Category Archives: Newsletter

Don’t Get Burned By Insurance Claims This Summer

Grange Insurance Logo

Grange Insurance offers tips to have fun and stay safe

School is out for the summer, and for many, that means vacations, cookouts and pool parties. Summer is fun, but its activities can also lead to unnecessary and expensive claims if families do not take the right precautions.

Columbus, Ohio-based Grange Insurance offers tips to help families have fun, stay safe and avoid claims that could become financial inconveniences.

 

1. Prepare your house for ‘vacation mode.’   Security Alarm

Families should prepare their homes for ‘vacation mode’ if they’re planning to be gone for an extended period of time.

“Turn off the valve on the washing machine, check the back-up battery on the sump pump and put high-end electronics on a storm surge protector in case bad weather should occur that might lead to flooding or fires in the home while homeowners are away,” advises Ken Kozek, vice president of claims for Grange Insurance.

Kozek also advises families leaving town to have a trusted neighbor check the home periodically, alert the local police to increase neighbor check the home periodically, alert the local police to increase neighborhood watch, put lights on a timer, and stop mail and newspaper delivery.

 

2. Don’t be a target for theft.   Theft

Homes are a target for theft when homeowners are away, but thefts can occur just as easily when homeowners are home.

“Summer is open-window season for houses and cars and open-door season for the garage, so be mindful of your personal belongings,” adds Kozek. “If you’re going to leave windows or doors open, keep things like wallets, cell phones, golf clubs and jewelry out of sight.”

 

3. Be safe around water.   Swimming Pool

“Swimming is a great summer activity, but water can also be very dangerous if you’re not careful,” said Kozek. “Families should take precautions when it comes to activities that include water and keep an eye on kids at all times to avoid drowning.”

Kozek also advises families with pools to install a fence around the premise to prevent unwanted swimmers who, if injured, could become a liability for the homeowner.

“Homeowners should also consider installing motion-activated alarms around the pool that will sound an alert if someone falls in,” adds Kozek.

 

4. Don’t play with fire.   Fireworks

Fireworks are enjoyable and fun to watch, but they can also lead to serious injury, especially to children. They’re also a leading cause of summer house fires. Grange Insurance urges families to stay safe and leave fireworks to the professionals this summer.

 

5. Know your coverage options when you’re away from home.   summer_vacation

Grange Insurance encourages families to contact their independent agent before renting cars, boats or vacation homes this summer.

“Families should be aware of what their coverage options are before they leave for vacation,” said Kozek. “Additional coverage might be needed when renting cars, boats or homes, but in some cases, current auto and homeowner policies might provide all the coverage that is needed. Your independent agent is a great resource to help make sure you’re covered for any situation, and they can help you save money by avoiding potentially unnecessary rental charges too.”

 

For more information about staying safe and saving money this summer, visit www.grangeinsurance.com or call the Reno Agency today at 269.792.2232.

 

About Grange

Grange Insurance, with $2 billion in assets and more than $1 billion in annual revenue, is an insurance provider founded in 1935 and based in Columbus, Ohio. Through its network of independent agents, Grange offers auto, home, life and business insurance protection. The company and its affiliates serve policyholders in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.grangeinsurance.com.

Marital Bliss and an Insurance Review

 

Bride and groom running along beach

Whether you are tying the knot this summer, or have recently exchanged wedding vows, the Reno Agency has some tips for the newlyweds.

 

Marriage is a great time to re-evaluate your insurance coverage to make sure you are appropriately covered, and to take advantage of all the discounts you are now eligible for. Here are a few areas to look at once you have tied the knot:

 

Auto Insurance – If both you and your spouse have vehicles, talk to your agent to combine your insurance policies and take advantage of the multi-car discount. Marital status may also help reduce your premium, so make sure to add your spouse’s information to your policy.

 

 

Home or Renter’s Insurance – Now that you are married, it is important to protect your new home together. Have your agent review your policy to make sure your homeowners or renter’s policy protects both of you in terms of personal possessions and liability coverage.

 

If you and your spouse purchased a home, insure your home and autos with the same company to receive the multi-policy discount. If you and your spouse are renting, get a renter’s insurance policy to qualify for this discount. Renter’s insurance is more affordable than many might think. Read, “4 Lessons to School Millennials on Renter’s Insurance,” for more information.

 

 

Life Insurance – Marriage means having someone you can depend on for life. Knowing you depend upon each other means you should consider a life insurance policy. Life insurance is important to have if you have debt (credit cards, medical bills, etc), own a home with a mortgage, are planning on having children, or if you want to plan ahead while you are in good health.

 

There are different types of life insurance policies (Term, Whole, Universal), so make sure to consult your agent on which type(s) are best for you.

 

 

Health Insurance – Save money and consolidate your health insurance into one plan! Marriage is oftentimes a qualifying life event that allows you to make changes to your insurance policy. If both of your employers offer health insurance, choose the better plan.

 

 

Planning a wedding can be stressful enough. Don’t let insurance stress you out further. Update your insurance policies early and enjoy marital bliss.

 

If you need assistance with your insurance policies, call the Reno Agency at 269.792.2232 or toll-free at 877.774.7366.

Tips For At The Scene Photography After An Auto Accident

Taking pictures of the scene of a car accident can be very beneficial to handling your auto insurance claim. Pictures can help claim adjusters determine what happened, who hit who, and if there were any street signs or signals that weren’t obeyed.Accident Pics by Insured copy

 

Have you ever wondered what pictures to take after your vehicle has been involved in a car accident?

Property & Casualty 360: A National Underwriter Website, has shared six photography tips that an insured can follow to make sure they have the essential documentation for their auto claim. Not everyone wants to take their own pictures, or has the capability of taking pictures at the scene of the accident, but if you are one of those who do, these tips will help capture the damage that the claims adjusters are looking for.

  1. Photograph all the vehicles involved and their relative positions from all angles to establish the boundaries of the crash scene and the impact zone. Think about tracing the main points of a compass to catch all those angles.

  2. Broaden the view and take photographs of the street layout, landmarks, traffic controls, and signage. Try to include pictures that show the vehicle’s position relative to its closest landmark. Investigators deployed later rely on such distinguishing details to help them reconstruct accident events accurately.

  3. Focus on the damages sustained by all the vehicles involved in the crash. Photograph the vehicle’s four corners, making sure to capture two sides of that vehicle in the viewfinder with each shot. (Example, front of car and passenger side of car.) Next, photograph each side of the vehicle straight on before focusing on documenting the damaged areas of the car. Take close-up photos of the damage and broader views for context.

  4. Make sure also to take shots of the vehicles’ identifying features like license plates and VIN numbers.

  5. Look inside the vehicle and take photographs of any interior damage, deployed airbags, seatbelts, and so forth.

  6. Document roadside debris, marks, and gouges on the roadway; strewn vehicle parts; and anything else pertinent to the accident. Try to show the relationship of the vehicle(s) to the debris depicted in image.

Above all else, make sure you take care of any injuries and safety concerns FIRST. Be mindful of traffic around the accident scene and stay safe while taking pictures.

Read the full article from Property & Casualty 360 here.

 

What Financial Documents You Should Keep Safe and Dry

(This post originally ran in July of 2011 on the LIFE Foundation website, but in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it seems pertinent to run it again–especially in light of the advice in the last paragraph.)

How many of you have legal and financial documents stashed in different drawers in different locations? Perhaps you have some in your home safe, some in drawers in the bedroom, others in the den and more in the office. What happens when you become sick or die? Does any one person know where all the documents are located? Probably not, including you.

The Wall Street Journal published a very interesting article, The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die, addressing just this problem. The article was two pages long, very detailed and well written, so let me give you a synopsis of what it said.

According to the WSJ, there are six categories of documents which should be maintained: marriage and divorce, life insurance and retirement, health care, bank accounts, proof of ownership and the “essentials.” Here is what should be included in these categories.

Marriage and Divorce
o Marriage license
o Divorce papers
Life Insurance and Retirement
o Life insurance policies
o Individual retirement accounts
o 401(k) accounts
o Pension documents
o Annuity contracts
Health Care
o Personal and family medical history
o Durable health-care power of attorney
o Authorization to release health-care information
o Living will
o Do-not-resuscitate order
o Pre-need declaration of guardianship (not required in all states, but an excellent idea)
Bank Accounts
o List of bank accounts
o List of investment accounts
o List of all user names and passwords
o List of safe-deposit boxes
Proof of ownership
o Housing, land and cemetery deeds
o Escrow mortgage accounts
o Proof of loans made and debts owed
o Vehicle titles
o Stock certificates, savings bonds and brokerage accounts
o Partnership and corporate operating agreements
o Tax returns
The Essentials
o Will
o Letter of instruction
o Other business documents such as buy-sell or stock redemption agreements

My list includes more than the 25 mentioned by the WSJ, and your list may include others. Here is another hint from someone who lives in an area prone to severe storms and flooding. Put your documents in water-tight containers to prevent loss or damage due to water.

Now you have your list. Start organizing!

Article was taken from: http://www.lifehappens.org/the-list/

Written by: Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, RFC, President and CEO of the LIFE Foundation

life_logo

Protecting Your Children – Now and for the Future

When your children are newborns, you buy baby monitors, car seats and outlet covers, trying your best to stay one step ahead from all the real (and imagined) dangers that threatened your little bundles of joy.

Then, as they grow older, your focus broadens to include schools, social activities and other influencing factors, as you do your best to keep them safe and secure. Your whole goal as a parent is to make sure your children navigate the space between birth and young adulthood as well protected as possible.

But one item might be missing from your “must have” list: life insurance. While parents typically buy life insurance for themselves for the first time, or increase the amount on existing policies when they add new members to their family, they may overlook insuring those new additions with a policy of their own.

It’s true that one function of life insurance is to protect those left behind, such as spouses or dependents, a situation that doesn’t apply when talking about minor children. But there are other reasons why it makes sense to insure your children.

1. The first comes down to dollars-and-cents: It’s far less expensive to insure a child than an adult. If the policy is convertible, meaning it can be converted from a term to a permanent policy, the insured child can theoretically have the policy for life, increasing its value, if desired, while benefiting from the cash value that is accumulating.

2. The second reason has to do with unfortunate events that could affect the long-term health of a child. While we hope and pray that are children will stay healthy, events can transpire over which we have no control. A major illness, a newly developed chronic health problem or even a catastrophic accident with permanent injuries can result in the child being considered uninsurable for life. However, if a life insurance policy was in place, especially one with a guaranteed policy purchase option for additional insurance in the future or the option to convert from term to permanent, the child will continue to be covered, regardless of what happens in terms of his or her physical health.

While it’s true that you may be able to insure your child through a group policy available through your workplace, keep in mind that changes in an employee’s group benefits may take away that option. Overall, only 19 percent of children have individual life insurance, with just 14 percent covered under group life policies, according to LIMRA, and both numbers have shown a significant decline.

Purchasing life insurance for your children is just one more way you can show your love and concern for them, and ensure that they are protected from the consequences of life’s unexpected events.

Article taken from: http://www.lifehappens.org/protecting-your-children-now-and-for-the-future/

Written by: Jaimee Niles, VP of Communications, LIFE Foundation

LETTER

Healthcare Changes Ahead: Helpful Information

Are you wondering how the health care reform law (the Affordable Care Act) will impact you or your business? I have compiled a few resources to help you learn what to expect.

 

For Individuals:

HealthCare.gov

is an excellent source to learn about what will be changing and when you can expect those changes to occur. Here is a breakdown of the changes ahead for 2013 and beyond, as listed on http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/full.html.

2013

IMPROVING QUALITY AND LOWERING COSTS

  • Improving Preventive Health Coverage. To expand the number of Americans receiving preventive care, the law provides new funding to state Medicaid programs that choose to cover preventive services for patients at little or no cost. Effective January 1, 2013.Learn more about the law and preventive care.
  • Expanding Authority to Bundle Payments. The law establishes a national pilot program to encourage hospitals, doctors, and other providers to work together to improve the coordination and quality of patient care.  Under payment “bundling,” hospitals, doctors, and providers are paid a flat rate for an episode of care rather than the current fragmented system where each service or test or bundles of items or services are billed separately to Medicare.  For example, instead of a surgical procedure generating multiple claims from multiple providers, the entire team is compensated with a “bundled” payment that provides incentives to deliver health care services more efficiently while maintaining or improving quality of care.  It aligns the incentives of those delivering care, and savings are shared between providers and the Medicare program. Effective no later than January 1, 2013.

 

INCREASING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE CARE

  • Increasing Medicaid Payments for Primary Care Doctors. As Medicaid programs and providers prepare to cover more patients in 2014, the Act requires states to pay primary care physicians no less than 100% of Medicare payment rates in 2013 and 2014 for primary care services. The increase is fully funded by the federal government. Effective January 1, 2013.Learn how the law supports and strengthens primary care providers.
  • Providing Additional Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Under the law, states will receive two more years of funding to continue coverage for children not eligible for Medicaid. Effective October 1, 2013.Learn more about CHIP.

2014

NEW CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

A chain of blue paper dolls forms a circle with one orange paper doll
  • Prohibiting Discrimination Due to Pre-Existing Conditions or Gender. The law implements strong reforms that prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing conditions. Also, in the individual and small group market, the law eliminates the ability of insurance companies to charge higher rates due to gender or health status. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions.
  • Eliminating Annual Limits on Insurance Coverage. The law prohibits new plans and existing group plans from imposing annual dollar limits on the amount of coverage an individual may receive. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn how the law will phase out annual limits by 2014.
  • Ensuring Coverage for Individuals Participating in Clinical Trials. Insurers will be prohibited from dropping or limiting coverage because an individual chooses to participate in a clinical trial.  Applies to all clinical trials that treat cancer or other life-threatening diseases. Effective January 1, 2014. 

 

IMPROVING QUALITY AND LOWERING COSTS

  • Making Care More Affordable. Tax credits to make it easier for the middle class to afford insurance will become available for people with income between 100% and 400% of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage. (In 2010, 400% of the poverty line comes out to about $43,000 for an individual or $88,000 for a family of four.) The tax credit is advanceable, so it can lower your premium payments each month, rather than making you wait for tax time. It’s also refundable, so even moderate-income families can receive the full benefit of the credit. These individuals may also qualify for reduced cost-sharing (copayments, co-insurance, and deductibles). Effective January 1, 2014. Learn how the law will make care more affordable in 2014.
  • Establishingthe Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting in 2014 if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, you will be able to buy it directly in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Individuals and small businesses can buy affordable and qualified health benefit plans in this new transparent and competitive insurance marketplace. The Marketplace will offer you a choice of health plans that meet certain benefits and cost standards. Starting in 2014, Members of Congress will be getting their health care insurance through the Marketplace, and you will be able buy your insurance through Marketplace too. Learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • Simple comparison of two coverage options
  • Increasing the Small Business Tax Credit. The law implements the second phase of the small business tax credit for qualified small businesses and small non-profit organizations. In this phase, the credit is up to 50% of the employer’s contribution to provide health insurance for employees.  There is also up to a 35% credit for small non-profit organizations.  Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about the small business tax credit.

 

INCREASING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE CARE

  • Increasing Access to Medicaid. Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. States will receive 100% federal funding for the first three years to support this expanded coverage, phasing to 90% federal funding in subsequent years. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about Medicaid.
  • Promoting Individual Responsibility. Under the law, most individuals who can afford it will be required to obtain basic health insurance coverage or pay a fee to help offset the costs of caring for uninsured Americans.  If affordable coverage is not available to an individual, he or she will be eligible for an exemption. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about individual responsibility and the law.

2015

IMPROVING QUALITY AND LOWERING COSTS

  • Paying Physicians Based on Value Not Volume. A new provision will tie physician payments to the quality of care they provide. Physicians will see their payments modified so that those who provide higher value care will receive higher payments than those who provide lower quality care. Effective January 1, 2015.

 

For Businesses:

The U.S. Small Business Administration is launching a new series to explain the basics of the law, what you need to do to comply, and how your business can benefit from new incentives. The first article in the series, written by Meredith Olafson, highlights three big things every small business owner should know about the Affordable Care Act.

About the Author

Meredith Olafson is Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Small Business Administration where she oversees the agency’s education and outreach efforts around health care and the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act will help small businesses by lowering premium cost growth and increasing access to quality, affordable health insurance.   Depending on whether you’re a small employer or a larger employer, different provisions of the Affordable Care Act may apply to you as described below.

1.  Businesses with Fewer than 25 Employees- Small Business Tax Credits

The Affordable Care Act does not require that businesses provide health insurance, but it offers tax credits for eligible small businesses that choose to provide insurance to their employees.  To qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35% (up to 25% for non-profits), you must have:

  • Fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees
  • Pay average annual wages below $50,000
  • Contribute 50% or more toward employee health insurance premiums

Beginning in 2014, this tax credit goes up to 50% (35% for non-profits) and is available to qualified small businesses who participate in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges.

2.   Businesses with 50 or Fewer Employees- Affordable Insurance Marketplaces

The Affordable Care Act does not require that businesses provide health insurance, but beginning in 2014, small businesses with generally 50 or fewer employees will be able to purchase coverage through SHOP , competitive marketplaces where small employers can go to find health coverage from a selection of providers.  The SHOP Marketplaces and Individual Marketplaces for those who are self-employed open on January 1, 2014. Open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013.  SHOP will offer small businesses increased purchasing power similar to that of large businesses.

3.  Businesses with 50 or More Employees- Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Federal government, State governments, insurers, employers, and individuals share the responsibility to reform and improve the availability, quality, and affordability of health insurance coverage in the United States. Employers are not required to provide coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.   However, beginning in 2014, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees (or full-time equivalents) that do not offer affordable health insurance that provides a minimum level of coverage to substantially all of their full-time employees (and their dependents) may be subject to an employer shared responsibility payment if at least one of their full-time employees receives a premium tax credit to purchase coverage in an insurance Marketplace.  A full-time employee is generally one who is employed an average of 30 or more hours per week.

If you meet or are close to this threshold level of full-time employees, it’s important to understand how these rules may apply to you and how the employer shared responsibility payments could be triggered.   For more guidance on the employer shared responsibility payments, refer to this FAQ from the IRS.

Check back with the Reno Agency blog for more updates about the Affordable Health Care Act as they become available.

Gov. Rick Snyder Talks Auto Insurance Overhaul for Michigan

Gov Rick Snyder Pic
Photo courtesy of www.battlecreekenquirer.com.

In Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address, he mentioned that “Michigan is the 10th most expensive state for auto insurance.” This isn’t new information to anyone who has auto insurance in Michigan because we’ve continually seen our auto insurance premiums increasing every year.

The fact is, “this ‘one size fits all’ system is expensive, has few cost controls and does not provide any incentives for thrift,” says Jeffrey Junkas, the regional manager of the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America. “As a result Michigan drivers pay 20-30 percent more than in neighboring states.”

I am certainly not the first insurance agent who has heard customers complain about their increasing premiums, but good news! Hope may be on its way. Read the Property & Casualty 360 article titled, “Michigan Governor Talks Auto-Insurance Reform in Address,” highlighting the auto insurance reform Gov. Rick Snyder proposes.

IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2013

As as insurance agent, I am frequently asked auto questions from ‘what is the best car to look for when purchasing a new vehicle’, to ‘which vehicle is the least expensive to insure’.

Hopefully I’m not the first to tell you that vehicle safety is one of the many components to determining your insurance rate. If a vehicle does a poor job at keeping its passengers safe during accidents, then that increases the cost of the claim that the vehicle’s owner would file. Injuries from auto accidents can add up quickly, so if a vehicle does a good job at minimizing those injuries, then insurance companies reward that with lower rates.

“IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in a moderate overlap frontal crash, small overlap frontal crash, side impact and rollover, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. Top Safety Pick+ winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in at least 4 of 5 evaluations, with no less than acceptable in the fifth test.”

Here is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks for 2013. To read the full article, click here.

 

IIHS logo   News Release | December 20, 2012


New TOP SAFETY PICK+ award goes to 13 cars;
117 additional vehicles earn Top Safety Pick

To qualify for Top Safety Pick vehicles must have good ratings for occupant protection in the moderate overlap frontal test, side impact, rollover and rear tests, regardless of their small overlap rating.

“Models that earn Top Safety Pick also offer outstanding protection in many crashes,” Lund says. “These vehicles are much safer choices than most vehicles on the market just five years ago.”

Midsize moderately priced cars Midsize luxury/near luxury cars
Chrysler 200 4-door Acura TL
Dodge Avenger Volvo S60
Ford Fusion built after Dec. 2012
Honda Accord 2-door
Honda Accord 4-door
Kia Optima
Nissan Altima 4-door built after Nov. 2012
Subaru Legacy built after Aug. 2012
Subaru Outback built after Aug. 2012
Suzuki Kizashi
Volkswagen Passat built after Oct. 2012