What You Should Know About Mental and Behavioral Health and Their effect on Life Insurance

What You Should Know About Mental and Behavioral Health and Their Effect on Life Insurance

What You Should Know About Mental and Behavioral Health and Their Effect on Life Insurance

Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place the first week of October each year.  Participants across the United States dedicate this time towards fighting social stigma, providing support, educating the public, and advocating for equal care.  Take a look at these facts from the World Health Organization:

  • More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide.
  • Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 4 of all patients who visit a health service provider have some form of mental, neurological, or behavioral disorder.
  • Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • War and disasters have a large impact on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.
  • Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
  • 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness.
  • Even though there are known effective treatments, less than 10 percent of people with a mental or behavioral disorder receive treatment due to social stigma and lack of understanding.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

What is behavioral health?

Behavioral health is an umbrella term that refers to your overall wellbeing and how it is impacted by your behaviors.  While behavioral health and mental health tend to overlap, and many organizations substitute one term for the other, distinct differences do exist between the two.  And while some mental health issues may be impacted by behavior, many mental health disorders have neurological or biological causes, meaning that simply changing a person’s behavior may not cure them of that illness.

What constitutes a mental or behavioral disorder?

Someone with a mental or behavioral disorder is generally characterized by displaying some combination of atypical thoughts, emotions, behavior, and relationships with others and/or having an atypical reaction to certain events.

These disorders can usually be described as affective or organic.  Like it sounds, an affective disorder, also referred to as a mood disorder, affects the way a person behaves, such as bipolar disorder.  An organic disorder is due to a medical or physical disease, such as dementia.

The Main Classes of Mental Illness
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  • Bipolar and related disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders
  • Trauma- and stressor-related disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Feeding and eating disorders
  • Elimination disorders
  • Sleep-wake disorders
  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorders
  • Substance-related and addictive disorders
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Paraphilic disorders

Diagnosing and Classifying Mental and Behavioral Disorders

The classification and diagnosis of mental and behavioral disorders is challenging because individuals are commonly affected in different ways.  According to the Mayo Clinic, to determine a diagnosis, you may undergo:

  • A physical exam
  • Lab tests
  • A psychological evaluation

Health care providers mainly use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to assist in diagnoses.  Unfortunately, many individuals go undiagnosed and untreated.  Stigma, shame, embarrassment, and poverty can all play a role in the decision to not seek treatment.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, despite effective treatment, there are long delays – sometimes decades – between the first appearance of mental illness symptoms and when people get help.

Mental and behavioral illness can manifest themselves in common physical symptoms such as headache, fatigue, chest pain, palpitations, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal complaints, or muscle, joint, and back pains.  Substance abuse, marital strife, a poor work record, or financial trouble may also be masking an underlying disorder.

Mental and Behavioral Disorders and Life Insurance

There are many different types of mental and behavioral disorders and each are underwritten independently.  Someone with a history of anorexia is not going to be underwritten the same as someone with dementia.  These are two very different diagnoses with different treatment plans and have different levels of insurance risk.

Life insurance companies also have to consider that the same disorder may impact individuals differently.  Two people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder may have very different symptoms and lead opposite lives.  So, not only do underwriters have to evaluate the disorders independently, but also on a case-by-case basis.

For applicants with a history of a mental or behavioral disorder, underwriters have many factors to consider and evaluate:

  1. The applicant’s physical and mental health
  2. The applicant’s job and employment history
  3. The applicant’s social activities and family dynamics
  4. Whether there is evidence of substance abuse (particularly alcohol)
  5. If there is any history of suicide attempts
  6. If applicant has any chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease)
  7. The severity and duration of the applicant’s diagnosis
  8. The applicant’s treatment history

Life insurance underwriters determine whether or not you will be approved for life insurance and which risk class you belong in.  The better your risk class, the lower your premiums will cost.

Characteristics Underwriters Assess to Determine Risk Class
Favorable Characteristics Unfavorable Characteristics
Stable environment and occupationNo overt marital or family disharmony

No criticism of habits

Good insight into condition

No underlying physical condition

Good family history

Long duration since diagnosis

Stable personality

Good social network and support

Occupational instability

Work-related pressures/stresses

Marital and/or family disturbance

Alcohol/drug misuse

Poor insight into condition

Poor physical health

Family history of mental disorders

Recently diagnosed

Behavior disturbance

Financial difficulties

The more unfavorable characteristics you have, the higher the risk to insure you.  Depending on your diagnosis and how severe it is, you could qualify for the best risk class (typically referred to as Preferred Plus) or be table rated.

Being table rated means your level of risk is outside the norm and in order for the life insurance carrier to accept you, you have to pay extra to cushion the risk.  If table rated, your life insurance will typically cost the Standard price plus 25% for every step down the table you are.  Take a look at the table below to get an idea of how risk class affects what you pay for life insurance coverage.

The Average Monthly Cost of a 20-Year Term Policy
for a 30-Year-Old Male Based on Risk Class
Preferred Plus $16
Preferred $20
Standard Plus $24
Standard $28
Table A $35
Table B $42
Table C $49
Table D $56
Table E $63
Table F $70
Table G $77

To get a more in-depth understanding of risk class and table ratings, take a look at these blog posts:
What Is a “Risk Class” and How Does it Affect Me?
What Are Table Ratings? What Do They Mean?

No two life insurance companies underwrite the exact same way.  For example, let’s say the 30-year-old male in the sample table above has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but it’s well managed.  Insurance Company ABC may only offer him Table C, which means he’d be paying $49 per month for coverage.  Meanwhile, Insurance Company XYZ would offer him Standard – which would cost him only $28 per month for the same coverage.

Quotacy is an independent agency.  This means that we work with multiple life insurance companies – not just one.  If you have been diagnosed with a mental or behavioral disorder, having more company options increases your chances of being approved for life insurance coverage at a fair price.

Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, a mental illness may get worse over time and cause serious problems.  Don’t be afraid to seek help.  61,500,000 Americans experience a mental health disorder in a given year – you are not alone.  National Depression Screening Day is on October 5th and you can get a free mental health screening at HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.

 

Photo credit to: Elisabetta Foco

Quotacy.com Insurance Blog/Natasha Cornelius

Get Moving to Save on Term Life Insurance

You might want to sit down before you read this.

How to Live Longer and Financially Plan for It

Better widespread education and advancements in medical technology have been contributing factors to Americans living longer on average.  A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the number of Americans older than 100 has increased more than 43 percent from just one decade ago.  However, the key isn’t just to live longer, but to live healthier as well.

Dr. Bob Pokorski, VP and Medical Director of Individual Life Insurance at Prudential Financial, shares a few positive steps you can make that may help your chances for a longer and healthier life.

  1. Keep a sunny disposition. One key to successful aging is your attitude.  Being optimistic, living life to the fullest, developing your full potential, and meeting older age head-on may make a difference in how your body ages.  A positive attitude may also help reduce the chances of being disabled in the future.
  2. Take care of yourself. In a perfect world, the main purpose of health care would be to prevent illness.  Unfortunately, today most health care is to fix problems that have already developed.  To improve or maintain your health, stay current with tests and screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, bone health, and cancer, and follow your doctors orders for any condition you already have.
  3. Keep moving. Exercise is critical to good health.  It can help you control your weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mood, and reduce your risk of many serious illnesses.  Endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises can all help to improve or maintain your health.
  4. Use your brain. Lifelong learning means continuous learning throughout life.  It includes learning by thinking and doing, acquiring new knowledge and skills, and cultivating a mind that is adaptable to different ideas, people, and cultures.  Similar in the way that muscles need regular exercise to keep them flexible and strong, we need to exercise our brains as well, especially as we age. Learn a new language or activity, play an instrument, or travel to help keep your brain fit.
  5. Eat your veggies. Eating a variety of whole foods, including lots of vegetables and fruit, can help your overall health.  Try to eat across all the food groups with an emphasis on foods the way they are in nature, without additives or processing.  Focus on nutrition rather than calories, eat smaller meals, and slow down while eating and enjoy your food.
  6. Get some shut-eye. Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is critical to your health and well-being.  Getting at least seven hours of sleep per night is ideal.  Adequate sleep can help improve your performance at work and in school, strengthen your immune system, and help prevent diabetes.  To get the rest you need, stick to a sleep schedule, keep the room dark and comfortably cool, and avoid glowing screens like TVs, computers, and smart phones before bed.
  7. Be a butterfly. Social relationships are a fundamental part of health and wellness.  We need to interact with friends and family, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers.  Social isolation and loneliness can be bad for your health.  To keep an active social life as you age, volunteer, adopt a pet, join a class or online community, and look for clubs that interest you.

Thankfully, compared to past decades, the elderly are living longer and in better health than ever before; however, up to one in four elderly Americans are not living this ideal life.  If you are living longer than planned and have health issues, costs can accumulate quickly.  Health care is one of the biggest expenses in retirement.

A 65-year-old couple retiring in 2016 will need an estimated $260,000 to cover health care costs in retirement.  This number does not include long-term care and seven out of ten individuals over the age 65 will need long-term care at some point during retirement.  So, what can you do?

Retirement Accounts

First things first, if you are earning an income you should be saving for retirement.  The younger you are, the riskier you can be in your investments because you have many years to make up for any losses before you retire and need those funds.  As you near retirement, you’ll likely want to make adjustments to help protect you from market risk.

Ideally, your retirement funds will primarily be going toward hobbies and everyday living, but if health issues arise those funds will be vital.  Medicare only covers around one-half of a retiree’s total health care expenses and you may need to reach into your retirement funds to cover the rest if you have no other options.

Medicare

Signing up for Medicare is one of the first major decisions you face as you reach retirement age.  You’re eligible for Medicare benefits in the month you turn 65.  During the initial enrollment period, you have a seven-month window to sign up.  However, many people are surprised to learn that there are costs involved with the program.  Even after paying into Medicare throughout your career, you also face monthly premiums and cost-sharing provisions once you’re enrolled in the program.

There are two Medicare paths to consider for coverage when you sign-up.  Path 1 offers a blend of coverage from government and private health insurers.  Path 2 is offered strictly through private insurers approved by the federal Medicare agency.

medicare path options

medicare path chart for Quotacy blog about healthy aging

As you can see, Medicare covers a great deal of expenses, but there are also plenty of costs that will come out of your own pocket.  This is where your retirement savings will begin to come into play, unless you have some sort of long-term care plan in place.

Long-Term Care

Planning ahead for the likelihood of needing long-term care can make the difference between financial security and devastation.  Unfortunately, people don’t like talking about long-term care.  Many think long-term care (LTC) means ‘nursing home’ but this isn’t necessarily always the case.  According to the American Association for Long-term Care Insurance, in 2014, 51 percent of LTC claimants had home health care, 18 percent were in a community care facility (assisted living/adult day care), and 31 percent were receiving 24-hour professional assistance in a nursing home.

There is a strong likelihood that you or your spouse will need LTC at some point after the age 65.  The total cost of LTC treatment can easily approach or exceed $200,000.  In most cases, Medicare does not cover LTC expenses so the burden of these costs will ultimately rest entirely upon individuals and their families.

There are insurers that offer long-term care policies, but these are becoming less and less available.  Long-term care insurance is expensive to own and expensive to pay out, so many insurers have pulled out of the LTC insurance business.  Instead, insurers are offering LTC riders than can be added on to a life insurance policy.

How life insurance basically works is that you buy a certain amount of coverage and when you die your beneficiaries are paid a check in that amount.  With an add-on long-term care rider, you can receive living benefits if you end up needing long-term care.

Now you know the best tips to live a long healthy life and how you can plan to afford it. When considering all the decisions, options, and costs you may pay, planning for retirement health care costs may seem daunting.  Work with a financial planner if you’ve got additional questions or you’re not sure where to begin. If you’re looking for additional information on life insurance, long-term care, or life insurance policy riders, you can contact us here at Quotacy and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Natasha Cornelius/Quotacy Blog

Photo credit to: Reginald Pentinio

How Much Will I Pay for Life Insurance?

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. An entire month dedicated to bringing this awareness is needed because Americans are vastly underinsured. Why is that? Is it because they believe it to be too expensive?  Is it because they think it’s confusing to understand? Well, today we’re going to explain the basic concepts of life insurance and talk about how much your life insurance may cost.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a type of insurance in which you pay a certain amount (premium payments) to a life insurance company and in exchange they agree to pay a lump-sum payment (the death benefit) to your beneficiaries upon your death.

Most people have a need life insurance, but those who have the greatest need are parents with minor children.  Life insurance’s main function is to replace the income of someone who has died.  Your children rely on that income to survive, they can’t take care of themselves.  Take a look at this blog post for more information: Does Everyone Need Life Insurance?

How are life insurance costs determined?

What you pay for life insurance is determined by your risk classification.  Risk classification is the process of grouping together risks with similar risk characteristics. People with similar levels of risk are placed in common rating classes and charged the same premium. The lower the risk, the lower the premium.

  • Actuaries are responsible for calculating the premium rates for each insurance company.
  • Underwriters are the ones who assess the individual applications to determine an applicant’s mortality risk.
  • Mortality risk is essentially determining a person’s probability of death based on a number of statistics.

There are standard and substandard risk classes.  Applicants with a normal or average risk profile will be accepted at standard premium pricing.  If underwriting determines that the applicant has a higher mortality risk than average, coverage may only be offered with substandard pricing, this is known as being table rated.  According to Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, more than 85 percent of life insurance applicants are accepted at standard premium pricing and only 1-2 percent of applicants are ever refused coverage.

Life insurance underwriting ensures applicants don’t end up paying too much or too little.  All paid life insurance premiums essentially go into a big pot that gets invested and accumulates interest.  When an insured person dies, the life insurance company reaches into this pot to pay the death benefit.  It would not be fair for a 30-year-old cigarette smoking individual to pay the same amount of money as a 30-year-old who has never smoked.  The cigarette smoker needs to pay more into the pot since their mortality risk is greater.

Standard Risk Classes
 Preferred Plus (lowest risk)
Preferred
Standard Plus
Standard

 

Tobacco Risk Classes
 Preferred
Standard

 

Substandard Risk Classesa.k.a. Table Rating Pricing
Table A Standard + 25%
Table B Standard + 50%
Table C Standard + 75%
Table D Standard + 100%
Table E Standard + 125%
Table F Standard + 150%
Table G Standard + 175%
Table H Standard + 200%
Table I Standard + 225%

 

How much will I pay for life insurance?

Your premiums costs will be determined by the term length and coverage amount you apply for and your risk class.  Your risk class is determined by your gender, age, health, family history, and lifestyle factors. Lifestyle factors can include your job, hobbies (avocation), alcohol use, and criminal record.  For example, a deep sea fisherman has a higher mortality risk than a teacher.

The Average Monthly Cost of a
20-Year $250,000 Term Policy
for a 30-Year-Old Male
Based on Risk Class
Preferred Plus $16
Preferred $20
Standard Plus $24
Standard $28
Preferred Tobacco $50
Standard Tobacco $64
Table A $35
Table B $42
Table C $49

Women statistically live longer than men, so they pay less on average for life insurance coverage.  Take a look at the table below and compare the premiums to the previous table.  I used the same criteria to calculate premium costs, except I changed the applicant to a female instead of male.

The Average Monthly Cost of a
20-Year $250,000 Term Policy
for a 30-Year-Old Female
Based on Risk Class
Preferred Plus $14
Preferred $17
Standard Plus $19
Standard $24
Preferred Tobacco $40
Standard Tobacco $50
Table A $30
Table B $36
Table C $42

Your age is the most important risk factor used to calculate basic premium.  As your age increases, your mortality risk increases. Don’t wait to buy life insurance, because the longer you wait, the more your insurance will cost.  Take a look at the table below.

The Average Monthly Cost of a
20-Year $250,000 Term Policy
for a Male Based on Age and Risk Class
Risk Class Age 20 Age 30 Age 40 Age 50 Age 60
Preferred Plus $15 $16 $22 $53 $150
Preferred $19 $20 $27 $63 $179
Standard Plus $23 $24 $33 $77 $200
Standard $27 $28 $40 $96 $244

Note: I calculated the premiums for the above examples by adding the monthly costs from 12 different life insurance carriers and dividing them by 12 to get the average.  Your premiums could be lower or higher than these examples.

If you aren’t sure how much life insurance you need, try using our handy dandy life insurance needs calculator.  It’s easy to use and the questions aren’t complicated, unlike some online calculators you may come across.  If you already know how much life insurance coverage you want to purchase, you can go straight to our term quoting tool.  No contact information required until you’re ready to apply.

Natasha Cornelius/Quotacy Blog

Photo credit to: NeONBRAND

 

Why Your Food Choices Are Important, Even with Life Insurance

Americans poor diets are killing them. In the U.S., over 70 percent of adults are overweight or obese.  According to the CDC, obesity has far-reaching health consequences, including higher risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease; increased risk of mortality from certain cancers such as colon, breast, and endometrial cancer; greater risk of joint pain, depression, and worse quality of life.

obesity related risk factors

When it comes to applying for life insurance, underwriters evaluate your application and decipher how much of a risk you would be to insure. In other words, How close is this person to dying?  The higher of a risk you are, the more your policy premiums will cost.  Build (height and weight), blood pressure, cholesterol ratio, diabetes, and heart conditions are some issues that commonly wind up causing increased policy premiums. These issues are oftentimes directly affected by diet and exercise choices.

American Diets Have Changed over the Years, for the Worse

World War II had a dramatic effect on the way Americans ate. After scrimping for many years, Americans saw food as a source of pleasure versus just nutrition.  Televisions swarming with food advertisements entered most living rooms.  Microwaves began appearing in every kitchen.  WWII left the government with a large quantity of unused chemicals – which became Americas fertilizer and pesticides.  These chemicals were a pivotal part of creating a huge food surplus and a market for cheap, high-caloric foods.

Diets moved toward a greater reliance on highly processed foods and sugary beverages.  These foods and drinks are often high in calories, refined grains and starch, have added sugars and salt, and are low in naturally-occurring nutrients.  And not only are the foods themselves less healthy, but Americans are eating more of it.

american's large portion sizes

The prevalence of obesity in America has doubled between the years 1970 and 2000. The USDA estimates that Americans are now eating nearly 2600 calories per day. We are simply eating the wrong kinds of food. Too many processed foods, not enough vegetables.(Note: not all processed foods are bad for you.  Check out this article from EatRight.org for more information: Processed Foods: Whats OK and What to Avoid.)

how much food americans buy

Unfortunately, the less-than-desirable foods are easier to consume because they tend to be faster to prepare and cheaper to buy.  Harvard research has determined that on average healthy meals cost $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy meal.  For some individuals, immediately switching over to the Mediterranean Diet, considered one of the better dietary patterns, just may not be financially feasible.

The Mediterranean Diet

  • Rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains
  • Provide more than half of the fat from monounsaturated fats (mainly olive oil) which do not raise blood cholesterol levels the way saturated fats do
  • Provide moderate amounts of dairy products, fish and poultry, and very little red meat
  • Includes wine in low to moderate amounts

Changes You Can Make to Your Diet

You don’t necessarily need to go through your cupboards and start tossing all the boxes of macaroni and cheese, but don’t make it a regular dinner habit.  You also don’t need to start buying only organic produce.  Start small, even the smallest changes can make big differences.

RealSimple.com shares small food changes that can have big results:

1. Start your day with protein.

Heather Leidy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, says Protein increases satiety throughout the day and this leads to reductions in food cravings and unhealthy evening snacking.  This could be the equation for the ideal weight-loss breakfast: a two-egg omelet + low-fat cheese + two ounces of lean meat (such as lean ground beef or turkey).  No time to cook eggs?  Try Greek yogurt with nuts.

2. Focus on what you can eat, not what you can’t.

Tell yourself you can eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want.  Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., the dean of the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition, says it’s better to eat 800 calories of healthy food than 600 calories of junk food.  His research has linked the consumption of foods such as potato chips, sugary beverages, and processed meats to weight gain, whereas increasing consumption of foods such as vegetables, nuts, and yogurt had the opposite effect.

3. Ask yourself: Does it taste good? How hungry am I?

Linda Bunyard, a registered dietitian at the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, asks, “Have you ever eaten just because everyone else was? Or because food was right there in front of you?  Break this habit. You only have a limited number of calories to spend in a day, so save them for the yummiest ones.”

4. Forget what you’ve heard about the scale.

You’ve likely heard that you shouldn’t weigh yourself too often because you’ll risk being discouraged by frequent fluctuations due to water retention or undigested meals.  However, according to the Journal of Obesity, people who weighed themselves every day lost more weight and kept it off more successfully.  David Levitsky, Ph.D., the lead study author and a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, says, Stepping on that scale affects your decisions through the 24 hours that follow.  It can cause you to choose salad for lunch instead of macaroni and cheese.

5. Try the golf ball trick.

Leave about one-quarter of your normal serving off your plate for every food at every meal for two to three days.  Then, as you’re eating, leave two tablespoons of every food (roughly the size of a golf ball) on your plate.  Thirty minutes after each meal, are you still hungry?  Most likely not. Smaller serving sizes may become habit.

6. Eat your vegetables first.

Traci Mann, Ph.D., a professor of social and health psychology at the University of Minnesota, says the key is to put an unprocessed vegetable on your plate and consume it before any other type of food hits the table at both lunch and dinner.  Her research has shown that this habit leads to eating fewer calories.

7. Start meals with water.

Obese participants instructed to drink two cups of water before meals for 12 weeks lost almost three more pounds than did those in a control group, in a 2015 study published in the journal Obesity.  Helen Parretti, Ph.D., the lead study author and a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, says, ‘Water fills your stomach and seems to increase satiety, which appears to lead you to eat less at your meals.’

8. Use laziness to your advantage.

Studies show that if there are candies right by your hand, you’ll eat a bunch, says Mann. If you make it so that you just have to straighten your arm, you’ll eat much less.  You’ll eat even less if you have to walk across the room.  Put tempting foods in higher cabinets, so you’ll need a chair or a stool to reach them; serve yourself a reasonable portion of dinner, then store the leftovers in the refrigerator before you sit down to eat; and cover sweets with foil instead of plastic wrap so you won’t see them every time you’re in the kitchen.

9. Cook just one more meal at home.

For each restaurant meal that you replace with a home-cooked meal, you can save 200 calories.  Simple enough.

10. Prep veggies ahead of time.

Vegetables often require cleaning, chopping, and/or cooking.  But when all you want is to dive into a bag of chips, you’re not as likely to clean, chop, or cook.  So keep healthy foods in ready-to-eat portions.

Unhealthy diets are among the greatest health challenges of our time and a key driver of mortality and poor quality of life.  Exercising and choosing to eat healthily aren’t very fun, per se, but it’s doable.  When you’re struggling to make these choices, consider who you are making these choices for.

Obviously you want to be healthy for you (not to mention your wallet) but you also want to do it for your loved ones.  Heart disease doesn’t affect just you.  Diabetes doesn’t affect just you.  Cancer doesn’t affect just you.  Your loved ones will be there dealing with the effects of your health issues too.

A healthy lifestyle can help keep your life insurance rates low, premiums affordable, and give you peace of mind for you and your family.

Natasha Cornelius/Quotacy Insurance Blog

Photo credit to: Jay Wennington

When to Show Your Roof Some Love

You may tend to overlook your roof, but it’s actually the most important component of your home – and the most vulnerable. It protects you from the elements like rain, snow and sun, but roofs don’t last forever!

I didn’t really think about the importance of roofs until recently when my friend and her husband bought their first home. It was built in the late 40s, and since she moved in she’s been saying how badly her roof needs replacing. Of course, that was five months ago, and work has still yet to be done. I then thought to myself, is putting off the project really going to affect you that much?

The answer is, yes!

So I began to research how one would go about replacing or repairing a roof.

The first order of business: understand the relationship between the age of your roof and its life expectancy. According to the Good Housekeeping magazine, shingle roofs should last between 20-30 years (if you have a different type of roof, such as metal or clay tile, you may have to follow different rules). If your home is new or the roof was recently replaced, you should be in the clear. However, it doesn’t hurt to do a checkup after getting hit with severe weather like a hailstorm, ice and snow or crazy rain.

Collage of roof damage imagesIf your roof is getting close to its 30th birthday, keep your eyes open for warning signs that tell you it’s time for a revamp. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Loose shingle tabs
  • Cracks in shingles
  • Broken or missing tabs
  • Buckling or curling shingles
  • Shingles covered in moss or algae
  • Majority of granules worn off tabs
  • Sunlight is shining through the attic
  • Extensive leaking

According to Home Advisor, a roof replacement can range anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000. The size of your home, the materials used and where you live will affect that price range. It’s no small sum, but in return for the investment, you’ll add thousands of dollars to the resale value of your home and ensure a safe and habitable dwelling for years to come. Don’t need a new roof right now? Do a quick check each month to see if maintenance is needed. If you notice problems like missing shingles or signs of water damage, be sure to call a roofing specialist to make the repairs as soon as possible – it could save you a bundle by prolonging the life of your roof and stopping costly leaks in their tracks.

Foremost Blog/ Jenean Zahran

Ten Tips to Help Your College Student Rent an Apartment

It seems like just yesterday we moved our daughter into her dorm for the start of her freshman year. In a few short weeks, she’ll be starting her junior year.

I’ve learned that each year brings new ideas and challenges. As college students search for independence, a new challenge for this school year could be renting an apartment.

If you’ve been down this road before, you know renting an apartment for a college student can be stressful. If this is your first time, there are many things to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, when it comes to renting an apartment in your student’s college town, you’ll notice that rent prices can be through the roof and places may be in poor condition.

Here are some tips to help you and your college student through the process.

1.  Do your homework. Before scheduling an appointment to view the apartment, do your research. Some items to think about are:

  • Is there public transportation nearby?
  • Is it a residential area or business district?
  • If it is a business district, what type of work is performed there?
  • Are retail stores and restaurants within walking distance?

Use the power of the internet to your advantage.

  • Look for online reviews from previous renters.
  • Compare and contrast different properties.
  • Use tools such as Google Earth to look at the neighborhood as well as the condition of the property.
  • If something looks too good to be true, it may be a scam; proceed with caution.

2. Pay a personal visit. Once you have selected apartments of interest, visit each one. Make sure the pictures online accurately reflect the condition of the property. The last thing you want to do is rent an apartment without seeing it. A visit allows you the opportunity to:

  • See the actual size. This is a nice opportunity to see if their furniture will fit.
  • Check out the quality of the appliances.
  • Look in cupboards and closets. Keep an eye out for mouse droppings.
  • Identify preexisting damages such as holes in the walls or carpet stains.
  • Run the water in sinks and showers and flush the toilet.

3. Coach your kids. This is an opportunity for your kids to enter the realm of adulthood. Discuss with them what to look for and questions to ask. Lights burned out in the hallway or empty beer cans may not seem like a big deal, but can provide a glimpse of poor maintenance schedules or rowdy neighbors. While these things may not be a big deal at the time, they could be after signing a 12-month lease.

4. Discuss your expectations. Property owners may not be comfortable renting to your college student due to lack of income. Therefore, you may be asked to co-sign the lease. Before you sign on the dotted line, discuss your expectations with your student. It may not even be a bad idea to create a contract between the two of you. Once you co-sign, any damages that occur are your responsibility.

5. Make sure the lease is in writing. Signing a lease with a large apartment complex often leads to paperwork that is more thorough. Individual property owners may not follow a structured approach. If they don’t have the appropriate paperwork in place, consider renting somewhere else.

6. Test their smartphone. Depending on the construction of the building or their phone company, your student’s smartphone may not work. Have them walk through each room to make sure it works. I’m sure you’ll want to get a hold of them from time to time.

7. Understand the pet policy. Simply having a pet may cause you to forfeit your security deposit even if your pet doesn’t cause any damages.

8. Don’t forget to purchase renters insurance. Most landlords’ insurance policies cover only the building, not what’s in it. Many students think because they’re in college, they don’t have anything valuable to insure. Imagine if they lost everything in a fire. The cost to replace necessities adds up quickly. To learn more about renters insurance, check out the blogs below.

9. Make multiple visits. Visiting at night or during poor weather conditions can paint an even better picture for the both of you. No one wants to rent a place with roof that leaks or one that has poor insulation. Poor insulation can lead to increased heating costs.

10. Pros and cons. After each visit, identify the pros and cons while they’re fresh in your mind.

Scott Stueber/West Bend Insurance Blog

How Hospitals Could Kill the Health Insurance Industry

  • Hospitals are offering their own insurance plans and could easily destroy the private insurance industry as we know it.
  • With hospitals consolidating and still setting prices, the need for an insurance middleman is shrinking.
  • The recent health bill failure could speed a hospital takeover of the insurance market.

Some of the world’s most powerful retailers have been brought to their knees in recent years thanks to the “Amazon effect.” The internet juggernaut has simply been able to provide almost all the goods consumers can buy more conveniently and has effectively taken over the retail industry. It appears people like Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos saw this opportunity all along, and precious few retail investors saw it coming.

But is there is a similar disruptive event on the horizon here in the U.S. when it comes to something just about all of us have to buy? When it comes to the controversial and increasingly all-consuming market for health insurance, the answer appears to be “yes.” And playing the role of Amazon in this scenario is none other than the ever-expanding and powerful U.S. hospital industry.

On its face, health insurance as it’s used today in this country is built on a strange business model.

Insurance plans are generally used as a hedge against major or unpredictable losses. And long ago, the bulk of the health insurance business was based on that model, with plans sold as a hedge against unexpected and major medical costs like emergency surgeries.

But the general rise in all health care costs and the fact that comprehensive health insurance coverage is now mandated by Obamacare have conspired to make health insurance a very different kind of product. Now, the primary purpose of health insurance is to serve as a middleman to defray the costs of certain or near-certain events like regular medical checkups and common medical procedures.

“Hospitals could also simply start to offer customers significant discounts for using their plans or perhaps even stop accepting certain competitor insurance plans altogether. It all depends on how ruthless they want to be, but no one can deny they have the power to do it.”

But just because so many of us are convinced we need health insurance sold by an insurance company, and just because that’s the way the politicians think of things, what’s to stop another industry from offering the same protections more conveniently or maybe even at lower prices?

Nothing it seems. In fact, hospitals, which provide the lion’s share of America’s health care, have already started to sell health insurance plans. Obamacare’s private exchanges made that easier to do logistically, but the biggest impetus is the fact that hospitals have been consolidating and increasing their reach over every aspect of health care from acquiring private practice doctors’ offices to operating nursing homes and rehab centers.

It’s a simple case of an industry that provides every health care service deciding to cut out the middle man.

The financial results for many of the hospitals that started offering insurance plans since 2010 have been a mixed bag. Certainly, they’re not as strong as the stellar profits traditional health insurance companies have enjoyed in that time. But one major hospital system CEO, Michael Dowling of Northwell Health in New York state, says this new business plan is a “long term play.”

He and his peers may not have to wait too long if Obamacare’s generous direct and indirect subsidies are cut by the Trump administration or some kind of Congressional reform of the ACA. And with several insurance companies deciding to exit Obamacare exchanges even with those subsidies in place, the hospital industry may soon find itself playing in a much less crowded field.

Hospitals could also simply start to offer customers significant discounts for using their plans or perhaps even stop accepting certain competitor insurance plans altogether. It all depends on how ruthless they want to be, but no one can deny they have the power to do it. After all, they control the actual product customers ultimately want: health care. And health care and health insurance are two different things.

But it would be naive not to consider one factor that could keep the status quo in place for a longer time. That would be the fact that insurance companies and hospitals have a symbiotic relationship that helps perpetuate the hospitals’ ability to control prices and the insurance companies’ ability to convince almost everyone in America that they need their product.

It works something like this: Hospitals continue to have the most leverage when it comes to setting and raising prices for all kinds of care. But the insurance industry helps mitigate the potentially disastrous response to hospital price increases because people who have insurance don’t pay full price.

In fact, most of us don’t know the actual price of any treatment at the hospital. Imagine running an industry that has the power to raise prices without having to deal with public outrage when those prices are raised because its prices aren’t published.

That’s the advantage most hospitals have in no small part thanks to the insurance industry. You may know what you’re paying in monthly premiums or what comes out of your paycheck to pay for health insurance. But you have to wait until you get medical treatment and then get an itemized statement from your insurer to find out what the list price of that treatment was.

The insurance industry gets its justification to exist by selling the idea that only it can help make those mysterious health care costs affordable. So when hospitals raise prices, it’s very good news for them and the insurers who serve their patients.

But again, the implosion of Obamacare in so many parts of the country is already putting the private insurance industry in jeopardy. When and if the bean counters figure out a way that hospitals can do better without the private insurers around, it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t simply sweep them away faster than Amazon put an end to your local book store.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

Separating Fact From Fiction When It Comes to Long-Term Care Insurance

Few people are prepared to handle the financial burden of long-term health care. In fact, many people have a false sense of security when it comes to long-term care. Let’s separate fact from fiction:

“Medicare and my Medicare supplement policy will cover it.”

FACTS:

  • Medicare and “Medigap” insurance was never intended to pay for ongoing, long-term care. Only about 12% of nursing home costs are paid by Medicare, for short-term skilled nursing home care following hospitalization. (Source: Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance, AHIP, 2013)
  • Medicare and most health insurance plans, including Medicare supplement policies, do not pay for long-term custodial care. (Source: 2017 Medicare & You, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

“It won’t happen to me.”

FACTS:

  • Almost 70% of people turning age 65 will need long term care services and supports at some point in their lives. (Source: LongTermCare.gov, November 2016)
  • About 67% of nursing home residents and 70% of assisted living residents are women. (Source: Long-Term Care Providers and Services Users in the United States, February 2016, National Center for Health Statistics)

“I can afford it.”

FACTS:

  • As a national average, a year in a nursing home is currently estimated to cost about $92,000. In some areas, it can easily cost well over $110,000! (Source: Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey, April 2016)
  • The average length of a nursing home stay is 835 days. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nursing Home Care FastStats, last updated May 2014)
  • The national average cost of a one bedroom in an assisted living facility in the U.S. was $43,539 per year in 2016. (Source: Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey, April 2016)
  • Home health care is less expensive, but it still adds up. In 2016, the national average hourly rate for licensed home health aides was $20. Bringing an aide into your home for 20 hours a week can easily cost over $1,600 each month, or almost $20,000 a year. (Source: Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey, April 2016)

“If I can’t afford it, I’ll go on Medicaid.”

FACTS:

  • Medicaid, or welfare assistance, has many “strings” attached and is only available to people who meet federal poverty guidelines.

Whether purchased for yourself, your spouse or for an aging parent, long-term care insurance can help protect assets accumulated over a lifetime from the ravages of long-term care costs.

Few people are prepared to handle the financial burden of long-term health care. In fact, many people have a false sense of security when it comes to long-term care. Let’s separate fact from fiction:

“Medicare and my Medicare supplement policy will cover it.”

FACTS:

  • Medicare and “Medigap” insurance was never intended to pay for ongoing, long-term care. Only about 12% of nursing home costs are paid by Medicare, for short-term skilled nursing home care following hospitalization. (Source: Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance, AHIP, 2013)
  • Medicare and most health insurance plans, including Medicare supplement policies, do not pay for long-term custodial care. (Source: 2017 Medicare & You, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

“It won’t happen to me.”

FACTS:

  • Almost 70% of people turning age 65 will need long term care services and supports at some point in their lives. (Source: LongTermCare.gov, November 2016)
  • About 67% of nursing home residents and 70% of assisted living residents are women. (Source: Long-Term Care Providers and Services Users in the United States, February 2016, National Center for Health Statistics)

“I can afford it.”

FACTS:

  • As a national average, a year in a nursing home is currently estimated to cost about $92,000. In some areas, it can easily cost well over $110,000! (Source: Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey, April 2016)
  • The average length of a nursing home stay is 835 days. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nursing Home Care FastStats, last updated May 2014)
  • The national average cost of a one bedroom in an assisted living facility in the U.S. was $43,539 per year in 2016. (Source: Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey, April 2016)
  • Home health care is less expensive, but it still adds up. In 2016, the national average hourly rate for licensed home health aides was $20. Bringing an aide into your home for 20 hours a week can easily cost over $1,600 each month, or almost $20,000 a year. (Source: Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey, April 2016)

“If I can’t afford it, I’ll go on Medicaid.”

FACTS:

  • Medicaid, or welfare assistance, has many “strings” attached and is only available to people who meet federal poverty guidelines.

Whether purchased for yourself, your spouse or for an aging parent, long-term care insurance can help protect assets accumulated over a lifetime from the ravages of long-term care costs.

Bill O’Quin on Life Happens Blog

Restaurant Owner Adds Insurance Surcharge to Bills

A Minnesota restaurant owner has added a surcharge to customers’ bills to help pay for her employees’ health insurance.

Kim Bartmann, who owns six restaurants in the Twin Cities area, is adding a 3% service charge to customers’ checks to help mitigate the rising cost of coverage.

“We’ve all seen the articles about how tough it is to work in restaurants,” Bartmann told local NBC affiliate KARE 11. “Having health insurance is critical, even for young people who think that they’re invincible.”

Bartmann has offered her employees health insurance and dental coverage since 1993, according to KARE 11. Staff members paid 50% of the cost, while she paid the other half. But with coverage costs climbing, Bartmann said she had to do something.

“We can’t continue to sustain those increases,” she told KARE 11. “Rather than just raising prices, we want to be transparent about our costs. We think customers will appreciate knowing that our workers have good-quality, affordable health insurance.”

Bartmann told the station that she expects surcharges like hers to become commonplace.

Ryan Smith/ Insurancebusinessmag.com

Related stories:
Obamacare players: the rise and fall of healthcare providers
Insurance commissioner wades in to health insurance row