It’s Time to Review Your Health Policy for the Coming Year

As the year winds to a close, you may be busy with year-end activities, holiday events, and parties. However, year-end is the best time to review your health insurance, one of the most important factors in promoting and maintaining good health. What should you consider as you assess your health insurance?

Family Changes

Has your family changed? Did you get married? If so, would a move to your spouse’s plan be beneficial? Did you obtain custody of a child? If so, many options may be available for the child’s insurance coverage in addition to adding that young one to your group or Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan. Facing a divorce or separation? We can help you determine your rights under your spouse’s coverage.

Provider Changes

Has your doctor stopped taking your insurance? No one likes to change doctors, but it’s a reality in today’s insurance-driven health care system. However, a change in your health plan may not mean you can’t keep your favorite doctor. We can help you explore that possibility.

Deductibles and Copays

If you’re seeing several medical providers, it may be time to reevaluate your plan and its deductible, especially if you are on an ACA plan. An upgrade to a Gold or Platinum plan can save you a great deal of money out of pocket. Additionally, if you’re on Medicare, a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medigap policy can mean big savings.

Don’t delay. Contact us today and allow us to assist you in evaluating your current health care policy before year end.

4 Things to Consider Before Buying Business Insurance

Proper insurance coverage gives your business security and will keep your operations running after a disaster or other unforeseen event.

As you set up this coverage, it’s important to keep several key things in mind.

Your risk: Do you know what the risks are for your type of business? Review your operations and consider which types of policies you need to have in place. Do you use commercial vehicles, have employees, or operate a brick-and-mortar business? Each of these facets of business requires different types of coverage.

Your cost: Keep in mind that obtaining the minimum coverage available isn’t always the best choice. The amount you might save in premiums won’t be worth it if the lower coverage leaves your business exposed after a major event.

Your terms: Policies vary greatly. It’s important to know the details of any coverage you obtain. Review what terms are available and choose the options that work best for your business.

Your requirements: Be sure to check into any regulations that guide the insurance requirements for your industry. If the law states that you need liability insurance, then this should be part of your insurance package. If you need special insurance due to hazardous materials or other working conditions, be sure to include this coverage.

Not sure what your legal obligations are? Contact us for a consultation. We can review your risks, cost, terms, and requirements and help you establish the best coverage for your unique business needs.

Top 10 Insurance Claims for Small Businesses

Small-business owners hope they never have to file a claim, but research by financial services giant The Hartford reveals that 40 percent of small businesses file a claim within a ten-year period.

Where is your business most at risk? What insurance coverage should you invest in to protect your company?

The Hartford analyzed claims data and discovered the following top ten most common claims for small businesses. You can consider these incidents as the most likely threats to your business and plan accordingly.

1. Burglary and theft: One in five small businesses filed this claim. Keep in mind that the incidents of theft may involve outsiders or dishonest employees.

2. Water damage: Fifteen percent of small businesses suffered damage from water or freezing and filed claims for these incidents. These claims include damage to roofs from snow and ice as well as any damage caused by frozen plumbing.

3. Wind and hail: Fifteen percent claimed wind and hail damage. These inclement weather conditions can cause damage to many aspects of a business, including vehicles, buildings, and outdoor equipment.

4. Fire: One in ten small businesses made a fire claim. Fires can cause minimal damage, or they can completely destroy a property. It’s important that business owners not underestimate the potential fire has to cripple operations. Without adequate coverage, a small business might not recover from this type of disaster.

5. Slip and falls: Ten percent of small businesses experienced a customer slip and fall that resulted in a claim. Some companies are more susceptible to this risk than others. Consider how often members of the public visit your site to determine the amount of coverage you need for these incidents.

6. Customer injury/damage: Less than five percent experienced a claim for customer injury and damage. These are covered incidents that didn’t involve a slip and fall. These claims include damage to property or personal injuries such as those that occur if a product falls and hits a customer.

7. Product liability: Less than five percent made a product liability claim. The nature of a company’s business, what they produce, and any warranties provided are important factors that determine the level of product liability for any particular business.

8. Struck by an object: Examples of these claims include falling tools, moving vehicles, and mobile equipment. Less than five percent of small businesses made these claims.

9. Reputational harm: These claims include suits of libel and slander. If a party alleges that the company damaged their reputation, they may file a suit, which results in this type of insurance claim to cover the case. Less than five percent of small businesses made this type of claim.

10. Vehicular accident: Less than five percent made these claims. Often, good safety practices and appropriate driver safety training can help prevent auto accidents and allow companies to avoid this type of claim.

Every small business is exposed to some type of risk. Some are open to more liabilities than others. To ensure that your company has appropriate protection, contact my office. We can review your operations and determine which policies make sense for your business.

Together, we can put coverage in place that gives your company the security it needs for continued growth and success.

5 Ways to Make Your Next Insurance Claim Easier

Even fender benders and minor home damage can be stressful. From police reports to home repairs, these are hassles no one wants to handle. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make the claims portion of this process easier. Use the following tips to make your next claim smooth and simple.

Stay organized: Do you know where your insurance policy and insurance ID cards are stashed? Keep your proof of auto insurance in the glove compartment and store homeowners policy information where you can easily access it. Make it a habit to check these at the end of each month to ensure they’re current.

Know your policies: Are you familiar with the details of your insurance policies? It’s important to know what’s covered and what’s not, before an incident occurs.

Gather information: Claims go more smoothly when you can provide all the necessary information. For auto accidents, get the other driver’s personal information, vehicle information, and insurance information. Keep records of all medical visits and tests for medical claims. Be sure to respond promptly if additional information is requested during your claim, as this will keep the process moving.

Provide documentation: Document damage with photo and/or video. Capture these images as soon as possible so you don’t miss this step before repairs are made.

Prevent damage: Of course, the best scenario is a claims-free one. To avoid accidents and claims, use best practices for driving and home safety.

Still, even with the best precautions, accidents may happen. If you need to file a claim, do so as soon as possible. Don’t hesitate to contact our office immediately following an incident for assistance with starting your claim.

Terrible, No Good Holiday Disasters to Avoid

It’s a time for celebration and remembrance; a time to be surrounded by loved ones, eat well, and rejoice. But holidays are also frequently the days when disasters strike.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that Thanksgiving is a peak day for home cooking fires, and US fire departments respond to over 800 home fires per year that are started by holiday decorations.

On top of these dangers, insurance companies report that burglary rates jump by 6 percent during the holidays.

To protect yourself, your family, and your home this holiday season, make sure you have the proper insurance policies in place to recover from these common disasters. Following are two of the top holiday incidents that homeowners insurance will cover.

Burning More than Dinner

Whether it was chestnuts roasting on an open fire or a stove-top disaster in the kitchen, your holiday fire is covered. NFPA reports that $12 million in property damage is caused by Christmas tree fires each year, and another $11 million in damage is caused by other holiday decorations. Insurance companies report the median cost for fireplace-related fires is over $10,000.

If you suffer from a household fire, it’s crucial to have insurance to pay for repairs. Typical homeowners insurance coverage will pay for interior damage as well as trees, plants, and shrubs in your yard damaged by fire.

A Visit from the Grinch

If someone helps themselves to what’s under the tree or stashed in the closet, your homeowners policy will cover the theft. Most policies provide coverage totaling up to 50 or 70 percent of the home coverage.

If you purchase a luxury item, keep in mind that there might be limits to your policy, so consult with your insurance agent to see if you need supplemental coverage.

I’m happy to review your policy with you and help you make any adjustments needed to ensure you and your family are fully protected this holiday season.

Don’t Miss This Year’s Shortened Open Enrollment

If you’re wondering about that tension in the air, it’s not because Mercury is in retrograde. It’s because thousands of people are struggling with enrolling for or renewing Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage for 2020.

Yes, we are in open enrollment, that critical time in healthcare from November 1, 2019, through December 15, 2019. Notice anything? The enrollment period is extremely short, so do not delay. Under the current presidential administration, enrollment time is shorter and advertising budgets leaner, meaning more people might miss the enrollment period.

If you fail to act by December 15, 2019, you won’t be able to enroll in ACA coverage unless you have had a qualifying event such as a job loss. If you are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, you can apply throughout the year. Although the government has extended ACA enrollment in the past, do not count on that this year. If you miss the ACA deadline, you may purchase other health insurance, but it will not guarantee the kind of comprehensive coverage that ACA plans provide.

People covered by Medicare do not need ACA coverage. However, Medicare pays an estimated 80 percent of costs, so a Medicare Advantage Plan is almost a necessity in this time of rising medical costs.

If you enroll in a plan during open enrollment, your coverage begins January 1, 2020. We’re in the middle of the enrollment period, so there’s no time to waste! If you enroll online yourself, the HealthCare.gov  website can be difficult to use, and only one coverage choice remains in some states. Working with a licensed health insurance agent who can help you choose the right ACA plan for your medical needs is always the best way to obtain health insurance. Contact us today so you don’t miss that looming deadline!

Medicare Advantage Plans Gaining Popularity

In the past fifteen years, Medicare Advantage (MA) plan enrollment has increased. According to the Kaiser Foundation, over 22 million people enrolled in an MA plan in 2019, up from 5.3 million in 2004.

However, that is only 34 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. What is limiting MA enrollment?

Many of today’s Medicare beneficiaries do not understand the rich benefits offered by MA plans. For example, did you know that a number of MA plans now provide home services that help keep seniors at home and reduce hospital readmissions? That means coverage under your MA plan may include home services like light housekeeping, shopping, nutrition assistance, transportation to medical providers, and other services provided by non-skilled home aides.

MA plans may cover catastrophic cost protection, dental checkups, vision services, and free gym memberships. While some plans limit provider choices, most offer a wide range of providers in all medical specialties.

Overall, satisfaction with MA plans grows. Experts predict that 50 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries will enroll in a MA plan by 2025, with others predicting 70 percent beneficiary enrollment by 2050.

Today’s MA plan administrators work closely with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve healthcare access, better manage chronic medical conditions, and prevent hospital readmissions. CMS is switching to value-based care from fee-for-service (FFS) models. In FFS models, the medical provider may benefit from scheduling more visits and procedures, which may not create better medical outcomes.

In contrast, value-based care strives for better medical outcomes, rather than reimbursing based on the number of visits. As MA plan providers embrace this model, your care under MA plans will improve. According to experts at StatNews.com, other types of plans may not improve benefits for Medicare beneficiaries.

If you currently have another plan or no plan, call us to discuss the advantages of MA.

The Dos and Don’ts of Purchasing Life Insurance

Life insurance can be one of the most important financial purchases of your life (and your heirs’ lives), so let’s review some common dos and don’ts for purchasing this important policy.

DO: Understand why you need life insurance. When buying life insurance, most people think about their own financial responsibilities, such as covering their mortgages.

It may be better to take a broader view and think of life insurance from the perspective of the loved ones you would be leaving behind. What will they need to obtain financial stability when you are gone?

DON’T: Buy too little life insurance. Sometimes people buy too little life insurance because they purchase it from an automated system (such as an employer, which offers a multiple of your salary in life insurance). To avoid this mistake, it is advisable to work with an experienced agent to carefully calculate your life insurance needs.

DO: Buy the right kind of life insurance. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of life insurance products on the market. The differences can significantly affect your beneficiary should you pass away.

At a minimum, understand the difference between term life insurance policies (which cover your dependents for a specific time period) and whole life insurance policies (which cover your dependents for your entire life). Keep in mind that there are many other nuances that are important to understand as well.

DON’T: Get overwhelmed. All of these nuances can make the purchase of life insurance overwhelming at times. So, when you decide to purchase a life insurance policy, it is always advisable to find an agent who understands your unique needs and can guide you through the selection process.

DO: Ask for help. It is a good idea to seek out the assistance of a professional who knows the ins and outs of life insurance. Please reach out to us if you need help. We can review your future goals and establish a solid policy to meet them.

Fender Bender? Take These Key Steps After an Accident

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Let Halloween Décor Haunt You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicare Advantage Now Paying for Home Care

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

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

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

Why the change?

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

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

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

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

What Are the Options? Coverage for All Situations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Enrollment for Affordable Care Act Coming Soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Let Vandals Get the Best of Your Business

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

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

Is your business protected from such incidents?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gone Phishing: Don’t Take the Bait

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

How can you protect your company?

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

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

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

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

Home Disasters: Do You Need Extended Coverage?

Do you know the limit on your homeowners’ insurance policy? Every policy has a limit, which is the maximum amount of payout you can receive for a claim.

Most homeowner policies today are written with Replacement Cost terms. This means the insurance carrier will pay the full replacement cost for damages, even if the item being replaced has depreciated.

For example, if you need to replace your computer, and a new one costs $1,000, your Replacement Cost policy will cover this entire cost. It does not take into consideration the depreciated value of your two-year-old computer, which may now only be worth around $500. Since it costs $1,000 to replace it, the Replacement Cost coverage provides the full amount. When it comes to homes, this Replacement Cost can get tricky.

If your house suffers significant damage and you need to completely rebuild, you might hit the limit of your Replacement Cost policy before you reach the full cost of rebuilding your home. If this happens, you might not be able to afford the repairs, even though you have homeowners insurance coverage.

This is where Extended Replacement Cost policies come into play.

With this coverage in place, the homeowner policy will pay up to a certain percentage over the policy limit if extra funds are needed to fully replace your home.

These policies are commonly written at 120 to 125 percent of the stated limit of the basic coverage.

These additional funds are crucial when rebuilding costs are at a seasonal high or suddenly spike due to other economic conditions. The extended coverage makes home replacement possible, even when you encounter such costs that are higher than expected.

Do you need this coverage? This will depend on a variety of factors, including the value of your home, current construction and material costs, and the limit of your policy.

Feel free to contact me for a quick review of your coverage to determine if this policy would be in your best interest.

Bonfire Safety Tips for Your Next Backyard Blaze

Fall is a great time for campfires and backyard bonfires. Here’s how to stay safe (and avoid insurance claims) while you roast your marshmallows.

Contain it. Establish a safe zone for your fire that prevents it from spreading. Create a ring of rocks on the outside of the bonfire area. Clear away any grass and leaves around the bonfire, creating a 10-foot circle of dirt around the fire. To further establish this dirt-only zone, dig a hole two feet across and six inches deep for your bonfire, then pile dirt around this pit.

Extinguish it. Never leave a fire unattended. When the bonfire party is over, make sure the fire is completely out. To ensure it is extinguished, douse the fire with water, then stir the embers to make sure everything gets wet. Scrape any partially burned logs to remove hot embers, then mix the ashes and embers with some dirt. Before you leave the area, everything should be cool to the touch, including the ring of rocks.

Plan it. Before you light a bonfire, consider the environment. Check the National Weather Service for Fire Weather Warnings. If there is a Red Flag Warning, consider postponing your bonfire. Other conditions to watch for are dry air (low humidity, which increases the risk of wildfires) and high winds, which can quickly blow embers and ashes onto flammable objects.

Prevent it. Whether you use a portable pit or build a stone ring in your yard, make sure the bonfire is situated at a safe distance from your home. Keep in mind that embers can travel a significant distance from the source. Before you light the fire, take the necessary precautions so you remain safe and won’t have to worry about an insurance issue resulting from your bonfire.

Technology Insurance vs. Cybersecurity Coverage

In today’s business world, most companies are dependent on technology for some or all of their company’s operations. While this makes many new processes and services possible, it also leaves businesses vulnerable to a new realm of risk.

Cyber crimes, computer crashes, and software malfunctions are just a few of the technological risks that modern companies now face. Since technological incidents can cost a business anything from a few minutes of inconvenience to millions of dollars, it’s essential for companies to have appropriate insurance coverage.

Enter technology insurance and cyber insurance.

These two types of policies provide the protection businesses need to recover from technological disasters. Not only is their coverage important, but businesses need to know that these policies are not one in the same. They apply to different circumstances, and a company might need one policy or the other, or both. Here’s the scoop.

Technology Insurance

Technology Errors & Omissions (E&O) policies cover companies that provide technology services (such as data storage) and technology products (such as computer software). The terms of the policy are designed to provide protection for loss and liability. Such losses might be related to liability for media content, damages due to security breaches, or losses due to business interruption. It can also cover extortion threats and crisis management expenses. Technology insurance also typically pays for groundless liability claims and all associated investigations.

Cyber Insurance

While Tech E&O policies are designed to protect technology providers, cyber insurance is intended to protect technology consumers (the company’s customers). It covers situations in which customers’ identities, credit cards, health records, or other sensitive information is compromised. The policy pays for any damages incurred.

Overlap

Cyber insurance policies and technology insurance do have some overlap. Either policy may provide coverage if a business experiences a loss related to technology. Since many situations impact both the technology provider and the consumer, this overlap is inevitable. However, the specifics of each policy’s terms will determine which situations are covered and which are not included.

Who Needs Coverage?

Since most businesses rely on technology for at least a portion of their operations, some form of coverage is recommended for a majority of companies. Those that serve customers and store sensitive customer information should strongly consider a cyber insurance policy.

For high-tech and internet-based businesses, technology business insurance is recommended. Such companies would include IT businesses, website developers, internet service providers, and programmers. Additionally, those who rely heavily on technology solutions as part of their operations (intranet communications, customer e-mails, database management) may also want to add this coverage.

Does your business fall into any of these categories? Are you properly protected with insurance for the tech side of your operations?

If you’re not sure which policy would be right for you or are unsure about your current coverage, contact our office. I’d be happy to review your current policies and coverage options to make sure you are prepared for any technological incidents that may come your way.

How Telematics Is Transforming Insurance

Technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, and insurance is no exception. Insurance carriers are tapping into automotive telematics to guide insurance premiums.

What is telematics? This is a form of communications technology that can be used for monitoring a vehicle to determine driving behaviors. Using a combination of GPS, Bluetooth, and mobile devices, insurance companies can review customers’ driving habits and reward safe behaviors with reduced premiums.

For example, a telematic device can monitor the times of day drivers are on the road, their mileage, and sudden changes in speed (which indicate rapid accelerations or hard braking).

Insurance companies can use this data to predict driving habits and generate a reasonable premium based on these behaviors. Drivers are typically required to have the device in their vehicle for a set period of time before a premium is established. The premium may also fluctuate as driving changes. As vehicle operators drive more safely, the premium lowers.

Of course, if drivers have poor driving habits, this can cost the policyholder. If the telematics data shows risky behaviors, the premium could go up! However, the knowledge that they are being monitored and the incentive of monetary savings may actually help drivers develop better habits on the road.

Do your operations rely on any commercial vehicles? These safe-driving programs are a growing trend and could provide significant savings on your premiums. To find out more about telematics and how it can help you save money, contact our office.

Is Vision Coverage Worth the Investment?

Should you purchase vision coverage? To decide whether the cost outweighs the benefits, consider what the insurance will cover.

Your eye doctor (optometrist) likely will refer you to a medical eye doctor (ophthalmologist) if your eye exam reveals a medical issue, such as an eye infection, sties, or glaucoma. In the case of a significant vision-related medical issue, your health insurance protects you from serious financial loss.
However, vision insurance usually covers the following:

  • Annual or biannual eye exams
  • Eyeglass lenses, frames, and scratch protection for lenses
  • Contact lenses
  • Break-resistant lenses for children under 18 years old

Vision insurance typically costs between $5 and $20 per month, whether your employer offers coverage or you must buy it individually. Adding family members costs somewhat less per person. In addition, you may pay part of the visit cost, a part of any recommended treatment, and a co-pay of $10 to $25.

FAIRhealth.org analyzed annual vision costs, with and without vision insurance. Without insurance, a routine eye exam costs about $128 per year, and a new patient eye exam costs around $200 per year. Insurance that covers the routine eye exam costs $192 annually, and that covers the new-patient eye exam. If your exam shows you do not need glasses or contact lenses, you might come out ahead without insurance.

However, according to the National Eye Institute, 66% of Americans 18 and over use glasses, contacts, or both. In addition, without a regular eye exam, you might not find one of the serious vision-related medical problems mentioned previously. If you have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, you are more at risk for eye problems.

It might be the best choice to obtain vision insurance. The low cost greatly reduces your chances of undetected vision problems.

Contact our office for more information and a free quote.