‘Green’ Upgrades May Mean Checking Your Coverage

As Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not easy being green.” Despite many obvious advantages to the greening of your commercial space, green upgrades may mean your current insurance coverage could be insufficient in the event of a loss.

Over the last few years, green building improvements have continued to help building owners cut costs. A number of corporations across the US have installed vegetative roof systems in their buildings and have benefited from the shading and cooling properties that reduce energy consumption.

Experts predict the green market will double over the next few years. As quoted by EarthShare, a 2011 study by MIT indicated that sustainability is now on the agendas of 70 percent of the country’s corporations. In response, insurance carriers now offer coverage options for these growing green initiatives.

Some coverages for green initiatives that have been or are being developed are:

  • Coverage to replace normal HVAC systems with green systems upon loss.
  • Coverage for the installation of alternative plumbing systems for reduced water consumption.
  • Coverage for the use of materials that emit fewer indoor air contaminants.
  • Coverage for the cost of recycling building materials after a loss.
  • Coverage for increased business interruption after a loss due to longer construction periods required for green rebuilds.

Discuss your green coverage – before you suffer a loss – with your advisor, who can suggest options.

Save Dollars and Heartaches with a Home Inspection

There’s nothing quite as much fun as spending money to furnish your new home.

Unless it’s that feeling of satisfaction that comes with a careful inspection by an accredited home inspector certifying your dream home is in great condition. It makes good insurance sense as well.

Your home inspection can be a money saver all around, so here are some suggestions to make the most of it.

A home inspection gives you insight into the history of your potential purchase, providing a record of previous repairs and identifying problems. Consider asking for extra tests of electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems; they may cost more, but it’s usually worth it.

While every home has problems that can be easily fixed, your inspection may identify serious problems: leaks, bad DIY repairs, electrical problems and fire hazards. In these cases, you’ll be glad you found out.

Fixing these could add thousands of dollars to your costs, but by not identifying potential problems you could be in even more difficulty.

You can avoid higher insurance premiums or more stringent mortgage terms by identifying – and dealing with – all the potential problems up front.

Effectively, a home inspection may wind up paying for itself in costs you can avoid. And by identifying problems before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll have a stronger negotiating stance with sellers – they will either have to fix the problems or reduce the price.

Even better: You may now have the extra cash to furnish your dream home.

The 80% Factor: Why Homeowners Insurers Require It

Consumers are often frustrated by the amount of insurance their mortgage company requires them to carry on their home.

Sometimes that amount is greater than the home’s market value; often it’s more than the amount remaining on the mortgage.

But many insurers still insist your home be insured for at least 80% of its replacement cost. Not its market value.

Here is the reasoning behind this and how it can help you.

First, the homeowners’ policy will replace – not just repair – damaged property. That means hardwood floors will be replaced with hardwood, not laminate, as it might be without this replacement clause.

Second, 96% percent of all homeowners’ losses are partial; only 4% of homes suffer a total loss.

Next, think of insurance as a big pool of money.

All insurance buyers put their premiums into this pool, and the insurance company invests the money and uses it to pay claims and expenses.

Insurers know if they collect premiums on limits of insurance equal to 80% of replacement cost, they will have enough money in the pool to pay full replacement cost for partial losses.

So if you don’t carry an amount of insurance that equals 80% of your home’s replacement cost, you will be penalized in the event of a partial loss.

Here is the formula used to calculate a partial payment:
(Amount of Insurance Carried / Amount of Insurance Required) x Amount of Loss

For example; your home has a replacement cost of $500,000. However, you must carry at least $400,000 in coverage (80% of replacement cost).

You owe only $300,000 on the mortgage, so that’s all you decide to carry. However, this is only 75% of the $400,000 you require.

If a fire causes $50,000 in damage you will receive only a 75% ($37,500) payment for this partial loss because you are carrying only 75% of the required amount.

Whole Life May Not be the Answer: Read on

If you’re in the market for life insurance, you may be attracted to whole life policies. These have a cash value that builds tax-deferred each year. But are they worth it?

Here’s a refresher course on some things you should know about life insurance.

Whole life policies – Pros

Essentially, when you purchase whole life insurance, you’re buying a policy that pays a fixed amount upon your death.

However, part of your premium is put into investments by the life insurance company, and that is used to build cash value. That cash value builds tax-deferred for each year you have the policy, meaning you can borrow against it without being taxed.

Because whole life policies offer tax deferral and the ability to borrow funds, some people will argue that these policies are superior to term life policies, which pay a fixed amount upon your death. But that may not be the case.

Whole life policies – Cons

For example, whole life policies may have higher fees than do term life policies. Moreover, the tax-free accumulation of cash isn’t as appealing today as it was when whole life policies first came into existence.

That’s because other tax-deferred investment vehicles – such as individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans – are readily available. And they may come with lower costs and the benefits of portability.

Simple may work best

Indeed, you may find term life insurance more appealing.

As noted, it has no investment component; you simply pay a premium to buy coverage that lasts for a set period of time or until your death.

It sounds simple, and it is – sometimes simple just works best.

If you’re considering life insurance and you aren’t sure which type of policy to choose, it’s a good idea to consult your advisor, who can walk you through the options and make a recommendation based on your individual circumstances and goals.

Boomers: Consider Long-Term Care Costs Now

The cost of an extended stay in an assisted living facility or skilled care nursing home can be devastating. And it’s time for baby boomers – individuals born between 1946 and 1964 – to consider this.

According to statistics, a stay in a skilled nursing facility can cost in excess of $90,000 per year for a private room. That’s enough to overwhelm most pensions and devastate many nest eggs. Furthermore, the chance of experiencing a long-term care event at some point is one in seven, according to the Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University.

Medicare does not pay significant long-term care benefits. Medicaid does help with limited nursing home care, but only after you spend yourself down to the poverty level. Specific rules vary by state.

What is long-term care insurance?

Long-term care insurance generally pays the cost of needed services for anything from home health care to advanced skilled nursing and hospice care plus everything in between, depending on the specifics in the policy.

Benefits become payable when the insured loses the ability to perform two or three activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing and other basics.

Generally, long-term care policies cover up to a certain daily amount. For example, you can buy a policy that pays up to $200 or $250 per day in benefits for up to five years.

Why you need it

Long-term care insurance can help protect a spouse from financial problems caused by long-term care events and eliminate the possibility of having to sell the family home or risk foreclosure in order to pay the costs of long-term care. Benefits may also enable family members to stay in the workforce rather than provide day-to-day care for a family member in need.

So, long-term care insurance helps protect family members’ incomes as well as the insured’s income and assets.

Take Control and Reduce the Cost of Prescription Drugs

Americans are spending billions on prescription drugs, but there are ways for individuals to exercise some control over the high cost of taking a pill.

According to a recent article in Fox Business, Americans spent $269.2 billion on prescription drugs in 2011. And as baby boomers age, this is only likely to grow.

There is help: Seniors in the “donut hole”, who are now responsible for paying for their drugs, qualify for discounts-50 percent on brand-name drugs and 14 percent on generic drugs covered by Medicare Part D. As well, the government has implemented a one-time $250 rebate check, but this is a drop in the bucket for many seniors.

Prescription-drug coverage is surprisingly affordable, but it’s important to find a plan appropriate to your circumstances. Plans vary widely, and you need to do your homework. Your insurance professional can suggest a plan that works for your needs.

That said, you too have a role to play in keeping down prescription costs. Here are two suggestions:

Switch to generic drugs: Even though you may get a larger discount on brand-name drugs, the cost of generic drugs is generally lower. In most plans, copayments are also lower for generic drugs, and the result is overall savings.

Shop around for pharmacies: The cost of the same drug varies from pharmacy to pharmacy; let your fingers do the walking. Even easier, mobile phone users can get free apps that compare prices between pharmacies. Free discount cards are also widely available from many sources, including insurers and pharmacies.

Don’t Trade Peace of Mind for Lower Premiums

One guiding principle in risk management is “Don’t risk a lot for a little.” But how that motto impacts your particular insurance choices isn’t always clear. There is one thing you do need to realize, and that is that juries are often outraged at organizational negligence, especially when those organizations are perceived to have deep pockets.

Assuming your organization won’t ever face a negligence claim isn’t advisable. Instead, consider the factors below and select sufficient coverage to adequately protect your organization.

Your business type

If, for example, you sell hardware to consumers, your risks of being sued are somewhat limited. On the other hand, if you manufacture handguns, your risk factor is considerable. That said, every business, no matter how small, should be aware of today’s million-dollar verdicts; damages awarded can easily range from $1 million to $20 million or more.

Your organizational appetite for risk

Every management team should determine its individual “risk tolerance.” Some companies embrace risk, while others are extremely risk-averse. Either approach is fine; however, if you assume more risk, you should be prepared with sufficient cash or credit reserves to cover any underinsured loss.

Where you operate

Certain legal venues make defending cases highly problematic. Each year, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) outlines the worst U.S. venues for civil litigation. However, you don’t have to live in an ATRA “hellhole” to be impacted.

If your organization sells products or operates in those areas, you may still feel the pinch. In ATRA hellholes, you will very likely face an unsympathetic court system if, for example, a product you’ve developed malfunctions and injures someone.

The liability limits of comparable businesses

The insurance industry can assist you in identifying what is happening in your industry, but you need to ask these kinds of questions of your trade associations. You also should keep up to speed yourself by regularly reading trade journals online and following recent verdicts.

For example, the National Law Journal annually lists some 60 of the largest verdicts from the previous year. Some samples: a $64 million award for an age discrimination claim and a $32 million verdict for the death of a sheet metal worker struck by an improperly welded beam.

Insurance premiums fluctuate from year to year depending on many factors, including interest rates on investment income and previous years’ losses in your company and industry.

Resist the temptation to decrease limits when the market “hardens” (that is, when rates increase). Sophisticated insurance buyers who have enough liquidity to pay higher losses may choose to respond to a hard market by retaining more risk, but they will avoid lowering limits just to save money.

In the final analysis, the best advice is this: “Don’t risk a lot for a little.” In other words, saving a few hundred or even thousands of dollars in premium will not seem like such a great idea in retrospect if you suffer a loss or losses that exhaust your coverage limits. Your insurance professional can help you select the right coverage.

Vacant Properties May be Putting Your Coverage at Risk

While U.S. office vacancy rates dropped dramatically last year to the lowest level since 2009, many businesses still have an inventory of empty buildings. And having a vacant property can have a significant impact on your commercial property coverage.

In the insurance industry, buildings under construction or being renovated are not considered vacant. However, if commercial buildings have not rented at least 31% of their total square footage to a lessee or sublessee for “customary operations” or if the building must be used by the property owner to conduct customary operations, the building is considered vacant and coverage can be limited.

Many policyholders are unaware that their coverage may be reduced by vacancy. In fact, if your property is vacant for 60 days or longer prior to a loss, the following coverages may be limited or may not apply:

  • Vandalism
  • Glass breakage
  • Water damage, including sprinkler leakage, unless the building owner has protected the property against freezing
  • Theft or attempted theft

In addition, other covered losses would be reduced by 15% in the event of a loss on a vacant building. Not all carriers include a vacancy clause in their policy, although some offer a buyback of the vacancy clause through an endorsement.

If you lose an anchor tenant or your property is in danger of becoming vacant, it’s important to contact your insurance professional immediately so he or she can help you protect your property.

Business Income Insurance Ensures Peace of Mind

Consider this scenario: The business next to yours catches fire, and it quickly spreads to your insured commercial building. The fire is extinguished, but your building is damaged and uninhabitable for several months. In addition, much of your merchandise is destroyed. How will you replace your earnings under these circumstances?

Business income insurance can help replace your income after a covered loss and can be purchased with your property coverage. When endorsed on your property policy, coverage is triggered by a covered event such as a fire. Most carriers do not cover events such as an emergency evacuation or civil disobedience, although this can be added by endorsement.

When triggered, business income coverage protects your lost earnings, defined as revenues minus ongoing expenses. This means you won’t be fully reimbursed for expenses such as utilities at your temporary location, because these are ongoing expenses in your permanent location. Pre-loss earnings are the basis for reimbursement under business income coverage.

There are several factors to consider when purchasing this coverage, including how long it would take for your business to become fully functional after a serious event and whether comparable space in your area is readily available. If you rent, consider whether your business is adequately protected – as it should be for you to obtain business income coverage.

It’s easy to add business income coverage to commercial property coverage, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing you’ll be protected if a covered loss leaves your building temporarily or permanently uninhabitable.

Five Steps You can Take to Avoid Layoff Liability

While many are now talking about recovery, recession is still very much on people’s minds these days and some employers are planning to reduce their workforce. The last thing any business owner wants to do is to lay off employees, but you need to be prepared to deal with the negative reactions a layoff can engender both within your company and in the community.

As well as playing havoc with employee morale, there are other problems caused by layoffs: According to research by the private nonprofit mutual insurance company Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation, workers’ compensation claims may increase by as much as 50% during layoffs.

If you must lay off employees, how can you avoid post-layoff claims and protect your experience modification factor? Here are five steps you can take to avoid potential workers’ compensation claims during times of layoffs or restructuring.

Step 1
Ask your workers’ compensation and employment practices carriers to help you design and implement a layoff strategy to protect your organization. But don’t rely solely on your carriers. Consider hiring a consultant with expertise in this area. Even just a few workers’ compensation claims can devastate your company’s loss history.

Step 2
Conduct exit interviews with each employee who will be laid off or terminated, and ask at least one company executive and a human resources consultant to attend the interview. This should be treated like a normal exit interview in which the employee is asked for input on items that will help ease the transition as well as for feedback on improving the corporate culture.

Use a checklist to ensure that you cover the same questions with all employees. If the employee raises concerns, be sure to answer his or her questions and write down comments made by the employee and the company representative. Document the interview; you may want to ask the employee to sign the checklist receipt so it can be included in his or her personnel file.

Step 3
Think twice before you ask an employee to sign a waiver stating he or she is not injured at the time of layoff, as some experts recommend. Waivers rarely work as intended, and asking laid-off employees for waivers may damage your company’s goodwill in the community. Ask for advice from legal counsel before asking your workers to sign waivers.

Step 4
If your plant is closing, it likely will generate publicity; be prepared for the media to closely scrutinize your handling of the situation. Keep the closure as transparent as possible, and hire a media consultant ahead of the announcement if you anticipate unwanted media attention.

Step 5
Be prepared for some laid-off employees to file workers’ compensation claims after they are terminated. Ensure that your managers and your insurance carriers thoroughly investigate any incidents that occur.

If you must reduce the number of employees, it is critical that you empathize with the feelings and stress that accompany a layoff. Treat employees with the utmost respect, but also ensure that your organization is protected during the process.

Home-Based Business Owners Face Unique Risks

More and more people are running businesses out of their homes. Here are some of the potential issues home-based business owners face both in the start-up phase and as the company grows.

Personal property coverage

Most homeowner’s policies limit coverage for personal property used in business. Why take chances? If they’re stolen or damaged, the cost of replacing your computers, printers, scanners and fax machines can add up. Coverage for business property on the premises is limited to a few thousand dollars, and off premises it’s more like $250.

Injuries on the premises

If your Aunt Edna falls at your house or your dog bites your child’s best friend, your homeowner’s policy is there for you. However, if a client is injured in your home while on business, your homeowner’s policy may not cover his or her injury.

Vehicle use

If you use your vehicle for business, you face additional exposures. As your business grows, you may need a separate auto policy. In the meantime, covering your vehicle for infrequent business use may be as simple as notifying your auto carrier, who will charge a small additional premium to protect you when you drive on business.

And more …

These are just a few of the problems you can face when you have a home-based business. There are many more.

For example, if you offer professional services such as tax preparation, you probably need errors and omissions coverage.

If you groom pets, you may need risk coverage for a client’s animal who bites your neighbor. If you resell products online, you may need coverage for liability arising from the performance of these products.

Never assume your current homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for all the risks your business generates. If you have a home-based business or are considering starting one, discuss insurance options with your advisor.

Be Safe, Not Sorry with Separate Motorcycle Coverage

Riding motorcycles is an American tradition. Whether you choose a dirt bike or a street bike that requires liability insurance, you must still consider the cost of replacing it if it’s damaged or stolen. A separate motorcycle policy offers greater flexibility in coverage limits and can provide bike owners with peace of mind.

Many insurance companies offer stand-alone motorcycle insurance policies with broad coverage. For example, most bike riders buy bike-related accessories – gloves, saddlebags, jackets or even a sidecar. A personal auto policy was not designed with motorcycles in mind, so the bike rider wouldn’t be covered for accessory losses under their auto policy, but they would be with a stand-alone motorcycle policy.

Insurance policies have terms defined for risks that are applicable in the event of a loss. Typical motorcycle losses include “off road” events, and these are best defined under a motorcycle policy.

When deciding whether to purchase stand-alone coverage for an off-road vehicle or a motorcycle, consider an important exclusion found in standard auto policies: The auto policy won’t cover any vehicle that has fewer than four wheels or is designed for off-road use.

Also, there is no liability coverage under your homeowner’s policy if your motorcycle or dirt bike must be registered to be ridden legally. And be aware that families have significant liability exposure arising out of children’s use of dirt bikes or motorcycles.

You’re always safer purchasing a separate motorcycle or recreational vehicle policy rather than risking an uninsured loss. Coverage is inexpensive and easy to obtain.

Here’s One Way to Insure Your Retirement

An insured retirement is one that guarantees you income and protection during your golden years.

But how do you achieve that?

The U.S. is facing a potential retirement crisis as 79 million baby boomers enter or near retirement; in the future, this number is likely to increase.

Retirement is expensive

At the same time, retirement is becoming more expensive due to an increase in life expectancy as well as inflation and rising health care costs.

A number of insured retirement solutions exist to help: annuities, long-term care insurance, reverse mortgages, and of course, life insurance. These solutions can help ensure guaranteed lifetime income and protect your wealth during your retirement.

Life insurance has important benefits

Often investors will focus on the first three of these insured retirement solutions, but life insurance can also play an important role in a retirement portfolio.

It can provide a stream of income for a family to live on for a period of time. That stream of income can pay off debts and loans, providing surviving family members with the chance to move on comfortably. It can keep families in their homes. It can even fund a child’s college education or keep a family business in the family.

But there’s one catch: You need to own life insurance to obtain these benefits. According to the industry research group LIMRA, too many Americans do not have adequate life insurance protection. In fact, 30% of U.S. households have no life insurance at all.

Life insurance isn’t right for everyone, of course, but that’s why it’s a good idea to consult an expert before jumping into it.

Your advisor can help you decide whether life insurance is an appropriate investment for you based on your individual financial circumstances and goals and, if it is, help you choose whom to purchase from and how much to purchase.

Should You Consider a Switch to Medicare Advantage?

Most of us over 65 are familiar with Parts A and B of Medicare, but how much do you know about Medicare C, also called Medicare Advantage?

Medicare C plans are regulated by the government and run by private insurers. They offer coverage comparable to Medicare A (hospitalization) and B (doctors’ bills, medical tests and some screening procedures) and may include prescription drug coverage.

There are a number of Medicare C plans available, with differing premiums, copays and out-of-pocket limits. Some cost about the same as standard Medicare, while other plans have higher premiums.

But does a Medicare C plan make sense for you? It depends on your individual circumstances.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:

  • If you have standard Medicare, you don’t have a cap on out-of-pocket expenses. If these are mounting up, Medicare Advantage plans have a maximum cap of $6,700 a year, and many are much lower.
  • If your prescription costs are high but you don’t want to pay extra for the optional prescription coverage under standard Medicare, most Medicare C plans include this coverage. But consider this carefully: You may not be able to justify a higher-premium C plan just to obtain drug coverage.
  • Nursing home care and dental and vision care (not covered by standard Medicare) are covered by some Medicare C plans.
  • You have a better selection of providers with standard Medicare; Medicare C is not as widely accepted.

Wellness Counters Lifestyle-Related Illnesses

Fact: More than 30% of American adults are now obese. By 2030, unless something changes, this will rise to almost 45%.

Fact: Right now obesity is responsible for more than 25% of health care costs in America.

Fact: Approximately 58.5 million U.S. adults now smoke and are at increased risk of developing any of 30 different diseases.

Fact: Smoking-related deaths total 424,000 annually, and more than $172 billion has been spent on healthcare costs related to smoking.

No wonder more and more employers are establishing employee wellness programs and preventive care is incorporated into the mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The assumption is that an emphasis on wellness is likely the only way to stop the epidemic of lifestyle-related illnesses that are killing us. According to an October 2012 article in U.S. News, wellness is going mainstream.

“How Healthcare Is Changing – For the Better” makes the point that both the health insurance industry and Medicare now are “paying doctors and hospitals based on how successfully they treat patients and keep them out of the hospital.”

Already there are community health teams in Vermont that are transforming healthcare delivery, initiatives such as the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart Care at Home program, and hospitals that are focused on educating and listening to patients.

Medicare also has imposed financial penalties on hospitals when some patients are readmitted within 30 days, hoping to reverse trends like those of heart failure patients, one in four of whom is readmitted within 30 days of discharge.

You may find that your healthcare providers are faster in responding to your inquiries, and someday you may even have a personal health coach to keep you on the path to wellness.

It’s all part of a wellness revolution, which, if it succeeds, may make obesity and smoking deaths things of the past.

Reasonable Accommodations: a Business Necessity

As our population ages and older workers begin to deal with health issues that may make them more prone to being hurt on the job, employers are finding themselves faced with an increased need to accommodate injured workers. It’s not a matter of doing the right thing, it’s the law. Not a choice but a business necessity.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employers with more than 15 employees. It places a great deal of responsibility on the employer to accommodate applicants and workers with conditions that limit their ability to perform essential job functions unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” for the business entity. Generally, the larger an organization and the deeper its resources, the more difficult it is for a company to claim that a requested accommodation creates a hardship.

Just about any condition that substantially limits a life activity now protects an employee under the ADA. It affects hiring practices – the ADA now impacts employers in both their hiring and employment practices – but also defines how an organization manages its employees injured at work.

Sometimes employers refuse to accommodate an injured worker’s return to a modified position, demanding the worker wait until all their duties can be performed. This approach is no longer acceptable under the amended ADA and can generate intervention and fines by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that oversees ADA violations. Employment actions taken by employees or the EEOC are expensive to defend and are not covered under an organization’s general liability coverage.

The EEOC is diligent in its pursuit of disabled workers rights. As recently as December 2012, the EEOC filed a lawsuit alleging a woman was wrongfully fired because she had a prosthetic leg. The case is currently in the courts.

It is now a business necessity to make reasonable accommodations, defined in the ADA as follows: “In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”

Here is a partial list of some accommodations you can make to ensure injured workers return to productivity and you do not violate the ADA.

  • Modifications to the work environment like purchasing ergonomic equipment or rearranging how and when the job is performed. For example, you may change work hours to allow an employee who is on medication to arrive later.
  • Providing access to your facility so that someone with a disability may apply for a position.
  • Providing the employee with readers or interpreters.
  • Job restructuring or reassignment.
  • Allowing an employee to work from home when feasible.

In March 2012, the federal government introduced updates to the ADA that included changes to further remove barriers and that may affect employers planning new construction in 2013 and on.

Note that this is a very basic discussion of the ADA and its updates. For specific advice, contact your employment lawyer or other ADA expert.

Don’t Gamble by Underinsuring your Business Properties

This may not be on your radar, but underinsuring your property could result in serious problems for your business.

Insurance companies base premiums on an amount of insurance that is 80% to 100% of your property’s total value. This is referred to as “insurance to value,” and insurance underwriters are concerned that you may be underrating the value of your property to keep premiums low or are unaware that property improvements and the state of the real estate market have increased the value of your building. In these instances you may be underinsured.

Some people gamble they won’t suffer a large loss. Because most losses are partial, you would normally recover in full on most of your losses. However, if insurers set your rates assuming they are based on insurance to value, they might not collect sufficient premiums. So in the event of a large or total loss, you won’t have been adequately insured.

The “coinsurance condition” addresses this issue. You must agree to carry insurance at least equal to a specified percentage of your covered property’s value. The coinsurance percentage normally used is 80%, although percentages of 90% and 100% are sometimes available for a reduced premium.

The coinsurance condition penalizes you if you do not insure to at least an agreed-upon percentage of value. If you have a loss and are underinsured, insurers reduce payment on your losses based on the actual building’s insurance to value.

Don’t gamble. Discuss your current insurance to value with your insurance professional.

RVing This Spring? Review Your RV Insurance Now

Increasing numbers of Americans are setting out to see their country in recreational vehicles (RVs). Just as RVs demand special handling, RV owners have special insurance needs. Whether you are an experienced RV owner or are just beginning to shop for your RV, consider these insurance options to protect your family and your investment.

  • Buying a new RV is expensive, and once you drive it off the lot, it depreciates. Some carriers offer additional upgraded protection with Total Loss Replacement coverage that will provide a new RV if your newer-model RV is totaled.
  • Everyone wants an event-free trip, but breakdowns can strand you in out-of-the-way places. You may want to investigate 24/7 Roadside Assistance for towing, lockout protection, battery replacement, flat tire repair, fuel delivery, and removal from mud, snow or sand.
  • Vehicle add-ons need special insurance protection. Antennas, satellite dishes and other post-purchase additions can be expensive to replace. Accessories coverage protects your add-ons, and additional coverage is available for awnings and other extras.
  • Some travelers decide to live in their RVs full time. However, they still need liability coverage. Imagine if your on-board canine companion bites someone or someone falls near your RV. Full-Timer coverage can help you protect your assets while enjoying a traveling lifestyle.

RVs Good Sam Club has a million-plus members, so RVing is clearly a lifestyle choice for many. Do it safely; discuss insurance options with your insurance professional for the RV coverage that’s right for you.

Shopping Online for Car Insurance? Read this First

Every day we’re bombarded with advertising for auto insurance. According to a recent U.S. survey, car insurers alone spent $5.3 billion on advertising in 2011 – an increase of 15% over 2010.

Why? The industry is changing. Vehicle registrations are down, and most North Americans now keep their cars longer due to the economy. Many are even dropping physical damage coverage. And insurance companies are feeling the pinch.

A large number of auto insurers are competing intensely for your premium dollar. The majority of auto premiums go to the top insurance companies, and particularly if you have a stellar driving record, these insurers want your business badly.

To get it, most provide quotes online. Shopping online for auto coverage may seem like a good alternative; you can receive a quote in less than five minutes. However, unbiased experts (those not involved in the auto insurance industry) offer the following cautions:

First, to obtain an accurate quote you must be prepared to give out sensitive information, such as your Social Security number, online.

Second, you may not get the details you need to compare policies from one company to another. Often coverage options are vague, using terms like “standard coverage,” which does not fully explain what you will receive for your hard-earned premium dollar.

Last, and probably most important to the consumer, you usually aren’t provided with information on how the insurance company you choose online will handle a claim.

Your independent agent can provide you with all the same information websites offer. And more. Instead of hours of Web searching and DIY comparisons, why not discuss your individual circumstances with your insurance professional, who can tailor coverage to your needs?

Auto insurance is more than a commodity. It protects your family from liability arising from the use of your car. Why buy something that important from an unknown source?

Newly Insured May Face Doctor Shortages

When 2014 rolls around, almost 50 million Americans will be seeking health insurance coverage and primary care physicians.

That’s when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires virtually every American to have health insurance. The problem is they may not be able to find a primary care physician.

According to a study out of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), many primary care doctors don’t plan to accept new patients.

The MGH study builds on earlier research by the Institute of Medicine that found that there were insufficient “safety net” physicians – unofficially referring to those physicians who deliver care to persons on Medicaid and uninsured people – in the period under study (2000). With the large number of previously uninsured individuals entering the system in 2014, it will be further stressed, the MGH research indicates.

The ACA, as part of its mandate toward affordable health care for almost everyone, has called for an expansion of eligibility for Medicaid.

Many of the newly insured will seek out safety net physicians, who are already stretched thin. They may or may not be able to find a primary care physician who is able to take them.

One solution suggested by the MGH research involves recruiting additional primary physicians with traits that are consistent with current safety net physicians.

According to MGH, women, minorities and graduates of foreign medical schools are most likely to have become safety net doctors, and to expand the numbers, the recommendation is to make a focused effort to bring more of these physicians into primary care.

The research also noted that safety net physicians now operate with limited resources. This “too” will need to be changed along with the income gap between safety net and non-safety net primary care physicians, if newly insured people are to be able to find physicians to care for them.