Some Info about Meidcare/Medigap Policies

Here is some information regarding Medicare Supplemental policies. It is excerpted from a blog from another insurance agent, R. Daniel Williams Jr. He’s an agent from PA.  Good info to have expecially since we are in an open enrollment period for 2011-12 medical year.
Using Medicare is an excellent way to be able to afford your medical expenses, but there is still going to be some out-of-pocket expenses that are going to be incurred. If you are currently enrolled in Medicare part A and part B, you also qualify in order to receive any Medicare supplement policy. This policy is referred to as Medigap, as it helps to fill in the gaps that are left, financially, whenever you are using Medicare. For example, it will cover out-of-pocket expenses that come from deductibles and co-pays.

This type of Medicare supplement policy is going to be offered by independent insurance agencies and it is not going to be offered through the federal Medicare program. It will be necessary for you to pay a premium to the insurance agent, along with paying a premium for your Medicare policy. You should also understand that if you are part of Medicare part C, which is called the Medicare advantage program, you will not need, nor will you be able to use this type of Medicare supplement policy. Since the Medicare advantage program is administered by private companies that are under contract with the federal government, Medigap will be useless.

The various types of policies that are available through Medigap are lettered in order to make it easy for you to see which one you will choose. At this particular time, there are policies available from letter A through letter N. These policies are standardized and it is regulated on a statewide level. If you choose one particular policy with one insurance company, you’re going to receive the exact same coverage with another company. There is not going to be a variation in coverage.

What will vary, and certainly deserves some attention, is the amount of money that you’re going to pay for your Medicare supplement policy. This is not regulated by the state and it is in no way standardized. Paying more for your Medigap policy is not going to get you any more benefits, and it may make it difficult to keep up on your monthly premiums. It is a good idea for you to do a little bit of comparison shopping whenever you are choosing a Medicare supplement policy in order to make sure that you are not paying too much. This can help to make sure that you’re out of pocket expenses are covered and it does not cost you too much on a monthly basis.

Star-Schein Insurance Agency is offering medicare/medigap policies for the 2011-12 season.  If you have questions about YOUR situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

Looking for more $$? Maybe your independent insurance agent can help.

Almost everything I read this weekend points to the economy NOT getting any better. We are all looking for ways to cut expenses and get better value. Have you thought about speaking to your independent insurance agent?  

There are few things your agent to do to help you.  

1) Raise your auto deductibles.  Instead of $100 comprehensive/$250 (or lower) collision, raise them to $500/$500.  The change might be worth a couple of hundred dollars to you.

2) Are you aware of the discounts that are available to you? For example, if your children attend college over 100 miles from where you live-most times, that is a discount.  

3)  Did your new drivers (read teenagers) take a state approved driver safety class prior to taking the driving exam?  That is a discount!

4) Are your kids B+ or better students?  A large number of companies offer a good student discount (either high school or college).

5) Are you over 55 and have taken a driver safety course?  That maybe worth some money to you as well. 

6) Taking a look a your homeowners/condo/renters policy-companies almost offer a package discount (auto and homeowners written within one company), additionally there credits for having a central station alarm, smoke alarm, deadbolts and having a fire extinguisher on the premises.

The point is, if you have a relationship with your agent and you’re looking to save some money, go have a chat.  They may be able to help.  And if they can’t help or perhaps you aren’t working with an independent agent (like me), call one.

DISCLAIMER-The discounts I’m discussing are based on the experience I have with the companies I work with.  Discounts can vary greatly from company to company.

Why an Independent Insurance Agent?

Lately it seems that we are overwhelmed with commercials for all kinds companies looking for your hard earned dollars to cover your auto, home, and everything else.  The common thread is that if you buy a policy, you save  may money!  They only have one company to place you with…theirs!  It’s a one size fits all approach.  The problem with insurance is that it doesn’t work that way.

If you go to an independent agent (like me),  We have a bunch of companies we can quote and our concern is not the insurance company, but you the client.  We want to make sure you get the best coverage for the best possible price.

Your local independent agent can also be a resource for you.  Need a plumber? Chances are your agent know one or knows who to ask to find one.  Is it all about policies and premium? No, it’s also about service and advice.  You will get serviced at the 800 number companies, but the difference is that at an independent agency, we know you and just as importantly, you know us. 

Should you report a claim? Will it cost you down the road?  Your independent agent will help guide you through what you should do following a loss.  When you purchase a policy, you are not buying from the COMPANY…you are buying from the agent.   And we appreciate it!

Employers Practice Liability Insurance…Live it, Learn it…GET IT

Hi again,
When it comes to insurance for your business, it can be a mine field. That’s one of the reasons you want to make sure you do business with an insurance agent. My personal preference…use an independent agent (yes, like me!) to assist you in making insurance related decisions.
One of the coverages you may want to consider is Employer Practice Liability Insurance (EPLI). Why? It covers you for mistakes you make as employer.
To that end, check out this article. http://www.roughnotes.com/in_action/v44.08.2010/

If you would like to know more, please let me know.

Pet Insurance

Joyce Boncal of Advertise You was nice enough to point me towards an article in the Harford Insurance Examiner by Harry Packman. It explains Pet Insurance very well… I have reprinted some of it here.
Pet insurance was introduced about 30 years ago and has grown into a substantial business, with 24 providers in the U.S. (12), Canada (7) and Great Britain (5). The twelve U.S. insurers offer 34 different plans each for dogs and cats (we’ll cover exotic pets later) with monthly premiums ranging from $5.75 to $76.79 for dogs and $4.08 to $67.14 for cats, depending on varying deductibles, coinsurance, maximum limits and covered items. Deductibles range from $50 to $200; coinsurance from 10% to 20%; limits from $5,000 and up and the inclusion or exclusion of a variety of additional exposures:

• Hereditary, chronic or congenital conditions.
• Prescriptions, drugs, dental, optical and other medical supplies.
• Advertising and reward costs.
• Kennel and boarding fees.
• Spaying and neutering.
• Lost pet recovery tag.
• Cancer.
• Trip cancellation due to surgery.
• accinations, heartworm testing, annual physical exam.
• Behavior modification.
• Loss of pet not due to natural means, euthanasia, burial and cremation.

Sometimes, accidents are treated differently from illnesses (ref: Danny Workman’s Examiner article entitled, “Insurance 101: Pet accident insurance”). There are some standard exclusions for dogs. A dog over ten years old, for example, is usually not insurable regardless of health.

Some dogs are classified as “dangerous pets”. The most common breed to be so classified is the pit bull and insurers, considering them high risk, are disinclined to underwrite this breed. Other breeds, sometimes classified dangerous, are rottweilers, dobermans and shepherds, depending on the lineage of the animal.

Exotic pets have become increasingly more popular and, therefore, exotic pet insurance more available. Insurers recognize that the exotic animals have special care health issues and needs over and above the typical needs of a dog or cat. Exotic pets include:

• Rodents – their teeth grow continuously, so dental care is the predominant concern.
• Reptiles – can live a long time; they have need for proper feeding and nutrition.
• Avians – delicate creatures; neglect and mishandling are common causes of death.
• Pigs – susceptible to respiratory and digestive problems.
• Fish – especially prone to health problems due to changes in their environment or misfeeding.

Note: Horses, although a pet to some, are generally considered in the underwriting of farm or sports risks.

Star-Schein Insurance Agency offers Pet Insurance endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also known as the ASPCA.  The company donates a portion of the every policy that we sell directly to the ASPCA.

  If you have any questions about the company or policy, please do not hesitate to contact Agency Principal-Charlie Schein.

FENDER BENDER! NOW WHAT?

My friend Suzi got into an accident last week!  Nothing too bad, she says just a “fender-bender”, no injuries.  She announced it on Facebook and since she is Hartford’s Premier Social Media Diva, got all kinds of help…including some advice from  me.  That started me thinking about this….

You are a careful, considerate driver and then from out left field…WHAM! You get hit by another car. Do you know what to do?

We’ll make an assumption that although you have been shaken but not stirred (couldn’t resist-sorry), you and the other driver are ok.
*Call the police. **DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE!**
When you have an insurance claim, you want to make sure you have documentation, whether you are at fault or not.  A police report is an official document that can back you up!  Find out from the responding officer when the report should be available and find out how you can get a copy.
* Document*

Just about everyone now has a cell phone with a camera…so document the scene. Before any vehicles are moved, take pictures of the site and the damage to both cars.  Please, be careful! You want to don’t cause another accident!

*Exchange Info

Exchange insurance information with the other driver. Everyone should have an insurance ID card in their vehicle.  Get contact information from the other driver too.

*Fault

If you think you were at fault DO NOT ADMIT IT. Why? Because when you purchase an auto policy, you agree that the insurance company will settle all claims on your behalf. By admitting fault, you might be voiding the policy (check with your agent to be sure).  And although I am not an attorney, most likely an admission of fault is not something you want to do anyway.

*What’s next? 

 If you were the driver that was hit, call the other person’s insurance company to begin the claims process.  If you have additional questions about your claim, call the other company OR you can always ask your independent agent for assistance.  The manner in which an agency helps you handle a claim is where your independent agent REALLY earns their commission (or not, in some cases)!

If you hit someone, then call your company and put in the claim.  Even if the other person says they won’t file a claim, chances are they will. 

An additional note:

Insurance fraud costs YOU hundreds of dollars of additional premium every year.  Here are some additional tips to follow if you are involved in an auto accident.

  • Never tailgate. This will give you ample time to stop if the driver in front of you suddenly steps on the brakes.
  • If you’re involved in a collision, count how many passengers were in the other car. Get their names, phone numbers and driver’s license numbers.
  • Pay attention to how the passengers behave. Did they stand around and joke, but suddenly act “injured” when the police arrived?
  • Keep a camera with you. Take pictures of the other car, the damage it received and the passengers.
  • Call the police and get a police report, even for minor damage. A police report that says the accident caused only a few scratches will make it harder for crooks to claim serious injuries or major damage.
  • Call your state insurance fraud bureau if a stranger tries to steer you to an unknown body shop, doctor, chiropractor or lawyer. Give officials the names, addresses and phone numbers of these providers.
  • Keep careful records of your medical treatments. Compare those against the statements you receive to make sure the bill wasn’t padded or treatments fabricated.

Please talk your agent  to find out what they  recommend in the event of an auto incident.

Charlie Schein is an independent insurance agent based in Wethersfield, CT.  If you have any coverage questions, please feel free to contact him anytime via email.  Charlie@starschein.com

Is that what you do?

I’m working with a local family. The wife works for a large multi-national company and the husband works as a handyman. They became my clients this past summer and they recently asked me to research the husband’s current business insurance.
Of course, I agreed and the first thing I noticed in their current policy was that the husband was classified as a carpenter. So I asked him…are you a carpenter? Well guess what? He’s not! In the course of his work week he does do some light carpentry, some electrical work, and minor home repairs, etc… In fact he is a handyman!
The commercial “class code” on his policy was incorrect. This means that if he had a claim while doing something un-carpenter like he ran the risk of having the claim being denied by his insurance company and having his policy cancelled. On the other side of the coin, his current agent (no, not me…but a LARGE state-wide chain) has a possible errors and omissions exposure.
As a quick side note-a class code is the code for a type of business. This code is in turn associated with a rate. Each business type has a different code which means each code has a different rate. For example a carpenter is generally a less expensive rate than a roofer.
Sometimes an agent might misclassify a business deliberately because the rates are more favorable. An agent that does this might lose the ability to sell insurance for that company, especially if he/she does this often. While this may save you money on your insurance it could cost you a good deal more if your business is not classified correctly. The point is; check with your insurance agent to make sure that you are correctly covered for what you do. When you receive your commercial policy, please review the declaration page(s) carefully to make sure the information about your business and its operations are correct. Commercial insurance policies are very specific about what they will NOT pay for. If you see something there that either does not make sense, or you don’t understand…ASK.
When you receive your commercial policy and you have questions, your agent should be very willing to answer any and all your questions about it. By the way, when shopping for commercial insurance, you may want to consider using an independent insurance agent (like me!). They have more than one company they work with and if the rates go up with your current carrier, they can always “shop” your business with another company.

Kind of a fun claims story

Thanks to Capitol Premium Financing for this story…I borrowed it from their site. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Insurance Claim
Could this be true?

A Charlotte, NC man, having purchased a case of rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against–get this–fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of fabulous cigars, and having yet to make a single premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company.

In his claim, the man stated that he had lost the cigars in a “series of small fires.” The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in a normal fashion. The man sued, and won!

In delivering his ruling, the judge stated that since the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable, and also guaranteed that it would insure the cigars against fire, without defining what it considered to be “unacceptable fire,” it was obligated to compensate the insured for his loss.

Rather than a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the judge’s ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fires.” After the man cashed his check, however, the insurance company had him arrested . . . on 24 counts of arson!

With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used as evidence against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 consecutive one-year terms.

Spring, Has Sprung! I Bet You’re Thinking About a Swimming Pool…

Many thanks to my good friend, Mike Loguercio of Stone River Insurance Solutions. He has become an accomplished columnist for The Insurance Advocate, an industry trade magazine and with his permission, I am passing along some of his thoughts on pools, trampolines and basketball hoops.

“Attractive Nuisance Liability”

This term applies to having a swimming pool, basketball hoop, trampoline, or fish pond on your driveway or yard. If it has the ability to attract kids (legal or otherwise), and potentially cause them harm if they utilize or even illegally abuse it, you are proverbially SOL if little Johnny next door decides to play some hoops in your driveway and break his ankle, or fall into your pool after a night of drinking with his friends, or bounce off your trampoline and land head first in your gold fish pond breaking their little darling necks…of course immediately after they climbed over your six foot white PVC fence with a locked gate while you and your loving family were on vacation. Oh, and by the way, I sure hope you didn’t leave your pit bull out to roam and protect your fiefdom while you’re traveling, because if that dog does his job and protects his territory by taking a chunk out of Johnny’s rump roast while he’s stumbling out of your pool, guess what? You’re on the hook for that one as well. According to the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) swimming pool ownership is constantly rising. Currently, there are over 8.3 million homes in the United States that own an in-ground or above-ground pool. This statistic is up almost 10 percent since 2002, as reported by the Association of Pool and Spa professions. No one type of pool is excluded, regardless of whether or not it is a small child’s pool or one fit for a king and his court. Regardless of its size or shape, it is important to be sure to advise your clients that any pool can be dangerous and must be properly insured. At the same time, you should also remind them that it must also comply with local safety standards and building codes.

Furthermore, last May a report placed on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission web site, 886 children ages five and younger died after drowning in either a pool or spa between 2004 and 2006. The report also indicated that the preponderance of those deaths occurred in homes (79 percent) and that the adult who was responsible at the time that the accident occurred had lost contact or was not aware of the whereabouts of the children involved (46 percent) before the child wandered over to the pool or spa. Furthermore, according to this report, fatal drowning remains as the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths for children ages 1 to 14 years of age. As a matter of fact, for every child who drowns, there are five children who require and receive emergency medical care for nonfatal water injuries.

As posted on the Insurance Information Institute website, it is highly advisable that you should inform your clients that before purchasing and installing a pool in ones’ backyard they contact their town or municipality and familiarize themselves with their town’s definition of a “pool,” which may be defined by the town by the size of the pool and depth of the water. If the particular pool that they are planning to purchase meets the definition that the town uses for “pool”, then they must act in accordance with local safety standards and current building codes. This may include among, other mandates and ordinances, installing a fence of a required height, locks, decks, and pool safety equipment. The institute goes on to say that pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” and it is prudent to purchase additional liability coverage above and beyond the standard policy limits. Although (as you are obviously aware) most HO policies include liability protection, homeowners owning a pool should absolutely consider increasing the amount of liability coverage, while also purchasing a multimillion dollar umbrella policy. Of course, depending upon the cost and value of the pool, the homeowner should also have the proper coverage in order to replace it in the event that it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster. The following safety precautions are also highly recommended by the I.I.I. and it is suggested that you pass these along to your clients as well:

Put fencing around the pool area to keep people from using the pool without your knowledge. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating “layers of protection” around the pool, i.e. setting up as many barriers as possible (door alarms, locks and safety covers) to the pool area when not in use.
Never leave small children unsupervised— even for a few seconds. And never leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use as they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers trying to reach them.
Keep children away from pool filters and other mechanical devices as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing. In case of an emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post this information.
Be sure all pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. If you have children, have them take swimming lessons as early as possible. And, don’t allow anyone to swim alone.
Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Also, keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
Clearly post emergency numbers on the phone, in the event of an accident. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. You may also want to consider taking basic first aid and CPR training. Oh, and as one last piece of advice…tell your clients to spend the money and pay a professional to open their pool. Take it from me, it is well worth it.

Thanks Mike!  To see Michael’s full column, click this link  http://www.insurance-advocate.com/Spring-is-here-finalmente-c1054.html .

If you have a home based business, protect yourself

There are a BOATLOAD of home based businesses out there. Do you have one? If you make over $2000 a year with it, then yeah, you have a home based business.

Why Am I Exposed With a Home-based Business?
Most Home-based Business owners make the disastrous mistake of assuming that there Homeowners Insurance will cover them in the event of a accident, injury, or loss. We all know what happens when you Ass-U-ME…

The truth is, if you are running a business out of your home and there is a claim resulting from anything having to do with that business there is a HIGH likelihood your claim is going to be denied. Your Homeowners policy is NOT intended to cover business exposures.

Home-based Business Misconceptions
(Please see this article by IIABA for more details on Myths of Home-based Business. I have outlined the ones I feel are most crucial)

“This is not a business its just a hobby. I don’t make much money.”
For most homeowners policies if you make more than $2,000 a year you’re running a business and the claim will most likely be denied.

“I have a Incidental Business Endorsement on my homeowners policy. I’m all set”

The Incidental Business Endorsement to a homeowners policy is used for exactly what it says “incidental business.” The lawyer that occasionally brings his work home. An accountant that will do some tax-returns from home. NOT the guy doing woodwork in his garage creating dressers as a side job. NOT the Mary Kay saleswoman who is having home parties twice a month. These are not incidental exposures and there will be gaps and limits to the coverage provided in the event of a loss.
Additionally, this endorsement does not cover anything (liability or property) Off-Premises. So if you are delivering that hand-crafted dresser you just built for your neighbor down the street and get into a car accident that ruins the dresser… You’re getting Bupkis… Nada…

“I never have anyone in my house for business purposes so I don’t need liability.”
Do you ever have materials for your Home-based Business delivered? If that delivery person slips and falls you are most likely SOL… Do you ever go Off-Premises for a trade show, delivery, conference, seminar, client call, etc? You guessed it, you don’t have Off-Premises liability.

OK, My Homeowners Doesn’t Cover Home-based Business, Now What?
You need a Home-based Business Insurance Policy. Now before you get all fired up that an Insurance Salesman is trying to sell you another insurance policy realize that most Home-based Business Insurance policies run between $150 and $350 a year.  This can vary, based on the type of business that needs to be covered. That is NOT a lot of money for coverage they provide considering you get Liability, Loss of Income and Business Property… I think the sustainability of your business is worth that kind of investment. Do you?