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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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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Tax Credits and Group Health Insurance

Posted on September 9, 2011. Filed under: Group Life & Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Are you a small business owner in Austin, Texas, or the greater Austin area, who would like to offer benefits to your employees, but think you can’t afford to do so? We can help you by providing free small group health insurance quotes with five of the largest health insurance providers in the nation. We can also help you calculate your possible tax savings, through the government credits that are currently being offered. We are licensed in the State of Texas and provide: commercial, life and health (for both individuals and groups), home and auto insurance. Contact us today!

*Note: we are not tax advisors, nor do we provide tax services. All information provided will be illustrative. Tax professionals should be consulted to determine actual eligibility for and amount of any applicable credits.

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Debunking Insurance Myths!

Posted on January 6, 2011. Filed under: Good for You | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Who wants to think about insurance at the beginning of a new year?  But just like those resolutions, now is the perfect time. Whether you are revamping your diet, your budget, or your goals for the coming year, we all know change is sometimes necessary. One thing you may need to change is the way you view insurance. There are a lot of misconceptions about the different kinds of insurance, who needs it, who provides it, and the best ways to shop for it. So, to get you started, we are “debunking” some of the top myths about insurance.

Myth #1: All agents are the same. Just because two agents sell the same kind of insurance, does not mean they offer the same levels of coverage. No two insurance companies sell the exact same policy. The only way to be confident you are purchasing adequate coverage, is by taking the time to help an agent fully understand your needs so they can work to find a policy that best meets them. There is also a big difference between a captive agent and an independent agent. Captive agents only have access to policies and coverages provided by the company for which they work (ex. State Farm, Allstate, etc.). Whereas, independent agents are appointed with multiple insurance companies and are able to comparison shop for their clients.

Myth #2: I will pay more for my insurance if I use an Independent Agent. Independent agents are paid commission by the insurance companies with which they are appointed. However, consumers will find the premiums to be the same whether they purchase insurance through an independent agent, or from the insurance company directly, if possible. Additionally, the services provided by independent agents are typically free to the individual and small business consumer, for coverages such as individual health insurance, life insurance, small group health insurance, homeowners insurance and auto insurance. In those instances when fees are charged, they must be disclosed to consumers.

Myth #3: I’m young and healthy, so I don’t need health insurance. Health insurance is easily obtainable and much less expensive if first purchased when you are young and healthy. If you become ill, without access to group insurance, you may not be eligible for individual health insurance OR may find your illness excluded from coverage when you apply. Purchasing health insurance after you become ill is like trying to buy auto insurance after you have an accident.  Even though the Healthcare Reform Act is designed to lessen these difficulties, many of the changes won’t take effect until 2014. If you are covered by group insurance, and lose those benefits, it is also important to identify creditable individual insurance in order to maintain your coverage. It is also true that individuals covered by health insurance are more likely to pursue preventative health care services, which can minimize the possibility of health problems later in life.

Myth #4: I’m a safe driver, so I only need minimum limits on my auto insurance. Accidents happen, even to the safest and most cautious people. And, the one thing that is true about all accidents is we can’t pick when, where, or how they happen. Liability insurance pays for damages you cause to another’s property or bodily injury. If they drive a “beater” that isn’t worth more than $1,000 and no one is injured, you might do just fine with minimum limits. But, if the person you hit drives a brand new Mercedes and it’s totalled or multiple cars are involved, it’s a pretty safe bet that minimum limits are not going to provide adequate insurance. In this case, they may seek your personal possessions for compensation. It is also important to consider the type of vehicle you drive. A super cab pickup truck has the potential to cause A LOT more damage than a Smart Car.

Myth #5: My wife is a stay-at-home mom, we don’t need life insurance on her. Maybe you can afford to pay for the services required to replace all that your wife does around the house. But, before you simply decide not to investigate the cost of life insurance, we recommend you think about the services you might need should something happen to your spouse. If you have young children, they could include a cook, housekeeper, nanny, after school care, daycare and more. A life insurance policy won’t replace the one lost, but it can simplify and ease both the decisions and change associated with unexpected loss. One more thing to think about is the cost of life insurance. Like health insurance, you will get the most bang for your buck when you are young and healthy. Health conditions and family history can significantly impact both your premiums and eligibility for life insurance.

Myth #6: My kids are too young for life insurance, they can buy it later. There are multiple benefits to buying life insurance for your children, even while they are still infants. Whole life insurance is extremely inexpensive when purchased for an infant or young child. And, it provides a savings benefit which can be used to offset the cost of college or other expenses. Most whole life polices can also be converted to term life insurance later in life. This is especially beneficial if your child develops a health condition later in life that would make them otherwise ineligible for coverage. And, while no one wants to think about the worst happening, some children are victims of accidents and illness. The death benefit of a life insurance policy can ease potential financial burdens caused by unexpected burial expenses.

Myth #7: I have both homeowners and auto insurance. I don’t need an umbrella policy. In today’s highly litigious society, it is very likely that a lawsuit for damages will accompany an insurance claim when serious bodily injury is involved. Let’s say you caused a car accident that leaves someone paralyzed, your auto insurance will only cover damages up to your maximum liability and defense limits. An umbrella policy can provide additional coverage for the excess amounts, including legal fees and court awarded damages. For the type of protection provided, umbrella insurance is inexpensive to maintain.

Myth #8: I don’t need flood insurance. Your property insurance policies do not cover losses due to flood. If it rains where you live, flooding IS possible. Even without a nearby river, creek or lake, rain falling fast enough and long enough, can cause the ground to become saturated and lead to local flooding. We saw rains like this in Austin and surrounding areas during 2010. Homeowners, in areas that had never flooded, were surprised by water levels up to the eaves of their homes. There are also other factors that can affect the risk of flooding, including nearby construction, community development, and even clogged drainage systems. Like umbrella insurance, flood insurance is inexpensive; the damages caused by flooding are not.

Myth #9: I only have a small at-home business, so business insurance doesn’t really apply to my situation. This simply is not true, as home insurance does not cover your business pursuits. The vast majority of homeowner’s policies exclude, or severly limit, liabilities due to business conducted in the home. In addition, business property (computers, inventory, etc.) will also be excluded or limited by your homeowners insurance. The coverage required to adequately insure your at-home business may vary widely, depending upon the type of service and/or product you offer. Your agent will help you determine the best type of insurance for your needs.

Myth #10: I have life insurance, so I don’t need disability insurance. Life insurance benefits will be available to your beneficiaries in the event of your death, but what if you are injured and unable to work. Even if you have a Whole Life policy, which you can borrow against, you have to pay it back or risk losing some or all of your death benefit. Disability insurance, on the other hand, provides replacement income in just such an instance. And, if you think it can’t happen to you, think again. Three out of every ten Americans (under the age of 65) will suffer a disability lasting 3 months or longer. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans will be disabled for one year or more during their working years. Top that off with the staggering statistic that 70% of working Americans wouldn’t make it 1 month before suffering financial difficulties. And, more than 1 in 4 Americans wouldn’t make it a week. (Statistics provided by The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, 2008)

If you found yourself or your life situation anywhere in the myths above, we recommend you contact your agent, or us, to review your current insurance policies and identify potential gaps in coverage. If you live in Austin, or anywhere in Texas, and need an agent, please give us a call.

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Things they don’t teach you in school . . .

Posted on December 10, 2010. Filed under: Individual Life & Health | Tags: , , , |

For individuals who don’t have access to group health coverage, it’s easy to think, “I’m healthy. I don’t need health insurance.” But, health insurance functions very much like auto insurance. We all know you can’t buy collision coverage for an accident that has already happened. The same is true about health insurance. The best time to purchase it is while you are healthy, because even relatively simple illnesses can affect both the cost of coverage and your eligibility for it.

There are health benefits to maintaining coverage, as well. Research shows that people who have health insurance are much more likely to get routine physicals. Because of the recent healthcare reform, most policies now include preventative care benefits that are covered 100% by the insurer, with no annual benefit maximums. For this reason, the cost of an annual physical should not prevent you from getting one. 

Ultimately, the utilization of preventative care benefits everyone with insurance, because it aids in the early detection of diseases and minimizes the cost of treatment. When claims are reduced overall, both you and the insurance company pay less, which can positively impact premiums. There is also a correlation to the level and quality of care you receive. Individuals with coverage are more likely to have a specific doctor they visit, which directly impacts the continuity of care received.

Individual health insurance can be confusing, as there are a lot of companies and a wide variety of plans from which to choose. If you need help navigating through it all, give us a call. We can help you set a healthy course leading to peace of mind. We are located in Austin and licensed in Texas.

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