Archive for the ‘What happened?!’ Category

Identity Theft, Flood Insurance, and antique coverage – Part One   1 comment

It’s hard to believe how quickly time is going by!  It seems like just yesterday that it was -30*F and now we’re nearly halfway through May already!  In  other words, I really hope you’ll forgive my lengthy absence from blogging.

Today I’m going to start a series addressing a couple different things to consider when insuring your home.  As you are certainly aware, things are moving at a pretty rapid pace these days – even for our government!  So that means there are a lot of things for you to keep up with as a home owner or renter, not the least of which are threats to the fidelity of your personal & financial identity and protecting your home against flood waters.

We’ll start with the one that affects virtually everyone – data breach and identity theft.  It’s hard to imagine that anyone hasn’t yet heard about the thieves that struck Target right before Christmas, accessing the credit information of millions of customers and having a major & long-term impact on Target, both financially and from a human resources perspective.  And, of course, there has also been the recent Heartbleed attack and the vulnerabilities of Internet Explorer.

Coupled with the dramatic increase in usage of social media , especially on smart phones, and the amount of business being done online means the chance of having your identity stolen has become dangerously high.  All you need to do is take a look at a couple statistics – here or here or here – to know that the risk now is greater than ever before.  Yet many customers do not have any form of identity theft coverage on their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.  For a relatively minimal amount of premium – $25-50 a year on average – you can add typically $25,000 of identity recovery insurance.

Bear in mind, Identity Theft insurance is intended to assist you in restoring your good name by assigning you a coach or assistant to work you through the process, as well as paying for credit reports and monitoring, but not to restore what’s been stolen.  Your insurance company will, via your coach, work with the credit card companies to remove fraudulent charges and with your bank to restore what was stolen.  The final decision, though, rests with each of your financial institutions, not with your insurance company.

To summarize, for a minimal amount of premium each year, you can gain a lot of assistance in protecting your identity!  (PS – if you’re renting, and you don’t have a renter’s policy – that’s a cheap and easy problem to solve – much cheaper than you think!)

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Will the real Slim Sammy please stand up?

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Before you have work done on your home….   Leave a comment

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Might be time to call in a repair man!

Good morning!  Today we have a very simple recommendation for you to consider before having a contractor come to do work on your home.

Before you have a contractor (any type of contractor) come in to your home to work, you should have them provide you with a current certificate of insurance.  A certificate (example below) will reflect the liability coverages that the contractor is carrying.  Liability coverages pay for injury or damages suffered by another – like yourself – for which the contractor is responsible (liable).  Thus, you will want confirmation that your contractor has the appropriate coverage in place!

What is the appropriate coverage, you ask?  Well, there are a few things to look for on the certificate:

  • General Liabilitythis is a catch-all for many types of injuries and damages.  It covers a broad range of incidents, such as someone (including you!) being injured at your home as a result of the contractor’s work, or the damage that’s done to your home if the contractor does the repairs improperly (important note – it does not cover the correction of the original mistake, but it DOES cover the damage that’s done as a result of the mistake.  The contractor is on the hook to pay for the correction).  Pennsylvania law only requires a contractor to carry $50,000 in coverage, but most good agents will not write a GL policy for less than $300,000 in coverage.
  • Voluntary Property Damagethis is a critical coverage for ALL contractors to carry, and it is OFTEN MISSED by both agents and contractors.  Basically, VPD will pay for damage that results from the contractor taking any of your household items into their “possession” – for example, carrying your TV across the room to do work behind it, and the TV is dropped.  This type of incident is NOT covered under general liability; thus the contractor without it would have to pay this claim out of his own pocket!
  • Workers Compensation – this provides protection for the employees of the contractor if they are injured while working.  Why is this coverage important to you?  If an employee is injured while working at your home, and the contractor doesn’t carry WC coverage, YOU could be on the hook to pay for the employee’s lost wages and medical expenses!  The most common scenario is that the contractor would be required to pay these expenses, but if he does not have the means to do so, they will most likely pursue you next.  Even if you aren’t found to be liable, you will have a claim against your homeowners policy to pay your defense expenses.
  • Generation and policy effective datesWhile reviewing the certificate, be certain to review two items of particular importance – the date the certificate was generated, and the policy effective dates!  Make sure, of course, that the policy is within its effective dates and is not expired.  And make sure the date that the certificate was generated (at the top right hand corner of the certificate) is relatively recent (within the past week or two).  Less scrupulous contractors have been known to pass off older certificates, being fully aware that their coverage has cancelled (due to non-payment, for example).

I hope that this information is helpful to you in protecting your home and your claims record!  Be cautious, and if you have questions after receiving a contractor’s certificate – ask your agent to review it with you!  Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!

ACORD certificate

Example copy of the most common form of a certificate of insurance

 

 

 

 

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….

What the Hail?!   Leave a comment

Hail

Wow! Thank goodness we didn’t see anything the size of these babies!

Some timely advice for local Pittsburghers who endured the relatively uncommon pelting of hail yesterday:

Worried about hail damage? Don’t be!

– Virtually every building (home or business) policy includes coverage for hail damage, even if you have a named perils policy.
– Same for auto policies – if you carry comprehensive, you have coverage for hail damage.
– If you are concerned about hail damage on the roof of your building – DON’T get up there to check it yourself! Hire a professional.  Also, make sure its either someone you trust, or is reputable and in good standing in the BBB or Angies List.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to be present for the inspection. Sadly, some of the less-reputable “contractors” will go onto people’s roofs with a ballpeen hammer and create some “hail damage” of there own to get some quick and easy repair work.

In addition, if you have a chip in your windshield, get it fixed now before it becomes a crack!  If you carry comprehensive on your auto policy, and the chip is about the size of a quarter, most policies will pay for the repair with no cost to you.  Once it turns into a full blown crack, and it needs to be replaced, then you would pay your comp deductible and the company pays the balance.
Other questions or concerns? Talk to your agent!

(Photos courtesy of Hail Events & Scott Blair)

Windshield

Probably going to need replaced….

Windshield

Another probable replacement…..

A defense for the insurance industry…. based on my own experience   Leave a comment

I wrote this blog on the day that the incident occurred.  I decided to wait a few weeks and give myself time to cool down so I wouldn’t be posting in anger.  Nearly a month after the fact, I’m keeping it intact, as it’s mostly not about anger so much as it is informative about what’s going on out there.  On with the show:

Hello estranged readers!  (all 3 of you)

I’m going to describe an incident in my life today, to defend my industry.  I’m going to eliminate many of the identifying details; the situation is on-going.  However, I think the lesson it holds is an important one.

Very simply, one of my vehicles is in a repair situation that normally would be resolved via the insurance company.  It is, however, being paid out of pocket by the party responsible.  To make a long story short, I was told by the garage that I am being charged a higher rate for my repair.

When I asked why, I was told “Because the insurance companies will pay the higher rate.” 

“How is this a defense of the insurance industry?!  They are paying higher rates than necessary when they could negotiate reductions in cost!”  you might ask.

“While that may be accurate on the surface, there are some factors at play that make that not necessarily correct.”  Sammy would rebut.

To make it as straight forward as possible – the increased cost that’s being charged is lower than cost of negotiating the correct amount.  If an insurance company were to take the time and manpower necessary to haggle for better prices, they would pay more for the hourly pay/salary of their employee than the increased cost of repair – in my case, about $75 total.  It may not seem like much, and in my case, it’s not.  But when you multiply that by hundreds of cases a month (see “A form of insurance fraud” at bottom), every month of the year, well, you can see how it adds up.

One very important point needs made – not every repair shop operates in this fashion.  I was not aware this was going to be the case in my situation, or I would not have gone to the garage that I did.  Now, I’m stuck overpaying (albeit slightly), but I’m aware that it happens, and I’m aware that I need to be more wary of where I go to get repairs done.

Most importantly, I want you all to be aware that in a world of rising insurance costs, it’s not simply a case of the insurance company raking you over the coals.  Insurance companies are being nickel and dimed in this fashion quite often, and there is no simple solution to the problem.  To be blunt, some repair firms will take advantage of this situation, and that results in all of us paying higher rates for insurance.

And to the shop in question, Sammy only has one thing to say:

**Pbbbbbb**

**Pbbbbbb!**

Comparing prices…………   Leave a comment

Dog Blog

We may look the same, but our insurance rates won’t!

Good morning one and all!

This is a quick thought for those who compare pricing with your neighbors/friends/relatives etc to see whether or not your policy premium is competitive.  Can we please stop doing this?  It’s like comparing apples to galoshes.  Apples and oranges are probably much more similar than you and your neighbor’s insurance rating basis. 

“But we live in the same neighborhood, we drive similar cars!”  you may protest. 

“That’s all very true,” Sammy counters, “but insurance premium is based on several hundred different factors.  Even though you may seem very similar on the surface, looking deeper into the matter reveals quite a few important differences.”

Just one example that happened recently – we had a client call in, frustrated by the increase in their rates due to purchasing a new vehicle.  One thing that they kept coming back to was the fact that their granddaughter had also just purchased a new vehicle, and was paying substantially less.  As I pointed out, this is an impossible comparison to make, because you are talking about over 50 years difference in age, totally different types of vehicles owned, different credit ratings, different driving records and claims history, different lengths of time with the insurance company (remember our discussion on loss ratio?), and on and on and on.  Let’s not forget that different companies offer different discounts.  And we don’t even know if the granddaughter has the same insurance company! 

Crazy as it may seem, you could take twin siblings, driving the same vehicles, with similar driving histories, living next door to each other, and they will still be paying different amounts of money for their insurance.  If you want to know whether your rates are competitive, contact your agent and request quotes from multiple carriers.  Rather than comparing with friends/neighbors/relatives, who are dramatically different (from an insurance rating point of view), you are comparing YOUR information with multiple companies!

A quiet time at the Dog Blog – Gas Well blog in the works!   Leave a comment

Good morning!

Just a quick note to let you know that, with the exception of maybe a quick hit short blog, there’s going to be relative radio silence over here at the Dog Blog for a couple of weeks.  We are collecting information to put together a blog (most likely a series) about the effects of Marcellus Shale gas wells on insurance coverages, and how the industry is responding.

If you miss us, please send us an email (berneysm80@gmail or scott@poleskyagency.com) or follow us on Facebook

Should be an interesting and enlightening time, and I look forward to writing more soon!

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Working hard to enlighten you!

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