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.
Although the need for long-term care is on the rise in the United States, the percentage of people purchasing long-term care insurance policies is relatively low. Often this is a result of the price of long-term care premiums. Having a long-term care policy in place offers more choices and more control in long-term care decisions. Knowing what to look for in a long-term policy and buying the policy at the right time keeps premium prices low.
Determining the likelihood for the need for long-term care is the first place to start when choosing a long-term care policy. Your current health or the health of your loved one and what things you are doing now for certain conditions all factor in to your need for long-term care. Individuals with diseases causing deterioration over time, like diabetes, dementia or Alzheimer’s, will likely need long-term care services more than those with fewer issues.
The emotional health and availability of family members to care for loved ones should also be analyzed. If there is a strong network of capable family members to help in the event that long-term care is needed, the decision to get a long-term care policy is less crucial than for those with no close family available.
The financial situation of you and your loved one should also be a primary consideration when looking at long-term care policies. If your financial situation is such that you can pay for long-term care without such a policy, than the need for long-term care insurance is greatly reduced. However, if your ability to pay out-of-pocket for long-term care services is small, then a long-term care policy may be right for you.
When comparing long-term care policies, there are several factors to consider. Long-term care policies have limits like other insurance policies, and it’s important to know these limits before making a choice. Some things that should influence your choice are:
Long-term care insurance policies, much like life insurance policies, are less expensive when they are purchased early. This is especially true when purchased before certain health conditions arise. If you are considering purchasing a long-term care policy, doing so long before it is needed will save you and your loved ones both time and money.
Most people are aware of insurance in one form or another. Regular payments are made towards the insurance provider, known as premiums, in return for which the insurer agrees to pay out when a specified event or events occur. Sometimes this payment is a one off, lump sum. Other forms of insurance provide a series of payments, providing an income over a defined period. There are many different types of companies now offering these services, leading to an expansion of the market and increased competition
Home insurance is an umbrella term that covers two different types of policy, although many insurers now provide comprehensive policies that cover both bases. Put simply, buildings insurance covers the physical structure of your home, while contents insurance protects the things that you put in it. Combined home insurance policies are often offered at a discount compared to the cost of buying separate buildings and contents policies. An added advantage of this kind of cover is that there is only one insurer to deal with in the event of a claim.
Motor insurance is pretty straight forward in that it is concerned with damage associated with owning and driving a vehicle. Policies vary in scope, from the very basic third party fire and theft to fully comprehensive cover. Third party fire and theft is the legal minimum requirement for driving in the U.K. This basic policy covers the cost of damage to another person’s vehicle in the event of an accident, as well as addressing the self explanatory scenarios of fire and theft. Fully comprehensive cover can allow you to drive not just your car but any vehicle that you are licensed for. In addition, such policies can meet the cost of any repairs required to make good your car, and often also medical treatment and legal cover in the event of litigation.
Critical illness cover is designed to pay out upon the diagnosis of a qualifying illness, such as a stroke or heart attack, and can help meet the cost of private medical bills or loss of income due to absence from work. There are several similar types of policy designed protect your income in the event of illness or unemployment, such as payment protection insurance. Some pay out a lump sum, while others provide a regular income for a specified period. These policies can be quite complicated in scope, and you’ll often need expert advice to be able to determine just which events are covered by the insurance policy.
Travel insurance can provide funds to replace lost and stolen property while on holiday, as well as covering the cost of any medical bills, or changing flights due to unforeseen circumstances. Some policies will cover the cost of the whole holiday if disasters natural or otherwise lead to cancellation, while others will even provide kidnap cover!
Seniors enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B often discover once they become ill that these two Medicare parts won’t pay for all their medical costs. Part A pays most hospital, skilled nursing and some home health care costs; Part B pays most physician, outpatient services and some other home health care costs – but both parts have deductibles, limits and gaps in coverage. Neither pays for any prescription drugs and many medical supplies are not covered.
The private insurance marketplace responded with products designed to cover many costs not paid by Medicare coverage. Products can be chosen to help with cost sharing depending on the need of the Medicare consumer, and seniors continue to be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. Plan design and scope are heavily regulated by both Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to make certain that these plans and products pay exactly what they are required to cover. Seniors can choose from stand-alone supplemental plans and or prescriptions drug plans (Part D), chronic illness special needs plans, or a comprehensive HMO or PPO type plan (Medicare Advantage) that bundles Parts A, B and D together with additional coverage that covers all medical costs and is referred to as Part C.
Each Medicare product is designed to cover different services, and may not be available where you live. While Congress has passed many laws to make the design of these products uniformly specific and the sale ethical and careful, making a choice can be a confusing experience. Here are the basics of a few products:
Part D plans cover most all prescription drug costs, but insurance carriers will offer differing lists of covered drugs and pharmacies. You must be enrolled in both Part A and Part B of Medicare to be eligible for a Medicare Part D plan. The federal guidelines require insurance pays for a prescription after an initial deductible of $320. After this deductible, you pay only a small copay for each drug until drug costs equal an annual total of $2,840, including your copay charges and drug costs. After this $2,840 total is reached, you will will pay any subsequent drug costs for the year (the “donut hole”) up to a total drug cost of $4550, including all costs, charges and copays for the year. During this “donut hole” period, you receive a discount of 50% off the cost of generic drugs, and some insurance companies also offer a discount for brand name drugs. After drug costs have reached $4550, the insurance will pay all drug costs after a small copay for the rest of the year (called Catastrophic coverage). Carriers may enhance their plans to cover the deductible, copays or some of the donut hole but may not offer a plan with lesser benefits than the minimum required coverage. Part D coverage premiums range between $15 and $60 per month, depending on the plan’s design and where you reside.
Supplemental coverage pays some of the out of pocket medical charges (except drug charges) that are not covered by Original Medicare Parts A and B. Medical charges contracted to be covered and paid for by each Medigap plan have been outlined by Congress. The different plans are labeled A, B, E, F and so on up to N. For the outline of each plan’s covered services, go to: Medigap policies . In other words, if you buy a Medicare Supplement F or N from any insurance carrier, each carrier will pay exactly the same for each Medigap alphabet policy. Supplement plans are allowed to vary their premiums and the plan’s provider network, but must cover what the federal guidelines for that specific plan require: no more, no less. Monthly premiums range from $100 to $500 or more, depending on the plan you choose, age when you enroll, and where you reside.
Advantage plans bundle Parts A and Part B (and usually D) costs along with other medical services into a comprehensive health insurance plan with varying but limited copays and deductibles. Insurance carriers receive payment from the federal government (through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – CMS) for covered medical services as well as the Part B premiums paid by members to the government. Plans can be offered as an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) with gatekeepers and authorizations; a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plan, where you can visit any physician, but pay less with network providers; a POS (Point of Service) plan, which is a hybrid HMO/PPO type plan; or a PFFS (Private Fee for Service) type plan where you can see any provider who accepts the plan. Costs and available plans depend on where you live; HMO, PPO and POS plans are typically only available in metropolitan areas due to provider network requirements.
These plans help offset the significant medical costs related to certain chronic or serious conditions and offer a comprehensive care review and coordination not available in original Medicare. Many people with these long term conditions also may qualify for premium subsidies. Plans and coverages, again, will vary by state and by insurance company.
Review each plan’s options carefully and choose wisely as you may only be able to change your plan once a year. Finding the right Medicare product can offer financial security and save out of pocket charges once a serious illness strikes.