secure facility.

4. Cover the Basics: Most policies cover physical damage to the craft, bodily injury, and damage to other people or property in the event of an accident, but that can leave plenty of out-of-pocket expenses. Ask your agent about towing assistance, wakeboarder or skiing coverage, and additional riders for customized crafts. Other common exclusions include boating after dark as well as extensive upgrades such as electronics or other personal property.