The National Safety Council (NSC) has launched a graphic new advertising campaign as it recognizes April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The observance seeks to bring further awareness to the dangers of driving while talking on the phone, even when hands-free, and other dangerous distracted driving habits. Drivers are urged to get educated and share with others the dangers of cell phone distracted driving, to recognize that hands-free devices are no safer than others, and to understand the dangers of cognitive distraction to the brain.
Driving is a complex task that requires eyes on the road and complete concentration. Drivers who are talking on the phone or otherwise cognitively distracted can fail to see up to 50 percent of their driving environment, including stop signs, pedestrians and red lights. The NSC is offering some of the following statistics, along with the ad campaign, to raise awareness:
- Driving while talking on your cell phone is a deadly distraction, even if you are using a hands-free device. The National Safety Council estimates that almost 25% of all car crashes involve cell phone use.
- Multi-tasking while you are driving is impossible. Drivers need to have their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and their mind on driving.
- Using voice-to-text applications is no safer than typing texts by hand while driving.
- Drivers can be equally distracted by dashboard entertainment features, back-seat drivers or other passengers, and more.
You can visit the National Safety Council Distracted Driving Awareness Month page for a host of valuable data, resources and handouts. The Council is even asking drivers to sign a pledge to drive cell free.
Do you frequently talk on your cell phone while you drive? Do you think you are safer when using a hands-free device? What will you do to avoid distracted driving this April, and beyond?
Health and life insurance are often provided as part as an employee benefits package. But those who are self-employed or whose employers do not offer it often go without, despite the fact that individual health and life insurance are vital to protecting you and your family from financial devastation caused by unexpected health events, and even death.
Health insurance protects you and your family from future financial losses associated with health care. If you are not convinced that health care can be a financial hardship, consider the following statistics from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association:
- A hip replacement can cost up to $32,000
- The average cost of a trip to the emergency room for an adult is about $700, and that does not include diagnostic tests or being admitted to the hospital.
- A broken leg can cost up to $7,500.
- Pregnancy and childbirth can cost up to $8,800 for natural delivery and $10,000 for a C-section.
And these are just the tip of the iceberg. The right health insurance plan can help protect you from most of these costs, and it can help you pay for preventive care that can keep you from getting a more serious illness later on. It can also help those with chronic conditions get the care they need to keep their condition under control.
It is unpleasant to think about, but your financial obligations do not necessarily go away after you die. Whether you have debts to pay or you simply want to provide for your own burial services, life insurance is the best way to provide some financial support to your family should the worst happen.
Life insurance pays a lump-sum death benefit to your beneficiaries in the event of your death. This death benefit makes cash available to your family almost immediately after your death, and it can be used to pay your debts, final expenses and estate taxes. If you plan wisely, you can even use life insurance as a source of inheritance for your heirs.
Life insurance should be part of your long-term financial plan. There are two types of life insurance: term life and permanent life.
Term life insurance provides protection for a certain period of time, such as 10, 20, or 30 years. It is the simplest form of life insurance that allows you to provide for some final expenses and income replacement for your remaining spouse and dependents.
Permanent life insurance is a very complex financial vehicle. These policies offer a long-term savings or investment component along with the death benefit.
We can provide expert advice on individual health and life insurance in New Hampshire and Maine. We will get to know you and your needs, and then find the right policy at the right price.
Do you need individual health or life insurance? What type of coverage do you have now?
Flood insurance is important for many reasons. First, home and property insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage due to floods. If you want coverage for flooding, flood insurance is available from the national Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is a program created by Congress in 1968 to help property owners protect themselves from the financial devastation that results from flooding.
Everyone knows that flooding can be very dangerous and costly, but you still might be saying, “It won’t happen to us. We’ve never flooded before.” Here are some facts from the NFIP that might make you think again.
- Floods are the most common and most costly natural disaster. In the past 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.
- While risk levels vary, everyone lives in a flood zone.
- In recent history, about 60% of all declared disasters involved flooding.
- Floods are becoming more prevalent and more severe in the U.S. because new development has replaced forests and meadows in many areas.
- In high-risk flood areas, a building has a 26% chance of being flooded during a 30-year period.
- Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage to your home.
- Flash floods can bring walls of water 10 – 20 feet high.
- A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
- Approximately 25% of all flood insurance claims paid by the NFIP are for property outside of high-risk areas.
So maybe your risk is higher than you think. But you still might argue that flood insurance is too expensive, or that you can always receive federal assistance if a disaster strikes. The facts don’t necessarily support this line of thinking, either.
- The President must declare a disaster in order for federal disaster assistance to be offered.
- Federal disaster assistance is usually in the form of a loan, which must be paid back with interest. The recipient of a $50,000 residential disaster loan must pay back about $240 per month at 4% interest.
- The average premium for federally-backed flood insurance is about $500 per year.
- The average federal Individuals and Households Program award is around $4,000.
- To qualify for federal Home Repair Assistance, your home must have relatively minor damage that can be repaired quickly
- You will not qualify for federal Rental Assistance unless your home has been heavily damaged or destroyed.
With flood insurance, you don’t have to wait in line to apply for federal assistance. And you don’t have to rely on a disaster declaration from the President in order to receive benefits. Flood insurance claims are paid whether or not a disaster is declared.
Homeowners, business owners, and renters can purchase flood insurance as long as their community participates in the NFIP. Homeowners can purchase up to $250,000 of coverage for their property, and will be reimbursed for all covered losses. Renters can purchase contents only coverage.
Are you interested in learning more about flood insurance? We can help you apply for and purchase coverage from the NFIP (in fact, you cannot buy it directly from the NFIP, you must work with your insurance agent). Would you like to know the flood risk for your home?
Did you give or receive jewelry for Valentine’s Day this year? Do you have some other valuable pieces of jewelry in your home? After you’ve professed your love to your special someone, remember to make sure your gift is properly insured.
Even one valuable piece of jewelry in your household can cause your personal property insurance needs to change. You to talk to your insurance agent about the coverage limits within your homeowners insurance policy.
About Jewelry Coverage
Jewelry and other valuables are covered under the personal property portion of your homeowners insurance policy. Typically, different types of personal property are categorized and assigned maximum coverage limits within your policy. These coverage limits are the maximum amount that you can be paid to replace those items in the event of a covered loss—whether or not the true value of those items exceeds that limit. Most homeowners policies will limit jewelry coverage to $1,000 per piece of jewelry and $2,500 for all of the jewelry in your household. If you have a piece of jewelry that is worth $5,000, you will not have adequate coverage.
You can increase the coverage limits on high value jewelry in two ways.
- Increase the “special limits of liability” for the categories in which you have more valuable items. In this case, you would need to increase the entire jewelry category limit to a more appropriate level. Most insurance companies will increase the limit on any category of covered items in $1,000 increments, but there will likely be a ceiling to which you can raise the limit.
- Add a scheduled personal property rider to your policy. This will increase the coverage limit on a certain item (rather than an entire category of items). This is advantageous because the rider provides all-risk coverage; the item listed on the rider is covered for all risks, not just the “covered perils” outlined in the main homeowners policy. Scheduled personal property is typically not subject to your deductible.
You must also remember that the value of the jewelry in your household may change over time. As gold prices have skyrocketed over the last decade, the value of your jewelry may have increased as well. Jewelry should be re-appraised every 3 – 5 years and your homeowners policy should be adjusted accordingly.
Don’t let your valiant effort to impress your Valentine this year go to waste and leave your gift unprotected while it is in your home. In addition to securing appropriate insurance coverage, always make sure that your jewelry is kept safe and secure within your home, and while you are wearing it.
We can help you determine if you have the right amount of personal property coverage for your jewelry and all of your valuable possessions.
Winter driving can be treacherous and dangerous. Most of us need a winter driving refresher every year when the snow begins to fly, so we can avoid accidents and having to make an auto insurance claim.
If you can’t avoid driving in the snow and ice, keep the following tips from AAA in mind.
Before you head out:
- Get plenty of rest before driving in winter.
- Don’t warm up your vehicle in an enclosed area.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times.
- Wear your seatbelt.
You will need to take all kinds of precautions when driving in winter. And the weather can change at a moment’s notice, sending all of your normal driving habits out the window. Remember to exercise extreme caution, eliminate distractions and take your time.
- Slow down!
- Give yourself plenty of time and space for stopping and starting. Allow at least three times more space than usual between cars to give you more time to stop.
- Brake gently. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently. If you have anti-lock brakes, don’t pump them; instead, apply steady pressure. It is normal to feel them pulse.
- Turn on your lights, even in daytime.
- Keep your headlights, taillights and windshield clean.
- Use low gears to improve traction, especially on hills.
- Use extra caution on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads. These will freeze first and you could come upon patches of ice that are unexpected, even if other roads seem clear.
- Don’t try to pass snowplows and sanding trucks.
- Don’t assume your vehicle is invincible; even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can slide, spin or lose control.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car that includes a cell phone, blankets, gloves, hats, food, water, medications and any other emergency supplies you might need. Be sure to have a snowbrush and a shovel in your car at all times.
Even the most careful drivers will get in accidents in the winter; sometimes it is simply unavoidable. If you do have an accident and need to file an auto insurance claim, contact us as soon as you can. We can help get the process moving and expedite your claim.
Have you had a car accident due to winter weather? Tell us what happened.
Everybody should review their insurance policies every year in order to be sure that they have appropriate coverage, that their needs are being met, and to see if there are any new or additional ways to save money on their premiums.
- Your coverage should match your expectations! If you have a loss and need to file a claim, the last thing you need is a surprise about your insurance coverage. You also need to be sure that no mistakes have been made, and that your coverage still meets your needs as your situation has changed over time.
- We review every policy to make sure that there are no gaps in coverage. We might find that you need to get coverage for certain items that have none, or for which your coverage is insufficient. You need to get any new high-value items properly covered now, and we will make sure that you are not over-insured either!
- You might want to consider amending your coverage limits or changing deductibles. There are many reasons for doing this. We can discuss how it will affect your coverage in the event of a loss, and how changing deductibles will impact your premiums. We can also recommend new coverage limits based on any changes you have made to your home or your lifestyle throughout the year.
- Now is the time to identify discounts and other savings opportunities. Consider the following car insurance discounts that you might be eligible for (and these are just the car insurance discounts—there are a variety of discounts available for homeowners as well):
o Multi-policy discount
o Multi-vehicle discount
o Anti-theft/security discount
o Anti-lock brake discount
o Passive restraint discount
o “Green” vehicle discount
o Safe driver discount
o Defensive driver discount
o Low mileage discount
o Military discount
o Affinity/occupational discount
o Paid-in-full discount
o Electronic/paperless billing discount
o Loyalty discount
o Early signing discount
o Good student discount
o Distant student discount
While not all of these discounts are available from every insurance company, most offer a variety of discounts that provide some type of savings opportunity for just about every driver or homeowner.
- Do you have a new email address or cell phone number? Has one of your children moved out, or left for college? Your annual review is the best opportunity for us to make sure we have all of the proper contact information for you, as well as all the pertinent information about your family that can affect your insurance needs, and the rates you pay.
Your annual insurance review is also a great time for you tell us how we are doing! We welcome your feedback on the products we offer and the service we provide to you and your family. Contact your RW Insurance agent today to set up your appointment. You don’t want to wait until it is too late to make sure that all of your insurance needs are being met!
Since the opening of the state and federal health insurance marketplace on October 1, 2013, you have probably been hearing a lot about “grandfathered” health plans. While chaos surrounds the Healthcare.gov website making enrollment difficult, many consumers are also being informed that their individual health plans have been canceled as others have been allowed to keep their plans into 2014. Individuals and businesses who have “grandfathered” plans will be allowed to keep their plans (at least in 2014), and those who do not have “grandfathered” plans will need to find a new plan.
How Does the ACA Define a Grandfathered Plan?
Some group health plans that were created—or individual health insurance policies that were purchased—on or before March 23, 2010 may be exempt from many of the changes required by the Affordable Care Act. These plans are called grandfathered plans.
Health insurance plans that existed on March 23, 2010 are eligible for grandfathered status. If they are grandfathered, they do not have to meet all of the requirements of the law. But if an insurance company, employer or individual has made significant changes to a plan’s benefits or how much members pay in premiums, copays or deductibles, the plan is not eligible for grandfathered status. If your plan is not grandfathered, all of the new consumer provisions of the ACA will apply to the new plan you choose (or are offered by your employer) when the new plan year begins.
Both individual and group health plans (employer-provided) can be grandfathered.
Grandfathered Health Plans Are Exempt from Certain ACA Requirements
Grandfathered health plans are exempt from certain requirements of the ACA, but they do have to comply with some of the new “consumer protections” within the law.
All health plans, regardless of grandfathered status, must:
- End lifetime limits
- End arbitrary cancellations
- Cover adult children up to age 26
- Provide a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (a short, easy to understand summary of coverage and costs)
- Spend a certain percentage of premiums on health care, rather than administrative costs and bonuses
Grandfathered health plans (both employer-sponsored group plans and individual plans) are exempt from the requirements to:
- Cover preventive care for free
- Provide a package of essential health benefits that new or non-grandfathered individual and small group plans must offer beginning in 2014
Individual health plans that are grandfathered do not have to:
- End yearly limits on coverage
- Cover you if you have a pre-existing condition
Is My Plan Grandfathered? How Do I Know?
A health plan must disclose in its plan materials whether it is a grandfathered plan, and it must also advise consumers on how to contact the U.S. Department of Labor or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you have an individual health plan that has not been grandfathered for 2014, you should have already received or will soon be receiving a cancellation notice from your insurance company. You will be directed to a new plan offered by your carrier, where applicable. We can help you find an appropriate new plan that fits your needs. We can work directly with insurance companies, or we can help you navigate the health insurance marketplace.
If you have an employer-provided group health plan, direct your questions to your company’s human resources department. Or, if your employer is no longer offering health insurance for 2014, contact us for help finding an individual health plan for you and your family. Remember, you are required to have health insurance in 2014, or you must pay a penalty.
Do you have an individual or group health plan that has been recently cancelled? Do you know if you have a grandfathered plan? Contact RW Insurance today for all of your health insurance needs and for help navigating all of the new rules.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires individuals and small group health plans to offer a package of covered services called essential health benefits. These services must be covered by plans both in and out of the government-run health insurance marketplace.
If a health plan pays for or reimburses a plan member for a particular item or service, that item or service is considered a covered benefit. The amount that the insurance company pays for the item or service (and the amount that you are required to pay for it) varies by service and by insurance companies and plan types. This means that some services are subject to deductibles, coinsurance and copays, but if your health plan provides even some benefits for it, it is a covered service.
Four levels of coverage are available for health plans sold in the health insurance marketplace beginning in 2014.
- Bronze plans pay 60% for covered services
- Silver plans pay 70% for covered services
- Gold plans pay 80% for covered services
- Platinum plans pay 90% for covered services
Health plan premiums are higher as the plan pays more toward covered services (i.e., the higher metallic level plans have higher premiums). Regardless of the type of plan, you will have some level of coverage for the essential health benefits required by the ACA.
Health plans sold privately through RW Insurance may have different deductibles, copays and coinsurance for covered services, but they too must provide coverage for the essential health benefits beginning in 2014.
Essential Health Benefits
Your health plan, whether it is purchased from the health insurance exchange or privately through RW Insurance, must include coverage for essential health benefits. The essential health benefits must include items and services within the following ten categories, or more:
- Ambulatory patient services: Care you receive without being admitted to a hospital, such as at a doctor’s office, clinic or same-day (outpatient) surgery. This also includes home health services and hospice care up to a certain number of days.
- Emergency services: Care you receive in an emergency room or in an emergency situation.
- Hospitalization: Care you receive in a hospital, including care from doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, lab tests, medications and room and board. Also includes surgeries, transplants and care in a skilled nursing facility up to a certain number of days.
- Maternity and newborn care: Care women receive during pregnancy and throughout labor, delivery, post-delivery and care for newborn babies.
- Mental health and substance abuse services and behavioral health treatment: Inpatient and outpatient care to evaluate, diagnose and treat a mental health condition or substance abuse problem.
- Prescription drugs: Medications prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness or condition.
- Rehabilitative services and devices: Services and devices to help you gain or recover mental and physical skills lost to injury, disability or chronic condition. Includes a certain number of visits for physical or occupational therapy, chiropractic care, speech therapy and cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation.
- Laboratory services: Testing for purposes of diagnosing an illness, injury or condition or to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment. Also includes some preventive screenings such as breast cancer screenings at no cost.
- Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease treatment: Preventive care such as physicals, immunizations and cancer screenings designed to prevent or detect certain conditions. Also includes care for chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma.
- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care: Care provided to infants and children, including well-child visits, vaccines and immunizations. Also includes dental and vision care for children younger than age 19, for two routine dental exams, an eye exam and corrective lenses annually.
Other New Coverage Requirements
Beginning in 2014, all health plans comply with the following requirements:
- You cannot be turned down or charged more because you are sick or have a health condition.
- Health plans cannot arbitrarily cancel your coverage because you get sick.
- If you are under 26 years old, you can join, remain on or return to a parent’s health plan even if you are married, not living with your parents, attending school, financially independent or eligible to enroll in your employer’s plan.
- Health plans (including grandfathered plans) cannot impose lifetime or yearly dollar limits on coverage for essential health benefits.
- Health plans cannot require higher copayments or coinsurance if you get emergency care from an out-of-network hospital, and you cannot be required to get prior approval before getting emergency room services from a hospital that is out-of-network.
These changes do not apply to individual or group health plans created or bought before March 23, 2010, unless otherwise noted. These are known as grandfathered plans. If a plan has made any changes since March 23, 2010, it will lose its grandfathered status.
Many health plans are required to cover certain preventive services at no cost to you. You also may be eligible for free preventive screenings like blood pressure and cholesterol tests, mammograms, colonoscopies and more, as well as certain vaccines and new preventive services for women. These new no-cost services do not apply to plans created or bought before March 23, 2010 (unless those plans have changed in any way since that date).
Health care reform is complicated and you should not go it alone. RW Insurance can help you determine if you have a grandfathered plan or if you have to purchase a new plan. If you are looking to purchase an individual or small group health plan, we can help you navigate the insurance exchange, find out if you are eligible for any financial assistance, and help you apply for coverage. We also have access to plans outside of the insurance exchange that may better suit your needs.
The individual mandate within the Affordable Care Act requires that beginning in 2014, individuals are required to have health insurance or pay a fine. But what if you can’t afford to buy coverage? As we have seen in the news the last few weeks, even the least expensive plans could be costly, particularly for those who have not had health coverage before.
The government may provide financial assistance (subsidies) to help some people pay for coverage if they can’t afford to pay for it. Whether or not you qualify for financial assistance will be determined by your income level and family size.
In New Hampshire, individuals who make up to $45,960 and families who make up to $94,200 (for a family of four) may be eligible for premium assistance.
You can find out if you are eligible for subsidies through the Health Insurance Marketplace, or we can help you determine what, if any, federal financial assistance you are eligible for. If you are not eligible for subsidies, there will be other ways to help you cut costs.
Economic Hardship Exemption
If the least expensive option on the insurance exchange would cost more than 8% of your annual income, you can be exempted from the penalty for not having coverage. In these cases you could still buy a catastrophic plan that provides low premiums in exchange for high deductibles and coverage for only major medical expenses. These catastrophic plans are only available to those who have qualified for an economic hardship exemption or are under age 30.
Federal Tax Subsidies
Financial assistance in the form of subsidies, or federal tax credits, will be available for those whose income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level. These subsidies are only available for those who purchase plans on the insurance exchange—not if you purchase a plan privately through an insurance company. When you enroll in a health plan through the New Hampshire Health Insurance Exchange—via Healthcare.gov—any tax credits you qualify for will be immediately applied to your insurance premium, reducing the amount you will pay each month. Tax credits will be available to anyone who qualifies for them, whether or not they file taxes.
Medicaid or CHIP
You may qualify for Medicaid or your children may qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2014, even if you have been turned down in the past. If you are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, you or your children will get free or low-cost health care. When you apply for coverage at Healthcare.gov, the state will check your application against the new eligibility rules and tell you whether you qualify for Medicaid or any other savings options.
You might also be eligible for cost-sharing subsidies in the form of reduced copayments or coinsurance that reduce the amount you pay when you get care. Reduced copayments or coinsurance lower the total amount you have to pay for health care in a given year, and will vary depending on the type of plan you choose (Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze). Eligibility for these subsidies is based on your income level and family size.
Do you need to purchase health coverage for yourself or your family? Have you started looking at your options? Do you know if you will be eligible for financial assistance of any kind? We can help you navigate the complex system, provide advice and help you determine if you are eligible for any subsidies or other financial help. If you do not qualify for financial assistance, we work with several health insurance companies, and we can help you find the best plan to fit your needs and budget.
The Nashua Telegraph recently reported that the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism expected about 7.8 million “leaf peepers” to flood New Hampshire between September and the end of November. These leaf peepers—tourists seeking out the beauty of changing autumn leaves—produce the largest number of visitors to New England each year.
Yankee Magazine reports that an average of 1,400 cars per hour pass through New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch on Columbus Day each October, while the population of Lincoln swells to 31,750. That’s 30,500 tourists, and 1,250 local residents. And don’t even try to grab breakfast at Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill. You’ll be waiting for at least two hours while the 65-seat establishment attempts to serve 600 patrons a day during peak leaf peeper season.
Keep Calm, and Drive On
We agree with the leaf peepers. Fall in New Hampshire is magical; where else would you want to be? And while this annual pilgrimage of foliage-followers is a boon to New Hampshire’s economy, it can also be an inconvenience to local drivers. We’ve all seen them, those slow-driving, sudden-stopping, camera-waving leaf peepers crowding our roadways and sometimes making driving conditions perilous.
With the significant increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic as well as the other changes that come with the new season, local drivers need to remain patient and cautious. We all need to be far more aware of our surroundings and make sure that we are making adjustments to our driving habits.
- If you are driving behind a car with out-of-state license plates, give them extra space in case they stop quickly, make a sudden turn or otherwise cause a disruption to the flow of traffic.
- The beautiful changing—and falling—leaves that everyone is clamoring to see can also be a serious nuisance. Leaves in the road can become slippery when they are wet, increasing the danger of hydroplaning or losing control of your vehicle.
- Beware of leaves covering potholes and obscuring traffic lines and other pavement markings.
- Changing weather conditions can mean that it is warm and sunny one minute, and cool, foggy or rainy the next. Be sure that your driving is appropriate for conditions.
- Slow down! Between the extra cars on the road, the falling leaves and the changing weather conditions, you never know what you might encounter. Be especially cautious around turns; you could happen upon a leaf peeper and lose control or be unable to stop.
- Increase the distance between you and the cars around you. Leaf peepers are notorious for sudden stops and turns. You need to drive as if everyone around you might suddenly slow down or stop.
- Keep your windshield wipers free of leaves and other debris.
- Be especially careful for people out walking in the early morning or evening seeking photo opportunities with the waking sun or the day’s last rays. Visibility is often somewhat reduced at these times, which can be even more hazardous with greater numbers of unfamiliar motorists and pedestrians on the road.
And some advice for you leaf peepers out there:
- If you don’t know where you are going or you want to stop to take a photograph, pull over and let other motorists pass you.
- Obey local traffic signs and laws, and take note of animal-crossing signs.
- Have a good map and plan your route ahead of time. You will be less likely to make sudden turns or stops and create unsafe conditions for other drivers.
- If you want to take a picture, find a place to park safely and legally.
We welcome the leaf peepers to our beautiful state, and we are so proud of all that our state has to offer year-round. But please remember to drive carefully, be respectful of other drivers and stay safe!