Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ice Dams and Homeowners Insruance

For us New Englanders, shoveling driveways and digging out plowed-in cars are considered winter wonderland’s norms.  While we have escaped the storms so far this season, winter has only just begun.  Therefore, it is important to make sure you and your family are protected from potential ice dams before the snowflakes start falling.

What are ice dams, and what damage can they cause to your home?

When snow melts and then refreezes at the edge of your roof, it creates a dam.  This causes water to back up and leak into the home, ruining walls, ceilings and insulation.  As if this damage isn’t costly enough, the moisture from the dams can lead to mold growth and mildew, endangering your family’s health.

Fortunately, most homeowners insurance companies cover damage related to ice dams.  However, long-term prevention of ice dams can save you the trouble of filing a claim and dealing with the damage every year.  You can do this in the following ways:

Better insulation: Insulate your attic separately from the rest your house to keep heat from escaping.  Also, identify and seal off sources of potential heat leakage, such as vents, furnaces, electrical outlets and light fixtures.

Improved ventilation: Proper roof ventilation allows for heat to escape through vents in the attic without warming the roof deck and creating ice dams.  Ensure your roof is adequately ventilated to prevent ice dams from forming.

Roof protection: Apply underlayments to your roof—products that create watertight seals between your roof’s edge and the shingles.  While this may not stop the ice from damming, it will prevent or minimize damage.

Heated cables: Install heated cables to your roof to melt the dams.  However, if the snowpack gets too heavy, the melted water can pool and still leak into the home.

Advance preparation: Clear debris and leaves out of your gutter before the snow falls.  This is the first step to ice dam prevention.  Also, watch for water leakage or mold in your attic, and alert your home insurance company so the damage can be taken care of before it worsens.

We at Penny-Hanley are here to answer any of your questions regarding your insurance policy so don’t hesitate to call us at 860 684 2721 or visit our website for more information and stay warm and dry.

Super Bowl XLVI Contest

Hey bloggers and readers. It’s that time of the year when people eat and drink to their hearts content. That’s right, I’m talking about Super Bowl Sunday. Who doesn’t love to watch that? Some watch it for the actual game, while others watch it for the hilarious commercials or the half-time show. This year for the half time entertainment, we have Madonna coming to the stage. Not sure who will be joining her. There are many speculations as to who will be playing with her from Foo Fighters to L.M.F.A.O.

Either way, it’s going to be a good brawl between these two teams: The New England Patriots VS. New York Giants.

Who do  you think will take the championship this year? We’re holding a contest on our Facebook page, so visit to enter. Just submit your answer on who the winner will be with the final score and the one with closest or perfect guess will win a $50 gift card to Basil’s Restaurant located in Stafford Springs, CT. Good luck and may the best team win!

Manage Your Health Care Expenses

Many people think that keeping track of insurance is easy but what most of them fail to realize is that you need to keep your agent up to date on your situation, whether it be health insurance, life insurance or auto insurance. If you’re financially able to pay for health care, managing and understanding it is a difficult task. When you go to the doctor you may not be sure how much the doctor will charge, how much your insurance coverage will pay, and if your deductible is met yet. Juggling and keeping up with all these factors of your health care plan is a lot of work. Even if you wait until your explanation of benefits letter arrives in the mail , it can still be very confusing. You need an easy way to keep track of all these numbers.

I’m sure many of you have heard of Mint.com. It’s a site that lets you manage your money by bringing all your financial accounts together online or on your mobile devices and automatically categorizes your transactions and lets you set budgets and helps you achieve your savings goals. Simplee.com is just like Mint.com, where it helps you manage your personal health care plan. Use of this site is simple as the site name suggests.

Once you’ve signed up, you simply let Simplee link to your health care providers website and it accesses the data and then it presents it to you in a simple and manageable way. The website will show you how much you were billed for a procedure, how much the insurance company will pay and what you are expected to pay. You don’t have to enter any information because you allow the Simplee website to use your log on information for the health care providers website and Simplee just accesses the information itself.

You can use the information for multiple accounts and family members. It will keep track of your deductibles and even let you know what services your policy covers. Simplee lets you drill down to individual claims to see what your insurance paid, the negotiated discount, and what you owe. It’s like a statement of benefits that actually makes sense.

Simplee currently supports eight of the largest health plans in the U.S (including Aetna, United Healthcare, Cigna, Empire BlueCross BlueShield, and BlueCross BlueShield of California), and is adding more every week.

It is free to sign up, so check it out, you might end making your life a bit easier to manage.

Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year. The Chinese new year is officially known as Lunar New Year which begins on January 23 and is celebrated in the Asian communities with 15 days of food, firecrackers and fanfares designed to ensure that the year is full of good fortune. In the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is the most auspicious symbol of success and happiness as well as the symbol of the emperor and the son of heaven, so this year’s celebrations will have a special meaning.

This year, major Chinese New Year celebrations will be held in Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and many other cities around the world, including these five U.S. cities, so if you happen to live in these cities or are visiting, watch and enjoy the parade.

1. New York

In New York City, the Chinese New Year kicks off with a bang — literally — on Jan. 23 at the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival in Roosevelt Park in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. Chinatown’s Lunar New Year Parade and Festival takes place Jan. 29 and will fill Chinatown’s streets with floats, marching bands, lion and dragon dances, musical performances, acrobats, magicians and more. More details at http://explorechinatown.com/

2. Seattle

Seattle celebrates the Lunar New Year with a festival on Jan. 28 in the Chinatown–International District in Hing Hay Park. Activities include lion and dragon dances, Taiko drumming, martial arts, a food walk featuring a neighborhood-wide tasting menu and the third annual children’s costume parade contest. More details at http://www.cidbia.org/events/lunar-new-year-celebration-2012-year-of-the-dragon.

3. Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., the Chinese consolidated Benevolent Society will host its Chinese New Year Parade on Jan. 29 in the city’s downtown Chinatown neighborhood with kung fu demonstrations, a dragon dance, a lion dance, costumed dancers and the lighting of a giant firecracker.

4. San Francisco

Being held on Feb. 11, this Chinese New Year’s parade is going to be the biggest outside of Asia with 6,000 participants, 22 floats and numerous marching bands, drill teams and school groups. The parade will take place at nighttime when everyone can enjoy the illuminated parade. In addition, there will be a 250 foot dragon which will be held by 100 men and women. That is definitely a sight to see. More details at http://www.chineseparade.com/

5. Las Vegas

Everyone knows that Vegas is a place to have fun. This year is going to be extra special. On Jan. 23, a dragon dance will begin at The Venetian and make its way through the casino to the waterfall at the atrium gardens in The Palazzo, where the unveiling of a 128-foot, fire-breathing dragon will take place. The dragon will breathe fire daily at 1 and 5 p.m. through Feb. 5. That’s not all. If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you know how they roll. Throughout casinos and botanical gardens, there are decorated dragons that breathe steam and wiggle their tails as well as koi fish in the ponds. There’s enough entertainment to make sure you have a good time and after seeing all that, you won’t be able to keep it in Vegas 😉

Stay safe and have fun!

Critical Illness Insurance

Financial hardship makes dealing with a critical illness even more daunting. Critical illness insurance is meant to help you and your family through tough times. Unfortunately, regular health insurance does not cover all of the expense resulting from such an upheaval. Rather, your policy only covers the medical costs directly associated with the illness, such as hospitalizations, doctor visits, or medications. Critical illness insurance accounts for other costs resulting from your condition. Critical illness insurance plans provide you and your family with an added measure of security, if you are predisposed to a major health condition covered by the policy.

How does a critical illness insurance policy work? It pays out a lump sum if you develop a severe illness covered in the contract. Typical conditions that the average critical illness insurance will cover include most types of cancer, heart attack, stroke, most organ transplants, and deafness or blindness, although the exact coverage varies among critical illness insurance plans. Sometimes certain subcategories of conditions aren’t covered by most critical illness insurance companies, so it is important to read contracts carefully. For example, many critical illness insurance plans do not cover most forms of skin cancer. Critical illness insurance rates will be higher for more comprehensive coverage. In addition, injuries or illnesses that are self-inflicted or the direct result of illegal activity are not covered; neither is suicide.

Critical illness health insurance payouts can be used for almost anything you can think of. There are no strings attached to the money. The purpose of a critical illness insurance policy is to reduce stress and allow you to focus on recovering from your illness. Therefore, you can use the lump sum for mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, credit card bills, or other loan payments if you’re unable to work. Maybe hiring household help would take some of the burden off your caregivers–critical illness insurance allows you to pay for that. Critical illness insurance can also help cover large deductibles and co-payments for prescriptions and treatments. You will also be able to afford travel and accommodations to and from specialized treatment centers for you and your family. You can even go on a vacation to celebrate your future recovery with any remaining funds!

Critical illness insurance has several limitations associated with it. First, it will most likely be too late to buy critical illness insurance after you developed an eligible condition. Most critical illness insurance companies also refuse to sell policies to individuals over 65 years of age. Critical illness insurance companies make money by minimizing the amount of claims they must pay out while maximizing the monthly premiums they receive. If your illness is a already a certainty, they are unlikely to underwrite critical illness insurance policies for you.

There is also usually a waiting period for your critical illness insurance coverage to begin. Although it depends on the specific critical illness insurance plan you purchase, you may also have to wait for a certain length of time in order to receive the lump sum–often 30 days after diagnosis. If you pass away during that time period, no money will be paid out unless you have previously purchased a separate policy rider. For an additional fee, it will ensure that your estate will be covered in the case of death.

Critical illness health insurance is generally sold in amounts from $10,000 up to $1 million. The value you choose should cover at least a year of your income, along with your credit card debts and several years’ of mortgage payments.  It may be a good idea to buy such a policy at a relatively young age if you are at high risk (due to genetic factors, etc.) and have others to support, since critical illness insurance quotes tend to be cheaper for younger individuals in better health. Coverage is usually available for periods of two to 25 years. Critical illness insurance is sold alone, or with a health or life insurance plan.

Our company is here to help you out in situations like these. If you would like to get a quote, please give us a call at 860.684.2721 or visit our website for more information.

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

We’ve all read the stories of people who’ve lost money, had prescriptions filled under their names, and even been mistakenly arrested as a result of identity theft. Between 2008 and 2009, approximately 11 million Americans have been victims to this seemingly new phenomenon.

But identity theft has been around since the first time a person attempted to pretend to be someone else for dishonest reasons. Now, though, identity theft is defined as what happens when any party secures goods, services, or financial benefits using someone else’s confidential information–without that person’s permission.

The most common way confidential details are accessed is via your social security number. It’s the most common gateway to accessing your bank account details, mortgage information, investments, loans, credit history, driver’s records, military records, and more. Since most businesses have very few safeguards in place to prevent fraudulent transactions–and may leave them out because of the fear of being seen as discriminatory or too difficult to deal with–this means protecting your identity is up to  you.

 

Recommended ways to keep your confidential information safe:

  • Keep home records in a locked file.
  • Keep account numbers in a safe place.
  • Ensure the security of any online transaction. Look for badges like the VeriSign Trust Seal, which indicate the security of ecommerce provided by that company.
  • If you’re interested in buying from a relatively unknown company you’ve never dealt with before, check carefully for reviews or scams associated with the business before buying.
  • When asked for your social security number, don’t hesitate to ask why it’s needed.
  • Use a paper shredder to dispose of records like old bank and investment statements, social security, and more. Most of these hard copies carry details used to access your account.
  • If a carbon set is used to make copies of your transaction, keep the carbon or make sure it’s destroyed before you leave.
  • Have yourself removed from the mail list of companies that send unsolicited charge cards.
  • Check for any unusual bank or business transactions, and if you find any, be sure to track down the reason for the irregularity immediately.
  • Ask whether a store uses a wireless network to transmit transaction details, and what safeguards are in place.
  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox, and don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox.

 

What does identity theft have to do with insurance?

Insurance cannot prevent identity theft, but most insurers offer coverage for paying the costs involved in clearing it up and cleansing accounts and records–which can require months of work and thousands of dollars in legal fees. This kind of coverage isn’t usually included in your home or auto policy, but is offered by most insurers.

When you’ve taken the right steps to prevent identity theft, you can go about your business transactions with peace of mind and a sense of empowerment.

 

Celebrity body part insurance: $10 Million Smile

Your Mom may think of you as a million dollar baby and your friends and family may find you priceless … but what price would an insurer put on your body parts? Could you command $10 million for a smile? $1.6 million for a finger? $1 million for your flowing tresses? Probably not, but some celebrities have insured body parts for millions.

We also point you to a related past post about an amusing spoof video featuring Kobe Bryant touting ankle insurance.

You can learn more about how body part insurance works. This article explains that, “You don’t have to be a celebrity to insure your body parts–anyone can order up some specialty insurance if he thinks he needs it. As long as you’re willing to pay the premium, you can get insurance for the body part of your choice. In the United Kingdom, the members of the Derbyshire Whiskers Club insured their beards against “fire and theft,” and a soccer fan insured himself against psychic trauma if England loses this year’s World’s Cup.”

Just as long as you’re willing to pay the premium, you can just about insure anything…well almost anything.

Courtesy of Consumer Insurance Blog