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How Could the New Tax Overhaul Affect Your Insurance?

Posted by on Feb 8, 2018 in Business Insurance, Franchise Insurance, Life Insurance, Personal Insurance | Comments Off on How Could the New Tax Overhaul Affect Your Insurance?

How Could the New Tax Overhaul Affect Your Insurance?

Tax Reform

The most sweeping U.S. tax reform in 30 years became official when the federal tax overhaul passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Donald Trump Dec. 22, 2017. The new law includes several major changes to the Internal Revenue Code and also repeals former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which included an individual mandate for health insurance coverage. Under “Obamacare,” nearly all Americans were required by law to have health insurance or pay a penalty. In 2017, the penalty was $695 per adult and $347.50 per child or 2.5% of one’s household income, whichever was greater.

Whether the health care law repeal is good or bad for Americans is a politically charged topic. Citizens have widely debated the law’s benefits and unfavorable aspects since it went into full effect in 2014, and its repeal may be equally contentious.

What is clear with the repeal is healthy people will no longer be under an incentivized mandate to obtain health insurance or face consequences. Last November, the Congressional Budget Office projected an estimated 13 million people will drop health coverage due to the repeal. The fear is that with fewer healthy people paying premiums, health care costs will rise as health insurance companies are left with a less healthy customer base.

Forms and application for health insurance coverage

I’m never sick, so why do I need health insurance?

Regardless of whether it’s government mandated, every American should have a health insurance plan in place — and options exist for those who think they can’t afford it. People really can’t afford not to have insurance, yet many learn that lesson the hard way when unexpected events happen.

Even a seemingly healthy person can fall victim to an accident or sudden illness that requires immediate medical care, hospitalization, and follow-up visits. Patients with no health insurance coverage are directly responsible for medical bills that, if unpaid, can lead to financial demise for the individual and those who depend on that person. In fact, the inability to pay high medical bills is among the most common reasons people file for personal bankruptcy.

Anyone seeking health insurance should know that many options exist to accommodate different needs and budgets. Whether you are between employers and need transitional coverage or you are at an age where you are no longer covered on a parent’s plan — typically age 26 — there are customizable plans available. And those who say, “I’m too healthy to pay for insurance” or “I can’t afford health insurance” should consult with an insurance professional to see what type of insurance best fits their situations. A few of the many options available include:

  • Major medical or catastrophic plan This type of insurance is for those who want to protect themselves from life’s unexpected emergencies but can’t or don’t want to pay premiums associated with full coverage. Catastrophic plans typically cover a large portion of bills associated with major medical events like heart attacks, hospitalizations, surgeries, or other traumas. These policies are generally suited for those who don’t frequent the doctor and are comfortable paying out of pocket for preventive care and more minor occurrences. Those who are self-employed or don’t have health insurance through their employers often purchase these plans.
  • Health InsuranceHealth savings account (HSA) plansHSAs allow those insured to make tax-free contributions into accounts they can use to pay for qualified medical expenses. Interest earned on the funds is tax-deferred, and any withdrawals from the account are tax-free so long as they are spent on approved medical expenses. This plan type is a great option for those who tend not to amass medical expenses or who would benefit from the tax savings.
  • Short-term medical — Those between medical plans who want to avoid the dreaded coverage gap may find solace in short-term medical coverage. This policy type can cover qualified applicants for up to 11 months and offer lower rates than other, more comprehensive plans. It is best for those who want to ensure coverage for major services, but not for those who require coverage for pre-existing conditions, regular prescriptions, or frequent doctor’s visits.
  • Senior medical coverage — Those turning 65 as well as those leaving a company or COBRA plan after age 65 may face specific needs and challenges related to their health insurance coverage. Various dental and vision plans are available to eligible seniors. Also, Medicare Supplement Insurance can help pay for some health care costs Medicare doesn’t cover. This may include copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

As no universal health insurance exists for all Americans, your personalized coverage should fit your lifestyle, your needs, and your budget. The options vary and can be overwhelming and confusing, especially as our nation transitions out of the “Obamacare” era. But you don’t need to navigate the health care coverage map alone. A trusted and experienced health insurance provider can help you determine the coverage you need at a price you can afford.

Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to learn more about your health insurance options.

Small Businesses Aren’t Immune to Cybercrime

Posted by on Jan 23, 2018 in Business Insurance | Comments Off on Small Businesses Aren’t Immune to Cybercrime

Small Businesses Aren’t Immune to Cybercrime

Data Breach Security Confidential Cybercrime Concept

The ability to handle business transactions via the internet has opened countless doors for owners of small to medium-sized businesses — even those who don’t have a single door for customers to walk through! Yesterday’s brick-and-mortar stores are today’s digital marketplaces, and consumer demand for online commerce is only bolstering the shift. In fact, according to Big Commerce:

  • More than half of Americans favor online shopping.
  • Nearly every American with internet access has made a transaction online in his or her lifetime.
  • Americans spend two and a half hours or more shopping online every week.

But with the speed, convenience, and sales volume eCommerce awards both consumers and business owners comes a serious risk: a cybersecurity breach. And business owners without brick-and-mortar locations likely allow customers to pay with credit cards, which means hackers could steal customers’ credit card data if business owners don’t properly secure their eCommerce sites. In fact, cybersecurity crimes have become such a common threat that cyber liability insurance premiums could grow to $20 billion or more by 2025.

But cybersecurity is only a concern for big businesses with millions of records to hack, right? We’ve read about the big ones: Target, Equifax, Home Depot, Yahoo, eBay. Unfortunately, every business — no matter the size — is susceptible to cyberattacks. They happen every day, and no business is immune. However, business owners can take measures to lessen their data breach risks, and cyber liability insurance is an extra layer that can protect them if they do fall victim to cyber events.

Protect your business from cyberthreats

Many large businesses have entire teams solely dedicated to preventing cybercrime, but owners of smaller businesses likely don’t have the human power or budgets to do the same. Exercising vigilance in a few key areas can help small business owners defend themselves against negative cyber events.

  • Update software and operating systems on all business devices. Every employee should run the most current version of antivirus software, use the latest browsers, and operate on the latest operating system on his or her shared devices — whether it’s a laptop, tablet, or phone. Set each device so it checks for and installs updates overnight rather than during business hours.
  • If you accept credit cards at your business, make sure you’re using a chip-enabled card reader. A business owner operating without Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) technology is risking his or her own financial security and customers’ data security. By law since October 2015, business owners who don’t use EMV technology can be held liable for fraudulent credit card activity.
  • For online or phone transactions, always require customers to supply their CVV codes — the three-digit codes on the backs of credit cards — and use an Address Verification Service to verify the authenticity of customers’ billing addresses.
  • Implement regular cyber safety training. Establish companywide policies and systems to keep devices updated and ensure every employee knows and understands cybersecurity best practices. Review policies and practices regularly, and make them part of the new-employee onboarding process.
  • Create strong passwords for all company devices. If possible, require employees to set up two-factor authentication on every device. This two-step sign-in process requires users to access alternate devices or codes to complete their login processes. This extra step greatly enhances account security.
  • Be wary of Wi-Fi. Make sure the Wi-Fi in your business is secure and only available to employees. If you offer Wi-Fi access to customers, create a second Wi-Fi network with open access for guests. Also, if your employees travel or work remotely, discourage them from using public hotspots or open Wi-Fi connections.

Add cyber insurance — just in case

Even the most cyber-diligent business owners can fall victim to attacks and data breaches, which is why cyber liability insurance is a smart option for every business owner who engages in eCommerce or accepts payments via credit card. So, what exactly does cyber liability insurance cover? Depending on the policy, it can cover

  • the cost of business interruptions and lost revenue if a business owner must temporarily shut his or her website down post-breach,
  • the price of notifying customers of a breach,
  • the expense of a public relations team to repair damage to the company reputation because of a cyberattack, and
  • the regulatory fines a business owner could incur because of a data breach.

Such losses typically aren’t covered in general business insurance policies. Adding cyber liability insurance to your general business policy makes good business sense. It could literally be the difference between “business no more” and “business as usual” if cyberattackers infiltrate your network. Be sure your policy covers laptops and mobile devices as well to protect you and your business in as many situations as possible.

When shopping for cyber insurance, work with a knowledgeable insurance broker who understands the range in policy pricing and coverage. Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to better understand your cyber liability protection options and ensure you have the insurance coverage you need.

Evaluating Risk: Understand the World of Commercial Insurance Underwriting

Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in Business Insurance, Franchise Insurance | Comments Off on Evaluating Risk: Understand the World of Commercial Insurance Underwriting

Evaluating Risk: Understand the World of Commercial Insurance Underwriting

commercial insurance

Businesses are a bit like snowflakes: No two are exactly alike. This means there is no quick and easy formula for assessing potential business insurance risk. A commercial insurance underwriter’s job is to assess the risk of providing insurance to a business owner based on that owner’s type of business, business activities, and claims history. It’s a tedious analytic process, and many business owners don’t understand what underwriters are looking at when their businesses are subject to review.

What types of insurance risks do commercial underwriters evaluate?

Commercial insurance underwriters must be versed in many types of insurance as many businesses have multiple coverage needs. The most common are:

  • Liability insurance — This covers business owners for any personal injury or property damage they may cause. If business owners are sued for such injury or damage, liability insurance covers the cost of defending and settling the suit.
  • Property insurance — This covers loss or damage to real or personal property related to insured places of business.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance — This covers on-the-job injuries to business owners or employees, which many states require business owners to have by law.

Within each of these insurance categories are additional available policies very specific to certain types of businesses. A few examples include:

  • Glass insurance — A good option for businesses with glass storefronts, this policy type adds additional protection against broken store windows and plate-glass windows.
  • Malpractice insurance — This category of liability insurance covers losses if third parties sustain injuries directly related to the advice or care of professionals like doctors or dentists.
  • Commercial automobile insurance — For company owners who own and operate vehicles as part of their businesses, commercial auto insurance covers vehicle damage, theft, or loss and provides liability coverage if employees cause damage or injury while driving company vehicles.

The range of commercial insurance needs varies greatly. Thus, underwriters must scrutinize many business facets when assessing potential risk.

Business Insurance Management

How exactly do underwriters assess risk?

Underwriters don’t arbitrarily deem businesses “safe” or “too risky” to insure. Rather, they apply actuarial science, which is a specific type of mathematical and statistical analysis used to assess financial risk. Simply stated, it’s the science of looking at data and analyzing how likely it is a certain outcome may occur. If unfavorable outcomes for the insurer are likely, underwriters may recommend denying coverage or applying higher premiums.

Perhaps the biggest factor underwriters consider in their risk assessments is business type. Picture the “risk list” for a skydiving adventure outfitter versus that of a watch repair shop. The list for each is quite different — and one is likely shorter than the other! Other factors may include a business owner’s previous claim history, credit history, business expertise, company revenue, employee count, and business location.

After collecting and factoring all this data into their analyses, underwriters will notify the insurance company — not the customer — of their judgement. It’s important to remember underwriters work on the insurance company’s behalf, rather than its applicants. Underwriters exist to help insurance company leaders determine if and at what price it’s profitable for the company to take the chance on insuring businesses.

If underwriters work on the insurance company’s behalf, who looks out for applicants?

Insurance underwriters don’t directly interact with those applying for coverage. Rather, insurance brokers or agents are these customers’ faces and voices. A good commercial insurance broker will shop around to many underwriters to find the best terms to suit his or her clients’ needs and situations. For business owners, this means providing brokers with the facts and figures necessary for their brokers to really go to bat for business owners. Thus, a solid relationship with a good broker can make all the difference in whether business owners can purchase commercial insurance and at what cost.

Find an insurance partner you can trust. Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to discuss your business insurance needs and learn more about the underwriting process.

Life Insurance: A Selfless Gift to Those Left Behind

Posted by on Dec 28, 2017 in Life Insurance | Comments Off on Life Insurance: A Selfless Gift to Those Left Behind

Life Insurance: A Selfless Gift to Those Left Behind

Insured or uninsured question and pen to check boxLife can be complicated. The older we get, the more complex it can become: more assets, more dependents, more decisions to be made in the event our own lives are unexpectedly cut short. If you were suddenly gone tomorrow, would your family be financially secure without your income? The answer may depend on two simple words: life insurance.

Though it’s not a fun topic to dwell on, life insurance is important to understand. What is it? Who should have it? Why? What type? Am I set for life if I already have a life insurance policy? These are all critical questions that deserve a clear understanding and frank discussion.

What is life insurance?

A life insurance policy provides financial protection for your loved ones when you pass away. Simply stated, it is a contract between a policyholder and an insurer in which the policyholder pays regular premiums to the insurer and, in the event of the policy holder’s death, the insurer provides a monetary benefit to the policyholder’s designated beneficiary. This lump sum can help ease financial burdens like loss of income, funeral expenses, and more in the event of the policyholder’s death.

Who should have life insurance?

It’s inaccurate to think only household breadwinners need life insurance. Ask yourself whether your passing will impact others’ finances. Here are a few examples of “yes” answers:

  • You own a house with a spouse or partner, and your income helps pay the mortgage. Losing your income may affect your partner’s ability to make those mortgage payments.
  • Your partner or spouse works full time, and you take care of the home and kids. Even though you aren’t directly generating income, without you to provide home and childcare, your partner or spouse would have to pay for them in your absence if he or she plans to keep working to generate income.

If your passing would negatively impact your loved ones’ financial stability in any way, you should consider some type of life insurance policy.

What types of life insurance are available?

Once you determine that a life insurance policy is in your best financial interest, the real work begins in deciding which type. There are two main types of life insurance:

  • Term life insurance — This type covers a policyholder for a set number of years: 10, 20, 30, and so on. If you live until the end of your policy’s term, nobody receives a payout. You simply won at the game of life! This is typically the simplest, most affordable life insurance to obtain.
  • Permanent or whole life insurance — This type is designed to cover you for life and accumulate cash value over time. If you decide to surrender your policy later in life, you can cash out the policy value instead of receiving a guaranteed death benefit. This type is more complex and can cost much more but is often the best choice because of the security it offers.

Ultimately, when shopping for life insurance, you want to find a balance between adequate coverage and affordable premiums. If you’re unsure of how much coverage you need, an experienced insurance agent can help you assess your coverage options and related premiums.

While some life insurance can be quite pricey, it’s surprisingly affordable in many cases, especially for younger, healthy individuals interested in term life insurance policies. A healthy, non-smoking 30-year-old male may pay as little as $500 per year or less for a term life insurance policy with a $1 million death benefit. Smokers or those with health problems are likely to pay twice as much or more. It all depends on age, current health and lifestyle profile, as well as coverage level.

life insurance

Once you get life insurance, are you set for life?

Life insurance is not a “get-it-and-forget-it” commitment. As our lives change, it’s possible our life insurance policies should, too. If you’ve moved into a bigger home, for example, did your mortgage payment stay the same? If it’s significantly more, you may want to look at a policy with a higher death benefit. If you’ve made significant lifestyle changes such as dramatic weight loss or reversed certain health conditions like Type 2 diabetes, you may qualify for a better policy rate.

If you have a term life insurance policy, be sure you know the term and when it expires. If your term is set to expire, you have options to consider to continue your coverage into the next decade and beyond. Many policies offer various options when set to expire. These can include converting the term policy to a permanent policy; replacing the term policy with a less expensive one; paying a renewal premium; or decreasing your death benefit. Your age and health status will likely determine which option makes the most sense.

No matter your age or stage of life, life insurance options are available. When it comes to navigating the maze of life insurance options available, an insurance expert can help you take the right path given your specific goals and circumstances.

Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today for a personal evaluation of your life insurance options.

A Happy, Claim-Free Holiday Starts with Home Safety and Security

Posted by on Dec 19, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on A Happy, Claim-Free Holiday Starts with Home Safety and Security

A Happy, Claim-Free Holiday Starts with Home Safety and Security

gingerbread house

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so the song goes. It promises “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.” But in the midst of such seasonal jubilation, don’t fall victim to hidden household dangers that lurk beyond the twinkling lights and perfectly wrapped packages. Filing insurance claims due to preventable property damage or theft is sure to put a damper on holiday cheer. Instead, be aware of common seasonal hazards and take proper measures to keep your home safe and your celebration merry, bright, and insurance-claim-free!

Holiday lighting

If you’ve seen the classic film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you may recall the scene in which Clark Griswold prepares to light 250 strands of outdoor lights.

Extension cords are plugged into extension cords plugged into power strip upon power strip. It’s an endless tangle of cords and wires and a home insurer’s nightmare! Holiday lighting, when not properly installed, poses a serious fire hazard. These simple steps can help ensure a safe and delightful display:

  • Before installing outdoor lights, inspect each strand for frayed cords, loose connections, or damaged bulb holders. Discard damaged strands.
  • When purchasing electrical decorations like light strands, lighted figurines, and extension cords, look for common certifications on the packaging to be certain the products fall within safety standards. These marks may include CSA International or Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Check your lighting’s packaging to ensure it’s intended for outdoor use.
  • Don’t connect multiple extension cords together. A single extension cord should go from the outlet to the light source and should be long enough so it isn’t tightly stretched.
  • Be sure electrical connectors are off the ground and away from metal rain gutters. Instead of using metal nails or staples, secure stands with plastic hooks or insulated tape.
  • Turn light displays off before you go to bed or set a timer to automatically do it for you.

Taking these steps can be the difference between holiday cheers and tears.

Indoor trees

Nothing smells more like the holidays than fresh pine, which is why many people opt to display live trees in the hearts of their homes. But indoor live trees require special care and vigilance to remain part of a safe holiday tradition. The U.S. Fire Administration promotes these safety tips for indoor holiday trees:

  • Cut your live tree at a 45-degree angle at its base, and ensure your tree stand is always filled with water. Be sure to give the trunk a fresh cut before bringing it indoors to help it better absorb water.
  • Never set a tree up near a heat source like a radiator, fireplace, or portable heater. Heat sources too close to trees cause one in four tree fires. Don’t be a statistic!
  • Ensure your decorations are non-flammable.
  • Inspect light strands for damage. Never use strands with any damage.
  • Never leave lit lights unattended.
  • Properly dispose of your tree promptly when it becomes dry and easily sheds needles.

While artificial trees are a safer choice, only use those labeled “fire-resistant.”

Candles

Candles can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. They cause two of every five home decor structure fires, and “the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.” Using flameless battery-operated candles is one way to eliminate fire risk. For those who prefer the real thing, consider a few important safety reminders.

  • Do not light candles near flammable or combustible materials — or near the holiday tree or other greenery.
  • Only use non-flammable candle holders intended for candles.
  • Don’t place candles in areas where they can be easily knocked down or where there’s a draft from a door, window, or air vent.
  • Never leave a candle unattended, and always blow out all candles before going to bed.

With the added fire risks that holiday lights, trees, and candles pose, the holidays are a good time to also test your home’s smoke alarms and change batteries as needed. Then, take a little time to review your homeowners insurance policy to be certain your home is adequately covered in the event of a fire. Do not assume fire insurance is part of your standard homeowners insurance policy. Fire insurance is typically an addition to a homeowners policy. If you aren’t sure, call a trusted insurance agent who can review your policy and answer your questions with confidence.

Home security

While most people are celebrating the season of giving, some Grinches are looking for opportunities to take. Home thefts spike during the holidays, which means your precautionary measures should, too. Use these simple tips to keep your house from becoming a target.

Traveling this holiday season? Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts before you go …

✔️ Do … 🚫 Don’t …
Ask a friend or neighbor to collect your mail and newspaper daily while you are gone. You can also put a hold on such services, but this alerts postal workers and newspaper carriers that you are away. The fewer people who know you are out of town the better. Mention your travel plans to strangers or even casual acquaintances. No one except a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor should know your home is empty.
Hire someone to clear snow from your driveway and steps while you’re gone. Share your vacation on social media. Saying “Look where we are!” on Facebook, Instagram, or another platform is the same as shouting “We aren’t home!”
Use indoor light timers, but set up a few so various lights are on at different times on different days. The same lights turning on at the same time each day gives potential thieves a clue that you’re away. Leave house keys “hidden” in obvious spots like under door mats, in landscaping rocks, or near porch railings.

While much of this seems like common sense, these simple preventive steps can help ensure your home and property is protected this holiday season. And it’s always a good idea to review your homeowners or renters insurance policy from time to time to make sure you have adequate coverage in the event of fire or theft.

Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to better understand your policies and ensure you have the insurance coverage you need.