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Get up and Move!

October 2nd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

baseballIf your kids enjoy playing sports, you probably watch and worry that they’ll break a bone or suffer some other horrible, debilitating injury.

But before you lie awake at night worrying, you might want to consider the risks of a costlier alternative: couch surfing.

As Jeb so aptly explains in his article on The Risks and Rewards of Physical Activity, playing sports doesn’t come without some injuries. But experts say leading a life of inactivity is much worse, doubling the chance of heart disease in adulthood.

And where did most of us learn those unhealthy patterns of behavior? From our parents.

Most of us are the way we are because of learned behavior patterns. And if we were active as kids, we tend to be more active as adults. If we sat around a lot when we were young and participated in mostly sedentary activities, it’s more likely we’ll do the same as adults.

That’s why it’s important to establish good habits with your kids while they’re young. Of course there’s a chance they’ll get hurt playing baseball, soccer, football or whatever their sport of choice happens to be. But sports injuries usually pass, whereas an unhealthy heart and body is much harder to reverse.

As Jeb points out, just make sure you take preventive measures to help ensure your kids don’t get hurt unnecessarily. Use your head, insist on them wearing safety equipment, and get up and move together! You’ll both be a lot healthier.

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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!

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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.

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Fire!

September 23rd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

house_fire

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

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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

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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!

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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?

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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.

Resources:

Going Green Brings Insurance Discounts

Green Insurance, the Eco-Alternative

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Deed vs. Breed: What Do You Think?

August 28th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

If you own a home and at least one dog, you probably know your insurance company charges more to insure some dogs than others.

As Jeb so aptly points out in his own, humorous pit_bullway, owners of larger dogs like pit bulls known for their aggression pay more to insure against bodily injury than those who own little dogs, like Pomeranians.

“But wait,” you say. “My pit bull is the sweetest, most loving dog ever! How come I have to pay more for insurance than my neighbor with the little pomeranian, when my pittie has never hurt anyone?”

In short, it’s because that sweet 80-pound pit bull’s breed has a not-so-nice reputation. That means he’s a higher risk than the little pomeranian. And insuring against risk means a higher likelihood of claims and higher home insurance rates.

If that 80-pound dog did decide to nip at that little kid he thought was threatening you in the park, he’d be likely to take the child’s face off without thinking twice; whereas that little pomeranian would be more likely to make a lot of noise or run away.

At least, that’s how the ‘Breeds’ side of the argument goes.

Some people think that notion is utterly ridiculous. “Judge a dog on his deeds, not his breed,” they say.

While that sounds good to the human ear, your insurer says it’s just not a reliable method for determining which dog will attack and injure, and which one won’t. Therefore, like it or not, owning that pit bull could end up costing you a lot more money than owning a smaller animal with a less violent history.

What do you think? Should homeowners be charged liability rates based on their dog’s breed or history? Let us know your thoughts—dog owner or not!

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Gastric Bypass, Up Close & Personal

August 26th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

A few months ago, I blogged on a subject that’s very personal to me: gastric bypass. At the time, I”d been researching the topic for more than a year, and I’m hoping to have the surgery myself.

Though I probably wouldn’t be considered ‘morbidly obese,’ I’ve struggled with my weight all my life. Until the last few years, I was always able to lose the weight through diet and exercise. But due to damage I’ve suffered to two of my heart valves, I haven’t been able to sustain the exercise needed to lose the weight—and I’ve developed more serious, life-threatening health issues as a result. So I’ve decided that, if insurance will have me, I’m gonna go for the bypass.

While discussing these issues on Facebook with some friends from high school that I’ve gotten back in touch with, one of them gave me some news I would never have expected.  A classmate of ours had suffered a horrible injury while in college and been burned over 75 percent of his body.

But he had gone on to beat the odds and not only survive (with only a three percent chance), but become a doctor—and then a practicing bariatric surgeon near our hometown!

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that Dr. Greg Walton went through following the accident that nearly took his life. But I do remember the truly caring, intelligent guy he was back in high school; the kind of person who, after literally going to hell and back, would turn his misfortune into good by serving his community and the world so that people like me can have another chance at a healthy life.

I don’t live near my hometown anymore, but if I did, I’d want Dr. Walton (I still can’t get used to calling him ‘doctor!’) for my bariatric surgeon. If you ask me, he’s a real inspiration—and someone we’d all like to emulate.

Here’s to you, Dr. Walton!

For More Information:

The Weight Wise Bariatric Program

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Snap! Crackle! Pop! (No, That’s Not Your Rice Krispies)

August 20th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

lightning_over_cityMost of us have been seeing unusual weather patterns this year.

From heavy thunderstorms and rain to hail and lightning, scientists attribute this strange weather to El Nino—and they say we’re in for at least another year of unseasonable temperatures and uncharacteristic thunderstorms.

When the weather turns nasty, the number of insurance claims goes through the roof. Hail damages homes and cars, high winds and heavy rain cause flooding and destruction, and people and animals get trapped outside and injured or killed.

But do you know which weather event is the most dangerous, damaging and costly? You might be surprised. Ready? Lightning.

Lightning strikes about 250,000 times and kills an average of 73 people each year—more than hurricanes or tornadoes.

Since 2004, the number of lightening-related insurance claims filed by policyholders and paid by insurance companies has dropped almost eleven-and-a-half percent.

That sounds like good news, right?

But hold on to your hat: the average cost per claim has increased nearly 64 percent over the past five years.

Why? Well, let’s just say that’s not your Rice Krispies you hear going snap, crackle, pop!

To find out the effect lightning can have on your insurance—and the very real damage it can cause—read our article titled, “Lightning Claims Shocking.” It might open your eyes to the damage lightning can cause, while helping you stay out of harm’s way when skies turn dark.

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Believe It or Not!

August 17th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

Following the recent passing of the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson, the media and public alike have been all abuzz speculating about the way he died.gravestone

Was it murder? Suicide? Or just an accident?

Though Jackson’s notoriety places him on a different level than most of us, we’re all affected differently when someone we know and love passes away. Some of us struggle to believe that person was here one minute, then suddenly gone the next; others, more familiar with loss, simply grieve, accept death—and move on.

Regardless how you deal with it, being left behind is never easy. In addition to the emotional turmoil that accompanies losing a dear loved one, there may also be final expenses to pay, medical bills to cover, moves to make, life insurance claims to file and other life situations to settle.

But sometimes, when people die under mysterious circumstances, that’s all overshadowed by speculation, as in the case of MJ.

Life insurance companies have heard all the wacky stories: people disappearing, then found dead in the strangest of places; some dying for no apparent reason at all, then autopsied and a strange condition found; others meeting their demise in a place or situation that completely defies reason.

Some of the stories are wackier than others—and some are simply a matter of timing or circumstance. But regardless how they occur, death comes to us all…it’s just that some people really go out in style!

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7 Important Facts about Texting That Could Save Your Life!

August 11th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

driver_textingWe all know that familiar sound: Bleep! It’s another text message that needs our attention.

When that noise bombards our ears, most of us automatically reach for our phone, BlackBerry or PDA to see who’s texting us and why.

But according to the results of a new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, along with prior studies by Liberty Mutual Insurance and state-funded organizations, we’d best leave that little device alone—and keep both hands on the wheel.

As it turns out, texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, increasing the risk of accident more than 23 times. In fact, it’s much more lethal than talking on the phone—or even driving drunk!

We hear all the time about local and national campaigns to stop drunken driving. But with this new evidence, it seems it’s time to outlaw texting while driving, too.

So far, 14 states and Washington, D.C., have made this deadly combination illegal. And more states are joining the fight each year, encouraging drivers to shelve electronic devices to avoid accidents and high insurance premiums.

Lawmakers are jumping in now too, proposing legislation that would require states to ban texting behind the wheel or face losing highway funds.

But, like most things, it’s all a matter of personal responsibility. For example, illegal or not, there will always be those who choose to break the speed limit, pass in no-passing zones and park in handicapped or striped areas without authorization.

But for those people who just can’t ignore those incoming text messages, do us all a favor, would you please, and pull over. You can take care of business when you get where you’re going.

Meanwhile, you’ll help us all stay 23 times safer—and help keep car insurance much more affordable, too.

For more life-saving information on texting while driving, see our feature article here.

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Hey, Dude—Where’s My Car?

August 3rd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

car_thiefIt’s your worst nightmare (and reminiscent of an Ashton Kutcher movie from a few years back): You drive across town to a friend’s house, park your car across the street, and head over for a rockin’ good time at a party.

Later that night (or early the next morning), you stagger outside, head across the street—and your car is gone.

Nowhere to be seen. Vanished—like Cinderella from the ball. Now what?

Though this scenario may not fit your lifestyle completely, vehicle theft is serious business, one you’d never expect to encounter during the course of a normal, routine day. But it happens all the time, leaving innocent drivers holding the bag and wondering what they did to deserve such a bad break.

How likely are you to have such a horrible, nerve-wracking experience as car theft? Well, that depends. If you happen to live in Modesto, California and/or drive a Honda Civic, you’re more likely than most.

It seems Modesto is the top U.S. city for car theft, and the 1995 Honda Civic is the most frequently stolen car in the country—increasing your chances if you live in that area or drive that particular car.

But no one is immune. According to the FBI, a car is stolen every 29 seconds in the U.S., and the rate of theft in 2007 was an estimated 363.3 per 100,000 people. Property losses in 2006 were nearly $8 billion, for an average of $6,649 per stolen car.

So what do losses like that mean to the average Joe (or Jane) like you and me? Other than possibly losing our prized speedster, economy model or SUV, it means higher insurance costs—something we’d all like to avoid.

For a list of the most-stolen cars, check out Jeb’s article on the subject here. Oh, and next time you head out to party with a friend, play it safe and do what you can to avoid theft: lock your doors, park in a well-lit area, and use a Club or other restrictive device to discourage joy-riders. It could make all the difference.

More Information:

Auto Theft

Auto Insurance Quotes & Theft

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How Smart Is Smart?

July 31st, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

smart_carUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably seen a few Smart cars puttering around your town’s roads and highways.

In fact, it seems more and more of these tiny cars drive side by side with the rest of us every day.

So what’s the big draw that has people trading in their cars of all sizes for these miniature, itsy-bitsy versions?

And how safe are they, anyway?

Only about eight feet long and a mere 1,800 pounds, the Smart car is known and loved for it’s affordability, fuel economy, maneuverability, safety features and—its real forte—the fun factor.

Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it isn’t safe, says Smart car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz. Well known for putting safety first, the automaker swears by the vehicle, which has earned one of the top spots in safety tests among small automobiles.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) president Adrian Lund agrees, saying, “Among the smallest cars, the engineers of the Smart did their homework and designed a high level of safety into a very small package.”

Ask anyone who owns one, and they’re likely to tell you Smarts are a bit under-powered, but worth their weight in gold otherwise.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective ride that’s as smart as its name, do yourself a favor and check out the Smart car. This little car’s got a lot going for it!

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Cash for Clunkers, at a Dealership Near You!

July 27th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

old_carIn these days of high gas prices and needle-pegging pollution levels, many people are downsizing from larger to smaller cars to help save money on fuel and reduce emissions.

Now, the government’s new  ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program might help. If you’ve been listening to the news lately, you’ve probably heard about the rewards this program offers drivers willing to trade in their old gas-guzzlers, including rebates of between $3,500 and $4,500 on newer, more fuel-efficient cars.

To qualify, customers trade in older models that get 18 miles per gallon or less, are fewer than 25 years old, are currently registered and in running condition, and cost less than $45,000. In exchange, they may purchase any foreign or domestic car using those money-saving incentives—as long as the vehicle chosen gets at least 22 miles to the gallon.

Though the program didn’t officially start until this week, many dealerships nationwide began promoting it last week, reports ABC news. For those ready to finally let go of their older vehicles in favor of something greener and new, this program offers a step in the right direction.

But before you head to the dealer’s lot to take a look at your new-car options, remember: think safety first! It’s important to make the right decision regarding the vehicle you choose, because once you drive off the lot in that shiny new car, your life—and your insurance rates—might just depend on it.

Each year, the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performs crash tests and determines accident survivability based on individual car ratings. If you’re looking to trade in your large truck or older sedan for a smaller, more fuel-efficient car, we recommend you find out which small cars rank safest and best.

It’ll help you go prepared and knowledgeable—and you’ll save on your auto insurance, too.

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Drowsy Drivers, Wake Up!

July 17th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

man_asleep_at_wheelWe’ve all slid behind the wheel of a car after a long day, totally wrung out and with no business driving.

Haven given our all to job and family, it’s easy to space out or even nod off with what they used to call ‘highway hypnosis.’ (Basically, that means becoming hypnotized by the never-changing road ahead and falling into a dreamlike, hypnotized state with your eyes open.)

What do most of us do when we’re driving drowsy and trying to stay awake? Blow the AC on our face, turn up the volume on the radio and anything else we can think of to stimulate our senses and keep our eyes open.

But that’s not enough. A recent study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that fatigued driving causes up to 100,000 passenger vehicle crashes, kills at least 1,500, and injures 71,000 people every year.

That means too many of us are getting behind the wheel in an unrested state and conning ourselves into thinking we can drive safely anyway. That puts lives at risk, increases the chance of having an accident when we nod off—and raises insurance rates as a result.

So how can you know when you’re too tired to drive?

According to a recent article on Edmunds.com,  it’s time to take a break when you:

  • Feel sleepy
  • Yawn repeatedly
  • Drive for more than two hours or travel more than 100-120 miles
  • Can’t remember driving for a period of time
  • Have wandering or disconnected thoughts
  • Begin lane-weaving, tailgating or missing traffic signs
  • Nearly have an accident

What does drowsy driving look like? Sometimes exhausted drivers blink slowly and aren’t aware their eyes are closed for so long. Others drift off and wake up when their head begins to bob up and down.

Whatever drowsy driving looks like for you, it’s dangerous to everyone around you. So don’t hit the road without sufficient sleep and think you can fake it.  Read our article on drowsy driving for more information—and prepare ahead for a safe road trip!

More Resources:

A Wake-Up Call for Drowsy Drivers

Asleep at the Wheel

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Is the Big Bad Wolf Trying to Get Your Goat?

July 15th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

wolf_eyesOK, so that’s a little cheesy. But depending on where you live in the U.S., it may seem the Big Bad Wolf is trying hard to blow your house down this year—making affordable home insurance difficult to find.

According to a news bulletin from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, better known as NOAA, an increase in water temperatures and other strange weather trends currently being experienced by certain parts of the country is caused by what’s known as El Nino.

As you’ll read in this news article on our site,  El Nino triggers uncharacteristic storms and other weather patterns, leading to more home insurance claims and, often, higher homeowners insurance rates in affected areas.

Recently, Forbes.com released a list of the top 10 most expensive states to insure a home. We recommend you check it out here on our site, regardless where you live. If you’re in one of the states with the highest home insurance rates, it will tell you what you can expect to pay for homeowners protection and why.

Of course, shopping your insurance at InsureMe.com can help you get the best deals—and ensure that local insurance companies give you their lowest quotes and compete for your business. Here at InsureMe, we’re all about saving you money.

Scientists say El Nino could continue affecting weather conditions in the U.S. for up to a year to come. So protect the investment you have in your home with the right homeowners insurance, while doing everything possible to keep the Big Bad Wolf at bay. Your home is just too valuable not to.

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Does Your Insurer Tweet?

July 8th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

birdIf you’re looking for a great way to sound off to your insurance company, ask insurance questions or get help filing a claim, try searching for your insurer on Twitter.

Realizing the potential social media holds for business, many insurers have begun communicating with customers on Twitter, the popular site that allows users to “tweet” about anything: random facts, informative articles, vital data or any other information users and friends might find relevant.

A much faster and more efficient way to communicate online these days, Twitter is gaining in popularity among Internet users, along with other social networking sites like Facebook. And insurance companies are jumping at the chance to use the venue to network with customers.

According to Nielsen Online, a leading company that measures Web site traffic, consumers are now spending 83 percent more time participating in online social networks than they did a year ago.

That presents business opportunities most insurers can’t pass up.

Using Twitter, your insurance company can connect with you in real time, answer your questions, and communicate the latest, most up-to-date insurance news. This helps you stay informed and even anonymous, if you wish, while getting the help you need.

If you haven’t joined the popular crowd on Twitter, we recommend you sign up today and connect with your insurer online. It could make getting the help you need with your insurance policies much easier!

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Breast Implants: Are They Worth It?

July 6th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

breast_implantsThe decision to get breast implants is a very personal one.

Other than women who need augmentation work due to cancer, most who opt for implants do so for purely cosmetic reasons: to improve their physical prowess, feel better about themselves, or be more appealing to a partner (or the opposite sex in general).

But undergoing any kind of surgery can be risky. So when it comes to doing so unnecessarily, as with breast implantation for cosmetic reasons, your health insurance company won’t cover the expense involved.

Instead, you’ll have to do so out of pocket yourself—to the tune of $4,000 to $7,000 on average, according to WebMD.

A large percentage of women who undergo implantation need further surgery later to repair leaks, adjust positioning or replace implants that get damaged. Some need MRIs to check for ruptures.

Again, these are expenses each woman must cover herself, due to the health risk posed by such procedures.

For those considering breast implantation, there are other insurance-related issues to consider, too. For instance, even if you pay for the surgery and any later complications yourself, your insurance company may decide to drop you, come renewal time, because the implants may lead to further health conditions it may be required to cover.

If you switch insurance companies, your new insurer may consider your implants a preexisting condition, and limit your coverage or raise your premium as a result.

So what do you think? Are breast implants worth it?

In our book, that’s a decision every woman should make for herself. But before proceeding, it’s wise to talk to your doctor, get all the facts, and prepare financially for the expense you’ll incur, both now and in the future. That way, you make the decision that’s right for you.

For more information on breast implants and insurance, see our article titled “Fake Breasts, Real Insurance.” It will help you get prepared, know what to expect and make the best decision possible.

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