National Council on Aging
409 3rd Street, SW Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20024
Health Insurance Association of America
1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004-2599
Hotline: (800) 942-4242
National Association of Insurance Commissioners
120 West 12th St. Kansas City, MO 64105
The State Health Insurance Advisory Program (SHIP)
This is a government program that provides information on Medicare to the elderly and disabled. Each state has its own hot-line. You can call (800) 677-1116 to find out which organization you should call in your state for this service.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (HMOs and other MCOs)
2000 L St., NW, Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20036
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations
One Renaissance Blvd.
Oakbrook Terr., IL 60181
Community Health Accreditation Program (home health care and nursing homes)
350 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10014
(800) 669-1656, extension 242
Primarily for residents of New York, but with some national information and links to other state information. The state's Office of Aging runs something called the HIICA Program (Health Insurance Information Counseling Assistance) which provides New York residents with free confidential unbiased information about insurance. The program has an excellent website with Medigap information.
Smart Money Insurance
Insurance News Network
Independent Insurance Network
This tool will help you find the health insurance best suited to your needs, whether it's private insurance for individuals, families, and small businesses, or public programs that may work for you. It was created to help consumers under the health insurance reform law, the Affordable Care Act.
This time last year we were aching over the devastation in Florida. Today our prayers go out to the citizens of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf region suffering through the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
If you are in a position to lend some support, please contact the Red Cross.
And I also want you to take a few minutes to make sure your home is properly insured; whether it be a natural disaster, a fire, or theft, you know my mantra: Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
The "worst" when it comes to your home is a total loss that requires your home to be completely rebuilt. And I have news for you: many of you don't have enough coverage to pay for a complete rebuild. That's because the standard policy typically insures up to the value of your home. But you need coverage that pays for 100 percent of the rebuilding cost; the way construction costs have been rising, there's a good chance the rebuild exceeds your current coverage limit.
The key coverage you need is called Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage. This insures you will be paid for the reconstruction cost of your home, regardless of the limit of insurance on your policy. Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage is no longer available in many states, however. It has been replaced by Extended Replacement Cost Coverage. Unlike Guaranteed Replacement Cost, the Extended Replacement Cost Coverage places a cap on how high the replacement costs can go. Several policies limit the coverage to 120% of the policy limit, but many insurers sell policies with a 150% or 200% cap, so look for a policy with the highest cap if Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage isn’t offered in your state. If your home was completely destroyed and you have a $300,000 limit on your policy, the Extended Replacement Cost coverage provision of 120% would pay up to $360,000 to cover your rebuilding costs. But an Extended Replacement Cost coverage provision of 200% would pay up to $600,000.
I also want you to bug your agent to make sure your policy includes an automatic inflation adjustment. This protection adjusts your premium to increase your coverage in line with rising construction costs in your area.
If you have an older home, talk to your insurance agent about Building Code upgrade coverage; if you were ever to repair or rebuild your home the work would need to meet current standards, and that can be expensive. With this addition to your policy you will have some coverage for those additional costs.
And carefully read your policy so you understand your potential out-of-pocket-costs. Many policies impose a special "hurricane" deductible that can be anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent of the home's value. If you have a $300,000 home you're looking at needing to pony up $6,000 to $15,000 out of your own pocket before your policy coverage kicks into action. That's an argument for making sure you have a solid emergency cash fund.
Of course, if you live in an area that could ever be hit with a flood, for goodness sake don't play around: get flood insurance. Talk to your agent about the national Flood Insurance Program.
As for the contents of your home: Make sure your policy comes with replacement cost coverage. If you have "actual value" coverage that means you'll only get paid the depreciated value for your property losses. You also should keep a complete inventory of your possessions, along with photos that show the possession in your home; that's the sort of documentation that can make filing your claim go more smoothly. And send a copy of your inventory and photos to friends and family who don't live nearby. In fact, send along copies of your insurance policies and key contact numbers. In a natural disaster such as a hurricane you want to have a back up plan for getting to key info.
My hope is that you will never need to file a claim for a major loss. But as Hurricane Katrina taught us (again), it's always wise to protect you and your family for one of the most devastating "what ifs" imaginable.
(800) 289-8100 *except Florida
There are modest fees for quotes with this service.
LifeRates of America
Mutual of Omaha
New York Life
American Assn. of Homes & Services for the Aging
Publishes a free pamphlet on senior care options. Also publishes The Continuing Care Retirement Community: A Guidebook for Consumers ($10 to $15), available at (800) 508-9442
American Bar Assn. Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly
Offers The ABA Legal Guide for Older Americans, which includes sections on assisted living.
Assisted Living Federation of America
Offers a free pamphlet, Assisted Living Guide & Checklist, and a listing of member facilities by state; also publishes industry magazine, Assisted Living Today.
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
Smart Money Elder Care
Insurance companies, agents, and policies are primarily regulated by state, not federal, laws. Each state has a department of insurance that is responsible for such regulation. Be sure to consult the department in your state and an expert in the laws of your state when you are making decisions about your own insurance needs. (800 NUMBERS ARE ONLY VALID IN-STATE)
District of Columbia
(202) 727-8000, ext. 3041
www.ci.washington.dc.us/agency list 28.html
(800) 964-1784 (insurance other than health)
(800) 631-7788 (health insurance)
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