Simple Maintenance Can Prevent Water Damage Claims

According to one large insurance carrier, water damage is a much more likely cause of homeowner claims than fires. Excluding claims for catastrophes, such as hurricanes, American homes are 10 times more likely to suffer from water damage than from fires.

Note that property maintenance is important in the event of a claim. In fact, you may not be covered for water damage that occurs over time due to inadequate maintenance. However, with good preventive maintenance you can easily eliminate such claims; below are several tips to help you reduce the risk of water damage:

Keep your roof in excellent repair. Regularly clean gutters and replace any cracked or missing shingles. Watch for ceiling stains and make immediate repairs if you notice water seepage or a damp ceiling.

Check washing machine hoses annually and replace them every five years.

Check hot water heater connections and perform regular maintenance on your hot water heater. It should be drained annually, but if you do it yourself, be careful because the water could scald you. If you do not know how to drain the heater correctly, hire a professional.

  • Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when you can stay home for the entire wash cycle. This simple tip can prevent you from returning home to a flood.
  • Check icemaker connections annually. Moving the refrigerator for cleaning may crimp the hose. Each time you move your refrigerator, check to make sure your icemaker line is intact.
  • Inspect your air conditioner drain lines annually for clogs or cracking.
  • Remove and replace deteriorating caulking around your tub and sinks.

Although water damage is one of the most frequent causes of claims, by taking time each year to maintain your home and appliances, you can dramatically reduce your chances of a being a water-damage statistic.

Don’t Let Fido Cost You Your Homeowners Policy

Dog bite claims have reached record levels, costing the U.S. insurance industry $479 million in 2011. Sadly, the majority of bites will be from the family dog or one belonging to a friend or neighbor.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that insurance carriers are cautious. Increasingly many insurance companies refuse to insure homeowners who own certain breeds, including Rottweiler’s, Pit Bulls, Chow Chows, and German Shepherds.

Although dog lovers lobby on behalf of these breeds, insurance underwriters may still refuse to write homeowner’s policies for owners whose pets are “blacklisted”.  So, what’s a dog lover to do?

This solution may help your insurance carrier provide you with homeowner’s coverage, pooch and all. The American Kennel Club sponsors a “Canine Good Citizen” designation, and local trainers throughout the U.S. offer classes to train your dog for the designation. The Canine Good Citizen dog must pass 10 temperament tests: He or she should allow a stranger to approach; demonstrate a lack of aggression to other dogs (very important since many people get bitten when their dogs tangle with others); and feel confident in a crowd.

For dogs who are already trained, evaluators are available throughout the U.S. to certify Fido as a good citizen. Some carriers don’t accept the designation, although a bite-free history may help, but generally having a Canine Good Citizen will assist you in obtaining or keeping your homeowner’s insurance.

If you love your dog (and who doesn’t?), the cost associated with training and evaluation is a small price to pay.

You Can Buy Life Insurance on a Shoestring

If you’re in the market for life insurance but think it costs too much, you may want to think again. Most people overestimate the cost of life insurance by almost three times, says LIMRA, a research organization that tracks the life insurance industry.

According to the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE), people forgo buying life insurance, because they have other financial priorities.

But basic life insurance can be surprisingly affordable for everyone, even older individuals. To find coverage at a good price, you’ll want to comparison shop, but there are other strategies you can use to find good coverage.

First, consider group life insurance. If you’re employed, your employer may offer basic group life insurance as a benefit. Premiums can be 10% to 20% less than individual life insurance because of enrollment and billing efficiencies.

Second, you may want to think about annual renewable term life insurance, which guarantees your insurability for a set period, but comes with a premium that increases each year during the term.

In the early years of the policy, premiums for annual renewable term life are less expensive than those for a comparable policy that doesn’t have an adjustable premium.

Finally, you may want to buy as much term life insurance – which covers you for a certain period and pays a death benefit if you die while the policy is in force – as you can afford now.

The average cost of basic term life has dropped by about 50% in the last decade due to longer life expectancy and greater efficiency in product design and administration.

It’s important to consider your unique needs when selecting a policy. There are many types of life insurance, the products vary and there are nuances to consider when choosing a policy. A professional can help you sort through the options and choose the policy that’s right for you.

Dental Insurance Is an Investment in Your Well-Being

The connection between good oral health and disease prevention is well documented. But many of us still consider a visit to the dentist as something we do only when toothache pain becomes unbearable.

While regular checkups have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke, we continue to place a lower priority on dental care. At issue is the cost of regular preventive care and treatment, which is why many people purchase dental insurance.

Dental insurance is available through group or individual plans. Plans fall into three main categories: Indemnity Insurance, which allows you to select your own dentist, as well as Preferred Provider and Health Managed Organization plans. In the latter two you are effectively assigned to one participating dentist or dental clinic; if you chose to go outside the plans, you may have to pay the difference in cost yourself.

For your premium dollar you generally have access to both preventive care and treatment, including regular cleanings, X-rays and fillings, as well as oral surgery (noncosmetic) and emergency care.

However, dental plans vary widely and you need to be sure the policy you select will meet your needs. You’ll also want to look closely at maximums and out-of-pocket costs.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has made changes that affect dental coverage, but primarily as it relates to children enrolled in certain plans. It appears there is little impact on adult dental care coverage.

Your insurance professional will help you sort through your options.

Leaving Your Job? COBRA Fills Coverage Gaps

If you are losing your job and have had group health care coverage through your company, ask your employer about COBRA.

COBRA is short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, a federal law that allows you to retain your employee health insurance for a limited period of time after you would otherwise lose coverage.

Generally COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, although many states have COBRA-like programs for employees of smaller companies.

And while it may sound like COBRA is the answer (and it may be short term), you’ll want to look closely at it.

First, you’ll be paying the same premiums as you did under your employer’s coverage – except that your company will no longer be contributing its share. This could end up being very expensive.

If, for example, family members were covered under your employer’s plan, they also may be covered under COBRA. However, as with most group plans, dependent costs are higher on COBRA. And now you’re paying the whole shot.

Second, COBRA is intended as interim coverage. It usually lasts for 18 months but could extend to 36 months.

Third, you have approximately 60 days after your last day of coverage under your employer’s plan to apply for COBRA. Your employer should have notified you when your company coverage was being terminated, but it’s your responsibility to apply for COBRA. Ensure you ask exactly when your coverage ends.

Finally, there are alternatives. Despite the generally held belief that individual plans are more expensive than group plans, you may want to consider this route. Actually, group insurance rates (including COBRA) are usually higher than individual plan rates, so you may want to move quickly to find an individual health care plan that meets your needs.

One major benefit: Even though COBRA is a temporary fix, it does give you time to consider your options.

Dental Insurance Is an Investment in Your Well-Being

The connection between good oral health and disease prevention is well documented. But many of us still consider a visit to the dentist as something we do only when toothache pain becomes unbearable.

While regular checkups have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke, we continue to place a lower priority on dental care. At issue is the cost of regular preventive care and treatment, which is why many people purchase dental insurance.

Dental insurance is available through group or individual plans. Plans fall into three main categories: Indemnity Insurance, which allows you to select your own dentist, as well as Preferred Provider and Health Managed Organization plans. In the latter two you are effectively assigned to one participating dentist or dental clinic; if you chose to go outside the plans, you may have to pay the difference in cost yourself.

For your premium dollar you generally have access to both preventive care and treatment, including regular cleanings, X-rays and fillings, as well as oral surgery (noncosmetic) and emergency care.

However, dental plans vary widely and you need to be sure the policy you select will meet your needs. You’ll also want to look closely at maximums and out-of-pocket costs.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has made changes that affect dental coverage, but primarily as it relates to children enrolled in certain plans. It appears there is little impact on adult dental care coverage.

Your insurance professional will help you sort through your options.