Archive for February, 2012

Losing Credit for Time Served

Posted on February 23, 2012. Filed under: Individual Life & Health | Tags: , , , , , |

My parents taught me a lot of wonderful things. Things like the importance of being kind, respectful, and hard-working. I’m very thankful for those lessons. But, I’m also thankful they took the time to educate me about the importance of practical things, like how to balance my checkbook and to never let my health insurance lapse.

My very first “real” job after college was in a bank. I was always shocked when parents would bring their kids in, just before heading off to college, to open up their FIRST bank account. We would take as much time as possible to explain how to balance a checkbook, to never rely on a balance pulled at the ATM (especially if you might have written checks that haven’t cleared), etc. But we knew the vast majority of these kids would show up on our insufficient funds list within a month or so. And the parents never understood why. Or, they simply refused to admit they had not properly prepared their child for one of the basic realities of adulthood.

The same is often true for health insurance. It tends to be one of the things people take for granted, especially when they are healthy. And many parents simply don’t educate their kids on the importance of maintaining coverage. It should be one of the things that is always worked into a budget. But often ends up being cancelled because it’s considered unaffordable.

The problem with not maintaining health coverage is that once you’re sick, you may not be eligible for it. Like car insurance, you can’t buy it after the accident happens. And even if you are eligible, if you have not maintained your creditable coverage status, you may have to satisfy waiting periods (for up to 12 months) for pre-existing medical conditions.

So, how do you ensure you don’t lose your continuous coverage status?

  • Avoid breaks in coverage of more than 63 days. Even if you’ve had continuous coverage for years, a break in coverage of more than 63 days can negate all of it and put you right back to square one.
  • It’s also good, if you change insurance providers, to make a point of providing the new insurance company with the certificate of coverage your previous provider(s) issues (confirming your last 12 months of coverage, at a minimum).
For more information, visit the Department of Labor’s FAQ.

Contact us for quotes.

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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It is the Month of the Heart ~ What’s the State of Yours?

Posted on February 21, 2012. Filed under: Good for You | Tags: , , , , , |

February is American Heart Month. Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for BOTH men and women? An estimated 630,000 people in the US will die from heart disease and its associated complications in this year alone. You may think you’re safe because you are young. But, heart disease is now the third leading cause of death in women aged 25 to 44.

Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Discomfort in the center of your chest.
  • Discomfort in other areas of your upper body, including: arms, back, neck, jaw or abdomen.
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Cold sweats, nausea, and/or light-headedness, especially when combined with any of the above symptoms.
The absolute best way to keep your heart healthy is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. For an overview of the top 24 heart-healthy foods, click here.

It is also vital that you get an annual physical. Be your own advocate and talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may have. With health reform, many health insurance policies now include annual preventative care covered 100% by the insurance company. If you live in Texas and need insurance, contact us.

Here’s to your heart’s health!

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Properly Cover Your HO/Condo Association Loss Exposures

Posted on February 16, 2012. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , |

Many people are active in their condominium or home owners’ association, serving as directors, officers, and editors of association newsletters. If you are an active member of your association, consider the following risk management tips and recommendations.

Verify that the association has directors and officers (D&O) coverage in force with reasonably high limits. If the association refuses or chooses not to obtain D&O coverage, seriously reconsider your leadership activities within the group due to your unprotected liability exposure.

If D&O coverage is in place, verify that this policy provides errors and omissions coverage for the proper purchase of insurance. To do this, verify that the “failure to maintain insurance” exclusion is not attached to the D&O policy.

Ask your association to hire an independent insurance consultant to audit the association insurance program to uncover any potentially lethal coverage gaps. For example, home owners’ associations should have at least the following types of coverages: guaranteed replacement cost property coverage for common areas, commercial umbrella coverage, workers compensation insurance (even if there are no association employees) to cover claims brought by uninsured independent contractors, and D&O liability coverage.

If you don’t already have it, consider adding a personal injury (HO 24 82) or related endorsement to your homeowners policy.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

International Risk Management Institute, Inc. Copyright 2012

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IRS Releases New Notice on W-2 Reporting Requirements

Posted on February 7, 2012. Filed under: Group Life & Health | Tags: , , , , , |

Employers that filed 250 or more W-2 forms in 2011 will be responsible for reporting to employees the total cost of their group health benefit plan coverage on their 2012 W-2 forms issued in January 2013. This reporting requirement is informational only and does not mean that coverage will be subject to income tax.

On Jan. 4, 2012, the IRS issued Notice 2012-9 on the W-2 Reporting Requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. See how this recent notice and the W-2 requirement may affect your clients filing more than 250 W-2 forms in 2011.

Continue to UnitedHealthcare’s full article.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Space Heater Safety (Part 2)

Posted on February 2, 2012. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , |

In Part 1, we discussed how to remain safe when using electric space heaters. In Part 2 of this series, we will look at gas-fired and kerosene heaters.

The same safety rules apply to all space heaters but, when using a gas or kerosene heater in your home or office, you also need to pay attention to proper venting. Leaving a door or window open during use will allow fresh air to enter the heated space and will prevent CO buildup. These types of heaters should NEVER be used in a confined space. If you have a heater built before 1983, it may not be equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). The ODS will shut the heater off if the air quality becomes dangerous. You should also ensure that your heater has a pilot safety valve, which will prevent the risk of explosion if the pilot light goes out.

In the event the pilot light goes out:

  • Do NOT attempt to light the pilot if you smell gas. Turn off all controls, open a window or door, and leave the area.
  • Also, if you smell gas, do NOT touch any electrical switches, use a radio or telephone, or smoke in the area. Any spark can ignite gas.
If you are using a stationary device, always have it installed by a professional. And, you may want to consider investing in one of the newer ceramic space heaters, which pose less of a fire hazard than the older style heaters. Regardless of the heater you select, make sure it was tested by an independent laboratory, by looking for the UL label on the packaging.

Finally, ensure you follow the recommended maintenance and inspection guidelines for the heater you own. Even if your heater comes with air quality shut offs, it is a good idea to invest in a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. Test the alarms once a month and replace the batteries twice a year (a great way to remember is to replace them when you change your clocks for daylight savings).

There is nothing wrong with wanting to save a little money on your heating bill. But, make sure you do it safely!

Adapted from Risk Management Articles provided by Travelers and Money.USNews.com.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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