Cancer Policies: Are They a Good Investment?

If you’re considering purchasing a cancer supplement policy, you’re not alone. Many people debate this, but most aren’t sure whether it’s worthwhile. If you have a family history of cancer or other circumstances put you at higher risk of cancer, then a cancer policy could be a good investment.

Your health insurance agent can offer several types of cancer plans. One is a lump-sum cancer plan. This can be a good choice if you have a higher than normal risk of cancer. Lump-sum cancer plans pay a specific benefit amount. These are flexible plans because they typically do not require that you use the money for health care costs only. Instead, you can use it to defray lost income if you are unable to work, thereby putting the cash benefit toward your mortgage or living expenses. The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance suggests that if you’re buying a lump-sum plan, you should purchase enough coverage to pay at least two years of mortgage payments.

You may hear cancer supplemental policies referred to as “critical illness” coverage. This is actually a different type of policy. Except for the lump-sum cancer policy, cancer policies pay only for cancer, while a critical illness policy covers several critical illnesses. These can include heart attack, stroke, organ transplant, and paralysis.

Whether you are considering a critical illness plan or a cancer supplement, contact your health insurance agent. Your agent can help you choose the plan that best meets your needs.

Some of these plans have age thresholds, so buying them when you are younger can be a big advantage in both cost and plan availability.

Growing Company? New Business = New Insurance Needs

Is your business experiencing growth? While this is good news for the entrepreneur, it also comes with challenges. As your business grows, it undergoes changes and encounters new needs. As you adjust your revenue projections, expand your market, and invest for continued growth, don’t forget another area that should be examined. It’s likely that your insurance needs are also changing.

To ensure your coverage adequately matches your current risks, remain in close communication with your insurance provider. Your agent can make recommendations for appropriate changes to your policies. Consult with your agent if you experience any of the following situations that often warrant an adjustment in insurance coverage:

Staff changes: Are you hiring additional staff? Have you transitioned from part-time staff to full-time employees? Are your workers taking on new duties? As you bring on new employees or expand work tasks, it’s important to update your insurance policies to reflect these changes. Appropriate coverage is necessary to protect you and your business if workplace injuries should occur.

New address: Have you outgrown your location? Relocating to a new setting to accommodate your expanding business involves a lot of work. In the midst of moving, don’t forget to update your insurance. The new building may have a different risk profile that alters the coverage you need.

New features such as security systems may also affect your premiums. Before you choose a new location, discuss the insurance ramifications with your agent so you can budget appropriately.

Equipment upgrades: The equipment your business uses directly affects your insurance premium. If you purchase new equipment to meet growing needs or update old equipment to modernize your business, you must also update your insurance policy.

Expanded services: Are you offering new services or new items? This can affect your liability. Review your current list of goods and services with your insurance agent to verify that you still have appropriate coverage. Add further liability coverage if needed to protect your business from new or additional risk.

Increased revenue: If your business is growing, you are likely experiencing an increase in revenue. While this is good news, it can affect your insurance needs. Keep an eye on policy limits to make sure they remain in alignment with your revenue streams. As you grow, you will probably need to increase coverage limits. Consult with your agent to determine when this bump in coverage should occur.

Specialized growth: Consider any unique needs of your business based on your industry and the types of products and services you offer. As you expand these specialties, you may need to alter your insurance coverage with more specific policies.

For example, if you have grown from a mom-and-pop paper-invoicing shop to a fully digital enterprise, you may want to consider adding cyber insurance.

Vehicle additions: Whether you add a company car for your own use or expand your fleet of delivery vehicles, it’s essential to update your commercial vehicle insurance coverage.

The policy details will depend on the type of vehicles you purchase, how they are used, and who will be driving them. Work with your insurance agent to create policies that are suited to your growing needs.

Deck the Office Halls…and Avoid Damage

A little festive cheer can boost office morale and make surroundings more appealing to employees and customers. With this in mind, many businesses decorate for the holidays; however, it’s important to also keep safety in mind. Unsafe decorating practices can lead to personal injury or property damage. To avoid these disasters and the ensuing claims, use the following precautions:

The gift of gravity: Don’t take chances when stringing lights on doorways or windows. Rolling office chairs do not make good step stools. Always use a stable, well-positioned ladder to reach decorative heights.

A sprinkling of good cheer: As you decorate, it might be tempting to hang items from sprinkler heads. Don’t do it. The decorations can prevent the system from working properly.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: Do you plan to plug in lights or other electrical d├ęcor? Inspect all cords before using them. If any items have frayed cords, exposed wiring, or damaged prongs, do not use them. These pose a fire hazard.

An extended holiday: If you need to use extension cords for your decorations, be careful about placement. Avoid stringing these cords in high-traffic areas or under rugs, as they can create a tripping hazard.

Stuffed with goodies: Be careful not to overload circuits when powering electrical decorations. You may cause shorts that damage office equipment or cause overheating that starts a fire.

To all a good night: Put a system in place to ensure all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations are turned off at the end of the day or before everyone leaves the building.

The Importance of HSAs and FSAs As Deductibles Climb

Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are both great vehicles to reduce your tax liability if you are enrolled in a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

The FSA: Employers establish FSAs so their employees can deposit money to cover the cost of visit copays, prescription copays, and other uncovered medical expenses. As an employee, you may take a tax deduction, depending on federal and state rules, equal to the amount spent on allowable medical expenses, which includes copays and some other uncovered medical expenses. Your employer or its FSA administrator will reimburse you for out-of-pocket medical or dental expenses based on the paperwork you submit.

The HSA: If you have a high-deductible Affordable Care Act or other high-deductible plan and your employer does not offer an FSA, the HSA may be right for you. The HSA works like the employee-sponsored FSA, but you must establish your plan through a bank or credit union that offers HSAs. Any amount you deposit is tax deductible up to certain limits.

Individuals and families are limited in the amounts they can contribute to an HSA. In 2018, the limit was $3,450 for individuals. For families in an HDHP family plan, the 2018 limit was $6,900. Contribution limits are increasing slightly in 2019. For an individual, the 2019 limit is $3,500 and the family plan’s new limit is $7,000. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses in 2018 were $6,650 for an individual plan and $13,300 for a family plan. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses allowable in 2019 will increase to $6,750 for an individual plan and $13,500 for a family plan.

With today’s hefty out-of-pocket costs, an HSA or FSA plan makes sense. However, keep in mind that the rules of many plans require you to use all the money you deposit or you will have to forfeit it. Although some plans provide a short year-end grace period, estimating your projected out-of-pocket medical expenses before funding your plan for the year can help you avoid forfeiting any of your deposit. Your health insurance agent can provide additional information or resources about these accounts.

Are You Covered for 2019? Don’t Miss the Deadline!

It’s a busy time of year. The holidays have rushed in and you’re probably swamped with shopping, decorating, parties, and visits from the in-laws. In the midst of year-end chaos, don’t miss an important deadline. Open Enrollment for 2019 coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends on Saturday, December 15.

Have you signed up for a plan for next year? If not, contact your insurance provider right away to make sure you have coverage when the calendar flips to 2019. ACA coverage is provided through the Health Insurance Marketplace for those who don’t have health insurance through another source, such as an employer or Medicare. Cost for the insurance is based on your income.

Your insurance agent can walk you through the various options available and help you complete the necessary paperwork. To sign up for a plan, you’ll need information about the size of your household, basic contact information and social security numbers for those being covered, employer information, income amounts, and current policy numbers if you have 2018 coverage.

What happens if you miss the deadline? Certain individuals may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Others may be eligible for an extension. For example, those whose current plan was discontinued and those who have had certain life events, such as getting married, usually qualify for an extension. Additionally, some states offer state-based marketplaces that have deadlines later than December 15. Areas affected by hurricanes have also been given extensions.

Contact your agent to determine if you qualify for any of these special circumstances and to get your coverage process underway.

How Food and Exercise Could Lower Your Premiums

At least one life insurance company is beginning to offer customers financial incentives for working to stay healthy, and others may follow suit.

Under this program, customers can reduce their annual life insurance premiums by as much as 15% if they improve and report on their eating, drinking, and exercise habits.

This innovative program benefits insurers and their customers alike. Insurers get healthier customers, which ultimately reduces their payouts and helps them become more profitable.

Customers, meanwhile, get reduced premiums, and they could end up living longer as well. According to an insurer that currently offers this incentive, the program’s policyholders take twice as many steps as the average American. More steps mean more exercise, which could mean more years of life!

How much could you save with such a program? It depends.

If you are a 50-year-old woman, a $1,000,000 30-year term life insurance policy will cost you $2,349 annually, according to NerdWallet as of September 2018. Saving 15% would reduce that by $352 a year.

But the numbers are even more compelling if you buy a $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy, which costs $17,760 annually, according to NerdWallet. In that case, you would save $2,664 a year.

This kind of benefit could inspire more people to buy life insurance. Around half of Americans (172 million) have some form of life insurance coverage, according to LIMRA, an insurance industry research group. And according to a survey by LIMRA and the nonprofit insurance group Life Happens, 63% of Americans who have not purchased coverage say it is because they believe coverage is too expensive. This kind of discount could make life insurance more affordable for many.

It could also encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Perhaps a financial incentive is just what some people need to make healthy foods and exercise look more appealing.

Does My Insurance Cover Every Catastrophe?

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers damages and losses to your property and possessions. It also provides liability coverage to protect you if an accident occurs on your property.

Does this coverage include every catastrophe that could devastate your home?

No. Two disasters in particular are not typically covered by a traditional homeowner’s policy.

The first is earthquakes. These disasters are usually excluded from homeowners’ insurance policies.

To obtain coverage for damage due to earthquakes, you will need to take out a special earthquake policy or add a rider. These often feature a percentage deductible rather than a dollar amount. If you’re not in an area that is prone to earthquakes, don’t stress too much over this coverage. You can probably skip it.

The second catastrophe that is often excluded is flooding. If your property is located in a flood zone, this fact was probably disclosed to you when you purchased the property. It’s common for mortgage lenders to require flood insurance.

If you’re unsure about your property’s flood-zone status, contact your local government office to determine if your home is in a flood zone. If it is, you will need separate flood insurance. Your insurance carrier may provide this, or you may need to contact the National Flood Insurance Program.

And a third situation has become a more prevalent concern in recent years. Homeowners may wonder if terrorist attacks are covered under their policies.

While most policies don’t mention terrorist attacks specifically under the covered conditions, they also don’t exclude them. Since most policies cover damages caused by fire, smoke, and explosions, terrorist acts are typically covered.

If you’re unsure about your coverage for a specific situation, contact your insurance agent to review your policy. Year end is a good time to review your coverage and determine if you should make any changes to meet your current insurance needs.

Don’t Let Road Rage Ramp Up Your Claims

You’re running late. Construction traffic is making things worse. Then, an SUV cuts you off, nearly clipping your bumper. What’s your reaction? Many drivers suffer negative consequences when road rage rears its ugly head.

One of those consequences is insurance costs. Did you know that damage or liability that results from aggressive driving isn’t typically covered by your auto insurance policy? If it is determined that you caused the damage with “risky behavior,” you may pay for it in repairs and increased premiums. To avoid these costs (and the road rage that leads to them), use the following tips:

Slow and steady wins the race. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Patience runs short when you’re in a hurry.

Let it roll off. Many times, other drivers are clueless about what they’ve done. They might be lost, affected by sun glare, or oblivious to how their driving has affected you. Don’t take it personally.

Keep your distance. When you get stuck behind a slow driver, don’t succumb to the temptation to tailgate. If they stop, the resulting rear-end collision will be deemed your fault.

Lay off the horn. Reserve honking for emergency situations. It’s designed as a warning sound, not an aggression valve. Insistent honking only annoys, startles, and stresses other drivers and leads to more aggressive behavior.

Remain nonconfrontational. Don’t stop to confront other drivers. Additionally, if other drivers are demonstrating road rage behaviors, try to put distance between your vehicles. Don’t engage with the drivers in any way. Always put your safety first.

 

Do You Need Short-Term Medical Insurance?

Temporary life situations sometimes require short-term medical insurance. You might be between jobs, a recent college graduate, newly divorced, or retired but not eligible for Medicare. Maybe you missed open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or you cannot afford ACA coverage because you do not qualify for subsidies.

A short-term medical insurance policy can help you bridge the gap between group or other health insurance on the one hand and Medicare or group health at your new job on the other.

What are the pros and cons?

Short-term health plans often take effect within 24 hours of application and premium payment. If you drop a short-term plan, it may impose no penalties and may refund the unused premium. Premiums may be lower than for ACA plans, and short-term plans may offer more doctor and hospital options.

However, if you have preexisting conditions, short-term plans either will not accept you or will accept you but exclude those preexisting conditions. Maternity care, preventive and mental health care, prescription drugs, and substance abuse are benefits that short-term plans may not cover. Additionally, you usually cannot renew your short-term policy but instead must buy a new one.

While it is easy to apply for short-term plans online, the plans vary widely. A licensed health insurance agent can help find the best plan for you, at no additional cost.

What changes are coming?

Previously, rules limited short-term medical insurance to three months. As of October 2018, new rules allow insurers to offer short-term policies of up to 364 days, and you can renew the same plan for up to three years.

However, in many cases, the individual mandate penalty (the fine paid if U.S. citizens don’t maintain health coverage that meets minimum standards) continues to apply until 2019 because these plans do not meet ACA minimal essential coverage.

Still, short-term medical coverage may be just what you need to fill a short-term gap in health coverage. Contact your health insurance agent for more information.

Life Insurance 101: Your Policy Options Explained

Life insurance may seem simple, but many people who purchase it don’t understand their myriad options.

The two most popular types of life insurance are whole and term, both of which pay your beneficiaries when you pass away. What’s the difference?

Term life insurance pays your beneficiaries if you pass away during the term of the policy. The term can vary. For example, policies can cover five, 10, or 15 years. Premiums on term life insurance are generally the most affordable of all life insurance premiums because the insurance company does not take on the risk that you will outlive the policy.

Whole life insurance pays your beneficiaries when you pass away, period. In other words, it is in effect for your entire life, as long as you pay the premiums.

But this benefit comes with a cost. As you age, your risk level increases, and your premiums are likely to increase as well. This does not appeal to most people, so to make these policies more palatable, some life insurance companies charge you higher premiums earlier in the policy’s term and lower premiums later.

A third type of life insurance is less known to most people. It is sometimes referred to as a separate type of insurance called “return-of-premium term life insurance.” Other times it is referred to as a “rider” or “add-on” to a term life insurance policy.

Regardless of terminology, it is similar to the term life insurance policy mentioned above, but if you haven’t yet passed away when the term expires, some or all of your premiums are returned.

The catch: Return-of-premium term life-insurance policies can be expensive. They typically cost about 30 percent more than term life insurance (but potentially less than whole life insurance).

Additionally, not all insurance companies offer return-of-premium term life insurance.

If you aren’t sure which kind of policy is best for you, a financial professional can help you decide.

Claims: What to Expect and How Your Agent Helps

You need to make an insurance claim for damage to your property. What should you do first? What can you expect?

If you’re not familiar with this process, it can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, your insurance agent will partner with you to walk you through the necessary steps. The following tips can also help clarify what to expect and what is considered “normal” for this process.

More than one check is normal. As you work through the claims process, you can typically expect to receive more than one check. Often, homeowners receive an initial sum that is an advance for repairs, but it does not represent the final settlement amount. You can still receive additional funds as expenses are documented and claimed. A separate check is also common for personal belongings, since insurance companies often cut checks for each category of damage. If you incur additional living expenses, such as hotel stays, you may receive yet another check for reimbursement of these claims.

Making direct payments is normal. In some cases, your insurance company may pay contractors directly for the work they complete on your property. However, use caution with this process, since it gives you less control of your claim. Make sure the work is done to your satisfaction before your insurer pays the contractor.

Mortgage company involvement is normal. Lenders often require borrowers to name them in their homeowner’s policy. If you have a mortgage on your property, the lender will likely be involved in the claims process. Checks for repairs may be made out to both you and your lender.

This lets lenders ensure the needed repairs are made on a property in which they have a vested interest. The same may be true if you are part of a homeowners’ association.

Many more questions are normal. Most homeowners have questions as they go through the claims process. Don’t hesitate to contact your agent with any inquiries. Your agent’s expertise is invaluable in helping your claim go as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

Pests on the Prowl: Protect Your Car from Wildlife

When you consider potential sources of damage to your car, what comes to mind?

Most people think of fender benders, major accidents, and natural disasters. There’s another category that many vehicle owners overlook: wildlife.

Did you know animals can cause serious damage to your car? This goes beyond a deer jumping in front of your vehicle on a country road. Other, smaller creatures can wreak havoc on your car, even while it’s parked. Squirrels, rats, mice, and even woodchucks have been known to nest in cars and chew wires or cause other damage.

To prevent these pests from wrecking your ride, use the following tips.

Hide it: One of the most effective ways to protect your car from wildlife is to park it in a garage. Keep in mind that rodents can squeeze through the tiniest openings, so it’s important to make sure the garage is well-sealed.

Clean it: If you make a drive-through run, don’t keep that burger wrapper in your car afterward. Keep your interior free of all food and garbage to avoid any enticing aromas or leftover crumbs that could attract pests.

Treat it: Products are available to treat your wires, making them less desirable to wildlife. Bad-tasting sprays and treated tapes are possible deterrents. These may prove helpful if you are unable to park your car indoors.

Drive it: Wildlife are most likely to infest cars that remain immobile for long periods of time. To keep critters at bay, drive your vehicle regularly.

Travel Insurance: When to Buy and When Not to Buy

You may already know that travel insurance usually covers your travel losses if you must cancel your trip. But did you know that travel insurance comes in many forms, from lost travel loyalty points and travel delay to emergency evacuation, known as repatriation? Due to its wide range of available coverage, travel insurance is a staple for many American travelers’ trips. So, when should you invest in this policy?

To buy: One of the most important times to buy travel insurance is when you travel abroad. If you are on Medicare, it pays anywhere in the U.S. if the practitioner accepts it. If you have a Medicare supplement policy, check to see whether your insurer covers you abroad and whether any coverage limits might apply. If not, you will definitely want travel insurance to meet the gap should a medical emergency arise outside of the U.S., because ordinary Medicare won’t cover the event.

Not to buy: If you are making a last-minute or inexpensive domestic trip, you probably don’t need travel insurance. In these cases, you aren’t at risk of losing large, prepaid deposits. You’re also staying within U.S. borders, so you don’t need to be concerned with evacuation coverage. If you’ve landed a great last-minute deal on a trip in the States, it’s likely your potential expenses don’t warrant travel insurance coverage.

Choosing travel insurance: Each policy differs significantly in what it offers. Fine-print coverage limitations can make choosing the best policy difficult. Ensuring your travel insurance pays as expected is easier when you buy it through your trusted insurance adviser. Work with your health insurance agent, who knows travel coverage and is familiar with which policies will best suit your travel plans.

Workplace Injuries: First Five Steps

An accident occurs at your place of business. Your employee is injured. What should you do first?

Your choice of response can take the situation in entirely different directions. Simple slips and falls can result in clear-cut claims or costly lawsuits. With the proper plan in place, you can achieve the former and avoid the latter.

If one of your employees suffers an injury, take the following initial steps to move the situation in the right direction.

1. Prepare: This step should already be completed before any injury occurs. It’s essential to have a plan in place for workplace injuries.

Your plan should be a written document that is posted for all employees to follow. Provide training to ensure everyone knows what protocols to follow in the case of an accident.

2. Examine: Assess the injury immediately. What type of injury is it? How serious is it? If you have any staff members trained in first aid, involve them in this initial examination.

For severe injuries, enlist the help of emergency medical professionals. For non-emergencies, speak with your employee about what medical care he or she may need in the immediate future, and decide on next steps.

3. Document: The incident should be well-documented. Remember that workplace injury plan you developed? You should have the proper forms readily available, and complete them right away.

Submit these to the appropriate parties, such as your insurance provider. Ensure proper forms are also provided for the employee’s doctor. The physician may need return-to-work authorization forms or temporary work restriction forms. This makes the process go more smoothly and keeps you, the employee, the insurance carrier, and the doctor on the same page.

4. Treat: Make sure your employee gets the medical attention he or she needs. An immediate visit to a clinic or an occupational health doctor will help establish the nature and extent of the injuries.

A delay can result in unnecessary complications, both physically and financially. Because of this, it can be helpful to establish an ongoing relationship with a specific medical facility or physician to handle any and all workplace injuries at your business.

The medical provider can have all your standard forms on file and remain familiar with your incident protocols. This relationship can help streamline the process for both you and the injured employee.

5. Follow up: Let the employee know you care about his or her welfare. Follow up to find out how the doctor visit went. Ask how your employee is feeling. Remove your boss hat for a moment and simply offer person-to-person concern.

Then, replace that employer cap and work with your employee to develop a return-to-work plan. Find out what else, if anything, the person needs from you to facilitate a full recovery.

Workplace injuries are never welcome, but following these crucial steps can make them less disastrous and keep the experience as positive as possible for all parties involved.

Your insurance agent can provide additional assistance with this process. With in-depth knowledge of workers’ compensation claims, your agent is an invaluable resource you should not hesitate to tap in these situations.

How to Reduce Your Commercial Property Insurance Costs

Owning and operating a commercial property involves myriad expenses. If you’re like most property owners, you strive to keep these costs to a minimum. Some are more challenging to shave than others. Fortunately, when it comes to your insurance, you can take several steps to reduce your premium and boost your bottom line.

Determine your deductible: If you can safely manage a higher deductible, you can lower your premium. Work with your insurance provider to determine what deductible amount makes sense for your needs. Set this figure as high as possible to keep your premium low.

Decrease tenant coverage: Are you insuring your tenant’s possessions? You don’t have to. To reduce your premium, exclude tenants from your policy and require them to obtain their own coverage for their belongings.

Ditch the land: Find out if your policy covers your building only or both the land and the structure. Since you typically won’t need to insure the land, you may be able to cut costs by altering your policy so it covers only the building.

Dig for discounts: Have you looked into all the discounts that might be available to you? Continuous coverage and multiple policies with your carrier often come with discounts. Additionally, if your property has protective features, such as a sprinkler system, a security system, or updated utilities, you may be eligible for discounts.

Consult with your insurance agent to determine whether there are other ways you can reduce your costs. An annual review of your policy is good practice to ensure your coverage meets your current needs.

Prevent Workplace Harassment and Resulting Lawsuits

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.” Conduct of this nature becomes unlawful when it creates “a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”

If an employee feels he or she has experienced workplace harassment, the company may be held liable. Resulting lawsuits can prove quite costly to the employer. This makes proper precautions to prevent workplace harassment vitally important to business operations.

To protect your employees from harassment and protect your company from lawsuits, take the following steps.

Create a written policy: Put your workplace harassment policies in writing. Be sure to include clear descriptions of various types of harassment, what employees should do if they feel harassed, and what actions will be taken by the company if this occurs.

Consult with professionals: To ensure your policy adheres to current laws, ask an attorney to review your statement. He or she can ensure that it clearly defines harassment and provides a complete picture of your policy. Your regional or district office of the EEOC is another good source for guidance in creating this written policy.

Revise the handbook: Once you have prepared your written policy, make sure it is included in your employee handbook. Your handbook should also include an equal employment opportunity statement and an at-will employment statement.

If necessary, revise the current book and redistribute copies to all employees. This may require some investment of resources, but it does no good to create a policy unless everyone is made aware of it.

Train your employees: Make training on workplace harassment mandatory for employees. This might involve a video, presentation, or a simple meeting to review your policy. Ensure every employee fully understands your procedures for the reporting, investigation, and resolution of workplace harassment complaints.

When employees complete this training, have them sign an acknowledgment form that states they understand the policy. Keep these forms in each employee’s file.

Take immediate action: If an employee reports an occurrence of workplace harassment, act on the complaint right away. Don’t ignore it. Don’t put it at the bottom of the priority pile. Fully investigate any claim of harassment.

Refer to your policy for proper protocols to handle the situation. An improper response can easily lead to a lawsuit or further incidents, so making the time is well worth the effort. An immediate response helps provide a safe work environment for employees and protects your bottom line.

Put coverage in place: Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) offers coverage in the event an employee files a lawsuit regarding workplace harassment. The policy covers claims regarding discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination as well as other employment-related matters. This insurance can be written as a stand-alone policy or may be provided as a Business Owner’s Policy endorsement.

Consult with your insurance agent to determine which type of policy and how much coverage are appropriate for your business.

Identity Theft: It Happens to Businesses, Too

In 2017, there were 10,000 cases of business identity theft in the United States. Credit agency Experian reports small and midsize businesses in North America are losing up to $1 billion a year to these imposters. Crimes include tax fraud, credit card use, and website ransom. Is your business protected?

Too often, smaller businesses are targets for fraudsters because thieves realize these companies have fewer resources devoted to protection.

Fortunately, there are several simple and affordable steps you can take to guard your company against identity theft.

Monitoring service: Businesses can enroll in a monitoring service that keeps watch over the company’s credit report. The service will monitor for red flags in credit activity.

EIN: Many entrepreneurs run their businesses under their personal Social Security number. To increase protection, obtain an employer identification number (EIN) and keep personal and business finances separate.

Data protection: If you maintain paper records, use a secure mailbox, shred unneeded documents, and keep sensitive information in locked files. To guard digital files, use firewalls, anti-malware technology, and antivirus software. Change passwords quarterly, using random password generators.

Insurance: Review your insurance coverage with your provider to verify appropriate policies are in place. Cyber insurance can help protect your company against significant loss related to identity theft.

Busted: Five Auto Insurance Myths You Might Believe

Of all the information circulating about auto insurance, what is rumor and what is real? Are you basing your choices on fact?

To cut through the fiction, keep the following myths in mind.

1. My car color affects my premium.

If you prefer hotshot red, go ahead and get it. You don’t have to worry about higher premiums because of the car’s color. Your insurance cost is based on several factors, but this isn’t one of them.

The car’s make, body type, model, age, and engine size affect the premium. The vehicle’s safety record, price, and the cost to repair it also come into play. If you want a lower premium, consider these factors rather than the paint job.

2. As my age increases, so will my premium.

Typically, the opposite is true. Those over 55 years of age may be eligible for discounts. These include reduced driving discounts and programs available through AARP. Discounts vary by region, so check with your insurance provider about your options and eligibility.

3. Bare-minimum coverage is sufficient.

Most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. However, it is generally recommended to obtain coverage that goes beyond this bare minimum.

A serious accident can quickly generate expenses far exceeding the minimum coverage. A good rule of thumb is to have $100K in bodily injury per person and $300K per accident.

4. When I give my keys to a friend, my friend’s insurance takes over.

In many cases, the policy that covers the vehicle is considered primary. If an accident occurs while your friend is driving your car, it’s likely that your insurance will be responsible for coverage, not theirs.

5. My car is fully protected from all types of damage.

This could be true, but it depends on your policy type. A standard policy may not include theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. For full protection, choose collision and comprehensive insurance.

Peer-to-Peer Home Rentals: Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you considering renting out your home, guest room, or basement? Peer-to-peer home rentals and services such as Airbnb have grown in popularity. Discovering the income potential in these opportunities may entice you to hand over your keys.

While this may be a good option for you, it’s important to first consider the insurance implications involved. Do you have the right coverage for peer-to-peer rentals? If a renter starts a fire in the home, will you be covered? Always consult with your insurance provider before pursuing any rental arrangements.

If you will be renting all or part of your property on a regular basis, your homeowner’s policy is likely insufficient. You may need business coverage, such as a hotel or bed-and-breakfast policy. Month-to-month home-sharing liability policies may also be available that suit your circumstances. On the other hand, if the rental situation is a one-time occurrence, you might be covered by your current homeowner’s policy, or you might be required to add an endorsement.

Either way, notify your carrier about your intent to determine whether your current coverage is appropriate. Your agent can help you make any changes needed to ensure you and your property are fully protected.

Additionally, if you are considering renting someone else’s peer-to-peer rental space, confirm your coverage with your carrier. Typically, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for stolen possessions and accidental injuries you cause to others. However, you should verify this with your agent before making any rental agreements.

Which Should I Choose – Medigap or Medicare Advantage?

Do you know the difference between a Medigap and a Medicare Advantage plan?

If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, you select one of many available plans, and the Advantage plan becomes your insurer. The plan sets the rates, determines copays, and chooses doctors in the network. Most Advantage plans have built-in drug plans.

If you have an Advantage plan, you are ineligible for a Medigap plan. For some of Medicare age, however, the Medigap plan may be more beneficial.

Medigap plans are known as Medicare Supplement Insurance. When you choose Medicare A and Medicare B as your primary health insurance, the Medigap plan covers the gap between what Medicare pays and what you are responsible for paying.

With a Medigap plan, if Medicare approves a procedure, Medigap pays the difference. With an Advantage plan, your doctor in the Advantage network manages your care subject to the insurer agreeing to the procedure. With Medigap, if your doctor accepts Medicare, they also accept your Medigap plan. If your health conditions require a higher level of care, a Medigap plan may be your best alternative. Choosing the best Medigap plan depends on your current medical conditions, where you are located, and how much you want to pay.

Medicare and Medigap do not offer prescription plans, so if you purchase a Medigap plan rather than an Advantage plan, you should purchase a stand-alone prescription plan as well.

Selecting a plan is one of the most important health decisions you will make. Don’t go it alone. An experienced agent can help you determine which plan best suits your needs.