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Seminary Forbids Life Insurance

August 31st, 2006 by Jeb Foster

People have strong opinions about insurance. Mosque.jpg

When it comes to South Asian Islamic clerics’ feelings about life insurance, that’s a bit of an understatement.

According to an Associated Press story, a prominent Islamic seminary in India has denounced the practice of buying life insurance. Clerics at the seminary say it violates Islamic law.

“Life is given by Allah and to insure it or assure it, is a crime in the eyes of Allah,” clerics at the Dar-ul-Uloom seminary told the AP.

The seminary issued its directive on Aug. 7, saying “insurance is not permissible because it is a sort of gambling. Moreover, it also involves interest money which is illegal under Shariat.” (Shariat = Islamic law).

Read the entire story.

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Is An HSA Right For You?

August 31st, 2006 by Maribeth Neelis

Since January 2004, scholars, experts and politicos alike have disputed the merits of the Health Savings Account. The concept of allowing individuals to opt for an HSA in lieu of a traditional managed care plan was born out of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act signed by President Bush in late 2003.

An HSA is like a tax-sheltered savings account. You even get a debit card. You and your employer (if you have one) can continue to deposit money up to the maximum. If you don’t deplete it this year, the remaining money rolls over into the next, growing at a tax-favored rate. What is left upon retirement you can cash in and upgrade to a bigger condo in Florida.

To be eligible for an HSA, you must have a qualified High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP,) which is an inexpensive, health-insurance policy with much higher out-of-pocket costs. Although the deductible includes all your medical expenses, the plan can cover preventative care, such as immunizations, pre-natal care and physicals. All other expenses, including prescriptions, are paid using the funds in your Health Savings Account. Each year, you can contribute to your HSA up to the deductible amount of your HDHP.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Back to School: Is Your Student Protected?

August 29th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

student1.JPGIt’s that time of year again, the time of massive dorm move-ins, rush week, tailgating and textbooks. Your student is off to college and you’ve covered all the bases. Except, perhaps, the insurance.

Insurance coverage is one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of sending your child to college. Is your student adequately covered?

You can gauge if your student’s coverage by asking yourself (and your insurance agent) four simple questions:

  1. Are my student’s belongings covered under my home insurance policy?
  2. If my student drives another person’s car, will she be covered by my auto insurance policy?
  3. Is my student covered under my health insurance policy while at school?
  4. What benefits will my health insurance policy provide to her while she’s at school?

Not sure? You’re not alone. Most parents aren’t sure what protections their student has while they’re away at college. But we’ve got some some tips and resources for you to make sure your student’s coverages are up to snuff.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Let Your Insurer Down Easily

August 28th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

So you’ve decided to take our advice and combine your auto and home policies. You’ve already checked with your homeowners insurance provider and they’re offering you a generous multi-policy discount. Next thing to do is cancel that auto insurance policy. That’s simple, you say, I’ll just let it lapse without paying it. Good idea jeans.jpg

Bad idea jeans.

In fact, canceling an auto policy requires a little finesse; it’s kind of like extricating yourself from a relationship–if you drop your insurer too hard, things could get ugly. If you don’t give your insurance company enough notice, you could end up paying for a premium you don’t need or, worse, you could see a ding in your credit report. Worst case scenario: you pay for an extra premium, see your credit rating suffer and find yourself labeled a ‘high risk’ insurance applicant down the road.

Don’t assume you’ll be gently let go if you don’t pay your next premium, as many insurers automatically renew you at the end of a policy period unless you’ve given them instructions otherwise. Most companies allow you to cancel your policy at any time during the policy period, but to be on the safe side, don’t wait until the day before renewal to cancel your policy. The more notice the better. Be gentle and things won’t get nasty.

Lastly, make sure you coordinate your policy change so that you avoid a lapse in coverage.

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“Pearls of Motherly Wisdom”: Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Auto Insurance

August 25th, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

When our kids reach a certain point in their lives, we all know it’s time for “the talk”: that uncomfortable dialog in Parents Teaching Children.jpg
which we explain the basics of life. And, though we don’t exactly look forward to this discussion, we know it’s for our children’s best–and we’d much rather they heard it from us than the troublemaker down the street.

But do we take our own advice? No, I’m not talking about the birds and the bees. I’m actually talking about car insurance.

What? you’re saying just about now. Let me explain.

We give our kids advice, teach them about life, groom them to be responsible adults and teach them to make wise decisions. But we often learn our own lessons the hard way–like discovering what a recent article on Bankrate.com calls “the auto insurance facts of life.”

OK, so it’s a cheesy analogy…but go with me on this one, would ya?

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Medicaid Cutbacks: A Women’s Issue

August 24th, 2006 by Maribeth Neelis

medicaid.jpg Medicaid is the state-and federally-funded program that provides low-income, elderly and disabled Americans access to the health-care system, and it seems women are the majority of those receiving–and too often not receiving–aid. When it comes to health coverage, it appears to be women who are floundering most. A Kaiser Family Foundation report cites that in 2003, 11 million low-income women (19-64) were enrolled in Medicaid–nearly three-quarters of all adults on the program. Footing the bill for one-third of all births, over half of the publicly funded family-planning programs and HIV/AIDS care, and half of nursing-home services, Medicaid significantly affects the health of many American women throughout their lives.

One of the more controversial elements of the 2007 budget is the proposed changes to Medicaid, specifically the anticipated decrease in federal, Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes that care for low-income individuals. The administration maintains that such Medicaid cuts are necessary to “ensure the fiscal integrity of Medicaid and curb excessive payments to health-care providers.” However, less money from the federal government would place a larger financial burden on states already struggling to subsidize their share of the costs.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Are Insurers Actually Doing a Heck of a Job?

August 24th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

Terror in the Superdome. “Brownie” asleep at the switch. Reconstruction money going to bottles of Dom Perignon and sexual reassignment surgery. FEMA trailers made of carcinogenic material.

In the year since Katrina, there has been little good news coming from Gulf Coast. That’s either because there hasn’t been much good news to report or, more likely, because bad stories tend to hog the headlines.
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The other day I came across this story from Reuters about how most Gulf Coast residents are actually happy with the way insurers have handled their claims. The story reported on findings from the Insurance Information Institute–an organization Reuters notes is both non-profit and associated with the insurance industry. While I wish the evidence of this happiness came from an independent polling agency and not the Insurance Information Institute, I am confident the data is right on the money. (I don’t mean to question the integrity of the III, but I think the results would have greater impact had they been issued by a polling agency without the word ‘insurance’ in its name.)

According the III, 90 percent of homeowners in Louisiana and Mississippi were satisfied with how insurers handled their claims. That not a small percentage, folks. Further, only 2 percent of Katrina-related homeowner’s claims are in dispute, according to the report.

Clearly insurers are doing something right down there, even though headlines suggest otherwise. Here are a few other possible conclusions from the III’s report:

  • The media is fixated on bad news.
  • Insurers actually aren’t evil and are, in fact, doing a lot of good work.
  • Insurers need to spend more of their giant profits on a PR campaign that highlights their contributions to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

Here’s the entire III release.

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Gap Insurance: When You Owe More Than It’s Worth

August 22nd, 2006 by Megan Mahan

We’re experiencing a bit of a slow insurance news day on this Tuesday afternoon, so I thought I’d take a peek into the InsureMe Insurance Resource Center and find a topic we haven’t covered here at the Insurance Blog yet: gap insurance.

Quite simply, gap insurance can help you close the “gap” between what you owe on your car loan and how much the car is actually worth.

Think of it this way: your car suffers serious flood damage. You still owe $12,000 on our car, but your auto insurance will only cover the current value and cuts you a check for $5,000–leaving you with a $7,000 gap. Yikes. But, as the name suggests, gap insurance can help take care of that residual amount.

The good news is, more drivers are becoming wise to the gap insurance necessity and as a result, more lenders and car dealerships are making it easier to buy. I purchased a gap insurance policy through my lender last year for a few dollars per month.

But I’ll stop yapping now and direct you to the gap insurance goods. :) Check out our article, Closing the Gap When You Owe More for Your Car Than It’s Worth

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Pssst! Here’s How to Save Money on Insurance

August 21st, 2006 by Jeb Foster

Want to know one of the surest ways to save money on insurance? Here it is. Get ready.

Buy more than one policy from the same carrier.

Simple, isn’t it?

This isn’t a state secret. In fact, I just spent a few minutes bouncing around various Web sites, and all of them I checked–Allstate, Farmers, State Farm, Safeco, Nationwide–state in very plain language that they will often charge you less in premiums if you buy a couple of policies.
money2.jpg

I’m no student of the dismal science, but this is one economics lesson I do understand. The multi-line discount is, to use one of those puffed up terms economists use, a non-zero-sum game. In English: it’s a win-win deal. Insurers win because they get more of your money in the form of two or more policy premiums. You win because you save money on those premiums. We’re all happy.

According to Allstate’s Web site, a home-auto combo can potentially save you 15 percent, depending on where you live and what kind of home you have. Farmers says an auto-home-life combo could save you as much as 17 percent on your auto premium and 19 percent on your homeowners. Safeco and Nationwide don’t provide numbers, but they both say they’ll cut you a deal when you go for two or more policies.

Multi-line policy offers another advantage–simplicity. Think: fewer bills and e-mails clutter to your already chaotic life. Lots of people pay more, not less, to make things easier.

One caveat: there may be rare situations where you won’t save money by combining policies. Maybe you’re already getting a killer deal on your auto insurance and you should just let it ride. Maybe your carrier doesn’t offer that attractive a multiple policy discount.

For most of us, however, buying two or more policies from the same carrier makes good financial sense.

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Text Message Service Keeps Customers Up-to-Date

August 18th, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

If you’re one of those people who can’t remember to pay your insurance premiums–or you’d like to know when your insurance company has received and posted your payment–one insurer is now taking steps to make things easier, according to an exciting update from the Insurance Business Review Online. cell phone alert.jpg

Enter Progressive Direct, one of the nation’s largest auto insurance companies. As of this week, this forward-thinking insurer now communicates payment information directly with some of its customers through mobile alerts. When bills are due or payments are received, customers who sign up receive a text message reminding them it’s time to pay up–or letting them know their most recent payment arrived safely.

This new service, available to customers who have their car insurance payments automatically deducted from a bank account or through a credit card charge, gives consumers advance notice when their account is about to be hit or the charge is about to go through. If a cancellation is imminent due to non-payment or insufficient funds, customers are now notified of this before it happens, too.

The mobile alerts work on all major wireless carriers in the U.S., the company says.

“A mobile alert sent directly to a cell phone makes it easy to know when a payment is due and when it has been made,” said Toby Alfred, Progressive Direct customer experience general manager. “The beauty of it is the customer gets the information instantly–without having to be connected to email.”

What a great idea! I hope other insurers will run with this idea, too. What do you think?

If I weren’t so happy with my new auto insurance company, I might just switch to Progressive and sign up for mobile alerts myself….

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Insuring For Anything

August 18th, 2006 by Maribeth Neelis

wed.jpg How does that Alanis Morissette song go? “It’s like rain on your wedding day….” –which would be awful by the way, but less so if you had the foresight to purchase wedding or weather insurance. Several insurance companies have found a niche providing coverage for those quirks of fate, such as rained-out vacations, ruined wedding gowns and untimely kidnappings.

As strange as wedding insurance sounds, it’s sort of genius. With the average cost of a U.S. wedding running upwards of $27,000, it may make sense to insure it against unforeseen events. Wedding insurance can protect against inclement weather, illness or injury, missing officiates or vendors and your location. How much is your peace of mind worth? If you said between $125 and $500, this type of insurance may be for you.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), kidnapping for ransom is on the rise. Picking up on the trend, many insurers have begun to offer insurance should such a tragedy occur. Mostly purchased by businesses, kidnap and ransom insurance is also available on an individual basis and even offered as part of homeowners’ policies by a few companies. It covers things like hostage negotiation fees, lost wages and the ransom amount. However, the insurance company can’t legally pay the kidnappers directly.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Green Energy: Things to Consider

August 18th, 2006 by Maribeth Neelis

slar panels.jpg

Even if you’ve mocked the guy tooling around in his Toyota Prius or rolled your eyes at your aunt’s compost heap and 13 separate recycling bins, you can probably acknowledge the merits of getting off the grid–so to speak.

With energy costs on a constant climb, many are looking to an alternative energy source–the sun. Using solar panels is undoubtedly better for the environment than scarfing up nonrenewable resources. But you can also save money on your electric bill. And who can argue with that?

Although photovoltaic (PV)–solar panel–technology has been around since the ’70s, it’s still evolving, slowly gaining support as it shows its mettle. According to International Energy Association (IEA) statistics, 90,000 PV units were installed in 2004, bringing the total to 365,200 systems nationwide. Forbes.com reports that several companies have begun conducting research to make PV systems less expensive and more accessible. And some are developing smaller versions, so that eventually, the sun will be capable of charging your cell phone and other mobile devices.

On the most basic level, PV systems convert sunlight into energy, creating power for your home without noise or air pollution. Whether that notion appeals to the penny-pincher or tree-hugger in you, there are a few things to consider before going green.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Are Florida’s Leaders Stalling on an Insurance Remedy?

August 18th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

No one questions that there is an insurance crisis is Florida. What is open to debate is whether Florida’s political leadership is in crisis mode.

According to a story in the Tallahassee Democrat, the current Republican leadership would prefer to wait until elections are over this fall before taking any substantive action on the lack of affordable property insurance in the state.Hurricane.jpg

Not surprisingly, that leaves more than a few Floridians a little concerned, because November is a long way off and hurricanes don’t wait for political solutions before making landfall.

Democrats, who hope to pick up seats in the legislature and take the top spot in Tallahassee, have spent a large chunk of their summer campaigns hammering the GOP’s response (or lack thereof) to the crisis. Republicans have responded by saying that Democrats shouldn’t “play politics” with such an important and complex issue. They both have good points.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Planning to Start a Business? Plan for Insurance

August 15th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

I found a great article by way of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette the other day that highlights the most overlooked factor when starting a business: insurance. serious about business insurance

Author Stephen Windhaus is small-business consultant in Florida and he’s seen many clients purposely exclude insurance expenses in the business planning process because they wanted to minimize startup costs. They soon learned, he said, that no banker or venture capitalist would invest in such a business without insurance.

“Even if the company doesn’t need capital, there are certain conditions you do not want to face without insurance,” he says. “Property loss, business interruption and liability are three good reasons to consider coverage.”

Indeed, covering your assets from the outset is always a good idea. Yes, that was a subtle and painful pun. My apologies.

If you’re planning for a startup, physically protecting your property is likely to come to mind. Your property could range from your office space, inventory, equipment, machines and company cars to office furniture and cash. Windhaus points out that there are two types of property insurance for business owners–standard and all-risk:

Standard: covers each particular class of property. This means you have to work with an agent to determine your classes of property and secure a policy for each one.

All-Risk: covers all classes of property with a broader range of loss conditions.

Windhaus also points out that after creating a list of tangible assets, you’ll need to learn the present, appraised and salvage value of your items. This is the list you’ll need to have to shop for affordable business property insurance.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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The California Auto Insurance “War” Continues

August 14th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

The Western Insurance Agents Association offered the latest volley in what it calls a “war” over ZIP code-based underwriting, accusing California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi of using his office to “pander” to voters.

Earlier this month, Garamendi, who is running for Lt. Governor, led a successful campaign to force auto insurers to drop ZIP codes from their rate setting formulas, saying location-based premiums put an unfair burden on minority and urban drivers. The new rule, which will go into effect in two years, requires insurers to use driving record as the primary factor in determining insurance rates. The rule is an outgrowth of a 1988 ballot measure mandating fair auto premiums for all Californians. Last week, industry representatives were denied in their request for a preliminary injuction to stop the change.

In a statement published in the Insurance Journal, the agents association savagely attacked Garamendi’s motives: “Americans would be hard pressed to find anyone across the United States that has exploited his public position as an elected regulator for personal political gain more than California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi,” the release reads.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Sportscar vs. Sedan: What You Drive Really Could Cost You

August 11th, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

If you’re shopping for a new car, you’re most likely thinking about comfort, size, function or gas mileage–especially as the price of fuel seems to continually climb day after day.

But if you haven’t talked to your insurance agent about the price of insuring that sportscar, hybrid or SUV you’re considering, you might want to do so ahead of time. Why? Because if the vehicle you’re considering is expensive, particularly powerful or costs megabucks to repair, your insurance costs could greatly offset that all-important cool factor (and that would NOT be cool!). images.jpg

Indeed, your choice of make and model can have a big effect on your auto insurance premium, confirms Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Cars that are decked out with all the options, have lots of horsepower under the hood or set you back more dinero are more likely to be stolen, stripped for parts or driven recklessly–and crashed.

That means increased risk for your insurer and higher auto insurance bills for you.

So which vehicles are cheaper to insure–and which set you back the furthest?

According to a recent article in MSN Money, some of the cheapest cars to insure include the Volvo XC90, the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, the GMC Safari, the Buick LeSabre and the Nissan Pathfinder Armada, to name just a few. And why do these cars cost so much less to insure? Because they tend to be safer, well-built, sedan-type family cars driven by more middle-aged, safer drivers.

Coming in as the most expensive insurance-wise are the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (duh!), Mercedes CL-class vehicles, the Dodge SRT-4, the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Jaguar XK convertible. Why? Mostly because they are either sportscars–which inherently carry more risk–or considered highly-prized loot for thieves. [For a more comprehensive list, see the article here.]

So before you buy that new car, stop and think about these factors–and consider their long-term effect on your insurance rates. They could make quite a difference over the long-haul.

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InsureMe Hits The Big Screen

August 11th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Well, maybe not “the big screen”, but we have uploaded our first video to YouTube. Click the play button (or the above link) to see how InsureMe helped Cindi and The Thor find each other.

More video fun to come!

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Paying With Plastic Could Mean Higher Car Insurance Rates

August 10th, 2006 by Maribeth Neelis

credit.jpg Youth has its perks; but cheap auto insurance isn’t one of them. Generally, older, married individuals of the female persuasion snag the best rates. Factors like age, gender and marital status are widely known to affect insurance premiums. But if you’re like most drivers, you’re probably not aware that applying for several credit cards or financing an appliance or jewelry purchase could affect your insurance as well.

Although insurers have been using credit reports to determine insurance rates for over a decade, many consumers–approximately two-thirds of 1,578 people surveyed, according to a 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office–are still unaware of the effect their credit histories could have on their premiums.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Safe Cars, Reckless Drivers

August 10th, 2006 by Jeb Foster

A new report from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety credits safer cars, not safer drivers, for the decrease in highway deaths over that past decade.

In fact, the report says that in the absence of improved safety features, crash fatalities would have increased over the past 12 years.
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In other words, “an increasingly dangerous traffic environment has been offset since 1994 only because people are driving vehicles that are more protective,” says IIHS president Adrian Lund.

According to the report, speed limit libertarians now have to eat their words. Proponents of higher speed limits have long gloated because rising speed limits have paralleled declining highway fatalities. According to the institute, however, they may now have to switch gears and find a new rationale for higher limits, because the numbers show that car safety improvements obscured the true cost of speeding.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Homeowners Feel the Heat of Global Warming?

August 10th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Insurers are studying the impact of global warming on insurance rates, and homeowners could start to feel the heat. general risk model

The Boston Globe reported this week that a small but influential segment of the insurance industry is studying whether climate change is partly to blame for more intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic, which caused an estimated $90 billion in losses in 2004 and 2005. The findings could elevate home insurance rates for those along coastal regions from Maine to Texas.

Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a leader in quantifying and measuring catastrophic risks (whose models are used by over 400 insurers and financial institutions worldwide) has already adjusted the computer model it uses to simulate and anticipate future weather trends. According to the Boston Globe, RMS released this new model in May, estimating that annual insurance losses will increase by as much as 30 percent along the coastal Northeast due to elevated hurricane activity.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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