Indianapolis — Make a resolution to review your policies and coverage. The start of a new year is a great time to reevaluate your insurance coverage needs. Changing circumstances may require updated policies. Did you have a baby? Get married? Purchase a new home or car?
Indiana Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen W. Robertson warns Indiana consumers not to assume anything when it comes to their coverage, “Check to make sure you have the right protection. Be sure to contact your agent if you have any questions about your coverage. Making sure you are properly covered will help alleviate financial surprises in the future.”
Your agent or company can help determine whether your coverage is adequate or if you might need to make adjustments. Even if you haven’t experienced a life-changing event, you could be eligible for discounts or new insurance products that may better serve your needs.
Life Insurance or Annuities
Changes–birth, divorce, remarriage or even a new mortgage or new job–are indicators that you might need to make changes to your life insurance policy, or at the very least review your policy.
Read your policy carefully and answer these questions:
- Do premiums or benefits vary from year to year?
- Do the total benefits grow over time?
- Are there benefits that are not guaranteed?
- Do premiums change over time?
- What happens if I quit paying premiums – do I maintain some of the benefits or will my policy lapse?
- Are there any impacts associated with interest earned on the policy?
- In what situations and through what procedures can you access cash values?
- Can the policy be converted into another form of insurance or annuity?
- In the case of the birth of a child or a new marriage, you may want to consider increasing your death benefit. Check with your agent to see if your insurance company requires a physical exam before increasing your coverage levels.
Alternatively, events like paying off your mortgage, retirement or children finishing college might mean that you can lower your life insurance coverage and premiums. Ask your life insurance company whether you have the option of “conversion privileges” from your current term life insurance policy to a new whole life insurance policy. You may be able to use the cash value of the policy or accelerate the death benefit up to 50-75 percent of the face amount of the policy in the event you become terminally ill. Ask your insurance agent or company about these options.
This past year we witnessed a significant number of natural disasters. If you were impacted by a catastrophe or live in an area prone to floods, earthquakes or wildfires, you should make sure you’re properly covered. These disasters can be costly, and may not be covered under a standard policy. In most cases flood policy coverage has a 30-day waiting period after it is initially purchased, thus making advanced planning important. Discuss the possibility of adding coverage for these perils with your agent or insurance company.
If you are a dog owner, be aware that not all homeowner policies provide liability protection for injury caused by dogs or certain breeds of dogs. Check your policy to determine if liability for dog bites is excluded. If your policy has a dog liability exclusion, you may wish to contact your agent to determine if a buy-back for dog liability coverage is available for purchase.
The start of a new year is also a great time to update your home inventory and make sure your homeowners or rental policy is up-to-date. Take photos or video of your prized possessions. Remember to note valuable antiques, artwork or jewelry so your insurance agent or insurance company can help determine if they are properly covered. Creating a home inventory from the NAIC’s free smartphone app, myHOME Scr.APP.book, takes some of the headache out of this process. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play. You can also download a paper version.
Remember to add any new expensive or sizable gifts to your home inventory, too. Include as many details as you can and take photos of each item. Many home insurance policies have standard limits for big-ticket items like electronics, art, jewelry, firearms or sporting equipment. You may need additional coverage, so call your agent to discuss changes for your policy.
Have you had any changes to your driving habits? If so, tell your agent to ensure your auto policy will cover you in case of an accident. Also take some time to check your auto insurance policy by following the guidelines below:
- Make sure your coverage is appropriate for your life situation. Liability is the part of the policy that pays for any injury or damage if you cause an accident. If your liability insurance is too low, you may be legally exposed for any damages above your liability limits.
- Review your deductibles for comprehensive and collision coverage. This is the amount you will pay if your car is damaged or totaled without fault of another driver. Raising or lowering this amount can affect your premium.
- Make sure you have a copy of your insurance card and your insurance agent or company’s number in your vehicle at all times.
- It is a good idea to accurately record details of an accident if you are in one. The NAIC’s WreckCheck app assists you through the process of gathering information following an accident. It allows you to easily email your notes directly to your agent to assist with the claims process. Download the free app from iTunes or Google Play.
You may have recently enrolled or changed your health insurance whether through your employer, Medicare or your state exchange. Make sure you have new insurance cards and paperwork before you visit a doctor.
- Check your provider lists to make sure visits to your doctor and any specialists are still covered by your policy, as in-network or preferred provider lists change from year to year.
- Read through your documents and make note of co-pays for in-network and out-of-network providers to avoid surprises.
- If you’re planning a vacation, check with your insurance carrier to identify urgent care centers and hospitals that accept your insurance coverage. Ask your carrier about applicable co-pays and deductibles if care is needed.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Fraudulent Activity
The Equifax data breach of 2017 exposed the personal information of more than 145 million people. A data breach can potentially expose a consumer’s data putting them at risk for identity theft or other fraudulent activity. There are some things you can do to protect your identity in the coming year and beyond by following the tips below:
- Don’t give out any personal information–like your social security number or bank information–over the phone.
- Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. Several companies offer identity theft insurance, which generally costs between $25 and $60 per year.
When purchasing an insurance policy:
- Ask for copies of everything you sign and keep a copy of the initial policy payment receipt or check you gave the agent or company.
- Call the insurance company if you don’t receive a copy of the insurance policy outlining your coverage and its limitations within 30 days of your purchase.
- The best way to protect yourself from insurance fraud is to research the agent and company you’re considering. Before writing your check or signing the contract, call the Indiana Department of Insurance to verify that they are licensed to sell in Indiana.
About the Indiana Department of Insurance
The Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) protects Indiana’s insurance consumers by monitoring and regulating the financial strengths and market conduct activities of insurance companies and agents. The IDOI monitors insurance companies and agents for compliance with state laws to protect consumers and to offer them the best array of insurance products available. The IDOI also assists Hoosiers with insurance questions and provides guidance in understanding how insurance policies work.