Are You Underinsured? Most Small Businesses Are

A recent Manta and Insureon survey revealed that fewer than 30% of small business owners have basic business insurance. Even fewer, just 6%, have business interruption insurance, and only a rare few (2%) have cyber insurance.

This lack of insurance can be a costly mistake. These policies are essential for the proper protection of a company in today’s marketplace. Here’s why.

Business owner’s policy: The basic coverage for a small business is a business owner’s policy (BOP). This typically provides general liability and commercial property coverage. The liability portion offers protection in case a customer is injured on your property or you cause damage to a customer’s property. Business and Industry Connection Magazine reports the average cost for a slip-and-fall injury is $20,000. An annual insurance premium is clearly the more affordable option.

Business interruption insurance: When disasters cause damage to a business, operations may be shut down for hours, days, or weeks. The resulting loss of income can be devastating to a company. How much revenue would you lose if you couldn’t open your doors for 10 days? Business interruption insurance replaces the income lost while your business is temporarily closed.

Cyber insurance: Modern businesses are typically dependent on online services in one form or another. This makes their business vulnerable to cybercrime. A study by Kaspersky found that the average cost of a cyber breach for a small business is $86,000. These costs can be avoided with an affordable cyber insurance policy.

Top 10 Safety Tips to Prevent Workplace Injuries

Employee injuries can prove costly on many levels. In addition to personal pain, the injury can lead to lost production and costly workers’ compensation claims. In some cases, an incident that could have been easily prevented results in major expenses for the company. To avoid these situations, use the following safety tips.

Make a plan: Every business should have a safety and wellness plan. This plan should cover procedures for accident prevention and how to handle workplace injuries. All employees should be thoroughly trained on these procedures. Make this training part of your onboarding process and provide regular reviews of safety measures for all staff.

Educate employees: In addition to familiarizing employees with your company plan, educate them on general safety measures. For example, basic training in safe lifting and moving practices can be helpful in many settings. Assess what training your employees may need or want and dedicate the resources to this important component of worker education.

Train employees: Beyond general safe practices, train employees on specific machinery operation. Never allow an employee to operate equipment without first completing proper training. Depending on the situation, this training may vary from a quick explanation to extensive certification training.

Research safety: Are you aware of the potential safety concerns for your setting? Study up on accidents that are common for your type of business and learn how to prevent them. A little research can go a long way in preventing workplace injuries.

Provide equipment: The right tools for the job can make all the difference in the world. Keep employees safe and prevent injury by ensuring they have the proper equipment to perform their tasks. This includes safety equipment. Proper use of gloves, goggles, hats, and other personal protection equipment should be required and monitored.

Staff appropriately: Overworked employees are more likely to suffer injury. Don’t try to accomplish too much with too few staff. Be realistic with your goals as you hire, schedule overtime, and assign employees to various tasks. If a job requires three people to do it safely, don’t try to do it with two. If a job could be dangerous if attempted while drowsy, don’t schedule it for the end of a double shift.

Complete inspections: If your employees use vehicles, equipment, or other machinery to complete their jobs, it’s essential that these are inspected regularly. Routine inspections and maintenance are crucial to the proper functioning of this equipment. The ongoing care of your equipment will prevent sudden malfunctions or breakdowns that can result in worker injury.

Stay organized: An orderly workplace is a safer workplace. Keep work areas free of debris. Arrange furniture and equipment to provide adequate walkways and workspaces. Store safety gear in an organized fashion and in an easily accessible location.

Post signage: Clearly mark potential hazards. Post signs that remind workers to use protective gear and indicate where this equipment can be found. Use signs to warn employees of common injuries and how to avoid them.

Seek input: Have you ever asked your employees about workplace safety? Be open to input from workers about their environment. Do they feel safe? Is there anything you could provide that would make their tasks safer to complete? Let employees know you value their feedback, and consider how you can implement their suggestions to further improve safety and reduce risk.

How Can You Prevent Costly Water Damage?

Water issues can lead to extensive structural damage. A minor leak can result in major claims for commercial building repairs. Fortunately, most leaks offer warning signs that building owners can watch for to prevent further damage. To protect your building from leaks, keep an eye out for these red flags:

Discoloration: Notice any unsightly stains on your walls? This can indicate a plumbing leak in the wall. Be on the lookout for stains that grow in size.

Mildew: No one wants to find mold in their building. If you do, this is an indication that moisture is an issue. Watch for growth on walls, ceilings, and baseboards. If you discover mold or mildew, locate the source of the moisture ASAP and make any necessary repairs.

Odor: Have you noticed a musty odor in your building? This odd aroma may indicate a leak. Sniff out the source of the odor and make repairs before the issue worsens.

Warps: Are any of your walls bent or curved? When walls absorb water, they warp. This misshape can be due to a leak behind the wall. If your walls aren’t smooth, look for possible leaks to prevent further damage.

Peeling: Whether wallpaper or paint, peeling can mean you have a leak. The moisture will cause the material to pull away from the wall.

If you discover any of these warning signs for leaks, take action to make leak repairs immediately. This proactive approach will help prevent damage and the need for costly repairs later on.

Colon Cancer: More Prevalent Than You Think

Colorectal cancer is on the rise in younger people, causing the American Cancer Society to lower its recommended screening age from 50 to 45 for those with “average risk.” Young and middle-aged Americans now have a much higher risk of colon cancer, and even higher risk for rectal cancer, than their older counterparts do. According to a recent American Cancer Society study, colon cancer has hit millennials particularly hard. Because millennials would not typically suspect colon cancer, they may miss early symptoms as simple as abdominal cramping.

An increasingly unhealthy lifestyle may be driving the increases, according to researchers. Lack of exercise, obesity, and low fiber consumption may increase the risk.

However, testing can catch colon cancer early. Anyone with a first-degree relative with colon cancer before the age of 60 should begin a more aggressive testing time line. Test at either age 40 or ten years before the age of your relative when he or she was diagnosed. Keep in mind that researchers have not identified a perfect age to test.

Whether your insurance pays for the test depends on several factors. If your health care plan is the Affordable Care Act or Medicare and you are over 50, a colonoscopy is covered as preventive care. Before scheduling your test, contact your insurer to determine whether they will pay for it. Shop around, because outpatient facilities usually charge less than hospitals for the same test.

If you’re unsure about a colonoscopy, the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a noninvasive test you use at home and send to a lab for results. Your primary care physician can provide more details. If your FIT test is abnormal, you will need a colonoscopy.

Inside Scoop on High-Deductible Plans and HSAs

The National Business Group on Health forecasts that providing employees with health care will average about $15,000 per employee in 2019.

A High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is one way employers seek to lower those costs. HDHPs offer employers lower premiums, but employees may pay more. You still save on out-of-pocket costs because your provider and your insurance company continue to negotiate those costs rather than charging market rates.

Whether your employer provides an HDHP or you obtain one on your own, your HDHP may qualify for a health savings account (HSA). The 2019 HDHP minimum deductible required to qualify for an HSA is $1,350 for individuals and $2,700 for families.

Why Open an HSA?

Combining an HSA with your HDHP provides more health care savings, some tax-related. You can deduct HSA contributions on federal income taxes and on many state taxes. Interest earnings are tax-free, and the funds you withdraw to pay for qualified health care also are tax-free.

You may use your HSA funds only for qualifying health care expenses. Qualifying health care generally includes expenses to prevent or cure disease, to relieve disease symptoms, and to treat the effects of disease.

HSA Limits

The 2019 HSA individual contribution limit increased from $3,400 to $3,500 for individuals and from $6,750 to $7,000 for families. The HDHP maximum annual deductible and other out-of-pocket expenses in 2019 is $6,750 for individuals and $13,500 for families.

Due to employers’ efforts to cut their health care spending and the nation’s reliance on high-deductible plans, HSAs make sense. Your account bears interest and, with certain limits, your funds roll over from one year to the next.

For more information, contact our office. We can help you decide whether an HDHP will work for you, and then verify whether it qualifies for an HSA. We are your resource for all things insurance, so let us know how we can help.

Why Buy a Term Life Insurance Policy?

Term life insurance (life insurance that is in effect for a limited period of time instead of your entire life) can sometimes be the right answer.

Before covering the why, let’s review how term life insurance works.

Let’s say you have a term life policy for $500,000 with a “term” of 15 years. If you were to die on the last day of the fourteenth year, your beneficiary would receive the policy amount of $500,000. If you were to die two days later, your beneficiary would receive nothing.

Why would anyone want a life insurance policy like that?

There are some good reasons. Two top the list: it covers your needs, and it’s affordable.

It Covers Your Needs

Sometimes, when you buy life insurance, you’re protecting your loved ones from the many unknowns that could negatively affect them if you die prematurely. The policy payout may replace your income, pay off the mortgage and the auto loan, and fund your children’s college education, for example.

Other times, you don’t have such generalized needs. If your spouse works, and your children are in high school, your spouse’s salary may cover the daily expenses if you die. You simply need to ensure that if you die within the next 10 years, there will be enough money to see your children through college.

In that case, a 10-year term life insurance policy might be all you need.

In other words, term life insurance is a simple solution for a specified risk.

It’s Affordable

The other reason people choose term life insurance is that it’s affordable.

Because the insurance company is taking on less risk, it can afford to offer you lower premiums. You get the most amount of coverage for the least amount of money up front. And there’s nothing wrong with choosing term insurance because it’s cost-effective. After all, why pay for more than you need?

What Is Gap Insurance, and Do I Need It?

Have you ever purchased a brand-new car? It had that new-car smell. The odometer readout was near zero. The paint was bright and shiny. You were excited to drive off the lot and put the first miles on your untainted vehicle.

Guess what else happened as you drove off that lot? The vehicle started depreciating. According to Kelley Blue Book, most cars lose about 20% of their value in the first year.

This rapid depreciation could pose a problem for insurance claims. If your initial deposit on the car was small, the loan amount that you owe may be higher than the value of the car.

If your vehicle suffers extensive damage or is totaled in its early years (before you have paid down that loan), your insurance coverage may not provide enough to pay off the vehicle. Why? A standard auto policy typically covers the depreciated value of the car. In other words, it will pay what the car is currently worth on the market when you make your claim.

If this amount is less than what you owe on the car, gap insurance comes into play. It will cover this difference (the gap).

This extra coverage can be helpful in several circumstances.

Long-term financing: If you financed a vehicle for 60 months or longer, you might need gap insurance to provide adequate coverage.

Leasing: If you lease a vehicle, gap insurance is often required as part of the lease agreement.

Lost value: Some cars depreciate faster than others. If your model depreciates faster than average, gap insurance could prove useful.

Low down payment: If you put less than 20% down on the vehicle, this insurance will help cover the gap between the value and the balance of your loan that will most likely exist for a while.

Are you unsure whether you need gap insurance? Contact our office to review your current auto policy and determine whether this coverage makes sense for you and your vehicle.

Landscaping Losses: Are They Covered by Insurance?

Your neighbor’s teenager drove over your beautiful flower beds. That old oak finally fell, and it took out your fence on its way down.

If a disaster hits your landscaping, is this covered by homeowners insurance? In many cases, yes. As part of your home, your landscaping is often covered by your homeowners policy, but not always. Here’s the scoop:

Plant perils: Homeowners policies typically cover costs to replace plants, trees, and shrubs that are damaged by fire, lightning, vandals, or someone’s else’s vehicle. However, damage caused by weather and pests, such as flooding, wind, and insects, often is not covered by homeowners insurance.

Tree tragedies: Tree coverage can be a bit tricky. Coverage varies depending on the specifics of the situation. If a tree falls on a structure, your policy may provide coverage for the cost of removing the tree and the repairs to the structure. If it falls without damaging anything, you may have to pay for the tree removal yourself. Additionally, your coverage probably won’t pay to replace the tree in either situation.

Landscaping limits: As with most policies, homeowners insurance usually has limits on the landscaping coverage provided. Often, this limit is a certain percentage of the dwelling protection. The policy may also limit how much can be spent on each replacement plant. It may be possible to extend your coverage to include higher amounts and additional circumstances.

Reach out to our office to determine whether you’d like to expand your landscaping coverage. A quick review of your policy will reveal what protection you’re currently offering your plants.

Proactive Steps to Protect Your Business

If disaster strikes, you have insurance to cover your costs. This is a great first step in disaster preparedness.

To take your preparations to the next level, it’s important to put proactive measures in place. A proactive approach will aid in the recovery of your business beyond simple financial reimbursement.

Consider what else is on the line when claim-worthy situations arise. Money probably won’t be your only concern.

Would you lose crucial data? Would you be able to organize employees to relocate your business? What steps do you need to take to protect your business from additional loss, crippling chaos, or potential shutdown after a disaster?

To minimize your losses and ensure your doors stay open after a catastrophic event, use the following proactive methods.

Back It Up

What record-keeping system do you use for your company data? If you have paper files, do you have a digital backup? If you have digital files, do you have backup copies or web-based servers in case the files become corrupted or lost?

Everything from customer information to billing to personnel records can be lost in an instant if you don’t have backups of all files.

Make a Plan

Do you know what you would do if you could no longer use your current location to conduct business? Could you establish communication with employees if you needed to relocate?

These are important questions to consider before disaster hits. Have a plan in place for communicating with employees after a disaster, designating responsibilities, and creating a temporary home for your business.

Run a Drill

Employee safety must be a top priority. Would your staff know what to do in an emergency?

Create a disaster response plan, including an evacuation plan, and make sure everyone is familiar with it. Include disaster response as part of standard employee training, and conduct drills twice a year to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Build a Kit 

Store emergency supplies at your business. Create an emergency kit that includes flashlights, batteries, water, a fire extinguisher, nonperishable food, a first-aid kit, a whistle, and blankets. If feasible, it may also be helpful to include a generator.

Take Inventory

If you need to report losses to your insurance carrier, do you have a list of company inventory you could provide?

This goes beyond the products that you sell. Would you be able to recall what is in every room of your office, facility, or store?

Create an inventory list of all furniture, equipment, tools, and other items that you would have to replace in the event of a full-scale disaster. Maintain this inventory list, with photos and receipts, at an off-site location for safekeeping.

Place a Call

Do you know exactly what insurance coverage you have in place? Do you know how to file a claim if the need arises?

Remember to keep your insurance agent’s contact information in a place where it can be easily accessed after a disaster. Contact us to discuss your current policies and potential needs so we can help you plan for the unexpected.

You Mean That’s Covered by Business Insurance?

Fires. Storms. Theft. These are the situations you might think of when considering commercial insurance. You know you’re covered if one of these disasters strikes your business. Did you know business insurance covers many other situations that you might not have considered? You might be surprised at what insurance can cover.

Spoiled food: A power outage can prove costly to businesses that handle perishables. How much might you lose if your refrigeration systems stopped working for a day? If you have spoilage coverage on your commercial property policy, you can recoup the cost of any lost merchandise.

Ransom fees: Most business owners aren’t at high risk of getting kidnapped, but if you ever were abducted, a kidnap and ransom endorsement on your professional liability policy would have you covered! This might be a good option for those who travel to volatile parts of the world for business.

Machinery malfunction: If your machinery breaks down, the necessary repairs can drastically affect your bottom line. Machinery breakdown insurance covers the cost of repairing or replacing machinery. The policy can also cover the cost of renting temporary equipment and expedited delivery of replacement parts.

Product recalls: Recalling a product can involve complex logistics and expensive follow-up, including destroying defective items. Product liability policies offer coverage for these costs.

Tax audits: No business owner wants to hear the word audit. Fortunately, if you must undergo this process, the costs you incur from the audit and investigation can be covered by tax audit insurance.

Why Millennials Need Insurance, Too

In today’s “gig economy,” the need for young adults to consider life and disability insurance has never been more evident. According to the Social Security Administration, for someone who is 20 years old today, the odds are one in four that disability will strike by age 67. Young adults should start planning now for that possibility.

Younger parents (those in their 20s and 30s) are especially in need of sound financial planning. This planning includes the need for life insurance and disability insurance.

Several scenarios make this need for sound planning a top priority. For young parents, the inability to work or premature death of either parent can result in a burden on older generations, who may not be financially or emotionally prepared to raise or support their grandkids. Once a couple has children, one parent may decide to stay home with the kids. When this happens, the group health and disability of the homebound parent disappears, making reliance on the working spouse’s insurance perhaps too high.

Additionally, many of today’s companies are scaling back group benefits. A separate life insurance or disability policy can help ensure debt does not burden the family if the working spouse becomes disabled.

To remain prepared, make it a habit to meet with an experienced life insurance agent after any work status change to analyze what might be missing from your insurance portfolio as a result of those changes.

Keep in mind, the younger a person is when buying disability or life insurance, the lower the premiums. Buying when young helps lock in much more favorable rates.

If you are a grandparent, it’s essential to talk with your children now about the need for life and disability insurance. This talk will ensure that the savings you depend on for a comfortable retirement will not be eaten away by the care of your grandchildren if something happens to your child.

Many families balk at discussing finances. These conversations can be difficult, but it costs nothing for you to meet with us and go over what’s best for you. We will help ensure that you have the rounded insurance coverage you need to protect your family.

Medical Tourism: Are the Savings Worth the Risks?

Medical tourism is a term that describes the increasing practice of traveling abroad for surgery. Due to the increasing cost of surgery in the United States, the number of Americans choosing this option continues to grow.

Patients Without Borders estimates that about 1.4 million Americans went outside the U.S. for medical care in 2016. Cosmetic surgery, heart transplants, and orthopedic surgery are among the most popular treatments sought by medical tourists.

If you become one of these travelers, you’ll want to understand the pros and cons of traveling abroad for surgery.

The number one reason people travel for surgery is cost. In Brazil, you can save 20 to 30 percent of the cost for surgery in the U.S. In Thailand, savings range from 50 to 75 percent. Mexico offers 40 to 65 percent savings. India offers the highest range of savings, from 65 to 90 percent.

Other positives of traveling abroad for surgery include receiving a treatment not yet approved in the U.S. and experiencing shorter wait times for surgeries.

Keep in mind that traveling abroad for medical care also comes with risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that medication may be subpar. Additionally, some countries may not screen their blood supply as well as the U.S. does, putting you at risk for infectious diseases. Errors can also result from language differences. Lastly, other countries may use unsafe practices, such as reusing needles, which could also expose you to risk.

For suggestions to overcome these risks, visit the CDC website.

How Young Is Too Young for Life Insurance?

Traditionally, parents buy life insurance policies for themselves to provide for their children in their absence. However, there are times when parents may want to consider purchasing a life insurance policy for their child.

The most cited reason why you might want life insurance for your child is the payment of final expenses, such as outstanding medical bills and funeral costs. While that is a good reason for insurance, other scenarios may also make life insurance advantageous for the young (and may be a bigger concern, financially, than end-of-life expenses).

For example, when your child turns 18 and goes to college, you might incur significant debt by cosigning loans.

Today, a private college costs an average of $38,589 per year, more than $150,000 total. It’s likely you’re expecting your child to pay off that debt when he or she graduates. But what if he or she cannot, due to an unfortunate illness or accident? Life insurance would help you pay those loans.

As this scenario suggests, there are a number of moments in an individual’s life when life insurance may be needed, regardless of the person’s age. That being the case, feel free to reach out to our office to discuss your individual financial situation, so we can help you keep your children in mind as part of a comprehensive financial plan.

Typically, life insurance premiums on a child are very low, so you can purchase a lot of insurance for a long period of time. Moreover, when you purchase life insurance for a child, you guarantee his or her insurability, and that can be important as the child ages.

Note that each insurer likely has guidelines on when life insurance can be purchased for a child and how much may be purchased. For example, the child may need to be at least a few days old, or the amount of insurance on the child may be limited to less than that of the parent’s personal policy.

Contact your insurance provider for more details.

Modern Homes Can Outsmart Disaster

The internet of things has taken home protection to the next level, empowering homeowners with new tools to keep their homes and loved ones safe. While homeowners might not be able to prevent every disaster, these innovative smart home features can reduce their risk.

Fire Alerts

Traditional smoke detectors are helpful for alerting residents to a fire. This is great if someone is home. What happens when no one is around to hear the alarm?

With smart fire detectors, the homeowner can receive an alert via a Wi-Fi-connected device anywhere in the world. This can decrease emergency response time, potentially reducing damage to the home.

Water Alerts

One of the most common homeowners insurance claims is water damage. Burst pipes and leaky appliances can cause extensive damage to a home. Smart leak-detection sensors can mitigate or even prevent these calamities. The sensor will alert homeowners immediately when a leak is detected, allowing them to take action to stop the water invasion.

Burglar Alerts

Smart technology has enhanced security measures on many fronts. Homeowners can keep tabs on their property by monitoring video surveillance from anywhere, deter thieves with timed lighting, and use smart door locks to maintain tighter security of their entryways.

Plus, affordable, wireless technology makes installing security systems easier than ever before.

Smart Devices

Technology is becoming so prevalent that there are few items that aren’t available with smart features these days.

Appliances offer improved safety and efficiency. Garage doors are better at detecting motion. High-tech irrigation systems can prevent overwatering and flooding. From attic to basement, homeowners can access a host of smart features to protect their homes and prevent insurance claims.

Don’t hesitate to reach out so you can learn more about how you can prevent disaster in your home. Be sure to ask about any discounts you may be eligible for if your home is equipped with smart technology.

Animal Invasion: Are you covered?

Your dog ate your couch. Birds destroyed your gutter. A family of racoons overran your garage.

Will your homeowners insurance cover these animal invasions?

Yes and no. Here’s the scoop:

Infestation: If your home suffers damage at the hands (or legs) of insects, rodents, or vermin, the cost probably won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance. Whatever damage these unwanted guests cause, including nesting and infestation, is not usually covered. However, this varies by policy, so be sure to check with your insurance agent to confirm.

Destruction: If your personal property is destroyed by an animal, this usually does not fall under your homeowners policy coverage. If the animal damages the property itself, this is probably covered. So, if a bear breaks into your garage and mauls your tools, you might be on your own to replace your saw, but the damage Mr. Grizzly caused to the garage door should be covered.

Liability: Coverage for damages caused by pets varies based on where the damage occurs. If your cute kitten ruins your new loveseat, you’ll have to hold Fluffy responsible. Your insurance company probably won’t pay for that. But if you bring Fido to your friends’ house and he eats their loveseat, the liability portion of your policy will kick in and cover this damage.

Do you have concerns about potential animal-related damages? Let us help you review your policies and determine what specific coverage is best for you and available in your area.

Is Your Home Riskier Than Your Neighbor’s?

Did you know two homes can have identical square footage but vastly different insurance costs? They might even be right next door to each other. How is this possible?

The cost of premiums is based on the risk factors of the homes. With vastly different features, the two properties don’t have the same likelihood of claims. What features influence this risk? Following are a few of the top factors.

Construction: Older homes often cost more to insure due to their construction. Features such as ornate moldings, stained glass windows, and plaster walls are typically more expensive to replace than are modern amenities, so insurance premiums reflect this. Other construction factors include the age of the electrical system and the type of exterior used.

Safety: If a home offers features that reduce the risk of fire, burglary, or other damage, the insurance costs go down. Smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and security systems are examples of safety features that can reduce your homeowners insurance premiums.

Amenities: Certain features can not only add appeal and ambiance to a home but also increase the cost of insuring the property. A swimming pool or spa, for example, can add fun and relaxation appeal, but it also increases a homeowner’s liability and requires additional coverage. A wood-burning stove can be charming, but it can be seen as a fire risk and increase your premium.

Pets: While a hamster probably won’t affect insurance premiums, a pit bull might. Homeowners insurance includes liability, which protects the property owners if they are sued by a person who is injured by the homeowner’s dog. If you own a dog, especially one whose breed is considered dangerous, you might pay more for insurance.

Upgrades: Remodeling projects typically increase the value of the home. A new addition, a finished basement, or an updated kitchen may require additional insurance to adequately cover the upgraded property.

If you’re considering purchasing a house or altering the features of your current home, consult with your insurance provider. They can provide premium estimates and offer further insight into how your choices would affect your insurance costs.

Why Did My Auto Insurance Premium Increase?

Did your auto insurance rate go up? If you noticed an increase in your premium, this is often due to one of three reasons. Fortunately, there are three things you can do to push that figure back down. Here’s the scoop.

Tickets: Did you receive a traffic citation? Tickets are a common cause of insurance rate increases. The severity of your citation is considered in this rate adjustment. For example, a speeding ticket for doing 50 MPH in a 40 MPH zone typically affects your rate less than a DUI conviction would.

Claims: Filing claims may cause a rise in your premium. Multiple claims in a short time period further increase the chances of a rate adjustment.

Conditions: If the risk factors in your area change, this could affect your insurance rates. Increased crime rate and extreme weather events are factors that can cause premium increases.

If your rate has increased (or you want to lower your current rate) take the following steps that can reduce your premiums.

Package: Ask your insurance provider about discounts for multiple policies. Often, if you bundle your home and auto coverage with one company, you can receive a discount.

Protect: Does your car have any safety features that reduce your risk? Security systems and certain safety features can lower your premiums.

Prepay: Pay for your full premium up front. By paying for coverage for six months or a year at once, you may be eligible for a discount.

Contact your insurance agent for more details.

An Unexpected Reason for Coverage Denial

You probably know that you can be denied life insurance for certain health conditions, but did you know you can be denied based on medications you purchase on behalf of someone else?

This is what happened to a Boston woman. Employed as a nurse, she had a prescription for the opioid-reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, which she used in her job at an addiction treatment program. (It’s also become common for family and friends of those with an addiction to carry a prescription for naloxone.) This prescription resulted in the nurse’s insurance denial.

Why would it matter if she carried this prescription?

When reviewing applications, some life insurance companies consider prescription drug use. During this process, it can be difficult to determine the difference between someone who carries naloxone for themselves (because they are at risk of an overdose) or others (because they are caring for someone with an addiction).

Could you be penalized for your prescriptions? Yes, even if you don’t carry any drugs for others as this nurse did. Life insurers consider all aspects of your medical history (including doctor’s visits, diagnoses, and medications) when analyzing your risk. They can deny coverage if they deem the risk is too high.

What can you do if you’re denied coverage? Ask for an appeal. The method for doing so should be explained in your application materials.

Generally, the process involves three steps to create your appeal.

1. Read your denial letter to understand the details and understand why the insurer denied your application. If the reason for the insurance denial wasn’t provided, you can request it in writing, as you have a legal right to receive it.

2. Gather evidence to support your appeal, such as doctor’s notes.

3. Write a compelling appeal.

If you need help with this process, your insurance agent can assist you with further details and support.

Before You Post That Negative Medical Review…

Did you have a bad experience with a medical provider? Are you itching to tell the world about the incident?

Using social media applications to evaluate a medical service provider may help others avoid a bad experience. However, before you vent your feelings about a medical professional to the World Wide Web, here are a few points for you to consider.

Medical practitioners depend on their professional reputation. If you post a negative online review, the practitioner may sue you.

Unfortunately, telling the truth does not prevent you from an accusation of libel. Even if you’re right and you post a truthful negative review, if the provider sues you, you can win the battle but lose the litigation war. Medical firms like hospitals keep lawyers on retainer. You probably don’t.

Keep in mind, doctors and other medical practitioners walk a thin line between a patient’s medical privacy online and defending themselves against a negative online review.

Still, you may want to complain and may have a legitimate concern to express. Here are some ways that may help you feel heard while lessening your risk of litigation.

Call the doctor’s practice manager and discuss your complaints. The manager may support your complaint, helping to ensure the doctor addresses your concerns.

If your complaint involves conditions at a hospital, then your state’s department of health services or your state medical board may investigate your concerns.

If your practitioner is a Medicare provider, contact the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization at You can file a complaint regarding most aspects of your treatment, including the doctor, hospital, or even durable medical equipment (DME) such as respirators, wheelchairs, and the suture removal kits used for wound care.

If you feel you must use social media to complain, wait until your initial anger subsides. Ask a neutral friend to review your post before you go live.

Dunk Your Prescription Costs to Avoid the Donut Hole

Donut hole: This pleasant-sounding name actually describes a coverage gap in Medicare Part D. The donut hole appears when your non-generic prescription costs exceed your plan’s initial coverage limit ($3,820 in 2019), but have not yet reached the catastrophic coverage level.

You can avoid the donut hole longer and perhaps entirely by reducing your prescription costs. Here’s how.

Before each year’s end, determine whether you have enough of each medication. If you do, don’t fill those prescriptions until January 1. If you don’t, ask for a smaller quantity for less cost to get you through to year end. Your doctor may have samples as well to carry you over.

During open enrollment, look for a plan that covers your prescriptions for less. Always ask your doctor to prescribe generic drugs. Changes to the donut hole in 2019 mean it affects only non-generic drugs.

To reduce costs, look for pharmacies offering discounts or rewards programs. Ask your pharmacist for a “Medication Therapy Management consultation.” All Medicare Part D plans cover this option. Ask for your prescription’s “best price,” which is the price when you don’t use insurance. However, before buying, call your insurance company and ensure it will reimburse you for “best price” drugs and count their cost toward your out-of-pocket costs. Price shopping can also save you money. Ask your insurance company to recommend pharmacies that offer lower costs, offer 90-day fills rather than 30, or deliver by mail.

Additionally, you can avoid the donut hole if you qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help/Part D Low-Income Subsidy. Visit for more information.