• Posts Tagged ‘insurance’

    What Happens if I’m not happy with a Health Insurance Claim Decision?

    by  • August 19, 2014 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    There may come a time when you submit a health insurance claim and you’re not happy with the decision made by the insurance provider.  But what can you actually do about it?

    There are a number of reasons why an insurance provider might turn down your claim, such as insufficient need for treatment, or questions over whether the area of treatment is covered by your policy.  Whatever the reason it’s not ideal for you if you end up being presented with a large bill for treatment.

    Prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act appealing a decision could be something of an unknown quantity. You might pick up a phone to call the provider and not even be aware that you’re actually starting a formal appeal process. This has all changed, as there are now procedures to be followed by all health insurance providers. You can learn more about the health insurance policies offered by HBF by following this link.

    What are these procedures?

    There are two types of appeal that are possible; internal appeal, and external review.  When an internal appeal takes place the insurance provider looks at the decision again and checks whether or not it is correct.  When an external review takes place the decision is considered by a third party who looks at whether the appeal decision was correct. There are procedures in place for both of these circumstances.

    Internal Appeal

    If you’ve received a decision that you’re unhappy with you need to appeal to the insurance provider within 6 months of receiving the original decision.  If you need help with the appeal you should speak to your local Consumer Assistance Program who can submit it for you.  To submit the appeal you need to either complete the forms your provider requires or write to them with your name, heath insurance id number, and the claim reference number.

    You should include anything that you want to be considered as part of the appeal, such as a doctor’s letter.  Remember that you should keep copies of all the documentation including the original decision, your appeal request and any supporting documentation.

    There are several different types of decision that you can appeal:

    • Benefit not covered by plan
    • Health care provider not in the plan’s network
    • Treatment not medically necessary
    • Claim irregularities

    Your appeal must be decided within 30 days if you’ve not yet received the treatment and within 60 days if you’ve already had the treatment.  The health insurance provider must give you their decision in writing.  If, after reconsidering your case, the provider still refuses your claim you can ask for an external review.

    External Review

    As for the internal appeal, there are procedures to follow for an external review.  You must submit your request in writing within 60 days of receiving the appeal decision.  Sometimes your plan will allow more time than this; you’ll need to check. The third party reviewer will then review the decision and provide you with a response within 60 days of your request.

    Who deals with your request depends on whether or not your state has a provision that complies with consumer protection requirements.  If they don’t then your review will be considered at federal level.

    Can You Write Your Own Will?

    by  • December 18, 2013 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    It’s a common misconception that you have to hire an attorney to write your own will. Yes, an attorney will know how to draft a will properly and they know your state’s estate laws, but there are plenty of legal websites out there that can help you draft just as good (if not better) of a will for a fraction of the cost. That being said there is a right way to write your own will and a wrong way.

    Use a Will Template

    It’s important to use a will template to draft your will. Even if you have a book of legal clauses or you’ve found clauses online, you need to use a template to put them altogether. Use a legal document website, like LegalZoom, to help piece your will together. It’s important you use a typed document. Even though some states allow hand-written wills, it is more formal and causes less issue in probate court if your will is typed.

    No matter which template type you choose, make sure you choose one that has step-by-step instructions added in. These instructions will help make you feel confident in the legal document you’re drafting, but also ensure your will is drafted the right way.

    Things to Include In Your Will

    There’s no specific language requirement to your will. Instead it is a document that relates your final wishes regarding your estate. Therefore, write the will to benefit you and your loved ones. The amount of information you include in your will depends on your personal situation. Some things you may want to include are:

    • The name of your executor — this is the individual who will see your will out.
    • The name of any guardians for your children and/or property.
    • How debts in your name will be paid off and how your final taxes will be handled.
    • How your pets (if any) will be cared for.

    While you can put a lot in your will, even the best legal document sites like LegalZoom or other template sites cannot help you with. These are more complex situations that might require an attorney to review and can be added to the will you have drafted yourself.

    For example, if you want to leave money or property in a different way (rather than leaving it to a specific person) you will need to draft a trust in addition to your will. Most legal document websites will have basic guidelines for what you can include in your will and what other documents you might need based on your situation.

    Some Rules Regarding DIY Wills

    There are a lot of rules regarding estate planning. While these can vary from state to state, there are some rules that apply nationwide. These include:

    • You must be 18 years of age or older to draft your own will.
    • If you’re writing the will, you must be of the right capacity and of sound judgment to write it yourself.
    • You must state in the document that it is your will.
    • If you name an executor, he or she must be 18 years or older.
    • Your will should be notarized.

    Choosing an Executor

    An executor is the individual who is responsible for settling your estate. You will need an executor to handle distribution of your assets, paying any remaining bills, etc. Remember, your executor must be at least 18 years of age. Most legal document sites like LegalZoom will verify age before allowing you to enter their name.

    Just because a person is 18, however, doesn’t make them suitable for the executor role. The executor role is a big role to fill. Therefore, you want to choose someone who is responsible enough to handle tasks such as:

    • Negotiating your debts with creditors.
    • Discussing your estate with the Internal Revenue Service and state tax commissions
    • Taking inventory of your belongings and property.
    • Appraising or having someone appraise your assets.
    • Distributing assets to those named in your will.

    You do not have to name a family member for this role. In fact, many individuals name a friend, family attorney or even a financial planning expert to handle this responsibility.

    Review Your Will

    Once you draft a will, it’s not over. You still need to review your will at least once a year to make sure there are no significant changes. Also, if you have a life change, you will need to update your will as soon as possible so that it is relevant to your current situation. For example, if you have a new baby you will want to add your new child to your will — otherwise he or she will not be eligible for any inheritance. If you remarry, divorce or get married, you need to change your spouse situation in your will. Also, if you move to another state, you may have to draft an entirely new will based on your state’s new estate laws.

    Insurance for Pubs

    by  • March 8, 2013 • Tagged:   • Comments

    A pub isn’t like most other businesses, and has specific problems that may arise that are unique to it, such as loss of license, damage caused by customers, and potential injury to members of staff. Ideally, these types of incidents will be few and far between but, if they do occur, it will be important for you to have sufficient insurance to lessen any financial burden that may arise from them so that you don’t have to take out a short term cash loan.

    Pub insurance is a specific type of business insurance that is specifically designed for the issues that pubs might face. When dealing with the public, and serving alcoholic beverages, certain insurance needs arise. For example, getting a standard buildings insurance policy will not be enough, nor will getting contents insurance be sufficient.

    There are various things covered by you pub insurance policy, such as:

    • Loss of license
    • Employer and public liability
    • Business contents
    • Loss from theft
    • Damage to sanitary fittings and fixed glass
    • Business interruption
    • Personal accident
    • Claims from employees

    And the list goes on. Naturally, as an employer with staff, any pub needs to take out employers liability insurance. When shopping for a pub insurance policy, this may be included. However, you will need to make sure that this is the case, or whether it is added on as an optional extra. This form of insurance will protect you against claims made from a member of staff, should they be injured on the job. Without the right cover in place, such claims can prove to be extremely costly, and can be financially destructive to any pub.

    Naturally, providing protection against claims from the public is also very important. This is where public liability insurance comes in, and will help to protect your business against claims made due to poor service, malpractice, or negligence. For example, if someone fell down a broken step when heading to the toilet, they would be able to claim. Without a suitable policy in place, your costs could run into the thousands or more.

    Of course, pub insurance will take things a lot further than this. It is important that you take into account the different services that you offer, such as providing food, hiring out function rooms, letting bedrooms, providing a beer garden, or a children’s play area. All services need to be factored into your business insurance policy, and all possible eventualities and risks need to be considered.

    When it comes to securing the right policy, you may want to consider using a specialist pub insurance broker. Since all pubs are unique, and all have their own specific needs, using a broker will help you to determine your exact needs. This is a better alternative to using a general insurance broker, and will help you find the most appropriate, and affordable, policy available.

    Be aware that, as with any type of insurance, there will be an excess to consider. As a rule of thumb, the more you are prepared to risk yourself as part of your excess, the less the burden of risk will fall on the insurer. As a consequence, your premiums will generally be lower. As such, increasing your excess is a sensible option in helping you save a bit of money. If you take this action, just make sure that you are in a position to cover said excess should you need to file a claim.

    Income Insurance as a Way to Protect Against Debt

    by  • February 21, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    If you have an income, you should be thinking about income protection insurance. Many of us protect our cars with car insurance, we protect our bodies with health insurance, and we protect our homes with home insurance. Nevertheless, many of us seem to overlook protecting our income.

    Most households rely on at least one salary coming in, to pay rent or the mortgage, to pay bills, to buy food, and to keep everyone clothed and happy. The problem is, bad things can happen, and those bad things can stop us from going to work. And if we don’t go to work, there will be no money coming in.

    Being out of work because of an accident, illness or injury can be devastating to a household. Bills start to pile up, debts accumulate, and stresses rise. It’s not a good situation to be in.

    However, having income protection insurance can help protect against these types of situations. Income protection can offer a substitute “paycheck” when you are unable to work because of illness or injury. It can help to cover bills, rent, and day-to-day expenses, and can stop debts from mounting up when there is no salary coming in.

    So, how does it work? When you take out income protection insurance, you will have various decisions to make on the type of cover you will need.

    First up, you need to decide on the “waiting period”. This is the period of time between stopping work and starting your benefits. This will vary depending on the insurance provider, but it can be between two weeks and three months.

    Next, you need to decide on the “benefit period”. This is the length of time you will continue to receive benefits when you are not able to work. Again, this will vary according to the insurer, but it can be one or two years, and sometimes last all the way up to retirement.

    Last of all, you will need to decide how much cover you need. You can usually cover up to 75% of your monthly income, but you will need to check with the insurer for their specific conditions.

    Having income protection can mean the difference between debt and stress, and paying the bills and allowing yourself to get back on your feet in your own time. It can help to protect you and your family, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

    Suncorp offers a wide range of insurance options, including life insurance and income protection insurance. Compare life insurance and income protection insurance policies and prices at Suncorp. For quality insurance from an insurer you can trust, click here to find out more at Suncorp’s website.

    Our Life Insurance Decision

    by  • August 22, 2012 • Tagged:   • Comments

    We’ve joined over 100 other bloggers to promote the Life Insurance Movement. Thank Illinois Certified Financial Planner Jeff Rose for this awesome idea!

    The Universal Life Insurance Company

    Life insurance. Get it. Now. #LifeAware

    When Her and I got back from our honeymoon, not two weeks passed before Her took the initiative and started researching life insurance. We first looked to friends for suggestions…which was a mistake.

    Our First Life Insurance Meeting

    We got a suggestion to check out a couple friends of ours life insurance agent. His office was on the 30-something floor of a downtown Chicago skyscraper. He lead us to a bland conference room with a whiteboard. It was only five minutes into his pitch that I realized that he was selling us a whole life insurance product; he was selling us an investment. I pretty much tuned out, but Her was kind of interested. I left our meeting unconvinced.

    In the days after, I researched the plan that the life insurance agent pitched to us. It was as bad as I thought. It took a few spreadsheets and links to good articles, but I finally won Her over to my side. But Her still wanted to give the guy a shot and scheduled another meeting with him. When we brought up our concerns about the plan, the agent got defensive, almost hostile. We got our answers and then left. He followed up with us soon after, but we told him that we’d be researching other options. Our stance: insurance is used to protect against catastrophic loss only and investments should be separate.

    Life Insurance – We Found A Winner!

    While I was doing more research on life insurance, I filled out an online form for a quote for a term life insurance plan. I expected a lot of spam and other solicitations, but I actually received calls form helpful people. We picked one randomly — Jason — and decided to meet with him.

    The meeting with Jason couldn’t have been more opposite than the meeting with the first insurance agent we met. We started by talking about ourselves. For an hour. Then we left. We weren’t sold to at all.

    Of course all of the cynics are going to say that now he has all of the information he needs to craft a life insurance product. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE WANTED. I’d rather that an insurance agent listen to our needs and then comes up with a plan rather than blindly selling us a product that doesn’t work to our advantage. We decided to make the follow up appointment and get more information.

    The Life Insurance Process

    During our first meeting, we identified all of the financial things, our assets, that we already had going for us – our jobs and salaries, investments, and current life insurance coverage. With that information, we drew up an estimate of how our salary might change over the years (sadly, since then, the projections did not come true) and how our investments may grow.

    We then tallied up our liabilities – student loan debt, possible future mortgage, new car purchases, etc. Those numbers were pretty simple.

     

    The fun part: dreaming about the future. How many kids? What would our lifestyle be like 5, 10, 25, 30 years into the future? Would we have 20 cats? This process was fun, but we had to be somewhat realistic, otherwise we would run the risk of getting the wrong amount of insurance.

    Then came the Debbie Downer: what would happen should one or both of us died. Would we want all of our debts paid? Would we like to not work so that we can grieve or take care of the kids? Should we have enough to cover kids’ school tuitions? Will we need to build an addition to our home for all of the cats?

    After all of this information was out there, we came up with a number: $750,000 of life insurance coverage for each of us.

    What surprised me was that our agent then worked with us to find the cheapest way possible of getting that coverage. Did we need all of that coverage for the fill 30 years? Probably not. We assumed that our assets would grow over time, meaning that we would need less coverage as we got older. The assets would take the place of the coverage. Our agent then proposed that we get $500K coverage for 20 years, and $250K for the 30 years. So for the first 20 years, we would have $500K + $250K = $750K coverage, and then it would drop to $250K afterwards.

    Thinking about it now, I don’t exactly know (!) how we’re covered. I know that right now we’re covered for $750K, and it may or may not decrease in 20 years or so. I should look that up.

    The Downside

    If there’s one downside to all of this, it is the cost of life insurance. Bloggers and TV ads all around have stated something along the lines of “for only $30 a month you can be insured for ONE BILLION DOLLARS”. Well, that’s certainly true if you’re the paragon of health, but I’m not. I’ve covered previously how my health problems have made my life expensive to insure, to the tune of $220 per month. Luckily Her is in much better health than I am in, so her premiums are quite low at the fabled $30 per month. There’s not much I can do about it other than setting up a genetics lab and then expunging the bad genes from my genome. I’d wager that would cost a lot.

    In Conclusion

    So was this all worth it? YES. We both go to sleep better at night knowing that our kid (and future kids!) will be financially protected should something terrible happen to one, or worse, both of us. If there are people depending on your ability to provide financially for them for at least the next 10 years or so, you should have life insurance to protect them in case something terrible happens to you.

    You’ll sleep better at night.

    image: ilovememphis

    Sponsored Post: Maintaining Your Auto Insurance Rate

    by  • August 31, 2010 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    This sponsor post is brought to you by 21st Century Insurance. The views expressed here are solely those of the sponsor and do not necessarily represent the views of Make Love, Not Debt.

    Many drivers spend a lot of time shopping for lower car insurance rates. Once you find a low rate, you’ll want to keep it that way. Here are a few tips for avoiding a premium increase.

    1. Avoid traffic violations.
    Speeding tickets and other moving violations can automatically result in an automobile insurance rate increase. Follow the letter of the law to avoid getting a ticket in the first place. If you do get a citation, some states will erase it if you attend traffic school. See if your state is one of them.

    2. Drive carefully.
    Exercise extreme caution whenever you drive. You can expect your rate to increase if you’re involved in accident for which you are held responsible. The industry standard is to increase your premium by 40% of your base rate after your first at-fault accident. Be sure to look carefully at the next insurance bill you receive after an accident. You shouldn’t be penalized for accidents that weren’t your fault. If you think your rates have been increased unfairly, contact your insurance company.

    3. Lend your car sparingly.
    If you lend your car to a friend who gets in an accident, you’ll be responsible for any deductibles incurred. There’s also a good chance your rates will increase as the result of any claims filed.

    4. Don’t get your license suspended.
    Too many driving violations or a DUI can result in your losing your license. Once that happens, you may find your auto insurance rates increase by as much as 35-40%… or that you may not be able to get coverage at all.

    5. Keep your car locked … in the garage, if possible.
    It doesn’t seem fair, but a stolen car can result in an increased auto insurance policy. Always lock your vehicle and park in the safest place possible. If you have a garage, use it.

    6. Choose the car you drive carefully.
    When shopping for a new vehicle, choose a safe, low-risk model. If you have a few makes and models in mind, call your insurance company and ask will cost more to insure.

    7. Pay your bills on time.
    Many car insurance companies look at credit reports to determine the amount of your premium. The belief is that drivers with higher credit scores are more responsible behind the wheel. A poor credit score could result in a higher auto insurance rate.

    My Life is Expensive to Insure

    by  • July 13, 2010 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    doctor.jpg

    (photo: The Doctr)

    Way back in the day when we were just newlyweds (or 18 months ago if you prefer), we came up with a list of things that we thought would be good to do since we’re now married. Surprisingly enough we managed to accomplish most of those things on the list. One task we decided to pursue almost immediately after we were married was to get life insurance.

    We did the responsible thing and reserached our options and talked to a bunch of different agents and got some quotes. We decided that we would get a 30-year term life insurnace plan for $750,000 for each of us. Whether you think we’re over-insured or should have gone with a whole-life plan, that’s not the point of this post.

    The point of this post is to tell you that my genes and medical history suck, especially when it comes to how they have affected my life insurance premiums.

    Life insurance premiums can vary depending on how you are classified. These classificications range from feel-good terms like "Premium-plus" or "premium" to the mediocre "standard" and finally the dreaded "Schedule __", where a letter goes into the blank. Your classification depends on how (un)healthly you are at the time that you are purchasing the insurance and your overall medical history.

    I’ve been candid about writing about my health on this blog – everything from losing weight, battles with depression, knee surgery, and high blood pressure. Apparanelty the insurance companies don’t like to see that I’ve been in the doctor’s office as much as I have been for my various ailments. In addition, a family history of diabetes and heart disease doesn’t bode well for me, either.

    As if my medical history wasn’t bad enough, I also get white coat hypertension, meaning that I get anxious when I get into a doctor’s office or when I know I’m going to get a medical check up, causing me to have temporary high blood pressure. So when the insurance company sent a person to do the at-home medical exam, my blood pressure was through the roof. Not good.

    The ironic part about all of this is that even though all of that was on my medical record, in the 2 years prior I had done the prudent thing and actually got treated for everything, and was the healthiest I’d ever been.

    At the end of this process, Her was classified as Premium-plus. Unfortunately, I had been classified as Schedule D. This means that we have the privelage of paying about $220 per month for health insurance. OUCH!

    I learned that I can get re-evaluated after 3 years, which I’m definitely going to do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I can do anything about my past.

    Too Young for Long-Term Care Insurance?

    by  • March 16, 2010 • Tagged:   • Comments

    12040799_dece85e947_o.jpg
    photo: Ilja

    The first time that Her and I heard about long-term care (LTC) insurance was about 5 years ago on an episode of Susie Orman. LTC insurance pays for stuff like nursing homes to at home care, depending on the plan. Since then we’ve always had it in the back of our minds, especially when we thought about how our parents would take care of themselves. For us though, since we were only puppies in our mid-20′s then, we didn’t give it much thought.

    So when Her emailed me one day telling me that her employer is offering a group LTC plan, I was not ready to make a decision about it. Much of the information floating around on LTC assume that people will start shopping for this around the age of 50. We’re more than 20 years from that, so are we crazy for making this decision now?

    Some Google-fu revealed that premiums for 50 year olds can start at $2400 per year and increases from there. Right now we can choose from one of two plans. In the first, we’re being offered premiums that start at $200 per year for adequate coverage of up to $150 per day for a lifetime benefit of $275,000. Every 3 years we’re offered the chance to increase the coverage with an accompanying increase in premiums. We can choose to decline, but must wait another 3 years to increase the benefit.

    This plan differs from the automatic benefit increase, in which we pay a flat rate premium of about $840 per year for the life of the plan. The upside is that the benefits increase 5% compounded each year. The downside is that this cost for us right now will make achieving some of our other goal a little more difficult.

    After reviewing the plans, I think that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sign up. I was looking at the first option to keep the premiums low for now and for an option to increase our coverage, and therefore premiums, over time. At $200 per year, this is an easy expense for us to handle. Heck, we’ve spent more in one night FOR DINNER.

    What do you think? Are we too young to worry about LTC insurance?

    Our First Married Fight Was About…Money

    by  • October 8, 2008 • Tagged:   • Comments

    On Sunday we had our first married fight :(

    It was over money, the very thing we are supposed to be working so hard to be a team about. It made me sad.

    Here’s the background: when we first started our jobs four years ago, we were going through a rough patch. So when filling out the beneficiaries on his work insurance forms, Him put me as a 50% beneficiary and his parents as 50% beneficiaries on his life insurance. Should the worst have happened, this would have helped me stay in our apartment for a brief time while I made other living arrangements. He apparently discussed this with me, but I don’t remember. At that time, I made Him the only beneficiary on my policy, which would have given Him great flexibility should the worst have occurred. Over time, our differences healed and we got engaged. Our insurance policies lay dormant and forgotten.

    Flash forward to this weekend, when Him mentioned to me, “Oh, now that we’re married I have to change you to be the beneficiary on my life insurance policy at work.” I said, “I’m NOT the beneficiary already?” and he said, “No, you’re 50% and my parents are 50%.”

    This means that for the past three years that we have been engaged, Him had left me unprotected in case the worst had happened. I had so much student loan debt that I would never have been able to stay in our current (very cheap) apartment. I would have been evicted within months, as my paycheck covers my student loan payments and not much else. At the same time, Him had arranged to give his parents a big chunk of money when they absolutely do not need a dime. I was really hurt.

    I felt that the arrangement was appropriate at the time the policies were created, but by getting engaged I thought Him would have made arrangements to protect me. Him felt that the policy was always appropriate.

    So, we argued and said stupid things. And that made me sad too because we have always worked so hard on our finances and on being a good team. Fortunately we quickly came to our senses. I realized that we probably should evaluate our insurance policies more often, and that we need to communicate clearly. Him realized that part of his role as a husband includes protecting our family from financial disaster. In the end we agreed to evaluate our insurance policies and we kissed and made up.

    What was your first married argument about? Did it involve money?

    Want a Discount on Auto Insurance? Get Engaged!

    by  • March 24, 2008 • Tagged:   • Comments

    I’ve written before about how much i love our auto insurance company, Country Companies. Now I can add another reason to my list: an engaged couple’s discount! A while ago, I notified our agent that we were engaged. She said that if I called her back six months before the wedding, she could give us their engaged couple’s discount. I put a reminder on my calender and called her back when we reached six months. Ten minutes later, she had cut our annual auto insurance bill by almost $40. She even credited our account because we had pre-paid for the next month. If you are engaged, ask your insurance company if they offer a similar discount.

    Have you ever gotten an insurance discount based on a life change?

    Making the Most of My HSA Dollars

    by  • October 15, 2007 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

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    photo: double dose

    Through my employer, I currently have a high-deductible healthcare plan (HDHP) coupled with a health savings account (HSA). These accounts are like flexible spending accounts (FSAs) in that pretax dollars can be used for a variety of qualified health-related expenses. The exception is that there is no “use it or lose it” policy – I get to keep the money from year to year.

    Fortunately, each year my employer contributes close to the maximum amount to my account. Here are some of the ways that I have maximized the money in my HSA:

    Made sure I was billed correctly
    My insure plan entitles me to one complementary check up exam per year. After I saw my doctor, I was pretty shocked to see that I had a bill to pay. When I delved further into the matter, I saw that he entered in another billing code. I called up the office and my insurance company to straighten the matter out. It took a little while, but it saved me almost $200.

    Made a payment plan
    If you know you’re going to have a major procedure done, but you’re a little short on funds in your HSA, call the hospital and see if you can work out a payment plan. I did this when I had knee surgery last year. When I decided to have knee surgery, my company had just established the HDHP/HSA plan. My employer deposits money into my account once per quarter, so I knew I wouldn’t have enough to cover the deductible right away. I called the hospital and asked if I could be put on a payment plan. That helped tremendously when forecasting cashflow for my HSA account.

    Asked for the cheap stuff
    During one of my doctor visits, my doctor prescribed me a new medication for hypertension (which thankfully I don’t have to take anymore). I bluntly asked him, “Can you prescribe me something that isn’t very expensive because I have a HDHP/HSA?” He prescribed me a medication that was easily available as a generic; it only cost me $8/month to fill!

    Also, I always buy store brand versions of common over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

    Blew through my deductible early in the year
    I had knee surgery early in the year, so I met my deductible very quickly. Since I was aware of this, I made sure to try and schedule any major appointments with my doctor before the year was up, since my insurance would cover it. If I waited to do the procedure until late in the year, I wouldn’t have as much time to take advantage of what my insure would cover.

    Coupons!
    I use coupons for almost everything I buy with my HSA account. OTC medications, saline solution, eye exams, and contacts are my main purchases. Also, be sure to check your sales fliers for stores that give out free gift cards when you fill a prescription. We haven’t paid out of pocket for much at our local CVS since we’ve racked up so many of these gift cards.

    How do you maximize your healthcare dollars, regardless of whether you have an HSA?

    Increase Life Insurance After Engagement?

    by  • August 10, 2006 • Tagged:   • Comments

    With all of the engagements going around, there has probably been a lot of talk between couples about finances. There’s a lot to talk about: joint checking and savings accounts, who pays the bills, how much can someone spend on shoes/electronics, etc.

    But what about life insurance? To me, increasing the amount that my life insurance covers AFTER we get married makes a lot of sense. What if, heaven forbid, something happens to your fiancé/fiancée BEFORE you get married?

    I just talked with Her about this scenario as I was writing this. If Her died, I would probably be okay, since a smaller portion of the debt is mine. But if I died, Her would probably have a lot of trouble staying afloat.

    My feeling is that I would still want Her to be provided for in the very unfortunate event of my death, married or not. Having my life insurance cover Her needs makes the most sense to me, especially since we’re living together and have already mingled our finances in other ways. In order for my life insurance to cover her future needs, I would have to supplement the life insurance that I have now.

    Is this a good idea? What would happen to your finances if something happens to your fiancé/fiancée?

    Aflac Insurance, Anyone?

    by  • June 9, 2006 • Tagged:   • Comments

    duck

    Quack.

    What should we know about Aflac? Aflac recently began offering their coverage through my employer. Aflac has a bewildering array of a-la-carte policies to choose from, including one for cancer and another for vision. Aflac insurance is intended to be a supplementary stop-gap measure to bride the gap between health care expenses (including lost work time, transportation to treatment, and deductibles) and traditional heath insurance payments.

    Reasons not to get Aflac insurance:

    • Him and I both have excellent health and disability coverage at work. In addition, Him has a Health Savings Account (HSA) that can help cover related expenses such as transportation to treatment.
    • Insurance is meant to protect against financial catastrophe. The payouts from the Aflac policy seem to be rather low, generally in the $50 to $5,000 range. This amount of cash would probably not protect us against a real financial catastrophe.
    • We are both young and pretty healthy, and have long-lived ancestors.
    • We have no mortgage or kids to protect.
    • The most likely health event in our future would be pregnancy (we’re thinking of starting a family within the next 5-10 years). The Aflac policies don’t appear to offer many benefits for a routine pregnancy.

    Reason to consider getting Aflac insurance:

    • While we both have good insurance at our current jobs, there’s no guarantee our next jobs (or unemployment, for that matter) will also give us access to good insurance. The Aflac policies are portable, meaning we can maintain our benefits at the discounted rate even if I quit my job or work elsewhere.
    • The payouts for severe medical disasters can be significant, generally in the $20,000 range. This could save us from financial catastrophe in the event of a major medical problem.
    • Nobody plans to get sick or injured, and it can be impossible to qualify for insurance after you’re already sick. Buying coverage now will protect our access to insurance later.
    • We have rent and significant debts to pay for each month.
    • The rates for coverage are based on initial purchasing age, but do not increase with age. By purchasing coverage now we would lock in great rates for life.
    • Aflac does offer a policy that covers medical complications resulting from pregnancy, beginning ten months after the policy is activated. By purchasing insurance now, we would be sure to be protected when we start a family.

    So, we need to decide if Aflac insurance is a good financial option or not. Has anyone had positive or negative experiences with Aflac, and would you recommend we purchase coverage? Leave a comment below!

    Our Insurance Rule

    by  • June 8, 2006 • Tagged:   • Comments

    We have one simple rule that helps us make decisions about insurance:
    Insurance is meant only to protect from financial catastrophe.

    This is our guideline in determining what our deductibles should be. For example, most auto insurance policies have a choice of deductibles ranging from $250 to $1,000. “Financial Catastrophe” means something unique to everyone and every situation. If we were to have an accident tonight, we could cover $1,000 in repairs using cash from our wedding savings account. It would be painful, but it would not come near to qualifying as a financial catastrophe. So our auto deductible is $1,000. This helps save us money on the cost of our policy.

    Many people make the mistake of thinking that insurance is meant to protect you from feeling the minor consequences of a loss. In the case of an auto accident, everyone would rather pay a $250 deductible than a $1,000 deductible. Paying $1,000 to have a bumper fixed feels rotten, but it is better than paying for more insurance coverage than you actually need.

    A true financial catastrophe means losing the ability to pay for basic needs, such as housing, food, and your minimum debt service. A financial catastrophe isn’t just taking money out of savings or having to trim expenses to bare bones for a short period of time.

    What magnitude of loss would be a financial catastrophe for you? Do your insurance deductibles align accurately with your needs?

    I Heart Country Companies

    by  • February 25, 2006 • Tagged:   • Comments

    I am so happy with my insurance company that I want to give them a shout-out. Country Companies Insurance has proven to be my #1 favorite company I have ever dealt with. I first contacted them when I wanted renter’s insurance my sophomore year of college. Their rates were comparable to all the other guys’ rates, but their customer service really stood out. So when I got my car insurance policy a few years later, I went through them again. Since then we’ve added His car insurance and switched policies a few times, but have always been super happy with them. Here’s what makes Country Companies so great:

    They know me by the sound of my voice when I call. I never have to give my agent my last name or account number because she knows it off the top of her head. This isn’t because I’m a frequent caller, that’s just how great she is.

    My agent periodically looks over my account, finds ways to cut my premiums, and calls to tell me! Then she mails me the pre-filled change forms and adds little post-it notes highlighting the changes to my policy and showing me where to sign. She recently told me that if I improve my credit score slightly, I’ll be eligible for their reduced premium rate. One more incentive to pay down that debt! They also offer a huge array of discounts: Good driver, Good Student, Graduated Student (a lifetime credit for graduating), Multiple Policy, even an Engagement discount, which we got when He proposed. Apparently my ring has super powers that make me a fantastic driver!

    They have come through on every promise they’ve made me, whether it’s to call me back in 20 minutes or have an agent at my door the next day. Even my best friend can’t make that claim!

    When I’ve had to report a claim, and was very upset, my agent was sympathetic and took time to get the facts correct. I have never had a problem with a single claim.

    While I know I could get a cheaper deal at another company, I would never switch. You only really need insurance when you’re already in the middle of a disaster, so it’s nice to know there’s someone you can count on. You can’t put a price on trust.

    Health Savings Accounts

    by  • January 31, 2006 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about “consumer-driven” health insurance plans in the news. Today, our President will be giving his State of the Union address, and will probably be emphasizing the adoption of these consumer-driven insurance plans in order to help alleviate the costs of healthcare. I am most familiar with Health Savings Accounts (HSA), but many people don’t know much about them. Here’s an overview.

    HSAs are used only in conjunction with High-Deductable Healthcare Plans (HDHP), with a minimum deductible of $1,000 for individuals, and $2,000 for family coverage. An employee (and employers, if you’re lucky) deposits pre-tax dollars to fund an HSA in order to cover medical expenses until the deductible is reached, then the insurance takes over the costs of healthcare such as doctor visits, surgeries, etc. The annual contribution limits for 2006 are $2,700 for individuals, $5,450 for families, or up to the amount of the deductible, whichever is the lesser. Money deposited into that account can also be used to pay for healthcare related items also, such as over-the-counter medications, bandages, and surprisingly enough, lactose-free milk/lactase enzyme supplements (we’re both lactose intolerant). These healthcare expenses would NOT apply towards the deductible.

    These HSAs are also like retirement accounts in many ways. Money that is deposited in these health accounts rollover year after year, meaning that you don’t have to spend what is in the account before the end of the year, unlike Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). The funds in the account can then be invested and grow tax-free. Funds can be taken out anytime to pay for healthcare expenses, or can grow and be withdrawn as income, penalty free, after the age of 65. Funds taken out to cover non-medical expenses before that are taxed and are subject to a 10% penalty. Lastly, the HSAs are “portable” meaning that if you switch jobs, your HSA goes with you. YOU own the HSA, not your employer.

    Generally, the HSAs are combined with HDHPs such as PPOs, meaning that consumers are 100% in charge of how much they want to participate in their healthcare, from choosing how much to find their accounts to choosing doctors. There is an argument that choice is a bad thing when it comes to these plans, as consumers are looking for cheap healthcare and do NOT fund their HSAs, and have trouble making good healthcare decisions on their own such as picking the right doctor.

    When I first starting working at my company, they offered a standard PPO health plan, which they paid the premiums for. Since then we have switched to an HSA combined with a HDHP with a $2,500 deductible. These types of accounts have only existed since late December 2003, and since then more and more businesses have been picking them up. These types of plans are especially lucrative to small businesses such as the one I work for because they don’t have to pay high insurance premiums for their employees. It could be argued, however, that businesses would be reluctant to help fund these accounts because of their portability. Luckily for me, my company contributes 100% of the deductible to our HSAs every year, essentially giving me free healthcare (not to mention free milk).

    Nonetheless, HSAs aren’t for everyone. I’m not sure if this is unique to our insurance plan, but prescriptions are full price, but count towards our deductible. Some people in my company have very expensive prescriptions, and would blow through the $2,500 in a few months. After the deductible is met, our insurance covers 80% of prescription costs — clearly not an advantage for the person with a lot of monthly healthcare costs. Also, visits to the doctor’s office are paid out of the HSAs, but after the claim has been adjusted with the insurance provider. These can be pretty expensive if you go a lot. But, for people in my company, mostly young and healthy adults, this seems to be a good solution.

    Another risk is that when the accounts are new and do not have a lot of funds, an emergency can cause a major financial setback due to the high deductibles. This is something we have had many arguments about, as I’m more of a “what’s the worst that can happen” kind of guy, and she is a “you’ll get hit by a bus” kind of girl. I’ve only had the plan since September, there isn’t that much money in it since my employee only deposits 25% of the yearly deductible costs every quarter. If I did happen to get hit by a bus or get mauled by fluffy kittens, we would have to take a pretty big financial hit to cover the deductible. So I’ve been trying real hard to avoid busses and kittens.

    More reading:
    U.S. Treasury – Health Savings Accounts (U.S. Treasury)
    Fact Sheet: Guidance Released on Health Savings Accounts (White House)
    Prognosis Is Mixed for Health Savings (NYTimes)
    Health saving accounts (CNNMoney)