A Response to COVID-19

As world leaders continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, we would like to reassure its customers and partners that we expect to continue normal business operations.

While there is still a great deal of uncertainty about how the virus will affect markets, industries and entire economies — we are confident that our business continuity plan and operational infrastructure will enable us to continue providing the same level of service excellence that our customers have come to expect.

In addition to providing uninterrupted service, our other commitments to you include:

  • Taking measures to safeguard our employees and customers.
  • Monitoring the situation in our customers’ local and regional areas.
  • Remaining in close communication with our providers and carriers.
  • Being a responsible partner in our communities.
  • Keeping you informed of any important updates.

We will continue to post updates on this web page when necessary.

If you have any questions about your existing policies or coverage, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

businessman explaining group health needs

Group Health Coverage Basics for Small Businesses

Offering health insurance to your employees may sound like an overwhelming process — but it doesn’t need to be. Once you’ve identified your business’s needs and know the basics of group health insurance, the rest is easy. So, what do you need to know first?

What’s the difference between group and individual health plans?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “A group health plan is an employee welfare benefit plan established or maintained by an employer or by an employee organization (such as a union), or both, that provides medical care for participants or their dependents directly or through insurance, reimbursement, or otherwise.”

In other words, a group health plan is designed to cover a group of employees, but each enrollee has their own plan with benefits – and the plan’s monthly premium is calculated differently than if it were purchased as an individual health plan.

The monthly premium for all health plans is determined by the perceived risk of the carrier in offering coverage. With a group health plan, the group seeking coverage has their risk pooled together as one, which in some cases, may lower the monthly cost.

Unlike individual plans, group health plans are also available in different types designed to help your business save the most money and make the best coverage decisions. To learn more about these different plan types and ways that your business can save money on group health coverage, feel free to check out this group health webinar.

As a business owner, do I have to offer group health insurance to my employees?

Depending on the size of your business, the answer could be no. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) stated that businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not legally obligated to provide health insurance to their employees — but many choose to regardless.

Looking for a better benefits package is one of the most common reasons people change jobs. And if your business doesn’t offer a health insurance benefit, it may give current and prospective employees reason to look somewhere else for employment.

If you are federally mandated to offer health insurance to your employees, you will need to ensure you are following the rest of the ACA’s rules and regulations for small businesses.

weimaraner puppy

My Pet Ran Away, What Do I Do?

One of the scariest situations anyone can face is a missing pet.

The good news is, when a pet runs away, they seldom go very far – which makes it more likely to reunite with them. According to a 2012 study, 59% of lost cats and 20% of lost dogs return home on their own after being lost. But there are always additional steps you can take to help ensure a happy reunion.

Lure Them Back with Scent

Both cats and dogs have highly developed senses of smell and direction. For dogs, consider putting something with your scent on it outside near where you think it got out. For cats, putting their litter box outside may be your best course of action. Even if the litter box has just been cleaned, your cat may still recognize the scent and come back to it.

Get Their Picture Out

Social media has become a great tool for reuniting lost pets with their owners. Post on community Facebook groups, and share it among your own network of friends to help spread the word organically.

Much like flyers (which you can also print and post in your area), your social post should include at least one photo of your pet, their name, gender, any identifying features, when and where they went missing, and your contact information.

Take a Walk

Most lost pets tend to stay close to home, so walking around your own neighborhood is a great place to begin your search. Try calling their name, and carry their food with you. According to the aforementioned study, searching the neighborhood was the most successful way to locate a lost dog (49%), and the second most successful way to reunite with a lost cat (30%).

Don’t become discouraged if your missing pet doesn’t immediately appear. A scared cat or dog may not move or even make a sound out of fear of predators, so it’s important to have patience and keep trying.

Check Local Shelters

When a stray animal is brought in to an animal shelter or city animal control, they are placed on a “stray hold”. These hold times vary by state so it’s best to know the laws regarding lost and found pets in your area. If your pet is left unclaimed after the stray hold period, it will be put up for adoption as long as it is in good health.

The Importance of Microchipping

The best way to avoid your pet getting lost is to do everything you can to prevent it. Still, accidents can happen.

Fortunately, pet owners now have affordable access to microchip technology. The concept may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is the equivalent of your pet wearing a tag and collar that can never come off.

The procedure only takes a minute and is often done during the pets spay or neuter procedure. During the surgery, a tiny microchip with your contact information is implanted anywhere from the neck to between the shoulder blades of the animal. The microchip is approximately the size of a grain of rice and shouldn’t cause your pet any discomfort.

If your pet ever goes missing and is later scanned for a microchip, your information will be made available to the veterinary office and an attempt will be made to contact you with the information from the chip. (So make sure that you keep your contact information with them up to date.)

A Lifetime Commitment

When adopting any animal, it’s important to understand that you are committing to keeping your new pet happy and healthy until the end of their days.

Pet ownership can be expensive, and an unexpected illness or injury to them can be a financial drain. To help offset these costs, many businesses are teaming up with pet insurance carriers to offer discounts on coverage to members.

female doctor with curly hair talks to man and girl about health options smiling

Debunking the Most Common Long-Term Disability Insurance Myths

When was the last time you thought about what would happen to your family if you suddenly couldn’t work? If you have to think about it, then chances are, it’s been a while.

The simple truth is that one out of every four workers will be diagnosed with a long-term disability before they reach the age of retirement. But despite this startling statistic, many still feel like long-term disability insurance is a coverage they can live without.

Myth #1:  “I have enough protection through Workers’ Comp and Social Security.”

According to the Council for Disability Awareness, only approximately five percent of accidents or illnesses are workplace-related meaning that the other ninety-five percent will not be covered under workers’ comp.

When seeking to collect social security disability benefits, you may be in for a wait of anywhere from three to five months for an initial decision to be made regarding your case. If, like 66 percent of applicants, your application is denied, you have the option to appeal, but in 2017 the backlog of appeals cases hit over one million with an average processing time of over eighteen months, according to research conducted by Allsup.

Can your family really afford to wait for benefits when you need help?

Myth #2:  “I’ll still have to fight for a payout in the event of a long-term disability diagnosis.”

We’ve all heard stories about people struggling to receive payout benefits from their insurance company. However, not all of these cases are related to long-term disability insurance and those that are, are very rare.

Upon enrolling, all of your benefits and circumstances surrounding a potential payout are laid out in front of you. If you aren’t going to receive the amount of coverage you are looking for, then it may be worth looking into other options.

Myth #3:  “I can’t receive long-term disability insurance because I’m a government employee.”

If you are a government employee enrolled in a Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) plan, you are still able to apply for long-term disability benefits. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, “While you can buy private supplemental long-term disability insurance in addition to having FERS benefits, you may not get as much coverage as you expected.”

elderly couple weighing their long term care options at a dining room table

Dispelling 3 Myths of Long-term care

How much of our lives do we spend thinking about the future? When we’re kids, we think about what we’re going to be when we grow up, what our first car will be, whether or not we’ll get married or if we’ll have children of our own.

At some point, we stop thinking about the future—usually when it stops being fun to imagine. But this is when thinking about the future becomes the most important.

Common Misconceptions Regarding Long-term Care

Myth #1: Medicare will pay for it.

No. Medicare will not pay for your long-term care needs. While Medicare is designed to help those over the age of 65 keep on top of their healthcare needs, long-term care is not one of them according to the federal government. And while Medicare Supplemental plans are often touted to cover things that Medicare leaves behind, long-term care is still not one of them.

Myth #2: I won’t need long-term care.

While this may be true for some, according to Longtermcare.gov, if you were to turn 65 today, you would have almost a 70 percent chance of needing some form of long-term care service during your remaining years.

The generation currently facing the greatest growing need for long-term care services are the Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomer generation accounts for roughly 78 million Americans, and according to Medicare.gov, it is estimated that 12 million of them will require long-term care services by 2020.

Myth #3: My spouse or kids will take care of me.

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, it is estimated that 25 to 30 percent of the baby boomer generation “will become divorced or widowed by the time they reach ages 55 to 64,” increasing the likelihood of needing to depend on one’s children to provide care.

However, studies have shown that rates of childlessness continue to rise. According to the Center for Disease Control, new data has shown that the birthrate has hit an all-time low. This statistic may not have as large of an impact on older generations who have more children than it will eventually for younger generations that do not.

Taking Control Of Your Future

According to an article from Forbes, “A private room in a nursing home now costs consumers more than $8,000 per month, or $97,455 per year… That’s an increase of 5.5 from just one year ago and a nearly 50% increase since 2004. A semi-private room is less expensive, but still carries a hefty price tag: $85,775 per year.”

Assisted living facilities are more affordable but the national average for a private room will still run approximately $45k a year — which is actually proving to be more affordable than in-home health aids ($49,192) and standard homemaker-type services ($47,934), according to the Genworth 2017 Cost of Care Study.

With the yearly cost of long-term care only continuing to rise, long-term care insurance can help both you and your family cover the cost of your care should you need it in the future.

happy family smiling in front of house

Two Ways That Life Insurance Helps Our Communities

What would your family do if you were no longer there to help support them? For many families throughout the country, this is a question that is sometimes asked too late. Maintaining a way of life can become extremely difficult after the death of a spouse or partner — not just emotionally, but financially as well.

But did you know that life insurance also plays a role in our communities and national economy?

Reduces Poverty Levels

Losing a loved one is hard enough without the added stress of associated financial hardship. Life insurance can help ease that burden. Payouts from life insurance policies can provide essential financial resources to help lift a family out of poverty or prevent them from entering into poverty altogether after the death of a loved one.

In 2018, the life insurance industry paid out more than $120 billion to beneficiaries. These payouts are designed to help families maintain their current way of life while they adjust to their new reality — helping to pay for everything from mortgages and estate taxes to child care.

Increases Home and Neighborhood Value

No one should be forced into making life-changing decisions while grieving the loss of a family member. In many households, this sudden loss may mean uprooting a family altogether to somewhere more easily supported by a single income.

With the help of life insurance payouts, families can take their time when deciding whether to relocate due to loss of income – while still being able to make necessary repairs and keep up with maintenance. Homes that have been properly maintained and cared for over the years not only result in higher property values, they also increase desirability of the overall neighborhood.

According to Prudential’s The Socioeconomic Impact of Life Insurance 2017-2018 report, “a $1 permanent increase in payouts results in a 47-cent reduction in federal spending on poverty and unemployment programs — plus a $22 increase in the aggregate value of home prices.”

young boy scared with hands cupping his mouth

The Growing Need for Special Needs Dental Care

A trip to the dentist can be an extremely traumatic experience for children with developmental disabilities and special needs.

According to the CDC, recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six children aged 3 – 17 have one or more developmental disabilities. Additionally, many studies have noted that those who suffer with developmental disabilities also struggle with various stages of dental decay.

What You Can Do for Your Special Needs Child

Teaching your special needs child the fundamentals of dental hygiene can be hard — having a successful dental appointment can be even harder.

Once you find a dentist who can provide both the care and environment your child needs, there are steps you can take to minimize the stress your child feels by going to the dentist.

  1. Schedule familiarization appointments.

Scheduling your child’s appointment ahead of time can help them adjust to their new surroundings. This will allow them to become more accustomed to the lights, sounds, and smells associated with a trip to the dentist’s office.

During these visits you can also meet with the dentist and their staff to help your child become more comfortable and less scared or nervous.

  1. Tell stories leading up to the appointment.

Telling your child positive stories about visits to the dentist’s office in the weeks leading up to the appointment will help give them an idea of what to expect. It’s important that these stories emphasize a happy environment and not something associated with scary tools or pain.

  1. Come prepared.

Does your child have a favorite movie or TV show? Bring it along on a tablet or phone so they can watch while they’re in the dentist’s chair. The distraction will help to focus their attention on the screen and not what is going on in their mouth.

  1. Work with the office staff.

The staff at the dentist’s office is there to make sure your visit goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Before the appointment, call the dentist’s office to see if the appointments are running behind and if you can sign in a little later. This will help you to minimize the amount of time spent in the waiting room.

The Right Choice for Your Family

Finding a dentist who can provide specialized care for special needs children can be very difficult. Depending on the severity of your child’s developmental disability, general anesthesia may be the only way to provide treatment — something that not all dentists are qualified (or equipped) to provide.

happy family smiling in front of house

The Role of Life Insurance in Our Society

Life insurance has long served as a crucial financial safety net for families and households experiencing the loss of a loved one. In 2016, the life insurance industry paid out over $100 billion to beneficiaries—more than twice as much as in 2001. These death benefit payments to beneficiaries often provide a vital lifeline at a difficult time: helping make up for lost income so rent/mortgages and child-care costs can continue to be paid; protecting savings from being depleted; paying off debts; or covering the estate taxes that arise when someone dies. This is important given that 63% of workers say it would be very or somewhat difficult to meet their current financial obligations if their next paycheck were delayed for a week.2

But beyond this, life insurance plays a wider role—helping to protect and boost the health of the U.S. economy by:

Lowering poverty levels

Life insurance payouts help protect household incomes. When a primary income earner passes away, payouts may provide enough of a cushion to help lift a family out of poverty or prevent them from entering into poverty altogether.

Reducing unemployment rates

Life insurance acts to stabilize businesses and minimize disruptions in the face of the unexpected, allowing them to continue to operate and safeguard jobs.

Increasing house prices

Life insurance payouts — especially in the event of a primary income earner’s death — can help homeowners maintain their homes and take their time making decisions, rather than selling their homes quickly under economic duress or being forced into foreclosure. This ultimately boosts both home and neighborhood desirability, since houses in well-kept neighborhoods generally demand higher prices, and also reduces the availability of housing stock in the U.S. — further boosting house prices. In fact, for every $1 in life insurance payouts, the sum of all national home values increases approximately $22.

 

middle aged couple discussing health insurance options at home table

4 Myths About the Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period

We’ve heard a lot of Open Enrollment myths over the years and want to set the record straight.

Myth #1 “There are fewer insurers to choose from.”

Many carriers who initially fled the federal exchange have returned and now offer plans alongside others who have entered the marketplace. This increase in the number of plans being offered has allowed many individuals and families to re-examine their needs and adjust their coverage amounts accordingly.

Myth #2 “The premiums are too expensive.”

Now that the federal exchange marketplace has stabilized, there may be lower-cost options for ACA-compliant health plans than past Open Enrollment periods. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield has filed for a 2.03% decrease in premiums in Texas.

Even if your coverage needs remain the same, you may be able to find a lower premium being offered by a different insurer. We recommend always reviewing the health insurance options available to you during the annual Open Enrollment period.

Myth #3 “You’ll be penalized at tax time for not having insurance.”

In previous years, if an individual did not have health insurance for more than 2 months of the year and did not qualify for an exemption they would face a tax penalty of $695 or 2.5% of their taxable income (whichever amount was greater). As of January 1, 2019, the tax penalty known as the individual mandate has been repealed, though some states may still enforce penalties on individuals who don’t have health insurance.

Myth #4 “Applications are processed instantly.”

On average, our team will process an enrollment application within 24 business hours and submit it to the carrier. Once the application is with the carrier, their team will take over and require an additional 10-15 business days to process the application.

The carriers often get overwhelmed with applications during the Open Enrollment period, so we recommend enrollees submit their health insurance applications as early as possible.

Securing ACA-Complaint Coverage for 2020

This year, Open Enrollment runs from November 1 through December 15 with a coverage effective date of January 1, 2020. This is the one time of year where individuals and families can enroll in ACA-compliant health insurance plans.

1 2 3 4 5 16