Assess, Review and Update: Preparing for the New Year

As the new year approaches, many of us look at our lives and decide to make changes. This time of change is also a good time to determine whether your current insurance coverage meets your needs. After all, it can be easy to forget to update our insurance as life happens. Here are some steps to keep in mind to prepare for the new year.

Assess and review

Update your home inventory. Remove any donated, sold or tossed items from the list and add any new purchases and major gifts you receive this holiday season. Your inventory should have descriptions and the cost of items. It’s a good idea to scan or photograph the receipts and keep those with the list. Make sure you can access your list online or have a copy off-site so if disaster should strike, you will be able to access it.

Take a look at your automotive needs. Is your coverage still appropriate for the age and value of your vehicles? What changes have there been this year? Do the limits, deductibles and primary driver designations still make sense for your current needs?

What other life events or changes in the past year may affect your coverage? Births, large purchases, remodeling and changes to your commute are all matters to consider, as they impact insurance.

Update

If there have been changes over the year, whether it is to your home inventory, your car needs or major life events, you’ll need to update your insurance coverage to accommodate these changes. When you do, make sure you don’t miss out on opportunities to save, such as multiple policy discounts or new programs that may lower your insurance costs.

We are happy to help you evaluate your insurance needs to ensure you have the right coverage as you head into the new year. Call or email us today for a review of your policies.

What Is and Isn’t Covered if Your Home is Overrun by Animals

Animals can be cute, cuddly and great companions. However, animals, whether wild or domesticated, can also be a threat and damage your home in ways that leave you wondering who will pay for the problems you now have to solve. Below are a few examples of what is and isn’t covered if your home is overrun by animals.

Destruction. Most insurance policies won’t cover the destruction of personal property by animals, so your vintage book collection isn’t reimbursable. However, if an animal damages a door or window, for example, your insurance policy may kick in, given that the property itself was damaged.

Infestation. Rodents, vermin, bugs and other creepy crawlies are unwelcome in your home, and while an exterminator can make quick work of an infestation, your insurance policy probably does not cover the elimination of these pests. It also most likely won’t cover any damage caused by these unwanted guests. However, each policy is different, so you should consult your individual policy terms.

Liability. When your pet decides to act out and take it out on your favorite chair by chewing on it, your insurance policy won’t cover Fido’s misbehavior. However, if you take your dog over to your boss’s home and he eats their furniture, your insurance policy’s liability coverage will likely kick in.

If you have concerns about potential animal-related damages, call or email us. We can review your policies and decide what coverage is best for you.

10 Things to Think about Before Buying Life Insurance

Life insurance is an important component of a comprehensive financial plan, but there are a number of things to consider to ensure that you get the policy that meets your individual financial requirements. Here are 10.

Do you need life insurance? Life insurance is usually used to protect the people you leave behind, people who depend on you. But it can also be used to pay for final expenses, and there are estate planning reasons to have it as well.

What kind of life insurance is ideal? With pure term policies, you pay a premium, and the policy pays your beneficiaries when you die. Other policies have other options.

Can you get coverage? Tell the truth when you apply for coverage. If you make a claim, the insurance company will investigate.

How much life insurance do you need? Consider your family’s income needs, including expenses such as loans, college tuition and funeral costs.

How much life insurance can you afford? Many people often buy too little life insurance.

What term length is ideal? If you purchase a term policy, you will need to decide the length of your term.

Do you want any riders? Disability and other waivers are available.

Can you convert the policy? If you live longer than the term of your policy, you may want to move your policy to another policy without any hassle.

Is the insurance company stable? You should always check out the rating of a life insurance company.

Did you shop around? Buying life insurance may seem easy thanks to the Internet, but there are many options.

This just skims the topic. A number of factors go into deciding what kind of life insurance policy is best for you. I would be happy to go over them with you. Feel free to call me or email me.

Medicare Enters a New Year – Have Your Benefits Changed?

Medicare enrollees can expect some helpful additions to their Medicare benefits in 2021. For example, enrollees can soon receive up to 12 acupuncture visits in 90 days to treat low back pain. According to Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, eight percent of adult Americans experience “persistent or chronic back pain.” In fact, the US counts back pain as its sixth costliest condition. WebMD says that acupuncture has been “long recognized as an effective treatment for chronic pain.” When other treatments fail, acupuncture may help relieve back pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s also effective for chemo-induced nausea, headaches, respiratory illnesses and other conditions.

Did you know that Medicare also covers a health behavior change program that helps prevent type 2 diabetes? More than 100 million Americans are prediabetic or live with diabetes. That’s nearly one in four adults. Preventing diabetes motivates Medicare administrators to help you avoid its onset.

Your risk of diabetes is one you should manage aggressively. Diabetes hits minority communities especially hard, so factor your own genetic makeup into your risk of diabetes. The diabetes management program offers weekly sessions over a six-month period, including diet and nutrition coaching and other benefits. After your core sessions, this program offers another 12 months of maintenance sessions to keep you on the path to better health.

Diabetes is often a factor in hospitalizations and contributes to a lower quality of life. Don’t allow these great benefits to go unused if you need them. Contact us if you have other questions about your Medicare benefit package.

Are You Getting the Most out of Your Health Insurance?

With health insurance costs taking a big chunk of family budgets, it’s important to maximize your health coverage each year. Here are some tips to make the most of your health insurance coverage.

Manage your deductibles. When you meet your plan’s deductible, schedule any routine annual appointments, such as dermatology appointments and eye doctor visits. Ensure you don’t run out of medications, even if you only use them as needed. Most pharmacy plans will fill 90-day prescriptions at a savings. It’s better to stock up on your supply of medications to delay paying deductibles as long as possible into the next deductible year.

Use mail order for prescriptions. Save yourself the stress of running to the pharmacy (and avoid exposure to sick people) by using the 90-day mail plan offered by most pharma benefit providers.

Scrutinize every billing you receive. Begin each year by naming a file, including the year, such as “Medical bills 2021.” Keep every bill you receive from your doctor. When you receive your explanation of benefits, compare the two and ensure the provider billed your insurers only for services they provided. Also, make sure that your insurer paid according to your plan’s agreement.

Fight questionable billings. Following hospitalization or surgery, be sure you aren’t overbilled. If you receive a bill you don’t understand or you question some of the charges, consider hiring a medical advocate to review the bill. Advocates save you money, usually by charging a percentage of the savings, but only when they find errors. In some cases, the savings can be thousands of dollars.

Manage your providers. Don’t go out of network unless you can’t find a good provider in-network. Work with your insurer if you can’t find a doctor you trust in-network. Your insurer can usually recommend a good provider, and you can check that doctor’s reputation online.

For more timely tips about managing your health benefits, give us a call or email us.

Your Business Insurance Review: What to Ask

Your business insurance is vital to ensuring that any potential losses or liabilities are covered if the worst happens. It is entirely too important to just scan quickly and pay when it comes to renewal time. It’s a good idea to review your business annually without the stress of impending expiration dates. Preparing for this annual review is one of the most important things you can do, as missing a crucial part of your coverage could cost thousands of dollars. Below are a few tips on what to ask for your business insurance review so you can save time and a potential future headache.

What do you need to protect?

Many parts of your business may change year after year: property values, equipment, machinery, technology, product lines, personnel, and the list goes on. These changes can all impact the types of insurance you need or the amount of coverage you need. Consider these categories.

Premises: Have you remodeled or made any additions? Have you added or taken away equipment?

Business personal property: Have you upgraded your computers, electronic equipment and other equipment that is vital for the functioning of your business? Do you have new office furniture?

Vehicles: Have you made any changes to your fleet?

Loss of income: Are you covered if your business suffers property damage and cannot operate temporarily?

Technology and data: Are you covered should your company suffer a cyberattack or breach of data?

What liabilities should you consider?

Any business runs the risk of lawsuits. It is crucial to review where your company may have potential exposures and ensure you have insurance policies to cover these. These questions may help you.

Products: Does your company sell, distribute or manufacture goods? You could be sued if you are any part of a chain of distribution.

Workplace injuries: Is your workers’ compensation adequate?

Professional liabilities: Do you have appropriate errors and omissions insurance to cover what is not included in your general liability insurance?

Catastrophic claims: Do you need an umbrella policy to cover unexpected events?

Can you save money on your premiums?

There may be opportunities to save, such as multiple policy discounts or new programs that may lower your insurance costs. When considering how much insurance to obtain, you should also think of your business and your personal financial situation. You may be able to make changes to your policy that will lower your premiums. If your financial situation is solid, you could consider having larger deductibles and lower your premium.

Time and effort are needed for your annual insurance review, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be complicated. We are here to help you along every step of the way. We can review the answers you uncovered and catch any questions that you may not have considered. We can help you look at the big picture and add or make changes to your policies to ensure your business is adequately protected. Call or email us today and we’ll get you set for your annual review.

Phishing: Prevent Your Team from Getting Hooked

While phishing may sound eerily similar to a sport involving boats, the result of each couldn’t be more different. Phishing emails are commonly sent by people pretending to be someone recipients know in order to acquire private data or information, such as bank account details. Cybercriminals are getting more and more sophisticated, for example, by spoofing senior executives whose messages most employees would not ignore. Below are a few tips to prevent your team from getting hooked next time there’s a phishing scam sent your way.

Educate. The first best line of defense against phishing scams is education. How to identify the words commonly used, what to do if you’re unsure and why phishing can cost the company millions of dollars are all important pieces of information every employee should be aware of.

Simulate. Working with your IT department, you should simulate what a phishing scam would look like to make employees aware of how this practice works in the real world, in addition to testing their knowledge of phishing scams. Some of these simulations should be announced beforehand, and others should be at random.

Incentivize. Consider a rewards system for identifying and reporting phishing emails to show employees how important you consider their role in keeping your company safe and protected. Small rewards, such as lunch and public recognition, go a long way to encourage alertness from your employees.

If you have any questions about phishing scams or how to protect your company if you do get hooked, we are here to help. Call or email us today.

3 Ways to Save on Your Homeowners Insurance

Your homeowners insurance policy is your safety net for when the unthinkable happens. From natural disasters to robberies, crises happen, and having a homeowners insurance policy means you will be able to cover repairs and losses. But premiums can be pricey. Below are a few tips to help you save on this crucial insurance policy.

Make your home safer. You may not be able to control freak accidents and hazards to your home, but you can make changes to make it safer, which can lower your insurance premium. This could include updating your electrical and plumbing systems, installing or beefing up your home security system, and installing a new roof, which is less likely to be damaged by wind and hail than an older roof.

Mitigate or eliminate risk factors. There are some risk factors that come with the area, such as inclement weather. However, adding a pool to your property, building a fireplace, smoking, owning a pet, or having a trampoline can create unnecessary risks that increase the likelihood of someone getting hurt. All of these may raise your premiums.

Increase your deductible or bundle your insurance. If you have a savings account that you can always rely on, sometimes a good money-saving move is to increase your deductible, which is the amount you have to pay out of pocket before insurances take effect. You can also bundle your homeowners insurance with your car, boat or other insurance products to take advantage of unique savings.

Please feel free to contact me today if you are interested in ways to save on your homeowners insurance policy. I can help you determine what is right for you, given your individual financial circumstances and goals.

Safe Driving Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Passengers

Keeping yourself and your passengers safe is always your priority when you drive. Below are a few tips to help protect yourself and your passengers every time you get behind the wheel.

Concentrate on driving. Whether it’s due to changing the radio station, talking to other passengers, or texting on your cell phone, distracted driving can cause a crash or worse. Always be sure to concentrate on the task at hand and not get distracted.

Practice defensive driving. Not every driver is as careful as you are out there, and some are careless, distracted or reckless, with no regard for other people’s safety. Make sure to always know what drivers around you seem to be doing, keep a cushion (two seconds in good weather, four seconds in bad weather) between you and the car in front of you, and never believe that another driver will act in a way that is responsible and will help you.

Create a safe driving plan. Know where you’re going. Create a plan that includes time for rest stops; cell phone breaks to check in with family and any detours that might arise as the result of highway or road construction. Don’t eat while you’re driving.

Be safe inside your vehicle. Don’t try to pick up items that may have rolled under your seat. Have needed items, such as toll cards and garage passes, within reach. Secure cargo so it doesn’t shift while you drive.

Keeping you, your family and your vehicle safe is of utmost importance. Call us to review your auto coverage and policies so we can ensure you are protected.

Quiz: How Much Do You Know about Life Insurance?

Think you know a lot about life insurance? Try our quiz (based on LIMRA’s 2020 Life Insurance Barometer Study) to see if you’re right.

1. What is life insurance used for?
(a) Providing for a loved one financially after your death
(b) Estate planning
(c) Both of the above

2. What percentage of US adults say they have life insurance?
(a) 84%
(b) 62%
(c) 54%

3. Which is the number one reason people say they own life insurance?
(a) Replacing lost wages or income
(b) Paying for burial costs and final expenses
(c) Transferring wealth across generations

4. Which is not a type of life insurance?
(a) Term life
(b) Whole life
(c) Partial life

5. Over the past decade, US life insurance ownership has:
(a) Fallen
(b) Risen
(c) Stayed about the same

Answers: 1c, 2c, 3b, 4c, 5a

Life insurance needs differ among individuals, so determining how much coverage you need can be daunting. But it is unwise to avoid this task because obtaining the right life insurance is an important part of your overall financial plan. If you have any questions about how life insurance works, call or email me. I am always here to help you navigate through the options that are the best for you and your personal goals.

Medicare Advantage Programs Are Adding Important Benefits for You

In 2018, Congress passed a bill that affected Medicare recipients in several ways. Trying to find ways to cut Medicare costs, especially hospital readmissions, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. This act expanded the ability of health insurers to pay for services that are not directly health-related yet improve a Medicare patient’s overall functioning.

Since 2018, many Medicare Advantage (MA) plan insurers have expanded benefits for their subscribers. These include the use of home care practitioners who can help patients cope after serious illnesses or hospitalization. Your MA plan may offer these benefits soon, if not now.

These benefits include home care, which differs from home health care. Home health care sends skilled medical workers to homes to provide medical services such as wound care and ostomy assistance. Today, more MA plan leaders are adding home care: helping with meals, retrieving prescriptions, ensuring the patient has an uncluttered environment to prevent falls, and doing household chores patients may require during their recovery. These types of services traditionally were private pay.

To reduce costs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wanted to encourage innovation among health insurance administrators. It’s clear that home health care is an important addition to healing. Additionally, these services improve MA members’ satisfaction with their plans. Both insurance carriers and the CMS saw the need for radical change to increase patient satisfaction and improve patient outcomes.

Americans face difficult paths to recovery after serious illnesses or injuries. With the mobility of the American family, many older Americans or those with disabilities live without family support and with fewer social networks. Adding home care services can help seniors remain home longer, decrease the risk of rehospitalization and prevent or delay a move to assisted living or nursing homes.

To discuss the benefits your plan offers, contact us today.

Don’t Miss Important Affordable Care Act Deadlines – Call Now

Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is upon us. In most states, open enrollment begins on November 1, 2020 and ends on December 15, 2020. If you’re an ACA subscriber or you want to change plans, call us now because appointments fill quickly. We want to guide you to the best plan for your money and help you determine which medical providers are in your current exchange plan.

Health insurance is complex, and you want to be sure you have expert guidance before you buy health coverage. If you miss the open enrollment deadline, you may lose coverage under the ACA. Without an ACA plan, your only choice may be an “off-exchange” health plan or a short-term medical plan that may not provide the same benefits as the ACA. It won’t cover you for certain preexisting conditions. It may not offer maternity care, prescription coverage or substance abuse treatment, which are all covered by the ACA.

On the plus side, short-term plans take effect within 24 hours of the application and payment of the premium. Premiums may be lower than ACA plans and may offer access to more doctors and hospitals. Major insurers manage today’s ACA plans, so they may cover your physicians under certain ACA plans.

Why go it alone on the ACA website? We’re happy to be your guide through the confusing maze of the Affordable Care Act, and we can help you determine which level of coverage best meets your needs.

Your Employee Handbook and Insurance: The Connection

Many companies refer to their employee handbooks as their “corporate bible,” spelling out all kinds of policies ranging from serious matters, such as sexual harassment, to less consequential ones, such as lunch breaks or even casual Fridays. One of the goals of this employee handbook, besides helping create an office culture, is to create legal safeguards that will protect you and your company against potential lawsuits. As such, this should be thought of as an integral part of your insurance coverage, both when you originally write the handbook and whenever you decide to undertake revisions in order to protect yourself and your company. No matter if your employees work remotely or in an office, you need to cover all pertinent issues in your employee handbook.

Parts of the handbook are culturally significant for you and your company and will include information such as company history, important milestones, and necessary information on the employee benefits package. Keeping the tone lighthearted and informational shouldn’t prevent you from getting into the crucial things that you need to let your employees know about so they know what to expect from you and your business and so that your business is protected. The handbook should provide a clear set of guidelines in each and every area of that employee’s employment that you can refer to if they allege you treated them in an unfair manner. If a lawsuit alleging discrimination comes to pass, your handbook is proof that policies were disclosed and shows you handled the situation appropriately.

Without an employee handbook, there is no way to affirmatively prove that every provision that would otherwise have been included was communicated to the employee. Not creating an employee handbook that is given to all employees creates unnecessary risk for you and your business.

All handbooks should include at least these items:

At-will employment provision. In most circumstances, employment is at will, meaning the employee can be dismissed for any reason that is not discriminatory. For example, if you wish to dismiss an employee based on how they bake bread at your bakery, this provision would cover that dismissal, and the employee would be on notice that there is no guaranteed compensation beyond time worked.

Equal opportunity statement. It’s important that your business make clear that it is a place that is welcoming for all, no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. This reassures your employees and demonstrates your commitment to a workplace where an employee is judged only on their work product.

Complaints. Ensuring you have a clear way to handle complaints can provide your employees clarity and give you protection from false allegations if you reach a decision not in their favor.

Creating an employee handbook isn’t easy, especially for a small business. But it is a vital part of making sure your business is protected. If you’d like to learn more about how your employee handbook relates to insurance, reach out. I’m here to help, and I’m just a call or email away.

The Pros and Cons of Longer-Term Policies

Did you know that there is a way to avoid going back to your insurance company year after year for basically the same policy? Longer-term policies could help you save time and money that can be reinvested in your business. However, longer-term policies may not be for everyone’s particular financial situation. Below are some pros and cons to help you decide.

If you’re willing to be locked into a multiyear commitment, the most significant pros are lower premiums, locked-in rates and saving time. They provide the insurance company certainty that there will be a commitment for a certain amount of time. Given the commitment, it provides the insurance company the opportunity to lower premiums. It provides you with the assurance that your rates won’t rise during that time period. A longer-term policy also saves you the time and hassle of yearly information gathering and renewals.

The most significant con is that the payments will be due even if your business experiences a decline in revenue or your industry as a whole experiences a downturn. If your business needs to leave the property, payments would still be due. Longer-term policies are great if you know things will be about the same for the next three years but may not a good fit if your situation is changing or fluctuating.

A number of factors go into deciding if a longer-term policy is right for your business. I’d be happy to go over them with you and help you make the decision that’s best for you. Call or email me today.