Aging Parents: How You Can Keep Them Safe

When aging parents begin to show signs of decline, you want to keep them safe. A little extra help may be all they need. But first, you must decide if the issue is mental or physical.

When you suspect mild cognitive impairment, simple fixes such as medical alerts or security cameras may be enough to keep them safe. In some cases, more is needed.

Occasional word loss is usually benign, and misplacing keys happens to everyone. But difficulty forming sentences, confusion, going out and getting lost, or forgetting to turn off the stove are signs you shouldn’t ignore, especially if the onset of symptoms was sudden.

A professional mental status assessment will tell you if a regular drop-in visitor is a sufficient solution or assisted living or constant care is required.

If mobility is impaired, it could be due to poor balance, loss of flexibility, or impaired ambulation. Bathroom grab bars and a bath seat may be sufficient. Walking sticks, a cane, or a walker may prevent falls. Help with dressing or simple dressing aids such as sock stretchers and elastic shoelaces are often helpful. Replacing buttons and zippers with Velcro may do the trick.

When you’re unsure, get professional help. Have an occupational therapist or Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) assess activities of daily living and address any safety and medical concerns.

Check with Medicaid for financial aid for long-term care. Speak with community care services, the Alzheimer’s Association (, seniors associations, local hospitals, and visiting nurse associations. These services can help you make the best choices to keep your parents safe.

Have You Reviewed Your Insurance Coverage for 2020?

As the new year approaches, we often look back at the year gone by, reflect on the coming year, and make resolutions for the future. Business owners should do the same. But this means more than setting revenue goals.

An important part of this review process should involve insurance coverage. The flipping of the calendar page is a good time to consider current coverage and determine if any changes are warranted to improve the protection of your business in the coming year. A thorough policy review covers three aspects: new exposures, business changes, and outdated coverage.

New Exposures

A company can change a lot in one year. Look over the last 12 months and consider any new exposures you may have added. Did you purchase new equipment or vehicles? Have you started manufacturing or selling new products? Changes in locations can also generate new exposures in the areas of liability and property damage.

Make sure your current insurance policies encompass any of these changes you have made. If you find any gaps, now is the perfect time to close them.

Business Growth

Beyond basic changes that could have added new exposure, consider any new needs your company may have as it grows. You may need to put policies in place that were not necessary in the past. For example, increased reliance on equipment operations may make equipment breakdown insurance necessary. If you’re storing large amounts of customer data, you may need protection against cybercrime. Increased property coverage may also be needed if you have expanded to multiple locations or increased your assets. Taking on employees may create the need for workers’ compensation coverage and employee theft coverage.

Avoid leaving your company exposed. As you grow, ensure you have the right policies and coverage limits in place to protect your operations.

Outdated Coverage

Adding coverage isn’t the only possible result of your annual insurance review. Consider what current coverage may be outdated. Did you reduce inventory? Have you sold any equipment? Make sure you aren’t carrying any policies you no longer need. It may also make sense to reduce some coverage. For example, vehicles that have been around more than a decade may no longer require comprehensive coverage. You may also want to switch coverage on equipment to actual cash value. Another possible adjustment could be the amount of your deductibles.

It’s a good idea to review the value of your assets and compare these to your current financial situation. This will help you determine how much coverage you truly need.

Worth the Investment

Insurance Journal reports that 40 percent of small businesses will file a claim this decade. The most common claim for these enterprises is burglary and theft, which covers an average loss of $8,000. Other claims, such as customer injury, product liability, and reputational harm, average between $30,000 and $50,000.

For a small fraction of your overhead, insurance premiums can cover these potentially crippling costs. It’s well worth the investment of time and finances to review your coverage and put appropriate policies in place.

Contact my office to review your current coverage and ensure you have the right policies to protect your company in 2020.

Who Needs Pollution Liability Insurance, and Why?

Don’t assume that because you don’t handle hazardous waste you don’t need pollution liability insurance.

While this coverage may seem obvious for businesses that handle waste or asbestos, it could offer good protection for other companies as well.

Why? Pollution liability insurance covers claims against bodily injury or property damage that is caused by hazardous waste. The coverage includes claims related to materials released during your operations as well as after operations are completed.

This means that you will be protected if any problems arise after you have finished a job. It also covers you in case hazardous waste is not discovered during an inspection of a property before you purchase it. In this case, waste may be discovered in the future, for which you are held liable. The insurance will protect your financial interests in the event of a cleanup or claim.

Lastly, environmental laws are in constant flux, so a pollution liability policy can help provide coverage in case there are changes in regulations that leave you exposed to lawsuits.

Who needs coverage? These policies are required for many independent contractors. At times, contractors must show proof of this coverage before work on a project can commence. For other types of businesses, this coverage may be helpful to protect against potential future claims.

To determine if your enterprise could benefit from pollution liability insurance, contact my office. We can discuss your liability exposure and ensure the right policies are in place to protect the future of your business.

Grinch Protection: Wrap Up Your Home for the Holidays

Not every grinch becomes good and returns the stolen treasures. Outside of a Dr. Seuss tale, thieves will gladly carry away your holiday goodies in their sleigh and never look back.

Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to protect your home from the season’s sticky-fingered grinches. Use the following tips to keep your home safe and secure for the holidays.

Make things merry and bright: Lights can do more than decorate this season. Dark, vacant homes can be particularly tempting for thieves, especially during high-travel seasons like the holidays. Use proper lighting to deter thieves. Set timers for lights or install motion-sensing options.

Join Santa in his list-making: St. Nicholas isn’t the only one who should check his list twice this season. Have you created a home inventory of your personal property? Be sure this list includes any recent gift purchases. This inventory will be helpful if you need to file a claim after a burglary.

Don’t spoil the surprise: The kids aren’t the only ones anxious to see what appears under the tree. Wait until Christmas Eve to put out the presents. This prevents putting them on display for potential grinches.

Keep trips under wraps: If you’ll be away from home this season, don’t advertise your trip to the world. Announcing on social media that your house will be empty can draw the attention of the wrong kind of elf.

Check more than the chimney: While Santa may prefer a fireplace entry, thieves are more likely to look for easy-access windows and doors. Avoid leaving patio doors unlocked or propping open apartment-building doors. Keep doors and windows locked and check hardware regularly to verify it is secure.

Enjoy holiday peace: Even with the best precautions, a theft may still occur. But you can have peace of mind by investing in appropriate coverage for your home and possessions. Contact my office to discuss policies that can help you recover your cheer if mean old Mr. Grinch tries to steal it.

Happy New Year! It’s Time to Review Your Insurance Coverage

As the new year approaches, many people review their lives and make new goals for the future, to maybe eat better or exercise more, for example. This turning of the calendar page is also a good time to review your insurance coverage. An annual review allows you to update information and policies to ensure you are appropriately protected in the coming year.

To complete this process, take the following key steps.

Take inventory: Create a home inventory (or update your current one). Be sure to add any major gifts you receive this holiday season and remove anything you have donated, sold, or thrown away in 2019. In your inventory, include a description and the cost of items. Scan or photograph receipts to save with your list. Store everything online and/or off-site so you can access it in case of disaster.

Assess automotive needs: Consider the age and value of your vehicles. Is your coverage still appropriate? Have the primary drivers on any vehicles changed this year, or will they soon? Make sure deductibles, limits, and primary driver designations all make sense for your current needs.

Look for changes: Have you experienced any changes in the past year that might affect your insurance coverage? Renovations, births, purchases, and commute changes can all affect your insurance considerations.

Check for savings: Don’t miss out on any savings opportunities. Check for multiple policy discounts, changes in requirements, or new programs that may cut your insurance costs.

Contact our office for a quick review of your policies. I can help you evaluate your insurance needs to make sure you have the right coverage as you head into the new year.

Life Insurance Needs Change After Age 50

Life insurance is something people tend to buy and forget, so the policy continues, unnoticed, for years or even decades, depending on its length. But your life-insurance needs may change over time, especially as you near retirement. When you turn 50, it may be a good idea to reconsider your coverage.

How do you determine if you still need life insurance in your 50s? Ask yourself why you bought life insurance in the first place, then determine if those circumstances still exist.

For example, perhaps you bought life insurance in your 20s, 30s, or 40s to protect your children should you pass away unexpectedly. If that is the case, you only need your policy until your children are grown up and out in the world, supporting themselves on their own, and no longer in need of your financial assistance. In this case, you may want to stop your life-insurance policy when your youngest child reaches age 21.

Or perhaps you bought life insurance in your 20s, 30s, or 40s to protect a spouse who stays at home with the children, earns less than you do, or simply relies on your half of the household income, should you pass away unexpectedly. And perhaps by the time you reached your 50s, circumstances had changed: you saved enough to cover your spouse’s expenses, for example, or your spouse began working.

Of course, you may also gain reasons to have life insurance as you age. Perhaps you would like it to cover end-of-life expenses, provide “bonus” income to a child or spouse, or address complex estate-planning issues, for example.

Keep in mind that these are only general guidelines. We are all different, and you might want life insurance for other reasons. Feel free to reach out to me if you need guidance on establishing the appropriate coverage for your future needs.

Options When You Lose Your ACA Coverage

Did you lose Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage? Every year, ACA registration closes on December 13. If you miss that deadline, you may not obtain an ACA plan unless you meet certain conditions. However, a licensed health insurance agent can help you explore options that might let you register after the deadline.

Additionally, if you miss a premium payment deadline, you may lose coverage. If you miss a payment deadline, you have a “grace period,” often 90 days from your payment due date. If you also miss your grace period deadline, a licensed health insurance agent can help you appeal the cancellation decision.

Perhaps you qualify for either special enrollment or Medicaid. You might buy a short-term health insurance plan or join either a health-sharing plan or a primary-care membership plan. If you do lose your ACA coverage, short-term medical insurance may help you close the gap between cancellation and the next ACA enrollment period, where the ACA guarantees coverage eligibility.

Short-term health plans often take effect within one day of application completion and payment of the premium. They frequently don’t impose penalties for cancellation, and they may refund unused premiums. Premiums might be lower than those of ACA plans, and short-term plans sometimes offer more doctors and hospital options.

However, short-term plans either will not accept you with preexisting conditions or will accept you but exclude those conditions. Prescription drugs, maternity care, substance abuse, and preventive health care are services and items that short-term plans may not cover.

Changes to short-term plans in 2019 let you enroll for 30 to 364 days, depending on where you live, and to renew for up to three years of continuous coverage. These plans could be a good option if you lose your ACA coverage.

It’s easy to apply for short-term plans online, but those plans vary widely. Contact us for assistance with finding the right plan for you.

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  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, 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.