As you make your way through your spring cleaning checklist, don’t forget to dig out your insurance policies and look them over. Below are some of the reviewable elements of your home, life and auto insurance policies.
1. Make sure you’re not overpaying for insufficient coverage
Experts say the top insurance mistake is being underinsured, which happens when you fail to update your coverage as your property, lifestyle or needs change.
Take the time to assess those changes and determine where you need to adjust your insurance coverage. For example, if you like to entertain at home, consider increasing your liability coverage and purchasing a separate umbrella policy.
Umbrella liability policies typically offer a minimum of $1 million of additional liability protection and cost just a few hundred dollars a year.
2. Pay attention to increased rates
Insurance companies don’t always tell you how much your rates increased on renewals. While doing your spring cleaning, grab last year’s documents and compare the rates for yourself. If your rates rose by five percent or more, call your insurance agent and ask them to explain the increase.
Knowing whether the increase resulted from changes in your risk profile or from general increases in the marketplace can help you negotiate and shop for comparisons.
3. Learn how to lower your premium
You may be eligible for discounts that can lower your homeowners insurance premium. Our golden rule is to ask! You may miss out out savings if you don’t ask what is available.
4. Make sure you have enough personal property insurance
Most people do not take the time to inventory their personal possessions, and often do not have enough personal property insurance as a result. Homeowners should be careful not to overlook their belongings as a way to keep insurance costs down.
It is very likely that you have added new belongings to your home over the last year. If so, now is the time to inventory those belongings and ensure you have the right type of coverage for the actual value of your property.
Most consumers automatically accept the amount of contents coverage named in their policy. Instead, read the policies carefully to make sure there are no gaps in coverage, and check the dollar limits and excluded causes for personal property.
It is in your best interest to raise the dollar limit if necessary, as it will help you better replace or recover the value of your possessions if disaster strikes.
Having an updated list and video footage of your belongings could help you recover the true worth of your belongings.
If you have a life insurance policy, you should make sure to review its principal points at least once a year, including beneficiary, benefit amount, term, loans and cash value.
1. Update your beneficiaries
Many of us forget to update our policies when circumstances change. Life events such as marriage, getting divorced or having children should prompt you to update your beneficiaries. The beneficiary designations on your life insurance policy will trump any other documents you’ve created outlining your beneficiaries, so ensure that they match!
2. Review the term of your policy
If you have term life insurance, it’s important to know when the term ends. An annual review will prevent a term policy expiration from sneaking up on you. If you are caught unaware, you may face a major premium hike.
Some term policies may be convertible to permanent insurance on their anniversary, which others may be convertible at the end of their term.
3. Assess the amount of your policy
Make sure the amount of your life insurance policy is still appropriate for its intentions and for your financial situation.
Take time to evaluate what you intend for the benefits to cover. Are you hoping to fund your burial expenses, or provide college tuition for your children? Does your policy provide sufficient coverage for these needs? If not, it may be time to look into additional coverage.
If your personal wealth has increased significantly in the last year, you may consider more life insurance in order to protect your family from estate taxes.
1. Reassess your comprehensive/collision coverage
If you have collision and comprehensive coverage, take time to make sure the limits are adequate, or whether you still need it. If you don’t have the coverage, consider whether it’s time to add it.
If you’re driving an older car worth less than $1,000 – or less than 10 times the insurance premium – having comprehensive or collision coverage may no longer make sense. Dropping either the comprehensive or collision coverage may reduce your premium.
2. Ask about any new discounts.
Ask about any discounts that you may qualify for, such as:
For questions about your insurance or to get a quote, contact us today!
Nearly 17 million people have filed unemployment claims in the last three weeks with the U.S. Department of Labor. Forecasters predict as many as 20 million people could lose their jobs by the end of April. Millions of workers who have lost their jobs also will lose their health insurance. The potential severity of COVID-19 means that being uninsured could leave people at risk for catastrophic health care costs. Here are some key things people who lose their jobs or who are currently uninsured should know.
Coverage Options for People Who Lose Their Jobs or Are Uninsured
If you have insurance through the job you lost: Maintaining your coverage through COBRA is a possibility, but you might find a cheaper option through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. As always, even though open enrollment is closed, anyone who loses a job with health insurance is automatically eligible for a special enrollment period through the marketplaces. The first thing to do after losing job-based coverage is visit HealthCare.gov to check out options. If you qualify for a premium subsidy or Medicaid, there may be options much cheaper than COBRA.
If you have coverage through the ACA marketplaces: If you lost your job, your income is likely dropping, which means you may qualify for a subsidy. Go to HealthCare.gov and update your income information.
If you have coverage through Medicaid: Keep your coverage and make sure your enrollment status is up to date, so you don’t lose your coverage if you forget to reenroll.
If you are uninsured, you have a few options — and there may be more in the coming weeks:
Recent Legislation and Executive Branch Actions on Coverage
Congress has passed three major emergency spending bills to address the pandemic and the administration has declared a national emergency. Here is what you should know about what this means for coverage:
The staggering economic disruption triggered by the coronavirus pandemic is revealing the importance of the Affordable Care Act in providing coverage options for people who lose their job-based insurance. But the pandemic also shines a bright light on the remaining holes in the system: 30 million people uninsured and at least 44 million who are underinsured because of unaffordable deductibles and copayments. The crisis will place added pressure on the states that have not yet expanded Medicaid and may encourage them to move forward with expansion. It also may push Congress to permanently patch the holes in our insurance system. If it does, the next time we face a public health crisis we can be secure in the knowledge that everyone has health coverage and that illness will not be compounded by personal financial catastrophe because of health care costs.
If you need assistance or don't know what your next step should be, feel free to call us and get help. We can offer Short Term Health Plans, Limited Medical Plans, and Major Medical Plans with loss of other coverage, to individuals who may be in need, or just offer friendly advice during this difficult time!
With the evolving and significant changes happening in the world around the
coronavirus and its impact on commercial insureds, we have received a number of
questions from our clients regarding business income coverage.
Designed to protect a business in the event of an interruption in operations caused
by a physical loss that results in financial downturn, business income coverage
serves to cover the period of time it takes to rebuild, repair or replace damaged
property. Requirements for the coverage to trigger vary across insurance carriers.
Additionally, each state has its own department of insurance that governs what is
acceptable insurance language which can cause variations from state to state.
Most insurance companies policy forms incorporate approved Insurance Services
Office (ISO) policy terms and conditions. Following ISO, the business income
insuring agreement requires a covered cause of loss that causes direct
physical loss of, or damage to, the property at the described premises. The
cause of loss must also cause a necessary interruption of operations that results in
business income loss.
Without a direct physical loss, business income coverage will not be triggered.
There will also not be a period of restoration of property to determine business
In addition to the terms of business income coverage, policies include Exclusion of
Loss Due To Virus or Bacteria (form numbers CP0140 or CP7140), which exclude
commercial property losses resulting from any virus, bacterium or other microorganism
that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease. Form number CP0140 is found on newer Insurance policies. Form number CP7140 appears on older policies. These endorsements have been used since they were issued and filed by ISO several years ago.
With any claim, policy wording and the specific trigger driving losses determine the applicability of coverage. If a formal property business income claim is filed, it will be adjusted on the applicable policy wording and specific details driving the loss. Theodore & Associates is committed to supporting you through the challenges of the coronavirus. We will continue to monitor the evolving situation and work with you through this uncertain time.
4 Things to Consider When Changing Your Auto Policy
Whether you are adding a vehicle or a new driver, updating your address, or considering a new insurance provider entirely, the process of making changes to your auto policy can be intimidating. Read on for things to keep in mind when adjusting your auto policy.
1. Let Your Independent Agent Do the Work for You
As with any important decision, consider talking to a local expert who can help you navigate the decisions involved in switching to a new car insurance company. While paying the lowest possible rate may seem attractive at first glance, any responsible agent will explain that getting the coverage you need should be one of your top priorities.
For example, if you frequently drive with your dog in the backseat, you might ask your agent whether or not your dog is covered in the event you are in an accident. A professional independent agent can recommend an auto insurance policy that automatically covers any potential pet medical bills if you get into an accident. Not all insurance companies include this coverage. This is an example of how protecting what matters most to you is more important than the savings you get from buying insurance online. The foresight to look ahead and anticipate coverage needs is one of the many benefits of working with an independent agent.
2. Ask the Right Questions About Insurance Carriers
It’s important to balance between being price-conscious and making sure your insurance needs are met. To ensure you receive the correct coverage to meet the needs of you and your family, ask these questions when you speak with your local independent agent:
3. Mind the Policy Gap
Timing is everything as you don’t want to be without coverage between policies. Fees might be involved if you change insurance providers mid-policy term, or discounts may be offered if you shop for a renewal prior to your expiration date, so you’ll want to plan your insurance switchover accordingly.
Failure to avoid a gap in coverage can have serious legal and financial repercussions, especially if a disaster strikes when you’re between insurers. Additionally, a lapse could mean that insurance carriers will charge higher premiums in the future.
4. Follow Through
Once you’ve switched, make it a point to stay in contact with your local agent. Make sure that your previous policy has been canceled. Avoid billing mistakes and credit bureau issues by obtaining written confirmation from your previous insurer that your policy has been cancelled.
If you are moving to a new state, plan to visit with your insurance provider. Because insurance laws vary by state, you’ll want to complete changes prior to your move.
With the right insurance carrier watching out for you, making the switch should be a straightforward process. And, Theodore & Associates is always here to help!
The holiday shopping season will be here before you know it. But there’s an even more important shopping period to think about first: Open Enrollment.
Whether you’re buying your own health insurance for the first time or are considering switching plans, Open Enrollment may seem like a confusing, stress-inducing event. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s everything you need to conquer this year’s health insurance signup process.
What is Open Enrollment?
Open Enrollment is the annual period of time when everyone gets a chance to sign up for health insurance for the coming year. This year, you may have heard the approaching enrollment period referred to as “Open Enrollment 2020”.
Employers that offer health benefits also have an annual enrollment period to allow employees to switch plans. While most companies kick off their signup process toward the end of the year (usually October or November), the start date and enrollment window vary from business to business.
Why is Open Enrollment a thing?
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, signing up for individual health insurance was often a challenge. If you had a pre-existing health condition, or had a family history of certain types of diseases, insurers could deny you coverage or charge you much higher rates than healthy people.
These practices prevented people from gaming the system by only signing up for insurance after they developed a health issue. But they also kept many consumers from getting coverage, either because they were denied insurance or because they couldn’t afford it.
After the ACA was passed, new consumer protections were put in place to ensure everyone can get health insurance, regardless of health history. It also provided subsidies to help lower-income people pay for coverage. But these new policies removed the check in place to prevent people from getting insurance only when they really needed it. And thus, Open Enrollment was born.
Under normal circumstances, Open Enrollment is your once-a-year chance to sign up for health insurance. If you miss this window, you have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to get a new plan (with some exceptions – more on that later). By restricting signups to a limited time frame, insurers are protected from people dropping in and out of plans, paying for coverage only when they have an active health issue.
What’s changed for this year’s Open Enrollment?
For the most part, this year’s Open Enrollment will look a lot like last year. The signup dates are the same. The state and federal Marketplaces still exist, and are one of several ways you can purchase a health insurance plan for 2020. Subsidies will still be available for those that qualify for financial assistance.
Looking for new health insurance for 2020? Start a free quote here.
When is Open Enrollment?For health insurance plans beginning in 2020, Open Enrollment starts on November 1, 2019 and ends on December 15, 2019. But some states have extended the Open Enrollment period until January to give people more time to sign up.
What information do I need to collect for Open Enrollment?
In order to sign up for a plan during Open Enrollment, you’ll need a few key pieces of information, including:
Can I sign up for insurance outside of Open Enrollment?
If you don’t sign up for a health insurance plan during Open Enrollment, and your life circumstances remain the same, you’ll have to wait until next November for your next chance to enroll. However, if your life circumstances do change, you may be able to get insured during a Special Enrollment period.
Special Enrollment is a 60-day enrollment window that happens when you experience a qualifying life event – a fancy phrase for a significant change that impacts your status. Qualifying life events include things like:
Contact our Benefits Department today to learn more and get covered!
You devote months to planning, working out every detail for what should be a perfect event. Unfortunately, even the best planned events are at the mercy of the unexpected. Like a flood that ruins your venue. Or a caterer who inexplicably goes bottom up. And chances are, you'll still be on the hook for all or most of the costs. Thankfully, special event insurance can help protect what you've invested in your event should the unexpected put a dark cloud over your big day.
WHAT IS SPECIAL EVENT INSURANCE?
Special event insurance helps cover financial losses that may occur when an accident, extreme weather, illness or a problem with a key vendor puts a stop to your private event. Policies often cost less than you might expect and typically offer two types of coverage:
Event cancellation coverage reimburses you for lost deposits and other charges when unforeseen circumstances cause you to cancel or postpone your function. This type of coverage may extend to special gifts, attire (lost wedding bands, for instance) and damaged photo and video files. It does not, however, cover a change of heart.
Event liability coverage helps protect you from financial loss if you're held responsible for an accident that hurts someone or causes property damage at your event. You may even be covered if one of your guests creates havoc. Many venues now require you to have liability protection before you can even book there.
WHAT TYPES OF FUNCTIONS ARE COVERED?
Events that are covered by special event insurance include but are not limited to:
WHEN SHOULD I BUY SPECIAL EVENT INSURANCE?
It's a good idea to purchase a policy as soon as you begin making deposits, because unexpected issues can crop up at any point. That said, you need to buy event cancellation coverage at least 14 days before your function date and liability coverage at least one day prior. You can buy both up to 24 months in advance.
No one wants to think about something unpleasant when planning an important day, but it's nice to know there's a policy that can help protect you from the unexpected.
Call Theodore & Associates today to talk about how you can help safeguard your big day!
Today, as car sharing has grown in popularity (well over a million people are members of various services in the U.S., according to the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC)), the number of options has grown, too.
You can borrow a company-owned car (think Zipcar or Car2Go) for a few hours at a time or for a daily rate, returning it to the spot where you picked it up or a drop-off area in a designated zone. You can even rent cars from other individuals—and rent your car to them.
There are benefits and drawbacks to car sharing—just as there are when driving your own car everywhere. But is sharing right for you? Here are four things you should consider before you get started.
There’s a lot to like about car sharing, but there’s a lot to think about, too. Don’t hit the road before you weigh the pros and cons—and make sure you’re protected.
For more information, check out SafeCo's website.
We, at Theodore & Associates, know the language used by the insurance industry can be confusing. We want to make sure that you clearly understand your options and know exactly what you’re paying for.
Here are some common terms that are used for different types of coverage. We hope this glossary helps make the world of insurance easier to understand!
Additional Living Expenses
If you can’t live in your home because of a covered loss, your insurance company may pay the necessary increase in living expenses while damage is assessed and your home is repaired or rebuilt.
Broad Form Liability Coverage
Helps protect you from expenses related to injuries or property damage you or your watercraft cause in an accident. Some policies also cover certain accidental fuel spill liabilities and wreckage removal.
C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) is a claims history database created by ChoicePoint that enables insurance companies to access consumer claims information when they are underwriting or rating an insurance policy. It typically contains up to five years of personal auto or personal property claims history.
You can order a C.L.U.E. report:
LexisNexis Personal Reports
Call toll free 1-866-312-8076
Or you can request a copy from the seller of a home you are purchasing.
Pays to repair your auto, classic auto, motorcycle, RV damages caused by an accident. Your agent can help you determine the limits you need based on the agreed value of your vehicle.
Pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it is stolen, vandalized or damaged in some way other than in a collision. May include loss from fire, cracked windshields, floods, falling objects, and wind.
Custom Parts & Equipment Coverage
Many motorcycle owners like to customize their rides, and some policies pay for customized parts and equipment, often at no extra charge. Ask Theodore & Associates for details.
When you get insurance, you agree to pay up to a certain amount out-of-pocket in case of a loss. This amount is called your “deductible.” The deductible you choose often affects how much you pay for your premium. For example, a higher deductible usually means a lower premium. In the case of a covered loss, you’ll only be required to pay your deductible, and the insurance company usually covers the excess, up to the applicable limit for that loss under your policy.
Emergency & Roadside Assistance
For auto, boat and personal watercraft, emergency assistance pays for the cost of towing or emergency service. For RVs, it also covers housing and transportation costs if your RV becomes uninhabitable and covers the loss of personal property in your RV. Some policies also provide roadside assistance for motorcycles.
Sometimes used interchangeably with “umbrella”, “excess liability” refers to extended liability coverage. This coverage is meant to supplement your insurance coverage if the damages exceed your liability coverage. Be sure to talk to Theodore & Associates about what your excess liability covers.
Companies and businesses often purchase this coverage to protect them against loss from employee dishonesty (such as theft of money, equipment, or other assets).
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it to open accounts or incur charges without your permission. Thieves can access your personal information in a variety of ways, such as stealing your personal mail, your wallet, or hacking your computer files. The thief then uses your identity to rack up debt in your name or perhaps to issue fake IDs. For more information on identity theft and tips on prevention visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Site.
Providing indemnity means to financially restore someone after a loss, through payment, repair or replacement.
Insurance ScoreAn Credit Based Insurance Score (CBIS) is derived from information on your credit report. It is a number that measures likelihood of having an insurance claim – not a measure of credit worthiness. Insurers use CBIS along with a number of other factors, including driving records, claims history, and the type of home or vehicle owned, to evaluate new and renewal auto and homeowner insurance policies.
Medical Coverage (Home)
Covers medical expenses for guests if they are injured on your property, and in certain cases covers people who are injured off of your property. It does not cover healthcare costs for you or other members of your household.
Medical Coverage (Auto, Boat & Personal Watercraft, Motorcycle, RV)
Provides for your passenger and your medical expenses that are the result of an accident.
Liability & Personal Liability Coverage
For homeowners, this coverage applies if someone is injured or property is damaged and you are to blame. The coverage applies anywhere in the world. When choosing liability coverage for your home, auto, boat, personal watercraft, or RV, consider things like how much money you make and what you own. Your liability coverage should be high enough to protect your belongings if you are sued.
Personal Property Coverage
Your home is filled with furniture, clothes, sports equipment, and other items that mean a lot to you. This coverage helps repair or replace these items if they are lost, stolen or destroyed as a result of an insured event.
Personal Watercraft (PWC)
A personal watercraft (PWC) is a recreational watercraft that the rider sits or stands on, rather than inside of, as in a boat. Models have an inboard engine driving a pump jet that has a screw-shaped impeller to create thrust for propulsion and steering.
Physical Damage Coverage for Watercraft
Pays to repair the damage done to your watercraft due to an accident. It also generally pays to repair or replace your watercraft for insured situations such as theft, fire, vandalism or other non-collision damages that occur in or out of the water
Simply put, a premium is the payment you make in exchange for one term of policy coverage.
Property or Dwelling Coverage
Typically pays to repair or rebuild your home if it’s damaged or destroyed by an insured event.
Scheduled Personal Property Coverage
If you have special possessions such as jewelry, art, antiques or collectibles, you may want to talk to your agent about this additional coverage.
Umbrella insurance is the coverage that may kick in when your losses under other insurance policies, such as homeowner’s and auto coverage, have exceeded policy limits.
Underwriting is the process of assessing risks when deciding whether to issue a policy of insurance.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Pays for damages associated with bodily injury or death from an accident caused by an uninsured, underinsured or hit-and-run driver, as defined by the law in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred, who is at fault. It also covers you if you are hit as a pedestrian.
Unattached Equipment Coverage
Pays to repair or replace equipment that isn’t permanently attached to your boat or personal watercraft. This includes items like life jackets and water-skis.
Feel free to reach out to us for any further questions!