Author: hsmuser

Insurance News / 31.01.2017

Maine employers turned out in droves for our most recent Breakfast Briefing to learn about managing expectations and behaviors with legalized marijuana. Clark Insurance and KMA HR Consulting recruited a talented and knowledgeable panel that included: Patricia Rosi, CEO of Wellness Connection of Maine, a large and growing medical marijuana dispensary Julie Rabinowitz, Director of Operations and Communications at the Maine Department of Labor Matt LaMourie, an attorney at Preti Flaherty who practices in their Employment Law, Litigation and Immigration Groups Here’s what our audience heard for guidance. 1) Understand the drug and its uses 2) Classify job positions according to safety 3) Adhere to consistent procedures in dealing with impairment 4) Stay informed as the law and regulations take shape Understanding Marijuana (cannabis) – Medical vs. Recreational Ms. Rosi first dispelled the stereotype of the medical marijuana patient – think your next door neighbor, co-worker or family member. There are more than 2,000 cultivated strains of marijuana with two main compounds: THC which produces psychoactive effects CBD that has medicinal value but no psychoactive effects Wellness Connection of Maine dispensary There are 29 states plus the District of Columbia in which medical marijuana is legal. Growing facilities are highly sophisticated, controlled and regulated and range from 30,000 square feet to more than one million square feet. Any dispensary in Maine must produce and process their own product to ensure safety and accountability. That said, patients can grow their own cannabis or purchase it from a caregiver. There are five basic methods of using the drug smoking vaporizing tinctures/lozenges medicated edibles Salves/patches Someone who is certified to use marijuana for medical purposes may have no visible signs of impairment or smell of “weed”. For some who use the THC version with psychoactive effects, it can be beneficial dealing with issues like post traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD). And just like any other medicine, dosing is critical to effective treatment. There are approximately 37,000 patients in Maine including some who are certified to use cannabis under workers’ compensation coverage. Identify Safety-Sensitive Jobs NOW The governing principle of “safety first” will help employers determine job positions for which a policy of ZERO TOLERANCE (ZT) is applicable (e.g. machine and equipment operators, child care workers, medical personnel, chemical handlers, etc.). That means that if a drug test were administered, it must show no traces of marijuana use. For example, this is standard operating procedure for truck drivers under federal jurisdiction. For now, the definition of “safety” in Maine can be very broad but likely will be narrowed as state officials draw up regulations. For example, anyone who drives only occasionally in the course of their work might be considered a “zero tolerance” candidate even though they are not regulated by the federal government. That applies as well to those fulfilling U.S. government contracts. People handling money or finances could be classified in the ZT category on the basis of their potential harm to customers or their employer’s financial stability. Whatever choices you make, they must be consistent, well-supported and those choices ought to be reviewed with an attorney or HR specialist. In addition, these classifications should be reviewed with employees upon hire. The Law First, let’s be clear that Maine’s new law legalizing the possession and use of marijuana is in conflict with federal law that lists it as a controlled substance and a new administration may have a different attitude toward enforcement. The Maine referendum language will require the legislature to bring other statutes in line with the new law in terms of regulation. Unless dealt with as emergency legislation (two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature), the changes are unlikely to become law until the fall of 2017. In the meantime, there is a recount underway that should conclude some time after the first of the year. Presuming the results remain the same, personal use will be legal 30 days after the referendum results are certified by the governor. For employers, here is the pivotal wording from the referendum language that a majority of voters approved: 2. Employment policies. This chapter may not be construed to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, trade, display, transportation, sale or growing of cannabis in the workplace. This chapter does not affect the ability of employers to enact and enforce workplace policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees or to discipline employees who are under the influence of marijuana in the workplace. 3. School, employer or landlord may not discriminate. A school, employer or landlord may not refuse to enroll or employ or lease to or otherwise penalize a person 21 years of age or older solely for that person’s consuming marijuana outside of the school’s, employer’s or landlord’s property. It is essential to start discussions NOW with employees and adopt clearly written policies and procedures that are applied consistently. In addition, there should be post-event procedures in case of infractions or accidents. Communicating clearly will help set boundaries for applicants and employees regarding discipline and any drug or impairment testing policies. Employers interested in learning more about drug testing for applicants and employees should visit the Department of Labor’s website at http://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_laws/substance_abuse_testing/index.html to ensure that they are following appropriate state and federal law. While supervisors may attempt to spot impairment, it most likely will be co-workers who see potentially unsafe behavior. Everyone at work needs to feel safe in reporting impairment for the welfare of the violator, themselves and others. Employment guidelines also need to be clear about reporting impairment including confidentiality. The Maine Department of Labor’s SafetyWorks division will be conducting four impairment training sessions in 2017 and can add more if demand warrants. For more information about their training topics, click here. Also sign up at their web site for automatic notifications. From an insurance perspective, be sure you are comfortable with your employment practices liability limits relative to your operations and assets. In addition, because you cannot ask a job applicant about their drug use, be certain your offer of employment includes conditions such as a drug test or other behavior that can be disclosed under the law. Finally, stay informed and reference only those blogs or web sites that have a verifiable authority who has produced the content. Managing your workforce, workplace safety and liability should not be a matter of speculating about best practices....
Insurance News / 18.01.2017

Article by Kerry Peabody, CSA, CLTC Senior Account Executive I stopped in to visit a new memory care community in my area yesterday. As an agent who specializes in long term care insurance, it’s important that I know what resources are out there for my clients, so I do this often. The marketing director was happy to take a few minutes to show me around. She explained that, although they just opened earlier this month, they’re already more than half full, and reservations for the remaining 30+ units are coming in quickly. As with most new memory care or assisted living communities, it’s a very nice place. High ceilings, crown moulding, lots of pastels, nice, open living spaces, gardens, public and private dining rooms, gym, salon, etc. As part of the monthly cost, they provide three meals a day, scheduled transportation, laundry, weekly housekeeping, social programs and activities, and (this is where it stops sounding like a hotel) up to an hour of personal care services per day, with more available as needed. Their goal is to provide a secure, safe home for their residents, all of whom have memory/cognitive issues – some mild, some more severe. “But,” you ask, “this place must be expensive?” Well, it does cost a fair amount, yes, but it’s not expensive, when you think about what you’re getting. This is a memory care community, not an apartment complex. A resident with cognitive issues can move freely around inside this community, experience all it offers, inside and out, and his or her family doesn’t have to worry about them wandering off into the forest, overdosing on medications, under-dosing, setting the kitchen on fire – or being alone and frightened. How much does all of this peace of mind cost? I’m in New England, where all LTC services are higher than in many parts of the country. In this community, a private studio apartment starts at $6,800 per month. “But I can rent a 2-bedroom house for $1,400 a month,” you say. Sure you can – but you’re not 82-years-old with memory problems, are you? Let’s put this in context. Mom’s 82. She owns her own home, but she’s cognitively impaired to the point where she can’t be alone. CAN’T is the key word here. You have no choice; mom needs to be safe. You live six-hundred miles away. You could hire 24/7 help for her, through a local home care agency. Companion care, here in my state, costs about $25 per hour. So, $25 per hour, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, that totals roughly $219,000 per year, or $18,250 per month – nearly triple the cost of the studio apartment in the memory care community. Let’s cross that off of our list, shall we? Option two? Hire a full-time, private duty nurse to live with her. Of course, he or she will want benefits, vacation time, etc. And in the event of sick day, it’ll be up to you to deal with a replacement for that day, or days. And as an employer, you’ll need to manage all the associated minutia – tax reporting, social security, etc. Unless, of course, you just hire on a 1099 basis, but then the live-in nurse will need to build in the extra cost for providing all of his or her own benefits, retirement, etc. So, again, you’re looking at, easily, $150K or more. Maybe this isn’t such a great idea, either. Or, perhaps Mom can come and live with you. She’ll only be giving up all of her friends and the sense of independence that comes with being in her own place. You and your spouse and kids will need to adjust to having a live-in parent who needs 24/7 supervision. Between all of you, you can probably do a pretty good job of keeping an eye on her. Of course, you’ll have to secure the house at night, help with her medications, get her to appointments, etc. If you want to go on vacation you’ll either need to take her with you, find a respite care facility where she can stay, or have someone else come to keep an eye on her while you’re gone. $6,800 per month might not be so bad, right? Maybe now you’re leaning towards that community, but now she has to pay for it. Let’s say she has $2,000 per month of social security income. She has to come up with another $4,800 per month – a tall order. Hopefully she has some assets, so that’ll be the first place to turn. If she has a sizable nest egg, she’ll use that – CDs, money market accounts, investments, annuities, etc. But if that runs out, what’s next? Consider this – Mom’s moving to the memory care community full time, it’s pretty much a given that she won’t be going home, so the house – worth $250,000 – can be sold if necessary. If mom has substantial savings, you can take your time. If she doesn’t, you’ll need to get to that money fast, so you’ll sell low for $200,000. That provides enough to make up the $4,800 per month difference for about 3.5 years. But, if she outlives that, she’d be falling back on her savings – or yours – to cover the costs. This is where some insurance planning would have made a big difference. What if, when she went into the memory care community, she’d had a long term care insurance policy that paid $4,000 per month? Now, she has her $2,000 income, and another $4,000 of LTC benefits. With that, she has just an $800 per month shortfall that she has to cover out of her savings. If her LTC policy pays for 36 months she’d only be using $28,800 of her own money to cover her share – that’s a lot better than the $172,800 she’d be paying without the insurance. This doesn’t cover everything, but it gives the family time to sell the house for what it’s worth, and it gives them time to get an attorney involved to plan for what happens when the LTC insurance runs out, if she happens to outlive it. If she had purchased that long term care policy when she was 65, it would have cost her (using today’s rates) roughly $1,400 per year. Over 17 years, she paid $23,800 in premiums, but over the three years she collects benefits, it will pay out $144,000, and it will keep her from spend her own assets on her care. But that only works if she had done her planning for this years ago, while she was still healthy. It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? But, the best time to start is now, so here’s some homework for you: 1) Keep watch for open houses at new memory care or assisted living communities in the area, or just call some and ask for the marketing director. Go check a few out. You’ll be quite pleasantly surprised at how nice these places are. Remember, this is a rapidly growing, extremely competitive market. If someone’s going to pay $4,000 to $7,000 a month for a studio apartment, it’s going to have to be a nice apartment. Ask them what level of care they provide. What amenities, including basic care, are included in the base rate? Can they contract for more care if needed? Can they bring in outside help if needed? Is there some level of need that would make them too disabled to stay there? 2) Talk to your parents about what they would like to have happen if they need help. Have they considered where they’d like to go if they can’t stay in their own home? What if only one of them needs care, will they both move to a community to stay together? (This is common.) Ask them what plans they’ve made. How will they pay for it? Do they have any insurance? Not an easy conversation, but one that’s easier to have now than later. 3) Start thinking about your own future plans, and ask yourself those same questions. 4) If you’re not sure about long term care insurance, in any of its current forms, find an agent in your area who really understands the products, and who can help you make an informed decision. Your plan may or may not include insurance, but you owe it to yourself and your family to make a decision based on facts. Call some local estate planning or elder law attorneys, or fee-only financial planners and ask them who their clients use for LTC insurance planning. This is one of the hardest things you and your family will ever have to deal with, but the best approach is to tackle it proactively, now, while everyone’s as young as healthy as they’re ever going to be. Plan now, while you have options, and time. If you wait until Mom or Dad is in the middle of a crisis, you have far fewer, and much less attractive options. Good luck! – Kerry Peabody, kerry.peabody@clarkinsurance.com, (207) 523-2253...
Insurance News / 18.12.2016

You Catch More Flies With Honey Than You Do With Vinegar: Creating a Front-Line Defense for Managing Workers’ Compensation Claims by Gary Lavoie There is a significant driver of rising workers’ compensation costs in New Hampshire that has nothing to do with experience mod split-point changes or medical cost inflation. It falls into a category that I like to refer to as benefit preservation, which has a very specific cause, a simple remedy and almost every employer that we speak to has experienced. They key to managing benefit preservation, which is often mistakenly referred to as “malingering” is first identifying the WHY. The culture surrounding workers’ compensation has changed in our communities. There was a day when bumps, bruises, sprains and strains where simply the rewards for a hard day’s work. Today, claim volumes are inundated with musculoskeletal type injuries that are caused by the job itself, they are not accidents. This is a key point that is worth honing in on – acute or traumatic injuries are typically caused by accidents that fall outside of a person’s job description. An example would be your worker who might be working too fast, but is working hard nonetheless and falls from a ladder causing multiple fractures. Think of your emotional response as an employer in that circumstance. It is about what we CAN DO to support this person. Because this was an accident. Musculoskeletal injuries are different.Eric’s job is to lift the boxes from over there to over there. Multiple other people perform this same job, but Eric is the only one that is complaining of back pain. This means that Eric can’t do the job, and we can’t accommodate because that IS the job. This is a natural and quite logical response, but it is having a MAJOR impact on the psychosocial component of your resulting workers’ compensation claim. The reason is that Eric now feels as though his job is at risk and therefore his livelihood is at stake. And this perception is being created with as little as an eye roll from his supervisor. That one quick moment, where Eric feels like he is a problem. So what is Eric’s response? Pain, restrictions, treatment and anything else that will create a certainty that weekly checks will arrive and arrive on time because there is a mortgage to be paid, and groceries to be bought. I would argue that this simple dynamic is also the driver of the over-utilization and rising medical costs per claim that the industry is experiencing. Because pain means a second course of PT, a repeat MRI, narcotics, and a referral to the surgeon for an injury that might have been managed conservatively. The answer to this convoluted mess goes right back to the beginning – in the work environment. This is a challenge that all employers are experiencing and there really just hasn’t been enough communication and education about how to properly manage these claims. Supervisors and foreman should understand the difference between acute and emergency response injuries vs. musculoskeletal injuries. They should have a script ready for response no matter what the circumstance. One that is consistent and represents the values of your organization. Supervisors should understand the pay/deny period and that they don’t have to “solve the case” on day one. There are a number of real, and simple solutions that can be put into place as quickly as next week with the right support. Return to work policies should not be a cookie-cutter template sitting in a binder on the shelf. They can be more effective in one paragraph, one that everyone knows and understands. Do not hesitate to shoot an email or give me a quick call for a free consultation on your very first steps to changing the culture surrounding work injuries in your business. Gary Lavoie Account Executive Tel: (603) 716-2356 Cell: (603) 998-5896 glavoie@clarkinsurance.com...
Insurance News / 06.04.2016

In our annual report for Clark Insurance, we illustrate a year of leadership transition, another record-setting mark for growth and profitability thanks to our customers who reward us with their business and their referrals for which we are truly grateful. 2015 Clark Insurance Annual Report pdf We hope you will enjoy this review of 2015 and get an even better understanding of our services, products and our role in supporting the Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts communities in which we live and work....
Insurance News / 19.02.2016

The most famous flood of all time prompted the Head of Risk Control to forewarn at least one resident to be prepared. You might say that Noah’s “insurance” came two-by-two to ensure recovery from the devastation. Unfortunately, today, too many of us discover we’re not insured only after a flood occurs. So what is flood insurance all about? Flood insurance is NOT part of a standard homeowners insurance policy. You have to buy flood insurance separately and there’s a 30-day waiting period for protection once the policy is in force unless it is being purchased as part of a real estate closing process. You don’t have to live near a body of water to have a flood. You just have to be in harm’s way when water seeks the shortest distance to the lowest point. That point may begin with your basement but also may compromise or destroy the structure itself. We don’t want to be alarmists but who would have thought that sections of the New York and New Jersey coastlines would be battered by tidal surges as high as the upstairs bedroom? Or what about the rain-induced floods from tropical storm Irene that devastated coastal and inland areas of New England in 2011? Though federal disaster relief helps with clean up and recovery, it is unlikely to fully restore the value of the homes that were damaged or destroyed. And, federal assistance often is a loan that must be paid back. That’s why flood insurance is so important. Where do you get flood insurance and how much will it cost? From FEMA: The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), enables homeowners, business owners, and renters in participating communities to purchase federally backed flood insurance. This insurance is designed to provide an insurance alternative to disaster assistance to meet the escalating costs of repairing flood damage to buildings and their contents. For many homeowners, there is no option about buying flood insurance as any property in an identified flood zone is difficult or impossible to finance without the coverage. In 2009, re-mapping of York and Cumberland counties in Maine caught many property owners by surprise. According to a Press Herald story, FEMA was “widely criticized as wrongly placing many homeowners, businesses and entire communities in high-risk flood areas requiring expensive insurance or prohibiting new development altogether. FEMA wound up withdrawing those maps in 2010 for more work. [The revised maps] are due back out in late 2013 and are supposed to be effective in the summer of 2014, according to FEMA.” According to a recent news bulletin from Maine state government, the average annual premium for flood insurance is $930 though some properties can be far more expensive to cover. The standard coverage, however, only pays for the actual cash value of damaged property (original cost less depreciation) and will only pay for essential systems repair or replacement for damage in the basement. “Man caves”, playrooms or other improvements below grade are not going to be insured under standard coverage. Independent agents, such as Clark Insurance, will help you understand and access this additional insurance protection. So, what’s the technical definition of a flood according to FEMA? A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is the policyholder’s property) from overflow of inland or tidal waters; or unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or mudflow; or collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above. It is estimated that about 75 percent of homes located within known flood zones do not have flood insurance. March and April are the most likely months for flooding when snow pack and rain often combine to fill flood plains but a flood, as we’ve seen, can happen just about anywhere at any time....
Insurance News / 18.02.2016

You hear about low-cost-insurance from advertisements all the time “In just minutes we can give you a lower price for your insurance coverage!” You need to take a long hard look at what you are buying for low-cost-insurance and understand what drives the promise of savings. I remember seeing an advertisement that declared “We can save you thousands of dollars on your Yellow Page advertising!” When I looked into how they could manage this extraordinary feat, it was quite easy – they reduced the size of the ads. The same is true in most kinds of insurance. Lower prices often mean less coverage or higher deductibles. First, you need to know how much the insurance company is willing to pay if you make a claim. These are called the limits of coverage. It is relatively easy to offer someone a low price for their insurance if you don’t expect to pay out a lot if there’s a claim. For example, in Maine the state law requires all drivers to have a minimum of $50,000 in liability coverage. That insurance coverage will pay for damages you cause to someone else. In today’s world, $50,000 doesn’t go very far if medical bills and vehicle replacement are required. If the amount exceeds the $50,000 limit, you are still obligated to pay the balance. If you don’t have the money, you can be sued and risk the loss of your home or other major assets. We insist all our customers carry a minimum of $300,000 in liability for their auto coverage. A case in point happened to a friend – he was struck by another driver and suffered long term injuries that chewed through the $50,000 minimum within months. As the victim, he could have sued the other driver but found it wasn’t worth the trouble as the driver had no assets. Maine’s “wrongful death” statute says you can be liable for up to $500,000. Another technique that produces a low price is to charge a higher deductible. Let’s think about auto coverage again. A deductible means you get to pay first until the deductible amount is reached and then the insurance company pays the balance up to the limit of the policy. If your quote includes a $1,000 deductible to repair your vehicle, that’s about the cost of a typical fender-bender. In that case, the insurance company wouldn’t have to pay much if anything. Finally, a consumer should think about the role of the agent. The largest companies in the country for auto insurance are known as direct writers. They sell only their own insurance products that typically can cost about the same as other insurance policies when higher limits and lower deductibles are factored. The other option is to work with an independent insurance agency like Clark Insurance that typically will represent dozens of companies that offer different features and benefits at a variety of price points. Whichever route you choose, be sure you ask good questions to ensure you get the coverage that protects you and your assets. Your decision should be based on what fits your lifestyle and protects you against the things that happen when you least expect them, not simply the lowest price. It’s a question of value versus price. Photo by free pictures of money Photos by free pictures of money,...
Insurance News / 17.02.2016

It’s a beautiful weekend and you decide to go shopping in Kittery. You’re not thinking about being under-insured while crossing Route One in a crosswalk to get – THWACK! ZOWIE! KABOOM! A distracted driver hits you. Though your journey to recovery could be long and painful, you have the comfort of knowing that the driver’s insurance will pay for your hospital and medical expenses. Well, surprise, a high percentage of drivers in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are under-insured. What do you do now? In Maine, all drivers must carry liability insurance in the event they cause bodily injury to another, to ensure medical bills get paid for the victim. The law requires minimum bodily injury limits of $50,000 each person/$100,000 each accident, or a combined single limit of$125,000. The minimum amount of insurance, however, may not be enough to cover accidents involving injuries, time lost from work, and medical expenses. Higher limits are available, but many people do not upgrade their policies. This is where Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Under insured Motorist (UIM) coverage comes in. Review your own auto policy today, and make sure you have adequate limits for uninsured / under insured motorists to protect you and your passengers from the actions of others. Given today’s cost of health care, you’ll be glad you did! UM will also cover you or the family members in your household for injuries from another car while walking or biking or while riding in another car. Below is a more thorough explanation from a consumer guide posted by the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, Maine law requires every vehicle owner or operator to carry liability insurance, uninsured motorists, and medical payments coverage. To satisfy the financial responsibility law in Maine, you must buy a minimum of $50,000 liability for the injury to or death of any one person;$100,000 liability for one accident resulting in injury to or death of more than one person; and $25,000 liability for property damage. These amounts are usually shown as $50/100/25 on your insurance policy. A combined single limit(that combines bodily injury and property damage liability) of $125,000 is also acceptable. You cannot register your vehicle without proof that you have this minimum amount of insurance. Uninsured motorist bodily injury of $50/100 or combined single limit of $100,000 and a minimum of $2,000 for medical payments coverage is also required. Keep in mind that these minimum amounts may be too low for your situation and you may want to buy more coverage. You should base your decision on what assets you need to protect from claims that may exceed the minimum amounts. As you raise your coverage, your premiums will also increase; however, the extra cost of higher coverage tends to be relatively low. Purchasing a personal umbrella policy is one way to have higher limits of liability inexpensively. An umbrella policy provides broad liability protection over and above the liability limit of your auto policy. It will also cover some exposure to losses that your auto or homeowner’s policies do not cover. Most umbrella policies require you to have at least $250,000/$500,000 or $300,000 single limit on your auto policy. The umbrella policy or endorsement generally adds an additional $1,000,000 limit. What is Liability Insurance? Most auto liability insurance policies contain three major parts: liability insurance for bodily injury liability insurance for property damage uninsured / under-insured motorists coverage Bodily injury liability insurance does not protect you or your car directly. If you cause an accident in which other people are injured, this insurance protects you against claims for damages such as their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This insurance coverage will also pay if a member of your family who lives with you was driving your car, or another person was using your car with your permission.The maximum amount that your insurance company pays for any one person injured in an accident and the amount available for multiple injured parties is determined by the amount of insurance you buy. The amounts are shown on the Declarations Page of your policy. As stated above, you must purchase a minimum limit of $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident, or a combined limit of$125,000 which includes the minimum amount required for property damage. Property damage liability insurance pays for any damage you cause to the property of others, like a crushed fender, broken glass, or a damaged wall or fence. Your insurance will pay for this damage whether you are driving your car or whether it is being driven by another person who has your permission. The minimum limit required by Maine law is$25,000. Uninsured/Under insured motorists (UM) coverage is a required coverage under Maine law. It applies when you are injured by an at-fault driver who: cannot be identified (is a hit-and-run driver) does not have the required auto liability insurance (an uninsured driver); or has liability insurance limits that are lower than your own UM limits (an under insured driver) UM covers your family members and other passengers who are injured while in your car. UM will also cover you or the family members in your household for injuries from another car while walking or biking or while riding in another car. UM does not cover the other driver’s injuries and it does not cover damage to your vehicle or other property. The purpose of UM is to provide you with the same personal injury recovery that would have been available if the at-fault driver had insurance to the same extent as you. Your policy’s UM coverage must equal its liability coverage limit unless you specifically elect a lower limit. If you want less UM coverage, your insurance company must give you a rejection form and you must sign it before</strong? the effective date of the policy. However, even if you decide you want UM coverage that is lower than your liability coverage limit, you may not have less than the minimum required amounts of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. Umbrella policies do not usually cover uninsured motorist claims. That’s why we counsel our customers to get a level of coverage that protects them from the actions of others. Even the Caped Crusader would endorse having that kind of protection. Photo by danielmoyle...
Insurance News / 16.02.2016

My doc told me I had slightly elevated cholesterol. He didn’t bother lecturing me. Instead, he told me to read a book: The China Study, a highly detailed and convincing explanation of the relationship between food and health (there’s a movie version called Forks Over Knives). Before finishing the first chapter, I was sold on changing my diet. In less than two months, I had moved my numbers dramatically – and sustainably. In doing so, I likely have reduced the drivers of disease and my health care costs. Here’s how and why. First, I’ll share my numbers. Despite being on a cholesterol-lowering medication, I had an overall cholesterol of 224. My “bad” cholesterol was 140. By changing what I ate for just two months and remaining with the same dose of medication, the 224 dropped to 156 (down 30%) and the 140 went to 83 (down 41%)! What’s considered good? WebMD considers anything below 200 to be desirable for overall cholesterol and anything above 240 is high. For “bad”cholesterol, WebMD says 130-159 is borderline high, 100-129 is ideal; below 100 is ideal for those at risk of heart disease; and below 70 is ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease. Why is low cholesterol important? The average American is about 25 pounds overweight. According to most health professionals, excess weight and disease are closely associated. Cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease also are highly correlated to diets high in animal protein, sugar and processed foods. Those diseases are high-cost conditions and high-cost conditions mean high insurance premiums and expensive medications. This is NOT rocket science. Each of us can control what we eat and if a good diet can reduce disease, it can also lower our health care costs. What I’ve been eating is delicious, less expensive and good for me; more vegetables, fruit and water; a lot less processed food; and no dairy or meat. Is it worth it? Let me share another personal story. My dad ate heavily marbled blood-red meat, heaped it with salt and relished sucking the marrow out of the bone. Eggs, cheese and desserts were highly favored over more healthy choices. He also was a smoker. I was in the eighth grade the night he had his first of four heart attacks beginning at the age of 55. Though he quit smoking, he had “the big one” ten years later, far too young to die by today’s standard of longevity. My wife and our kids never got to meet him. Selfishly speaking, ya – changing how and what we eat is worth it. You probably have similar tales of unnecessary ill-health in your family. Though the likelihood of surviving a heart attack has drastically improved in the last 20 years, the quality of the American diet has decayed and we’re going to pay a high price if we don’t change. It’s a matter of personal risk management. So, tonight, try this recipe for black bean burgers for a change – they are wicked good and good for you! You also can read what happened to local TV news anchor Jeff Peterson whose family took the plunge and the remarkable results they’ve experienced....
Insurance News / 15.02.2016

If you’re renting an apartment and the guy upstairs lets the bathtub overflow – for a couple of hours while you’re at work – who’s going to pay for the damage to the “stuff” in your apartment? Not necessarily your landlord. In fact, it’s really your problem. Worse yet, what if a fire or smoke damage forces you out of your rental? You need to think about how much “stuff” you have and what’s it worth. Could you replace that “stuff” without dipping deeply into your paycheck or savings account? Think – computer, clothing, beds, cameras, smart phones, TV, furniture, etc. What most renters don’t know or understand is that if their “stuff” is damaged or their apartment is unable to be occupied, the landlord probably doesn’t have an obligation to pay for anything. If something is stolen from an apartment or if someone gets hurt in an apartment while visiting, the landlord isn’t obligated to help out. That’s why having renter’s insurance makes a lot of sense. If there is a question as to who is responsible, it’s better to have your insurance company arguing with the landlord’s insurance company. At Clark Insurance, we also have on-staff claim managers to help you get your claims resolved. Perhaps the least known benefit of renter’s insurance is called “loss of use.” If you are forced to leave your apartment because it is uninhabitable due to a covered loss, your renter’s policy will absorb any increase in living expenses. For example,if there is a fire in your building, Loss of Use will pay for alternative accommodations while the building is restored and will pay the difference between your monthly rent and the cost of temporary housing as well as other additional expenses. And what about that couch-bouncing little tike who comes with his mom for a visit and launches his head into your glass coffee table? There’s the ambulance ride,emergency room and follow up care. The mom may feel you have a responsibility to pay for damages because of negligence. Can you pay a $1,000 or more for all those costs or will you need to hire a lawyer to defend yourself at even greater expense? Renter’s insurance covers not just your “stuff” but it also protects you for loss of use and for liability claims including attorneys costs. It also picks up the costs of lost, stolen or damaged property as well as for things in your car or while you’re in some other location. For young people, the cost of insurance may appear too high to afford but in reality, the monthly premium may only run about $10 to $20 per month. Renters may also get a multi-policy discount which could bring down the cost of auto insurance. Just for kicks, go ahead and add up the value of everything in your apartment if you had to buy it all new. Here’s a short list: Couches Chairs Tables Lamps Beds Dressers Electronic equipment Exercise equipment Linens Clothing / jackets Shoes / boots Pictures / paintings Jewelry Put a value on each of these items and you’ll see that for the cost of a cheap night out once a month, renter’s insurance is well worth the investment.Article by Kerry Peabody, CSA, CLTC Senior Account Executive...
Insurance News / 14.02.2016

At one of the Clark Insurance Breakfast Briefings in 2013, we invited a noted Maine physician to offer his analysis of the stubborn facts of U.S.health care system. While shocking, the facts suggest immense opportunity to take control of our health and the cost of health care. Dr. Daniel Landry, president of Spectrum Medical Group, provided a sobering context for understanding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). First and foremost is the magnitude of the nation’s financial challenge; persistent deficit spending and the cumulative national debt. As the title of his presentation stated, “This Time, It Really Is Different”. Currently, the total federal debt, all the money owed by the federal government (currently $19 trillion), is greater than the value of everything our nation produces and sells in an entire year. This is known as the gross domestic product (GDP). The last time that our debt exceeded our GDP was during World War II. The difference between then and now, however, is that explosive economic growth occurred in the 1940s and 50s but is unlikely to occur today or in the foreseeable future. In 2011, the federal government spent $1.3 trillion more than it received in taxes. Even if the federal government seized the net assets of all U.S. billionaires ($1.3 trillion), it would balance the budget for only one year. With the federal deficit in mind, he then described where much of our tax dollars are going. According to usgovernmentspending.com, in 2010, the federal government spent*: 21% of its budget on healthcare (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP) 20% for defense spending 20% for Social Security 6% for debt service Closer to home, 20% of Maine residents are covered by Medicare and 24% are covered by Medicaid. That’s nearly half of Maine residents relying on government spending for their health benefits at a cost of $4.3 billion. The United States is spending 17.6% of its gross domestic product on health. In the 1940s, we spent only 4.2% of GDP for health care. The kicker is that while health care spending is growing at 6.7% per year, the growth of the economy is all but flat. The U.S. is on track to spend more than 20% (one of every five dollars) on health care by 2018. Dr. Landry concluded that we cannot tax our way out of this problem. We must change how we deliver and fund health care. He also stated that the cost of U.S. health care is too expensive and of poorer quality compared to other industrialized nations. For example, if the U.S. could lower the percentage of its gross domestic product spent on health care from 17.6% to that of France (11.2% of GDP), Americans would save $1 trillion, the federal government could add $463 billion per year to pay toward the national debt andfamily health insurance premiums would drop from $14,000 per year to $8,000 per year. Can we change behaviors to improve our health and be smarter consumers? Not until there are incentives for the consumer and providers to do so. The five percent of the population responsible for more than 50% of all health care spending have chronic illnesses – cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hyper tension. These patients also often fall in the lower tiers of income and education. Change is a daunting task. So what’s the solution? Part of the proposed solution to lowering costs and raising quality are Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in which outcomes are rewarded instead of fee-for-service procedures. In a major three-year demonstration study of ten physician group practices (5,000 doctors and 220,000 patients), all ten groups met the majority of quality metrics. However, only two practices were able to meet the stated 2% savings threshold and only five met the mark after three years. Total savings by all groups was 1.9%; hardly the transformation in cost savings that is expected of a major reform. Another cost driver is end-of-life health care in which, no matter the cost, patients, spouses, children and doctors go to all lengths to prevent death with too little regard for quality of life or cost. The 6.6% of Medicare beneficiaries in their last year of life account for 23% of total Medicare expenditures. For example, in 2009, the fifth most expensive Medicare patient in the United States had a heart transplant, spent a year in the intensive care unit, had multiple operations, unrelenting pain and died ten months following the transplant. Cost: $2.1 million. Our conclusion from Dr. Landry’s analysis is that Americans must assume more financial risk through insurance plans that encourage wellness and financial gain if we are going to rid ourselves of this drag on the U.S. economy.Health savings accounts (HSAs) are one way in which individuals can save on insurance premiums and keep more of their weekly paycheck. In addition, we have to engage in difficult conversations about life, death and health lest we dig a personal and governmental hole that, one day, will be too deep to climb out of. Photo by 401(K) 2013...




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