Archive for the ‘I don’t have that?’ Category

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….

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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:

Sammy Dog Blog

Keep on riding!

Fish Fry 2013!   1 comment

It’s Fish Fry Season!

I can’t help but love this time of year because it means that every Friday I get to stuff my face with delicious fried fish (and usually support a good cause while you’re at it – either a local church or other service – the Moon Twp VFD is our closest fish fry, for example).

If you like to bounce around and try all the various fish fries, I’ve found a website that has a decent consolidation of resources for you to check out.   http://www.livingpittsburgh.com/2013/02/2013-pittsburgh-fish-fries-lenten-fries/

Another good option, if you like to support local churches with your business – it’s not as efficiently laid out, but it does also give a breakdown by county AND a link to a pretty awesome Google Map of Fish Fries in the area.  http://www.pittsburghcatholic.org/fishfry.php

Tell you what.  I’m going to make it even easier for you by just linking to the awesome interactive Google Map here!

Enjoy!  (seems weird to say enjoy about the Lenten season, doesn’t it?  This is what these delicious fish fries bring us to…..!)

A review of business coverages – Part 2   Leave a comment

Workers Compensation

Injured at work? Work Comp is what you need!

Good afternoon one and all!  Today I’m going to give you a brief break down of one of the more straight-forward coverages for your business – Workers Compensation.  To put it simply, Workers Compensation is in place to pay for expenses due to a work related injury, illness, or death.  In addition, it will also replace any income lost if an employee is not able to work due to any of those three things.

Virtually every employer (and employee thereof) is required to partake in Workers Compensation in the state of Pennsylvania (I won’t be covering any information for any other states).  It can be purchased by any business in the state – whether through a private company or The State Workers’ Insurance Fund or SWIF.  Coverage is written on an annual basis, and is rated based on annual payroll amounts.

Payroll is divided into class codes based upon the type of work that employees perform.  When you first write a policy, the class code is initially determined by your agent, and will be confirmed by the PA Rating Compensation Bureau or PCRB.  Final determination will be made by the PCRB and will be enforced upon all insurance companies, including SWIF.  You can always appeal the class code(s) assigned to your business.

Each class code has a rate, as determined by base rates each company files with the state.  Simply put, your WC premium is determined by multiplying your payroll amount (divided by 100) times the applicable rate, and then adding in the PA Employer Assessment (which functions similar to a tax).  If you write your coverage through any company other than SWIF, you will also pay a flat Expense Constant.

At the end of each policy term, your policy will be audited – either by your insurance company or an independent auditor hired by your company.  Not every company audits every year, but most do.  Audits, especially for small businesses, are typically a short form that’s mailed to you to complete and return.  The audit is used to determine the actual payroll for the prior policy term (not calendar or business year), and typically requires W2 or other tax form verification.  Occassionally, an auditor will actually come to your business to review your information, but it is still often a simple process.

I feel like I’ve bored you enough.  Work Comp is generally a very dry, straight forward coverage to discuss.  I hope that you stayed awake, and if you have additional questions on how it works, PLEASE feel free to call or email us!

PS – we are running a contest on Facebook.  Every person who likes my page in the month of February is entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift card to either Darden Restaurants or Big Burrito Group.  Already liked my page?  NOT TO WORRY!  For every person that you refer to my page, you are entered to win a $50 gift card to the same!  (everyone can “enter” to win this card – new and old “likers”)  If they are picked as the winner for the $100 gift card, and you referred them, then YOU WIN the $50 card!  Need another link, in case you missed the first one?   Here’s another one…  LINK   or was it LINK

Anyway, have a good day, and don’t hurt yourself!

Pittsburgh!

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with Workers Compensation. But I love our city. And you’re probably tired of hearing about WC

Restaurants & Caterers – some great things to know   Leave a comment

The article that I’m pasting below is something that I wrote for the New North Business Matters insurance issue (yours truly is on page 18).  I’m going to post it here, as I haven’t really put anything up in quite a while during the research phase for the Marcellus Shale post(s).  I’ve read quite a bit about Marcellus Shale and the implications for homeowners and businesses, and it’s actually quite troubling.  I’m hoping to have something very soon (a week or less)!

Without further ado, an article I wrote providing tips and information for food service owners looking to improve their insurance:

“I’m paying for a product that I hope I’ll never use.”  It’s a common complaint of any business owner purchasing insurance, and it makes sense.  No one wants to go through the stress of a claim, even if it’s handled efficiently by the insurance company.  If you insure your restaurant properly, however, you can dramatically reduce the amount of anxiety and tension you face – both when putting the policy in force and if you have a claim.

How do you insure your restaurant properly?  There are several things you can do to soften the blow by obtaining cost effective and thorough insurance coverage.  Additionally, there are some specific coverages you can put in place to protect against the unique exposures that food service operators face.  While most of my suggestions apply to restaurants, you can modify them to fit any style of food service operation.

There are several things you can prepare to obtain the best rates If you have deep fat frying, make sure that you have a UL300 approved Ansul wet system, and that it’s under contract for service on at least a quarterly basis.  Your hoods and ducts should also be under contract for quarterly cleaning and servicing – and the filters (baffles) should be run through dish on at least a weekly basis.  The cleaner that your filtration and safety systems are, the more likely it is an underwriter will be to give you great rates.  Make sure that your service tags for all systems are prominently displayed!  And, of course, the overall cleanliness and attractiveness of your restaurant, the more desirable it will be to the insurance company.

Other things that can help reduce your rates:

  • Have an employee handbook with enforced guidelines on safety and food handling protocol.
  • Make sure that any employee that will handle alcohol on a regular basis is either TIPS or RAMP certified.
  • Hold regular safety meetings, and if you can, have a certified safety committee.
  • Make sure that ALL areas of your location(s), inside and out, are very clean and well-maintained.

Have some basic information handy when getting quotes – square footage and seating capacity of each location, gross sales (including a break down between food & liquor), and your updated annual payroll (this MUST include tips!).  The more information you have available, the faster the quoting process will be.  Anticipate filling out an application for liquor liability coverage.

The coverages below are indispensable for food service operations, yet many policies don’t address them appropriately.  Companies like Travelers, Zurich, Nationwide, Ohio Casualty, Erie, and Penn National offer excellent policies for food service operations, but PLEASE take the time to discuss the following coverages with your agent when quoting – regardless of what company offers you quotes.

Spoilage and contamination coverages: Make certain that they’re addressed by your policy – and make sure that the limits provided are adequate!  I insure an upscale restaurant who had adequate coverage for the food they maintained on premises – but not nearly enough to protect their extensive wine and liquor stock!  Make sure to review your limit AND your inventory when purchasing these coverages!

Utility Services coverage, direct damage and time element:  This is essentially an offshoot of spoilage coverage that protects against either your product spoiling, or you losing income, due to a water or power failure.  Make sure that it INCLUDES off-premises occurrences.  You MUST include off-premises occurrences, and make sure that overhead lines coverage is provided!  This means that if the power failure occurs due to something that happens off your premises, your spoiled product and lost income will be covered (distance/radius limitations will often apply).  I had a client who had this coverage and thought he would never need it…. Until someone crashed into a telephone pole down the block and he lost power for over 24 hours!

Employment Practices Liability (EPL):  Simply put, EPL provides protection in the event of a lawsuit due to sexual harassment, discrimination (age, gender, race, etc), wrongful termination, and more.  It can even include vendors and customers if third party coverage is added.

Employee dishonesty will reimburse you if an employee is stealing money, product, or other goods from the business.  If possible, make sure to specify Discovery Basis!

If you provide Valet services, make sure to let your agent know and get quotes for garagekeepers liability.  Last, make sure to include business income and extra expense coverage on the policy – actual loss sustained is the best format, if available.

Fine print time – make sure to ALWAYS discuss coverages thoroughly with your agent.  Each company will handle coverage differently.  These suggestions are good starting points, but they are by no means comprehensive or always applicable.  Your agent will go over in more detail the coverages above, and hopefully some additional things for you to consider.  Good luck and rest easy – insurance is in place to protect you and your business!

Quick post – Flash flooding!   Leave a comment

Just a quick hit for those who state that they don’t live in a flood zone, and that “you better build a boat if we ever get flooded”

All you need is to take a look at these photographs demonstrating flash flooding that occured in the South Hills – today!

All it takes is a large volume of rainfall in a short span of time, and virtually any area can be flooded.  And, in case it wasn’t obvious – these claims would not be covered by a homeowners or renters policy (unless flood coverage was purchased, of course).  Most auto insurance policies DO provide coverage for vehicles damaged by flash flooding (if physical damage coverage was purchased on the vehicle).

If nothing else, at least obtain a quote to see just how inexpensive flood insurance can be.

Enjoy your weekend, and by all means – stay dry!

flood insurance

Don’t think you’ll ever get flooded?

flood insurance

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