Open Enrollment for Affordable Care Act Coming Soon

Each year, open enrollment allows new enrollment in the  Affordable Care Act (ACA). This period also gives those already enrolled a chance to review their coverage, change deductibles, and fine-tune their ACA plans.

For example, according to CNN, the average deductible for a Bronze plan is about $5,900, with an average out-of-pocket limit of a little under $7,000. Upgrading to a Gold, Silver, or Platinum plan will cost more per month; however, this could allow you to lower your out-of-pocket costs. How? A Bronze plan covers about 70 percent of your medical costs per year while a Platinum plan covers about 90 percent of your yearly health care costs.

Our no-obligation consultation about your 2020 ACA coverage can help you determine if you should stick with your current plan or consider upgrading to save on annual health care costs.

We do get busy during open enrollment, so do not hesitate to call us now. We can discuss your options and help you determine if you want to make the switch when open enrollment begins November 1, 2019. If you miss the last day of open enrollment (December 15, 2019), you will not be able to enroll for 2020 unless you qualify for coverage due to a special life event, like losing your group insurance.

Do not wait until the last minute to discuss your ACA options with us. Plans sold during the 2019 open enrollment period go into effect on January 1, 2020. If you had coverage under the ACA in 2019, your re-enrollment is automatic. However, your plan’s cost may increase, or you may find that you have different medical needs and would like to switch plans.

Don’t struggle alone with the online options when professional help is available. Contact us today.

Gone Phishing: Don’t Take the Bait

The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report indicates that one third of cyberattacks involve phishing traps. These scams involve imitating a reputable source to induce staff to reveal sensitive information. As companies increase awareness of these cons, cyber criminals increase their efforts, making tactics more sophisticated.

How can you protect your company?

First, educate yourself and staff about current phishing techniques. Cybercriminals often use links embedded in emails to direct employees to unsecure sites. A second common method is to spoof a sender email address and request secure data. Scammers may also impersonate a known IT department or vendor and ask for sensitive information over the phone. Recently, phishing tactics have expanded to texting, which can be particularly effective, since staff may be more distracted and less vigilant when it comes to these informal interactions.

In addition to education, protect your business from phishing methods by using appropriate security software and remaining current on all updates. Use spam filters and web filters to block malicious content. Develop solid security protocols for password protection and encrypt all sensitive business data. Don’t forget to require encryption for telecommuters, too.

Even with the best measures in place, you may be susceptible to attacks. To fully protect your business, establish appropriate insurance coverage. Cyber insurance policies offer protection for these situations. If you suffer a data breach, data loss, business interruption, or other expenses due to cybercrime, insurance is essential for covering the resulting costs.

Contact our office to find out more about available coverage for your company.

Technology Insurance vs. Cybersecurity Coverage

In today’s business world, most companies are dependent on technology for some or all of their company’s operations. While this makes many new processes and services possible, it also leaves businesses vulnerable to a new realm of risk.

Cyber crimes, computer crashes, and software malfunctions are just a few of the technological risks that modern companies now face. Since technological incidents can cost a business anything from a few minutes of inconvenience to millions of dollars, it’s essential for companies to have appropriate insurance coverage.

Enter technology insurance and cyber insurance.

These two types of policies provide the protection businesses need to recover from technological disasters. Not only is their coverage important, but businesses need to know that these policies are not one in the same. They apply to different circumstances, and a company might need one policy or the other, or both. Here’s the scoop.

Technology Insurance

Technology Errors & Omissions (E&O) policies cover companies that provide technology services (such as data storage) and technology products (such as computer software). The terms of the policy are designed to provide protection for loss and liability. Such losses might be related to liability for media content, damages due to security breaches, or losses due to business interruption. It can also cover extortion threats and crisis management expenses. Technology insurance also typically pays for groundless liability claims and all associated investigations.

Cyber Insurance

While Tech E&O policies are designed to protect technology providers, cyber insurance is intended to protect technology consumers (the company’s customers). It covers situations in which customers’ identities, credit cards, health records, or other sensitive information is compromised. The policy pays for any damages incurred.

Overlap

Cyber insurance policies and technology insurance do have some overlap. Either policy may provide coverage if a business experiences a loss related to technology. Since many situations impact both the technology provider and the consumer, this overlap is inevitable. However, the specifics of each policy’s terms will determine which situations are covered and which are not included.

Who Needs Coverage?

Since most businesses rely on technology for at least a portion of their operations, some form of coverage is recommended for a majority of companies. Those that serve customers and store sensitive customer information should strongly consider a cyber insurance policy.

For high-tech and internet-based businesses, technology business insurance is recommended. Such companies would include IT businesses, website developers, internet service providers, and programmers. Additionally, those who rely heavily on technology solutions as part of their operations (intranet communications, customer e-mails, database management) may also want to add this coverage.

Does your business fall into any of these categories? Are you properly protected with insurance for the tech side of your operations?

If you’re not sure which policy would be right for you or are unsure about your current coverage, contact our office. I’d be happy to review your current policies and coverage options to make sure you are prepared for any technological incidents that may come your way.

How Telematics Is Transforming Insurance

Technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, and insurance is no exception. Insurance carriers are tapping into automotive telematics to guide insurance premiums.

What is telematics? This is a form of communications technology that can be used for monitoring a vehicle to determine driving behaviors. Using a combination of GPS, Bluetooth, and mobile devices, insurance companies can review customers’ driving habits and reward safe behaviors with reduced premiums.

For example, a telematic device can monitor the times of day drivers are on the road, their mileage, and sudden changes in speed (which indicate rapid accelerations or hard braking).

Insurance companies can use this data to predict driving habits and generate a reasonable premium based on these behaviors. Drivers are typically required to have the device in their vehicle for a set period of time before a premium is established. The premium may also fluctuate as driving changes. As vehicle operators drive more safely, the premium lowers.

Of course, if drivers have poor driving habits, this can cost the policyholder. If the telematics data shows risky behaviors, the premium could go up! However, the knowledge that they are being monitored and the incentive of monetary savings may actually help drivers develop better habits on the road.

Do your operations rely on any commercial vehicles? These safe-driving programs are a growing trend and could provide significant savings on your premiums. To find out more about telematics and how it can help you save money, contact our office.

Boat Insurance Basics You Need to Know

A spin around the lake or a cruise down the river can be a great way to spend an August afternoon. Just make sure you have the necessary coverage to protect your boat (and your wallet).

The type and amount of boat insurance you need depend on the kind of vessel you own and how you use it. Simple craft such as kayaks, smaller sailboats, and small powerboats may be covered by your homeowners policy. Larger, more powerful vessels such as yachts and Jet Skis require separate coverage.

A boat insurance policy typically covers damage to the boat itself, theft, and general liability. Additional coverage, including protection for trailers and boating accessories, may also be available. 

These insurance policies typically offer one of two types of coverage: actual cash value or agreed amount value. Actual cash value pays for the cost of replacement minus the depreciation of the boat. Agreed amount value policies pay the total that you and your insurer have agreed upon as the value of the vessel. Under this coverage, old items are replaced with new without subtracting depreciation.

As a boat owner, you may be eligible for discounts to your insurance premiums. Common discounts include those for multiple policies with the same provider, safety equipment onboard the vessel, and crew’s completion of safety education courses. Remaining claims-free for a certain period of time may also qualify you for a discount. 

In addition to obtaining proper insurance, maintain best practices to protect your boat and its passengers. Equip your vessel with proper lighting, an emergency signal (horn, whistle, or bell), and life jackets. Stock your boat with an emergency kit that includes fresh water, a flashlight, a radio, flares, tools, and a first aid kit, and keep a fire extinguisher readily accessible. Lastly, always adhere to marine traffic laws.

Not sure if you have the coverage you need for your boat? Give us a call to review your current coverage and discuss the options available. We’ll make sure you and your vessel are well protected the next time you set sail.

Reduce Their Risk: Safety Tips for Teen Drivers

It’s time for a teen to get their driver’s license. Who is more nervous – the teenager or the parent? 

Parent anxiety during this rite of passage is understandable. According to the Insurance Information Institute, motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death among those age 15 to 20. 

Fortunately, teens and parents can take steps to improve safety on the road. If you have a teen behind the wheel, try these best practices. 

Choose a safe car: Sure, your teen will probably prefer to drive that sporty convertible, but giving a teenager the keys to a sleek, fast car will only encourage speeding and other unsafe driving habits. For a teen’s first vehicle, choose a car that is easy to drive and offers solid protection during an accident. Avoid small cars and SUVs, which are prone to rollovers.

Limit their risk: Consider following a graduated driver’s license (GDL) program. These are in place in some states, and parents can institute similar policies in areas where they aren’t required. Under these programs, teens’ driving privileges are restricted until the teen has gained experience behind the wheel. Restrictions may prohibit driving at night or with teen passengers. 

Emphasize safe habits: Talk with teens about risky driving behaviors. Explain the dangers involved with distracted driving caused by phone use, radio use, or conversations with passengers. Stress the importance of remaining focused while driving. 

Additionally, certain practices, such as enrolling teens in a safe driver program or using electronic devices to monitor their driving, may qualify you for insurance discounts. Contact our office to discuss what programs are available in your area.

Cybersecurity Glossary: What You Need to Know

According to information from Cybersecurity Ventures, cyberattacks are the fastest-growing crime in the world. Yet PricewaterhouseCoopers reports that less than half of companies are sufficiently prepared for one of these attacks. 

Is yours? 

A good first step to protect your company from cybercrime is education. Learn the language of the world of cybercrime to increase awareness. Use the following list of basic cybercrime terms to get started.

Access control: This involves permitting or prohibiting access to information or physical locations. Proper monitoring and limitation of this access is essential to maintain company security.

Cyber insurance: This coverage protects your business from damage that results from electronic threats to your operations, including liability and recovery costs.

Cybersecurity: This encompasses all policies, standards, and strategies relating to the security of company operations that occur in cyberspace.

Encryption: This is the process of converting data from basic format into one that can’t be easily interpreted by those who are unauthorized to access it.

Hacker: A hacker is someone who attempts to gain access to a system in an unauthorized manner.

Incident response: When a cyberattack occurs, the activities that occur to address its effects are referred to as an “incident response.” This involves responding to the crisis, mitigating potential threats, preserving property and information, and analyzing response activities for optimal results.

Intrusion detection: These processes analyze information from security systems to determine whether a security breach has occurred.

Keylogger: This software tracks keystrokes to monitor a user’s actions. 

Macro virus: A macro virus can replicate and spread itself by attaching to documents and using the macro capabilities of an application.

Malware: This software performs unauthorized processes that compromise the integrity of a system.

Passive attack: With these types of attacks, the perpetrator doesn’t try to alter the system but simply makes use of it to obtain information.

Phishing: This refers to attempts to deceive people into providing sensitive information.

Redundancy: These are additional systems or subsystems that are operated to maintain functionality if another system should fail.

Spoofing: This involves impersonating an email address to gain unauthorized entry to a system.

Ticket: In relation to access control, a ticket is the data that authenticates someone, as a credential for that person to gain access.

Trojan horse: This type of computer program appears to be useful, but has a hidden function that circumvents security and accesses confidential information or otherwise negatively affects the system.

Worm: This program is self-contained and self-replicating and uses networking mechanisms to spread itself.

Would you like to learn more about cybercrime, cyber insurance, and what coverage is available to protect your business from cyberattacks? Contact our office to review your current policies and determine what coverage is appropriate for your company.

Who Should Consider Contractor’s Insurance?

As a business owner, you need to have all your bases covered to protect your company. When it comes to insurance, this might mean establishing a contractor’s insurance policy. Here are the FAQs to help you determine whether this coverage is right for you.

What is contractor’s insurance? This coverage protects your business from obligations resulting from work-related incidents. If your business is threatened by lawsuits or other liabilities, contractor’s insurance can shelter you from these costs.

What is provided by contractor’s insurance? Basic business liability, worker’s compensation, and commercial automotive coverage may be included with contractor’s insurance. Typically, these policies can also be tailored to meet the unique needs of your business. You may need coverage for mobile equipment, personal property, materials that are being installed, or post-project claims.

Who needs contractor’s insurance? A wide range of professionals can benefit from contractor’s insurance. These include independent tradesmen, subcontractors, and contractors. Trades that most often need contractor’s insurance include construction, plumbing, carpentry, landscaping, painting, electrical, HVAC, masonry, and flooring.

How much does contractor’s insurance cost? Premiums for contractor’s insurance vary by policy. The type of work that you do and the risks you encounter determine the rate. It’s important to customize your coverage to match your specific business. Reach out to our office to review the needs of your business and receive a personalized quote. 

Whatever your industry, the cost of not having contractor’s insurance can easily outweigh the cost of coverage.

Why You Should Read Your Loss History Report

Did you know homes and cars have report cards? Do you know what grade your property deserves?

If you haven’t checked your report, you might want to look into it.

This statement is called a Loss History Report. It provides a record of the insurance claims and losses that are associated with a particular property or car. The report typically covers the previous seven years of claims history. The information is gathered by the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.). 

When insurers underwrite a policy, they typically refer to this report. The history helps define the risk level and determine the rates for future insurance.

As a consumer, you can check your Loss History Report to ensure accuracy for auto claims. Since errors on the report could result in higher premiums, it’s good to verify that all information is correct. You can obtain one free report per year. 

If you discover any mistakes, you can contact LexisNexis, which will look into the claim. Depending on the situation, you may be able to add an explanation to the information that will be included in future reports. 

Consumers can also make use of a Loss History Report for real estate transactions. If you are considering a home for purchase, you can request a copy from the sellers. (The owner of the property has to make the request directly to C.L.U.E.)

A review of this report will shed light on any previous damage to the house, which you can then follow up on to verify any repairs before you purchase the home.

Rented and Personal Vehicles: Are Your Risks Covered?

Are you familiar with hired and non-owned auto (HNOA) insurance? If your business involves vehicle use in any way, this coverage could be crucial for your operations. Here are the FAQs.

What is HNOA insurance?

Hired and non-owned auto insurance provides coverage if an employee uses a personal or rented vehicle for business purposes. 

If an employee in these circumstances is in an accident, the company for which they were driving could be held liable for damages. HNOA insurance covers this liability.

Who needs HNOA insurance?

Business owners may assume that if their employees don’t use company vehicles, they don’t have to worry about insurance coverage. This isn’t necessarily true. 

The employee’s personal insurance may not always cover the full liability, in which case the litigators may go after the business for which the employee was driving at the time. This makes it important for any business with exposure to this risk to maintain HNOA insurance. 

While HNOA insurance is most commonly associated with food delivery tasks, the need for HNOA goes beyond pizza and sandwich delivery. Home health care providers, consultants, contractors, and anyone else who uses their own vehicles or rented vehicles for business-related tasks or travel have HNOA exposure. 

Of course, a company with a fleet of inexperienced teens delivering dinners will have a higher risk than a small business with two professionals who attend occasional client meetings. Still, the risk is there, and it should be addressed.

What can business owners do to reduce HNOA exposure?

To reduce their risk, business owners can take several steps. First, they can conduct motor vehicle record checks on employees. This task can be completed twice a year to monitor employee driving. Second, business owners can establish guidelines for who is considered an acceptable driver. The employer can use driving experience, age, and driving records as parameters to set these guidelines. 

Modern technology allows for a third method that could be worthwhile for some businesses. This solution is telematics. Using this technology, an employer can monitor the activity of a vehicle and the driver’s performance. The data will reveal whether drivers speed, how they brake, and other information that can be helpful in determining risk. Because they are being monitored, employees may make greater effort to drive safely. Employers can also create reward programs based on telematics data to further incentivize safe driving among employees.

Is HNOA coverage provided by a standard commercial auto insurance policy?

Business owners who have a commercial auto insurance policy may or may not be covered for HNOA situations. Previously, this coverage was often a standard part of commercial auto policies, but the rising frequency and cost of litigation have forced many providers to make it a separate policy. Business owners should check with their carriers to see what coverage is included and what is available.

What’s the next step?

If you’re unsure about your HNOA exposure and insurance needs, contact our office. We can provide a quick review of your policies and risks and make sure you have appropriate coverage.