Ohio residents affected by the recent severe weather are getting relief when it comes to deadlines for paying their insurance premiums.
Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor issued a bulletin on Monday, July 2, 2012 to Ohio insurance companies asking them to be patient when receiving late insurance premium payments from those who are trying to recover.
“Thanks to cooperation from Ohio’s insurance community, we are giving residents some additional relief so that they can focus on cleaning up and repairing their properties instead of worrying about a pending insurance premium payment,” Taylor said.
This request to insurers derives from the Federal Emergency Declaration for the state due to storms that occurred on June 29, 2012 and is applicable to all Ohioans who have experienced a loss.
The bulletin, 2012-02, states that insurance companies are to give those who have been directly impacted by the storms 60 days from the date the premium was due to pay their premiums, interest free. The bulletin expires on September 30, 2012.
The full bulletin and a Severe Weather Recovery Toolkit, which includes information about how to safeguard your property, vehicle and possessions, tips on the claims filing process, FAQS about windstorm damage and insurance, and tips on protecting yourself from a deceitful contractor, are available on the Department’s website, www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Renters finding new places to live or resigning leases this spring and summer should not discount the importance of renters insurance, Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Insurance Director Mary Taylor said.
“Many renters are unaware they need to purchase renters insurance to protect their belongings,” Taylor said. “It is important that renters carefully evaluate their need for insurance. Replacing personal possessions without coverage can be quite costly.”
Renters insurance covers personal property, such as clothing and electronics, provides certain liability protection and can include other protections up to a dollar limit generally payable as a monthly premium or lump sum annual premium payment. The average renters insurance policy can cost between $15 and $30 per month. Yet many Ohioans do not have renters insurance. A 2011 Insurance Information Institute poll found that only 29 percent of renters had renters insurance.
Most landlords have insurance to financially protect them against structural damage to their property. However, this protection does not extend to a renters personal property.
Taylor advises renters to work with an insurance agent to determine the appropriate level of protection, to ask them for available discounts, and once coverage is secured, to conduct a home inventory complete with photos and video to expedite the insurance company’s handling of a potential claim. The insurance agent can also assist the renter in determining the need for and the additional cost of insuring for the perils of flood and earthquake, which are typically not covered in a renters policy.
To download a free home inventory checklist, for a list of licensed insurance agents in Ohio, and to ask questions and for information about renters insurance, Ohioans can visit www.insurance.ohio.gov and also call the Department’s consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526.
The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP), the state’s official source for free and unbiased Medicare information and counseling, will hold “Welcome to Medicare” events in 15 counties from April 11 to July 25 to help new and soon-to-be beneficiaries understand the basics of Medicare, Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor announced.
“Our staff is visiting every region of the state to personally help Ohioans new to Medicare understand how their new health insurance will work,” Taylor said of OSHIIP, a program of the Ohio Department of Insurance. “Transitioning into Medicare can sometimes be a complicated change and we want to help put Ohioans at ease by addressing any questions or concerns they may have.”
At the “Welcome to Medicare” events, people can also learn the benefits Medicare provides and important deadlines they have to meet. Information will also be shared about Medicare Advantage plans, prescription drug coverage and supplemental health insurance coverage.
For those interested in a computer-generated Part D comparison report, please bring your prescription drug information to include name, dosage, frequency and preferred pharmacy to the event. There will also be information about financial assistance programs which help pay for Medicare’s Part B premium ($99.90 per month in 2012) and out-of-pocket expenses associated with prescription drug costs.
Here is a complete list of “Welcome to Medicare” events, which start at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted:
April 30 – Akron/Summit County (starts at 6:30 p.m.) Akron-Summit County Public Library; 60 S. High St.
May 2 – Sandusky/Erie County
oErie County Services Center Building 3rd Floor; 2900 Columbus Ave.
May 10 – St. Marys/Auglaize County
Auglaize County Council on Aging; 610 Indiana Ave.
May 14 – Columbus/Franklin County
Ohio State University Fawcett Center; 2400 Olentangy River Rd.
May 17 – Centerville/Montgomery County
Center for Jewish Culture and Education; 525 Versailles Dr.
May 21 – Ashland /Ashland County
Samaritan on Main; 663 East Main St.
May 31 – Chillicothe/Ross County
Adena Medical PACCAR Center; 446 Hospital Rd.
June 13 – Blue Ash /Hamilton County
Sycamore Senor Center; 4455 Carver Woods Dr.
June 19 – Sylvania/Lucas County
Sylvania Senior Center; 7140 Sylvania Ave.
June 21 – Strongsville/Cuyahoga County
Ehrnfelt Senior Center; 18100 Royalton Rd.
July 2 – Marietta/Washington County
O’Neill Senior Center; 333 4th St.
July 10 – Youngstown/Mahoning County
Youngstown Senior Center; 1110 5th Ave.
July 16 – Zanesville/Muskingum County
Muskingum Co. Center for Seniors; 200 Sunrise Center RSVP 740-454-9761
July 25 – Elyria/Lorain County
Wesleyan Village; 807 West Ave.
For more information about these events and Medicare, call OSHIIP at 1-800-686-1578. And be sure to visit www.insurance.ohio.gov or follow the Department on Twitter @OHInsurance and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OhioDepartmentofInsurance for more information.
Ohio Lt. Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor recognized the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) Wednesday for celebrating its 20th anniversary. As part of the celebration, OSHIIP held an event with program partners, county volunteers from across the state and previous program directors participating.
“Today’s anniversary is an opportunity to recognize the hard work of the OSHIIP staff and volunteers responsible for making this program such a success,” Taylor said. “Ohio seniors are very fortunate to have individuals committed to helping them with their Medicare needs each and every day.”
As part of today’s 20th anniversary, OSHIIP was presented with a proclamation signed by Governor John Kasich and Lt. Governor Taylor. The program also unveiled a new design of the OSHIIP logo which will now appear on all new materials distributed to volunteers and consumers across the state.
OSHIIP, a program of the Ohio Department of Insurance, was established in 1992 and is the state’s official resource for Medicare information and counseling. OSHIIP assists thousands of people each year through its toll-free hotline, website, and hundreds of community activities, such as the fall Medicare Check-ups and springtime Welcome to Medicare events.
Most recently, OSHIIP helped Ohioans save more than$757,000 during last fall’s Medicare open enrollment period. OSHIIP staff and volunteers conducted more than 100 Medicare Check-up events in each of Ohio. The Welcome to Medicare outreach, geared towards new and soon-to-be beneficiaries, is currently underway and will be held in 15 counties from April 11 to July 25.
For more information about OSHIIP and Medicare, call OSHIIP at 1-800-686-1578 and visit www.insurance.ohio.gov, where you can also obtain a list of Welcome to Medicare events.
COLUMBUS – Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor, in conjunction with Spring Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 25-31, is asking people to prepare ahead of the volatile spring weather season in Ohio, capable of producing thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes.
“Now is a good time for Ohioans to review their insurance policies with their agent to ensure they have appropriate protection against financial loss in the unfortunate event they would have to file a claim,” Taylor said. “I also encourage anyone with questions about their insurance coverage to call the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526 for free assistance.”
Taylor stressed to start an insurance review now, particularly when considering the need for flood insurance, which is not included in a typical homeowner’s insurance policy. Flood insurance is made available by a federal program and is purchased through an insurance agent. There is a 30-day waiting period before coverage provided by flood insurance becomes effective. In addition, Taylor said to ask your insurance agent about whether coverage for damage caused by a back-up of sewers or drains is available and appropriate to add to your homeowners insurance policy.
Advance Insurance Planning Tips:
• Be sure you have adequate insurance coverage and deductibles that are reasonable for your needs.
• Damage caused by rain, hail, lightning and tornado are generally covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy and an auto insurance policy’s “comprehensive” or “other than collision” coverage.
• Call the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at 1-888-379-9531 or visit www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about flood insurance.
• A recent study by the National Association of Insurance Commissions (NAIC) revealed 59 percent of Americans do not have a home inventory of their possessions. Visit www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_page for a home inventory checklist and to download it on your smart phone. Keep your detailed written inventory, supplemented with photographs or a videotape, off-premises in a safety deposit box, or another secure location.
Post Storm Recovery and Insurance Tips:
• Call your insurance agent or company as soon as you can. Be sure your agent knows how to contact you, especially if you have to move out of your home.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself.
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your homeowner’s insurance policy for “loss of use” coverage.
• Be sure everything is considered in your claim. Back up claims with written estimates.
How to Avoid Contractor Fraud:
• Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance company, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
• Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
• Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
• If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch them conduct the inspection.
• Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
• Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
• Pay the contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash, and do not pay in full until all work has been finished.
Ohioans with insurance questions can call the Department’s consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526. Those who have been victimized by contractor fraud should contact the Department’s fraud hotline at 1-800-686-1527. Visit the severe weather toolkit at www.insurance.ohio.gov for more information or follow the Department on twitter @OHInsurance and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OhioDepartmentofInsurance.
COLUMBUS – Many baby boomers may be considering the idea of early retirement in 2012. For some, a lifetime of working could mean a good pension and benefits, but more companies are changing their retirement benefits leaving boomers to find alternative health insurance.
Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor encourages boomers to utilize resources designed to help them understand coverage options before Medicare eligibility begins at age 65.
“Before reaching retirement, talk to your employer as well as your insurance agent and get a sense of what options are available,” Taylor said. “Planning ahead will help you find the best coverage option making the transition into retirement easier and less stressful.”
If an employer is not offering to extend health insurance coverage beyond the boomer’s retirement date, Taylor said the following options should be considered:
Spouse’s Policy: If your spouse is still employed and has access to benefits, see if you can be added to the policy. This is likely your most affordable option.
COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) lets former employees and their dependents continue coverage up to 18 months. While your employer cannot refuse coverage through COBRA, it is unlikely that they will continue to subsidize the premium. They may also charge an administrative fee.
Military: If you are a retired military veteran, you may be eligible to join the Defense Department’s Tricare plan. You can learn who is eligible for TriCare coverage at http://www.tricare.mil.
Individual Coverage: Because these plans can be complicated, utilize your insurance agent to find the right policy. Make sure to ask if vision, hearing and dental coverage are included or if it is possible to add them.
Ohio High Risk Pool and Open Enrollment: A high risk pool was created in Ohio to help adults with pre-existing conditions find individual coverage. To be eligible for this subsidized coverage certain qualifications must be met. Visit www.ohiohighriskpool.com for more information. Participating open enrollment insurers are required to offer coverage at a limited cost to people who apply on a first-come, first-serve basis. Also, certain requirements must be met. Information is available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.
High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP): These plans only cover catastrophic health care costs. This means you will be responsible for paying more of the upfront cost before the policy pays for eligible medical expenses. HDHPs have a lower premium to compensate for the higher out-of-pocket costs incurred with these high deductibles. Often HDHPs work with a Health Savings Account (HSA) that allows you to set aside funds for future qualified medical expenses.
Taylor said it is critical to understand the terms and coverage of the different policy options and to keep in mind that the lowest premium option may not provide the coverage you need for your health status. It is also important to have the following questions answered when comparing coverage:
• What are the deductibles or coinsurance payments?
• What are the limits on coverage?
• Can I see my current doctor or seek treatment in the same hospitals?
• Is there an annual limit to what the insurance company will pay for any particular coverage?
• Is there a cap on the out-of-pocket amounts I have to pay?
• How often will my policy be reviewed or how often can I expect a premium change?
• Are prescription drugs covered?
Boomers with health insurance questions can call the Department’s consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526. Ohioans seeking information about Medicare should call the Department’s Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) at 1-800-686-1578. Information is also available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is encouraging Ohioans to check insurance coverage and policies related to winter weather. Taylor reminds Ohioans that winterizing homes and cars will likely save time and money.
“It is important for all of us to check our vehicles and property for winter, “Taylor said. “I would encourage everyone to review their insurance policies. To better understand coverage options and the claims process, contact the Ohio Department of Insurance, Consumer Services Division.”
Winter in Ohio can be severe and unpredictable. A record amount of snowfall hit the state in 2010 and several other storms over the last decade caused millions of dollars in insured losses.
Taylor suggests Ohioans review insurance policies and communicate with their insurance agents. Ohio Department of Insurance representatives are available to answer questions and explain the claims process by calling toll free 1-800-686-1526. Information is also available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Taylor recommends Ohioans take the following steps:
Home Safety Tips:
• Look for missing shingles and broken, overhanging tree limbs on the roof.
• From the attic, inspect the underside of the roof for signs of leaks.
• Clean gutters and downspouts.
• Check water pipe insulation to prevent winter freezes.
• Check heating system and make sure heat is being delivered to all outlets.
• Make sure dryer vent is unobstructed.
• Assemble emergency supplies, including non-perishable food, water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio.
Vehicle Safety Tips:
• Have a mechanic check your vehicle to make sure all systems are running properly.
• Make sure tires have adequate tread and air pressure.
• Keep windshield wiper fluid tank filled and carry an extra container of fluid in your vehicle.
• Carry a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal.
• Maintain at least a half tank of gasoline.
• Carry food, water, blankets and a first aid kit.
Claim Tips for Home Damage:
• Call your insurance company as soon as possible.
• Try to protect your property and salvage what you can.
• Closely inspect property for damage. Note and photograph any damage and losses, which will assist in settling claims.
• Be sure your agent knows how to contact you if you cannot stay in your home.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover such expenses up to a stated amount.
• Be sure everything is considered in the claim. Back up claims with written estimates.
If You’re in an Accident:
• Be safe – Make sure you stay away from moving traffic after an accident. Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation. Move your vehicle out of harm’s way if you are able.
• Assist others if necessary – Check on passengers in your car and in the other vehicle(s) and see if they need help, but only if it doesn’t put you in a dangerous situation. Call emergency personnel if necessary.
• Take photos – Try to take as many photos as possible of the damage. Also, sketch a diagram of the accident, making sure to label your car, any other vehicles involved, streets, highways and other points of interest.
• Exchange information – Obtain the name, address, phone number, date of birth from the other drivers involved in the accident. Also, get the driver’s insurance information, including policy number. If the driver of the car is not the owner of the vehicle, get the insurance information of the vehicle as well. Do not discuss who is at fault or other details in relation to the cause of the accident.
• Get witness information – Get the contact information of those who may have seen the accident. Your insurance company and/or police may want to speak to them later.
• File a police report – If the accident is not serious, you do not need to call the police to have them write a report at the scene. Police may be too busy to respond to a minor accident. If this is the case, you can move your vehicles to the side of the road, exchange information and file a report at a later time. If an officer does come to the scene, make sure to request his official identification information such as name and badge number.
COLUMBUS — Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor encourages Ohioans to conduct a routine check of all insurance needs and coverage to maximize the enjoyment of summertime activities.
“Take a moment to make sure you have the right amount of insurance protection for your summertime fun,” Taylor said. “Talk with your agent and let them know about any life changes you may have experienced and whether or not your coverage is adequate for the type of activities you plan to participate, whether camping, boating or staying close to home.”
Taylor offers the following insurance information and tips:
Cars and Trucks
Whether driving around town or on a road trip, make sure your vehicle is adequately insured. Carry your vehicle insurance card, and understand what to do and what information to gather after an accident.
• If you are in an accident, remain calm. Call for an ambulance, if needed, and the proper law enforcement authorities. Ask the officer how to obtain the accident report.
• Get names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance information of those involved and note the road name and conditions.
• Take pictures of the vehicles and accident scene with your cell phone or camera.
• Report the accident to your agent or company as soon as possible.
• An accident filed with your insurer may increase your premiums at renewal.
Motorcycles and Scooters
Motorcycles and scooters are not covered by your standard auto insurance policy. You must have a separate policy that covers liability and physical damage coverage.
• If you carry seasonal coverage, check that your policy is up-to-date.
• Be sure you understand Ohio helmet laws.
• Insurance companies have separate requirements for helmets.
• Some insurance companies might offer a discount for safety courses.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not covered by a standard auto insurance policy, but your homeowner’s policy may partially cover your liability.
• Consider a separate ATV policy to make sure you are properly insured.
• Ask your agent about age restrictions, permitted drivers, discounts for taking safety courses and riding with a helmet.
Boats and Jet Skis
Small boats may be covered by a homeowner’s policy but coverage for liability risk is limited. A boat of any significant size will be excluded from your homeowners policy for both property and liability coverage.
• Consider a separate policy that covers physical damage and the appropriate liability limits.
• Personal watercrafts, such as jet skis, will likely require separate coverage.
• Ask your agent about safety course discounts, permitted operators, and the liability of towing.
Pools and Trampolines
Some companies might not insure your property if you have a trampoline or swimming pool, or a company could have policy exclusions for liability related to trampoline or pool injuries. Determine what your homeowner’s policy requires in the way of safety measures such as a fence or locked gate around a swimming pool.
• Check with your agent for rates and safety guidelines before making your purchase.
• An insurance company can deny coverage or cancel your policy for not informing them about a pool or trampoline.
• Understand damages and injuries your homeowner’s policy covers.
• Consider purchasing an umbrella policy to provide liability coverage above what your homeowner’s policy offers.
Pets are part of the family and are likely to be as active as you are during the summer. A pet health insurance policy reimburses the pet owner for covered veterinary care. Policies typically itemize covered treatments, deductibles, and lifetime or per illness maximums.
• The cost of a pet health insurance policy will vary based on the amount of coverage, the type of coverage, the species and age of the pet, and even what breed of animal.
• Ask about pre-existing conditions and review the policy to see if they are covered.
• Pet injury coverage is a new type of coverage that may be part of your auto insurance policy. It covers the treatment of a pet injured in a car accident up to a set limit.
• If the policy requires you to use a specific network of vets, make sure there’s a vet in your area or that your family vet is in the network.