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.