Making it easy to find the right insurance

The Insurance Gender Gap: Risk vs. Prevention

September 30th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

As every woman who has ever borne a child knows, delivering a baby can be extremely expensive. Add the cost of hospitalization to the expense of prenatal care, and no one but the very wealthy can really afford to have children without insurance.  pregnant_woman

For a woman who becomes pregnant without the benefit of health insurance, finding coverage after the fact can be nearly impossible. Why? Because it’s all about risk—and a pregnant woman is at significantly higher risk of medical complications than the average man will ever be.

Whether pregnant at the time of application or not, finding affordable health insurance is definitely costlier for women than for men. Experts say that’s true for two reasons:

  1. Women seek preventive medical care more often than men.
  2. Men tend to live healthier lifestyles, keep in better shape and need less medical care overall than women.

But is it fair for insurance companies to base health insurance rates on gender to begin with? Should gender even be examined as a factor in underwriting?

Though most would say no, the issue is more complicated than it first appears. As Jeb explains in his article on the insurance gender gap, insurance companies may not be the chauvinist pigs they’re made out to be when it comes to gender-based underwriting.

In fact, anyone who presents more than average risk can justifiably expect his or her insurance rates to run higher than average—whether female, male or senior citizen—and someone has to pay to insure that additional risk.

Take for instance car insurance. Because males—especially young ones—tend to drive more recklessly and have more accidents, they pay significantly more for auto insurance. The same logic applies to women and health insurance.

Sometimes insurers decide not to base health insurance rates on gender. When that happens, those companies end up ensuring a large number of high-risk clients—and wind up absorbing an enormous amount of additional risk. In the end, that drives rates up anyway…a lose-lose for both insured and insurer, no matter how you look at it.

But women aren’t going to stop having babies, are they? And men aren’t going to stop fathering them. Life happens, so we have to figure out how to solve the gender gap problem, while taking care of our women and children.

What’s the answer? Should women go without sufficient medical care, risk being unhealthy themselves and having unhealthy babies? Or should we base rates on the actual amount of health risk present, rather than the amount of insurance used up through prevention?

You decide…or propose your own solution. We’d love to hear it!

Share & Enjoy:

College Students and Extreme Drinking

September 25th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

With the departure of summer and the entrance of fall, many students look forward to cooler weather, weekend sports and get-togethers with friends. But with school back in session, and studying not exactly the first thing on many students’ minds, weekend socializing can get more than a little bit out of hand.

Whether hanging out drinking beer with their buddies or stocking up on the hard stuff for a weekend of partying and fun, college students often don’t recognize the risk they take when drinking to the extreme. But the sobering fact is, the more they imbibe, the more likely they are to suffer alcohol-related accidents or injuries.

That’s hard for parents to hear. After all, we worry about our kids and the lives they lead once they leave home. We were young once too, and we know how vulnerable young adults are to the influence of their peers. buddies_drinking_beer

For families with a history of alcoholism or other addictive behaviors, we know our kids are more susceptible than others. For some, that bend toward addiction leads to risky activities that result in a natural, adrenaline high, like skydiving, snowboarding or repelling.

But for others, extreme drinking becomes the norm, offering escape from the uncertainty of life, boredom and a thousand other issues that concern kids that age.

All too often, extreme drinking takes over students’ lives to the point that some drop out—or get kicked out—of school altogether.

But how much is too much? Doesn’t that depend on the person and individual tolerance?

Not necessarily. According to WebMD, 20 percent of college men—or one in five—admits to drinking 10 or more drinks at least one day a week. 10 percent of collegiate women reports drinking eight or more drinks during the same time period. That’s more than enough for anyone, exceeding even the threshold for “binge” drinking of five drinks per day for men and four for women.

Worse yet, research shows that each incident of extreme drinking increases a male student’s likelihood of suffering alcohol-related injury by 19 percent. For female students, that same risk caused their chances of getting injured to climb by 10 percent. That means students are more likely to have car accidents, trip and fall or have one of a thousand other types of accident with each drink they take.

What’s the solution? Whether consuming beer or liquor, students should think ahead and take precautions when they choose to imbibe. We recommend setting a drinking limit—and asking a friend to hold them accountable, avoiding parties and other situations where they’ll be tempted to overdo it, and volunteering to be the designated driver for a group of friends.

The college years are a time of growing, learning and experiencing new things. But they can also be times when bad habits get ingrained in young peoples’ lives.

So let’s set an example against extreme drinking and teach our kids to drink only in moderation. Hopefully, they’ll remember our advice when we’re not around—and stay safe for years to come.

Share & Enjoy:


September 23rd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman


Creating one of the most hazardous and deadliest types of loss, fire can strike anywhere at any time.

With a single ember from a cigarette, stove top or campfire; a spark of electricity; or too-close proximity to the flame of a candle or space heater, a home or business can be set alight and burn down in no time, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage and killing or injuring anyone inside or nearby.

But who’s responsible for the damage it causes?

Standard home and business insurance policies cover the destruction fire leaves behind—which can be extensive and costly. Whether in the midst of one simple accident or a major, catastrophic disaster, fire usually strikes unexpectedly and with vengeance.

Though your insurer will help make sure your home and possessions can be replaced if you ever suffer fire damage, it’s your responsibility to be prepared in case it ever happens to you.

For your protection, and to protect your home, the Insurance Information Institute recommends these fire safety tips:

  1. Install smoke detectors and familiarize your family with the sound of the alarm.
  2. Plan an escape route from your home. If possible, every room should have two escape routes.
  3. Remember that smoke and heat rise. When you encounter smoke, crawl on the floor where the air is cleaner.
  4. Make sure your roof is constructed with fire-resistant materials.
  5. Mark the entrance to your property clearly so firefighters can easily locate your home.
  6. Keep a fire extinguisher in your home.
  7. Landscape your yard with fire-resistant plants. Check with your local fire department or landscapers to determine which plants are safe. Clear all other vegetation up to at least 30 yards from your home.
  8. Make an inventory of your possessions and store it off the premises. If your belongings are damaged, this list will help facilitate the claims-filing process.

Some fires and the damage they cause are beyond our control, as you’ll read in Jeb’s article on The Most Expensive Blazes in U.S. History. But for those we can prevent, we should each do our part to protect the people and things that matter most. After all, we can’t change the past—but we can make the future better.

More Fire and Insurance Resources:

Fire Prevention (I.I.I. video)

Fire-Smart Tips for High-Rise Apartment Dwellers

Share & Enjoy:

Have a Coke Habit? You May be Detoxing Soon!

September 17th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

If you’re used to downing several sugared sodas (try saying that three times fast!) a day, you might want to consider switching to the diet variety, or some other type of drink completely. pouring_soda

The price of those favorite sweet drinks may soon be out of reach, if leading health experts have anything to say about it.

Soda intake has increased by nearly 30 percent during the past decade, delighting manufacturers like Coke and Pepsi but increasing the chances of obesity and other health problems by 60 percent, especially in children.

Since they’re not necessary for living, some say attaching soda taxes to sugared drinks will cause people to replace them with healthier ones, like milk and water.

Though 40 states already have small taxes on sugared beverages in place, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, experts say it’s not enough to deter intake—or the obesity, diabetes and other health problems that go along with it.

At a mere 5.2 percent, the current tax in states that have already instituted them has had little effect on soda consumption, leading experts to propose a tightening of the belt and higher taxes, much like those already attached to tobacco products.

The solution, they say, is to raise soda taxes, increase product prices—and use the revenue generated to supplement state and federal budget shortfalls.

But most people asked whether or not they favor the tax are adamantly opposed to it.  However, “A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is really a double-win,” says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

“We can raise much-needed dollars, while likely reducing obesity prevalence, which is a major driver of health care costs” as part of an overall health insurance reform package, Ludwig says.

If even one quarter of the calories consumed from sugared beverages are replaced by other food or low-calorie drinks, the decrease in consumption would lead to an estimated reduction of 8,000 calories per person per year—which equals slightly more than two pounds each year for the average person.

Experts agree that such a reduction would be sufficient to substantially reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, and may also reduce the risk of heart disease and other conditions.

But should government step in to rescue us from ourselves and our vices? Or should we elect to make changes in our own homes and families? Are we hurting people around us with our ‘Coke habits,’ or does the future of our nation’s health lay on our government’s shoulders?

More Resources:

The ‘Real Sugar’ Scam

The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Soda Tax Weighed to Pay for Health Care

Fight Obesity? Add Sales Tax to Soda Tab

Share & Enjoy:

Misconceptions about H1N1

September 14th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

(That’s Swine Flu, in plain English!)

If anyone in your household has been ill recently, you may have wondered if they had Swine Flu. And it’s no wonder: From the news reports we’ve been hearing, you’d think we should board up the schools and all stay home from work to avoid breathing infected air! health_care_worker

But things really aren’t that bad, as Jeb related in his previous post on Swine Flu. As we all know, any time something new comes along that we don’t know much about, rumors tend to fly and misconceptions run rampant.

For example, you may have heard that purposely exposing yourself to the virus by hanging around someone who has it can lessen the virus’s severity if you actually get it. Well, guess what? Wrong!  Scientists say there’s no way to predict whether anyone who gets it will get hit hard or suffer a milder case.

You may also have heard you should wear a breathing mask or respirator if you suspect someone you work with has the virus to protect yourself from getting it. Wrong again! That’s going just a little bit overboard.

Let’s just say this: Don’t believe everything you hear. If you’re tired of all the rumors surrounding H1N1,  but you’re not sure what’s true and what’s not, check out our new article titled 12 Misconceptions about H1N1.

In fact, share it with a friend—or take it home and explain to your kids that it’s wise to be safe; but overreacting just isn’t cool!

P.S.—Heard some crazy stories about the virus that had you shaking your head in disbelief? Feel free to share!

Share & Enjoy:

Life Insurance Fraud: It’s Like a Riveting Murder Mystery

September 4th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

The following may seem like a morbid thought, but bear with me for a moment.

Have you ever thought about who would benefit most from your death? If your spouse or children are your life insurance beneficiaries, you’re probably in the clear. But if you’re a loner without much family, or you meet someone who suddenly seems interested in your finances for no apparent reason, beware: you could become the victim of life insurance fraud!

On the other hand, anyone who’s really greedy could have it out for you. So found police who investigated the cases of Olga Rutterschmidt and Helen Golay, each of whom won a homeless man’s trust; then forged life insurance applications in his name, ran the guy over, and waited to collect on his insurance policy.

We hear of cases like these all the time in the news. But no one ever thinks it will happen to them.

The law prevents anyone who intentionally kills someone else from receiving their life insurance benefits. And once the insurance company gets wind of insurance fraud, it’s usually all over anyway.

Still…such callous maliciousness gives one pause, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t keep crooks from trying.

The subject brings to mind one of those old, creepy black-and-white murder mystery novels: A woman boards a train for a long trip, falls asleep, then disappears. Everyone saw her get on board; yet following an all-out search, she’s nowhere to be found.

Can’t you just hear that crazy, suspenseful music?

In cases like these, the question becomes, whodunit?, as Jeb asks in his article on life insurance and murder.

Let me add: why? Is it usually mere convenience…or pure greed?

Share & Enjoy:

Red, White—and Green

September 2nd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

green_energyIn these days of high prices, layoffs and budget cuts, saving money is the name of the game.

In the midst of a hurting economy, local and national government is doing everything it can to encourage us to go green.

Enter Cash for Clunkers, tax breaks for hybrid car owners, and incentives for homeowners purchasing and using energy-efficient appliances.

For natural environmentalists, going green is a way of life. But for some of us, it takes more effort.

However, some insurance companies like Travelers, Farmers and Allstate are making it easier. They’re giving us further incentive to reduce our carbon footprint by rewarding us with insurance discounts, such as those for green-certified or solar-powered homes.

A five to 10 percent insurance discount may not sound like much; but start adding up the discount possibilities and you could make a significant dent in your insurance premiums.

Insurers say that green consumers (whether patriotic or not) tend to drive less, stay healthier, be more mature and act more responsibly than the less environmentally friendly. They’re also less likely to file insurance claims.

And, since that’s the kind of customer they’re looking for, they’re willing to reward us for our efforts—whether at home, in our car or elsewhere.

If you have car or homeowners insurance but you’re not taking advantage of all the green discounts, take a few minutes to give your insurer a call and ask what they have available. You might be surprised how much money you can save.


Going Green Brings Insurance Discounts

Green Insurance, the Eco-Alternative

Share & Enjoy: