Pet Insurance…is it worth its bark?

Do you have a loved dog or cat…or some other house pet that you want to get insurance for? If so, you’re not alone. U.S. pet owners spent more than $1 billion on insurance for their pets last year. That is a jump of 23% in money spent on covering pets. It is estimated that 1.8 million dogs and cats are covered by insurance now, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.

Often times, owners are promised affordable, lifetime health care for their pet, but that may not always be the case.
“A two-month Consumers’ Checkbook investigation found that most accident and illness plans end up being neither affordable nor lifelong, according to an article published by the Washington Post. (For Checkbook’s full pet insurance report, as well as ratings of local veterinarians, visit here.)

Here are some important takeaways from the Washington Post article: (read the full Washington Post article here)

Price hikes: Most buyers sign up for insurance when their pets are young and monthly premiums are lowest. But four or five years later, the premiums most companies charge start to rise — purely because the pets get older. Sooner or later, the price may become unaffordable.

Costs can outweigh benefits: In a study done by Checkbook, insurance was a worse deal when the cat or dog were lucky to have only low to moderate health problems, and a better deal when they suffered lots of medical problems. But the problem with spending so much to insure against disaster is that the odds of calamity are fairly long. Every six seconds a pet owner faces a vet bill of $1,000 or more, according to PetInsuranceQuotes.com, an online marketplace. Pet insurers also cite this statistic. That sounds scary, but in a country of 185 million cats and dogs, that’s about a 3 percent chance over a year.

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Tips for buying pet insurance:

  • Before buying, learn how your premium will increase as your pet ages by using the insurer’s online quote engine. First, get a monthly premium quote using your pet’s age; then get quotes for the 10 or 12 ensuing years. Multiply each age’s monthly premium by 12; then add up all the resulting annual premiums to estimate what insurance will cost over that period.
    Understand what’s not covered. A leading complaint to regulators is claims being rejected for conditions or treatments not covered by the policy. No policy covers preexisting conditions, and some conditions that are covered may be considered preexisting if they develop up to a year after you enroll. If your pet is ill or injured, the diagnostic exam is often not covered by many plans, even though the treatment is covered. Follow-up exams for that covered condition are often not covered, either. Those $50 to $100 exam fees amount to a hidden added deductible.
  • Avoid claim rejection for a preexisting condition by insuring your pet when it’s a puppy or kitten — before it has a chance to develop a preexisting condition (but don’t forget the caveat above). You can typically enroll when your pet is 6 to 8 weeks of age.
  • Forget add-ons for wellness, preventive and elective care. When Checkbook added up the lifetime costs of Woof’s routine care, about $2,400, and used that information to compare Nationwide’s Major Medical illness and injury plan with its Whole Pet with Wellness plan, it found that adding wellness coverage was a poor deal. Total lifetime Whole Pet premiums for the dog were much higher — almost $11,400 more — almost five times the dog’s lifetime wellness costs.
  • Consider accident-only policies, which cover injuries but not illness and can be considerably less expensive. ASPCA would charge Woof $35 a month for its accident-only plan, a price that doesn’t increase with age.
  • You must pay premiums every month, but you may or may not have to pay deductibles and co-pays, depending on your pet’s health. So it may be worth it to cut your premium costs by increasing your deductible, reducing the percent reimbursed, and choosing an annual limit of only $5,000 or $10,000 instead of unlimited. These are standard insurance cost-reduction tactics, but be aware that they shift more of the risk of future vet bills to you.

 

 

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Let’s Get Back to the Basics: What is covered by standard homeowners insurance?

Are you a potential or new homeowner? If you fall into either one of these categories, do you know what your homeowners insurance will cover? This post gives you the basics of what homeowners coverage provides.

Homeowners insurance gives you financial protection against damages against your house, loss due to disasters, theft and accidents. There are four standard areas covered by your regular homeowners policy. The four areas that are covered are: your home’s physical structure; personal belongings; liability protection; and coverage for additional living expenses.

Let’s Break Them Down! 

#1 Coverage for the structure of your home
Your policy should pay to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disasters listed in your policy (read your policy carefully before signing up!). Detached structures such as a garage, tool shed or gazebo are covered in some policies as well – again check with your agent and read your policy carefully.
It is important to note: a standard policy will not pay for damage caused by a flood, earthquake or routine wear and tear.
When purchasing coverage for the structure of your home, remember this simple guideline: Purchase enough coverage to rebuild your home.

#2 Coverage for your personal belongings
This covers things inside your home like furniture, clothes, sports equipment and other personal items that are stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or other insured disasters. The coverage is generally 50 to 70 percent of the insurance you have on the structure of the house.
You should conduct a home inventory to see if this is enough coverage for you. 
Note: Personal belongings coverage includes items stored off-premises—this means you are covered anywhere in the world. Some companies limit the amount to 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have for your possessions- again check and read carefully before signing your policy! Remember that expensive items like jewelry, furs, art, collectibles and silverware are covered, but there are usually dollar limits if they are stolen. You may wish to purchase additional insurance to cover those items fully.

#3 Liability protection
Liability is legal protection for you in case of lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. Example: if a child or pet of yours ruins someone’s property, you are covered.
The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit stated in your policy documents- so again, check your policy.

Liability protection also provides no-fault medical coverage for someone injured in your home. But please note, it does not pay the medical bills for your own family or your pet.

#4 Additional living expenses (ALE)
Additional living expenses pays any additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to damage from a an insured disaster. This coverage takes care of hotel bills, restaurant meals and other costs, over and above your usual living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt.
ALE does have limits, however, and some have time limits – talk to your agent and understand what, if any, restrictions there are in your ALE portion.

Don’t Let an Earthquake Rattle You: Be Prepared

Like flood insurance, earthquake insurance is not included in your regular homeowner’s policy. Earthquake insurance is a form of property insurance that pays the policyholder in the event of an earthquake that causes damage to the property.
Most earthquake insurance policies feature a high deductible, which makes this type of insurance useful if the entire home is destroyed, but not useful if the home is merely damaged. Rates depend on location and the probability of an earthquake loss. Rates may be cheaper for homes made of wood, which withstand earthquakes better than homes made of brick. But if you live near a fault line in South Carolina (and they do happen!) you should seriously consider buying some level of earthquake insurance – because you never know when you might need it!xv52ff179b[1]

Unlike hurricanes and some other natural hazards, earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning, but there are things that you can do to reduce the chances that you or other members of your household will be injured, that your property will be damaged, or that your home life will be unduly disrupted by an earthquake.

Before an earthquake

  • Consider purchasing earth quake insurance. You won’t be able to retroactively purchase insurance to cover past damages.
  • Make your home safer to be in during earthquakes and more resistant to earthquake damage by assessing its structure and contents. Depending on when and how it was designed and built, the structure you live in may have weaknesses that make it more vulnerable to earthquakes. Common examples include structures not anchored to their foundations or having weak crawl space walls, unbraced pier-and-post foundations, or unreinforced masonry walls or foundations.
    If you own your home, find and correct any such weaknesses, yourself or with professional help. If you are a renter, ask what has been done to strengthen the property against earthquakes, and consider this information in deciding where to rent. If you are building or buying a home, make sure that it complies with the seismic provisions of your local building code.
  • Consider what is in your home: any unsecured objects that can move, break, or fall as an earthquake shakes your home are potential safety hazards and potential property losses. Walk through each room of your home and make note of these items, paying particular attention to tall, heavy, or expensive objects such as bookcases, home electronics, appliances (including water heaters), and items hanging from walls or ceilings. Secure these items with flexible fasteners, such as nylon straps, or with closed hooks, or by relocating them away from beds and seating, to lower shelves, or to cabinets with latched doors. Ensure that plumbers have installed flexible connectors on all gas appliances.
  • Learn what to do during an earthquake. Hold periodic family drills to practice what you have learned. Through practice, you can condition yourselves to react spontaneously and safely when the first jolt or shaking is felt.
  • In each room of your home, identify the safest places to “drop, cover, and hold on” during an earthquake. Practice going to these safe spots during family drills to ensure that everyone learns where they are.
  • Assemble and maintain a household emergency supply kit, and be sure that all family members know where it is stored. The kit should consist of one or two portable containers (e.g., plastic tubs, backpacks, duffel bags) holding the supplies that your family would need to survive without outside assistance for at least 3 days following an earthquake or other disaster. Make additional, smaller kits to keep in your car(s) and at your place(s) of work. List addresses, telephone numbers, and evacuation sites for all places frequented by family members (e.g., home, workplaces, schools). Include the phone number of an out-of-state contact. Ensure that family members carry a copy of this list, and include copies in your emergency supply kits.
  • Get training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) through your local chapter of the Agraphic2pct50[1].jpgmerican Red Cross. Find out where you could shelter your pet should it become necessary to evacuate your home. Ensure that family members know how and when to call 9-1-1, how to use your home fire extinguisher, and how, where, and when to shut off your home’s utilities (water, natural gas, and electricity).

During an earthquake

  • When earthquake shaking begins, immediately apply what you have learned about What to Do During an Earthquake. Reacting safely will reduce your chances of being injured.

After an earthquake

  • Once the shaking stops, check for injuries among your family and neighbors and, as needed, administer first aid and call for emergency medical assistance. Also check for hazards in and around your home created by earthquake damage. Keep in mind that aftershocks may strike at any time, exacerbating these hazards and requiring you to immediately drop, cover, and hold on.
  • Responding promptly to hazards can prevent further damage and injuries. This may entail extinguishing small fires or reporting larger blazes; shutting off the water supply when broken pipes are leaking; shutting off the electricity when damaged wiring threatens to spark fires; shutting off the natural gas when you suspect that gas is leaking; or evacuating your home when any of these hazards or others, such as structural damage, make continued occupancy potentially unsafe.
  • If it is necessary to leave your home, you may, in the days and weeks following the quake, need to seek emergency assistance from the American Red Cross. In the event of a presidential disaster declaration, assistance for housing and other needs may also become available from FEMA.
  • Regardless of the severity of this earthquake, learn from the experience. If there are things that you could have done better in preparing for this quake, do them better now in preparation for the next earthquake. If your home must be repaired or rebuilt, for example, use this opportunity to correct any structural weaknesses and ensure compliance with seismic building standards. If unsecured belongings were damaged, improve how you secure your home’s contents. If your emergency supply kit proved inadequate, use what you learned to make a kit that will better meet your needs.