What Is Your Underwriter Looking For?

To long-term risk managers, your insurance underwriter is almost a member of the team, but many small business owners remain confused about the role of an underwriter. And long-term managers please note: Even you may need a refresher course in today’s underwriter and how he or she impacts your organization.

Here’s a primer on the important role this valuable person plays.

Underwriters hold the key to insuring your business or organization. The underwriter is the person at the insurance company who makes the decision to accept a certain risk and at what price, as all insurance companies are in the business of transferring risk for a fee. All the questions they ask about you or your company help them make that decision.

Here are some questions they may ask:

  • How long has your business been in operation? Underwriters like to see three full years of operation. If your business is new, it will be harder for the carrier to insure your business at the best rate.
  • Is your business financially sound? For example, if you own investment properties and you are “upside down” on several of them, underwriters may decline your account. Prior cancellations for nonpayment of premiums will hurt your risk profile as well.
  • If you have a vehicle fleet or commercial buildings, are they in good condition, clean and outfitted with adequate safety measures? Are your vehicles in a secure location when not in use?
  • Where is your business located? The safety of neighborhoods is a prime concern, not just for you but for your insurance carrier.
  • What is your loss history in the past three to five years? Most underwriters anticipate a better-than-average loss history. You can explain some outliers, but standard insurance carriers will hesitate if your business has an unfavorable loss history.
  • Do you, as owner of the business, actively manage the operation on a daily basis? If so, you are demonstrating that you have control of the operations of the company.
  • What loss prevention programs are in place? Do you have a safety manual, and do you conduct frequent safety meetings? For workers’ compensation insurance, many underwriters require a return-to-work program that brings injured workers back to work temporarily after an injury.
  • Does your organization have a drug and alcohol policy? Is it enforced? Do you prescreen employees for criminal and driving records?
  • Are vehicles available for personal use?  How many drivers do you have under the age of 25?

<li>    Is your insurance application filled out completely and neatly? A sloppy application may indicate a lack of attention to detail. Especially when purchasing professional liability coverage, this can immediately sour the underwriter.

Prior to binding coverage, underwriters will review your loss runs, request inspections and check insurance claims databases. Most insurers validate and cross-check information on your application. Your honesty and how you interact with the carrier in the initial stages of the underwriting process can mean the difference between that carrier accepting or rejecting your business.

Protect Your Brand Against Supply Chain Risks

During a webinar interview, a Fortune 500 risk manager was asked what kept her awake at night. “Supply chain risk,” she answered.

With increasing globalization and fewer sourcing options as companies fold or merge, supply chain risk management has become a necessity. When properly managed and insured, your supply chain management process can give you an advantage.

The top three supply chain risks include natural disasters, telecommunications and information technology problems, and supplier delivery problems. Here are a few tips to help you manage supply chain risk:

  • Analyze the risk associated with untested or geographically distant vendors. Fuel cost volatility and international piracy may be very real threats to your global supply chain.
  • Perform due diligence on new suppliers. Seek expert advice about potential vendors before you sign any contracts.
  • Strike the right balance between increased risk and competitiveness. Saving money by switching vendors may seem like a good decision until you lose money or damage your company’s reputation because the arrangement fails.
  • If your brand is tarnished, it may take your management team years to repair your organization’s reputation. Evaluate each link in your supply chain.

In the past, physical damage to your assets had to occur before insurance coverage would apply; now insurance carriers offer more comprehensive supply chain coverage. Perils such as pandemics, civil unrest or the loss of a supplier may all be insurable.

Property Insurance: What You Need to Know

When you purchase a home, you will likely have to approach a lender for financing, and your lender will require you to have property insurance in place as protection for that lender’s interests. Here’s a primer on what you need to know about homeowners’ insurance in order to be an informed consumer:

Protection from the unexpected

First of all, standard homeowners insurance will help protect you from unexpected events such as a tree falling on your home. Other unexpected events can include fire, wind, hail and theft. Homeowners insurance also protects you from liability in the event someone suffers an injury while on your property. Even if you weren’t already required to have homeowners insurance, you would still want it for your own peace of mind.

You can select whether you want to be protected against everything that could potentially damage your home. If you select All Perils coverage you are pretty much covered against the vast majority of risks, excluding those that are listed in your policy. Specified Perils coverage protects you against the most common risks, which are noted in your policy.

You can reduce the cost of insurance premiums by raising the deductible.

Don’t underinsure

You can buy practically any coverage you could ever want because there is such a wide range of policies, but the standard ones cover liability, the property itself and the contents of the property.

Most homeowners policies include the term “Dwelling replacement cost.” This means that if your home was completely destroyed, you would be paid the full cost of replacing the property and its contents in today’s dollars (not deducting for depreciation).

The coverage needs to reflect the current cost of rebuilding your home, regardless of what you paid for it.

Ask your mortgage professional about lenders’ requirements for homeowners insurance.

How to Behave After an Auto Accident

Accidents happen when we least expect them. Auto accidents are no exception. Here are some steps to take if you are involved in a crash:

  • Most important, establish whether anyone is injured. If so, call 911 immediately.
  • Unless you are blocking traffic, try not to move cars until the police arrive. However, safety is your first priority. If you feel unsafe, move your car to the side of the road.
  • If there are no injuries or an accident occurs on private property, the police may not respond. Be sure to obtain complete insurance information and identification. Write down the license plate number and the vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • One party may not want to call the police and accepts blame at the scene. This may be an option, providing you have the contact information of neutral witnesses – passersby who witnessed the accident (not your passengers). But note: Once the at-fault party realizes rates will increase, the story may change. It’s always best to call the police and ask them to respond.
  • At the scene, do not argue about who is at fault. Exchange information and tell the other party he or she will hear from your insurance carrier.

If you have your cell phone, take pictures or a video of the accident scene.

Call your agent right away. Most insurance companies have toll-free numbers to report your claim, and reporting delays can jeopardize your coverage. Keep your insurance card in your vehicle so that you can prove you have up-to-date coverage.

Consider carrying flares in your trunk.

Many of us drive for years without an accident. However, as distracted driving grows, accidents will increase. It is always better to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Six Factors to Consider When Buying Life Insurance

Life insurance can be an important component of a financial plan, but what kind you choose and how much you purchase depends on your individual financial circumstances.

Here are six factors to consider when thinking about life insurance:

Consider whether you need life insurance in the first place. You generally purchase life insurance in order to protect the people you leave behind. Don’t buy it unless you have a spouse, children or other people who are financially dependent on you.

If you do need life insurance, consider which kind you need. Life insurance policies fall into one of two camps: Pure term policies and whole life policies. Pure term offers life insurance coverage only: You pay a premium and the policy pays your beneficiaries a certain amount when you die. Whole life combines term policies with an investment product to build cash value.

  • Consider what term will meet your needs. For example, you’ll most likely want the policy to last as long as you have dependents. It’s a guessing game, but your advisor can help you make it less so.
  • Think about what you can afford, but don’t leave yourself underinsured. Because whole life insurance is often more expensive than term life, many people purchasing whole life buy too little.
  • Be a savvy buyer. It’s always a good idea to buy insurance when you’re young and healthy, because rates will usually rise for older individuals and those who are in less than optimal health.
  • Always tell the truth when you apply for coverage; if you don’t disclose all relevant factors and then make a claim, the insurance company will investigate, deny the claim and likely cancel your policy.

Life insurance is no place to skimp. By consulting with your advisor before you purchase a plan, you’ll ensure that you have just the right amount of insurance for your needs.

A POS Managed Care Plan Can Be a More Flexible Option

While you may know of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred provider organizations (PPOs), do you know what point-of-service (POS) plans are all about and how they work?

Here are some basics to help you decide if a POS plan is for you:

POS is another type of managed health insurance plan, and it combines facets of both PPOs and HMOs to give you what many believe is greater choice.

Like PPOs, you have access to a network of preferred providers and you are required to contact network providers first.

It is also recommended that you select a personal physician from network members. This doctor will effectively oversee your care and provide for all your medical needs. As well, he or she can refer you to other members of the network or outside it as required.

With POS plans, you don’t have a deductable provided you visit a provider from the network, but you will pay a small amount for each visit.

If you go to an out-of-network doctor, you’ll pay a deductible that may be higher than with other plans.

If you are in the market for a health insurance plan, it’s important to do your research before making a commitment. Your insurance professional will lead you through the different types of plans, and he or she will also have the latest information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Learn as much as you can about the plans available. Your health is worth it.

Critical Illness Plans Offer Lower Premiums

No one wants to gamble on his or her health, but over the past few years many Americans have decided to do just that. However, there is another way.

With the tight economy and high unemployment, many people have been skimping on health care. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to make health care more affordable, most of the recommended changes are still being discussed, and many significant ones won’t take effect until 2014.

People with lower incomes and the self-employed, as well as those whose jobs don’t provide health insurance, are increasingly opting for a less expensive way to protect themselves by purchasing catastrophic insurance.

This form of insurance effectively lowers monthly premiums and raises out-of-pocket costs while offering complete coverage in the event the insured experiences a catastrophic health issue, such as a stroke, heart attack or cancer.

Considered a high-deductable health plan, catastrophic insurance is available as either comprehensive (with lower monthly premiums, higher out-of-pocket costs but emergency coverage) or supplemental plans (also with lower premiums and higher outside costs but providing coverage in the case of a health catastrophe that wouldn’t be covered under another plan).

Do you need catastrophic coverage? To get the most from this type of insurance, you should be a basically healthy person – not one with many prescriptions or regular doctors’ visits. These are the high-cost areas. You’ll pay high out-of-pocket costs for them, and it’s best to keep them to a minimum. Older people also will find catastrophic insurance provides them with peace of mind at a lower cost.

If you do develop a catastrophic illness – at any age – you can be assured that after you pay your deductable all the major medical expenses that your insurance company considers necessary will be covered, including surgery and intensive care, although not elective surgeries.

Protect Your Brand Against Supply Chain Risks

 

During a webinar interview, a Fortune 500 risk manager was asked what kept her awake at night. “Supply chain risk,” she answered.

With increasing globalization and fewer sourcing options as companies fold or merge, supply chain risk management has become a necessity. When properly managed and insured, your supply chain management process can give you an advantage.

The top three supply chain risks include natural disasters, telecommunications and information technology problems, and supplier delivery problems. Here are a few tips to help you manage supply chain risk:

  • Analyze the risk associated with untested or geographically distant vendors. Fuel cost volatility and international piracy may be very real threats to your global supply chain.
  • Perform due diligence on new suppliers. Seek expert advice about potential vendors before you sign any contracts.
  • Strike the right balance between increased risk and competitiveness. Saving money by switching vendors may seem like a good decision until you lose money or damage your company’s reputation because the arrangement fails.
  • If your brand is tarnished, it may take your management team years to repair your organization’s reputation. Evaluate each link in your supply chain.

In the past, physical damage to your assets had to occur before insurance coverage would apply; now insurance carriers offer more comprehensive supply chain coverage. Perils such as pandemics, civil unrest or the loss of a supplier may all be insurable.

 

What Is Your Underwriter Looking For?

 

To long-term risk managers, your insurance underwriter is almost a member of the team, but many small business owners remain confused about the role of an underwriter. And long-term managers please note: Even you may need a refresher course in today’s underwriter and how he or she impacts your organization.

Here’s a primer on the important role this valuable person plays.

Underwriters hold the key to insuring your business or organization. The underwriter is the person at the insurance company who makes the decision to accept a certain risk and at what price, as all insurance companies are in the business of transferring risk for a fee. All the questions they ask about you or your company help them make that decision.

Here are some questions they may ask:

  • How long has your business been in operation? Underwriters like to see three full years of operation. If your business is new, it will be harder for the carrier to insure your business at the best rate.
  • Is your business financially sound? For example, if you own investment properties and you are “upside down” on several of them, underwriters may decline your account. Prior cancellations for nonpayment of premiums will hurt your risk profile as well.
  • If you have a vehicle fleet or commercial buildings, are they in good condition, clean and outfitted with adequate safety measures? Are your vehicles in a secure location when not in use?
  • Where is your business located? The safety of neighborhoods is a prime concern, not just for you but for your insurance carrier.
  • What is your loss history in the past three to five years? Most underwriters anticipate a better-than-average loss history. You can explain some outliers, but standard insurance carriers will hesitate if your business has an unfavorable loss history.
  • Do you, as owner of the business, actively manage the operation on a daily basis? If so, you are demonstrating that you have control of the operations of the company.
  • What loss prevention programs are in place? Do you have a safety manual, and do you conduct frequent safety meetings? For workers’ compensation insurance, many underwriters require a return-to-work program that brings injured workers back to work temporarily after an injury.
  • Does your organization have a drug and alcohol policy? Is it enforced? Do you prescreen employees for criminal and driving records?
  • Are vehicles available for personal use? How many drivers do you have under the age of 25?
  • Is your insurance application filled out completely and neatly? A sloppy application may indicate a lack of attention to detail. Especially when purchasing professional liability coverage, this can immediately sour the underwriter.

Prior to binding coverage, underwriters will review your loss runs, request inspections and check insurance claims databases. Most insurers validate and cross-check information on your application. Your honesty and how you interact with the carrier in the initial stages of the underwriting process can mean the difference between that carrier accepting or rejecting your business.

Property Insurance: What You Need to Know

When you purchase a home, you will likely have to approach a lender for financing, and your lender will require you to have property insurance in place as protection for that lender’s interests. Here’s a primer on what you need to know about homeowners’ insurance in order to be an informed consumer:

Protection from the unexpected

First of all, standard homeowners insurance will help protect you from unexpected events such as a tree falling on your home. Other unexpected events can include fire, wind, hail and theft. Homeowners insurance also protects you from liability in the event someone suffers an injury while on your property. Even if you weren’t already required to have homeowners insurance, you would still want it for your own peace of mind.

You can select whether you want to be protected against everything that could potentially damage your home. If you select All Perils coverage you are pretty much covered against the vast majority of risks, excluding those that are listed in your policy. Specified Perils coverage protects you against the most common risks, which are noted in your policy.

You can reduce the cost of insurance premiums by raising the deductible.

Don’t underinsure

You can buy practically any coverage you could ever want because there is such a wide range of policies, but the standard ones cover liability, the property itself and the contents of the property.

Most homeowners policies include the term “Dwelling replacement cost.” This means that if your home was completely destroyed, you would be paid the full cost of replacing the property and its contents in today’s dollars (not deducting for depreciation).

The coverage needs to reflect the current cost of rebuilding your home, regardless of what you paid for it.

Ask your mortgage professional about lenders’ requirements for homeowners insurance.

How to Behave After an Auto Accident

Accidents happen when we least expect them. Auto accidents are no exception. Here are some steps to take if you are involved in a crash:

  • Most important, establish whether anyone is injured. If so, call 911immediately.
  • Unless you are blocking traffic, try not to move cars until the police arrive. However, safety is your first priority. If you feel unsafe, move your car to the side of the road.
  • If there are no injuries or an accident occurs on private property, the police may not respond. Be sure to obtain complete insurance information and identification. Write down the license plate number and the vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • One party may not want to call the police and accepts blame at the scene. This may be an option, providing you have the contact information of neutral witnesses – passersby who witnessed the accident (not your passengers). But note: Once the at-fault party realizes rates will increase, the story may change. It’s always best to call the police and ask them to respond.
  • At the scene, do not argue about who is at fault. Exchange information and tell the other party he or she will hear from your insurance carrier.
  • If you have your cell phone, take pictures or a video of the accident scene.
  • Call your agent right away. Most insurance companies have toll-free numbers to report your claim, and reporting delays can jeopardize your coverage. Keep your insurance card in your vehicle so that you can prove you have up-to-date coverage.
  • Consider carrying flares in your trunk.

Many of us drive for years without an accident. However, as distracted driving grows, accidents will increase. It is always better to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

A POS Managed Care Plan Can Be a More Flexible Option

 

While you may know of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred provider organizations (PPOs), do you know what point-of-service (POS) plans are all about and how they work?

Here are some basics to help you decide if a POS plan is for you:

POS is another type of managed health insurance plan, and it combines facets of both PPOs and HMOs to give you what many believe is greater choice.

Like PPOs, you have access to a network of preferred providers and you are required to contact network providers first.

It is also recommended that you select a personal physician from network members. This doctor will effectively oversee your care and provide for all your medical needs. As well, he or she can refer you to other members of the network or outside it as required.

With POS plans, you don’t have a deductable provided you visit a provider from the network, but you will pay a small amount for each visit.

If you go to an out-of-network doctor, you’ll pay a deductible that may be higher than with other plans.

If you are in the market for a health insurance plan, it’s important to do your research before making a commitment. Your insurance professional will lead you through the different types of plans, and he or she will also have the latest information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Learn as much as you can about the plans available. Your health is worth it.

Six Factors to Consider When Buying Life Insurance

 

Life insurance can be an important component of a financial plan, but what kind you choose and how much you purchase depends on your individual financial circumstances.

Here are six factors to consider when thinking about life insurance:

  •  Consider whether you need life insurance in the first place. You generally purchase life insurance in order to protect the people you leave behind. Don’t buy it unless you have a spouse, children or other people who are financially dependent on you.
  •  If you do need life insurance, consider which kind you need. Life insurance policies fall into one of two camps: Pure term policies and whole life policies. Pure term offers life insurance coverage only: You pay a premium and the policy pays your beneficiaries a certain amount when you die. Whole life combines term policies with an investment product to build cash value.
  •  Consider what term will meet your needs. For example, you’ll most likely want the policy to last as long as you have dependents. It’s a guessing game, but your advisor can help you make it less so.
  •  Think about what you can afford, but don’t leave yourself underinsured. Because whole life insurance is often more expensive than term life, many people purchasing whole life buy too little.
  •  Be a savvy buyer. It’s always a good idea to buy insurance when you’re young and healthy, because rates will usually rise for older individuals and those who are in less than optimal health.
  •  Always tell the truth when you apply for coverage; if you don’t disclose all relevant factors and then make a claim, the insurance company will investigate, deny the claim and likely cancel your policy.

Life insurance is no place to skimp. By consulting with your advisor before you purchase a plan, you’ll ensure that you have just the right amount of insurance for your needs.

Critical Illness Plans Offer Lower Premiums

 

No one wants to gamble on his or her health, but over the past few years many Americans have decided to do just that. However, there is another way.

With the tight economy and high unemployment, many people have been skimping on health care. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to make health care more affordable, most of the recommended changes are still being discussed, and many significant ones won’t take effect until 2014.

People with lower incomes and the self-employed, as well as those whose jobs don’t provide health insurance, are increasingly opting for a less expensive way to protect themselves by purchasing catastrophic insurance.

This form of insurance effectively lowers monthly premiums and raises out-of-pocket costs while offering complete coverage in the event the insured experiences a catastrophic health issue, such as a stroke, heart attack or cancer.

Considered a high-deductable health plan, catastrophic insurance is available as either comprehensive (with lower monthly premiums, higher out-of-pocket costs but emergency coverage) or supplemental plans (also with lower premiums and higher outside costs but providing coverage in the case of a health catastrophe that wouldn’t be covered under another plan).

Do you need catastrophic coverage? To get the most from this type of insurance, you should be a basically healthy person – not one with many prescriptions or regular doctors’ visits. These are the high-cost areas. You’ll pay high out-of-pocket costs for them, and it’s best to keep them to a minimum. Older people also will find catastrophic insurance provides them with peace of mind at a lower cost.

If you do develop a catastrophic illness – at any age – you can be assured that after you pay your deductable all the major medical expenses that your insurance company considers necessary will be covered, including surgery and intensive care, although not elective surgeries.

Simple Maintenance Can Prevent Water Damage Claims

According to one large insurance carrier, water damage is a much more likely cause of homeowner claims than fires. Excluding claims for catastrophes, such as hurricanes, American homes are 10 times more likely to suffer from water damage than from fires.

Note that property maintenance is important in the event of a claim. In fact, you may not be covered for water damage that occurs over time due to inadequate maintenance. However, with good preventive maintenance you can easily eliminate such claims; below are several tips to help you reduce the risk of water damage:

Keep your roof in excellent repair. Regularly clean gutters and replace any cracked or missing shingles. Watch for ceiling stains and make immediate repairs if you notice water seepage or a damp ceiling.

Check washing machine hoses annually and replace them every five years.

Check hot water heater connections and perform regular maintenance on your hot water heater. It should be drained annually, but if you do it yourself, be careful because the water could scald you. If you do not know how to drain the heater correctly, hire a professional.

  • Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when you can stay home for the entire wash cycle. This simple tip can prevent you from returning home to a flood.
  • Check icemaker connections annually. Moving the refrigerator for cleaning may crimp the hose. Each time you move your refrigerator, check to make sure your icemaker line is intact.
  • Inspect your air conditioner drain lines annually for clogs or cracking.
  • Remove and replace deteriorating caulking around your tub and sinks.

Although water damage is one of the most frequent causes of claims, by taking time each year to maintain your home and appliances, you can dramatically reduce your chances of a being a water-damage statistic.

Don’t Let Fido Cost You Your Homeowners Policy

Dog bite claims have reached record levels, costing the U.S. insurance industry $479 million in 2011. Sadly, the majority of bites will be from the family dog or one belonging to a friend or neighbor.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that insurance carriers are cautious. Increasingly many insurance companies refuse to insure homeowners who own certain breeds, including Rottweiler’s, Pit Bulls, Chow Chows, and German Shepherds.

Although dog lovers lobby on behalf of these breeds, insurance underwriters may still refuse to write homeowner’s policies for owners whose pets are “blacklisted”.  So, what’s a dog lover to do?

This solution may help your insurance carrier provide you with homeowner’s coverage, pooch and all. The American Kennel Club sponsors a “Canine Good Citizen” designation, and local trainers throughout the U.S. offer classes to train your dog for the designation. The Canine Good Citizen dog must pass 10 temperament tests: He or she should allow a stranger to approach; demonstrate a lack of aggression to other dogs (very important since many people get bitten when their dogs tangle with others); and feel confident in a crowd.

For dogs who are already trained, evaluators are available throughout the U.S. to certify Fido as a good citizen. Some carriers don’t accept the designation, although a bite-free history may help, but generally having a Canine Good Citizen will assist you in obtaining or keeping your homeowner’s insurance.

If you love your dog (and who doesn’t?), the cost associated with training and evaluation is a small price to pay.

You Can Buy Life Insurance on a Shoestring

If you’re in the market for life insurance but think it costs too much, you may want to think again. Most people overestimate the cost of life insurance by almost three times, says LIMRA, a research organization that tracks the life insurance industry.

According to the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE), people forgo buying life insurance, because they have other financial priorities.

But basic life insurance can be surprisingly affordable for everyone, even older individuals. To find coverage at a good price, you’ll want to comparison shop, but there are other strategies you can use to find good coverage.

First, consider group life insurance. If you’re employed, your employer may offer basic group life insurance as a benefit. Premiums can be 10% to 20% less than individual life insurance because of enrollment and billing efficiencies.

Second, you may want to think about annual renewable term life insurance, which guarantees your insurability for a set period, but comes with a premium that increases each year during the term.

In the early years of the policy, premiums for annual renewable term life are less expensive than those for a comparable policy that doesn’t have an adjustable premium.

Finally, you may want to buy as much term life insurance – which covers you for a certain period and pays a death benefit if you die while the policy is in force – as you can afford now.

The average cost of basic term life has dropped by about 50% in the last decade due to longer life expectancy and greater efficiency in product design and administration.

It’s important to consider your unique needs when selecting a policy. There are many types of life insurance, the products vary and there are nuances to consider when choosing a policy. A professional can help you sort through the options and choose the policy that’s right for you.

Dental Insurance Is an Investment in Your Well-Being

The connection between good oral health and disease prevention is well documented. But many of us still consider a visit to the dentist as something we do only when toothache pain becomes unbearable.

While regular checkups have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke, we continue to place a lower priority on dental care. At issue is the cost of regular preventive care and treatment, which is why many people purchase dental insurance.

Dental insurance is available through group or individual plans. Plans fall into three main categories: Indemnity Insurance, which allows you to select your own dentist, as well as Preferred Provider and Health Managed Organization plans. In the latter two you are effectively assigned to one participating dentist or dental clinic; if you chose to go outside the plans, you may have to pay the difference in cost yourself.

For your premium dollar you generally have access to both preventive care and treatment, including regular cleanings, X-rays and fillings, as well as oral surgery (noncosmetic) and emergency care.

However, dental plans vary widely and you need to be sure the policy you select will meet your needs. You’ll also want to look closely at maximums and out-of-pocket costs.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has made changes that affect dental coverage, but primarily as it relates to children enrolled in certain plans. It appears there is little impact on adult dental care coverage.

Your insurance professional will help you sort through your options.

Leaving Your Job? COBRA Fills Coverage Gaps

If you are losing your job and have had group health care coverage through your company, ask your employer about COBRA.

COBRA is short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, a federal law that allows you to retain your employee health insurance for a limited period of time after you would otherwise lose coverage.

Generally COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, although many states have COBRA-like programs for employees of smaller companies.

And while it may sound like COBRA is the answer (and it may be short term), you’ll want to look closely at it.

First, you’ll be paying the same premiums as you did under your employer’s coverage – except that your company will no longer be contributing its share. This could end up being very expensive.

If, for example, family members were covered under your employer’s plan, they also may be covered under COBRA. However, as with most group plans, dependent costs are higher on COBRA. And now you’re paying the whole shot.

Second, COBRA is intended as interim coverage. It usually lasts for 18 months but could extend to 36 months.

Third, you have approximately 60 days after your last day of coverage under your employer’s plan to apply for COBRA. Your employer should have notified you when your company coverage was being terminated, but it’s your responsibility to apply for COBRA. Ensure you ask exactly when your coverage ends.

Finally, there are alternatives. Despite the generally held belief that individual plans are more expensive than group plans, you may want to consider this route. Actually, group insurance rates (including COBRA) are usually higher than individual plan rates, so you may want to move quickly to find an individual health care plan that meets your needs.

One major benefit: Even though COBRA is a temporary fix, it does give you time to consider your options.

Dental Insurance Is an Investment in Your Well-Being

The connection between good oral health and disease prevention is well documented. But many of us still consider a visit to the dentist as something we do only when toothache pain becomes unbearable.

While regular checkups have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke, we continue to place a lower priority on dental care. At issue is the cost of regular preventive care and treatment, which is why many people purchase dental insurance.

Dental insurance is available through group or individual plans. Plans fall into three main categories: Indemnity Insurance, which allows you to select your own dentist, as well as Preferred Provider and Health Managed Organization plans. In the latter two you are effectively assigned to one participating dentist or dental clinic; if you chose to go outside the plans, you may have to pay the difference in cost yourself.

For your premium dollar you generally have access to both preventive care and treatment, including regular cleanings, X-rays and fillings, as well as oral surgery (noncosmetic) and emergency care.

However, dental plans vary widely and you need to be sure the policy you select will meet your needs. You’ll also want to look closely at maximums and out-of-pocket costs.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has made changes that affect dental coverage, but primarily as it relates to children enrolled in certain plans. It appears there is little impact on adult dental care coverage.

Your insurance professional will help you sort through your options.