Is Your Home Riskier Than Your Neighbor’s?

Did you know two homes can have identical square footage but vastly different insurance costs? They might even be right next door to each other. How is this possible?

The cost of premiums is based on the risk factors of the homes. With vastly different features, the two properties don’t have the same likelihood of claims. What features influence this risk? Following are a few of the top factors.

Construction: Older homes often cost more to insure due to their construction. Features such as ornate moldings, stained glass windows, and plaster walls are typically more expensive to replace than are modern amenities, so insurance premiums reflect this. Other construction factors include the age of the electrical system and the type of exterior used.

Safety: If a home offers features that reduce the risk of fire, burglary, or other damage, the insurance costs go down. Smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and security systems are examples of safety features that can reduce your homeowners insurance premiums.

Amenities: Certain features can not only add appeal and ambiance to a home but also increase the cost of insuring the property. A swimming pool or spa, for example, can add fun and relaxation appeal, but it also increases a homeowner’s liability and requires additional coverage. A wood-burning stove can be charming, but it can be seen as a fire risk and increase your premium.

Pets: While a hamster probably won’t affect insurance premiums, a pit bull might. Homeowners insurance includes liability, which protects the property owners if they are sued by a person who is injured by the homeowner’s dog. If you own a dog, especially one whose breed is considered dangerous, you might pay more for insurance.

Upgrades: Remodeling projects typically increase the value of the home. A new addition, a finished basement, or an updated kitchen may require additional insurance to adequately cover the upgraded property.

If you’re considering purchasing a house or altering the features of your current home, consult with your insurance provider. They can provide premium estimates and offer further insight into how your choices would affect your insurance costs.

Why Did My Auto Insurance Premium Increase?

Did your auto insurance rate go up? If you noticed an increase in your premium, this is often due to one of three reasons. Fortunately, there are three things you can do to push that figure back down. Here’s the scoop.

Tickets: Did you receive a traffic citation? Tickets are a common cause of insurance rate increases. The severity of your citation is considered in this rate adjustment. For example, a speeding ticket for doing 50 MPH in a 40 MPH zone typically affects your rate less than a DUI conviction would.

Claims: Filing claims may cause a rise in your premium. Multiple claims in a short time period further increase the chances of a rate adjustment.

Conditions: If the risk factors in your area change, this could affect your insurance rates. Increased crime rate and extreme weather events are factors that can cause premium increases.

If your rate has increased (or you want to lower your current rate) take the following steps that can reduce your premiums.

Package: Ask your insurance provider about discounts for multiple policies. Often, if you bundle your home and auto coverage with one company, you can receive a discount.

Protect: Does your car have any safety features that reduce your risk? Security systems and certain safety features can lower your premiums.

Prepay: Pay for your full premium up front. By paying for coverage for six months or a year at once, you may be eligible for a discount.

Contact your insurance agent for more details.

An Unexpected Reason for Coverage Denial

You probably know that you can be denied life insurance for certain health conditions, but did you know you can be denied based on medications you purchase on behalf of someone else?

This is what happened to a Boston woman. Employed as a nurse, she had a prescription for the opioid-reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, which she used in her job at an addiction treatment program. (It’s also become common for family and friends of those with an addiction to carry a prescription for naloxone.) This prescription resulted in the nurse’s insurance denial.

Why would it matter if she carried this prescription?

When reviewing applications, some life insurance companies consider prescription drug use. During this process, it can be difficult to determine the difference between someone who carries naloxone for themselves (because they are at risk of an overdose) or others (because they are caring for someone with an addiction).

Could you be penalized for your prescriptions? Yes, even if you don’t carry any drugs for others as this nurse did. Life insurers consider all aspects of your medical history (including doctor’s visits, diagnoses, and medications) when analyzing your risk. They can deny coverage if they deem the risk is too high.

What can you do if you’re denied coverage? Ask for an appeal. The method for doing so should be explained in your application materials.

Generally, the process involves three steps to create your appeal.

1. Read your denial letter to understand the details and understand why the insurer denied your application. If the reason for the insurance denial wasn’t provided, you can request it in writing, as you have a legal right to receive it.

2. Gather evidence to support your appeal, such as doctor’s notes.

3. Write a compelling appeal.

If you need help with this process, your insurance agent can assist you with further details and support.

Before You Post That Negative Medical Review…

Did you have a bad experience with a medical provider? Are you itching to tell the world about the incident?

Using social media applications to evaluate a medical service provider may help others avoid a bad experience. However, before you vent your feelings about a medical professional to the World Wide Web, here are a few points for you to consider.

Medical practitioners depend on their professional reputation. If you post a negative online review, the practitioner may sue you.

Unfortunately, telling the truth does not prevent you from an accusation of libel. Even if you’re right and you post a truthful negative review, if the provider sues you, you can win the battle but lose the litigation war. Medical firms like hospitals keep lawyers on retainer. You probably don’t.

Keep in mind, doctors and other medical practitioners walk a thin line between a patient’s medical privacy online and defending themselves against a negative online review.

Still, you may want to complain and may have a legitimate concern to express. Here are some ways that may help you feel heard while lessening your risk of litigation.

Call the doctor’s practice manager and discuss your complaints. The manager may support your complaint, helping to ensure the doctor addresses your concerns.

If your complaint involves conditions at a hospital, then your state’s department of health services or your state medical board may investigate your concerns.

If your practitioner is a Medicare provider, contact the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization at Medicare.gov. You can file a complaint regarding most aspects of your treatment, including the doctor, hospital, or even durable medical equipment (DME) such as respirators, wheelchairs, and the suture removal kits used for wound care.

If you feel you must use social media to complain, wait until your initial anger subsides. Ask a neutral friend to review your post before you go live.

Dunk Your Prescription Costs to Avoid the Donut Hole

Donut hole: This pleasant-sounding name actually describes a coverage gap in Medicare Part D. The donut hole appears when your non-generic prescription costs exceed your plan’s initial coverage limit ($3,820 in 2019), but have not yet reached the catastrophic coverage level.

You can avoid the donut hole longer and perhaps entirely by reducing your prescription costs. Here’s how.

Before each year’s end, determine whether you have enough of each medication. If you do, don’t fill those prescriptions until January 1. If you don’t, ask for a smaller quantity for less cost to get you through to year end. Your doctor may have samples as well to carry you over.

During open enrollment, look for a plan that covers your prescriptions for less. Always ask your doctor to prescribe generic drugs. Changes to the donut hole in 2019 mean it affects only non-generic drugs.

To reduce costs, look for pharmacies offering discounts or rewards programs. Ask your pharmacist for a “Medication Therapy Management consultation.” All Medicare Part D plans cover this option. Ask for your prescription’s “best price,” which is the price when you don’t use insurance. However, before buying, call your insurance company and ensure it will reimburse you for “best price” drugs and count their cost toward your out-of-pocket costs. Price shopping can also save you money. Ask your insurance company to recommend pharmacies that offer lower costs, offer 90-day fills rather than 30, or deliver by mail.

Additionally, you can avoid the donut hole if you qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help/Part D Low-Income Subsidy. Visit Medicare.gov for more information.

Need Business Insurance? Ask These Questions First

You own a small business. You know you need insurance. But what specific coverage do you need?

Before you buy insurance, you must ask yourself several key questions to determine the exact coverage your company requires. The answers to these questions will help guide your conversation with your insurance agent to create the ideal insurance portfolio for your business.

Do you have employees? 

If you have employees, you will need workers’ compensation insurance. This covers your costs in case of work-related injuries and illnesses. You’ll probably also want to carry Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), which protects you if you are sued by an employee over harassment or discrimination issues.

Do you own or rent a business space? 

If your business has moved beyond the folding-table-in-the-garage phase, you’ll need commercial property insurance to cover the space you use for your operations. This provides coverage for damage to the building that houses your business. Typically, you’ll obtain this coverage as part of a bundle policy known as a Business Owner Policy (BOP), which includes property insurance, general liability insurance, and personal property insurance.

Do you accept credit cards? 

In today’s marketplace, few companies don’t conduct some form of business via online payments. While this adds convenience and opportunities, it also opens up your company to risk of cybercrime. Cyber liability insurance provides for costs associated with data breaches.

Do you use commercial vehicles?

Whether you own a fleet of commercial trucks or require employees to use personal vehicles for business trips, you’ll need commercial auto insurance. If you’re a small shop and use your own vehicle for business, consult with your carrier to determine appropriate coverage. Your personal auto policy might not be sufficient.

Do you manufacture a product? 

If you distribute products to the public, you need product liability coverage. This is typically included in the general liability policy that you can obtain as part of the BOP package.

Do you have a lot of reserves?

Some small businesses have a stockpile of cash in the bank that is readily available in case of emergencies. Others do not. If you don’t have a lot of reserve cash, an umbrella policy can prove useful in a pinch. This coverage extends your other policies in case a claim exceeds standard policy limits.

Can you afford insurance? 

The real question is: Can you afford not to have insurance? The answer is no.

For many small businesses, one natural disaster, one employee accident, or one unhappy customer can prove catastrophic if the proper insurance coverage is not in place. It might be tempting to put your hard-earned funds toward other aspects of growing your business, but those premiums could ultimately save your business from closing. A small investment each year is worth the protection and peace of mind you receive in return.

What’s the next step?

Once you’ve asked these questions to gain a better idea of the coverage you might need, contact your insurance carrier to review your answers. Your agent can provide additional input and help you choose the right policies to keep your company properly protected.

Don’t Let Disaster Close Your Doors Forever

Have you thought about how a natural disaster could send your business plans on a drastic detour? These events can cripple a small business, and many find it difficult to recover. Reopening your doors requires strategic effort. Use the following tips to weather the storm and successfully rejoin the marketplace post-disaster.

Contact the team: Communication is key after a disaster. Confirm that everyone is safe, and then determine if anyone is able to report to work. Remain in frequent communication with your team about the status of the business and plans to move forward.

Claim the loss: Before you begin cleaning or restoration, contact your insurance provider. Start the claims process as soon as possible. Consult with your agent to determine whether you can begin repairs or whether you should wait for authorization to ensure coverage.

Relocate the business: Determine whether you will be able to reopen in the same location or whether you need to find a new home for your business. If your location is temporarily unusable after the disaster, but you can’t afford to shut down completely, look for an interim solution. Consider offering services to another company in exchange for space for your temporary operations.

Restore the records: As you clean up from the disaster, save all files you can recover. Make repairs to salvage as much as possible, and request fresh copies of any records you cannot recover.

Assess the safety: Before bringing any employees back on-site, take proper precautions with signage and caution tape to mark any areas that remain hazardous.