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Going in for Surgery? Avoid Surprise Medical Bills

It’s always a good idea to confirm that your hospital is in your health plan’s network before you go in for a procedure – but this proactive step still may not be enough to avoid surprise medical bills.

Millions of Americans get surprised bills from doctors who don’t participate in their health plan but who practice in hospitals that do. This often happens when an anesthesiologist or assistant surgeon you didn’t even know was going to be in the room during your surgery (and who doesn’t participate in your health plan), scrubs up and steps in during your procedure. When it’s all over, the out-of-network doctor bills you for the difference between what your insurer paid and what the doctor charges. The practice is called “balance billing.”

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover out-of-network emergency services at in-network rates. But the law doesn’t stop doctors from balance billing, and it doesn’t release patients from their responsibility to pay surprise medical bills.

Although you don’t have complete control over whether or not you’ll get a balanced bill, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood and to fix the problem once it happens.

Plan ahead. Before a planned surgery ask about the team of healthcare providers who will treat you while you’re hospitalized.

It’s very difficult to control who sees you at the hospital or to know which doctors participate with your health plan. But it can’t hurt to ask that they keep non-participating providers out of your room.

Check for mistakes. It may be that an in-network provider got recorded incorrectly as out-of-network in your insurer’s system when your claim was processed.

When you get a bill, don’t pay it right away. Instead, call your health plan to discuss the bill you received and ask if you can get the charges removed if they’re incorrect.

If you get health insurance at work, your employer may be able to help dispute the bill.

Talk to your doctor. Physicians are sensitive to the financial burden patients are under these days, including those caused by surprise medical bills. It’s worth calling to ask if the doctor is willing to reduce the price of the bill.

Your health plan should also be able to step in and help. In some cases, your insurer will negotiate for you with physicians to either lower or waive out-of-network charges.

Check your state. Federal law does not protect patients from balance billing. However, about a quarter of the states do have laws in place that protect consumers from balance billing by health care providers that don’t participate in their health plan. Check with your state’s department of insurance to learn about the protections where you live.

File an appeal. The law entitles you to both an internal appeal with your insurer and an external review by an independent third party. Your health plan must provide guidelines about how to go about the appeal process.

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Why Staying with Your Car Insurance Company Can Be a Good Thing

You’ve probably seen tips on other insurance blogs or heard advice through auto insurers directly about how important it is to shop around for quotes. While this is a strong practice to allow yourself access to the best rates for your car make, age, and driving history, it isn’t always the best idea. For some people, staying with the same auto insurer for an extended period of time has been the most cost-effective, practical solution for their circumstances.

What many people don’t think about when deciding to switch auto insurance companies is the quality of the services, not just the quantity of cash they’ll save. Just because a car insurance company is offering cheaper rates than your current insurance policy doesn’t mean it’s a better policy. Before you switch to a different insurance company that offers you a lower quote than the insurer you’re currently dealing with, make sure you weigh the options. Staying with your current car insurance company can be a positive decision.

 

Renewal Discounts

Many insurance companies offer discounts to customers that have been loyal to them for several years. Arbella offers an additional 1% loyalty credit for every year you renew with them. Ameriprise offers discounts to customers that have been loyal to them for three years. While some insurance companies offer discounts when you renew with them, most companies offer more substantial discounts on other fronts.

 

Bundling Discounts

A lot of insurance companies will give you a discount if you bundle your car insurance with your home or life insurance policies. Nationwide, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, State Farm, and other insurance companies offer discounts to people who purchase multiple insurance policies with them. If you have bundled policies and have earned a discount as a result, you may have to prepare yourself for higher rates if you decide to switch insurance companies or forego a policy.

 

Accident Forgiveness

Nationwide, Allstate, Travelers, and dozens of other insurance companies offer accident forgiveness to their clients. Accident forgiveness refers to a park in which customers do not have to pay extra rates after their first at-fault accidents. Most accident forgiveness discounts can only be redeemed after 5 or 6 years of loyalty to the insurer. If you’ve been with the same company for long enough to qualify for this perk (or are close to this threshold), staying with your auto insurance company could be beneficial.

 

Overall Loyalty

As a general benefit from staying with your auto insurance company, you’ll have a better relationship with your insurer. Building trust with an agent creates a positive working relationship. This trust may help you in the long run; if you ever need to file a claim after an accident, this process should be simpler and more successful if you are speaking with an agent you’re very familiar with. If your agent knows your driving habits and history well, he or she will be able to recommend the best coverage for you. Getting acquainted with your insurance company is a huge perk to staying loyal to your insurance company.


If you believe none of these benefits affect you directly right now, you might want to shop around for auto insurance quotes. If one of these perks applies to your current policy, sticking with your current company could be the best option, especially if the quotes you’re seeing aren’t significantly lower than your current rate.

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How To Prevent Home Break-Ins

Alarm systems and motion detectors can offer you protection and security, but there are other steps you can take to prevent your home from being burglarized.

According to Statistics Canada, alarm systems have helped reduce the number of home break-ins. Insurance companies favor those who have such security systems in place, however, follow our additional steps to further prevent home break-ins.

Doors and windows MUST be locked.

To prevent a break-in, always lock your doors and windows, especially when you aren’t home. Make sure that windows can’t be open from the outside, but that you can unlock them from the inside in case of an emergency. It’s important to change your locks or combinations if you move into a new home or lose your key. You can also use security bars on basement windows or sliding doors. If you have a spare key outside your home, make sure it’s well hidden.

Keep valuables out of sight.

Closing your blinds and curtains at night can stop people from seeing in, but you should also keep valuables out of sight. If a thief can see valuable items, such as jewellery or electronics, they are more likely to break-in. Small valuable items can easily be taken from your home. Keep these items in a safety deposit box or an unlikely place. It is always a good idea to take an inventory of your valuables in your home with videotapes or photographs.

What to do while you are away.

Home break-ins are less likely if it looks like someone is home. Before leaving for vacation, stop your mail or have someone pick it up for you. To make your house look lived in you can keep your grass cut, a shoveled driveway, and a car in the driveway. You can also use timers on your lights. If you have a good relationship with your neighbour, let them know how long you will be away so they can keep an eye on your home. Avoid posting on social media that you are going away and wait until you are back to post those great vacation pictures!

Remember to limit the number of people who know you will be away from your home. We hope you have found our prevention tips useful!  

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Is Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance a Good Option?

We often get asked questions along the lines of “My aging parent is very ill and medical bills have drained his/her savings account, but I cannot afford to pay for the funeral if he/she should pass away.  Can I buy life insurance on my parent?”  In this scenario, we do not advise purchasing “regular” fully underwritten life insurance.  More often than not, term life insurance is going to be ideal for most people, but not in this scenario.

Why we wouldn’t recommend term insurance in this case…

Term life insurance would typically not work in this case because the coverage amount would be too small, the client would likely be uninsurable because of health issues, and the client’s age would be outside the range a life insurance company would approve coverage for.

What we would recommend…

When we get this question, we usually tell inquirers that they have two options:

  1. Take the money you would have spent each month on term insurance and instead put it into a savings account so it can start accruing interest. You can then access these funds later when in need of money for your loved one’s final expenses.
  2. Purchase a guaranteed issue life insurance policy.

What is a guaranteed issue life insurance policy?

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a type of life insurance that you cannot be denied coverage on, hence “guaranteed”.  There are a few things you should know about this type of insurance.

  1. Guaranteed issue life insurance is typically known as “last resort” life insurance. It’s meant for those who may have been denied previously and/or are not in good health.
  2. Guaranteed issue life insurance policies are designed so that surviving loved ones can pay for your final expenses, such as a funeral, burial, and medical bills.
  3. Guaranteed issue life insurance premiums will never increase.
  4. A guaranteed issue life insurance policy accumulates cash value.
  5. Guaranteed issue life insurance policies have significantly lower death benefit amounts compared to term or permanent policies.
  6. There is no medical exam or questionnaire required for guaranteed issue life insurance. The only factor that is really taken into consideration is the age of the insured.  Because of this, guaranteed issue life insurance premiums are higher per thousand than most other types of life insurance.
  7. Benefits are limited within the first two years. This is called a Graded Death Benefit period.  What this means is that if you die within two years of buying the policy for any reason other than an accident, your beneficiaries typically only receive the total amount of what you paid in premiums.  (This can vary depending on the carrier.)

So, if you’re in relatively good health, fully underwritten life insurance may be a better option for you.  However, guaranteed issue life insurance is a great option for those with a desperate need.

How much does guaranteed issue life insurance cost?

While you can get millions of dollars’ worth of term life insurance coverage, guaranteed issue life insurance coverage often caps at $50,000.  Again, its design is based around simply helping your surviving loved ones pay for your final expenses.

Quotacy works with Gerber Life to provide guaranteed issue coverage options.  Gerber’s guaranteed issue policy is available in all U.S. states except for Montana.  Take a look at the examples and table below to get an idea on what a guaranteed issue policy can cost.

John Smith is 55 years old and has been denied for traditional life insurance because of his Stage IV prostate cancer.  He does not want to burden his children with his final expenses so he plans on purchasing guaranteed issue life insurance.

He’s automatically approved without having to undergo a medical exam or fill out any health forms.  John obtains $20,000 in coverage and his premiums are $91.30 per month.

If John passes away within two years, Gerber Life will refund to his beneficiaries all premiums that had been paid plus 10% interest.  However, if John happens to die because of an accident unrelated to his health within those two years, his beneficiaries will receive the full $20,000 death benefit.  After two years, his beneficiaries will receive the full death benefit regardless of how he dies.

Jane Doe takes care of her 79-year-old mother Sally.  Sally does not have any life insurance and Jane is worried that she won’t have the funds to give her mother the funeral she deserves.  Jane decides to buy a guaranteed issue life insurance policy on Sally.

A $12,000 policy is enough for Jane to ensure she can pay for a proper funeral and burial.  Sally is approved for coverage and the policy will cost $165.70 per month.

Although this type of policy is easy to acquire, it offers less coverage and higher premiums than traditional life insurance, so explore all your options.  If you aren’t sure if guaranteed issue life insurance is the best choice for you or want more information, contact us here at Quotacy and we can help you.

Recap of Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance:

  • If you’re between 50 and 80 years old, you can be accepted for guaranteed issue coverage regardless of your health.
  • There are no medical exams to complete or health questionnaires to fill out.
  • Cash value accumulates within the policy.

Remember, term life insurance quotes are free to run on Quotacy.com and there is no penalty for applying.  It doesn’t hurt to apply for term life insurance, then opt for guaranteed issue if you end up being denied.  The more options you have, the better decision you can make.

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The difference between an Automobile Warranty and an Extended Auto Warranty / Extended Service Program

When you buy a vehicle you will be provided various options to buy along-side of it and one such choice is that of extended automobile warranty. Sometimes referred to as a service contract, or extended service program, an extended automobile warranty is designed to offset repair expenses following the purchase of a new or used automobile. In essence, an extended warranty is a safeguard against costly, unforeseen repairs. Not to be confused with manufacturer’s warranties, an extended warranty kicks in subsequent to the expiration of the manufacturer’s bumper to bumper warranty. An extended auto warranty is typically sold as a separate contract, and – unlike a manufacturer’s auto warranty – is not included in the purchase price.

You need to be aware of the benefits of this extended service program which coincide with this option even as you consider whether to obtain this kind of warranty for your car and this will assist you to find out whether an extended auto warranty is the suitable choice for you. There are a couple of benefits of having this kind of warranty. First, it provides the car owner of with peace of mind in recognizing that a number of aspects are covered. Because each warranty type will differ with regards to what’s covered under it, it’s imperative to peruse the extended service program document in order to see the coverage points included. By choosing an extended auto warranty you will understand that certain areas are covered on your vehicle in case something happens, which will result in the vehicle requiring to be fixed.

Extended auto warranties will also ascertain that your financial investment gets protected. Because many people live on a restricted budget, it is usually a good idea to put forth the finances whenever you have them in order that you won’t be caught short in the future should anything go wrong with the automobile and you’ll have to get it fixed. Besides, the cost of an extended automobile warranty is oftentimes much more reasonable as compared to what you would be needed to pay should one necessitate to have their car fixed in the future. As a result, by you spending a smaller sum of money in the beginning you might save quite a couple of dollars eventually should replacement parts or repairs be necessary for your automobile.

In the strictest sense of the word, this is not a warranty at all. Like auto warranties, this plan covers repairs for an agreed upon period of time. True warranties, however, are included in the cost of the car; extended auto warranties are actually service contracts, or extended service program because they cost extra and are sold separately. An extended automobile warranty may be bought at the time you purchase your vehicle; it is also possible to buy one much further along in your car ownership experience. If you are the type who prefers to be prepared for all eventualities, an extended warranty may be just what you are looking for. Considering the ever-increasing cost of car repairs, these service contracts do make a lot of sense. If you are interested in buying an extended automobile warranty, you need to know that the car service contracts industry is slowly moving away from the phrase “warranty” since it is confusing to consumers. Try looking for “Extended Service Programs” instead.

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Risk of a Car Crash Increases with Every Hour of Lost Sleep

Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep nearly double their risk of a crash, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

If you don’t get at least seven hours of sleep, sleep deprivation could cause you to get into an accident. The AAA Foundation found that sleep-deprived drivers had a steadily increasing risk of being involved in a collision in comparison to drivers who slept for the recommended seven hours or more before getting behind the wheel:

  • Six to seven hours of sleep: 1.3 times the crash risk
  • Five to six hours of sleep: 1.9 times the crash risk
  • Four to five hours of sleep: 4.3 times the crash risk
  • Less than four hours of sleep: 11.5 times the crash risk

Sleep deprivation similar to being drunk

Sleep deprivation can seriously impair your ability to drive. In fact, the study found that drivers who get less than five hours of sleep share the same crash risk as someone who is driving over the legal limit for alcohol.

“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.”

One in three adults sleep less than seven hours a day

While 97 per cent of drivers told the AAA Foundation they viewed drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behaviour, nearly one in three admitted that in the month leading up to the survey, they drove when they were so tired, they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.

“Managing a healthy work-life balance can be difficult and far too often we sacrifice our sleep as a result,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA. “Failing to maintain a healthy sleep schedule could mean putting yourself or others on the road at risk.”

No matter how much you open your windows or how loud you turn up your radio, you can’t trick your body into staying awake. In fact, you could easily fall asleep behind the wheel without even realizing it.

And while caffeine can make you more alert, the effects usually wear off quickly if you’re sleep deprived. Coffee or other stimulants cannot substitute sleep, and the AAA urges drivers to prioritize getting plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) into their daily schedules.

Signs that you are drowsy

When you are drowsy or tired, you are less alert and your reaction time is impacted. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation notes eight signs that you are too tired to drive:

  • You have difficulty keeping your eyes open.
  • Your head keeps tilting forward despite your efforts to keep your eyes on the road.
  • Your mind keeps wandering and you can’t seem to concentrate.
  • You yawn frequently.
  • You can’t remember details about the last few kilometres you have travelled.
  • You are missing traffic lights and signals.
  • Your vehicle drifts into the next lane and you have to jerk it back into your lane.
  • You have drifted off the road and narrowly avoided a crash.

Penalties for drowsy driving

Though there appears to be no specific law in Canada that targets driving while fatigued, you could easily catch the eye of the police if you’re driving while drowsy—even if you’re not involved in a collision. If you’re not able to stay in your lane, or if you run a red light or make an unsafe lane change, you can end up with a ticket.

And while tickets come with a one-time fine, they can also affect your auto insurance premiums for years to come, as they stay on your driving record for at least three years.

Then, of course, if you’re involved a collision, the penalties for driving while fatigued are more serious. You could be charged with dangerous driving, careless driving or even criminal negligence.

Don’t risk it; get the sleep you need to drive safely behind the wheel.

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Umbrella Insurance for a Very Rainy Day

Many consumers are not aware of the benefits provided by an umbrella policy and many may not even be aware of the existence of such a policy. Others might just view it as an “upsell” offered by insurance companies and agents hoping to make some extra income. However, the policy actually offers significant benefit to individuals and, according to the Insurance Journal, the state of Maryland’s Insurance Administration has issued a consumer advisory explaining the policy’s benefits. If you don’t currently have an umbrella policy, you’ll want to read on to understand better what it can do for you and your family.

In your standard home insurance policy, there’s a limit of liability for personal liability claims. The usual coverage that’s automatically provided is generally $100,000. However, given today’s litigious society and the cost of medical care, a claim can easily exceed that amount. If you are a homeowner, your assets, including your house, can be attached in the event of a judgment against you. This is where an umbrella policy can really help out.

The personal umbrella policy is given its name because it acts as an umbrella over more than just your personal liability policy. Most people who have umbrellas use the policy as extra protection for both their personal liability and automobile liability coverages. For example, if you have a $1 million umbrella policy, it will provide the $1 million in protection if either your personal liability or auto liability policy limits were exhausted.

Keep in mind that this is a liability policy and not a property policy. Therefore, even though your home insurance policy has two main types of coverage, the umbrella only applies to the personal liability portion of the coverage. As an example, if you have not insured your home for the proper amount and have a large claim, the umbrella policy will not provide you with any benefit. On the other hand, if someone is injured on your property and sues you, the umbrella policy will be prepared to step in if your home insurance policy’s personal liability limit is exhausted.

It’s common for people to consider the umbrella policy as an optional item and not necessary. Even if they are aware of the existence of umbrellas, many people choose not to purchase them, thinking that a very large loss will never happen to them. Unfortunately, when something unforeseen actually happens, it’ll be too late to purchase the coverage. Umbrellas are generally inexpensive when viewed in relation to how much coverage they provide. That low premium is a good sign of the relative infrequency of loss contemplated by the insurance companies in underwriting the policies. However, just because everyone thinks it’s rare for a loss to occur doesn’t mean they don’t believe it will never occur.

You should also keep in mind that there might be some ways to save on insurance premiums by purchasing an umbrella policy. Because many insurance companies offer a multi-policy discount, you might find that it’ll defray the cost quite a bit. When I first started purchasing an umbrella policy, the discount I received from adding it to my existing home and auto policies with the same insurer almost covered the entire cost of the umbrella! Given its low cost and potentially great benefit, you should really invest in an umbrella policy.

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