Archive for September 2013

Concerns about the Affordable Care Act   2 comments

Some of the reasons why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gives me a great deal of concern about it’s potential economic impact:

  • Employers are required to provide coverage if they have 50 or more full-time employees, or face paying taxes and fines
  • Individuals are required to carry coverage, or face paying taxes and fines
  • A 5% Affordable Care Act tax to subsidize uninsured individuals
  • Limits employer contribution to flexible spending account to $2500
  • Confusing definitions on who is an employee vs sub-contractor
  • An excise (read: sales) tax will be charged on “Cadillac” health plans starting in 2018

The two really serious kickers to the whole program:

  •  Health insurance companies will be required to spend at least 80% of premiums collected on the provision of care, drastically limiting how much revenue can be used for administrative costs and profit.  This will likely create incentive for companies to reduce overhead expenses, such as customer service and claims-processing employees.

AND THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL POINT OF ALL:  

  • Starting in 2014, health insurers cannot charge higher rates to those who will use more medical services (and thus costing insurers more money)!!  This creates a subsidy situation where customers who don’t use medical services very often will still pay increased premiums to pay for the medical services of those who use them more often.

In other words, forget underwriting, forget being able to charge more for the customers who will cost more.  EVERYONE is going to have to pay more in order to subsidize those who are more expensive to the insurance companies – for example, people who have pre-existing conditions and, usually, women.  I certainly have nothing against women.  But if the reality is that insuring a woman is more expensive that insuring a man, then a comparable plan for a woman should cost more than a man’s.  That, unfortunate though it may be, is how insurance works – if you cost more, you pay more.  This will no longer be the case under the Affordable Care Act.

Not charging more for those with pre-existing conditions would be comparable to an auto insurance company not being allowed to charge more for drivers who have prior claims.  So even though people with pre-existing conditions will cost carriers more money than those without pre-existing conditions, they cannot be charged more.  Top that off with the 80% premiums-for-care requirement, and we are facing a situation where a health insurer cannot hire the most qualified individuals (because they are not allowed to divert the money from revenue for care), cannot provide the best services (by hiring more customer service representatives, adjusters, billing employees, etc), and cannot charge people based on their potential cost to the company.

Dog Blog ACA

The Insurance Dogger is not looking forward to 2014 or the implementation of the ACA….

A review of personal insurance – Auto insurance (physical damage)   3 comments

Dog Blog

I’ve been waiting for a little while now….

OK OK I know that I said I’d be back to finish up auto coverages a few days ago.  Business being what it is, it’s taken me a little while.  But here we are, and off we go!

Last week we reviewed liability and injury coverages.  This week, we are going to review the coverages in place to protect the damages to your vehicle itself and ways to save on them.

  • Collision  – Even though this is “backwards” from how the coverages appear on your policy, it’s easier to explain starting with Collision.  Collision provides coverage for your vehicle when it collides with some other inanimate object, or is hit by another moving vehicle.  In the state of PA, unfortunately, that includes when your car is hit by a shopping cart.  Some examples of collision claims:  if your car is parked and gets hit by another car (or shopping cart!), you hit a patch of black ice and slam into a tree, or you are at fault in a multi-vehicle accident.  Ways to save – see note after Comprehensive
  • Comprehensive (Comp) – Comprehensive is most easily explained as “all other covered forms of physical damage to your vehicle,” hence the name.  In PA, comprehensive coverage does pick up one type of accident that would otherwise be considered a collision – hitting an animal or pedestrian.  These damages would be covered by comprehensive.  Other examples of comp claims:  if your car is stolen, catches on fire, suffers flood damage, a tree falls on it, etc.  Windshield and other glass damage is covered by comp (unless caused by a non-animal collision).  Ways to save – Easiest and most common way to save is by increasing your deductible.  Be wary of two things, though – first is that collision is far more expensive than comp, so it’s far more effective to increase your collision deductible.  Second is that you should be aware that the savings by increasing the deductible will not offset (in one year) the increased out of pocket cost in the event of a claim.
  • Comp or collision pay for a total loss of the vehicle based on the depreciated (Blue Book) value of the car.  All other (partial) losses are paid based on the actual expense of repairs (less the deductible).
  • Rental Reimbursement (RR) – RR provides coverage if you need to pay for a rental car as a result of a covered comp or collision claim.  In other words: you have a covered claim.  Your vehicle will be in the shop for two weeks.  You need a car in the interim.  You pay for a rental vehicle.  RR coverage will reimburse you for the cost, up to specified daily limits and maximum duration (typically, $30 a day for 30 days).  Ways to save – only real way to save here, outside of not purchasing it at all, is to carry lower per day limits.
  • Towing & Labor (T&L) – T&L provides coverage in the event that you need some form of roadside assistance (change a flat tire, charge a dead battery, keys locked in your car) or need to be towed for virtually any reason (mechanical breakdown, run out of gas, etc).  No real way to save here, it’s generally very inexpensive to begin with.  Only thing to consider – if you are paying for this AND AAA or some similar road service, be aware you may be paying twice for the same coverage.
  • Gap Coverage – This provides coverage for new cars that are purchased using a car loan.  As noted above, in the event of a total loss to your car, the policy will only pay for the depreciated value of the vehicle, NOT the loan amount.  Typically, the loan amount is higher than the depreciated value, creating a “gap” in coverage.  Gap coverage fills the void by paying for the difference.  This coverage can be purchased through the dealership or on your auto policy.  Compare BOTH terms and pricing before choosing where to buy the coverage!

That about does it for this review.  There are other liability and physical damage coverages available, but these are by far the most common (at least in PA).

Relax

So just relax and enjoy the ride – knowing you are well covered!

A review of personal insurance – Auto insurance (liability)   Leave a comment

Miss me

Hi everyone! Did you miss me?

Hey everyone!  It’s been too long since we’ve posted anything.  We’ll try to blend the purpose of this post between a good mix of information and ways to save.  Since our prior posts focused on business insurance, we’re going to start in a more widely useful direction – personal insurance.

Auto insurance is, at least in the state of PA, a legal requirement – but probably far less than you think.  In fact, state regulations only require that you carry liability coverage for the bodily injury and property damage of others, as well as your own personal medical expenses.  The limits required by the state are similarly low – only $15,000 per person & $30,000 per accident for bodily injury, $5,000 for property damage, and $5,000 for medical expenses.

Here are some of the coverages you can purchase, as well as ways to save on them:

  • Bodily Injury (BI)BI covers your liability for injuries people NOT in your vehicle sustain in the event of an accident for which you are at fault.  BI claims can get very tricky in PA.  If you are responsible for an accident that injures the passengers of another vehicle, typically the medical payments coverage on the policy on the OTHER (non-responsible) vehicle responds first.  It can quickly get convoluted, so in the interest of brevity, contact your agent for additional details of how coverage applies in the event of an injury.  Ways to save – see notes after Property Damage.
  • Property Damage (PD) PD covers your liability for the damage done to the property of others in an accident for which you are at fault.  For example, if you rear-ended a slower moving vehicle, back into a parked car in a parking lot, or take a turn too quickly and end up in someone’s front yardWays to save in general, liability coverages are the most difficult to reduce your costs on – the most convenient way to save is by lowering your limits.  However, especially if your driving record is clean, you won’t save as much by reducing limits as you might think.   Other ways to reduce your rates include changing driver/vehicle assignments on your policy (the youngest driver on the oldest car, for example), purchasing a safer car, or doing something to reduce your daily (commute) or annual mileage.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists (UM/UIM) – this coverage is similar to BI but in reverse.  If you or your passengers are injured in an accident where another party is at fault, and that party either does not have any BI coverage (uninsured) or they don’t have enough BI coverage (underinsured) to pay for your injuries, UM/UIM will pick up the difference (up to your policy limits).  Ways to save the best way to save without reducing your limits (if you have multiple vehicles on your policy) would be to reduce your limits and add stacking.  Stacking multiplies your UM/UIM limits by the number of vehicles on your policy.  So, if you have two cars on your policy, and carry $50,000/$100,000 unstacked limits, you can reduce your limits to $25,000/$50,000 and stack the coverage.  You will maintain the same total coverage (as long as you have at least two vehicles!) and pay less.
  • First Party Benefits (FPB) I will address these as a group, as they are typically lumped together in a batch on your policy.  Additionally, they can be combined into one large limit for the whole group of coverages, instead of having separate limits for each.  This is typically called blanketing coverage.  I digress – the four FPB coverages are medical expense, income loss, accidental death, and funeral benefits.  Each FPB coverage pays if you or your relatives (residing in your home) are injured or killed in an accident, regardless of who is at fault.  Medical Expenses operates similar to health insurance – covering your actual medical & rehab costs.  Income loss operates similar to disability coverage – covering your lost wages if you are injured in an accident and are unable to return to work.  Accidental Death and Funeral Benefits, similar to life insurance, provide coverage in the event you pass away as a result of an accident.  Ways to save in order to get higher limits for less money, consider purchasing the combination option, where you get one lump sum for all four coverages, which you can divvy up as necessary.  For example, instead of maintaining higher limits on each individual coverage, consider carrying combination coverage of $100,000 or $177,500.  Additionally, if you already have health, disability, or life insurance, consider reducing or removing the applicable coverages from your policy.

In the interest of your sanity and keeping this short, I will stop for today.  We’ll review the physical damage coverages you can purchase on your vehicle itself tomorrow.
In the meantime:

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