Costs of health care are rising – for pets as well as for people. If you find it easier to pay a small fixed amount per month rather than come up with a large sum in an emergency situation then pet insurance may be a good way of ensuring your pet has access to the health care needed in the event of an accident or illness. In this article we’ll explore some of the benefits of pet insurance and give you some ideas on how to shop for a policy.
Benefits of Pet Insurance
- Full Coverage of Fees – Most pet insurance plans will pay for vet fees, labs, medications, x-rays, surgery, hospitalization, chemotherapy, chiropractic care, MRI and CAT scans.
- Reasonable deductibles. Most pet health insurance has a deductible in the $150-200 range.
- Affordable monthly premiums. Premiums will vary, but expect to pay between $8 and $35 per month depending on the type of pet you have, their age and breed and the kind of coverage you want.
- Accident Coverage – In addition to covering illnesses, most plans offer accident coverage as well. If your dog is hit by a car or if your cat breaks his leg you’ll be covered.
- Fast processing – Most claims are processed quickly – within a week or two at most.
- Save thousands – Typical costs for vet treatments can be staggering. A cancer treatment can be over $3,000. A simple infection can cost upwards of $1000. An auto accident can cost $3500 or more. Are you prepared to pay for these emergency expenses out of pocket?
Shopping for Pet Insurance
Take a little bit of time to investigate at least three pet insurance companies before you make a decision. It can also be worthwhile to talk to your vet and see what their opinion is of pet insurance and whether or not there is a company he or she would recommend. You definitely want to find a policy that your vet will accept, unless you’re willing to change vet clinics.
If you have more than one pet, look for a plan that offers multiple pet discounts. Also look for a policy that offers some kind of routine care coverage for annual immunizations and well checks. By having a policy that will offset preventative care your pet is more likely to stay in good health. If you can find a program that offers dental benefits that can be an added plus. Proper dental care can extend the life of your pet by several years.
It’s a fact that every day pets are put to sleep because their owners are unable to afford the cost of life-saving medical treatment. For the cost of less than $1 per day you can purchase a plan that will limit your liability to $200 or so in the event of an illness or accident. Most of us consider our pets to be members of our families. Do yourself a favor and investigate pet health insurance so that you’re never in the difficult position of deciding whether or not you can afford a $4000 treatment that will save your pet’s life.
If you purchase individual insurance rates can be sky high and when you factor in dental insurance it can be difficult to afford both. If you’re stuck between dental insurance rates that are too high to afford and no dental insurance at all, consider investigating a dental discount plan.
Benefits of a Dental Discount Plan
While discount plans vary, here are some of the general types of benefits you can expect:
- Deep discounts – many providers offer discounts of 10-60% depending on the procedure.
- No pre-existing condition waiting periods.
- No insurance paperwork or claim forms to deal with.
- Lots of plans to choose from – there are over 30 national and regional plans.
- Some plans offer discounts on specialist work like orthodontics.
- Low cost compared to dental insurance.
Shopping for a Dental Discount Program
Consider what type of dental work you typically need in a year. Then think about how you would afford emergency dental care. Based on your answers to those two questions you’ll have a good idea of the kind of coverage you’d like to buy. Some dental discount programs are bundled with discounts for other health providers as well. If you frequent the chiropractor, eye doctor or need assistance with your hearing then these bundled programs can be a great value.
Most companies offering dental discount programs can provide you with a comparison chart of the different programs available that can help you make a good decision.
How to Save with a Dental Discount Plan
Once you’re enrolled, saving with a discount plan is easy. Simply bring your discount card with you to your appointment. Present your card when you check in and your bill will be calculated with your discount. Be sure to pay that day for services rendered as that is an integral part of every discount plan – it’s payment due at time of service. If you need to extend payments you’ll need to charge your dental bill to a credit card.
The good news is that there are no insurance claim forms to fill out – no paperwork at all. Just present your card and pay your bill – it’s that easy.
A Few Shopping Tips
Before you sign up with a particular discount plan, be sure to check the following:
- What is the coverage area for the discount plan? Before you get too involved in investigating plan options, be sure you’re in a coverage area.
- Ask for the list of participating providers and see if your current dentist is on the list. If not, decide whether or not you’d be willing to switch dentists to take advantage of the plan.
If you need dental coverage for yourself and/or your family, a dental discount plan can be a great way to go. Instead of paying a monthly premium for services you may not use, you instead pay a small fee for guaranteed discounts when you need to visit a dentist. Some policies even cover orthodontics. So before you make the decision to go with dental insurance compare the benefits and costs to one or more dental discount plans – you’ll be glad you did.
When you go to purchase health insurance, understanding the terms used in the policy is key to finding the right plan for you and your family. Two plans may look similar but when you read the fine print you’ll find a few differences in language that can make all the difference in how your claims will be processed – and paid. Here is a quick guide to some of the terminology you may find and what the definitions can mean when it comes to coverage and care.
Major Medical vs Basic Medical
A health plan that is described as Major Medical or Comprehensive Major Medical will typically cover all medically necessary procedures unless they are specifically excluded in the policy language. A Basic Medical plan on the other hand will usually only cover procedures and treatments that are specifically listed in the policy documents. This difference can be huge. With a Basic Medical plan if you find yourself needing medical attention outside of the treatments called out in the policy, it won’t be covered by your policy. This can leave you with whopping medical bills and no insurance assistance at all. Basic Medical will almost always be lower in monthly premiums, but for a reason. If you want to be assured of having insurance coverage when you need it, be sure to choose a Comprehensive Major Medical plan.
Usual and Customary vs Reasonable
Some policies will pay hospitals and medical providers a usual and customary fee based on an agreed contract or what is reasonable for that area of the country. In some cases however, this Usual and Customary practice can cause problems. If your physician believes that a particular treatment is necessary but your insurance company doesn’t believe it is Usual and Customary, they can deny benefits for that claim, leaving you holding the bill. Policies that list Reasonable however will generally cover procedures that a doctor believes is necessary. Look for broader language in your policy before you buy. Terms like Reasonable and Customary is better than Usual and Customary. Any language that includes Reasonable will generally have a broader scope of coverage.
Just as important as what IS covered in your health insurance policy is finding out what is NOT covered. Be sure to carefully examine the part of your policy that spells out what is excluded from coverage. Some treatments are covered but only after a period of time. Other policies have a general exclusion that states that anything not listed is not covered. Be sure to read the fine print to know exactly where your coverage begins – and ends.
With all of these differences, think of them as a benefit vs. cost trade off. While Basic Medical won’t have as comprehensive of a coverage plan as a Major Medical policy, they will also cost substantially less per month. Same with policies that only provide Usual and Customary coverage versus Reasonable coverage. You will need to balance the type of insurance you want with the amount of insurance you can afford to find a winning combination for you and your family. That said, knowing the difference gives you the power to make the decision before you buy instead of discovering the difference after it’s too late.
Once you’ve determined how much insurance you want to purchase, the next question is which company will reliably service your policy. You’ll want to know how your chosen company will handle a claim and what kind of customer service they will provide. Here are a few things to investigate to ensure that the company that you go with will provide good service, process and pay your claims on time and be there when you need them.
State Insurance Advisory – Every State has a website devoted to insurance. These sites provide consumer information about registered insurance companies in the State. Many States will provide information on the number of complaints they receive from consumers about each company. If your State doesn’t provide this list, check a neighboring State as the bigger insurance companies are likely to have similar service across the nation as they are centrally managed. Take notes on the 3 or 4 insurance companies with the fewest complaints. Then get quotes from those companies to see how they stack up against each other when it comes to price.
Check J.D. Power Ratings – J.D. Power does an annual survey of auto policy holders across the country and rates the information on a variety of categories. This can be a great way to see at a glance which insurance carriers get the best ratings from the best source of satisfaction information – customers. Some of the categories rated include price, responsiveness, claims handling and insurance options offered.
Look Into Authorized Body Shops – A great way to see what kind of service you’ll receive is to find out which body shop in your area is an authorized shop for each prospective insurance company. Body shop owners will be able to give you good background on what it’s like to work with various insurance companies and what you can expect when it comes to your claim and processing time.
Talk to an Agent – If shopping around becomes cumbersome, talk with an agent. The best kind of agent to talk with is an independent agent who can represent more than one insurance company. Independent agents work more like a broker and can give you unbiased advice because they’re not required to sell only one companies products. One of the benefits of having an agent is having another person who can go to bat for you. In the event of an accident you can contact your agent and they can assist you. Having an extra pair of hands can be very important if you’re dealing with personal injuries.
It’s important to keep in mind that when you purchase insurance, there’s more to consider than the price you pay for the policy. When it comes time to file a claim, what you will find is that the quality of service and the timeliness of processing will be extremely important. A cheap policy will cost you far more in the long run if the service you receive in exchange for your hard earned money isn’t up to par. By doing a little homework in advance you can be assured of a great policy at a price that you can afford.
As with all important paperwork, it’s good to know how long to store insurance documents. It’s also a good idea to store each type of policy information in the right place for easy accessibility. Insurance tends to be one of those things that you purchase and then forget about it until you need it. By following these few tips on storing your insurance documents you’ll be able to quickly locate all the information you need when an emergency arises.
How Long Do You Need to Keep Records?
The length of time you need to keep your records depends on the type of document. If in doubt, check with your insurance company.
- Life Insurance Policy Information – As long as your policy is current, keep all paperwork and policy information in a safe place.If you have a cash value policy you will need to keep the policy as long as you keep the investment. If you sell or cash out your policy you’ll need to retain the financial documentation for 7 years if tax related.
- Car Insurance Documents – You’ll need to keep your automobile policy information as long as your policy is current. Once you’ve received a new policy or switched policies you can destroy old policy documentation.
- Health Insurance documents – You’ll need to keep all documentation as long as your policy is current. If you deducted the cost of your insurance on your taxes be sure to keep your invoices or bills for 7 years in case of an audit.
- Claim Information – If you ever have to file a claim, you’ll need to keep track of all of your paperwork. A good rule of thumb for these kinds of documents is 7 years.
Where to Store Insurance Documents
- Keep policy numbers in an easily accessible place in case you need to file a claim. It’s a good idea to have your insurance companies names, phone numbers and policy numbers written down and stored in a safe location outside of your home. That way, if there is ever a fire or other situation where you cannot access your home records you still have all your crucial information.
- Car Insurance Documents – For your auto insurance policy you’ll want to be sure to keep proof of insurance either in your wallet or in your car. Many states have required insurance and if you’re ever pulled over and cannot provide proof of insurance the tickets can be hefty – over $400 in some instances.
- Health insurance documents should be kept in two places. Policy information can be filed but your health insurance card should be carried with you at all times.
- If you store your paperwork at home, its worth investing in a small fireproof safe. If you put it in a hidden place you’ll protect your important documents from thieves as well as from fire.
Insurance paperwork is important to keep track of. By keeping all paperwork while policies are active, and anything related to a tax issue for 7 years you’ll be in good shape. Keep paperwork in an accessible place and you’ll quickly be able to find it in a hurry.
An auto accident is a traumatic event. It’s understandable that immediately following an accident you may not be thinking about your auto insurance at all. The first priority is making sure that everyone is OK, and if not, seeking immediate medical attention. While your insurance is not as important as anyone’s health, it is still a factor. If possible, keep a clear head and try to gather the information that your insurance company will require to process a claim.
- Who was involved? You’ll want to get a host of information from the other folks involved in the accident. You’ll want a full name, address, phone number and date of birth if you can get one. You’ll also want their complete insurance information. You’ll need their insurance company name and their policy number. If more than one car was involved, be sure to get this information from all parties involved. Also make a note of everyone in each vehicle. Having a record of everyone present will help you from being a victim of insurance fraud.
- What types of vehicles? Get the year, make and model for each vehicle that was involved. If you can, also get license plate numbers.
- Were police officers present? If the police were called to the scene, be sure to get their name and badge information. If the officer fills out a police report, ask for the report number.
- Were there witnesses? If anyone saw the accident happen, ask them for their information. Having a third party verify the events of the accident will help settle the claim more quickly.
- Was an aid car called? Was anyone hurt enough to be taken to the emergency room in an ambulance or aid car? Note the suspected type of injury and the hospital where the person was taken.
- What kind of damage was caused? Note the type of damage to each vehicle involved. Were the cars drivable? Was there property damage to signs, telephone poles or other property?
- What is the surrounding area like? Make a note of where the accident happened and what is nearby. Note all intersections, signs, road markings, etc. Drawing a picture or taking a photo can be a helpful way to document the location of the accident.
- Take photos if you can – even cell phone photos can be helpful.
Insurance companies want to keep you as a happy customer and will do everything in their power to process your claim as quickly as possible. You can help them with the filing process by gathering as much information possible. Keep a notepad and pen in the glove box of your car in case of emergencies. It will provide you a place to take notes in the event of an accident. You may even want to call your insurance company from the accident to let them know. Often times insurance companies can assist by setting up a shop to repair your car and helping to arrange a rental vehicle. Armed with the right information your insurance company will quickly process your claim and have you driving again in no time.
Insurance rates are based on a number of factors, the most important of which is your driving records. The number of accidents, speeding tickets and traffic violations on your record will directly impact the rates you pay for auto insurance. In this article we’ll give you the details on how your driving record will be scored and what you can do to minimize negative marks on your driving record.
How Your Record is Scored
There are two basic ways that your driving record will be scored, based on the state you live in.
- Method One – A point is added to your record for each moving violation. You will receive two points if you were excessively over the speed limit. Licenses get suspended when a driver gets 4 points in a single year, 6 points in two years or 8 points in three years.
- Method Two – Minor infractions are only given one point. Three to five points are given for accidents and more serious infractions. With this method licenses are typically suspended if you receive more than 12 points over three years.
Check with your Department of Motor Vehicles to find out which method your state uses. You can also get a report on how many points currently exist on yoru record.
How Rates are Impacted
Many insurance companies will allow up to one point every two to three years. Other insurance companies are more strict. Check with your insurance provider to see what their policies are and how additional points may impact your insurance rates. The more points you have, the more expensive your premiums will be. Accidents will also raise your rates – sometimes up to 30%. The best way to keep rates down is to keep your driving record clean.
Avoid Driving Record Points
One of the easiest ways to keep points off your record is to not get them in the first place. That said, if you do get a ticket there are a few things you can do:
- Contest the moving violation. You can present your case in traffic court. It may even be worth hiring an attorney to represent you if you’re in danger of having your license suspended.
- Attend traffic school. Some states allow offenders to attend traffic school in addition to paying their fines. If you successfully complete the course and do not have any more violations for a certain period of time (usually at least 2 years) then the point will not appear on your record and will not impact your insurance costs.
- Attend a driving school. Some states will allow you to knock points off of your record by attending a school. Unlike traffic school which is a state school, these driving schools are private. The benefit of attending a defensive driving class is the reduction in a point or so from your record. Check with your state to see if this program is something it offers.
In addition to keeping your premiums low by having a good driving record, you can actually qualify for discounts if you have no points on your record for at least 3 years. There are financial benefits to being a safe driver, so be sure to follow posted speed limits.
Shopping for homeowners insurance is an important part of owning a home. You want to make sure that the biggest investment you’re likely to have is fully insured against fire, theft and liability. Take some time to understand the types of items you’ll want on your homeowners policy. Chances are, once you purchase your policy you won’t be thinking about it again for at least a year so make sure you do your homework before hand.
Type of Policy
when you shop for homeowners insurance, policies generally cover your dwelling and outbuildings like your garage. They also will cover your personal property inside the home. Ask what kind of personal property insurance you’re being quoted on. You’ll want to have replacement value insurance, not actual value insurance. The reason being is that actual value insurance only pays you the amount that your possessions would fetch in a garage sale. Actual value is how much it would cost to replace your possessions new. There is a big difference in the coverage type, yet not a big difference in the policy cost so it’s worth the extra few dollars to have replacement value coverage.
In addition to property coverage, homeowners insurance also covers some level of liability. Liability insurance comes into play if someone were to become hurt on your property. This could be anyone who happens to come into your yard or into your house. A visitor, friends and family, the UPS delivery driver. It’s an important aspect of your insurance policy. Some even will cover accidents and pay up to $2000 in medical care if a visitor hurts themselves while visiting you.
If the unthinkable were to happen and you found yourself in a situation where you needed to file a homeowners claim, you want to be sure that the company you’re working with will handle everything in a timely and professional way. The last thing you want is to be arguing about whether or not your homeowners policy covers hotel rooms if your home has just burned down. As you shop for policies, don’t assume that every company is the same as the next. Ask what the claims process is like with each company:
- How much paperwork is required?
- What are your responsibilities as the homeowner for getting the claim processed?
- How much time does it take? What if you cannot live in your home – is there coverage for hotel or other accommodations?
- Will you need to pay for expenses out of pocket at first and then be reimbursed? How long does it take for reimbursement?
Hopefully homeowners insurance is something you’ll never need to use. However, if you do find yourself in a situation where you need to file a claim you want to be assured of having the right level of policy with the right kind of insurance company. A homeowners insurance policy is like a security blanket in times of trouble. Talk with your local insurance agent to determine what kind of policy makes the most sense for you and your family. Then rest easy knowing that if trouble were to arise, you’d be covered.
If you’re renting, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to bother with property insurance. While you don’t need a homeowners policy, a renters insurance policy is a good idea. Why leave all of your worldly possessions uninsured when coverage is easy to get and is a real bargain? Read on to see why we highly recommend a renters insurance policy.
Reason # 1: It’s Inexpensive
Most renters insurance policies will not cost an arm and a leg. In fact, an average policy will only cost you about $20 per month. That’s less than a dollar per day. When you purchase a renters insurance policy you’re buying peace of mind as well as protection for all of your assets. It’s a good feeling to know that if a disaster were to strike, you’d be covered.
Reason #2: Can You Afford NOT to Have it?
Think about all of your possessions. Take a moment and add up how much it would cost you to replace everything you own if a natural disaster were to strike. What if you had no clothes, no kitchen equipment, no computer gear, no TV or furniture. Chances are, the amount you’d need to replace everything would be tens of thousands of dollars. How would you function without any of your belongings? How long would it take you to save up enough to replace them all? Spend a bit of time considering what life would be like if you came home from work to discover that your apartment building had burned to the ground. What would your options really be? When you consider how inexpensive renters insurance is, its clear that the premium amount is well worth the benefits.
Reason #3: Lots of Coverage
Renters insurance doesn’t just cover you in the event of a fire. You can count on your policy to also protect you in the event of a theft or vandalism. If something you own is stolen from your home your policy will kick in to replace it. Some policies even cover your property when they’re in your car. So if your car is burglarized and your laptop is stolen, you may be able to file a renters insurance claim for the value of the laptop.
Reason #4: Liability Coverage
Most renters policies have an option for additional liability insurance. Liability insurance is particularly handy if you have a dog or pet that could potentially bite someone or cause someone to sue you. It can also protect you in the event that a visitor falls or hurts themselves while visiting you. Liability coverage is not usually that much more expensive, so be sure to talk to your agent about it when you call to get a renters insurance quote.
Renters insurance is a good value for the coverage it offers and the peace of mind it gives you. If you’re unsure about the price, give a local insurance agent a call and let them know what your situation is. Chances are they can find you a policy that fits your budget. Some policies can be had for as little as $10 a month. So give your agent a call today – you’ll be glad you did.
Having an adequate life insurance policy can provide peace of mind. It’s a good feeling to know that in the event of your untimely death that your family would be able to meet their financial obligations. If you’re in the market for a term life insurance policy, here are a few factors that can impact your ability to qualify as well as the rate that you’re likely to pay.
Smoking Can Cost You
If you smoke, expect to have substantially higher term life insurance rates than a non-smoker. In general, smokers have a higher risk factor associated with them which drives the cost of insurance up. If you can, quit smoking before you apply. Or, if you’re already insured and you’ve quit, be sure to contact your insurance company to see if they can offer you a better rate. Smoking is one of the biggest items that can impact a life insurance policy so if you can quit, now’s a good time.
How Much Coverage?
You want to be sure that your life insurance policy amount is adequate to cover financial outlays after your death. Having too much coverage can mean a higher policy price than you need to pay. Having too little can be troublesome for your beneficiaries. A good rule of thumb is to take your annual salary and multiply it by 5-10 times to get an idea of the range of policy you should be shopping for.
Term life insurance is generally not very expensive, yet most insurers offer a monthly payment plan. This is for a reason – most insurance companies will add up to $7 for the convenience of paying monthly. In some instances, this can be the same amount or more than the cost of your monthly insurance bill! When you do purchase term life insurance, choose to pay it in one lump sum to save a significant amount.
Even if you have an insurance agent that you’ve worked with for years, it can’t hurt to shop around. Check with at least three different term life companies to find out what the going rates are. Then, if you’d still like to work with your agent, let them know what you’ve discovered. Chances are they will be willing to bring their price down or even match the lowest price you found in order to keep your business. When you shop however, be sure that you’re comparing the same types of insurance policies. Be sure that all the policies you’re looking at are term life, not cash value. Also be sure that the amounts of the policies are the same.
No matter what your income it’s a good idea to have life insurance if you have family that depend on your financial contribution. Take a little time to shop around and chances are you’ll find a policy that fits your budget and provides an adequate amount of coverage. By following our tips you’ll be able to find the lowest price on a good policy and will feel confident knowing that your family will be sheltered from financial hardship in the case of an unforeseen event.