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Ask the Readers: Do You Volunteer?

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Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, and you can gain a lot from the experience, too! It’s an opportunity to meet a lot of different people and learn a bunch of new skills while making a difference in your community.

Do you volunteer? What are some of your most memorable volunteer experiences? If you aren’t volunteering right now, what organizations or projects would you like to be a part of when you have the time and energy to give?

Tell us about your volunteer experience and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Tell us about your volunteer experience and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!


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What is A.M. Best Ratings and Why Should You Care?

When you are selecting an insurance company, it is important that you are aware of the insurer’s financial strength. Luckily, there are financial rating companies that do the hard work for you. One of these companies is A.M. 

Depending on the rating, you’ll be able to determine which insurance company is best for you.

It should be noted, A.M. Best is not the only rating company. There are several others, like the Fitch rating and Standard and Poors. 

A.M. Best Ratings AT A GLANCE

Year Founded

1899

Size

Largest credit rating agency in the world specializing in the insurance industry

HQ Address

Ambest Road

Oldwick, NJ 08858

United States

Phone Number

800-544-2378 

A.M. Best Company Information

So, what makes this one rating company special? They aren’t the only rating company out there, but they are the most notable and most widely used.

To quote A.M. Best, their rating system “. . . is an independent opinion of an insurer’s financial strength and ability to meet its ongoing insurance policy and contractual obligations. It is based on a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a company’s balance sheet, strength, operating performance and business profile.”

Aside from giving the companies a letter grade on their scale, the rating company also includes an outlook projection. They give them an outlook of either positive, negative, or stable. While these are just guesses, with A.M. Best they have research and previous information to base their outlooks on.

A.M. Best provides a way for each company to see just where they rank with consumers and helps them know just what they have to do to correct their mistakes.
Finding out what is A.M. Best ratings for insurance companies is the first step towards getting a secure policy for you and your family.

How Does A.M. Best Insurance Ratings Scale Work?

For a professional company, using a basic method of grading insurance companies has proven to be an effective and helpful tactic. Here’s how the A.M. Best Insurance rating scale works:

  • A++, A+, A, and A- all identify the top insurance companies. Receiving an A for the company shows how financially strong they are, how capable a company is of guaranteeing your policy and keeping it secure.
  • B++, B+, B, and B- ratings rank companies as good for those who can’t afford what higher ranked companies offer their services for. With a B ranking, you can depend on the company to provide a secure policy for affordable rates and rely on them to help your family get the help they need once you’re gone. For client’s knowing that your family has something to fall back on during difficult times is a welcome relief.
  • C++ and C+ are the only two scores for the C category, indicating an average insurance company. No bells or whistles attached, just a straightforward policy with straightforward premiums, a great choice for the first time you buy life insurance.
  • A ‘D’ rank is only reserved for companies that fall below A.M. Best’s minimum standards, an E rank means the company is under state supervision, and an F rank is only for companies going into liquidation. Any rating below a C shows how unreliable the company within the industry.

It’s obviously important to understand the rating scale of the insurance company before buying your life insurance.

A.M. Best Ratings For Insurance Companies

Now you have an understanding of what is A.M. Best ratings and how they work. A visit to the A.M. Best website is the perfect choice when looking for an insurance company. A company’s ranking shows just how dependable they are and if you’re getting all the benefits you should be for what you’ll pay in premiums. “What is A.M. Best ratings” is a question best asked when beginning to search for a policy, a question that can make your search easier and simpler than you originally thought.

Why A.M. Best Matters

Sure, it’s nice to find a company with an A+ rating, but does it matter? How does it impact you or your life insurance policy?

These ratings are a good indicator of how much you can trust your insurance company. If a company doesn’t have good financial strength, there is always a chance that the company could go bankrupt and your policy wouldn’t be paid out, which is a terrible turn of events.

There is no way to predict the future or what could happen to a company, but rating systems give us more direction that completely guessing. The A.M. Best ratings give you an idea of the past and stability of a company without you having to do the research yourself.

Unless you’re really connected with the insurance industry, you probably don’t know which insurance companies have been around the longest or which ones have experienced financial problems in the past.

Because life insurance is such an important purchase, it’s vital that the company that you choose is going to be around for hundreds of years to come. Life insurance gives you and your loved ones the peace of mind and financial coverage that they need in case something tragic were to happen.

How do A.M. Best Ratings Compare?

How does A.M. Best compare to other popular rating companies? A.M. Best is not the only company on the market that rates insurance. A few other popular options are Fitch and Standard and Poors.

Below we compared A.M. Best, Fitch and Standard and Poors. In this table, it is important to note that though the ratings may appear in the same row, it does not mean they are equal to each other. For example, Fitch’s AA rating may differ from Standard and Poors. 

Ratings of Insurers’ Financial Strength

A.M. Best Fitch Standard and Poors
A++, A+ AAA AAA
Superior ability to meet ongoing obligations Exceptionally strong capacity to pay financial commitments Extremely strong financial security characteristics. Highest S&P rating
Not Applicable AA AA
Companies rated A+ are one “notch” lower than those rated A++ Very strong capacity to pay financial commitments Very strong financial security characteristics
A, A- A A
Very strong capacity to meet financial commitments Strong capacity to pay financial commitment Strong financial security characteristics
B++, B+ BBB BBB
Good ability to meet financial obligations Adequate capacity to pay financial commitments Good financial security characteristics
B, B- BB BB
Fair ability to meet financial commitments Elevated vulnerability to default risk but has flexibility to service financial commitments Marginal financial security characteristics
C++, C+ B B
Marginal ability to meet their ongoing insurance obligations. Significant risk of default with limited margin of safety Weak financial security characteristics

History of A.M. Best

Alfred Best founded A.M. Best Company in 1899. A.M. Best is one of the oldest and most established rating companies in the world. They were established with the goal of reporting the financial stability of insurance companies. They currently have ratings for companies that are in more than 80 different countries across the world.

Bottom Line

When you start looking for a life insurance policy (or any other kind of insurance policy), it’s important that you look at the company’s A.M. Best rating. While their rating shouldn’t be the determining factor in your decision, it’s important to know that you’re buying a policy from a reputable company.

A faulty insurance company shouldn’t keep you from getting the coverage that you and your loved ones deserve. Don’t be one of the countless stories of a family that suffers the loss of a family member, and then learns that they have thousands of dollars of debt and no way to pay for it.

The post What is A.M. Best Ratings and Why Should You Care? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

5 Things to Consider When Changing Car Insurance

Changing car insurance

Insurance is defined as a form of protection against loss. But in today’s insurance industry, insurance can be purchased to mitigate against all forms of loss. It is a type of risk management used by people to protect against uncertain loss or the risk of failure. Insurance companies or carriers or underwriters sell premiums to those who wish to purchase premiums. Premiums can be defined as the number of money carriers charge to customers in exchange for the coverage set in the agreement also known as the insurance policy.

And in 2017, the U.S. insurance industry sold premiums reaching a total of $1.2 trillion with the health insurances accounting for a large chunk of that amount. Coming in at second place was P/C (property/casualty) premiums accounting for $558.2 billion in 2017.

Some may argue that the reason for this is due to the hike in prices of premiums over the years, but the truth is for the millions of people who have experienced softer blows because of the payouts from insurance companies, paying a premium is a small price to pay.

There are currently several types of insurance policies. From health insurance to life insurance, automobile insurance and so on.

These days, choosing a new car insurance policy that works for you is usually time-consuming, expensive or even both. And because policies are not usually permanent, you can easily switch insurance providers if you are not happy with your current provider.

And for those who think they can afford to drive around during the period they are in between a comprehensive insurance policy, the bad news is that in all but a few states, an insurance policy is needed alongside a license in order to drive.

But the good news is changing your policy provider should not be so difficult, this article outlines five of the most important things to consider when shopping for a new insurance carrier:

  1. Cost:

Like every other thing on the market, the cost of an insurance policy is not equal. It is almost impossible to get the same coverage from 10 different companies at the same price. Odds are you would get the same coverage you are getting at a fraction of the same price from another company. This is because various companies factor in different things when putting together the price for their insurance policies. Some of these costs could include the cost of running the company, the cost of offering more benefits and other hidden charges.

It is essential to factor in elements other than your out-of-pocket expenses before you decide to make the switch between car insurance companies. You can also try to take control of the factors you can control like improving your driving record or looking at additional types of auto protection plans. All these are considered by the insurance company and could eventually save you money.

  1. Your Choice:

Another important reason why several bare minimum automobile insurance policies are cheap is that they offer limited options regarding maintenance and repairs. Like a health maintenance organization (HMO), car insurance companies can ask you to take your car for approval at one of their approved dealerships for appraisals. Sticking with a top-shelf insurance company could possibly mean higher premiums but it also means better care should you need it.

The better the insurance company, the higher the premiums you would have to pay.

  1. The Benefits:

Odds are, if you cannot list the distinguishable advantages offered to you by your insurance policy, you are not gaining a lot in return. An amazing advantage you could watch out for is the reduction of rates if you go a few months without any accidents and accident forgiveness. Some companies also choose to pay for your rental car if you need to leave your car at the mechanic regardless of how long it might take.

Other companies offer reduced rates for purchases of bulk policies. i.e. The purchase of car insurance with possibly fire insurance and so on. Instead of you letting your insurance company ask what you can do for them, ask what they can do for you.

  1. The Circumstances:

Sometimes things that we do not plan for happen and when such things happen, the first thing to be done is to start searching for a new car insurance policy. For example, most new cars often need complete coverage until they are fully bought, and some local insurance companies do not offer continued coverage if you change cities.

Also, rates could also go up if a new driver is added to the policy. This is, of course, dependent on the driver’s age, gender, and driving history. Understanding your unique situation will allow you to properly assess what is needed and what is a mere frivolity.

  1. Your Company:

Because of the internet, finding out pertinent information about a prospective insurance company is very easy. You can figure out everything there is to know about them. What kind of customer service do they offer their clients? Do their representatives listen? Do they treat their customers with respect?

Find out how the claim adjusters and representatives of the company treat those who work with the cars. Knowing these things is essential because a company that treats its employees terribly will possibly skim around the edges when it comes to their customers.

Also, try doing a bit of research into the company’s ethics. It is advisable to do business with a company that believes in the same things you do and do not engage in behavior that you find personally distasteful. Your money will be used to pay for several things to ensure they are all used for things that you support.

It’s an added bonus for you if you know who your insurance agent is, and you have a great relationship with them. Usually, these people are the ones who will go the extra distance for you should you need to file a claim and they can also help with the filing of the claims or give you a recommendation on local companies that could be of help to you.

Finally, you’ll want to check your credit score. Credit.com offers a free credit score updated every 14 days. Usually when getting a new insurance quote, insurance companies will run your credit. A higher credit score usually means a lower monthly premium, although other factors like your driving record and marital impact how much you’ll be paying. Remember to consider these five factors when considering a new insurance company.

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The post 5 Things to Consider When Changing Car Insurance appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)?

Underwriters' meetingNew insurance agents can get a grounding in the basic skills, such as underwriting, needed to succeed in the field by becoming a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF). After completing the required training, agents will have greater expertise in prospecting, selling, practice management as well as insight into practice specialties including life and health insurance, employee benefits and annuities. Having a LUTCF also can aid new agents in acquiring a job with an agency and in marketing themselves to prospective clients.

The LUTCF is overseen by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). The training and testing are provided by education company Kaplan through its College for Financial Planning division.

LUTCF Certification Requirements

The core of the certification requirements for the LUTCF is a set of three courses. Each course consists of eight weeks of instruction followed by a week for review and testing.

The first course is an introduction to life insurance and managing a life insurance practice. It covers business planning, ethics, life insurance product basics, risk management, prospecting, selling skills and financial planning.

The second course goes deeper into life insurance as well as annuities, mutual funds and insurance for health, disability, long-term care, group coverage and property and casualty. Risk management, retirement and estate planning are among the subjects covered in the third course.

The third course deals with risk management applications. It covers retirement and estate planning as well as special situations.

The courses are available as self-paced prerecorded lectures. They are also taught live and via interactive online classes. After completing each of the three courses, students must pass a two-hour test. To pass, they must correctly answer 70% of the 50 questions on each test.

The training costs $950 per course for a total of $2,850. The only prerequisite for the LUTCF is to belong to NAIFA, which has a sliding membership fee scale. People in their first year in financial services pay $10 to belong to NAIFA. The fee increases annually until it reaches $56 a year after a member has five years of experience in the field.

After receiving the designation, LUTCF designees can renew it by paying a $50 renewal fee every two years. As part of the renewal process, they also have to demonstrate that they have completed three hours of ethics continuing education every two years. In addition, LUTCF holders must agree to follow standards of professional conduct and be subject to a disciplinary process.

LUTCF Holder Jobs

Insurance worksheetsLUTCF seekers are usually insurance agents at the start of their careers. They may be interested in obtaining the designation as a way to convince potential employers of their commitment and knowledge about the life insurance industry. Having the LUTCF initials on a business card is also seen as an aid in marketing to prospects. The LUTCF is an optional certification and does not confer any specific powers or privileges on holders.

The designation has been around since 1984 and approximately 70,000 people have earned an LUTCF during that time.

Comparable Certifications

There are only a few entry-level certificates available to life insurance agents. In addition to the LUTCF, new agents can choose from:

Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP) is offered by the American College of Financial Services, which originally co-sponsored the LUTCF with NAIFA. In 2013 the organizations ended their association and the American College of Financial Service began offering the FSCP. It requires passing seven courses on financial services and ethics topics at a combined cost of $3,230.

Registered Financial Associate (RFA) is a designation from the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants. It is offered to agents and other financial professionals who have already received a life insurance license, Series 65 securities license, bachelor degree in a related field or any of a number of professional designations, including a LUTCF. RFAs also have to pay a $250 fee. The only requirement other than that is to pass an examination on the organization’s code of ethics for financial professionals.

Bottom Line

Business meeting

The Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) certification is one of the first designations sought by beginning life insurance agents. To get one, students have to learn about life and other forms of insurance, mutual funds, annuities, employee benefits and financial advising, in addition to managing a life insurance business, prospecting and selling.

Tips on Insurance

  • A consumer considering purchasing life insurance can increase the chances of making a good decision by having a relationship with a trusted and experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Entry-level designations for financial services professionals like the LUTCF indicate that an advisor is interested in learning about the field and following best practices. More advanced certifications such as Chartered Life Underwriter and Certified Financial Planner are likely to indicate that a professional is a more experienced and well-informed source for financial advice.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/FangXiaNuo, ©iStock.com/hfng, ©iStock.com/jhorrocks

 

The post What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Health Insurance Myths Debunked

A health insurance policy is essential for anyone seeking to safeguard their future and avoid the catastrophic consequences of high medical bills. Whether you’re buying coverage for yourself or a health plan for your family, it’s important to get complete coverage. But despite this fact, millions of Americans remain uninsured, often because they believe one of the following health insurance myths.

Myth 1: I’m Young and Healthy; I Don’t Need Health Insurance

You’re never too young to start shopping for health insurance plans because you don’t know what’s around the corner. Medical expenses can be astronomical at any age and anyone can have an accident, fall ill or be diagnosed with a serious disease. 

It’s not pleasant to think about and many people prefer to bury their heads in the sand and live as if they are invincible, but they’re not. No one is.

Health care is very expensive in the United States, there’s no escaping that fact. This is one of the few developed nations in the world where being the victim of an accident or attack could lead to insurmountable medical expenses and essentially ruin your life. You can’t rely on luck and you can’t assume you’ll be safe just because you’re young, fit, and healthy.

In fact, buying at this young age has many benefits, including the fact that you’ll likely clear all exclusion periods by the time you actually need to start claiming.

Myth 2: The Benefits are Lost if I Don’t Renew by the Due Date

You should always try to pay your monthly premium on time, thus avoiding any issues and ensuring you are covered at all times. However, your health insurance coverage does not end the minute you miss a payment.

Insurance companies have a grace period, during which time your policy will remain active. This period allows you to gather the funds needed and to pay your monthly premium, thus keeping your policy active. 

Typically, this grace period lasts for between 7 and 15 days, but it differs from provider to provider. Check your policy for more details but try to avoid playing fast and loose with your payments as they could be the only thing protecting you.

Myth 3: It’s All About the Deductible

The deductible is the amount of money you pay before the health insurance policy takes over and to many consumers, it is the single most important part of any health insurance policy. However, while it is important to consider the deductible, you should not choose your policies based solely on which one has the lowest deductible.

Look for the sort of cover that they provide and whether this will suit your needs or not, and then focus on the deductible. 

It’s also important to find the right balance between a deductible that is cheap enough for you to afford when the time comes, but is not so cheap that it sends the premiums through the roof. To do this, avoid focusing on how much your first monthly payment will cost and ask yourself what you would do if you had to pay for a medical expense today.

Would you have an issue paying the deductible? Would it require you to borrow money from friends or family? If so, it’s too high and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Myth 4: I Have Insurance from My Employer so I Don’t Need any Additional Cover

If your employer offers any kind of group health insurance cover, take it, but don’t assume that it will cover you for everything you need. Read the small print, look for gaps, and seek to fill those gaps with your own cover.

With your own policy, you’ll also be protected if you lose your life. If anything happens in the time it takes you to find a new job, you could be left to foot the bill, making this an even scarier and more stressful time. But if you’re covered, you can take your time as you search for a suitable role.

Myth 5: It’s Not a Pre-Existing Condition if I Didn’t Know About it

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions you will be subject to an exclusion period, one that may last for up to 48 months. During this time, your insurance company will not pay out for any issues related to this condition and contrary to popular belief, not knowing about the condition is not enough to avoid this exclusion period.

If, somehow, it is proven that you had a medical condition that was simply not discovered at the time you applied, it will still be subject to an exclusion period. The good news, however, is that you can no longer be refused because of pre-existing medical conditions, which means that everyone can benefit from health insurance.

Myth 6: I Don’t Need Health Insurance If I Have a Life Insurance Plan

A life insurance policy can cover you for critical illness, which could be used to cover health care costs. You can also purchase accident and dismemberment insurance to cover you in the event you lose a limb. However, life insurance is designed to pay out a death benefit when you die. It goes to your loved ones, not you, and is therefore not a viable replacement for health insurance.

For complete cover, you should look into getting both life insurance and health insurance. You can find low-cost options for both.

Summary: Common Myths Debunked

If you don’t have any health insurance coverage, it’s time to change that and start looking for coverage today. Take a look at our guide to choosing a health plan to get started. We also have guides on everything from life insurance (term life insurance, whole life insurance, and other life insurance coverage) car insurance and pretty much all other insurance products.

By purchasing all of these together you could even save some money while getting essential coverage! Just remember to do your research, plan ahead, and never settle for less than you need as you may live to regret it in the future.

Health Insurance Myths Debunked is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Here’s Why 41% of Americans Might Switch Their Insurance This Year

The coronavirus pandemic created a slew of challenges for insurance companies when reviewing and paying out policies. But for some insurers, outdated systems highlighted how unprepared they were to cope with high volumes of online users.  “The crisis rapidly unraveled and exposed the shortcomings of companies. The crucial need to reduce costs and maximize the […]

The post Here’s Why 41% of Americans Might Switch Their Insurance This Year appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Find The Best Minneapolis Neighborhood for You | ApartmentSearch

Find your ideal apartment community in Minneapolis with insider intel on the city’s top neighborhoods, local hotspots, and eateries.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

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