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Dealing with Vehicle Breakdown in Summer’s Heat

July 13th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

flat-tireAs temperatures soar, our cars become vulnerable to the heat, just like we do.

Idling too long at a stoplight, driving slowly through a neighborhood or forgetting to check the water in the radiator can cause overheating, leaving drivers stranded in the middle of the road.

Add to that debris that blows out tires, neglected maintenance that causes other types of breakdown and impatient drivers, and you’ve got disaster waiting to happen!

So how should you react on that fateful summer day when your car breaks down on your way to work? And how can you avoid having an accident with another car when yours breaks down, resulting in even more damage and high car insurance rates?

In a situation like this, your first concern should be for your own safety, says the Insurance Information Institute (III). Many drivers mistakenly think they can pull off on the shoulder of the road and safely inspect the damage or change a flat tire.

But that’s just not so.

In fact, getting out of the car is one of the worst things you can do. Whether on the highway or at a busy intersection, doing so puts you in harm’s way and could actually get you killed!

Instead, move your vehicle (coast it in neutral, if you have to) to a safe place away from traffic—even if it ruins a tire or rim—and turn on your hazard lights. Then use your cell phone to call for assistance and wait in your car until help arrives.

In the heat, most of us have very little patience behind the wheel. We’re often in a hurry to get where we’re going, and we don’t want to sit and wait patiently in traffic. This can lead to anything from a minor fender-bender to a full-fledged breakdown.

Remember, staying safe is the most important thing. So next time you find yourself stranded on the road in 100 degree heat, try to move your car away from other vehicles, signal your distress to cars around you and wait for help.

You’ll help avoid further accident, damage and high car insurance rates; have an opportunity to get your vehicle repaired—and maybe just save your own life!

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Weight and Self-Image – How Do We Balance the Two?

June 30th, 2010 by Lori Reed

Way back in February of 2008, InsureMe posted a press release about BMI averages across the United States. We had ranked the states from highest to lowest from our data for BMI, noting a southern trend. (Louisiana had the highest, and Utah had the lowest at that time). Then Michelle Obama took on America’s weight problem as one of her causes. Today, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported on their findings in WebMD.

It appears that the more we talk about it, the worse it gets. Their findings indicate many states now have over 25% of their population in the obese category, with Mississippi now having the highest percentage. InsureMe’s home state of Colorado is the only one with under 20 percent in the obese range. But even Colorado’s low percentage is on the increase.

What I find very interesting is how this recent attention can be juxtaposed against the concern we have for a person’s self-esteem and body image. How can it be that we believe we are forcing women (mainly) to strive for an unhealthy, or unattainable, body weight when the numbers tell us that most of us are increasing in size?

Moreover, how do we help those with high BMI, or weight problems, without damaging their egos or imposing them with a life of dieting and self-loathing?

I am grappling with this question. After years (since Twiggy) of worshipping thinness, how can we have such a weight problem? Have we been too gentle on those who are heavy? Should we be more direct? Should we charge them more for theatre seats, or airplane seats? Have we treated everyone too fairly, when in reality the large sized person does take up more space on the bus?

I do not have answers. But as I sit here drinking my diet coke and eating malted milk balls, I myself am proving there are problems with the American diet.

The blogosphere is alive with this topic today, but in case you missed the news report, we have that covered also.

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California Proposes Insurance Coverage for Smoking Cessation

June 22nd, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

 According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1 in 4 smokers who use medications to quit are able to go smoke-free for more than six months.

Many even succeed in quitting permanently.

However, over-the-counter smoking-cessation treatments, and the counseling that’s often needed to help smokers quit for good, aren’t covered under Californians’ health insurance plans—even though they seldom cost more than a few hundred dollars and double the success rate over trying to quit without help.

Conversely, more expensive treatments like in-vitro fertilization, bone-density screening and chiropractic sessions are covered by insurance.

Doesn’t make much sense, huh? But that’s likely about to change.

A bill introduced by California State Senator Leland Yee would mandate insurance coverage for stop-smoking treatments that have been deemed effective by the American Lung Association. This would include both over-the-counter and prescription medications and programs.

The benefits? Most are apparent. When smokers quit, they improve their health, avoid developing dangerous and deadly health conditions, and reduce the financial load on the health care system from smoking-related diseases and treatments.

There are other, less obvious benefits as well. According to Insurance News Net, cigarette butts are the most common trash item on the state’s beaches. Aiding smokers in giving up their nasty habit means less litter—to say nothing of the clean air gained and the reduced number of illnesses due to secondhand smoke.

Only seven states in the nation require at least some level of smoking-cessation insurance coverage. California will likely become the eighth soon, as it helps lead the way in combating the devastating consequences of smoking, both individually and publicly.

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Summer at Last

June 17th, 2010 by Lori Reed

We are approaching Father’s Day and right after that the Summer Solstice.  Summer is here!

 

Colorado finally warmed up.  It has been a strange spring with cold cold days and last weekend we even had snow in some of the lower foothills.  That of course was the day I chose to have a graduation party at our tiny little bungalow, assuming people could be outside in our well kept (well not so much) back yard.   Unfortunately, we all ended up in the kitchen.  Oh well. 

 

It is that time of year when people socialize a bit more and the most popular neighborhood member is the one with … a swimming pool.  Croquet is a little too quiet, lawn darts are not available, Frisbee works with the right back yard, but the swimming pool seems the backyard item that draws everyone in.  At least, figuratively.

 

But in case you are contemplating adding a swimming pool you might think about some of the liabilities associated with it, highlighted in the recent article “Swimming Pools Often Come with Insurance Liabilities”  we just added to our site.

 

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Summer Insurance You Should Consider

June 4th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

family-on-beachTaking the family on the annual summer vacation this year? If so, you’ll need to plan ahead and consider your insurance needs before setting off.

Though a majority of Americans have been staying home the past few years due to a lack of discretionary funds, electing instead to practice the famed “staycation,” many families’ financial situations have improved recently, freeing up money for things like vacations once again.  

But risk is inherrent when traveling. So it’s always wise to consider your options before you depart.

What kind of coverage should you buy? That depends totally on your plans.

If you’ll be renting a car or motorcycle and driving, you’ll need auto insurance that covers rentals—or you’ll have to purchase the temporary coverage offered at the rental counter.

If you’ll be renting a home on the beach or elsewhere, you’ll need to make sure your home insurance is up-to-date—or buy renters insurance during the period you’re away from home.

If your plans include hitting the lake in a sailboat, canoe or some other sort of watercraft, you’ll want to make sure it’s insured for your own protection.

These are just a few of the types of insurance coverage you may need this summer. To find out more, check out Bankrate.com’s slideshow on Picking the Right Insurance for Summer, and make sure you and the family are protected when you set out for a season of fun.

Happy vacationing!

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Click It or Ticket, on a Roadway Near You

May 27th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

If you’ve noticed law enforcement out in droves recently on your local highways and byways, beware—if you’re not buckled up, they’re looking for you! driver-buckled-up

In an effort to increase seat belt use and save lives, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood began this year’s ”Click It or Ticket” campaign, set to run from May 24 through June 6, 2010.

As it does each year, the program is targeting drivers who risk their own lives and the lives of passengers by not taking the time to buckle up.

The mobilization is expected to involve more than 10,000 police agencies, according to a recent press release by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Why involve this level of manpower?

“Regular seat belt use is the single best way to protect yourself and your family in motor vehicle crashes,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Wearing your seat belt costs you nothing. But the cost for not wearing one certainly will.” 

Indeed, seat belts save more than 13,000 lives each year, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And if it has its way, one of those lives may eventually be yours or that of a loved one.

Do the right thing and buckle up your children, yourself and anyone else riding in your car every time you hit the road. Driving unsecured just isn’t worth a life.

Additional Resources:

The Top 5 Things You Should Know about Buckling up

The Pregnant Woman’s Guide to Buckling up

Occupant Protection Facts

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Your Roof Could be Your Home’s Best Friend

May 21st, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

hurricane-comingAs weather forecasters predict a worse-than-average hurricane season this year for the Atlantic basin, those of you who live along the coast are probably wondering what you can do to protect your home from the destructive gale-force winds and rain that accompany these storms.

According to the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a new, well-installed roof could be one of the best forms of protection available for your home and everything in it, come hurricane season.

“But why would I want to install a brand new roof just before a hurricane hits?” you may say.

If you have an older roof, it may be missing shingles—or be made of inferior, older  materials that don’t keep water out. It may also have lost some of its sealing and waterproofing ability, which degrades over time.

Additionally, if your roof is layered more than 2 deep, water may be able to seep in between the shingles and down into your home.

Besides replacing your roof, the IBHS also recommends these tips for increasing your home’s survivability and decreasing the chance of water damage in a hurricane:

  • Protect all exterior wall openings (windows and doors)
  • Secure all loose roof shingles
  • Seal all openings, cracks and holes
  • Strengthen soffits (the material covering the underside of your roof overhang)
  • Limit potential flying debris

During a hurricane isn’t the time to find out that your roof can’t sustain such severe weather. So before a storm threatens, consider replacing an old, worn roof, and make sure you’ve taken steps to give your home as firm and solid a foundation as possible.

It’ll help keep you and your family safe and secure, your homeowners insurance affordable and your possessions intact.

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Texas Taking Steps to Keep Kids Safe

May 14th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

texasstateflagxsmallBeginning June 1, Texas parents with children younger than the age of 8 better make sure their children are buckled into the appropriate child safety seat when riding in the car.

 Otherwise, they could end up paying a hefty fine—up to $250 a pop, according to ClaimsJournal.com.

 Though this new law, designed to protect children who can’t protect themselves, went into effect last September, police have since offered mostly verbal or written warnings to parents who didn’t buckle their children in the right seats or allowed them to roam while the car was moving.

Next month, that will change.

Anyone younger than age 8 or less than 4 feet, 9 inches should be buckled up correctly in the appropriate car seat according to age, height and weight. (If you’re not sure what type of safety seat your child needs or how to install it, check out our article on the subject here.)

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children aged 2 and up. And, as we’ve discussed on this blog previously, your children are your most precious cargo. So make sure and keep them safe in the car by buckling them up. Your children are your responsibility, and they rely on you to keep them safe.

Kudos to the great state of Texas for enforcing child car seat safety!

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Teen Drivers Pose Added Risk at Night

May 10th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

driver_textingIf you have a teen driver on your auto insurance policy who’s still living at home, you might want to limit his or her access to the family car after dark.

According to a study released late last week by the Texas Transportation Institute, nighttime driving is becoming more and more hazardous for young people—and the most likely culprits are their cell phones.

Between 1999 and 2008, the number of fatal crashes that occurred dropped nearly 11 percent, including those that occurred after dark. In contrast, the proportion of fatal crashes at night involving teens between the ages of 16 and 19 increased 10 percent during that same time—a full 20 percent difference.

So what’s causing these nighttime problems with teenage drivers?

There are actually several factors at play here, say experts. The first, of course is inexperience. New drivers tend to make poor driving decisions most other drivers don’t because the risk involved isn’t readily apparent to them.

In other words, they haven’t been driving long enough to recognize what’s wise and what isn’t.

We’ve all seen kids hop behind the wheel of a car with their friends, peel out of parking lots, swerve in and out of traffic, and nearly run over everyone in their path. That type of behavior is doubly risky at night, when roads aren’t well lit, people are tired and responses are slower. 

But distraction is a teen’s biggest enemy while driving; and with the risk of having an accident already higher at night, cell phones can become a deadly weapon in the hands of a teenager.

Most teens think they’re invincible, and using their cell phones to call and text their friends is an intrinsic part of their lives. They think they can easily multitask while driving when, in reality, doing so puts their lives and the lives of others at risk.

According to the report, 34 percent of teens say they text and 52 percent say they talk on the phone while driving. Add darkness to the mix, and you’ve got an accident waiting to happen!

If you have a young driver at home, please consider having a heart-to-heart chat with him or her about the dangers of using cell phones while driving, especially at night, and limit access to the family vehicle during that time.

You might not be the most popular parent on the block; but you’ll increase your child’s chances of living into adulthood—and protect yourself and other drivers in the process.

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Need a job? Consider selling insurance!

May 4th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

man_with_arms_behind_headIf you’re one of the thousands of people hit hard by job loss the past two years, you’d probably do most anything to regain your career and income.

But regardless what you used to do for a living, it may be time to branch out and learn something new.

Which brings me to what could be a very important question:  Have you considered working in the insurance industry?

According to a new survey cited online at Insurance Networking News, the insurance job market is slowly beginning to bounce back. Whereas the national unemployment average in most industries is now 9.7 percent, the rate in the insurance segment lingers at 7.7 percent—a full two percentage points lower than the national average.

If you think you might be interested in selling property and casualty insurance, your chances are especially promising, shows the 2010 Employment Outlook Survey. Jobs with multiple openings appear to include P&C sales, claims, underwriting, call center and IT.

The bottom line? 74 percent of our nation’s insurers are hiring! So if you ever had an inkling that working in insurance might be for you, it appears now is the time to find out, as nine companies indicate they plan to hire at least 2,000 new employees and 21 companies predict bringing aboard more than 500 people this year.

Curious what it takes to become an insurance agent? To find out how to get licensed and work the job successfully, check out our article How to Become an Insurance Agent. Then give it serious consideration. You might just have a new, profitable career on your hands.

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E.R. Docs Seek Desperately Ill Patients

April 29th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

medical_worker_with_chartFor some emergency room visitors, whether or not they’re insured may not be their biggest worry. But the viability of their contact information could actually mean the difference between life and death.

Doctors across the U.S. have noticed a disturbing trend: an increasing number of patients who come to the emergency room for help, undergo testing, are deemed healthy enough to be discharged, and are let go.

A day or two later, when test results are complete, they realize the patient has a potentially serious or life-threatening illness or injury requiring immediate treatment. But when they try to contact the patient using the information supplied at registration, they’re unable to find the person.

At that point, doctors may give reverse search directories a try or call neighbors. Law enforcement officials may also be sent to track the person down, or the hospital may send a registered letter in an effort to reach the patient. If the person still can’t be located, there may be “grave” results (no pun intended).

But why would someone give inaccurate contact information, knowing the hospital may need to reach them with important, health-related information?

Some fearful patients give fake names and/or fake addresses or phone numbers because they don’t want to be stuck with a big medical bill. Illegals avoid making a paper trail that could get them deported. And for some, it’s an honest mistake: their phone gets disconnected (bad timing), they move or they get rid of their landline in favor of a new cell phone.

Then again, sometimes bad contact info is simply the result of a clerical error.

Whatever the reason, “People don’t understand that it does threaten [their] safety,” says Dr. James Feldman, an associate professor of medicine and research director at Boston Medical Center’s Emergency Medicine department. “It’s vital to have the most accurate and reliable way to contact them,” Feldman said in an MSNBC.com article  recently.

To avoid finding yourself in a situation like this, there are some steps you can take now to ensure doctors have your correct contact information. One is to make a list of phone numbers for immediate family members and carry it in your purse or wallet.

If you carry a cell phone or PDA, enter your spouse or roommate’s name in your address book under the heading “ICE.” (For those who aren’t aware, this stands for “In Case of Emergency.”) This is often the first place doctors and police look when they need to locate next of kin.

Getting emergency care when you need it is important, but following up with your doctor afterward is just as important…maybe even more so.

The next time you head to the emergency room, have your contact information available and on hand, in case you’re not able to give it to your doctor verbally. You could save yourself a lot of heartache, should something be amiss with your health.

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Homeowners Affected by Flooding Reluctant to Budge

April 23rd, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

We’ve all heard the expression, “Home is where the heart is.” And there’s really nothing truer. evacuation-route-sign

But how would you feel if torrential flooding damaged your home over and over—and you were asked to sell out to the government and start over on higher ground. Would you do it?

As related by the Insurance Journal earlier this week, some people, like Larry Frese and his neighbors of Chelsea, Iowa, are saying no. Even after multiple incidents of flooding, these mid-westerners are refusing to leave their homes in favor of waging the battle against flooding time and time again.

Why? ”I love this town too much to leave,” Frese says.

Government buyouts like these are voluntary. But battling floods is expensive, including not only the cost of cleaning up, but also sandbagging, paying for emergency shelter, and rescuing people and animals who get caught in flood water.

Who pays these expenses? Homeowners and their insurance companies. That’s why flood insurance, purchased through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a few private insurance companies, is additional coverage required for anyone whose home rests on a flood plain, or in low-lying areas likely to collect water that could significantly damage their home.

But the government also heavily subsidizes flood insurance policies. So, rather than spend all that money to continually fight flooding, its proposal allows homeowners to get a new start elsewhere.

In turn, rather than building new homes in those flood-prone areas, it replaces those homes with green space, parks or wildlife refuges.

Seems reasonable. But if you’ve lived in your home for years, like Frese and his family, it’s hard to move away. And some communities want no part of it.

“I’m not about to move, and neither are my neighbors,” says 84-year-old Leonard Balvin, who has spent his life in Chelsea. ”I guess we’re just kind of stubborn. If we have a flood, it’ll be bad for two or three days, then go down. We’ll sweat it out.” 

Though buy-outs are often the most cost-effective approach, many feel they fail to take emotions and lives into consideration. What do you think?

 Could you leave, if asked? Would you?

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Americans Worried about Becoming a Burden

April 13th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

mother_and_daughterWhen asked to identify their greatest fear regarding having a long term illness, 55 percent of Americans indicated they’re more worried about becoming a burden on their families than they are about dying, according to a new survey cited today at Insurancenewsnet.com.

And with good reason. Long term care can be very costly. And while most people think that Medicare or private health insurance will provide coverage for these types of expenses if they end up needing them, that’s not true at all.

The truth is, Medicare, Medigap and health insurance don’t actually pay for much, if any, long term care.

That means millions of family members will not only end up shouldering the burden of care for many people who can no longer care for themselves; without long term care insurance to help cover the cost, they’ll also end up paying the cost out of their own pockets.

According to AARP.org, the average U.S. costs for long term care services run:

  • $5,566 a month for a semi-private room in a nursing home
  • $6,266 a month for a private room in a nursing home
  • $2,968 a month for care in an assisted living unit
  • $19 per hour for a home health aide

Expenses like these can add up quickly, so it’s easy to see why so many people are concerned about burdening their families unduly.

Yet even with 55 percent of Americans concerned about becoming a burden to their families as they age, relatively few have even discussed the kind of long term care they would wish to receive, were they to end up needing it. 

In addition, most have no clue what long term care insurance is, or the fact that it’s designed to cover the costs associated with assisted living, medical care for the elderly and nursing home care. 

So with 60 percent of people who live to be 65 eventually needing some type of long term care, why aren’t we talking about this with our loved ones? 

According to the survey by Age Wave/Harris Interactive, most of us are afraid of upsetting family members—so we avoid the topic of long term care all together.

“Discussions that include the entire family are imperative to navigating through the potential financial and emotional risks that an unexpected illness can impose,” says Ken Dychtwald Ph.D., psychologist, gerontologist, best-selling author and a leading expert on aging, health and retirement. “Yet families still avoid talking to each other about how they would potentially manage the care of a loved one, should the need arise,” he adds.

Waiting until you’re faced with the expense and emotional burden of caring for an aging loved one can make the task even more taxing— just as neglecting to plan ahead for your own later years can.

When time is short, emotions are strained and options are limited, it’s hard to know whether or not you’re making the right decisions. But by planning for life events like these now, talking to loved ones and making your wishes known, you can equip yourself and your family for the future…even if you live to be 100!

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How Change Will Affect You

April 9th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

We’ve all heard about the new health care plan’s passage and the numerous changes it’s going to bring to our insurance coverage in 2014. But many of us aren’t clear on what the plan actually contains or how it will affect our health coverage individually.

Regardless which side of the fence you’re on politically, change is coming. For some, that change will be minimal; for others, more significant.

But since we all have time to read up on the subject and get filled in on all the details that will affect us and our families individually, I thought I’d provide an easy way to do that without going into all the rhetoric you see on many Web sites on the subject.

Though you may have heard that the actual details of the plan are spelled out in a document many inches thick, I found a great article collaborated on by NPR* and Kaiser Health News that explains it all briefly in layman’s terms.

Take a few minutes to read the article about Changes Coming to Insurance Plans. It’ll help clear the confusion, dispel all the gossip you may be hearing, and ensure you understand what to expect once the new provisions go into effect.

*Hats off to NPR for putting it all in plain English!

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Clean up the Clutter…or Risk Losing Your Home Insurance

April 5th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

messy_houseIs clutter taking over your home? Is your “stuff” blocking your entrance and exit, creating a falling, tripping or fire hazard for anyone who lives there or comes to visit?

Most of us lead busy lives, so taking the time to clean up and clear out clutter is difficult. But eventually, we all have to face that mounting pile of newspaper, mail or bills—and make everything orderly again before it drives us and our families crazy.

For some people who have a hard time getting rid of things, clutter is a much bigger problem than for others. Known as “hoarders,” individuals like this collect everything from paper, to boxes, to office supplies, to appliances—and everything in between.

Problem is, mounting piles of “stuff” can cause all kinds of hazard in your home, putting you and your family at greater risk—and causing your homeowners insurance company to drop your coverage.

When you first insure your home, your insurance company usually inspects at least the outside perimeter of the house. But it really has no reason to take a look at the inside, unless it suspects something there that could result in problems later on.

Due to the popularity of shows like Hoarders, insurer awareness of issues like these and the insurance risk that goes along with them has peaked too. As a result, many are beginning to require an inspection of the home’s interior if and when they suspect a problem.

Most problems are simply discovered when someone files a home insurance claim and an inspector enters to assess the damage.  At that point, if the insurance company representative sees a noticeable problem that increases insurer risk, the company that holds the policy may choose one of several strategies: work with the person to reduce risk, send out a warning notice to clean up the mess or lose coverage, or cancel the policy right there and then.

Whether you hoard things or you’ve just let things pile up, if you’ve collected too much “stuff” and the inside of your home presents safety issues for you and your family, it’s time to clean it up.

Not only will you start living cleaner and clutter-free; you’ll likely avoid facing cancellation of your insurance policy, too!

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Timber! Watch out for Falling Trees!

March 23rd, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

fallen_treeHere at InsureMe, we get a lot of insurance questions from people just like you. And one of the most popular topics involves falling trees and homeowners insurance coverage.

Some people wonder if they’re covered when a neighbor’s tree falls on their home or car. Others ask if they’ll be held financially liable if a tree in their own yard damages someone else’s home or property.

Sometimes, readers even write us panic-stricken after the fact, wondering what they can do about the physical and financial mess they’ve been left with following an incident with a fallen tree.

In general, the answer is yes, your home insurance policy does cover damage caused by falling trees—as does your neighbor’s insurance. The main discrepancy is in whose coverage applies and on what level.

In researching this subject, I came across a great podcast by the Insurance Information Institute that explains trees and insurance quickly and concisely. Since the III is one of the most trusted resources for insurance information online (besides InsureMe!), I thought I’d pass along this information to help answer any questions you may have about tree damage and your insurance coverage.

Take a few minutes to listen, and save yourself some heartache should you ever encounter this type of situation.

If you have any other questions—tree-related or otherwise—feel free to submit them via the open-ended question-and-answer forum we call InsureMe Answers. And while you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to browse through the answers to others’ questions, too. You never know what useful tidbits you might take away with you.

Whatever you do…look out for falling trees!

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Thinking about Lowering Your Home Insurance Coverage?

March 18th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

front_porchToday I read a question someone posed online regarding home values and insurance coverage that I hadn’t considered before, so I thought I’d broach the subject here. You’d be wise to pay attention.

Here it is. Ready?

If the value of your home declines significantly, should you decrease the level of homeowners insurance you’re carrying on it to match?

And the answer?

Absolutely not! Though it seems to make sense at first thought, when you think it through, the problem is that your homeowners insurance premiums are based on the cost of rebuilding and/or replacing your home—not its market value.

If anything, the cost to rebuild is probably higher now than before you purchased your home. Why? Because the cost of manufacturing materials and transporting them to the place of purchase has risen, along with everything else.

That means, if a tornado comes your way and literally blows your house down, you’re going to need that additional coverage you’re considering dropping to avoid paying rebuilding costs out-of-pocket. 

Although your home’s value may be decreasing, and you may even be upside-down on your loan, reducing your level of coverage can be dangerous. So before you take matters into your own hands and end up holding the bag, hold steady on your insurance coverage during this tough market and avoid lowering the level of insurance coverage on your home.

Instead, as the Insurance Information Institute recommends, consider raising your deductible as high as you can possibly afford. This strategy could save you up to 25 percent, without leaving you and your family financially destitute or homeless.

If you’re not sure you have enough coverage on your home to start with, talk to an agent on the InsureMe network now and find out for sure. You might be surprised how much coverage you can add for very little additional cost. And the peace of mind you’ll acquire is priceless!

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Sugared Sodas Linked to Pancreatic Cancer (Again!)

March 10th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

For at least the second time in recent years, a new study has linked the consumption of sugared or high-fructose sodas with a greatly increased occurrence of pancreatic cancer.

These new results reveal that it may take drinking as few as two soft drinks a week to nearly double the risk of contracting this horrible disease—one with an unusually low survival rate that’s considered largely incurable.

In fact, “People who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87% increased risk,” compared to those who don’t drink sweetened sodas, says the study’s author Noel T. Mueller, a research associate at the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The beverage industry protested the results, saying the study is flawed because it doesn’t examine a large enough segment of cases and doesn’t really prove cause and effect.

The pancreas lies behind the stomach and manufactures hormones such as insulin that keep blood sugar in check, as well as producing juices and enzymes that help break down food. When too much sugar is ingested, those processes are disrupted, leading to a high occurrence of cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, 42,000 people died from pancreatic cancer last year. If this study’s findings are correct, sugar is responsible for a large number of those deaths—and that means we’re all paying more for healthcare and health insurance.

I’m with Jeb: we should all cut out the sodas and switch to tea instead! If switching is all it takes to cut our chances of contracting cancer by 87%—count me in!

What do you think? Post a comment and let us know.

More Information:

WebMD

Healthfinder.gov

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Practice Makes Perfect

March 4th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

How do you respond to intense situations while driving? Do you find yourself overwhelmed, afraid and unable to think clearly when forced to react quickly behind the wheel?

stressed_driverIf you’re like most people, you probably have a hard time problem solving in instances like that. Between other drivers’ rude behavior, complicated gagetry in your car and little to no time to react to changes around you, driving can be very stressful.

But there’s something else hampering your ability to respond, too. Experts say frightened people often can’t remember even simple steps to protect themselves in dangerous situations, when necessary, because their attention is so focused on what’s happening at the moment.

That leaves “no cognitive space left to think of alternatives,” says Dr. Boadie Dunlop, a psychiatrist and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at Emory University.

So when your brain can’t handle all the information it’s being bombarded with, how does it prioritize it all and choose what to pay attention to and what to ignore?

Let’s answer that question with another question. Remember telling your kids, “Practice makes perfect” to get them to keep working at memorization or help them hone certain skills? Apparently, it’s time to take your own advice.

“If you practice something over and over, that will be the thing that happens,” especially in stressful situations, says Peter Norton, associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston.

To make sure you respond appropriately while driving, Norton says you should sit in your car and go over the steps you should take in unexpected situations. He reasons that, when you go into “panic mode,” what you’ve already practiced doing has become a natural tendency, and that controls how you actually respond.

“To do something that’s not natural…is just not going to come to mind,” Norton adds.

For parents with new teen drivers, taking Norton’s advice makes even more sense. Your kids take classes and practice driving to learn how they should respond to situations on the road. If you follow their lead, not only will you react automatically the way you should when under stress; you’ll also provide a great example for your kids, help avoid accidents and keep your car insurance rates down.

Don’t let habit rule while driving. Start thinking about and practicing your responses when driving under pressure. It’s time to take your own (or your parents’) advice: ”Practice makes perfect!”

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Watch out for Those Golf Carts!

February 26th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman

Ever seen golf carts puttering down the side roads of your city or town? If you’re naive like me, you probably thought they belonged on golf courses, right?

man_in_golf_cartWrong! Apparently, those cute little gas-savers don’t just roll around on the green anymore. In the majority of states, they’re also allowed on secondary roads within a few miles of owners’ homes.

Man, have I been missing out! If I had only known, I might have purchased one and taken the side roads to work in it every day, saving myself a ton of money on gas and avoiding piling all those miles on my car. I can see it now (vroom-vroom!)….

But last week, I read an interesting article in the Myrtle Beach Sun News online. South Carolina, which has apparently allowed carts on the state’s secondary roads for 23 years, is considering expanding the distance they can be driven from home from two miles to five.

Now, S.C. residents may be able to play 18 holes, bring their grocery list along, and stop off at the local Piggly-Wiggly on the way home from the golf course to pick up the week’s groceries. Or visit a local post office to mail some packages. Or maybe just stop off at a friend’s house for a cup of coffee in their little rolling cart.

How convenient!

With the rising cost of fuel and transportation, many people are looking for ways to trim costs, find alternate means of transportation and reduce vehicle emissions in the environment. At first glance, golf carts seem to meet all three standards. Whereas city busses or lightrail systems maintain a certain schedule that riders must adjust to, golf cart owners can come and go as they please, as if they were driving a regular car or other licensed vehicle.

In addition, many are electric, so they reduce gas consumption and avoid polluting the air. And because they’re small, they can be parked in much tighter spaces and easily maneuvered from one place to another.

But there’s actually a big difference. Not only do most carts lack safety equipment like horns and lights required for normal cars to be considered road-worthy; they’re also much more dangerous, as they’re completely open and offer absolutely no rollover protection.

Yet in many states, including South Carolina, all that’s required for owners to drive a golf cart on side streets–and to cross major highways–is a driver’s license, a $5 permit and proof of liability insurance. As long as they’re driven during daylight hours only and the owner carries the registration papers along on the ride, he can putter around town in this vehicle designed solely for the golf course to his heart’s content.

Maybe I should rethink this puttering-to-work thing. What happens when I’m toodling along at 15 mph, the top industry-recommended speed for carts on flat ground, and a line of cars with impatient drivers stacks up behind me? Should I pull over and let them by, or stand my ground because, after all, I have just as much right to be there as they do?

And what about crossing major roads? If I cut it a little too close, I could find myself staring down the nose of one of those vehicles going 65 mph–and end up roadkill!

It seems to me the risks outweigh the benefits. Maybe I’ll keep my safety-rated Altima and avoid those golf carts—for safety’s sake.

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