October 15th through December 7th is an important time for seniors. Open enrollment for Medicare and Part D prescription coverage allows you to shop around for plans that may be a better fit for your personal needs. At ISA we specialize in Medicare Supplement plans, sometimes called “Medigap,” and Part D coverage. This combination along with original Medicare Parts A and B allows for greater freedom when traveling, less provider limitations and a Medicare Supplement plans can help pay for some of the health care costs that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Open Enrollment Period for Medigap Plans / Medicare Supplements Plans

Medigap insurance companies are generally allowed to use medical underwriting to decide whether to accept your application and how much to charge you for the Medigap policy. However, even if you have health problems, during your Medigap open enrollment period you can buy any policy the company sells for the same price as people with good health.

Each year, you can make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug coverage for the following year. There are 2 separate enrollment periods each year:

Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage.

What can I do?

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another Medicare drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

What can I do?

  • If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage), you can switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage).
  • You can drop your Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare. You’ll also be able to join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

What can’t I do?

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan if you’re in Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another if you’re in Original Medicare.

www.Medicare.gov

A federal government website managed and paid for by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

If you would like to see what ISA can do to assist you, please reach out to our in-house licensed Medicare agent, Debra Sale.

Debra Sale

828-350-3933

dsale@isa-avl.com

 

 

There are many things uncertain about the world we are living in. The recent global pandemic has left many businesses and employees with questions that cannot be answered yet.  One major question…. Will there be a second wave of COVID-19?  This question alone, has left business owners wondering how another wave will affect their Open Enrollment.

Here are three tips that your broker should be thinking about to ensure a smooth and successful Open Enrollment:

  1. Preparation –Preparation will be a key factor in a successful open enrollment regardless of conducting it virtually or in-person. Talking to stakeholders early and being prepared to answer employee questions together will be a key factor to success. Employees will need the knowledge of how they will be enrolling, when enrollment is happening and where they can find help.
  1. Education– Developing educational tools and materials is a huge necessity for a successful Open Enrollment. Employees in today’s workforce have enough uncertainties without needing to worry about not understanding their benefits and how they work. Making sure employers have materials readily available is crucial. Brokers should be supplying clients with benefit booklets, creating videos if needed, giving out direct contact information, sending pamphlets and brochures and even providing online software to be a database of information. Employees need to feel confident in their understanding of how their benefits work in order to make a good decision for enrollment.
  1. Documentation- With varying schedules and remote working environments, documentation from open enrollment is still relevant. Human Resources should not need to stress about not getting forms back from employees for elections. Brokers should be providing alternative enrollment options other than paper applications and face-to-face meetings. Whether that be providing ways for employees to fill out their elections and sign virtually or providing the software to track employee elections online. Human Resource and payroll teams need to feel at ease with the flow of documenting employee elections.

Is your broker helping you prepare, educate, and document for your open enrollment? ISA wants to help you feel confident in the way you are handling open enrollment.

Contact our Life, Health & Employee Benefits Team to find out how we can help. We appreciate the opportunity to work with you!

There can be many reasons for re-writing insurance these days:

  • The policy has an expiring term
  • The policy has built unneeded cash value that could be used to purchase a paid-up policy (or one with long-term care benefits)
  • The client quits smoking and now qualifies for a lower, non-smoker rate
  • The client is further out from a medical condition they had at the time of their last underwriting experience
  • Or (often overlooked) the insurance TODAY could just be less expensive than it was previously, even with all things remaining the same

Life insurance costs have actually become more affordable over the years as insurance companies have tried to price their policies more competitively in an effort to capture more market share.

So here’s a question: if you could refinance your mortgage for a lower rate, would you? People refinance their mortgages all the time and it actually costs money to do so. But you can refinance your insurance at no cost: no origination, application, appraisal and attorney fees, etc.

Put ISA to work for a no obligation review of your policy.

Contact Matt Bradley 828-350-3309; mbradley@isa-avl.com

Credits and Discounts to Personal Lines Auto Policies for COVID-19

In a time of constant change and uncertainty good news is always welcome.  Most Personal Lines Auto Carriers are offering the “Stay-at-Home” credit to auto policies as a relief during COVID-19.  This is a great gesture to assist in easing the stress and financial hardship faced by consumers during this unprecedented time. Carriers realize people are driving less under the Stay-At-Home order. Some are issuing refunds, some are giving percentages of premium as discounts, and others are offering a specified lower amount per vehicle listed on the policy.

Some Carriers will extend these discounts and credits beyond April and May 2020. No action is required on your part to receive the discount. You will see your premiums due are lower as a result of this discount.  Several Carriers are also suspending any cancellations because of nonpayment and waiving late fees.  Please contact us if you have any questions regarding your specific account.

If you have not received notice from your Personal Auto Carrier yet, you have some other options.

  1. We are happy to assist you to re-rate your policy based upon lower annual mileage. Lowering miles driven for the current policy period may reduce premiums.
  2. We never recommend lowering coverage such as liability or collision to save money. We could increase your deductible to lower premiums while you are driving less miles. A higher deductible will lower premiums.
  3. We are always happy to shop our multiple Carriers to ensure you are receiving the best coverage for the best price in the current market.

We hope you and yours are all healthy and well and please know that even though our doors are still closed we are open for business.  Our team has all the technology and resources to offer the same great service and solutions virtually.

We appreciate your business and look forward to being of service to you,

The ISA Team

Understanding How the Vacancy Clause in your Insurance Policy Affects your Coverage During COVID-19

Amidst COVID-19, several common areas of coverage are questioned:  Business Interruption, General Liability, Workers Compensation, Cyber Liability, etc.  One less commonly addressed issue is the comprehension of the Vacancy Clause within policies.  The Vacancy Clause recognizes the vulnerabilities to a property’s vandalism, undiscovered damage, and increase in severity of loss for a “covered peril”.  If a property is unoccupied or vacant, it is naturally more susceptible to loss. Therefore, carriers have provisions within the policy to address these issues. It is crucial to be mindful of vacancy definitions, exclusions and provisions; particularly during COVID-19.

What is Considered a Vacant Property?

“Vacancy” can be measured in multiple ways depending on your policy verbiage. Examples include:  Personal Lines/Homeowners: “How much furniture is in your home or business location?” “Was the damage by a covered cause of loss exaggerated by lack of attention or attendance at the property?” To illustrate: If pipes burst in your home, your second home, or a rental dwelling you possess, that you have not been able to travel to during COVID-19, and the damage becomes significant as a result of inability to visit or maintain accordingly.

Commercial Lines: The typical Commercial Property is considered “vacant” unless a minimum of 31% of its total square footage is rented or used to conduct operations per the policy’s “description of operations”.  Many Lessors are experiencing a drop in occupancy rates as businesses downsize and enable staff to work remotely.  It is imperative to understand the conditions to which your policy responds.  With most policies allowing a time frame ranging from 30-90 days, you may need to discuss obtaining a separate vacant policy for your home or building.  If a home or building is unoccupied longer than the time frame allotted in the policy, the policy can be null and void.

Most carriers, whether personal lines or commercial lines, offer buy-back options (endorsements) with vacancy permissions. A lack of these endorsements can lead to reduced coverage or no coverage in the event of a property loss claim.

Tips for Mitigating Risk

With many working remotely and not traveling, properties are harder to monitor. This naturally increases the risk for vandalism and theft. Consider installing video surveillance/cameras if possible.  It is important to evaluate what utilities are essential to maintain the building/home and which ones can be shut off to prevent potential damage.  Then, upon return, you must plan for reoccupying homes and buildings and maintaining/restarting systems and equipment.  Be mindful to check plumbing systems.  If they were shut off or drained, restore slowly and if possible do it section by section. Restart electrical systems/components and equipment gradually.  Be sure to have fire protection systems inspected.  Have your HVAC systems inspected to ensure they are working properly.

Insurance language and verbiage are complex.  It is important to understand that carriers offer varying conditions, exclusions, coverages, limits and deductibles that apply to each definition within the policy form.  Your time is consumed building and protecting your family and  your business. All assets you hold dear and have worked so hard to obtain.  Be sure to discuss the vacancy clause with your current agent/carrier; or know our experienced consultants are available to assist you in navigating all COVID-19 concerns.

For more information please contact ISA today or visit:

https://www.cna.com/web/wcm/myconnect/3b485510-f18c-4800-aaa2-c701d0e6d49e/RC-IdleVacantFacilities-Guide.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTlRBeVl6WmpOMkkwTjJVeSIsInQiOiJEOUNWYmtkTXF0ZWpwV3oyaEpMWWR1cnJFXC80UlFOZWtmZHV4K2l0TWlpaXZSMXpzSHpOMmlOMlwvUEJFV1VnRVY5c1VQUlhORWx4ZHp5XC9WY29YUjFxWjFCYnhxS2gwWDdwRmlUbjhsN1dFdGxnOHVidWJxXC9XMW42dGFnVTFqNzcifQ%3D%3D

As Industries increase remote workers in response to COVID-19, they need to be aware and mitigate vulnerability to Cyber Attacks.  Links to articles below with additional information.  Please contact our office with any questions or concerns.  828-253-1668 | info@isa-avl.com.

Coronavirus Work-from-Home Response May Expand Cyber Risk

As U.S. employers ask employees to work from home to avoid exposure to coronavirus, they may be exposing themselves to another kind of risk: Cyberattacks.

Watch Out for Virus-Tied Cyber Attacks on Remote Workers, Warns Tech Professor

The heightened fear and anxiety that COVID-19 is causing people worldwide brings vulnerable targets for cyber hackers.

No Business is Immune to Cyber Crime

What is Business Income Coverage?

 

To summarize the coverage, it is coverage for lost income that your business would have made had it been open.  Expample:  There is a fire in your restaurant and you have to close for three months.

 

Does Business Income Coverage apply to the Coronavirus?

 

Unfortunately Business Income Coverage will not apply to a virus outbreak because the coverage is triggered when there is a direct physical loss to property due to a covered peril such as fire, smoke, water, theft, vandalism, etc.  The virus is not causing direct physical loss to property preventing businesses from operating.

 

What about the Civil Authority clause in my policy and the government mandates requiring me to close my business or cancel my business events?

Unfortunately the Civil Authority clause in Commercial Lines Policies is triggered by direct physical loss to property just as the Business Income/Business Interruption coverage.

 

Will P&C Insurers Pay Out Coronavirus Claims?

https://www.insurancejournal.com/blogs/academy-journal/2020/02/19/558705.htm

 

Coronavirus Fears at Work: What Employers Need to Know

 

Please contact our office for more information.

Like many others, ISA is dealing with the realities and specter of the Coronavirus spread. We are taking a Risk Management approach to the impact on our employees, visitors, clients and business partners.  The safety of all is our top priority and concern.  As consultants and advisers, we will continue to be available to support and service all of our clients and prospects. Any meetings we have currently scheduled will be held virtually in an effort to stop the transmittal of the virus.  We are available to all of our clients but wish to limit visitors to our office when possible. Please contact us as you normally would via email (including scans), office phone, cell phone, text or teleconferencing. We can also set up virtual meetings as needed.  Should you have an immediate need requiring an in-person meeting, please schedule with one of our associates in advance.  Should the need arise, our staff has every means to work remotely and respond. 

Below are links and articles for updated information on employer compliance, how Workers Compensation claims will be handled, and much more.  

Coronavirus Insurance Compliance & Information

CDC

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

World Health Organization

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

OSHA

Safety and Health Topics: COVID-19

I’m pretty confident that if you asked anyone who has ever owned a rental property you would get an overwhelming response that it’s not as lucrative or easy as they thought it would be. In fact, owning a rental property can be a major pain, and end up costing you a ton of money!

I certainly don’t mean to be a “Debbie Downer”, and I know that if it’s done right it can be lucrative, but from an insurance agent’s perspective, I don’t see a lot of people doing it right.

So you’re probably thinking, “Well Chris, you are an insurance agent. What do you know about real estate or rental properties? Why should I take advice from you?”

I’m not a real estate agent, and I don’t own a rental property. However, several of my friends/family/clients/co-workers own rentals, and because I insure a bunch of their properties, I’ve had a first hand account of the process, and I’ve learned what to do, and what not to do.

Continue reading →

I was recently asked this question by one of our Insurance Service of Asheville clients, and thought I would share the answer here for our readers.

There are a lot of things that go into homeowners and auto insurance rates, one of them being credit. I’ve heard a lot of complaints from people who don’t like the fact that insurance companies use credit in their underwriting.

Some people have absolutely no idea that it’s used in the rate at all.

At the end of the day, there’s not much we can do about it though. Insurance companies have been using credit in their rates for decades, and that’s not likely to change.

By the way, insurance companies don’t pull your credit like a mortgage company or credit card company does. There is no negative impact on your credit as a result of an insurance company looking at it.

When I say “pull” what I mean is that the insurance company is doing what’s called a soft inquiry, which is not the same thing as having your credit pulled (hard inquiry).

When does credit play a role in insurance rates?
It’s important to understand that insurance companies don’t continuously check or monitor your credit. Usually, they only check it when you first get a quote and/or sign up with them in the very beginning.

This means that if your credit score increases (or decreases) your insurance company does not automatically know about it.

So, to my customers question of whether or not his increased credit score will lower his rates, the answer is not automatically.

What has to be done on our side as the agent is contact the carrier the insurance and ask them to do what’s commonly referred to as a “re-score”. This is when the insurance company can re-run the person’s credit (soft inquiry) to see if there is any positive bearing on the rate.

This isn’t something that the insurance company is going to let the agency do every single year, so it’s not worth even asking unless there has been a significant change in your credit score, and only you as the customer would know if that was the case.

If you’d like to get a better handle on your credit rating, it could be helpful to setup credit monitoring. We hope this was helpful! As always, leave us comment below if you have any questions.