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Friday, 29 January 2016
I caught this article this week that I thought was beneficial - especially during this first quarter of the year when you can make financial/insurance adjustments that you can follow for the remainder of 2016 and beyond. I see the benefit of planning financially everyday in my own life and those customers I serve. Sadly, I also see the problems associated with NOT planning financially and with proper insurance coverage's.
This article from Scott Stump of NBCNews.com/Today has some great points contributed by Jean Chatzky - TODAY financial editor. Take a couple of minutes to review this. It could help you!
Often because it's too stressful to think about or seemingly too expensive to implement, many people fail to put a protection plan in place to safeguard their money.
Here are three areas that can help protect your money from being wiped out in the case of an emergency or disaster. From giving yourself an emergency cushion to the different types of insurance to estate taxes, here are some helpful tips.
1. Have an emergency cushion.
2. Get insurance.
3. Have estate plans.
We can help with everything you read about above. Even though we don't do estate plans any longer, we did them earlier in our career and now recommend some highly trained and experienced folks who specialize in financial/estate planning. However, on the insurance side, we can fill those holes today! Simply contact our office at info@BentonWhite.com or call any staff member at 615.377.1212.
Don't be caught without the proper planning in place to help you and your family survive the unexpected. Everyone involved will be so much better taken care of if you put an action plan together that includes these items.
Posted on 01/29/2016 12:59 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
A scenario from one of our customers who filed a claim: Washing machine piping was old and a leak occurred and they were not at home. The laundry room was upstairs and water ended up flowing in numerous places both upstairs and downstairs. Their insurance claim was sizable and the inconvenience lasted for many days until all was repaired. If they had been home, they could have prevented such serious damage had they turned off their main water valve into the house.
So the question is: If you have a leak or serious flow of water begin in your residence, would YOU know how to stop the water coming into your home? Watch this:
Often times, when you think about water damaging your home, you might conjure up an image of a hurricane, torrential rain or other natural catastrophe. The unfortunate reality is that damage that is caused when ordinary household appliances fail can be just as destructive as an extreme weather event. Also, with these cold temperatures, you have to be ready for the possibility of frozen pipes bursting and causing damage.
According to the Insurance Industry Institute, water damage accounts for billions of dollars in losses to homeowners and renters each year. It is also responsible for about 25 percent of all property insurance claims. Insurance company claim data suggests that water is ten times more likely to damage your home than fire.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to help prevent water damage from appliances, and protect your home. It is helpful to understand some of the common causes of water damage, which include leaky baseboard heating, air conditioning condensation drains, and failed water heaters, washing machine hoses and plumbing.
These household appliances do not always offer warning signs until the damage has already occurred. That is why it is important to check them regularly. The simple steps below can help you protect your home from the most common causes of water damage:
Hopefully, these tips will help us all be more aware and motivated to be on the offense for water drainage/leaks instead of being completely caught off guard and having a major water disaster where you live. If we can help or offer any insurance for you, your family, or friends, we're ready to earn it. Please contact any of our staff at 615.377.1212 or EMAIL us at info@BentonWhite.com ... Let's keep it dry in our homes!
Posted on 01/26/2016 3:29 PM by Benton White
Saturday, 23 January 2016
Meteorologists are calling for extremely cold weather in Middle Tennessee tonight & for the next couple of days. We hope these tips below will help to increase your chances of avoiding frozen pipes during this extreme cold weather!
Tip #1 - Run Water! In extremely cold temperatures, keep a small stream of both hot and cold water flowing at a faucet at each end of your home. Flowing water does not freeze. The stream does not need to be full flow, just about the size of the graphite in a standard #2 pencil.
Tip #2 - Close everything up. Close the vents and doors to your crawlspace. If the pipes beneath your home are exposed to wind, it is far more likely that they will freeze. Also, if you have a water heater or other water piping in your garage be sure that your garage door is closed.
Tip #3 - Keep everything heated. If you have sinks on an exterior wall, open your cabinet doors. If you only keep parts of your home heated in the winter, in extremely cold weather, be sure to turn the heat on to all parts of your home.
Tip #4 - Remove your garden hoses. Do you still have garden hoses attached to your outside hydrants? If so, remove them. Many hydrants are designed to let water, inside the hydrant, drain. If your hoses are still attached, the water has nowhere to drain and can freeze and bust the hydrant.
We see many claims each year from PIPES BURSTING and causing damage to ceilings, walls, floors and anything else the water overflow comes in contact with. You have a better chance of frozen pipes not occuring if you heed the advice above. We have already started doing these procedures in our home to hopefully prevent a large plumbing bill and insurance claim from these subfreezing temperatures this week. Of course, if you are not successful in preventing frozen pipes, we're here and ready to help with your claim! Just call any staff member at 615.377.1212 or EMAIL us at info@BentonWhite.com. You could also refer to our blog post this week "It's Back! Rain, Slush, Ice, Snow!" that gives you complete information on how to you can reach us if you have that unfortunate claim during this harsh winter weather.
Stay safe and warm and we're ready if you need us ... and good luck with those pipes!
Posted on 01/23/2016 2:25 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
Here we go again! I guess we can't complain since the fall and early winter was above average warm. However, we have two weather events facing us this week. One is overnight tonight and another on Thursday/Friday of this week. So it's time to do the right stuff now so you won't have that unfortunate insurance claim and deductible money spent because of possible bad weather.
Here's the info: (from the National Weather Service):
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW... SLEET... OR FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES... AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.
WINTRY MIX OF SNOW AND ICE EXPECTED LATE TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY....WITH AN ARCTIC AIRMASS ALREADY IN PLACE A STORM SYSTEM WILL MOVE ACROSS THE REGION LATE TONIGHT AND WEDNESDAY... LIKELY BRINGING A MIX OF SNOW... SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN TO THE MID-STATE. MIDDLE TENNESSEE COULD SEE UP TO AN INCH OF SNOW AND A TENTH OF AN INCH OF ICE. MAJOR TRAVEL IMPACTS ARE POSSIBLE SO AN UPGRADE TO A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR PORTIONS OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE MAY BECOME NECESSARY.
We've put together an extensive weather checklist that you can use in order to be sure you are READY for these and other upcoming winter weather systems! CLICK HERE for a printable PDF that we hope will be of help!
If you happen to have a claim need during this event or at anytime, we're here to help. Call us at 615.377.1212 or EMail us at info@BentonWhite.com. Or, for your 24/7 convenience, you can use our claim information from our website available HERE: Our 24/7 claim numbers are HERE:
Insurance isn't any good if we're not here for you when you need us! We are here and are ready to help! THANKS for your business!
Posted on 01/19/2016 11:33 AM by Benton White
Friday, 15 January 2016
Unfortunately, we've seen a lot of rear-end vehicle crashes lately. Draw your own conclusions as to why that might be but certainly, at the top of the list, you have to ask: "Are drivers paying close attention to what they are doing when on the highways!"
More often than you would think. we get calls from customers asking: "I just got hit from behind by someone! What should I do?" That's not surprising because insurance is first of all, complicated for most of us but especially questions do arise when you are not at fault and you expect the other party to be completely responsible for damages and any possible injuries you might face. Even one of our staff had a rear-end collision over the holidays from someone who accelerated by anticipation instead of actually seeing the car in front (our staffer) move forward. Hopefully, this will help if you are in one of these situations in the future.
We're here to help! Letting us know you've had this incident as soon as you can assures for you that we have documented your information if you do need to file a claim with one of our companies. As an example, in the 4th quarter last year, one of our great long-tenured insureds called to say their son was in an accident but he was hit from behind in a multi-car collision. They were thinking he wasn't at fault but wanted to tell us just the same. At this point of the claim that is almost settled, our company has paid nearly $30,000 in expenses for this one accident and our insured shared fault. So one never knows what can happen in one of these rear-end type accidents.
If you have additional questions or we can assist you further regarding anything insurance, EMAIL us at info@BentonWhite.com or call any of our staff at 615.377.1212. We're here to earn your business and help you navigate through claims!
Posted on 01/15/2016 9:23 AM by Benton White
Tuesday, 12 January 2016
Sadly, it's that season of fires! So many fires are caused during colder weather where space heaters or heat lamps are used in the wrong place or in inappropriate ways! That's the case for two fires in the Williamson County area Monday morning .. Here are details!
A Williamson County home where a couple resided for multiple decades, according to family, was destroyed in a fire Monday morning. The house fire on the 5000 block of Carters Creek Pike was reported by multiple motorists passing by just before 8 a.m., said Bill Jorgensen, director of public safety in Williamson County. Tony and Connie Jones were not at home at the time. The house is one of several homes on a family property, son-in-law Jason Eubanks said. Eubanks estimated Tony and Connie Jones have resided at the home 35-40 years. Flames were coming from the back of the home, where the most extensive damage occurred, when firefighters arrived, Jorgensen said. Trees in the back were also scorched.
No injuries were reported.
Investigators are looking at whether the fire started in the area near a space heater, Jorgensen said. But the cause is still undetermined.
Fire also destroyed a Brentwood family's home earlier on Monday. The preliminary investigation indicates the fire may have been caused by a heat lamp in a dog house on an outside deck.
"The biggest concern we have in cold weather is people using alternative heating methods," said Brentwood Fire Department Chief Brian Goss.
Here are some fire and cold weather tips from the Brentwood and Nashville fire departments and Williamson County Emergency Management Agency. They include:
If we can help you with insuring your property or can be of service another way, please let us know. Contact our staff at info@BentonWhite.com or call us at 615.377.1212. We're always ready to earn your good business!
Posted on 01/12/2016 3:00 PM by Benton White
Friday, 08 January 2016
We've been very busy during the last 6 weeks writing Affordable Health Care (ACA) policies. Several of our customers had to wait until national enrollment to secure their new coverage and since they were customers of ours already, we were able to help. The premiums shocked most everyone I talked to and for those that couldn't afford the increased costs, we were able to lower benefits to help them meet their premium needs for their budget.
The New York Times published an eye-opening article this past Tuesday that explains what we have been seeing. Securing new coverage is the beginning of even more expenses for each insured based on what their needs for coverage claims are. As you will see in this report, hardships arise even if the coverage is there.
Here is the surest way to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having health insurance: Don't get sick.
The number of uninsured Americans has fallen by an estimated 15 million since 2013, thanks largely to the Affordable Care Act. But a new survey, the first detailed study of Americans struggling with medical bills, shows that insurance often fails as a safety net. Health plans often require hundreds or thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket payments - sums that can create a cascade of financial troubles for the many households living paycheck to paycheck.
Carrie Cota learned the hard way that health insurance does not guarantee financial security. Ms. Cota, a 56-year-old travel agent from Rosamond, Calif., learned she had the autoimmune disease lupus in 2007. She ran up thousands of dollars in medical and dental bills and ended up losing her job, and eventually her house.
"I had to move in temporarily with my ex-husband," she said in a recent interview. "I'm staying with him until I can figure out what to do."
In the new poll, conducted by The New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 20 percent of people under age 65 with health insurance nonetheless reported having problems paying their medical bills over the last year. By comparison, 53 percent of people without insurance said the same.
These financial vulnerabilities reflect the high costs of health care in the United States, the most expensive place in the world to get sick. They also highlight a substantial shift in the nature of health insurance. Since the late 1990s, insurance plans have begun asking their customers to pay an increasingly greater share of their bills out of pocket though rising deductibles and co-payments. The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, protected many Americans from very high health costs by requiring insurance plans to be more comprehensive, but at the same time it allowed or even encouraged increases in deductibles.
"We're at a point where there's been slow growth in health care costs and huge improvements in the numbers of people who have health insurance," said Sara Collins, a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, a health research group. "But there is this underlying trend towards higher cost sharing that could put increasing numbers of people at risk for being underinsured."
Among those who reported having problems paying their bills despite having insurance, 63 percent said they used up all or most of their savings; 42 percent took on an extra job or more work hours; 14 percent moved or took in roommates; and 11 percent turned to charity.
Randy Farris, 58, a factory worker from Conger, Minn., needed a knee replacement three years ago. His insurance covered 80 percent of the bill, but he needed to cash in an I.R.A. to pay his $4,000 share. "I haven't been to the doctor since because I don't want any more doctor bills," he said. His wife's retirement savings had been wiped out years before, he said, when he used them to pay her hospital bills after she died of cancer.
The health law has led to a decline in the number of Americans suffering financial stress from health problems, thanks to the new options for receiving coverage, especially for the poor. But the problem is still widespread, touching roughly a quarter of Americans under 65, when the insured and uninsured are looked at together. Americans older than 65 are covered by Medicare, which more frequently protects people from major financial trouble.
Unlike other polls, which have focused on the ways that insurance affects health care, the new Times-Kaiser survey explored the effects of medical bills on people's daily lives well beyond the medical system. We found that medical bills don't just keep people from filling prescriptions and scheduling doctors' visits. They can also prompt deep financial and personal sacrifices, affecting their housing, employment, credit and daily lives. Kaiser has released a report today, detailing the survey's main findings about this population.
"The major impact is actually a pocketbook or economic impact: their ability to pay the rent or the mortgage or buy food," said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
People without health insurance, of course, are more vulnerable to medical bills than those with health coverage. The study found that the people most likely to report bill problems were uninsured, poor or disabled. But the majority of people struggling with bills are insured. Of the people in the survey reporting difficulty with their medical bills, 34 percent lacked health insurance, 39 percent had insurance through work, 14 percent were covered through public programs and 7 percent had purchased their own health plans.
One reason, many experts said, is a gradual shift in the norms about the generosity of health insurance. In recent years, health plans have come with growing deductibles and narrowing networks of providers, provisions devised to lower the cost of premiums. Those features have made health insurance accessible to a larger share of the population, but may also be leaving more insured Americans vulnerable.
Ten years ago, David Dranove, a professor of health management at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, conducted research on people experiencing medical bankruptcies. The study he co-authored found that bankruptcy was largely a problem of the uninsured. "But with more people buying less generous health insurance, I think the old evidence might no longer be relevant," he said.
Insured people with financial problems often have plans with higher deductibles. But many said that the smaller co-payments piled up to make their care unaffordable. Many also received big bills that were not covered by their insurance. Among the 32 percent of insured patients stuck with an out-of-network bill, more than than two-thirds of patients said they didn't know the provider wasn't covered. More than 25 percent of the insured respondents said a medical claim had been denied.
Medical bill problems rarely occur in a vacuum, the survey found. Most of the people surveyed said their finances were tight even before there was an illness in their family. This pattern held true even for families higher on the income scale. The rates at which people with medical bill problems sought charity or borrowed money from friends was similar among people earning less than $25,000 and those earning more than $100,000.
Research on medical bankruptcies has been controversial because it can be hard to untangle how medical bills fit into a family's overall pattern of financial troubles. Twenty-nine percent of the people with medical bill problems said a family member had been forced to stop working or cut back on hours. (On the other side, about 41 percent of people said they'd taken on extra work to help pay bills.)
"Is that a job problem or a medical bill problem?" said David Himmelstein, a professor of public health at the City University of New York's Hunter College School of Public Health who has studied medical bankruptcies. "It's both of those things."
The survey included a random sample of 1,204 adults under 65 who reported problems paying household medical bills in the past 12 months. Interviews were conducted online and by telephone between Aug. 28 and Sept. 28, and some respondents gave follow-up interviews in December. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Information about the poll methodology is available here.
The survey asked people to describe the ways that bills had changed their lives. The chart above shows some of the most common answers.
If we can help you with any insurance needs you may have, please let us know. Our staff is readily available at 615.377.1212 or you can EMAIL us at info@BentonWhite.com. Visit our website too - there is loads of great information there at BentonWhite.com. We're always ready to earn your business!
[Portions of this blog is taken from "Even Insured Can Face Crushing Medical Debt, Study Finds" by David Leonhardt, The New York Times / January 5th, 2016]
Posted on 01/08/2016 2:56 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 05 January 2016
Happy New Year and we hope you are ready for another opportunity we all get to start fresh with new activities, new ideas and no doubt another great adventure! I saw a great quote last week from country music singer - Brad Paisley that was posted on New Year's Eve: It read: "Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book! Write a good one!" I'm all for that so let's get to it!
We're seeing a lot about what different car insurance policies offer with saturated advertising all over the place! We see in these advertisements that Company A offers accident forgiveness or Company B offers total loss coverage to a new vehicle or pet coverage and more. The companies releasing these ads make it seem like they are the ONLY ones offering this type of coverage. But as usual in advertising, it's not as it seems. The companies we represent have the same - similar coverage's and in many cases, BETTER options than the advertised companies. Some just like to shout about it more than others!
My companies offer all or many of these same extra coverage's. Some are included in the policy - some for a small additional fee. So let me shout what's out here for your viewing pleasure and hopefully, this won't be as obnoxious as some of these commercials we all see:
So YES, we offer all of this and more! Feel free to contact our staff at info@BentonWhite.com or call us at 615.377.1212.. We're ready to help you save premium dollars on your auto, home, apartment coverage, motorcycles or any other insurance you may need. It's there for asking and we're ready to be asked!
As always, thanks for reading! We'll continue to give you information that hopefully you can use as you work your way through 2016!
Posted on 01/05/2016 2:57 PM by Benton White
Wednesday, 23 December 2015
Today - our #1 Christmas video this holiday season. Grab some tissues and enjoy what we think is an important part of Christmas.
Tomorrow, a personal family greeting on Christmas Eve. We hope you'll check back here on the blog for that! In the meantime, we wish for you and your family, a very Merry Christmas and the best to you in 2016. Thanks for letting us serve you with insurance. As we always say, "we appreciate your business!"
Posted on 12/23/2015 3:40 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 22 December 2015
We continue our video countdown for Christmas. We hope you enjoy these selections and trust that each make your Christmas a little more enjoyable and more meaningful.
We wish for you and your family, a very Merry Christmas and the best to you in 2016. Thanks for letting us serve you with insurance. As we always say, "we appreciate your business!"
Posted on 12/22/2015 12:10 PM by Benton White
Monday, 21 December 2015
We continue our video countdown for Christmas. We hope you enjoy these selections and trust that each make your Christmas a little more enjoyable and more meaningful.
We wish for you and your family, a very Merry Christmas and the best to you in 2016. Thanks for letting us serve you with insurance. As we always say, "we appreciate your business!
Posted on 12/21/2015 1:51 PM by Benton White
Friday, 18 December 2015
We continue our video countdown for Christmas with #4 in our Top 5 Christmas Videos of 2015. We hope you enjoy these selections and trust that each make your Christmas a little more enjoyable and more meaningful.
We wish for you and your family, a very Merry Christmas and the best to you in 2016. Thanks for letting us serve you with insurance. As we always say, "we appreciate your business!
Posted on 12/18/2015 10:55 AM by Benton White
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Today, we begin our video countdown for Christmas. We hope you enjoy these selections and trust that each of these for the next 5 days will make your Christmas a little more enjoyable and meaningful!We wish for you and your family, a very Merry Christmas and the best to you in 2016. Thanks for letting us serve you with insurance. As we always say, "we appreciate your business!"
Posted on 12/17/2015 10:31 AM by Benton White
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
During this great year of 2015, we have tried to educate and hopefully entertain a little on this Benton White Insurance blog! The response has been awesome and so glad you are enjoying our efforts to educate as well as inform about all things insurance. THANK YOU for your readership! What good is a blog without eyes on it to digest our material. Also, thanks to my blog technician, Mark McGowan who takes what we produce and makes it come alive on this page as well as across social media outlets on the web. His work is such a big part of what we want to create. He honestly makes us look good!
Beginning this Thursday, we'll post what we consider the TOP 5 Christmas videos of this 2015 Christmas season. I am amazed at the quality and the meaning of some of these advertisements or public relations videos we are seeing. I have reviewed many and have narrowed down to the top 5 for your viewing pleasure. They surely have helped me get into this wonderful Christmas spirit as well as reminded me about the TRUE meaning of Christmas ....
Then, on December 24 - Christmas Eve .... I'll post a personal Christmas Greeting from me and my family. Basically, it's time for you see my crew - all 18 of them - kids and grandkids ... Can't help it! Got to do it! Hope you'll enjoy seeing these folks I so care about and really, what makes my earthly world go 'round and 'round...
So be ready - video #5 - this Thursday ....
Thanks again for joining us on the blog. We truly treasure your interest!
Posted on 12/15/2015 2:47 PM by Benton White
Friday, 11 December 2015
The holidays often find us at our busiest, most stressed, least careful, and most distracted time. They also bring a sudden, seasonal spike in the flow of goods, money and digital information through our homes and businesses.
Criminals know, and prey, on this - waiting to catch you off guard, while they make off with personal property or, worse, your identity.
Here are five types of theft to watch for, and a few things you can do to help protect your purchases, personal information, or business, this holiday season.
If you really want to dampen your Christmas spirit this year, having a theft of your personal belongings or Christmas gifts could do it. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU! The above precautions can go a long way in helping you prevent sadness and loss this holiday season by taking these few precautionary steps. At Benton White Insurance, insurance is our world but prevention is also. Hopefully this will help you to be more aware during this wonderful season of Christmas.
Coming next week - a special Christmas Holiday treat for all of our blog readers! Stay tuned!
[Thanks to Christine Lamb - Sales Executive with Travelers Insurance for furnishing this good data for us to use!]
Posted on 12/11/2015 1:20 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 08 December 2015
They're becoming more popular this year and expect these to be common place in the near future. I already have some of these devices in my home and intend to add more as we go along. The ability to control your home whether you are there or away is such a great feature and comforting too if you are away for longer than a few hours.
Below is a flow chart that will help you decide if either you or someone on your gift list might benefit from some of the latest technological developments to keep you or them safe and secure in 2016!
Safe and secure means less insurance claim deductibles not to mention loss of valuable items. We hope this will help you to become acquainted with these new items that truly could keep you or those you give these to for Christmas safer.
Let us know how we might can help you with your insurance. We're ready to earn your business. Simply contact any of our staff at info@BentonWhite.com or phone us at 615.377.1212. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season. Something special is coming to you from this blog in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
Posted on 12/08/2015 1:32 PM by Benton White
Thursday, 03 December 2015
This is becoming a welcomed and honorable pattern. It was announced a few days ago that J. D. Power and Associates has recognized Auto-Owners Insurance Company for "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with the Auto Insurance Claims Experience." Auto-Owners has been recognized at this level for the sixth time in the eight years this survey has been taken. This only happens as a result of hard work, a commitment to serve, and a great partnership between the company and it's insureds through the local independent agency - like all of us here at Benton White.Insurance.
From my agency, we work hard with the local claims department here in Brentwood to be sure they make initial contact quickly after a claim is filed. We strive for 24 hour or less initial contact for each claim and meet that deadline the majority of the time. That initial contact was one of the highest rated items on the Power survey that is successful.
With more people expressing frustration with service in today's fast-paced, impersonal world, we hope it is reassuring to you, our customers that we minimize confusion and problems in claims. This J.D. Power award shows that Auto-Owners company-wide makes this a goal of theirs also.
I've often said ..."we can sell insurance all day long but if we aren't there to offer high quality service after the sell, we're not worth much to our people." That's been our goal for over 37 years and the longer we do this business, the more we know it is true! Thank you for letting us serve you with prices that are competitive and service that is local and personal built around relationships with our insureds. We think this is what truly makes us different. Without you, we couldn't do it. So I say once again, "we appreciate your business!"
If we can assist you or your friends with this type of insurance environment, we're here to earn yours and their business. EMAIL us at info@BentonWhite.com or call any of our staff at 615.377.1212
Posted on 12/03/2015 3:23 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 01 December 2015
WASHINGTON - For 2014, the first year she got health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, Gail Galen chose a plan from a new nonprofit insurer, Oregon's Health CO-OP. But the price jumped for 2015, so Ms. Galen switched to a policy from a different company, LifeWise Health Plan.
Now, with open enrollment for 2016 underway, she is preparing to leap to her third insurer in three years - and stocking up on whiskey, she says, only half in jest, as she braces for another round of shopping on the federal insurance marketplace.
"Every year I feel like I'm starting all over again, and I just dread it," said Ms. Galen, 63, of Warrenton, Ore. "My stress level just shoots up."
Over the past two years, the Affordable Care Act has created entirely new markets for health insurance, and a new way of buying it, via online exchanges that allow comparison shopping. They have brought coverage to nine million people, many of whom could not afford it or were rejected by insurers before. But these new markets have also seen sharp price swings, or changes in policies, that are driving many consumers to switch plans each year.
The Obama administration is encouraging switching as a way to avoid steep increases in premiums - and to promote competition among insurers, as the law intends. Next year will be no different: The price of plans will rise in most states, and the administration says that 86 percent of people who currently have coverage through the federal exchange can find a better deal by switching.
"This may be just one of those environments where there's a new normal," said Sabrina Corlette, a professor at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University.
For many consumers, the volatility in the markets has been a source of anxiety and disruption. To have any choice at all is a welcome development, many say. But switching plans is also becoming an unwelcome ritual, akin to filing taxes, that is time-consuming and can entail searching for new doctors and hospitals each year.
"I don't have a regular doctor anymore, so I avoid going," said David Saphier, a self-employed technology consultant in Manhattan who will be switching to his third exchange plan for 2016.
Some experts have raised concerns that frequently switching doctors could result in worse health care, though carefully controlled research on the issue is sparse.
Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a physician and health policy researcher at New York University School of Medicine, said it could be problematic in part because new providers often cannot get a patient's old medical records. Doctors also may feel less invested in the health of patients they believe are with them only for the short term, he added.
"It's going to be a challenging issue to really parse out," Dr. Ladapo said. "But it's a very important one, and in general, any breaks in continuity that happen as a result of these narrowing networks or plan changes are probably not in the best interest of patients."
The annual changes in plans and prices are a result of the many unknowns in the new markets. Insurers are changing their pricing, often significantly, year to year as they struggle to figure out how healthy or sick their new customers are. In some cases, insurers tried to get a foothold in the market with unsustainable low prices that they now must raise.
An additional factor for 2016 is the closing of a dozen nonprofit cooperative insurers that had more than 500,000 customers around the country. Those consumers will have no choice but to find a new plan, as will others whose insurers are leaving the exchange markets because they were losing too much money.
In Nashville, Alyssa Bernhardt learned recently that her plan from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee would rise to $115 a month even after her federal subsidy, from $45. She logged onto HealthCare.gov last week and found a comparable plan that will cost only $40 a month. She has switched plans every year since the exchanges opened, though she has managed to stay with Blue Cross Blue Shield all along.
"It's so confusing," said Ms. Bernhardt, 28, a graduate student and part-time consultant. "It would be a lot easier if I could just renew the same plan."
Last year, many people did just that, taking no action and letting their coverage automatically renew for 2015. Still, about half of returning HealthCare.gov customers at least shopped around before settling on a health plan, and about 25 percent switched - far more than many experts predicted. Those who switched insurers but kept the same level of coverage ended up saving about $490 over the course of the year in premium costs, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services.
As much as they dislike switching plans, people like Ms. Galen, who has a history of skin cancer, say it is far preferable to what they faced before the health law took effect. Then, many people with medical conditions could not get insurance or had to pay much more for it, and they clung to whatever coverage they could get because if they tried to switch to a different insurer, they would most likely be rejected.
Mary Stuart, 64, of Omaha, has already switched to Assurant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, and so far has been able to keep her doctors. Now Assurant is leaving the exchange market, and Ms. Stuart is intent on finding a new plan that will cover the ophthalmologist who treats her macular degeneration, a serious eye disease.
"I'm like, oh God, here we go again," said Ms. Stuart, who does not receive a premium subsidy and pays $890 a month for her current plan.
On the other hand, she said, "With my medical issues, to get with another insurer pre-Obamacare would have been really hard. So even though I'm bouncing and bouncing around, in some respects the current situation is so much better."
If Ms. Stuart has a Zen-like approach to the shop-and-switch routine, Ramon Cinco, a middle school teacher in Houston, said he is approaching it "in panic mode." He is switching plans not to get a better deal, but because his current plan with Cigna, which allows his family to see any doctor without a referral, is being discontinued.
Mr. Cinco, 43, switched to Cigna this year after being frustrated with his 2014 plan from Aetna, which he said had too narrow a provider network to be useful. Now, he said, he is likely to switch back to Aetna for 2016, to a plan that seems to have a narrower network of hospitals than he has access to now.
"I wasn't expecting to make a switch for 2016," Mr. Cinco said. "I'm very happy and pleased with my plan, and this came as a big shock."
As for Ms. Galen, her insurer, LifeWise, is discontinuing her current plan and offering her a similar one with premiums that are 38 percent higher over all. She will get a bigger subsidy next year because of rising rates in her state, so her share of the premium would increase by only $27 a month. But she would also face higher out-of-pocket costs for visiting the doctor, and a higher out-of-pocket limit. And the new plan does not appear to cover her current doctors, she said.
That leaves her with more than a dozen choices from six insurers, which she has begun researching. She wants to make sure she can stick with the dermatologist she has been visiting since her skin cancer diagnosis.
"It's a constant, background nagging feeling of a chore undone," she wrote in an email last week. "And still, it's a huge improvement over the old days! I didn't have to shop at all then; I was stuck with the same rip-off, narrow policy."
We are spending a considerable amount of time this enrollment season trying to help our insureds find their way through all of the healthcare insurance challenges. It is complicated and it takes a considerable amount of the insureds time to get resolution for their healthcare needs. Most often, the conversation leads to matching premiums that have risen considerably vs. coverage's that the insured can receive for the premium spent. It's challenging!
If we can help you with your insurance, please let us know. We write all types of insurance and will work to find you the best pricing for the best coverage's out here. Contact any of our staff at info@BentonWhite.com or call us at 615.377.1212. We appreciate the opportunity to earn your business!
[Portions of this article comes from an ONLINE POST from The New York Times - November 18, 2015 written by Abby Goodnough: "Shopping for Health Insurance Is New Seasonal Stress for Many"]
Posted on 12/01/2015 3:16 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Today and everyday! This week and every week, we are grateful for so many things, including great relationships with family, friends, business acquaintances and many wonderful customers! Let's take a much needed break this week and remember how truly blessed we are!
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise! Give thanks to him and bless His name!
Psalm 100:4 (NASB)
Benton P. White
Posted on 11/24/2015 1:40 PM by Benton White
Tuesday, 17 November 2015
This upcoming holiday season, relationship statuses will be upgraded to "engaged". Did you know engagement season spans from Thanksgiving to New Years? A sparkly ring can create many new decisions - one of which how do you insure your wedding. Many people forget about this issue with a long list of "to-do's" before you say "I do!"
We offer The Wedding Protector Plan® It is private event insurance which may protect against financial loss from unavoidable mishaps. Putting an inexpensive policy like The Wedding Protector at Benton White Insurance in force should be implemented as soon as contracts are signed and deposits are paid. Policies can be issued up to two years in advance of the big day! And the premiums? They are amazingly inexpensive for the coverage offered.
The coverage's listed below are all available on a single policy and can be purchased with increasing limits of coverage.
The Wedding Protector Plan® can cover:
Total Cost of a Wedding Protector Plan® Policy
We're here to help! THANKS for reading our blog and let us know how we can better assist you with a program like The Wedding Protector or some other insurance need you may have! EMAIL us at info@BentonWhite.com or call us at 615.377.1212. We're always ready to earn your business!
Posted on 11/17/2015 11:15 AM by Benton White
Many of our customers don't realize that I personally review each policy that renews in my agency annually. I block out several hours to review how a customer's rates have been over time and what they can expect in premium on their next renewal. Sometimes, it's painful to see some of the increases that are caused by an event that involved the customer. There are a number of reasons a rate can change from excessive claim activity to at-fault accidents, traffic citations and many other premium affecting...
04/11/2017Minimize your Risk of Distracted Driving
As the spring season gets fully underway, families gear up for spring break car trips or college visits. With better weather, more drivers take day trips or plan weekend getaways. This all adds up to more drivers on the road, and more potential for distracted driving – which also increases the odds of traffic accidents with bodily injuries. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the time of year when the National Safety Council and other organizations join forces to heighten awareness of...
01/24/2017Questions? We've got answers!
You buy insurance to protect your finances from life's surprises. But unless you know the finer points of your policies, you could be left with another surprise -- no coverage where you thought you had it. We get questions almost daily asking is this covered? We do our best to give the most accurate and easy to understand answers we can offer. I thought it might be good to share some of the more common questions (and one not so common) that we get here in the agency! Hopefully, this will help...