Archive for July, 2010

Health insurance in California: New tool to protect consumers.

The California Department of Insurance announced last week that consumers can now receive alerts by e-mail when new health insurance rate filings are made for the individual market.

According to the department’s press release, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said, “We want as many people as possible scouring these rate filings to ensure they are mistake-free.”

The idea behind this (as part of Poizner’s pledge to create transparency by posting all health insurance rate filings on the department’s Web site) is to protect consumers by making sure insurers are spending 70 percent of premiums on medical benefits as mandated by state law. Apparently, the more eyes analyzing these rate filings the easier it is to catch a mistake. It’s not apparent what kind of “mistakes” the department is talking about.

Now this may or may not change how you shop for a California health plan. Perhaps it will give you an idea of which health insurance company has lowered their rates, or has lower rates.

The fact that rates are determined by the companies, and consequently rates (and coverages) can vary quite a bit, means that consumers shopping for affordable California health insurance still need to get multiple quotes to find the right plan. It’s often recommended to get at least three individual quotes for a good comparison.

When reviewing a health insurance plan, keep in mind other factors besides rate. For example, what are the coverages and exclusions? How much is the deductible and co-pays? Can you get access to the physicians and health providers you need? Make sure it will provide for your needs and is offered by a company with a good financial reputation.

If you want to sign up for the alerts, just go to the California Department of Insurance Web site.  Basically, all you have to do is provide your e-mail address and select the documents or updates you want to receive.

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Your life insurance needs and life events.

When people buy life insurance they often forget about it, not realizing that as their life changes so do their coverage needs. You may need more. You may need less. You might benefit from a different type of policy.

It’s really a good idea to ask yourself “What has happened in the past year that changes my life insurance?”  (If you don’t have coverage, and you have people who depend on your income, it’s time to get life insurance.)

Think about the following scenario: You change jobs or start a home based business. Maybe you were already getting some life insurance coverage from your employer as a benefit. When your employment ends, most likely so does that coverage. If you factored that in as part of your total life insurance coverages, you may not have enough for your family’s needs.

Another common scenario happens when a couple has a child. That can be a busy time, and life insurance may be the last thing new parents are thinking about. But now there is an extra person depending on your income.

At the opposite end, if you have an adult child who becomes financially independent or you pay off a mortgage, you may not need as much protection.

So many life events can change your life insurance needs: moving an elderly parent into your home, getting a promotion, taking out a second mortgage.

If you think your needs have changed, talk to your agent but also take a few minutes to compare term life insurance quotes to see if you can lower your costs. You should get at least three different quotes.

Also, keep in mind that sometimes it might be just as affordable to get a little more coverage. For example, if you determine you only need $230,000 of coverage a $250,000 policy may cost the same.

You may also be interested in seeing what different types of life insurance are available that can help you reach your financial goals. For example, you can compare whole life insurance vs term.

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Car insurance prices can be compared just like any other shopping trip.

Doing an auto insurance comparison is like any other shopping comparison. The motivation of course is to find the best value or lowest price. With auto insurance, the idea of “value” includes price, customer service and satisfaction.

Think about it: We all use that idea of value when we shop for a lot of products and services. If you’re looking for a good car mechanic not only do you want the lowest price, you want fast, friendly service and satisfaction that the job was done right.

Shopping for a good auto mechanic can take a lot of work; making phone calls, driving around to get estimates, seeking out referrals. Fortunately, comparing car insurance costs is much easier — especially with the Internet. Yet, many people don’t take the little amount of time to shop around.

It’s easy to get an almost instant car insurance quote either directly from a company or an agent. Get three of four from different companies and you’ve done your comparison shopping. Just like that you’ll find the best value — or confirm you already have the best value — and potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars a year.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve compared car insurance quotes, today’s the day to start.

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National flood insurance still available for homeowners.

If you’re a homeowner living in a flood zone, you’re probably glad that the National Flood Insurance Program received an extension until September 30 of this year. The program had been suspended from issuing new policies since May 31 and had put many homeowners at risk just as flood season is getting into full swing.

Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t provide flood coverage. The NFIP was started in 1968 to help people protect their property from the threat of flooding. Rates are set and do not differ from company to company, or agent to agent. Flood insurance rates are based on a number of factors including the date and construction type of the home plus the risk factors. Flood insurance covers the building and contents, but not the occupied land.

Flood insurance is required if you have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. Talk to your home insurance agency or company if you feel you need coverage. You can also get more information at the official site of the NFIP at FloodSmart.gov.

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Insurance and 4th of July.

We’re all looking forward to this weekend. Here are some things to consider when celebrating our nation’s independence.

Be careful — A study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the Independence Day holiday is when the most motor vehicle deaths occur.

Be safe — Before setting off fireworks near your home (assuming you live in a community where fireworks are legal), check your homeowners insurance policy to make sure there aren’t limits on firework usage. If you or a party guest ignites a house fire through negligent use of fireworks, your insurer may try to recoup the cost of damages from you — even though accidental fire may be covered by your policy.

Be preventative — According to the Insurance Information Institute, most home burglaries occur in July and August and they’re not just stealing jewelry. Identity theft by burglars is on the increase. If you’re headed out of town, take precautions including keeping your home well lit and difficult to break in, holding your mail, shutting down and disconnecting your computers and asking a trusted neighbor to keep an eye out.

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