Fender Bender? Take These Key Steps After an Accident

Even the best drivers are at risk of fender benders. With so many variables on the road, accidents happen. In the U.S. alone, an average of 6 million accidents occur each year. If you’re among this number, it’s important to know the next steps to take. If you find yourself in a car crunch, follow these procedures:

Safety first: If possible, pull your vehicle to the side, out of traffic, but in a safe, public place. Use caution when engaging the other driver if you suspect road rage is involved.

Damage assessment: Find out if anyone is hurt and call 911 if medical assistance is needed. After personal injuries are taken care of, assess the damage to the vehicles. Take pictures to document any damage.

Information gathering: Record the names of everyone involved. Try to get witness information if possible. Include in your records the car registration, insurance, car make and model, and license information for all drivers. If you hit a parked car, don’t leave the scene before finding the owner. If you can’t locate the owner, record the details of the accident and leave a note with your contact information.

Police notification: Contact law enforcement to alert them of the accident. Document the names and badge numbers of the officers involved and find out how you can get a copy of the accident report. If officers don’t come to the scene, go to the nearest police station to file a report. You may also be able to do this online.

Claim process: Notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible to start the claim process. By following the procedures above, you will have all the information and documentation you need to make this process as smooth as possible.

Don’t Let Halloween Décor Haunt You

Will your porch feel incomplete without a jack-o-lantern on your doorstep this Halloween?

If you plan to carve up a pumpkin to greet your trick-or-treaters this year, use the following tips to make your sculpting simpler and safer.

Bottoms up: Rather than cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin, remove the bottom. The hole will allow you to place your carved pumpkin on top of a candle rather than reach inside to awkwardly place or light one.

Knives down: For the best results, don’t try to carve a pumpkin with the same tools you use to prepare dinner. Kitchen knives aren’t designed for jack-o-lantern creation, but pumpkin carving kits are. These are fairly inexpensive and can be found in most big-box stores. They include specially designed tools that can cut through rinds, scoop innards, and poke intricate holes to create the fantastical face you desire.

Candles out: If you light your pumpkin with a candle, never leave it unsupervised. It might be tempting to leave that jack-o-lantern burning while you trek the neighborhood trick-or-treating, but this puts your home at risk. Always blow out candles before leaving the home or going to bed for the night.

Flames in: Another precaution with candle-lit pumpkins is location. You want to ensure that the flames stay within the pumpkin. Keep lit jack-o-lanterns far from objects such as window treatments and other décor. Keep in mind that hay bales and other straw decorations are often quite flammable. The National Fire Protection Association reports that decoration fires result in an average of 41 injuries and $13 million in property damage each year, and nearly half of these incidents are started by candles.

Kids’ costumes can be flammable, too, so place jack-o-lanterns strategically so they don’t come in contact with flowing capes or large tutus that make their way onto your porch.

Lights on: To reduce the risk of fire, consider using lights inside your jack-o-lanterns instead of candles. LED candles or other similar products are widely available now. Some even flicker to imitate natural flames. It’s worth the investment to avoid a fire. Plus, you can reuse these next Halloween, so you don’t have to buy fresh candles every year!

Medicare Advantage Now Paying for Home Care

If you have ever tried to recover from surgery or a serious illness without assistance, you know how hard it can be just to manage your daily chores.

Having a home-care specialist arrive in your home a few times a week can make a tremendous difference in your recovery as well as reduce the stress and depression that can accompany an injury or serious illness.

For those who will be encountering these challenging situations, there’s good news. Many Medicare Advantage (MA) plans recently started paying for home services, also known as “custodial care.” This new benefit can include tasks like light housekeeping, shopping, getting dressed, medication reminders, and meal preparation.

Why the change?

Exploring possible cost savings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) found that providing home care to sick and injured patients reduced CMS costs by preventing hospital readmissions. Research reported by HealthLeaders found that hospital readmissions declined 25 percent after the addition of home care services.

Since early 2019, CMS added in-home care as a MA benefit, hoping to reduce costs further. Before this change, Medicare covered home health care like skilled nursing, wound care, and similar skilled health services, but less-skilled services like home care were not covered. Patients had to pay these costs out of pocket.

In fact, this change in the law is so broad that MA plans may be able to provide other nonmedical services like respite care for family caregivers. With this important addition to Medicare benefits, MA plan administrators are already employing these strategies to keep their clients at home rather than in the hospital.

Over one-third of those receiving Medicare benefits also purchase an Advantage plan to defray the additional copays and other costs not covered by Medicare. Are you eligible for these benefits, including custodial care? If you currently do not have a Medicare Advantage plan, contact us to discuss the potential advantages of adding or switching supplemental plans.

What Are the Options? Coverage for All Situations

Just as there are many types of families, there are many types of life insurance policies. This can make it challenging for couples to decide what coverage is best to meet their family’s needs.

Do you know what coverage would be best for your situation? Here’s the breakdown for a few of the most common scenarios.

Growing families: Parents with small children often have the greatest need for life insurance. The children will not be capable of caring for themselves financially for many years.

If one partner passes away, he or she is leaving behind a big burden to shoulder alone. If both parents pass way, the children will be in definite need of funds to help cover their care.

Empty nesters: Older couples with grown children can also use life insurance. This is especially true if one spouse works and the other does not, or one earns significantly more than the other. In this case, life insurance should be purchased for the life of the higher-earning partner so the lower-earning partner does not face a bill he or she can’t pay at some point in the future.

DINKS and SINKS: Dual income no kids (DINKS) and single income no kids (SINKS) couples may also want to carry life insurance policies. The benefit can help the remaining spouse pay off a mortgage or cover other expenses that will be hard to pay without the help of the deceased.

Unconventional circumstances: These can create even greater challenges. Consider, for example, a couple who has lived together for a decade but never married. Perhaps the woman has significant assets, including the house the couple lives in. The man has fewer assets, but he has heavily contributed to renovations on the house.

If the woman plans to leave the home to her children from a previous marriage, a life insurance policy can provide funds to allow the man to purchase a different house on his own after her passing.

Wondering if one of these might be a good fit for your needs? Contact our office to discuss your situation and receive professional insight into the best insurance solutions for your unique needs.

Open Enrollment for Affordable Care Act Coming Soon

Each year, open enrollment allows new enrollment in the  Affordable Care Act (ACA). This period also gives those already enrolled a chance to review their coverage, change deductibles, and fine-tune their ACA plans.

For example, according to CNN, the average deductible for a Bronze plan is about $5,900, with an average out-of-pocket limit of a little under $7,000. Upgrading to a Gold, Silver, or Platinum plan will cost more per month; however, this could allow you to lower your out-of-pocket costs. How? A Bronze plan covers about 70 percent of your medical costs per year while a Platinum plan covers about 90 percent of your yearly health care costs.

Our no-obligation consultation about your 2020 ACA coverage can help you determine if you should stick with your current plan or consider upgrading to save on annual health care costs.

We do get busy during open enrollment, so do not hesitate to call us now. We can discuss your options and help you determine if you want to make the switch when open enrollment begins November 1, 2019. If you miss the last day of open enrollment (December 15, 2019), you will not be able to enroll for 2020 unless you qualify for coverage due to a special life event, like losing your group insurance.

Do not wait until the last minute to discuss your ACA options with us. Plans sold during the 2019 open enrollment period go into effect on January 1, 2020. If you had coverage under the ACA in 2019, your re-enrollment is automatic. However, your plan’s cost may increase, or you may find that you have different medical needs and would like to switch plans.

Don’t struggle alone with the online options when professional help is available. Contact us today.

Don’t Let Vandals Get the Best of Your Business

Candy. Jack-o-lanterns. Costume parties. Halloween can be full of fun. It can also be full of mischief.

While some people are out trick-or-treating, others are out vandalizing. Whether they are simply trying to impress their peers with a prank or are serious criminals set on destruction, vandals can do significant damage to businesses. Statistics database reports that graffiti alone costs U.S. cities $12 billion a year in cleanup.

Is your business protected from such incidents?

This prankster season, take a few steps to keep your company out of harm’s way. Try the following tips.

Put a policy in place. Is your company covered by vandalism and malicious mischief insurance? This type of policy protects against losses you experience due to vandals.

This coverage is part of many basic commercial policies, but it’s important to confirm that you have this coverage in your package.

Vandalism and malicious mischief insurance can also be written as an endorsement to your policy if it is not included in the basic coverage.

This insurance is particularly important for properties that are not occupied 24/7. If vandals know your business location is empty at night, for example, they know when they can strike with less risk of detection.

Of course, business owners would rather avoid acts of vandalism in the first place. In addition to getting insurance coverage, take these steps to deter vandalism on your premises.

Use good security measures. Install adequate lighting to keep your property well-lit at all times, and replace any burned-out bulbs immediately. Consider break-resistant glass if your property features large windows or glass-door entries. Equip the property with video cameras to monitor activities. The presence of cameras may deter vandals completely, or, if not, you can at least use the recording to catch the criminals.

Establish a perimeter. Use fencing or even shrubbery to keep vandals at bay. Choose plants that feature thorns or scratchy leaves to discourage close encounters with your property.

Partner with the police. Always report any acts of vandalism to neighboring businesses or to your own. If the police aren’t aware of it, how can they help? If they know of high-incidence areas, officers may be able to increase patrols in those regions.

Ask around. Have any other businesses in your area experienced vandalism? Gathering information can help you detect any patterns or particular risks for your region. With this information, you can take appropriate steps to prevent future attacks.

Form ranks. You may have heard of neighborhood watch groups. Did you know similar groups exist for businesses? Business watch group members help reduce crime by watching one another’s properties. If one doesn’t exist in your community, check the National Neighborhood Watch website for information on how to start one.

Respond rapidly. If vandals do cause mischief on your property, act swiftly to make repairs. This lets vandals (and customers) know that you care about your property. A good insurance policy can help cover your costs to make these quick repairs more feasible.

Contact me today with any questions you may have about your insurance needs for the approaching holiday seasons.

Gone Phishing: Don’t Take the Bait

The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report indicates that one third of cyberattacks involve phishing traps. These scams involve imitating a reputable source to induce staff to reveal sensitive information. As companies increase awareness of these cons, cyber criminals increase their efforts, making tactics more sophisticated.

How can you protect your company?

First, educate yourself and staff about current phishing techniques. Cybercriminals often use links embedded in emails to direct employees to unsecure sites. A second common method is to spoof a sender email address and request secure data. Scammers may also impersonate a known IT department or vendor and ask for sensitive information over the phone. Recently, phishing tactics have expanded to texting, which can be particularly effective, since staff may be more distracted and less vigilant when it comes to these informal interactions.

In addition to education, protect your business from phishing methods by using appropriate security software and remaining current on all updates. Use spam filters and web filters to block malicious content. Develop solid security protocols for password protection and encrypt all sensitive business data. Don’t forget to require encryption for telecommuters, too.

Even with the best measures in place, you may be susceptible to attacks. To fully protect your business, establish appropriate insurance coverage. Cyber insurance policies offer protection for these situations. If you suffer a data breach, data loss, business interruption, or other expenses due to cybercrime, insurance is essential for covering the resulting costs.

Contact our office to find out more about available coverage for your company.