The following is a guest post from Houston, Texas real estate developer and entrepreneur Tracy Suttles.
A construction project is a great way to involve a whole class of children, and to encourage teamwork and co-operation. Building a greenhouse from recycled plastic bottles offers an ideal opportunity for this, as children can work together as small groups, contributing to the construction of the greater project.
Constructing Your Recycled Greenhouse
The greenhouse is constructed from plastic 2L pop/soda bottles. To construct the greenhouse:
This method can be used to create a range of temporary structures ranging from small scale cloches to full sized greenhouses. For a more sophisticated, and hard-wearing version of the plastic bottle greenhouse a timber frame can be added. An example of this type of structure was built by the Greenspace Education Project.
The number of bottles required will depend on the intended scale of the greenhouse, and whether it is to be free standing, or a ‘lean-to’ against a wall. Conversely, the scale and design of the greenhouse could be decided once the number of bottles collected is known. This can also introduce an element of mathematics and estimation to the project. Designing the greenhouse, and deciding on the best location for it, can encourage children to think about the mathematical ideas of area and volume.
Knowledge of plant growth and the requirement for sunlight can be linked to the science curriculum, and to other disciplines, by recognising the best position for the greenhouse (South facing if in the Northern hemisphere). Compasses and maps of the school grounds can be used to link the project to the Geography curriculum.
Encourage Children to Recycle and Reuse
If the design has been decided prior to starting the project, an estimated target for the number of bottles required can be used as a class target. Children can increase their contribution to the project by collecting plastic bottles from the recycling bins of their family and friends. This has the added advantage of passing on information about the importance and benefits of recycling to the wider school community. A prize could be offered for the child who collects the most bottles.
On September 23, 2010, several very important provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, became effective. This Act is part of the healthcare reform agenda of the currently in-office Democrats. These provisions provide greater protection to the consumer by reigning in long practiced atrocities committed by greedy health insurance companies. The following is a list of what insurance companies can no longer do, followed by what consumers can now do.
Deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Place lifetime limits or caps on benefits.
Cancel a health insurance policy without proving fraud.
Deny medical claims without providing the consumer with a chance to appeal the decision.
Consumers can now:
Receive free preventative services such as immunization shots and office visit check-ups.
Keep their children on their parents’ medical plan up to the age of 26 years old.
Select their own primary care, OB/Gyn and pediatrician without interference from the insurance company.
Use the nearest emergency room without being penalized by the insurer.
Furthermore, individual states can offer a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. These plans focus on people with pre-existing health conditions and who have not been able to be approved by any other insurer for any other reason but for their health condition; the person must be a U.S. citizen or national, and must not have been able to be approved for insurance for at least the prior 6 months. This plan covers a wide range of pre-existing health conditions, provides primary and specialty care, hospital benefits, and prescription drugs.
Unfortunately, the prohibitive part of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is its cost. For a family of four, the premium can be close to $1,000 per month, which is still beyond the means of most consumers.
Many citizens have suffered at the hands of the health insurance companies. Insurers have cancelled or completely revoked policies from the policy date of inception for inconsequential reasons.
For example, in the case of Denise and Stephen Wheeler versus Nationwide Insurance Company, Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler were approved for health insurance in December. In May 2006 Mrs. Wheeler was taken via ambulance to the hospital due to a perforated ulcer, which she was unaware existed. She endured five hours of surgery where the perforation was repaired. A short time after the surgery, her health insurance carrier requested additional health insurance information from her. According to court documents, Mrs. Wheeler had not disclosed an emergency room and Ob/Gyn visit that happened two months prior, but was caused by heavy menstrual bleeding. The insurer contended that they would not have approved the insurance had they had known of the condition with her menstrual cycle. The Wheelers were left with a $30,000 hospital and medical bill.
Another example is the case of Susan and Tony Seals versus HealthNet. In March of 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Seals applied for and were approved for health insurance through HealthNet effective April 1, 2003. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Seals was informed that she was pregnant and gave birth to a daughter in October 2003. Mother and daughter had difficulties during the labor and delivery process where the baby had to be resuscitated immediately after birth and sustained brain damage. The Seals medical expenses came to $140,000. At this point, HealthNet decided to review their original application and determined that Mrs. Seals was two weeks off when she answered the question requesting the date of her last menstrual cycle.
The Seals brought suit against HealthNet, and won. They received $95,000 toward medical bills and $1,000,000 in a trust fund toward care of their daughter who will need constant care for the entirety of her life.
These are just two of the hundreds of policy cancellations, revocations, and lawsuits brought against the health insurance industry. They have had a choke hold on the American public long enough. Even after being fined millions of dollars in the recent past because of their underhanded practices, their practice continued.
Now, with the new portion of the Affordable Health Insurance Act finally in place, consumers can begin to feel more secure that their protection is first and foremost. By the year 2014, all of the portions of this Act will be in place, which will further protect the public from the greedy health insurers.
After speaking with various individuals within the medical professions, many oppose this Act. They claim that this will inhibit their treatments and care toward patients. But if you carefully read all portions of this Act, you will find that it protects the general public from underhandedness of health insurers and limits medical costs that can be charged by doctors. We, the consumers, can now be assured that we are no longer at the mercy of the giant health insurers.
What Does an Insured Pay When They Have Health Insurance?
The health insurance industry uses many different terms and understanding them is key to understanding what you are required to pay and what the insurance company will pay. Going to the doctor when you are sick can involve lab tests as well as prescriptions and sometimes being referred to a specialist. Each place you go, you will be required to pay something.
If you’re unemployed and you need medical coverage, you have some solid healthcare options to choose from.
Most people enjoy taking car trips to nearby getaways or flying to see entirely new vistas. And most vacations go smoothly, with only minor inconveniences. Because they don’t expect anything bad to happen on their vacations, most people travel without thinking about their health insurance.
But imagine becoming ill while visiting a foreign country. What if a family member breaks a leg while skiing? Or a fishing trip ends in a boating accident? It’s important to know whether existing health insurance would cover a medical emergency far from home.
Those who already have health insurance should review the contract, call the insurance agent who sold the policy, or contact the insurer’s customer service department to find out if benefits apply while traveling. Some major insurance carriers do provide access to medical care for their customers who are away from home, but restrictions and exclusions may apply. All travelers should carry copies of their insurance policy and member ID card with them, and find out if they should bring additional forms of identification. Also be sure to bring any special contact information for the insurance company’s out-of-town benefits program.
Get details on what services are covered while out of the home area, including hospital care, emergency room services, doctor’s office visits and prescription drugs. Something as simple as a prescription for an antibiotic could cost hundreds of dollars without valid insurance. In addition, many standard insurance policies do not cover the cost of transporting a person home after a medical emergency.
Those who are not currently insured or who do not have travel benefits should consider a travel health policy. There are four general policy types, ranging from basic to deluxe international policies.
Purchasing a travel policy on the internet has advantages and disadvantages. Information and convenience are the biggest benefits of online shopping. Customer service is less strong.
Many internet travel sites also sell travel health insurance policies. But insurance is not their main focus, so they may offer fewer choices of benefits or rates. Travelers who already have a relationship with a travel agent may wish to ask if the agency also sells travel health policies. Many licensed travel agents offer these policies, and because travel is their specialty, they can advise on what type of policy and what level of benefits are right for each client.
Customer service is the heart of a travel agent’s business. An agent can be a valuable source of personal help in a crisis. He or she will likely have industry contacts and experience in dealing with people and organizations in distant places. If a client forgets to bring important documents or contact information on a trip, the travel agent will have that information available and should have a toll-free phone number that clients can call for help.
Those who don’t have an existing relationship with a travel agent may want to check with one of their professional trade associations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (asta.org) or the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (icta.com). Another industry website at TravelSense.org offers visitors a way to search for an agent with specialized credentials.
Some credit card companies offer health insurance as an addition to other services. For example, travelers who hold American Express business cards may be eligible for travel accident insurance and the company’s “global assist program” for international emergencies. A traveler who is planning to book a trip using a credit card should check with the company’s customer service to find out about these added services.
Hopefully, the very worst thing that happens on a vacation will be something as simple as a misplaced suitcase. And if so … a good travel insurance policy includes the baggage replacement benefit to cover it!
There are a number of choices available for small business group health insurance. Taking the time to do some research can make the process of finding a solid employees’ healthcare plan a lot easier.
It’s pretty pointless for a small business to purchase a pricey group health insurance plan, to then find out that half of the employees like their spouse’s health insurance just fine, thank you, and have no intention of switching plans. Determine what coverages and policy types are needed first. Surveying employees to find out what they’re looking for in a healthcare plan can help.
Check with the state department of insurance to ensure that a business health insurance company is properly licensed. Never, ever deal with any small business health insurance company that isn’t licensed, no matter how good the deal. It’s no deal if there’s a group health insurance claim.
Quickly find out how a business health insurance carrier stacks up by visiting www.ambest.com. The A.M. Best Company supplies ratings for insurance companies based upon financial strength and credit obligations. Moody’s, Ward’s and Standard & Poor’s offer even more information about employees’ healthcare plan companies.
Existing clients of a new insurance agent or small group health insurance company can attest to their quality of service. Other business owners can provide information about who they use for business health insurance companies and provide company contacts who can offer information about billing, claims and customer service. It’s worth the time to get referrals and more information before buying an employees’ healthcare plan.
Review small business group health insurance company websites. It only takes a minute to do, and provides a wealth of information about insurance providers. Find out if a small group health insurance is Web-enabled, allowing online payments and questions. Old press releases can tell the tale of how the small business group health insurance company reacted during Katrina and other natural disasters. Investor information, products insured and the claims and customer service sections of a business health insurance company website can provide further detail.
Sometimes, the best deal for small business group health coverage isn’t a good deal at all. Finding an employees’ healthcare plan depends upon more than just cost. Cost-savings should be married with a small business group health coverage plan known for its superior customer service.
Because policy limits, deductibles, rand financial reimbursement caps vary, people have to make smart decisions and pay special attention to the fine details of their dental insurance plan before signing on the dotted line. When performing an analysis to decide which dental insurance plan is best, here are a few things to consider.
Because the dental insurance carrier recognizes the benefit and cost savings of preventative maintenance, annual checkups and cleanings are often covered 100%. Find out, however, how many well care visits per year are covered. Some policies cover one per year while others cover one every six months.
Dental insurance companies establish a standardized chart upon which they base reimbursement for dental procedures. Each company sets its own UCR, therefore it is important for insurance seekers to review the insurance provider’s UCR table and compare it with the dental prices in a given area. Unfortunately, the usual, customary and reasonable reimbursement chart and actual dental procedure costs rarely match. Most often the dental procedure will cost more than the UCR listed on the insurance company’s schedule. The difference ends up coming out of the policyholder’s pocket.
It is customary for dental insurance plans to limit the dollar amount of procedures a patient can undergo one year. For individuals who regularly visit the dentist to perform preventive procedures such as regular cleanings and fluoride treatment, the annual benefit cap does not pose a problem.
Families and individuals who have dental problems that go above and beyond the normal preventative measures and occasional filling may reach and exceed the annual benefit cap. Many insurance companies offer coverage on a sliding scale basis. For example, they may pay 100% of preventative measures, 80% of basic restorative services and 50% of major restorative services. Therefore, it’s best to coordinate care with the dentist to spread the work out over the course of several policy terms to in order to minimize out of pocket expense and maximize the dental insurance coverage.
Further to the annual benefit cap, which gets replenished each year, dental insurance companies also apply lifetime caps for certain procedures. It is common for dental insurance companies to put a lifetime cap on orthodontic coverage. Therefore, if a child needs braces to the tune of $5,000 and the policy only covers $2,000 (lifetime cap). The $2,000 is not replenished the following year and becomes an out of pocket expense.
Dental plans vary, but it is important to assess the true cost of purchasing a dental plan. In addition to the annual/lifetime caps and UCR, patients must review the deductible requirements and whether or not the deductible applies on a per person or a per family basis. Depending on the number of people in the family and the amount of dental work to be performed, the applicable deductible can be a substantial out of pocket expense.
If presented with more than one dental insurance option, it is prudent for one to take time and analyze each program. The decision should not be made hastily.
Horse insurance can be a touchy subject. Once the decision has been made to insure the horse how much should it be insured for?
No insurance company will ensure the horse for more than “fair market value” but what exactly does that mean? To start it means the purchase price. If you bought a horse for $5,000 even if it seems a steal to you this is the price that the company will consider as “fair market value”. As the horse progresses through its training it may take on a new value.
Insurance agents will usually consider: training, winnings, or its ability to perform in the breeding shed as things that could increase the horse’s value.
Training is determined as the time that the horse is in full training or the times when a ‘pro’ is actually sitting on the horse. The lessons and clinics that are taken are not considered as training. Although insurance agents may not ask for written documentation regarding the amount of training, if the horse dies, and you want to collect on the policy, be ready to supply the information to back up the training numbers.
The winnings, whether amount of money earned or placings and championships at horse shows can help determine the market value of the horse. Some times you find a fancy horse, diamond in the rough type, and purchase it for a really cheap price. It can only be insured for the purchase price because it is un-proven. While the horse may be worth more because it has potential, it has not achieved the necessary marks or placing to make its value worth more. This should be brought to the attention of the insurer. The owner and the agent must agree on the necessary requirements to have the horse insured at a higher price.
To get the horse insured at a higher value the agent may require that the horse get scores of 65% at a fourth level dressage test, or win a championship at a green hunter division. Once the requirement is met then the insurance price will increase. Make sure you have an open line of communication with your agent so that policies and prices can be discussed.
If you have a foal to insure the rule of thumb is two times the stud fee. This means if the stud fee is $1500 the insured cost could be $3000. Also taken into consideration are show winnings and sales records of any siblings.
Remember that insurance is purchased to protect your horse. Do not be afraid to call your agent or make a claim. It is best to contact your agent if the vet is called out, even for minor illnesses or injuries. This way if complications arise, the agent is knowledgeable of the condition and can help negotiate through the insurance claim process
The procedure for obtaining an insurance license in Washington is pretty straight forward. First you must select the type of license you wish to obtain. Washington offers life, property, casualty, personal lines and more. Visit the Division of Insurance website for a full listing of license types.
Washington requires its candidates to take 20 hours of pre-licensing education classes before they can take the state exam. You must take the classes from one of the state approved education providers. The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner website provides a listing of the state-approved providers along with links to the provider websites. Upon completing the 20 hour requirement you will receive a certificate of completion. Once you receive the certificate you can take the state licensing exam (you must take the exam within 12 months of completing the education requirement).
The Commissioner of Insurance allows candidates with certain designations to forgo the education requirement for the associated license. Below is a listing of exemption-earning designations:
Life Insurance License
Property or Casualty License
Washington State uses Pearson VUE to administer its insurance exams. You can either register on their website or call them at 1-800-274-8949 to schedule the state exam.
It is recommended that you visit the Pearson VUE website as they have free downloadable documents that will be valuable in helping you pass the Washington state insurance licensing exam. The Insurance Licensing Candidate Handbook is a guideline to help you get through the licensing process and the Examination Content Outlines provides information on the types of questions asked on each of the licensing exams.
After reviewing the documents, schedule a date, time and location for taking the exam. There are currently 8 exam testing locations (Everett, Kennewick, Lacey, Spokane, Tukwila, Vancouver, Wenatchee and Yakima). Select a conveniently located testing center and take the state exam.
Resident licensing candidates must provide a fingerprint card when applying for the insurance license. You can contact Pearson VUE to get fingerprinted as some of their locations offer fingerprinting services. Otherwise, contact your local law enforcement agency to utilize their fingerprinting services. Once you have your fingerprint card, send it to the Office of Insurance Commissioner, Attn: Licensing, P.O. Box 40257, Olympia, Washington 98504-0257.
After satisfying the education requirement, passing the state exam and obtaining the fingerprint card, the last remaining step to becoming a licensed insurance producer is to complete the licensing application. Download and complete the 4-page Uniform Application for Individual Producer License/Registration. Once the form is completed, mail it along with the appropriate fee to the Washington Insurance Commissioner.
Since fees are subject to change, visit the Washington Commissioner of Insurance website for the most up-to-date fee schedule.
Once the application is received, reviewed and approved, you will be issued an insurance license. Washington licenses are issued for a period of two years. Within those two years you must comply with the 24 credit continuing education requirement. If you fail to take the 24 credit hours, you won’t be able to renew your license.
At one point in life the consumer will eventually have to learn to understand the concept behind the matter of a risk-return trade-off when evaluating insurance policies, “insurance is based on the concept of risk pooling, which means that individuals share the financial risks they face” (Kenown, p. 273) “An insurance policy is a contract with an insurance company that spells out what losses are covered, what the policy costs, and who receives payments if a loss occurs” (Kenown, p.272).
Insurance companies are responsible for determining the consumer’s premium or payment. Certain characteristics such as an individual’s age, health background and lifestyle can influence the cost of premiums. The four common types of personal insurances to consider are life, health, property, and liability. Each form of insurance has its own specifications.
Life insurance protects family members from the financial burdens associated with an individual death. This type of insurance allows financial resources to become available to the dependents of the deceased in order to pay off debts, provide for cost of living and educational expenses. It can also become a source of retirement income for family members. People who benefit from this type of insurance are those who have dependents, a terminal illness, an uninsurable condition or any other high-risk health condition. Life insurance is also a valuable tool for business and property owners because they can help reduce any incurring debts and taxes.
Term and cash value are two types of life insurance. Term insurance provides low cost coverage for a set number of years after the death of the insured which can be anywhere from one to thirty years. However, renewable term insurance can be continually renewed up to the specified age of the beneficiary. Cash Value is more expensive because it includes both a life insurance and a savings plan. The monthly premiums are divided and applied to the two categories and if the policy is terminated than the policyholder is entitled to the cash value. Whole, universal and variable are three types of cash value insurances and all three provide permanent protection and death benefits upon the death of the insured party.
Avoiding devastatingly large expenses from medical bills is the main reason people choose to purchase health insurance. Due to the increasing costs of health care it is safe to assume that this type of insurance is a detriment to any living person, however, age, health, and the amount of dependents the insured has are some common factors that can influence the type of policy the consumer chooses to invest in. Most health insurances also require the individual to pay a co-pay or deductable before they can receive benefits. Typically most basic health insurances provide for the hospital, surgical and physician expenses.
Hospital insurance covers accrued cost from in-patient stays such as, room fees, operating room fees, prescription drugs, and nursing expenses, for a designated period of time. Surgical insurance covers surgical costs and physician insurance covers the physician’s fees such as office visits, lab fees and x-rays. Another form of insurance that covers the medical costs beyond those covered by basic health insurance is called major medical expense insurance. This type of insurance is good for those with serious health issues. Other insurances types to consider are those that cover dental, eye care and accidents. There are also various plans to choose from such as HMO, PPO or IPA each has its own list of coverage, physician options and premiums.
Property and liability insurance protects the consumer “against the financial risks of loss of or damage to your home or automobile and the legal liabilities associated with injuries or property damage to others” (Kenown, p.320). Homeowners are usually required to obtain some form of insurance while paying off loans and most states require licensed drivers to have insurance in order to operate a vehicle. Apartment owners, landlords and small business owners are also required to obtain professional property and liability insurance in order to protect the company, employees, renters and customers.
Property insurance protects the individual’s physical property or possessions. It includes coverage of losses due to fire, theft, vandalism and natural disasters. Homeowner’s insurance covers a specific dollar amount and has approximately six different packaged policies that can provide both property and liability insurance. The six forms are basic, broad, special, contents, joint-owners, and modified coverage.
“Liability insurance protects you financially against lawsuits that may arise if someone gets injured on your property” (Tyson,, p.351). Automobile drivers must consider which coverage to purchase depending upon the amount of bodily injury liability they want made available in case of an accident. A minimum amount of $50,000 is recommended for property and damage liability insurance for automobiles. Some policies can extend to cover the cost of both medical and funeral expenses. Some factors that determine the cost of automobile insurance are the vehicle type, driving record, age, and insurance credit score.
The consumer must learn to plan for the future in order to maintain their personal financial wealth. The basic principle of protecting the individual against catastrophes is the main purpose behind any type of insurance. Consumers must ask themselves if they will be willing to pay for a policy in order to cover possible risks. It would be the consumer’s best interest to investigate the various forms of insurance, specified coverage and cost in order to determine which policy would be the most beneficial to their financial future.