When a Hobby Is So Much More Than a Toy!

“In polite society, we call our obsessions hobbies,” notes author Stephen King. So what are your obsessions/hobbies?

Do they involve a significant investment in collectibles? Expensive equipment? If your hobby is running, you probably don’t have additional insurance concerns. However, if you collect rare coins, build and operate radio-controlled vehicles, or restore and sell antiques, you likely have a lot more to consider.

If your home houses a hobby that is vulnerable to loss, it’s important to evaluate what insurance coverage you need. Limits on homeowner and renter policies may be too low, or the causes of loss that are covered might not be appropriate. These may not be sufficient to cover your hobby. For example, consider the following:

  • The value of your items: does the total push you over your homeowners coverage limits? You might need to increase limits or add a policy.
  • All the ways you could lose your collectibles: theft, vandalism, fire, etc. Do your current policies cover all the potential types of loss? If not, you may need to expand coverage.
  • Any risks your activity may pose: does your hobby require any equipment that could be dangerous to others? You might need liability insurance.
  • Whether it’s partly business: do you sell items from your home? You may need business insurance.
  • Any unique risks created by your hobby: do you travel to trade shows with your items? Perhaps you need travel insurance, or additional liability insurance. If your hobby involves a single high-ticket item, such as an ATV or an electric guitar, you might need a separate rider to cover this item.

If you have a financial investment in your hobby, it’s important to insure it properly. Your insurance agent can help you determine what coverage you need for the best protection. Which is what it’s all about. After all, your beloved obsession is so much more than a toy!

Why Are My Bags in Bermuda, When I’m in Kansas?

It’s every traveler’s nightmare. You’re standing at the baggage carousel … waiting … and waiting. The bag you cleverly marked with a red bandana never shows up. With a sigh, you find someone in a uniform and explain your sad situation. After much research, you discover your bags have hitched a ride somewhere else, and the airline hopes to return them to you “before long.”

Meanwhile, you have a vacation to take, or relatives to visit, or meetings to attend. At the very least, you’ll need a toothbrush and a change of clothes. But the airline will reimburse you, right? Well, sort of. It may take months for an airline to declare your luggage lost; they rarely pay adequately and they always depreciate the value of your items. Plus, they may reimburse you in travel vouchers. Not cash. With these facts in mind, you may want to consider travel baggage insurance, which offers several benefits:

  • Baggage-delay insurance provides compensation for essential emergency items while the airline searches for and returns your luggage.
  • Luggage insurance can be helpful if the value of your items exceeds the limits of the airline’s coverage. Contact your airline or check their website to view their policies.
  • Lost-luggage coverage provides protection during your flight, at your hotel, and anywhere else on your trip. It even includes souvenirs. While homeowners or renters policies may offer coverage for your possessions, it may be limited.

So, before your next trip, talk to your insurance provider to determine what travel baggage insurance is right for you.

Life Changes May Mean Changes to Health Coverage

A job loss or other major life change can affect your health coverage. However, if you’ve had group health coverage from an employer with more than twenty employees or work for a state or local government, you can usually take advantage of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) to purchase your health coverage after a life change.

Under COBRA, you can continue to purchase coverage through your former employer’s group health insurance for up to eighteen months after your job ends.

However, you’ll pay a higher rate, so before you choose COBRA, consider alternatives.

One option: enroll for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within sixty days post-employment, or after a major life change like a divorce. The ACA option may be less expensive than COBRA, but there will be differences in coverage; for example, be sure to check whether your health professionals and costly medications are covered under the ACA plan you’re considering.

Which option is best for you? Talk to your insurance agent before you make a decision. He or she may offer alternatives you hadn’t considered, including short-term options.

If you think you may be back to work shortly at a job with group health, a short-term policy may be just right for you. Effectively, it can be a stopgap solution as you await a longer-term option.

Life events create enough stress. Don’t add to it. What to do about your health insurance is a critical decision that needs your full attention. But it’s one best made with assistance from your insurance professional.

Health Records Become Accessible and Secure

Whether you’re visiting your primary care physician or undergoing a liver transplant, electronic medical/health records (EMR/EHR) are at the forefront of medicine today.

With an EMR system, your health care provider can record patient information electronically rather than using the old-school method of pen and paper. The intent of EMR is to streamline and improve health care quality. Generally, it’s more secure than handwritten patient notes, as it’s stored remotely. Plus, it’s instantly accessible to health professionals during emergencies.

EMR ensures patient records are more comprehensive – and more legible. The technology is faster. Whether it uses voice recognition software or information is entered by the practitioner on a tablet, diagnosis and treatment time is cut considerably.

For example, consider a comatose patient found lying on the street. Through identification found on his or her person, including the individual’s name, address, and perhaps an insurance card, emergency personnel can tap into the person’s EMR and, if indicated, begin to treat the condition.

Another example: your primary care physician can electronically forward a prescription to your pharmacy, so you may be able to pick up your prescription immediately without a long wait or expensive delivery costs.

The negatives? EMR systems remain prohibitively expensive for smaller medical practices. As well, there’s a steep learning curve when an EMR system is first implemented. Learning their way around it can take time many doctors don’t have.

Although EMR generally reduces the possibility of error, mistakes can-and do-occur. Hurried cutting and pasting can result in skipped or repeated information, leading to confusion and miscommunication.

That said, the pros generally outweigh the cons and, in any case, EMR is here to stay in one form or another. Consider that not too far in the future, all your medical information may be contained on a chip embedded in your health card and easily accessible when needed.

Insider Suggestions for Buying Life Insurance

However much we research the options available when buying life insurance, and discuss them with friends and family, there are some things we might just never know.

Following are suggestions from insiders – those who are involved in life-insurance matters on a daily basis.

Include payment with your application. What would happen if you were to die after applying for a life-insurance policy, but before the application is processed? You wouldn’t have a policy, unless you take one important step: if you include a check for the first payment when you submit an application, your coverage will be retroactively binding to that day.

Don’t name a minor as a beneficiary. One reason we buy life insurance is to provide for our children. But minors can’t receive life-insurance proceeds, at least not directly. If you name a child as a beneficiary, he or she may have a hard time getting the money before turning eighteen. And, at that point, the child receives the money with no controls over how it’s used. A better option may be to create a life-insurance trust that receives the money and specifies its use. For example, the trust can disburse the funds over time on milestones you define, such as when your child turns twenty-one, thirty, etc.

Don’t use group life insurance to satisfy a divorce agreement. If a divorce agreement provides you with alimony or child support, it also likely requires your ex-spouse to have a life insurance policy naming you as a beneficiary. However, if your ex-spouse suggests using a work policy to satisfy this requirement, you may need to ask him or her to reconsider: if your ex-spouse changes jobs, the agreed-upon coverage may be lost.

Use an insurance professional. Purchasing insurance online is seldom a good idea, especially with life insurance. Ensure that you have the policy that’s right for you – and learn more from your own personal industry insider.

Technology Can Cut Workers Comp Claims

How much do you spend on workers compensation?

Between insurance premiums and claim payouts, this figure could be significant. But by improving safety measures in your business, you can significantly impact this cost.

To keep these expenditures down, many business owners are turning to technology.

Today’s tech often gets a bad rap (“Employees are on their smartphones instead of working.” “Robots are stealing jobs.”) But technology can also prove useful in making work environments safer and reducing costs. Following are a few tools that business owners can implement in their company operations to cut risk. The results should be lower insurance costs and safer employees.

Instant access – Upload manuals, instructions, and safety reports to your company website, and allow employees to access this information easily on tablets and phones while on the job. They can quickly reference the appropriate procedures for potentially dangerous situations. In case of an accident, they can easily and instantaneously complete required reporting.

Apps – Most employees now carry smartphones, and many apps are available to boost on-the-job safety. With the addition of a few apps, a smartphone can also be a flashlight, a level, or another tool. Does your business have a unique need? Work with an applications developer on the perfect app for your employees to make their jobs easier and safer.

Cameras and video – Surveillance cameras can help protect against break-ins and theft, but portable cameras and videos can do so much more. They can record safety walk-throughs for future reference and review, take pictures of hazards to report them, and photograph accident sites for accurate, instant reporting.

Drones – In addition to handheld or hard-hat-mounted devices, drones are great tools for photographing or recording a worksite for safety evaluation. Reviewing these images allows analysis of risk factors that could pose safety concerns or cause errors.

Personal sensors – Like boots, hard hats, safety harnesses, and vests, sensors can be used as personal safety equipment. These can let employees know if they have been standing too long or their heart rate is too high.

Site sensors – Sensors can be set up in at-risk areas of worksites to detect specific safety concerns: they can alert employees if they are in an area where it’s too hot to safely work, or alert them to potential hazards ahead that may cause slips or falls.

Self-driving vehicles – Unmanned trucks and cars are still a fairly new idea, but are quickly gaining acceptance. Construction crews in particular are interested in applying this new technology. Drivers of roadwork vehicles are often in danger of being struck by passing traffic. Removing drivers from these trucks would eliminate this safety hazard.

What technology could benefit your business? A quick review of your recent incidents may reveal where you need to beef up safety protocols. Once these at-risk areas are determined, consider what technology could improve employee safety in those situations. Spending a bit on technology could save you a bundle on your workers compensation claims.

True Value: What’s Your Commercial Property Worth?

As a business owner, you know your commercial property has value. But how do you establish this value for insurance purposes? Gut feelings aren’t the answer.

For example, if it’s essential to the success of your business, you may see it as “priceless.” If it’s expensive to maintain, you may assume its value is high. If it’s older, you may think it is inexpensive to replace. But these “feelings” can’t establish a true value for insurance purposes. When insuring your business property, it’s important to understand what the property is truly worth, and how this value is determined.

Following are three terms that are often used interchangeably – and incorrectly so. Understanding these different terms may help establish your property’s value and identify the insurance coverage that’s best for you.

  • Market value is the estimated dollar amount your property would sell for today, including the land it’s on. This value is affected by location, condition, and the commercial real estate market, and is the value used when selling a property.
  • Replacement cost is the dollar amount it would take to replace or repair your building with the same materials used currently; it includes the cost of hiring contractors, but not the value of the land. Typically, replacement cost is lower than market value.
  • Actual cash value is the cost to replace or repair your property, less depreciation. This will likely be the lowest value of the three.

Your insurance agent can help you decide which policy best suits your circumstances.