In Need of a Stellar Medicare FMO?

Whether you are an established agency on the hunt for a fresh growth ally, a newcomer to the realm of health insurance, or an experienced independent agent, locating an outstanding Medicare FMO can be a lengthy process, and deservedly so. An efficient FMO is key to unlocking access to insurance carriers that align with your growth objectives, ultimately aiding the expansion of your insurance agency.

Selecting an FMO is crucial—approach with caution!

Here’s how this article will guide you:

  1. Gain insight into what an FMO embodies, its functions within your agency, and the expectations to set when selecting one, covering the positives, negatives, and intricacies.
  2. Clarify the organizational structures—it’s not as captivating as presumed.

Deciphering Medicare FMO

“FMO” stands for Field Marketing Organization. These entities simplify and provide staffing for sales distribution teams operating in the senior market.

Insurance carriers define FMOs and grant top contract levels to select organizations that excel in their field.

Certified Medicare FMOs must operate in favor of the insurance carriers they represent, providing support to independent insurance agents nationwide, thereby boosting sales production.

Finding an FMO that’s the right fit can be a challenge, with agencies often going through several options before landing the right one. The FMOs listed below have been reviewed and worked with extensively, showcasing a consistent record of high performance and reliable support for agencies dealing in Medicare and health insurance.

If you’re a General Agency (GA) or Managing General Agency (MGA) considering a change in your Medicare FMO, or an independent agent taking your first steps, these FMO suggestions warrant consideration.

Medicare FMO FAQs

Let’s address common queries to shed light and provide clarity on issues that often perplex agency owners in the insurance business.

What Role Does an FMO Play?

An FMO should act as a pillar of support and growth for your agency, laying a solid foundation that enables smooth business operations and focus on growth strategies. Key attributes to look for in an insurance FMO include:

  • Diverse Insurance Products: An FMO facilitates your contracting process to sell various Medicare plans and other related products, with a robust portfolio that might encompass Medicare supplement insurance, Medicare advantage plans, prescription drug plans, life insurance, and ancillary products like final expense life insurance, hospital indemnity, and dental plans, available both regionally and nationally.
  • Top Medicare Commissions: While every group will claim to offer top commissions, it’s crucial to understand and scrutinize these claims during your decision-making process.
  • Complimentary Quoting Tools: Reliable FMOs should have free quoting tools readily available.
  • Enrollment Assistance: Online enrollment tools are vital in keeping pace with the insurance sector’s technological evolution and streamlining business and growth processes.
  • Marketing Material Access: Instant access to marketing materials, support for sales strategies in various environments, and brandable materials for your agency are essential.
  • Lead Generation Programs: Expect proactive approaches to lead programs in the market.
  • Training Opportunities: Weekly training webinars are crucial for staying informed about the ever-changing Medicare landscape.
  • Financial Aid: Expect financial support for annual marketing costs and other growth initiatives such as AEP.
  • Open Release Programs: Understand your commitments with clear and defined release policies from your FMO.
  • Compliance Assistance: Compliance in the Medicare market is critical! Rapid and compliant processes are vital for maintaining a focus on sales.

Understanding FMO Hierarchy

The term “FMO” is often positioned at the top of the commission hierarchy by insurance companies. However, the nuances of these hierarchical structures need clarification, as there are variations and different levels of contracts with different carriers. It’s essential for agency owners to manage their expectations during the onboarding or transition phases. Awareness of these nuances prevents confusion and ensures a smoother collaboration with your chosen FMO.

How Are FMOs Compensated?

FMOs receive override commissions on all products sold by agents utilizing their services, including life insurance, annuities, and supplemental benefits. The growth of your Medicare sales portfolio consequently increases the commissions earned by your FMO, directly reflecting their capability in providing exceptional agent support leading to sales volume increase.

What Distinguishes IMOs from FMOs?

“IMO” stands for Independent Marketing Organization, serving the same function as an FMO but often at different compensation levels. The terms IMO and FMO, along with NMO (National Marketing Organization), are often used interchangeably within the insurance industry as they represent top-tier wholesale level contracts.

As seniors embark on their retirement years, managing finances becomes crucial. By employing savvy strategies, seniors can stretch their budget and live comfortably. This article explores various techniques that seniors can adopt to save money without compromising on their quality of life.

Budgeting and Tracking Expenses

One effective way for seniors to take control of their finances is by creating a budget and meticulously tracking their income and expenses. Budgeting allows seniors to gain insights into their spending patterns and identify areas where they can cut costs and save money. By closely monitoring their finances, seniors can make informed decisions and ensure their financial well-being.

Cooking Nutritious Meals at Home

Preparing meals at home not only proves to be cost-effective but also enables seniors to enjoy healthier and more nutritious food. By cooking their meals, seniors can avoid the expenses associated with dining out at restaurants. Additionally, home-cooked meals allow them to have greater control over ingredients, ensuring that their dietary needs are met while saving money.

Utilizing Senior Discounts

Seniors can take advantage of the numerous special discounts offered by businesses catering to their age group. Many restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues provide exclusive deals and promotions for seniors. By leveraging these discounts, seniors can enjoy significant savings on their purchases and recreational activities.

Downsizing and Decluttering

Downsizing living arrangements and decluttering homes can significantly reduce expenses for seniors. By moving to a smaller residence, seniors can lower their housing costs, utility bills, and maintenance expenses. Furthermore, decluttering not only creates a more organized living space but also eliminates the need for extra storage, which can be costly.

Embracing Public Transportation or Carpooling

Seniors can effectively reduce their transportation expenses by embracing alternative methods such as public transportation or carpooling. Utilizing buses, trains, or rideshare services instead of relying solely on personal vehicles can save seniors money on fuel, maintenance, and parking fees. Moreover, public transportation often provides discounted rates for seniors, further enhancing their savings.

Negotiating Bills and Services

Seniors should proactively negotiate with service providers such as cable companies, internet providers, and insurance companies to secure lower rates. By contacting these providers and expressing loyalty, seniors may be eligible for special discounts or bundled service packages. Regularly reviewing bills and seeking better deals can lead to substantial savings over time.

Shopping Smart and Utilizing Coupons

Seniors can adopt a smart shopping approach by actively seeking sales, discounts, and coupons. Whether shopping for groceries, clothing, or other necessities, comparing prices and looking for promotional offers can result in significant savings. By staying informed about ongoing sales and utilizing coupons, seniors can make their money go further without compromising on quality.

Utilizing Community Resources

Communities often provide valuable resources for seniors, including free or low-cost activities, classes, and entertainment options. Community centers, libraries, and local events can offer opportunities for seniors to engage in enjoyable and enriching experiences without incurring significant expenses. Taking advantage of these resources fosters a sense of community while maximizing financial savings.

Adopting Energy-Efficient Habits

Seniors can take steps to reduce their utility bills by adopting energy-efficient habits. Simple actions like turning off lights when not in use, using energy-efficient appliances, and properly insulating their homes can result in long-term savings. By being mindful of their energy consumption, seniors can contribute to a greener environment while also reducing their monthly expenses.

Considering Lab-Grown Diamonds for Jewelry

For seniors who appreciate the beauty of diamonds, lab-grown diamonds present an affordable alternative to naturally mined ones. These diamonds possess the same physical and chemical properties as their counterparts but are created in a controlled environment. Opting for lab-grown diamonds allows seniors to enjoy exquisite jewelry at a lower cost without compromising on quality or style. By exploring this option, seniors can indulge in their love for jewelry while staying within their budget.

Remember, embracing a frugal lifestyle doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or enjoyment. By implementing these strategies, seniors can lead fulfilling lives while making smart financial choices. With careful budgeting, resourcefulness, and a proactive mindset, seniors can enjoy financial security and peace of mind throughout their retirement years.

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Writing a sympathy card for a loved one or friend’s funeral is never easy.

When someone you know passes away, even if you know it is coming, you and many people around you will be confronted with a swirling mix of complex and intense emotions.  Some people will be stoic.  Others will be inconsolable.

Depending on who the person was and the role they played in your life, you will either find it natural and easy to be supportive to others more in need, or you will struggle with your own feelings as you try to turn your own emotions into those that can provide comfort to others who may need it more.

What is a sympathy card?

Sympathy card is a form of communication such as a note, email, or hand written card sent to provide comfort to a friend, colleague or loved one during a time of despair.

The basics of sympathy card etiquette

Despite the rapidly changing norms of society, one thing that has not changed is the role of a sympathy card as part of the grieving process.  A condolence card plays a small but important role in helping people heal from their loss.

You may be working through your own intense feelings, and depending on your personality, it may be difficult to express those feelings to others.  But as difficult as it may be, sending an appropriate sympathy card, along with well-chosen words can have a healing effect, not only for the recipient, but for you as well.

If you’re feeling awkward and don’t know what to say, what follows will help you.  However, here’s the single most important thing to remember about sympathy cards…

it is the actual act of sending a condolence card and demonstrating that you care and embrace your happy memories that will trump most anything you can write as part of a message inside the card.

When in doubt, when you think you can’t find the right words, make the effort anyway.  Along with the guidance you’ll find here, your thoughtfulness will be well received every time.  You do not want to be that person who will be notable by having not sent a card.

Here are some basic guidelines to consider:

  • A sympathy card is not a Facebook post. It is not a text.  It is not an e-card, greeting card, a voicemail, or a message passed on by a mutual friend or family member.
  • A sympathy card is a well-established, traditional piece of correspondence sent by mail or hand delivered to those who are the closest to the grieving person, close friend, or loved one who passed away.
  • A good sympathy card starts with you choosing the right sympathy card. Do not grab the first one you see.  Take time to read several.  There are large sections devoted to sympathy cards at stationery stores, book stores, department stores, grocery stores, online and at other outlets.  The amount of thought you put into a card can have a direct effect on how well it is received.  When in doubt, always err to the side of caution when it comes to pre-printed messages.  The right card is out there and you will find it with a little bit of work on your part. Let your heart and your emotions be your guide.
  • When adding your message to a card, make it personalized, and make it handwritten to ensure your heartfelt condolences are clearly communicated. It does not matter if you think you have sloppy handwriting.  What matters is the personal touch, and that can’t be conveyed if your note is typed and inserted in the card.  Believe it or not, any flaws or imperfections will actually add to the sweetness of your message.
  • As far as the actual content of the message goes, whatever you write, as long as it is appropriate, will be well received. It does not have to be perfect.  The reality is that the person or family you are sending it to will be in the midst of a grieving process, and unless your words are particularly touching, insightful or personal, they will become a part of a larger healing process and outpouring of sympathy and love.
  • When in doubt, keep it short. The less words you write, the more impact each one will have.  People grieve in different ways.  Some people internalize more than others.  Conversely, in your effort to “let it all out” be careful that this is not the place you do it.  You will have other opportunities later on.  Right now, stay focused on the overall goal, which is to grieve and help your friend or family member start the healing process.

What is a good sympathy message?

Sympathy messages are sent to all kinds of people you have a relationship with and under all kinds of circumstances.  Following area a few suggestions on what to say:

  • Acknowledge the loss and express sympathy. “We were saddened to hear about Bill’s passing.  We know what a terrible loss this must be for you and your family and please know we’re thinking of you and extending our deepest sympathy.”
  • Share a memory or mention a special quality that the departed person had. “Bill could always light up a room with his smile and quick wit.”
  • Offer help or assistance if you are in a position to do so and want to extend it. “If there is anything we can do to help you through this difficult time, please let us know.”
  • Close your sympathy message with a sympathetic and sincere phrase. “With deepest condolences on Bill’s passing,”

How should I word condolence messages?

What you say in a sympathy card will vary greatly depending on the relationship you had with the person who passed away, and more important, what kind of relationship you have with remaining family members.  Your sympathy card for the passing of an elderly relative who died of natural causes will be quite different than if the child of a close neighbor passes away unexpectedly.

Tailor your message to the situation so it accurately portrays your heartfelt sympathy.  Here are some of the more common situations you will encounter where a sympathy card would be appropriate, along with a few suggestions on what you might say:

Sympathy card messages for the loss of a mother?

  • “The passing of the one who first introduced us to this planet and who loved us along its paths is never easy. Know that you are not alone in this difficult time as you celebrate the amazing life of one very amazing person.”
  • “Your mother was a beautiful woman in many ways. I look back fondly at all the times we shared. She was always such a pleasure to be around.  I will remember her always with love and affection.  I love you and am truly sorry for your loss.”
  • “I am truly sorry for your loss. Your mother was an amazing woman who touched many lives in many ways.  She will be missed by all of us.  My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a father?

  • “Your father was a kind and generous man. I have so many memories of him that I will always cherish.  His strength and honesty were admirable throughout his life.  He will be missed.”
  • “Your father provided a quiet and inspirational guiding hand for many years and for many people throughout his life. I am saddened at his passing, but I will continue to draw strength from his life lessons for many years to come.”
  • “Your father was amazing in many ways. He worked hard, led by example and provided a strong and stable home life for many years.  Let your memories provide you with the comfort you need to get you through this difficult time.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a wife?

  • “No words can adequately express what you must be feeling with the passing of the love of your life. I know you will have special memories of (name) that will live inside of you for the rest of your days.  Please accept my profound condolences…”
  • “I was heartbroken to learn of (name) passing. I know she was the light of your life and a kind and gentle soul to all who had the pleasure of knowing her.  My sincere sympathies on your loss.”
  • It is impossible to know the depths of your loss and the profound sadness you are going through with the loss of (name). She was loved by so many people in life, and she will live on in many people’s memories for years to come.  May she rest in peace.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a husband?

  • “I was truly sorry to hear of (name) passing. He was a kind and gentle man who was not only a good husband, but a good friend, a good father and so much more to the many people he touched in his life.  May your cherished memories of him last forever.”
  • (Name) was not only a good husband, he was one of the kindest and closest friends I ever had. He set an example on how to treat others, was one of the finest people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.  I am truly sorry for your loss.”
  • “Few things are more blessed in this life than the close bond between a husband and wife. (Name’s) loss is a time of great sadness for you.  We share your grief and we are ready to support you with love in any way we can.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a child?

  • “I cannot even begin to imagine the profound grief you are going through at this time. (Name) was a beautiful person in many ways. He/she touched so many lives with love during his/her short time in this world.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do to ease your pain.”
  • “No words can fully capture the full sense of grief that you must be feeling at this difficult time. Nothing ever fully prepares us for the loss of one of our children.  Know that you are not alone and that we are all mourning (name) loss.”
  • “A child born into this world is a gift to a mother, a father, and all those who come to know him or her. When that child leaves this earth all too soon, we are left with the deepest of all forms of grief.  We are completely heartbroken over (name) passing.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a baby?

  • “We share your profound pain over the passing of baby (name). His/her life was all too brief, yet he/she touched so many of us.  Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you through this difficult time.”
  • “It is especially heartbreaking when the smallest of God’s creatures leaves this earth before their time. Please accept our deepest condolences.”
  • “Although (name) was only with us for the briefest of times, his/her memories will last a lifetime in our hearts. With profound sympathy.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a sister?

  • “My sister was a beautiful soul who touched many lives and who took no greater joy than taking care of her husband and her children. I’m at a complete loss for words and join you in profound grief as we mourn her loss together.”
  • “(Name) was not only my sister, she was a loving inspiration to everyone who met her. I am just as sad as you are at her passing.  I’ll miss her forever…”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a brother?

  • “(Name) was a brother who I could always look up to, in good times and in bad. He loved his family, was proud of his children, and was one of the finest husbands I’ve ever seen.  I’m crushed at his loss.  We’ll find a way to get through this together.”
  • “There’s always one brother who is so full of life that it infects everyone he meets in the best of ways. (Name) was that brother and his passing leaves a huge void not only in my life, but in the lives of his wife and children. I’ll miss him every single day for the rest of my life.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a coworker?

  • “It was truly an honor and a pleasure to work with (name) each day. He added so much to our lives with his upbeat outlook on life and the warmth he brought to our office.”
  • “(Name) was a valued member of our work family and we are saddened by his passing. Please accept our profound condolences during your time of loss.”
  • “(Name) added so much to our company with his quick wit, constant smile, and love of his job. We join you in sorrow as you work through this difficult time.”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a boss?

  • “(Name) was more than just a boss, he taught us many things and managed us with a fair and steady hand. We will miss his leadership and his friendship.  With sympathy…”
  • “Please accept our sincere condolences on (name) passing. He was an important part of our work lives and was a strong and guiding positive influence on everyone who worked for him.”

How to write a sympathy card to a friend?

  • “(Name) was one of my best friends and we shared so many good times together. He/she was like a brother/sister to me in many ways and, like you, I am heartbroken over his/her passing.”
  • “(Name) was a special person in my life. We celebrated a friendship on many levels and he was a trusted person in my life until the very end.  I am so sorry for your loss.  We will all miss him.”

What to write in a sympathy card for terminal cancer?

  • “Please accept my humble condolences on the loss of (name). I hope you can take comfort that after his/her long illness he/she is finally at peace and no longer suffering.  He/she was a beautiful person in life and I will carry his/her memory with me always.”
  • “I was so sorry to hear that (name) had passed after a tough battle with (condition). I share your grief and hope that your many fond memories will sustain you during this time of pain and loss.”

The loss of a member of the military

  • “We were truly saddened to hear about (name) passing in the service of his country. I know you are in pain, but hope that you take heart in knowing that he gave his life for a cause that he believed in.  We join many others in saying thank you as we pray for him and your family.”
  • “Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this time of loss. (Name) gave his life with honor to protect the lives of others and while his passing is tragic, take solace in knowing that his cause was just and his actions were noble.  God bless…”

What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a pet?

  • “I was sorry to hear that (name) had passed away. I know (name) was an important part of your family for many years, and that he/she brought so much joy to your lives.  One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the love and affection of a furry friend.  My condolences on your loss.”
  • “I know that (name) was more than just the family (dog/cat). He/she was a beloved member of your family for so many years and I know you are saddened by his/her passing.  I hope you celebrate the fond memories and how much he/she added to all your lives as you mourn his/her passing.”
  • “I know how close you were to (name) and so I was sorry to hear that he/she passed on after many beautiful years of companionship with you and your family. Please accept my condolences on the loss of such an important member of your family.”

When the card will be delivered with flowers at a funeral

  • “Our loving thoughts embrace you during this time of profound loss…”
  • “May these flowers serve as the words we are not fully able to speak over your loss…”
  • “With love and sympathy…”
  • “Our hearts are filled with sorrow over your loss…”

When Bible verses may be appropriate

 In many cases, people find comfort through passages found in the Bible.  If you know the family were actively involved in practicing their faith, or if you are actively involved in the church, then you might want to include one of the following verses in your sympathy card:

  • “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” Proverbs 10:7
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
  • “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:2
  • “From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2
  • “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalm 94:19
  • “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” Isaiah 43:2
  • “O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.” Psalm 10:17
  • “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
  • “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25, 26
  • “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
  • “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
  • “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
  • “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2
  • “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6
  • “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Corinthians 1:3–4

How should I sign a sympathy card?

Now more than ever, the phrase “with love” is exactly what mourners will want and need to hear.  If this phrase is not appropriate for your situation (perhaps when a coworker dies), then any of these, or versions of these, are suitable alternative closings.

Can I sign a sympathy card “with love”?

Absolutely.  It’s common to use with love as the signature for a sympathy card, but you can also choose any of the following ways to sign a sympathy card:

  • With sympathy
  • With sincere sympathy
  • With prayers and sympathy
  • May God bless and comfort you
  • God bless
  • With sincere condolences
  • Keeping you in my prayers
  • Please accept my sincere condolences
  • Sharing your sadness during this difficult time
  • With loving thoughts and prayers
  • Praying for you and your family
  • My thoughts and prayers are with you
  • With caring thoughts

When should I send a sympathy card after a death?

There is no hard and fast rule for when you should send a sympathy card.  Generally, within a week after the person passes is most appropriate.  However, if the person was a more distant relation, you may not be immediately aware that they passed away.  In cases such as those, send a sympathy card as soon as you become aware of the passing.

Healing takes a long time, and when you reach out, whether it is two days after the fact or two months after the fact, your thoughtfulness will always be appreciated.

What is the etiquette for a thank you note to a sympathy card I received?

After a loved one passes away you will be overwhelmed by so many life changes. Replying to a sympathy card, while important, will not be your biggest priority.

You will want to take some time to grieve and collect yourself as you move to a new phase of your life.  You may not also feel like responding to well-wishers immediately either.  All of that will be understandable.

In some cases, you may never feel like responding.  That’s okay too.  Take your time to mourn.  You’ll know when the time is right to get back to people who have supported you.

What do I say in a thank you note to a sympathy card?

Much like the sympathy card itself, the simple act of sending a thank-you note will carry great impact on those who receive them.  Be sure to thank people for their support and let them know how you are getting along.  It’s okay to be honest and let people know you are hurting.  If you are up to it, you can use the card as a chance to stay connected, perhaps mentioning that you would like to see that person in the near future.

Other ways to express sympathy

If you want to go beyond a sympathy card, there are some things you can do to further pay tribute to the departed person.  You might consider one or more of the following:

  • Send flowers. Common and obvious, but always appreciated.
  • Plant a memorial tree or garden. Living memorials can be small and simple or larger and more elaborate, based on what you want to do, how much you want to spend, and how much space is available.
  • Donate to the deceased person’s favorite charity.
  • Donate to the deceased person’s place of worship.
  • Donate to the organization that is most active in the fight against what they passed away from (i.e. The Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society, et al)

What not to write in a sympathy card

Although sending a sympathy card is the most important part of the process, you can undo a good portion of that goodwill if you say the wrong things in your message.  Here are some things you will want to avoid:

  • Even if a person passes from a terminal condition, stay far away from the phrase “it’s for the best”. Although you may feel that way, the deceased loved ones may not, especially not initially.
  • Also stay away from “I/we know how you feel”. You may think you do, but because everyone processes grief differently, chances are you do not know how they feel, and saying so could only anger or annoy them.
  • Do not use “they lived a full life” because if they did, their family will have wanted them to live even more of one.
  • Stay away from comparing a loss of your loved one to their loss. It could be construed that you are focusing on yourself and not them at a time when they need support the most.
  • Stay away from specific details. If a person died in an accident, at best be vague using the words “unexpectedly” or “sudden”.  The less focus placed on details, the better early on.
  • Don’t assign blame by saying “this happened for a reason”. That will most assuredly add to the amount of upset.
  • Also avoid the painful reminder of a person’s untimely death by using the phrase “he/she was so young”.

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

There is a sinking feeling that is unique to when your lock yourself out of car, it won’t turn over, or you run out of gas.  Logic tells you that these are fixable problems, but there is still a nagging little voice in your head that usually triggers varying degrees of panic, frustration and concern over what it may cost you.

It’s the unexpected bumps in the road that will drive you crazy if you let them.

While you don’t have control over some parts of your life, when you and your car get stranded, you can minimize the impacts and the costs by having roadside assistance insurance in place.

We’ve compiled this guide to provide you a comprehensive resource to understand roadside assistance and how it works.  You’ll find the following:

  1. What is roadside assistance?
  2. What does it cover?
  3. How does roadside assistance work?
  4. Where can I use it?
  5. Are there state restrictions?
  6. Who sells roadside assistance?
  7. Best companies for roadside assistance?
  8. How much does it cost?

Time to dive in to the details!

What is roadside assistance?

Roadside service insurance is a policy that protects you from the unexpected issues that can often arise when driving.

What does roadside assistance cover?

It covers you for a broad range of issues, whether your car suffers minor problems that can be fixed at the site of your problem or whether you need 24-hour roadside assistance to a nearby facility if something major occurs at an inconvenient time.

Minor problems may include running out of gas, flat tire change, fuel delivery, battery jumpstart or lockout service when you have locked your keys inside. These can all be handled onsite and you should be on your way in short order.

For major problems, roadside service can be a life saver. Maybe you’re stranded due to a broken hose that left some important engine fluid puddled on the road, or a dead alternator, clogged carburetor, or some other kind of mechanical or electrical failure, you will need to avail yourself of the towing privileges that roadside assistance provides.

Depending on your coverage, your car will either be towed to a repair center up to a limited number of miles as provided by your policy, or you may have to pay extra to have your car towed to a provider outside of the coverage area.

At other times, your car may become stuck in mud, sand or snow and require an extrication or winching service to remove the vehicle and get you back on the road again.

Depending on what type of coverage you choose and where you purchase coverage from, you may be able to get no-cost or low-cost coverage.  In other cases, you can purchase premium coverage, but it will be much more expensive.

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How does roadside assistance insurance work? How do I use it?

Before you actually need assistance, the first thing you should do after you buy a roadside service plan is to make sure you and every member in your family enter your policy’s emergency assistance number into your phone, or make sure to carry a copy of the number in your wallet.  You will be under a bit of stress when an actual breakdown happens, and you will want to make it as easy as possible to find that all important number.

If and when you need to call roadside assistance, you may find yourself in the middle of a dangerous situation due to traffic or because you are not in a familiar area.

To minimize the danger, the first thing you should do if you notice the car is not acting right is to pull over to a safe spot, out of the flow of traffic.  If it is after dark, try to make it to a well-lit area.  Also, try to find a place where other people are present, such as a shopping center, restaurant, or a gas station.

If you can’t make it to the side of the road or are stuck in the middle of traffic, stay in your vehicle and turn on you emergency flashing lights.  Traffic will pile up and you’ll likely hear more than a few honks, but you are much safer in the car than trying to cross the road.

As soon as your car becomes undriveable, you should call your roadside assistance toll free number to start a dispatch unit immediately.  Many times, a dispatcher will be able to tell you the estimated time of arrival of your help.  They will also take your phone number and give it to the dispatched unit who may use it to call you when they are close.  If you’re in a dangerous location consider calling your nearest police department or 911.

The only time you should get out of your car is if you see smoke coming from under the hood.  If you are handy with repair tools and want to try and fix a flat on your own, make sure you do not work on the side of the car that is exposed to traffic.  Even if you know how, it is better to wait rather than put yourself in a high-danger situation.

As a way of alerting traffic, you might also consider popping your hood, which is the universal sign of a car in distress.

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Where can I use roadside assistance?

On the side of the road 😉 Just joking!

In most all cases you can use roadside assistance plans throughout the United States and Canada.  However, you may not have coverage in Mexico or in other countries with a few exceptions.  You should always check your roadside assistance policy before traveling anywhere.

Some roadside assistance policies have reciprocal agreements that provide coverage in other countries.  If this is an issue for you, it is best to check with your roadside assistance provider to see if the plan you’re considering will reimburse you or provide service outside of where it normally operates.

Does roadside assistance only cover you in certain states?

In a few places in the United States, there are restricted roads where no roadside assistance vehicles may travel.  In those instances, you will need to call 911 if you have a breakdown or need a tow, and hope for the best.

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How much does roadside assistance insurance cost?

Like every other service and product, it pays to shop for roadside assistance insurance through multiple outlets.  How much you pay will be determined by several factors, such as whether you want to buy basic coverage, or add-on enhancements.  Sometimes, it is actually offered as a free benefit when you have accounts or do business with other companies.

Plans typically start at about $40 to $60 annually but can increase dramatically if you want to add on additional benefits beyond basic coverage, such as extended towing coverage.

If price is a major consideration for you, here are several possible ways for you to get free or low-cost roadside assistance insurance:

Credit card companies

It’s a little-known benefit, but some credit card companies may offer cardholders free roadside assistance.  American Express, Chase and Citi are three options among many.  The main caveat here is that there is probably going to be a cap on the amount of benefits paid out per use, and other restrictions may apply, such as a limitation on how far a vehicle may be towed. But, if you rarely need to access emergency roadside assistance services, using a credit card benefit may be the way to go.


Some new and used car companies have warranties that include roadside assistance.  It can be used for a variety of services, such as when you run out of gas or lock yourself out of your car.  Noted auto research firm has compiled a list of which manufacturers provide roadside assistance coverage which can extend out as far as 100,000 miles in some cases.

Auto Clubs

If you are a member of an auto club, you can get low-cost roadside assistance insurance in many cases.  The American Automobile Association (AAA) is the largest of all auto clubs and has three membership tiers you can purchase with annual costs ranging from less than $50 to as much as $130.

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Wireless service providers

Most major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon offer roadside assistance for minimal costs.  Check with your carrier to see if they offer this as a benefit that typically includes locksmith assistance, gas and tire changes, among other services. Below are some helpful roadside assistance numbers for you to save.

  • Verizon roadside assistance number: 877-623-7433
  • Att road assistance number: 877.263.2600

Auto insurance providers that offer roadside assistance

If you have collision and comprehensive insurance, you can probably add roadside assistance insurance to your existing plan.

Costs will vary somewhat based on the car you drive and where you live, but you might be able to add roadside assistance coverage for as little as $2 or $3 per month.

NOTE:  One of the downsides of using an insurance company’s roadside assistance program is that, in some cases, your service calls could be treated like a claim.  That could result in higher car insurance premiums.  It’s best to ask this question up front if you are considering coverage through your auto insurance provider.

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Which roadside assistance insurance in the best?

It’s impossible to say which roadside assistance insurance plan is the best because the best policy will depend on your personal set of circumstances.  Every roadside assistance plan is slightly different, and you need to take a variety of factors into consideration before deciding which roadside assistance insurance policy is the best for you.

  • If your family has more than one car and multiple drivers, then you might want to consider a full-service plan, such as those offered by AAA, AARP or the GM Motor Club.
  • If you frequently travel far from home, lean heavily toward the insurance plan that has the most generous towing allowance and trip-interruption benefits. Some policies will only provide towing coverage for as little as three miles.  Others may provide coverage for as much as 200 miles or more.  Some will only tow your car to the nearest repair facility but may offer to tow it to another place for an additional charge.
  • If you own a new or certified used car and it is the only car you own, consider going with the automaker’s service to best meet your needs. You may actually already be covered for the life of the warranty, which is usually at least three years or 36,000 miles.  Other automakers are more generous.  For example, Hyundai certified used cars are covered for 10 years from the original date the car was put in service.
  • If you or your family members shuffle among many cars, consider going with a cell-phone or credit card plan because they typically provide coverage in any car. The coverage follows the driver and not the vehicle.
  • Make sure you read all the details of the policy you are considering. Many people are surprised to find out that their policies will not cover the cost of towing due to floods, fires or other natural disasters.  It’s the last thing you want to hear when your car is floating down stream or is flooded up to the roof in an underpass because you got caught in a torrential downpour.
  • Pay attention to how often you can use the service every year. Many policies restrict the number of service calls you can make.  Once you exceed that amount, you will have to pay for the total cost of any assistance rendered.  If you have a potentially high repeat user in your home (teenagers and seniors), then you might want to look for a policy that has a generous number of calls that you can make.
  • Check to see if the coverage includes other vehicles you drive. The best information here is that it will depend on who you get coverage with.  Auto manufacturers only provide coverage for their specific cars, but other plans follow the driver.  This means you’re covered with rental cars, vehicles you borrow, or cars you are assigned through your employer for full-time personal use.
  • If you really want to do your homework, check online for complaints. If you notice a pattern of members having to wait for hours to get assistance, or vehicles that were damaged when services were provided, these and other things could be red flags alerting you to steer clear of the provider.
  • Are there sign-up or cancellation fees? Some providers may charge you for one or both.  May sure to ask before you buy.
  • How easy is it to access service? In most cases, there will be a toll-free number you can call on a card that will be provided to you with your policy.  Some providers also let you use a smartphone app to call for assistance.  The app provides your exact location using your phone’s GPS capabilities.  Higher end policies, such as OnStar which is equipped in General Motors models, allow you to call for roadside assistance while speaking with an agent at the touch of a button.

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Where can I purchase roadside assistance?

There are a lot of places you can buy roadside assistance insurance.  For convenience, we’ve gathered close to 50 of the best companies to buy roadside assistance insurance.

Whether it’s an insurance company, vehicle manufacturer, cell phone provider, or auto club, you have plenty of good options.

Which roadside assistance is best?

Companies indicated in bold are highly-rated providers that sell roadside assistance coverage.

Auto Clubs

  • AAA Roadside Assistance
  • AARP Roadside Assistance
  • Good Sam Roadside Assistance

Credit Card Companies

  • American Express Roadside Assistance

Insurance Companies

  • Allstate Roadside Assistance
  • Farmers Roadside Assistance
  • Geico Roadside Assistance
  • Liberty Mutual Roadside Assistance
  • Nationwide Roadside Assistance Coverage
  • Progressive Roadside Assistance
  • Safeco Roadside Assistance.  You should also check out the safeco roadside assistance app.
  • State Farm Roadside Assistance
  • Travelers Roadside Assistance
  • USAA Roadside Assistance

Car Manufacturers

  • Acura Roadside Assistance
  • Audi Roadside Assistance
  • BMW Roadside Assistance
  • Cadillac Roadside Assistance
  • Chevrolet Roadside Assistance
  • Chrysler Roadside Assistance
  • Dodge Roadside Assistance
  • Ford Roadside Assistance
  • GM Roadside Assistance
  • Honda Roadside Assistance
  • Hyundai Roadside Assistance
  • Infiniti Roadside Assistance
  • Jeep Roadside Assistance
  • Kia Roadside Assistance
  • Lexus Roadside Assistance
  • Mazda Roadside Assistance
  • Mercedes-Benz Roadside Assistance
  • Nissan Roadside Assistance
  • Subaru Roadside Assistance
  • Toyotacare Roadside Assistance
  • Volkswagen Roadside Assistance

Car and Truck Rental Companies

  • Enterprise Roadside Assistance
  • U-Haul Roadside Assistance

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Cell Phone Companies

  • ATT Roadside Assistance
  • Sprint Roadside Assistance
  • Verizon Roadside Assistance

Can I use roadside assistance from my home?

Yes.  Unless your policy specifically excludes it, you can call for services even if your car is disabled at your residence.

5 reasons people call roadside assistance to their home.

  1. I need to fix a flat, I wonder if my roadside assistance can patch a tire?
  2. My kids locked my keys in the car
  3. It’s cold out and my car won’t start
  4. I left my lights on and my battery died
  5. I ran out of gas in my drive way

Can I get roadside assistance for a motorcycle?

Roadside assistance is available for both recreational vehicles and motorcycles.  All services for these vehicles are pretty much the same as they are for traditional passenger vehicles.  In addition to buying coverage through normal channels, motorcycle riders who are members of the American Motorcyclist Association can also get roadside assistance coverage through that organization as well.

Can I get roadside assistance for an RV?

In addition to standard services, RV coverage may also include double extraction services, free car rentals and travel interruption coverage that could pay up to $1,500 for unexpected emergency expenses for meals, lodging, car rental, and transportation home or to your destination.

Can I get roadside assistance for a semi-truck?

Commercial truck roadside assistance is also available but expect to pay more than for a regular passenger vehicle.  One of the biggest benefits that commercial coverage offers is dispatching a mobile mechanic to reduce downtime issues for business owners and operators.  Coverage is available for trucks, trailers, buses, vans, and all manners of utility vehicles.  Towing is typically more liberal in terms of the number of miles and 50 miles per tow is fairly standard.

What about roadside assistance for rental cars?

This will depend on what kind of roadside assistance coverage you select.  In some instances, policies only cover a specific vehicle, such as new or used certified vehicle coverage.  Other policies cover the driver and not the vehicle.  For example, AAA coverage would transfer to any vehicle you drive.  When you rent a car, you may also be offered optional coverage for roadside assistance.

How should higher-use groups such as seniors or new drivers affect my decision?

Statistics show that senior citizens and new drivers are more likely to need roadside assistance services than most other groups. As such, when deciding on what kind of policy to buy when you are in one of these groups, or if you have family members in one of these groups, look for a policy that is more forgiving in terms of the number of times that services can be accessed before you reach a limit and are charged full price for towing or other related services.

If you have a driver with a disability in your family, buying roadside assistance insurance is also a wise investment.  Doing so will give you and that driver added peace of mind since they will be less equipped to react to a minor emergency in many instances.

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Other common roadside assistance questions

Can Roadside Assistance be used to fix a flat?

Absolutely. Roadside assistance statistics show that flat tires are one of the most common roadside assistance claims.

Think about it, do you want to change a flat on the side of the highway? No way!  The best thing you can do to is call your roadside assistance company to fix a flat.  They will show up with the necessary tools as well as the warning lights to make sure other drivers are aware and slow down to improve safety.

Also, sometimes we hear people as “can roadside assistance be used to patch a tire”.  Typically roadside assistance companies aren’t going to patch a tire, but they will install your spare so you can drive to a tire repair shop.  If you do not have a spare tire, your roadside assistance company will coordinate towing your car to the nearest repair shop.

Can Roadside Assistance be used unlock a car?

Yes.  Tow trucks carry an amazing tool called a “big easy”. It’s a great tool that allows the roadside assistance driver to get into your car without damaging paint or breaking windows.  A good roadside assistance service rep can often unlock a locked car in 60 seconds or less, it’s very impressive to watch!

Can Roadside Assistance be used for gas?

Based on your policy guidelines, roadside assistance insurance will cover up to a gallon or two of gas.  This is usually enough to get you to the closest gas station.  If you’re not within driving distance to a gas station, you can use your roadside assistance towing.

Can Roadside Assistance be used for towing my car?

Last but not least.

Yes, your roadside assistance insurance policy can be used for towing your car.  They will have certain restrictions on distance, so you may need to tow it to a location other than your normal service shop. If you don’t know your towing distance, you can call the number on the back of your card and your roadside assistance company will explain your towing benefits included in your policy.

Conclusion: Final Thoughts on Roadside Assistance

Although roadside assistance coverage is limited in terms of the services it provides, when you need the type of help that it affords you, it will definitely feel like money well spent.

Because there are so many options, make sure you shop around for the policy that offers the best options to suit your particular needs.  Take into account the age of your vehicle, your driving habits, who else in your family will need coverage, what kind of money you want to budget for this kind of protection, how many service calls you get per year, and other considerations that are important to you.

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According to Schwab’s 2018 Modern Wealth Index, millennials have their financial act together more than the average person might suspect.  The study revealed that 31% of millennials (defined as people born between 1981 and 1996) have determined their financial goals and have a written plan.

Before you scoff at what might appear to be such a low percentage, consider that the study also revealed that just 20 percent of generation X (born 1965-1980) and 22 percent of baby boomers (1946-1964) said they had accomplished both of those goals.

Another interesting tidbit revealed that 36% of millennials have specific savings goals compared to 25% of generation X and 17% percent of baby boomers.

Despite this encouraging news (at least for millennials), still, only about one in five millennials work with a financial planner to achieve their long-range goals.

What is a financial plan, and why do millennials need one?

As of 2017, millennials became the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, with 56 million members either working or actively looking for work.  That outpaced 53 million gen X’ers and 41 million boomers.

With this much economic impact and as a growing force in the economy, the need for millennials to take care of their hard-earned money is more important than ever before.  Many can expect significant upswings in their careers and their disposable incomes in the coming 20 to 30 years.

Many millennials are on the road to becoming more financially savvy.  They are opting to self-educate and make decisions on their own.  But as millennials grow older, the stakes are raised as their salaries grow and the time they have left in the workforce declines.

Millennials need a financial plan if for no other reason than to deal with their debt issues.  Approximately 25% are carrying more than $30,000 of debt and 11% with a staggering $100,000+ of debt.  Paying off student loans was cited by a third of survey respondents as having a significant impact on their ability to save money for the future.

Debt is also putting off other major life milestones like buying a home or getting married.

The same Schwab study also revealed that debt isn’t the only thing that’s causing millennials to delay their long-term savings goals.  It comes as no surprise that millennials are squarely focused on short-term spending on things like vacations, entertainment, and life experiences, even if it delays retirement that is still decades away.

Other research supports this.  Millennials eat out more often than other generations, and 87% say they’re willing to splurge on a nice meal, even when money is tight.

LendEdu surveyed 1,000 millennials in 2018 and found that more than 25% spend more on coffee each month than on retirement savings.  Also, about one-third spend more on clothes than on retirement, while almost half spend more on dining out than on retirement.

To change spending habits like these, pay down debt, and begin saving for the future, its essential for millennials to create a financial plan and then approach it with discipline.

The one advantage millennials have over other generations is time.  Here’s an example of how time can work in a young person’s favor.

If you’re 18 and want to build a million-dollar nest egg by the time you’re 70, investing just $71 per month at a 9 percent average annual return should do it. But, if you wait until you’re 28, it’ll take $176 per month, and if you wait until you’re 38, it’ll take $448.

While millennials have the advantage of time, the amount of changes they tend to go through in their 20s and 30s is more significant than people who are in their 40s and 50s.  Older demographics have settled into their personal and professional lives for the most part. They can concentrate more on saving for retirement, especially if their income levels have risen.

Financial planning for an older demographic is different than for a millennial.  Goals are much different.  There is more emphasis on asset allocation and protection of capital through more conservative means.  Younger people can be more aggressive in their approach, and financial planning will take on a different look for them as a result.  The discipline of spending, saving, and investing regularly is most critical at this stage, as opposed to the size of the investment.

Identifying short- and long-term financial goals

Financial planning requires establishing several long-term and short-term financial goals to get you to that big-picture goal.  You have the advantage because you’re young, but as you move through life, time can slip away quickly.  Before you know it, time becomes the enemy and not your ally.

Consider the following steps to take as you begin charting healthy long-term financial security goals for you and your family:

Stop living paycheck to paycheck.  You need a cushion, even a small one, to insulate you from the unexpected.  Trim expenses.  Don’t acquire large sums of debt.  Create a budget.  And stick to it!

Develop an emergency fund.  Most experts recommend starting with three months’ pay as a guideline.  If you can grow this to a more substantial amount for a bigger cushion, you’ll protect yourself even more from downturns.

Diversify your investments.  As you start putting money into various investments, diversify your funds to help reduce risk.  When the market drops, you may minimize your losses this way.  Also, don’t panic and sell when the market does fall.  Because you are young, you have time to recover from the drops that are inevitable from time to time.

Take care of your family. Consider term life insurance in case something happens to you.  Create an estate plan.  It doesn’t need to be complicated.  Having a will or a living trust in place can save your loved ones a lot of trouble at a time when they’ll least be able to handle it.

Keep your investments simple.  Fancy investments may produce dramatic results, but you may also lose your shirt as well.  Stick to mainstream investments, and remember to let time do the work for you.  Figure out what level of risk you’re willing to take for your lifestyle and match investments to that level of risk.

Consider the 50/30/20 rule.  As your savings grow, you can allocate money to various parts of your life while still protecting your long-term goals.  The 50/30/20 rule states that 50% of your income should go to necessities, such as your house and taxes, 30% toward discretionary items, like vacations and meals out, and 20% toward savings.

Establish a relationship with a financial planning professional. At some point, you’ll want the benefit of a professional’s advice. A significant life change, such as having a child, or getting a job with a big bump in pay, may trigger the need.  Don’t go it alone.  The stakes are too high to make errors that you may never be able to recover from.

Formulating and implementing spending and savings plans for millennials

The first thing you need to do is to build a buffer that will protect you from unexpected downturns.  That could be a major car expense, getting laid off, a health issue, or any number of unforeseen incidents.

But how do you build that buffer if you’re already stretched thin?

The simple rule is to save before you spend… pay yourself first!

Just like taxes come right off the top of your paycheck, so too should a dedicated amount for savings.  If you can, set up a direct deposit of a portion of your earnings, so you don’t even see that money.  Participate in your employer’s retirement plan, such as a 401(k).  You’ll be surprised at how quickly money can build from one year to the next when you aren’t thinking about it every day.

Spending and savings plans are the results of habits that you build.  The earlier you get into proper habits, the easier it is to protect yourself financially.  Even if it’s just $20 a paycheck, always try to stash a little something away.

The other key is to live within your means.  Credit card companies target millennials with attractive offers to get them hooked into a long-term relationship.  A little credit is a good thing.  Too much credit, used poorly, will kill you.  Stick with just a few cards with attractive terms, and pay off the entire balance each month.  If you can’t do this, you aren’t being financially honest with yourself.

As far as big-ticket items go, don’t get sucked into buying too much car or too much house early on.  If you’re responsible, make those long-term goals, not short-term goals.  Don’t become car poor or house poor for any reason.

You can make it easier on yourself if you start early, develop good habits, and allow the magic of compounding to work in your favor for as long as possible.  You might think it a bit crazy to be thinking of retirement while you’re in your 20s and 30s, but that is precisely the time to use your advantages to your favor.

Tips for paying off debt

Paying off debt is a function of discipline and time.  With so many things competing for your attention, it’s easy to lose control and run up bills that can leave you with monster financial hangovers.  The first battle you have to win is with your desires.  Understand when you delay a little gratification now, you can enjoy a lot more later, especially when your personal balance sheet is clean and in order.

If you’re at a loss at where to start, here are some commonsense ideas that may help you.

  • Don’t spend more than you have. Obvious, right?  In theory, it is, but when you’re out on the town, shopping or dining out, or taking weekend road trips or indulging in a pricy bottle of wine, you can easily run your bottom line into the red.  Credit has its place in your life, but that should be for big-ticket items, like a car, a house, or investing in your education.  As for all the small stuff, only sweat it if you buy it and can’t afford it.  Discipline starts here.
  • Build a cash buffer. It doesn’t have to be much, but at least have an emergency fund on hand for those unexpected hits that should always be expected.  Start with $500.  Build it to $1,000.  A little bit of insurance can bring you a lot of peace of mind.
  • Make at least the minimum payments on all debts every month. You’ll make a bad situation much worse if you don’t make minimums because you could do some long-term damage to your credit score.  Be diligent, and if you can afford to pay more than the minimum, then do so.
  • Start budgeting. Add up all your expenses and compare them to your income.  Track your essentials vs. your optionals.  If you can pay more toward debt each month, you’ll save money because you won’t be incurring interest charges, which can turn a $100 item into a $150 item quite easily.  Be realistic, so you’ll stick to your budget and not get frustrated when you don’t meet your goals.  Habits, even good ones, are hard to break once they’re established.
  • Choose either an avalanche or a snowball payoff strategy. That involves paying more than the minimum each month.  The avalanche method is also known as debt stacking.  After paying minimums, you aggressively focus on and pay off one loan at a time.  Focus on your high-interest debt first.  That’s what saves you the most money until you get to zero.

With the snowball method, you pay off your lowest-amount loans first before moving onto bigger loans.  Interest rates do not factor into your order of payoffs.  You will pay more money over the long-run and will be paying off the debts over more time, but you gain the satisfaction and momentum of knocking out those smaller loans upfront.

Both methods work.  It’s up to you to pick the one that’s easiest for you to live with, depending on your habits and willpower.

  • Pay debts with compound interest first. Compound interest means that the interest you are charged is added to your existing debt (i.e., credit card debt).  It builds over time, sometimes at a faster rate than you can pay it down if you only make minimum payments.  In effect, you could end up paying interest on interest.
  • Debt with simple interest (i.e., student loans) means the interest you’re charged is only calculated off the amount of money you initially borrowed or the principal.
  • Automate payoffs when possible. The less you think about it, the less likely you will be to deviate from your plan when your willpower and discipline waver.  Consider automating payments if you’re comfortable doing so.

What are the main categories of debt?

There are many forms of debt, but all fall within four main categories:  secured debt, unsecured debt, revolving debt, and mortgages.

Not all debt is created equal, so you should be familiar with the different categories and how they function.

Secured debt is backed by an asset that serves as collateral.  For example, you buy a car on credit, and the vehicle is the collateral against the loan.  A lender will supply you with the cash necessary to purchase it but also places a lien, or claim of ownership, on the vehicle’s title until the debt is paid off.

Unsecured debt does not have any collateral.  Lenders rely on good faith with your promise to pay back the loan.  A contract binds you, but the only way to reclaim money is to file suit against you if you default.  Credit cards and medical bills are typical examples of unsecured debt.

Revolving debt is an agreement that allows a consumer to borrow up to a maximum amount on a recurring basis.  Credit cards and lines of credit are good examples of revolving debt.  Revolving debt can be unsecured (i.e., a credit card) or secured (i.e., a home equity line of credit).

Mortgages are loans made to purchase homes.  The real estate is the collateral for the loan.  A mortgage typically has the lowest interest rate of any consumer loan product  Loans are normally issued at 15- or 30-year terms to keep monthly payments affordable for homeowners.

Understanding your credit score and why it’s important

Credit scores impact your finances in many ways.  Scores affect what kinds of loans we get, at what rates, whether or not we can rent an apartment or buy a house.  In some cases, they are used by employers in deciding whether to hire someone or not.

Take the time to understand your credit score.  Credit scores are often referred to as a FICO credit score.  That is because Fair, Isaac, and Company, founded in 1956, focused on credit scoring services.  Since that time, it has evolved to become a measure of credit risk for consumers and is considered a standard in the United States.

Your credit score is based on items found in your credit report.  That includes your past and present credit accounts, who you owe money to and how much, and most important if you have paid on time or not.

Your FICO score evaluates risk by dividing your credit information into five parts:

  • Payment history
  • Amounts owed
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit
  • Types of credit used

Your payment history and the amount you owe are weighted more heavily than the other three categories.  Potential new creditors are most interested in knowing whether or not you have paid other creditors on time in the past.  Also, the amounts you owe carry different levels of importance based on what kind of accounts they are.  For example, student loans and other installment loans don’t negatively impact your score like high balances on revolving accounts such as credit cards.

Overall, FICO wants to see you consistently bringing your total debt level down and maintaining a low utilization ratio.  A utilization ratio is the amount of total credit you have versus the amount of credit debt you ow.  For example, if you have $10,000 in total credit and have $3,000 of credit debt, your utilization ratio would be 30%.

The amount of weighting in each category will also vary from consumer to consumer.  For example, younger consumers who have not had credit for a long time might have credit scores that emphasize payment history more than the length of their credit history.

FICO scores typically range from 300 to 850. Generally, a score above 670 is considered a good credit score on these models, and a score above 800 is deemed to be exceptional.

Essentially, the better your credit score, the better the terms you will receive when you borrow money.  Better terms mean lower interest rates and loans that are easier to repay.  Consumers with higher credit scores will also be offered opportunities that those with lower scores won’t.  That can mean the difference between getting a home loan or not or taking out a loan to buy or grow a business.

The three major credit bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.  Each uses slightly different criteria to develop a consumer credit score, but they are generally pretty close in the end.  Many creditors report consumer credit activity to all three bureaus, which is then used to generate a credit score.

By law, you are allowed one copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus annually. You can get this at  You can also pay a fee if you want to see your credit report more frequently.  Many people spread out the free reports and request different copies every four months to check for errors that may appear.  If errors do pop up, its best to dispute these errors immediately and get them resolved, so your score doesn’t take a hit.

In recent years, free credit services such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Quizzle have started offering free web-based tools to track credit scores.  While this can give a general indication of a credit score, the caution here is they do not use official FICO scores.  As a result, they may not be as accurate and reliable.

Also, VantageScore is another credit score model that is a direct competitor to FICO.  VantageScore is more inclusive than FICO because it puts a greater emphasis on recent credit history.  That can be important for millennials who are new to the world of credit.   It is also more open to incorporating “non-traditional” data into its model, such as rent and utility payments.

Investing for millennials: Understanding different investment options

The goal of investing is to maximize your reward while simultaneously minimizing your risk.  But how to best go about this?

Some people continue to think that investing is gambling.  But just the opposite is true because you can control the amount of risk that you take.

There are more choices than ever before on where and how a millennial can invest to meet short and long-term goals.  That can be both a blessing and a curse.

Understanding different types of investment options is critical to creating optimal investing opportunities.  About one-third of millennials cite cash as their favorite long-term investment, which lags quite a bit behind other generations who are more diversified in their approach.

Money in savings accounts is safe but provides a low rate of return.  It can become stagnant and subject to rising inflation.  Conversely, stock market investments can compound over the years.  For example, large capitalization stocks returned 10% compounded annually from 1926-2018.  That creates a snowball effect on your money.

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, saving for retirement, budgeting, and establishing a financial plan remains a challenge for millennials.  Nearly half of all millennials are already concerned about their ability to retire when they choose, and two-thirds are worried about outliving their retirement savings.

To achieve more financial independence, millennials will need to do a better job of educating themselves on what options are available to them and diversify accordingly.

Millennials should start by calculating how much debt they have.  Next, they need to determine how much risk they want to undertake and then decide where their investment funds will come from.

Understanding different types of investments should be the next step.  That ongoing process should include learning about:

  • Mutual funds
  • ETFs
  • Bonds
  • Money market accounts
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Individual stocks
  • Stock options
  • Equity index funds
  • 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b) accounts
  • IRAs
  • Roth IRAs
  • Various short-term investments
  • Various long-term investments
  • Various retirement investments
  • Company match funds

Why millennials need a financial advisor

Millennials love technology, so using technology for financial planning seems like a natural extension.  While it does have a place as part of an overall strategy, millennials should not overlook developing a relationship with a financial advisor.

A human advisor brings another dimension to investing and financial security.  A truly comprehensive approach to financial planning also must include estate plans, tax strategies, risk assessments, and retirement plans.  Building these factors into an overall plan needs a human hand to custom tailor the best course of action for each person’s needs.

A technology-based mindset can bring a wealth of information to a consumer in an instant.  But where technology misses the boat is with the give and take of ideas, using intuition, feelings, and personal values also to drive results.

A human advisor can challenge and react better when your life changes.  Couples get married, have children, buy homes, and send kids to college.  Each of these and so many other life events can have a dramatic impact on family finances.  Building a relationship with an advisor early in life means you will have a long-term partner with institutional knowledge of you as a person as well as your financial portfolio.

Top athletes and entertainers have teams of coaches to protect their interests, and so should you.  It’s one thing to set a plan in motion, but quite another to have someone challenge you on tough questions, hold you accountable, and help you change course when needed.

Planning for the future: Will millennials be able to retire?

Yes, of course, they will.

But don’t think it will happen by accident.

Setting up a financial plan is only half the battle.  Working the plan takes discipline over a long period.  But the rewards are worth it.

If you’re a millennial and you want to retire, consider following these simple steps to start charting a course to retirement:

Figure out how much you can invest regularly.  Even little amounts can add up over time.  Consider paying yourself first.  You can automate this by putting your money in a 401(k) or IRA automatically through a payroll deduction or as soon as it is deposited in your bank account.

Allocate funds to both short-term (5 years or less) and long-term (more than five years) investments.  An example of money you might need in the next five years or less is a down payment on a home, education expenses, or money for a car or other major purchase.  Long-term a Roth IRA is the best deal for young investors and will have significant tax advantages over time. You can open a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA for as little as $10 a month.

Decide on your level of risk.  Experts advise that if you’re under 35 and are starting to invest in a 401(k), it is best to invest in an aggressive growth portfolio heavily weighted in stocks.  If you are older, go a more conservative route.  A typical asset allocation that makes sense for a millennial is around 90% stocks and 10% bonds.

 Invest heavily in tax-advantaged accounts.  Choosing vehicles that minimize your taxes over time is important.  Getting into tax-advantaged accounts early in life means your money can grow tax-free over an extended timeframe.  Most companies also offer an employee match.  That occurs when an employer contributes to your retirement account, up to a certain percentage of your income.

Start early.  Even if it means starting with just a few dollars every pay period, getting the investment habit early in life gives the power of time to work its full magic.



What to Know About Cremation Costs in 2022

Cremation has been growing as an alternative to a traditional funeral for some time.  In fact, about half of all final dispositions of remains are now being cremated according to cremation industry sources.

Cremation has become more popular because it is a simple, flexible and economical process that also uses less of the earth’s natural resources than traditional burials.

What is the Average Cost of Cremation?

The latest national data available is from 2017. According to data from the Cremation Research Council , the average cost for creation was about $1,100 for a direct cremation.  That amount was independent of costs for memorial services, urns and other related optional expenses.  Total cremation costs can rise quite a bit if those factors are figured in.

This compares favorably to the cost of a traditional funeral that averages about $11,000 for a burial and service.

To get an accurate accounting of the costs associated for each, the FTC’s Funeral Rule requires providers to provide pricing up front.  Consumers must also be presented with a full range of options, not just the most expensive ones when shopping for services.

What Does a Cremation with Services Cost?

Exact costs will vary depending on the region of the country and the specific services that accompany the cremation, but costs may typically run about $3,000 with a funeral service, casket and other related incidentals.

Factors That Affect End-of-Life Costs

There are several factors that can affect end-of-life costs for both cremation and burials:

Region.  Costs do vary depending on the part of the country where you live, and in some cases, from city to city.

Provider.  Each service provider will charge different rates.  By law, you must be provided with a price list before making a decision on which provider to choose, so that you can accurately compare costs.

Transportation.  Moving remains from one location to another means you will incur transportation costs.  The type of travel that you choose and the distance traveled could have a major impact on the cost.

Added Services.  Some providers offer package deals at a discount.  Others allow you to add a la carte services that can range from embalming, the type of coffin or urn you choose, holding a service, for example.

Timeliness.  If you have flexibility as to when you can have remains disposed of either through cremation or a traditional burial, you might be able to get reduced pricing instead of entering into a situation where you are locked in or must act in a hurry.

Financing.  If you can’t pay for everything up front, you may be able to finance the cremation or burial.  Just understand that there will be increased costs due to finance charges and/or interest.

Veterans services.  If the deceased was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, you may be able to have their remains committed to a national cemetery, along with several services at little or no cost.  Some benefits might also be partially or fully covered under the VA.

Guarantees.  Services that are guaranteed with money-back promises tend to be more costly than those that aren’t, but the peace of mind that comes with the guarantee can be well worth it in a time of need.

Arranging a Cremation

There are several steps that are part of the cremation process.

After a person passes away, their body is stored in a climate-controlled environment until a death certificate is processed.  This takes about 48 to 72 hours in most states.

A burial transit permit is issued in the county where the death took place so that the body can be transported to either the funeral home for services or directly to the crematory.

A medical examiner must approve the cremation which can take another two to three days depending on the laws of the state where the cremation is to take place.  The next of kin are required to give written permission for the cremation unless the deceased gave cremation authorization prior to passing away.

Although a funeral home is involved most of the time, cremation is generally contracted out to a third-party provider at an offsite location.

Some people choose to have a body embalmed if there is going to be a funeral service before the body is cremated.

If there is no viewing, a body is cremated in whatever clothing they were wearing when they passed away.  This may be a hospital gown, pajamas or just a sheet.  If there is a traditional service, then most of the time, the body is cremated in whatever clothes were worn at the service.

A casket is not required for cremation, but most states require that there is some kind of container that is either made of wood or cardboard that is cremated with the body.

After the body is transported to the crematory, jewelry is removed.  If the person had a pacemaker or other medical device, it is removed as well because this can be an explosion hazard.  The container is placed in a cremation chamber and the temperature is raised to between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees resulting in all organic matter being consumed by heat or by evaporation.

In case you were wondering, it is not only illegal to cremate more than one person at a time, it is usually physically impossible.  This is because most cremation chambers are only large enough to accommodate a single body at a time.

The remaining material is known as cremains which are carefully removed from the chamber.  A magnet is also used to collect any metal that was in the body such as metal joints, or bridgework.  Gold or silver teeth are vaporized during the cremation.

After the cremains are further pulverized, they are placed in a temporary container or in an urn provided by the family.

Overall, the entire process will take between 10 and 15 days in most cases.

After this process is done, the remains are then memorialized.  This can be done by inurnment where an urn is placed in a columbarium, it is buried, or the ashes are scattered at some point in the future.

How to Choose a Cremation Service

You have several possible cremation service providers to choose from.  Before you make a final decision on the provider, make sure you understand what each offers in terms of pricing or packages.  Ask for a price list that will give clear pricing.

Also find out if the provider has a remembrance center where you can shop for urns, caskets, or other keepsakes.  If you’re working with a stand-alone crematory instead of a funeral home, your options may be limited.

Once you’ve decided which cremation provider to work with, you still need to make some other decisions.  These can be spelled out in advance by the person themselves or made at the time of the service by family members.

If cost is your primary consideration, then direct cremation is the easiest and least expensive option.  There is only transporting the body to a crematory, having the body processed, and returning the ashes to the family.

Even if you choose a simple cremation with no memorial or visitation, ask if you can be present when the cremation takes place. Some providers offer a waiting room for families.

Others may choose to include a memorial service or a funeral service either before or after the cremation.  You can work with a funeral home to help you decide what’s right for your situation.

Consider Pre-Planning a Cremation

Pre-planning can make the actual services more affordable by locking in current pricing instead of paying for services at the prevailing costs at some point in the future.

You can work with a provider that accepts payments in advance for future services, also guaranteeing that adequate funds will be available when they are needed and there will be one less financial burden to deal with at the time of death.

The Neptune Society is one of the most well-known and respected cremation providers that offer a wide range of pre-planning options.  They may be a good place to start in your search for more information.

Pre-planning terms will differ, depending on your state’s legislation on funeral plans, and personal circumstances for making payment.

It’s also important to know that part of pre-arranging a cremation is to pre-authorize the cremation.  For a cremation to proceed, the legal next-of-kin or the person involved in their own services must sign a Cremation Authorization Form.

You can pre-plan by doing finding an affordable cremation services provider near you and putting aside the required funds for an ‘at-need’ direct cremation in a Payable on Death (POD) account at your bank.  Many funeral service providers are happy to work with you to prepare the necessary paperwork for a cremation and keep it on file for a later time.

Payment Options and Cremation Insurance

Insurance providers offer cremation insurance which is a form of final expense life insurance.  Proceeds from the policy are used to pay for the cost of a cremation and other related final expenses.

These are a simplified issue whole life policy with the option of buying small amounts of protection.  They are considered a viable option for people who only need a little bit of coverage to cover the cost of cremation.  Because it is a whole life policy, details are locked in up front.  If you pay your policy premiums on time, this means:

  • Premiums can never increase
  • The policy can’t expire at any age
  • Coverage can’t decrease
  • No medical exam is needed to qualify
  • There is a fast payout of benefits upon passing of the insured

As far as paying for cremation goes, you can realize some cost savings depending on what you decide.   You can pay for cremation in full and maximize cremation cost savings.

You can also pay for cremation over time with installment payments.

Using life insurance proceeds may be an option or simply paying for the services out of the deceased person’s estate.  In some cases, it’s possible to spread cremation costs out among several family members so that no one person must shoulder the entire financial burden.

Fundraising events if the person was well known in the community might be possible or seeking community or charitable help to offset costs could be options as well.

Social Security offers a lump-sum death payment of $255, but only if you qualify for this payment.  There are also Indigent Burial Assistance Programs offered by many counties across the United States, mostly in place to help needy and destitute families.

Costs and Fees Commonly Associated with Cremation

The Federal Trade Commission offers excellent resources on what to expect regarding the costs of funerals and cremations.  Go here for a detailed explanation of the costs and fees associated with these services.

In addition, by law, all funeral homes and cremation businesses must quote their prices by providing consumers with a copy of their General Price List if you visit them in person.

You should either seek a referral from a trusted resource or call several funeral homes or crematories to get pricing, see what services are provided and how they can assist you with all aspects of a cremation.

Finding Affordable Cremation Services and Providers

Cremation costs are much less expensive than a traditional funeral, but you might still end up paying as much as $3,000 depending on which cremation services you choose.

You can try to save money by doing some comparison shopping.  Also consider looking into a direct cremation.  This is a no-frills option with no embalming, formal viewing or funeral service that can save money.  It is usually offered by funeral homes, but you may be able to save even more if you work directly through a cremation provider.

You may be able to get help and referrals through your nearby memorial society or local funeral consumer alliance program. These are volunteer groups that offer a wide range of information and prices on local funeral and cremation providers.

There are also a number of free websites — like and — that you or your family can use to do the work for you. With these sites, you just answer a few questions, and your nearby funeral homes will provide estimates based on your request.

The cost of an urn can also drive up the cost, adding as much as $300 or more to the price you will have to pay.  However, you are not required to get an urn.  Instead, most funeral homes will place ashes in a plastic bag and then insert it into a thick plastic box.  This is all that is required to spread ashes.  You can also find affordable urns online for as little as $25 at places such as

If you’re a veteran, the VA provides a burial benefit that includes a free burial at a national cemetery and a free grave marker. The VA doesn’t cover funeral provider or cremation costs, but you can still save money going this route if you qualify.

Social Security may also shoulder some of the financial burden as well.  It pays a survivor a one-time death benefit of $255.

You may be able to avoid all cremation costs if you decide to donate the body to medical science or research.  Medical schools will cremate your remains for free, and either bury or scatter your ashes in a local cemetery or return them to your family, although it may take a while for them to do so.  You can call the National Family Service Desk, which operates a free referral service at 800-727-0700.

What is the Least Expensive Cremation Service?

Direct cremation is the least expensive form of cremation.  There is no embalming, formal viewing or a funeral.  Only the essentials are part of the process: picking up the body, completing required paperwork, the cremation itself, and providing ashes to the family.

Because the body is cremated almost immediately after death, a family can engage the services of a crematory directly instead of working through a funeral home.  This alone can save a substantial sum of money.  A crematory will often charge a fraction of the price that a funeral home would charge for the same services.

If you choose to work through a funeral home, some may charge a lower Basic Services Fee (funeral homes’ non-declinable flat fee) for direct cremation. If you are interested in saving money, it’s worth calling a number of different funeral homes to find one with a lower direct cremation Basic Services Fee.

The body is also cremated in a simple container, instead of a lavish casket.  The funeral home or crematory you’re working with must make available an unfinished wood box or alternative container for the cremation.  If you provide an urn to the crematory, they must return the cremated remains to you in the urn you provided.  If you don’t provide an urn, they must return the cremated remains to you in a container, which may be a cardboard box

Family members may choose to hold a service after the fact which also eliminates the need for additional expensive funeral costs as well.

What Happens if you Can’t Afford Cremation?

If a relative dies and you can’t afford to pay the costs for creation, there are some options:

  • Check to see if the deceased had a life insurance policy and if some or all of the funeral costs are covered.
  • Consider getting a loan. You may be able to finance the cremation and services from a bank or credit union.
  • Ask other family members to help you to pay for it. Be specific and candid and let relatives know exactly how much the costs will be.
  • If you can’t come up with the payment any other way, talk to the coroner’s office. You can sign a release form and the state or the county will pitch in to pay for a burial or cremation.  You may be able to recover the ashes for a fee, but if this is not possible, then the county will bury the ashes in a common grave with other unclaimed ashes.

How to get a Free Cremation

If a body is donated to science to help medical education and research, then cremation can take place free of charge.  Many medical schools and research organizations will pay the bill for transportation, cremation and a death certificate.  Some will also return remains in about two to four weeks or scatter the ashes on their own, but others may hold the cadaver and not return remains for as long as two years.  It depends on the institution and their individual needs and policies.

Most medical schools only accept full body donations, with all organs still intact, so that students can dissect and study the anatomy.  Medical schools also have the right to refuse to take a body at any time after a person dies and for any reason.

There are several organizations throughout the country that will work with families to donate a loved one’s body upon death for medical research purposes.   If possible, it’s best to try and make arrangements in advance.

Here are some organizations you can look into that will accept donated bodies:

To ensure you’re dealing with a reputable organization, look for accreditation by the American Association of Tissue Banks.

You might be curious if you get the same benefits if you are a registered organ donor.  Generally, this is not the case.  Free cremation is offered to those who register to donate the entire body to science, not simply agree to allow the harvesting of life-saving organs at time of death.

Most people are eligible for body donation, but there are some exceptions. If the person has or had a communicable disease such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and/or tuberculosis, severe obesity or edema (fluid swelling) or the body has experienced decomposition or trauma, that body will not be eligible.

Are Cremation Prices Likely to Rise in 2022?

In most major cities, a direct cremation can be conducted for between $595 to $995.  Rural areas tend to be more expensive, as there is less competition for the cremation market.

More people are choosing cremation, and this means that funerals are becoming more affordable for families. With cremations on the rise, the prices for traditional funerals are coming down in many markets.

Most funeral businesses need to increase their volume of cremation business to sustain their revenue.  This has led to cremation ‘price wars’ in some cities, where funeral homes are reducing their direct cremation price to increase their volume of cases.

But at the same time, corporate funeral entities are working to acquire their own share of cremation business.  Corporate death care companies, such as Dignity Memorial and The Neptune Society, are enlisting the expertise of professional marketing services and are predominant in online advertising and direct mail.

Corporate and privately-owned funeral entities across the U.S. are acquiring successful independent cremation businesses to dominate a cremation market in a specific area.  By eliminating competition, especially those offering lower priced cremation services, eventually it is expected that cremation services in those markets will start to rise again.

Cremation Costs by State

Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, a funeral home must provide you with a list of all the services offered and the costs associated with each. It helps you make educated decisions about your own end-of-life plans or about services for a loved one. It helps you see exactly how the overall costs of cremation or burial can be affected by each decision you make regarding services.

You can also reach out to the Funeral Consumers Alliance which has created an affiliates directory that provides all funeral planning and cremation information nationwide.  Some active affiliates have done a funeral home price survey listing prices for all funeral homes in their area. Some affiliates have also negotiated discounts for members at certain cooperating funeral homes.




Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

Congratulations!  You made it.

Turning 65 is a big deal and you should feel great about reaching such a big milestone in your life.

You’ve earned the right to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors, whether your time has been spent raising a loving family, enjoying success in your chosen profession, or living in a home and place of your dreams.

Or, all of the above!

One of the biggest benefits of turning 65 is that you’re now eligible for Medicare.  That alone should be cause for celebration since one of the challenges seniors face is how to pay for medical treatment at a time in their lives when healthcare may matter the most.

Everyone is already familiar with Medicare to some degree or another.  We’re here to help you fill in any holes about what it is, how to qualify and get coverage, and some special situations and benefits you need to know that might apply to you.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and citizens or permanent residents of the United States, certain people younger than 65 with disabilities, and those with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD, permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant).

Medicare has four parts:

  1. Medicare Part A covers medically necessary inpatient hospital stays, care in skilled nursing facilities, hospice care and some home health care.
  2. Medicare Part B covers certain doctors’ services, durable medical equipment (i.e. wheelchairs), preventative care, outpatient services, lab tests and x-rays, and ambulance services.  Part A and Part B are often referred to as Original Medicare.
  3. Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage and is a health plan offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare to provide Part A and Part B benefits under one plan. Some people choose to get Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan instead of through Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans must offer the same level of coverage as Original Medicare and many times will offer expanded benefits such as prescription drug coverage and dental, vision and wellness programs.
  4. Medicare Part D provides stand-alone prescription drug coverage that works alongside Original Medicare. It is offered through private insurance companies that have contracts with Medicare.

What are the Medicare eligibility requirements?

Part A

If you are 65 or older, you are eligible for Part A coverage at no cost if:

  • You currently receive or are eligible to receive Social Security benefits. You must have 40 credits accumulated through the payment of payroll taxes.  You earn one credit for every quarter you have worked as long as you meet minimum income guidelines.  In other words, 40 credits equals 10 years of a qualifying work history.  If you have less than 40 credits, then you can still get Part A coverage, but you will need to pay a premium.
  • You currently receive or are eligible to receive railroad retirement benefits.
  • Your spouse receives or is eligible to receive Social Security or railroad retirement benefits. This applies to spouses who are living, deceased or divorced from the person seeking coverage.
  • You or your spouse worked long enough in a government job where Medicare taxes were paid.
  • You are a dependent parent of a deceased child who is fully insured.

If you are less than 65 years old, you are eligible for Part A coverage at no cost if:

  • You have received or you have been entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits for 24 months.
  • You are getting a railroad retirement board disability pension and you meet certain conditions.
  • You get Social Security disability benefits because you have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
  • You worked in a government job long enough where you paid Medicare taxes, and you have been entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months.
  • You have kidney failure and you receive dialysis or a kidney transplant, and you meet other certain requirements.
  • You’re the child or widow(er) and you are age 50 or older of someone who worked in a government job long enough where they paid Medicare taxes, and you meet Social Security disability program requirements.

Part B

If you are eligible for Part A coverage at no cost, you’re eligible to enroll in Part B coverage by paying a monthly premium.  Some people with higher incomes will pay a higher Part B premium.

If you’re not eligible for Part A at no cost, you can still buy Part B without buying Part A if you’re 65 or older and a United States citizen or a lawfully admitted noncitizen who has lived in the country for at least five years.

Part C

Part C coverage is offered by private companies, with benefits that are similar to those offered by Medicare that may provide extra coverage and lower out-of-pocket costs.  If you have Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, then you can buy Part C coverage.  Once you have reached the coverage limits that Medicare covers, you will be entitled to enhanced benefits under a Medicare Advantage Plan. Read more about part C plans here.

Part D

If you have Part A and Part B coverage, then you’re eligible to buy Part D coverage.  Part D coverage benefits are available as a stand-alone plan or they may be part of a Medicare Advantage Part C plan.  Depending your income level, this premium may be higher for some people.

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

How does Medicare differ from Medicaid?

People often confuse Medicare with Medicaid, so it’s important to clear up any misunderstandings about what each program is.  The main difference between the two is that Medicare is an insurance program and Medicaid is an assistance program.

Medicare helps people pay medical bills from funds they have paid over the course of their working life. For the most part, Medicare serves people 65 or older, with some exceptions for younger disabled and dialysis patients. Premiums are many times required for certain parts of Medicare. It is a federal program and is uniformly administered across the United States.

Medicaid has no age restrictions and serves people of all ages based on income. Generally, patients are not required to pay any costs for medical services, except in a few limited circumstances.  Medicaid follows federal guidelines, but it is administered by state and local governments.

What is Medigap insurance?

Medigap is a supplemental insurance policy sold by private companies that helps pay for some health care costs not covered by Original Medicare.  This can include copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

Unlike Medicare, Medigap policies cover medical care when you travel outside the United States.  To qualify for a Medigap policy, you must already be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.

When Can You Enroll in Medicare after turning 65?

If you do not have a qualifying disability or medical condition that allows you to enroll in Medicare before you turn 65, then you can enroll in Medicare when you turn 65.

If you already get Social Security or railroad retirement benefits, you will be contacted about three months before you turn 65. If you live in one of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you will automatically be enrolled in Parts A and B. Because you have to pay a premium for Part B, you will be given the opportunity to opt out of that coverage.

If you are not already getting Social Security or railroad retirement benefits, you can enroll in Medicare during the Initial Coverage Election Period.  This will allow you to avoid paying penalties or a being subjected to a gap in your health care coverage.

The Initial Coverage Election Period is a seven-month period beginning three months before the month you turn 65 and ending three months after your 65th birthday.

It’s important to note that you can sign up for Medicare coverage even if you don’t plan on retiring when you turn 65.

You can also apply for Medicare before you turn 65 if:

  • You’re a disabled widow(er) between 50 and 65.
  • You work for the government and became disabled before turning 65
  • You or an immediate family have permanent kidney failure
  • You had Part B coverage in the past but dropped the coverage
  • You turned down Medicare Part B coverage when you first got Medicare Part A coverage
  • You or your spouse worked for the railroad industry.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance annually during a “general enrollment period” that takes place January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll.  Be aware that you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. Your monthly premium will go up 10% for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B but didn’t sign up for it.

If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to Original Medicare, you can do so between January 1 and February 14.   If you do switch, you will also have until February 14 to join a Part D plan as well. Your coverage begins the first day of the month after your enrollment form is received.

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

Be prepared for an enormous amount of mail.

What kind of mail should you expect to receive?

If you are eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, you should get a “Welcome to Medicare” packet and a Medicare card in the mail from the Social Security Administration about three months before you turn 65.

If you aren’t collecting retirement benefits yet, then you’ll need to contact Social Security to apply for Medicare.  You should do this about three months before you turn 65, otherwise you will not be enrolled in Medicare in a timely manner.  After you have enrolled you will get a “Welcome to Medicare” packet that will include your Medicare card.

What do I need to know about how to use my Medicare card?

You should carry your Medicare card on you so that when you need medical services, you can produce it just like you would for other forms of insurance.  Only give your Medicare card and information to medical providers such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacists or other health care providers that you trust.  If you forget or lose your card, a health care provider may be able to look up your Medicare number and information online.

If you lose your card or can’t use it anymore because it is damaged, you can get a replacement card by providing your name, Social Security number and your date of birth to the Social Security Administration.  You can do so online by using your “my Social Security” account if you have one (if you don’t, you can also create one).

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you will be given a separate card that will be used for the services offered by your plan.  Be sure to present the right card when you are being treated so that the right program can be billed for services.

In April 2018, Medicare began mailing new Medicare cards to more than 57 million participants as part of a fraud and identity theft prevention strategy.  New cards do not have Social Security numbers on them.  Instead they have a unique 11-digit callout known as a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, or MBI.  This serves as a beneficiary’s Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) instead of the previously used Social Security number.  The deadline for replacing all Medicare cards must take place by April 2019.  There will also be a 21-month transition period that will run through December 31, 2019.  Providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN.

How can I enroll in Medicare?

If you are not automatically enrolled, then there are three ways to apply for Medicare Parts A and B:

  • Visit Social Security’s website
  • By phone. Call Social Security’s national customer hotline at 1-800-772-1213.
  • In person. Visit your local Social Security office.  Use the agency’s locator tool to find the office nearest to you.

To apply for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C or D) or a Medigap plan, you can visit the provider’s website or call the provider that offers the plan you want to buy.  You can also contact the provider and get a paper enrollment form and return it by mail.  All plans are required to offer a paper enrollment option.

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How do I get more information about Medicare enrollment and programs for people turning 65.

To learn the steps you need to take to enroll in the various Medicare programs, go to

If you have questions about Medicare, you can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to speak to a live customer service representative 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  If you are hard of hearing or deaf, call Medicare’s TTY number at 1-877-485-2048.

How do I verify if I am eligible for free Medicare at age 65?

You are eligible for premium-free Part A coverage at age 65 if you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.  You get premium-free Part A if you are already getting retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board or if you are eligible to get Social Security or Railroad benefits, but you have not yet filed for them.  You can also get premium-free coverage if you or your spouse had Medicare covered government employment.

Keep in mind that while many people get free Part A benefits, everyone who wants Part B coverage must pay for it. You must also pay a monthly premium for Part C and Part D coverage in addition to your Part B monthly premium.

Medicare has an eligibility and premium calculator that you can access here to see if you qualify for free Part A coverage.

Does Medicare start the month you turn 65?

If you sign up for coverage during the first three months of your Initial Enrollment Period, then your coverage starts the first day of the month you turn 65, unless your birthday is on the first day of the month.  If your birthday is on the first day of the month, your coverage starts the first day of the prior month.

If you have to buy Part A coverage, the coverage start dates are a bit different.

If you sign up for Part A (if you have to buy it) and/or Part B in this month: Your coverage starts:
The month you turn 65 1 month after you sign up
1 month after you turn 65 2 months after you sign up
2 months after you turn 65 3 months after you sign up
3 months after you turn 65 3 months after you sign up
During the January 1–March 31 General Enrollment Period July 1

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Do I have to sign up for Medicare Part A at age 65?

No.  But if you do not sign up during the Initial Enrollment Period your health care coverage may lapse.  In addition, if you sign up at a later date, you may have to pay additional penalties for the duration of the time that you are signed up.

Do I sign up for Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D at the same time?

No, but you do need to already be signed up for Parts A and B before you can sign up for Parts C and D.

How do I shop for Medicare plans online?

You need to be careful when shopping for Medicare plans online.  Charges can vary widely from plan to plan and from market to market.  In a recent Consumer Reports article investigating Part D drug plans, the watchdog found that mistakes in the sign-up process could cost beneficiaries hundreds of dollars a year.  Their advice based on the input of an industry expert was this:

“Complicated though it may be, using the tool is still the only way for you—or someone helping you—to compare Medicare plans, says Frederic Riccardi, vice president of client services for the nonprofit Medicare Rights Center, which helps people sign up for plans.”

There is a wealth of other information out there that you may also tap into as well.  The best of this may be The State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP), a national network that provides trustworthy, unbiased and one-on-one counseling and assistance for individuals and families who are seeking help with Medicare insurance plans.

Another smart move is to work with a local independent agent in your area.  In addition to being licensed to sell insurance in a specific state, an agent must also pass an annual American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) certification exam to sell Medicare plans.  Agents are required to demonstrate specialized Medicare knowledge to pass the exam.

Are there benefits to buying a Medicare plan from a local agent?


Available Medicare plans vary by market and metro area, so having a local expert working for you gives you the best opportunity to compare the pros and cons of plans that you can actually purchase.  An agent’s expertise is also further bolstered by the fact that agents who sell Medicare plans are also required to go through additional training and must get a special certification each year to be able to sell Medicare products.

Your best move is to work with an independent agent who represents many companies that sell Medicare plans in your area.  By contrast, a captive agent will only represent one or two plans, and this may be the right resource to use if you know exactly what plan you want.  You could probably track down the same information on your own, given enough time but with a lot more effort.

Using an agent means they’re doing the heavy lifting and helping you to narrow down choices efficiently so you not only save time, but money as well because you won’t be spending your hard-earned dollars on options you may not need.

Am I covered by Medicare if I travel outside of the United States?

Medicare covers beneficiaries when they are physically located in the 50 U.S. states, District of Columbia, and U.S. territories that include Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.

In rare cases, Medicare Part A may cover medically necessary services in a foreign country when a foreign hospital is closer than a U.S. facility. You can learn about these exceptions here.

In some cases, Medicare Part B may cover medically necessary health care while on board a cruise ship within the territorial waters adjoining the U.S. Generally, Medicare won’t pay for services you get when a ship is more than six hours away from a U.S. port.  Medicare drug plans don’t cover prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you should check to see if it covers medical care abroad. Otherwise, it is recommended to purchase travel insurance before your trip, which can help to offset the costs of overseas emergency care if it’s needed.

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A few things to know about Medicare if you’re turning 65 and still working

If you still plan to work at age 65 and beyond, your relationship and coverage by Medicare will vary depending on your employer.  At the very least, you should still enroll in Medicare Part A because it’s free and it may help cover some of the costs not covered by your employer’s group insurance plan.

You may not need to sign up for Part B right away.  This will depend on whether or not your employer’s health insurance is your primary provider or if Medicare Part B will be your primary provider.  If Medicare is your primary provider, then you should sign up for Part B immediately.  Your employer should be able to tell you who your primary provider will be.

If you continue working and don’t have an employer or union group health plan, or it is secondary to Medicare, your best bet is to sign up for Medicare Part B during your Initial Enrollment Period.

Also, just because you have some form of health insurance coverage, it does not mean you should not sign up for Part B.  For example, COBRA coverage does not count as a health insurance plan for Medicare purposes, nor does retiree or VA benefits.  Your health insurance must be from an employer where you are currently actively working.  And, if your employer has less than 20 employees, you will probably still need to sign up for Part B to make sure you have adequate health coverage.

If you’re looking for more information…

Here’s some additional resources you might want to access for more information about signing up for Medicare.

Checklist: Things to do when you turn 65

Enrolling in Medicare is one of the most important and essential things you can do when you turn 65, but there are lots of other things to think about when you reach this milestone.

To retire or not to retire?  That is the question.  Most everything else you do plays off this critical decision.  Chances are you already know what you’re going to do but understanding what the implications are is just as important and may require you to do some homework before reaching a final decision.

Your Social Security strategy.  Do you want to retire at full retirement age or start drawing reduced benefits at an earlier age?  Or, can you want until after full retirement age (up to age 70) to draw even more benefits?

Consider downsizing.  If you haven’t done so already, consider downsizing to a smaller place to live.  Start by decluttering and be unmerciful in deciding to keep only the items that are most precious to you.  Maybe you want to live closer to your children or grandchildren, enjoy a warner climate or pay less in living expenses.  There are a number of reasons to make the move to simpler digs and now is a good time to assess your needs and desires.

Stay healthy.  It sounds obvious, but are you ready to give up smoking or limit your alcohol and food intake?  What about losing weight and exercising more?  Are you making plans to also have an active social life as well? Your body is more vulnerable as you age and to get the most out of your senior years, you must do everything you can to remain as healthy and independent for as long as possible.

Are your legal documents in order?  Do you have a will, a living trust and an advanced healthcare directive in place?  What about a designated power of attorney when you can’t make decisions for yourself?  Not having these documents in place could cost you dearly at the time you and your family need them the most.

Don’t forget about life insurance.  Do you have the right kind and right amount of life insurance for your family’s needs?  Just like going to a doctor for a check-up, you should schedule a time with your insurance agent to do a review of your coverage.

Are your retirement and pension accounts in order?  Have you allocated funds in a more conservative manner consistent with what you should be doing for your age?  Are you maximizing your catch-up contributions?  Have you thought about budgeting with the income you’re going to get in retirement?

Get a comprehensive physical.  It’s easy to let this go, especially if you don’t have any nagging or persistent health problems.  But just like a good car with a lot of miles on it, you need to take preventative steps on a regular basis to catch health issues early.

The “end-of-life” conversation.  As uncomfortable as it may be, you can actually save your spouse and your children a lot of anxiety by letting your end-of-life wishes be known before they become an issue.  Have this difficult conversation now so that you can focus on enjoying your long and happy golden years.

Don’t wait on that bucket list.  If you’ve made it to 65, you’ve earned the right to be good to yourself.  Many people who lead a frugal life find it hard to cut loose and enjoy things they have held off from doing or buying for all of their lives.  If you can afford it, take that vacation to Paris and London or buy that Corvette you always wanted.  When health problems overtake the plus-65 crowd, this can lead to a lot of regrets instead of being satisfied that they’ve led a great life with many wonderful memories.

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According to the Federal Reserve, about 20% of all households headed by individuals who are 65 or older have about $700,000 in assets.  About half of these have assets of $1.5 million or more, making this age group the wealthiest of all demographics.

But other studies indicate that about a quarter of Americans whose parents are growing old expect to have to support them in their golden years.  Rich or poor, that means financial planning for America’s senior population creates several sizable challenges.

How is financial planning different for the elderly?

When people grow older, their financial issues shift from the responsibilities associated with raising a family and maintaining a job to other post-work life considerations.

  • Medical costs are likely going to rise. These costs may be minimized to some extent by Medicare or Medicaid, but they will still impact seniors. Prescriptions and medical equipment costs should also be a concern.
  • While you may no longer have a house payment, home expenses will not stop. You’ll still have to deal with annual property taxes, insurance, maintenance costs and emergencies such as plumbing, electrical or any number of issues that could crop up unexpectedly.
  • You may also consider hiring a housekeeper, gardener, snow removal service or handyman for the first time who can better perform tasks than you. And, if you’re spending more time at home in retirement.  For your peace of mind, you might also consider a home security system for the first time as well.
  • What about getting the car of your dreams? With that dream may come a monthly payment. Or, if you decide to keep your trusty old and reliable paid-for vehicle, you’ll still need to budget for ongoing maintenance. Aside from vehicle costs, you may also experience a jump in car insurance rates as well.
  • One financial planning line item you shouldn’t overlook is a budget for travel, trips and entertainment. It may be weekly golf, trips to the beauty parlor, regular dinners and a movie date, visiting your kids twice a year across the country or that annual cruise you’ve been taking for some time now.  You have earned the right to enjoy retirement, but it all takes money.
  • As a senior, you’ll also need to be concerned with long-term care costs, getting the most out of Medicare, budgeting on a fixed income in the midst of inflation, figuring how Social Security is a part of your retirement mix, and especially important, making sure you don’t fall prey to scammers who target seniors and their large nest eggs.

Finding a good financial advisor for the elderly

You will need to have some goals in mind before you start your search for the right financial planner.  If you need extensive help with retirement planning and investments, that could require a different level of service than someone who you just need to run a few questions by from time to time.

Consider tapping the following resources once you have an idea in mind about what you’ll want to accomplish:

Ask for recommendations.  This may seem obvious, but a great place to start is to talk with friends, family members or colleagues.  Try to find people who have similar goals and are in a similar financial position as you are so that you can tap into a professional appropriate for your needs.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors maintains a website that will let you search for a financial advisor near you.  These listings tend to be for advisors who handle larger estates, but it is still worth looking into to see who might be available to help you.

Another good resource is The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors which also has a search tool on its website.  This may be a more appropriate place to search if you’re estate is a bit smaller.

Major brokerages such as Fidelity, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, T. Rowe Price and others have automated investment management services known as robo advisors.  Based on your financial goals, computer algorithms are applied to help produce investment and allocation goals that are free from personal biases and the fees that may go with them.

Another good resource, especially if you fall solidly in the middle class, is to find resources through the Garrett Planning Network.  The site maintains a nationwide membership directory of independent, fee-only financial planners that provide advice to people from all walks of life, without minimum account requirements, sales commissions, or long-term commitments.

The Certified Financial Planners (CFP) website maintains a directory that has listings that allow you to search for results by specialties including elder care, retirement income management and retirement planning.

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How older adults can steer clear of financial scams

Seniors are often seen as targets of opportunity for scammers due to larger nest eggs and possible diminished mental capacities.  Common scams are widespread and include preying on unsuspecting victims in a number of areas such as taxes, banks, investing, credit cards, charities, posing as the IRS, money transfers and online dating.

Scammers use impersonation, identity theft, phishing, ransomware and other techniques to bilk millions of dollars each year from victims.

The best way to protect yourself is to slow down and think if you’ve been contacted by anyone requesting any kind of personal information or money from you.  Scammers thrive on panic and fear and they are specifically experienced in talking you out of your money and your personal information.

When in doubt, don’t take action.  Investigate thoroughly.  Don’t open unsolicited email attachments or documents from a website, even if it is from someone you know.  Scammers use the internet and email to hijack information all the time.  Also be careful about conducting sensitive business over a public Wi-Fi network which can be hacked by fraud perpetrators.

If you’ve got doubts, run the contact by someone you trust.  Also, put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry to make it harder for the bad guys to find. And, zealously guard your personal information.  Never authenticate yourself to someone who contacts you.

Analyzing investment accounts

Your investment accounts should be reviewed on a regular basis, but as you get older, you should start to shift in the kinds of things you look at and the goals you want to achieve.

If you are a senior, your primary goal should be to manage risk to ensure your investments are protected. This means you may want to shift more of your portfolio out of stocks and into more conservative/ investments.  Consider corporate or government bonds, money market accounts or bank CDs as safer place to stash your cash.

Asset allocation should be based on diversification.  It’s the best protection against risk when an older investor cannot afford to take heavy losses in more than one asset.  The level and nature of diversification should be based on the amount of risk a senior wants to take and to some degree, the size of their nest egg.

Seniors will also be influenced by how much current income they want to receive in the form of interest income from bank accounts and their investments.  Based on their risk tolerance, seniors should balance the amount of their portfolios they need safely stored in bank accounts and bonds with stocks that could potentially provide a higher rate of return. Some stocks offer regular dividends.

Also consider tax implications when reviewing accounts and a portfolio.  Interest, dividends or capital gains produced by an investment portfolio are usually taxable in the year they are earned unless they are in a tax-sheltered retirement account.

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Reviewing Social Security benefits

Before you apply for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security “basics” you should know about:

  • Your “full retirement age” – Depending on your date of birth, that may be between age 66 and 67. This could affect the amount of your benefits and when you want the benefits to start.
  • When you can start benefits – You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.
  • Benefits are reduced for age – Your monthly benefits will be reducedif you start them any time before “full retirement age.”
  • Working while you receive benefits – If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits.
  • Delayed retirement credits – Delayed retirement creditsmay be added to your benefits if they start after your full retirement age.
  • Life expectancy – Many people live much longer than the “average” retiree, and most women live longer than men. Social Security benefits, which last as long as you live, provide valuable protection against outliving savings and other sources of retirement income.
  • You can use Social Security’s Retirement Estimatorto get an estimate of how much your benefits will be at different ages and “stop work” dates before you apply.

Some of the things you should also think about before you decide include:

You can find out what documents and information you need to apply by reading Social Security’s “Checklist for Online Medicare, Retirement, and Spouses Applications.”

Medical costs – how to plan for elder care costs

According to the Scan Foundation, “70% of Americans who reach age 65 will need some form of long-term care for an average of three years. An average, middle-income American making a $50,000 salary would have to reserve six years’ worth of income (about $300,000) to pay boarding fees for three years in a private nursing home room that costs $92,000 annually.”

As people age and become more ill, their out-of-pocket expenses will rise.  In fact, nursing home and assisted living care costs are the number one category in this regard, followed by home health care.

This can lead to individuals and families being buried in premiums, deductibles and debt.

About 10% of seniors will put aside at least $200,000 at age 65 for long term care, but even this may not be enough.  For many families, their primary savings is in large investments like their homes which they may need to sell for elder care costs.  Even this may not be enough to make ends meet over the long term.

One option to protect seniors is buying long-term care insurance.  It will help seniors protect themselves financially and can work in concert with Medicare or Medicaid to form a decent shield against high costs of elder care.  Spouses are also protected under this kind of insurance and it prevents family caregivers from placing undue strain and burnout on their own lives, especially since a senior’s health needs can be constant and round the clock.

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Reverse mortgages:  Understanding the pros and cons

Reverse mortgages are a loan option that allows homeowners and homebuyers who are 62 or older to live more comfortably in retirement.

Reverse Mortgage Pros

  • You can continue to live in your home and you still retain title to it. You must still meet loan obligations and stay current with all expenses such as property taxes, insurance and homeowners’ fees.
  • You can take funds from a reverse mortgage as a lump sum, set up a line of credit to tap only when you need it, or take a steady stream of monthly advances.
  • You can use your reverse mortgage to pay off an existing mortgage loan. There will still be a lien on your home with the reverse mortgage, but you are not required to make monthly principal and interest payments, freeing you up from that expense.
  • No monthly mortgage payments are required as long as you live in the home and continue to meet your obligations to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance and maintain the property.
  • Closing costs and ongoing fees, such as the FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium, can be financed with the reverse mortgage loan — so out-of-pocket expenses can be minimal.
  • Loan proceeds are generally not considered taxable income. You should consult a tax professional to make sure this applies to your specific situation.
  • For the most part, a reverse mortgage loan will not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits.
  • You or your heirs are not personally liable for any amount of the mortgage that exceeds the value of your home when the loan is repaid.
  • If your home increases in value in the future, you can refinance your reverse mortgage to access even more loan proceeds.

Reverse mortgage Cons

  • If you don’t make payments, the loan balance increases over time as interest on the loan and fees accumulate.
  • Because you are using equity in your home, fewer assets are available to leave to your heirs. You can still leave the home to your heirs, but they will have to repay the loan balance. This can be done using other funds or by refinancing through a traditional mortgage.
  • Reverse mortgage fees may be higher than with a traditional mortgage.
  • Eligibility for needs-based government programs, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), may be affected.
  • A reverse mortgage loan becomes due and must be repaid when a “maturity event” occurs, such as the last surviving borrower (or non-borrowing spouse) passes away or the home is no longer the borrower’s principal residence.
  • The loan becomes due if the homeowner fails to meet other loan obligations, including paying property taxes, insurance, homeowners’ association fees, and maintaining the property.

What to do when a senior is unable to handle his or her own finances

When a senior can no longer handle his or her own financial responsibilities, there are several options that can be implemented:

  • A judge will appoint a person or organization to care for the person as well as managing his or her finances.  Conservators are required to report to the court on the conservatee’s status at regular intervals.
  • Joint account. A trusted loved one can be added to a senior’s bank accounts allowing them to make financial decisions, write checks, pay bills and other related actions.  This can be a sensible precaution when someone is diagnosed with a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document that allows another person to make financial decisions on their behalf in the event the assignor can no longer make sound decisions on their own.
  • Trustee. A senior can set up a living trust and name a trustee to manage financial decisions and keep the trust’s property safe.
  • Government fiduciaries. These fiduciaries are appointed by a government agency to manage monthly benefit checks issued by that agency — usually the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Picking a Power of Attorney

Deciding on a financial Power of Attorney (POA) is an important decision that directly impacts the lives of an entire family.

Choosing the right POA ensures that even if you are unable to make decisions for yourself, someone else will have access to your finances and can make decisions on your behalf consistent with your wishes and goals.

A financial power of attorney should not be confused with a medical power of attorney, which allows someone to act as your representative to make medical decisions when you can’t make those decisions for yourself.  The financial POA and the medical POA do not have to be the same person. However, the people you choose might need to work together to make certain that their decisions on your behalf don’t contradict one another.

The person chosen as a POA should be agreeable to performing those duties and have a commitment to taking them seriously.  They should also possess a solid understanding of business and financial issues and be comfortable working with attorneys, accountants and other professionals as needed.

It might be obvious, but the person selected should be somebody who is trusted, understands your values and goals, and will consistently act in your best legal and financial interests.

You should have a discussion with a potential POA before making a decision so that that they fully understand your financial details and are aware of the responsibilities they may take on in that role.

The life settlement option

Many older Americans may discover that life insurance policies that once made sense as part of their financial portfolio no longer meet their needs or are no longer affordable.

When this happens, they can sell their existing life insurance policy to a third party for more than its cash surrender value but less than the net death benefit.  Known as a life settlement option, the policy is transferred to the buyer in exchange for an immediate cash payment.  The buyer of the policy pays all future premium payments and receives the death benefit when the insured passes away.

This provides a viable option instead of letting a policy lapse back to an insurance carrier.

It’s always best to work with members of the Life Insurance Settlement Association (LISA) but at a minimum, to start the sales process of your policy you need to work with a licensed life settlement agent or broker.

Preparing a will or living trust

Wills and living trusts let you to decide how your property will be distributed after death. The primary advantage of a living trust is that it can make it easier to avoid the delays and costs that sometimes arise in probate.

Probate involves filing a deceased person’s will with the local probate court, taking inventory of the person’s property, paying all legal debts, and distributing the remaining assets.  Property transferred into a living trust before death does not go through probate.

Most states have rules that allow small estates to be administered outside of probate or through an “expedited” probate process. Rules are different in each state and you should probably contact an attorney to discuss the best way to accomplish a disposition of an estate.

Preparing a will or a living trust can be complicated.  For more information, consider checking out these resources:

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

National Consumer Law Center

Nolo Press

AARP – “10 Things You Should Know About Living Trusts

Making funeral arrangements

One of the ways to make things easier on a family is to take advance steps in planning for death.  With advance planning, a senior can have an active role in how they would like to be remembered.  Despite several benefits, many people are uneasy about the subject, which is why only about 20% of Americans have talked to loved ones about their funeral according to a 2017 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association.

If costs are a concern, consider final expense or burial insurance, so funeral costs will not be a burden when a person passes.  AARP also provides comprehensive advice and checklists to assist with advance planning efforts.

If you don’t set aside funds in advance, expect to pay $7,000 to $10,000 or more for a traditional funeral.  But costs can easily exceed those amounts depending on the size and scope of the ceremony.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance, a death-care industry watchdog group, has a number of resources you can access as well, including links to itemized lists of funeral costs, by state

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Financial programs and resources for the elderly

Here are several resources you can tap into for more information on financial planning and care for senior citizens:

A Place for Mom

American Elder Care Research Organization

Aging Care

The 10 Best Books to Help You Retire Richer, According to Financial Advisors

5 Books to Read Now if You Want to Retire Rich

AARP Health Care Costs Calculator

AARP Retirement Calculator

Department of Labor Lifetime Income Calculator

Life Insurance Calculator

Trusted Financial Advisor

Net Worth Calculator

Social Security Quick Calculator

Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator




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We often find ourselves asking what to do when someone dies at some point in our lives.  Even when a person’s death is anticipated because they’re sick or have a terminal condition, no amount of preparation fully emotionally prepares you when someone you know and love actually passes away.

The grieving process is unique to each person but taking care of the many tasks need to be handled can be the start of the healing process.

What do you do after a loved one dies?

Depending on your situation, you may be tempted to handle as many of the details surrounding a person’s death as possible.  Staying busy can be cathartic, but it can also be overwhelming.  You need to take time to mourn the loss.  Also keep in mind that involving others during this difficult time can help them process their own grief as well.

There are several things that will need to be done in the days and weeks following a death, but just getting through the first 24 hours is what you should focus on immediately.  Here are some things that will need to happen:

Contact the authorities

If a person died at home, you will need to contact the police to make sure a medical examiner can legally pronounce the death.  If the person died at home but was receiving hospice, contact the hospice agency.  If a person died at a hospital or nursing facility, those healthcare personnel will deliver the official pronouncement of death.

Consider organ donation

Check the decedent’s driver’s license of advance directive to see if he or she wanted to donate organs or tissue.  Time is of the essence for this after a person passes.

Notify friends and relatives

Begin contacting immediate family members, close friends and other relatives.  Creating a phone tree is something that can be delegated to several people if a large circle of notifications is involved.

Contact an interment provider

Unless plans were already made, you will need to decide upon a funeral home or another provider such as a cremation services, body donation organization or a direct burial service.  If possible, bring together key family members for an early conversation and find out if the deceased had any special requests.  Consider what you can afford, what is realistic and what the deceased wanted.  Help might be available from a number of sources, including a church, a union or a fraternal organization that the deceased belonged to.

If the deceased was a veteran

You may be able to get assistance with a funeral, burial plot and other details.  The military views it as a privilege to lay one of their own to rest.  Contact Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000 or your local veterans’ agency to inquire.

Arrange for care of dependents

If children are involved, a legal guardian will take custody of minors.  If there is no provision for this, then a state social welfare agency may intervene.  Pets will need to be cared for as well.

Important documents

Sometimes they are easy to find.  Sometimes they are not.  You may already know where a will, living trust and advance healthcare directive are, but you will also need several other documents.

  • Social Security card
  • military discharge papers
  • organ/tissue donation authorization
  • insurance policies

At some point you will also need deeds and titles to any property, automobile title and registration papers, stock certificates, bank account information, income tax returns, and birth and marriage certificates.

Other things you will need to consider in the days ahead:

  • Get duplicate death certificates. You may need a dozen or more copies.
  • Notify local Social Security office
  • Notify life insurance companies
  • Notify the post office
  • If the person was still working, look into employment benefits
  • Stop health insurance
  • Make a list of important bills such as mortgage payments and share the list with the executor or estate administrator
  • If you are the executor, consider meeting with a probate attorney
  • Notify banks
  • Notify credit card companies
  • Cancel driver’s license
  • Cancel email and website accounts
  • Cancel memberships in organizations
  • Contact a tax preparer

Depending on your relationship with the deceased, you may need to change several of your own documents as well.  If you are a spouse, most likely you left everything to the person who just died, meaning you’ll need to change the beneficiary designation on your IRA, life insurance policies, pension plans, 401(k) plans, and other investment or retirement plans.

Claiming Life Insurance benefits

Life insurance is a critical part of relieving the financial strain a family may face after a person passes away.  To start the process, beneficiaries or an executor must file a death claim with the insurance company, including the submission of a death certificate.  Many states allow insurers 30 days to review the claim after which time they can pay, ask for additional information or deny the claim.

Policies owned by revocable or irrevocable trusts must also provide a copy of the trust document to the insurance company identifying the owner and the beneficiary.

Assuming everything is in order, insurance companies generally pay within 30 to 60 days after a valid claim has been filed.  Insurance companies are motivated to pay in a timely manner to avoid steep interest charges for delaying the payment of a claim.

Payouts are typically made as a lump sum.  However, in recent years, the insurance industry has also added an installment payment plan as well.  An annuity can give a policyholder the option to select a pre-determined guaranteed income stream that will last between five and 40 years while they are still living.

Life insurance companies have designed policies that allow policyholders to draw against the face value of the policy in the event of a terminal, chronic or critical illness. These pre-death policies allow the policyholder to be the beneficiary of their own life insurance policy.  This is known as an accelerated death benefit.

Different types of life insurance coverage

Once you’ve made the decision to purchase life insurance, the next question you must answer is what type of life insurance will best suit your needs.  You have many choices, each with its own benefits and limitations.

Understanding the value of the policy

For any life insurance policy, the face value of the policy is the stated dollar amount beneficiaries will receive when the insured person dies.  A policy’s face value can be supplemented by additional benefits known as riders that can be added beyond the basic plan coverage.

To determine the full benefit paid out to beneficiaries in the event of the insured’s death, consult the schedule of benefits in the policy.  The face value plus the amount of any riders that are viable constitute the policy’s actual total death benefit.

Along with a person’s age, face value is one of the most important factors in determining the cost of a life insurance policy.  For example, you’ll pay a lot more for a $500,000 face value policy than you will for a $100,000 face value policy.

Reasons that could delay payment of an insurance claim

There are several reasons why the payment of an insurance claim could be delayed:

  • No beneficiary was named
  • The beneficiary is a minor
  • Beneficiaries were not updated after a major life change
  • If the insured died within the first one to two years after the policy was issued due to a contestability clause
  • Suicide clause
  • Death due to criminal activity if the beneficiary is a suspect
  • Potential fraud
  • Wrong or missing information
  • Failing to provide a certified copy of the death certificate and supporting documentation
  • The policy was included in a will or a trust
  • Only a primary beneficiary was named, and they are deceased

Is a will needed for life insurance?

A will is not necessary for you to claim life insurance benefits because life insurance policies usually pass outside probate.  Life insurance is considered a non-probate asset because the court sees it as a contract between you and the insurance company.

Your life insurance policy beneficiaries may be the same people you listed as beneficiaries in your will, or they may be different people or charities. These beneficiaries receive the proceeds from your life insurance policy so you may wish to list your life insurance policy information in your will to make it easier for your beneficiaries to find the policy.

If you list your estate as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, the proceeds from the policy will be paid to your estate. Because they belong to your estate, they will go through probate and be distributed according to the instructions in your will.  The drawback to this is that your beneficiaries will have to wait until the estate is probated to receive their share of the proceeds, which could take months.

How do I find out if someone has a life insurance policy on me?

The answer to this is simple: You must sign an application of consent to have a life insurance policy taken out on you.  If you don’t sign it, then there’s no way someone can legally have a life insurance policy on you.

Insurance policy fraud is also rare because in many instances a medical exam and/or a phone interview is required before issuing a policy.

There is also something known as “insurable interest” that comes into play.  Insurance companies like to make sure that the person buying the policy has an insurable interest in the insured person.  This might mean a wife who relies on her husband’s income or an employer who wants to take out a policy on a key person responsible for the success of their company.  It’s rare that a policy is issued unless there is an insurable interest.

If you believe there is a chance that somebody has a life insurance policy on you, you can run a search with the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) for $75.

The difference between term life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment

They are two very different types of policies. Knowing the difference is crucial to buying the right coverage for your needs.

Term life pays out whether a death is due to an accident, illness or natural causes. The only exception is suicide.  With term insurance, you choose the amount and the length of time (typically 10 to 30 years) you want coverage.  If you die after the term ends, there is no payout.

Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) pays only if a death is accidental or you suffer a severe injury.  Sometimes it is offered as a rider on a life insurance policy.  Generally, for a payout to occur, you must lose one or more body parts, your sight, your hearing or your ability to speak.  The amount that you are paid corresponds to the severity of the injury.  The full payout only takes place upon death.

To collect on an AD&D policy, it must be proved that a death or injury was directly caused by the accident or occurred within a certain time frame after the accident, usually three months.  Deaths from a drug overdose, drunk driving by the insured person, war, complications from surgery, mental illness, suicide and certain other circumstances likely won’t be covered.

What happens when someone dies without life insurance

Unfortunately, dying costs money.  And when you die without the safety net of life insurance, you leave someone else footing the bill for your final expenses.

The cost for a funeral can be between $2,500 to $25,000 or more.  Even if you opt for cremation, expenses can still run $1,500 or more.

There are options when someone dies without insurance in place.  Most are less than optimal, but they are available in many cases.  Surviving relatives can consider the following:

  • Work with a funeral home on a payment plan.
  • Get a loan, either by borrowing from a close relative or putting expenses on a credit card.
  • Release the body to the county coroner’s office. The body will be turned over to the government and it will be disposed of either by burial or cremation.  If ashes aren’t retrieved, they will go into a common grave.
  • Contact Social Security. There may be some death benefits you can access if the deceased was collecting Social Security prior to passing.
  • Contact the deceased person’s church or a community non-profit.
  • Ask friends or family to donate small amounts of money in lieu of flowers or other remembrances.

Many people assume that a life insurance payout provides a big cushion for surviving relatives following a person’s death, but the flip side of that is that life insurance often acts to insulate the considerable costs and loss of wages after a person dies instead.

Final expense life insurance is an affordable option

There are a couple of more limited and inexpensive ways you can protect your family from financial burdens after you pass away.

Final expense insurance is a form of life insurance that is used to pay only for funeral services and merchandise after a person dies.  It does not require a medical exam and in some cases, acceptance is guaranteed after a brief health questionnaire is answered.  Some polices require that you pay premiums for two years before coverage kicks in.  It is generally issued for a much smaller amount than life insurance, such as for $5,000 or $10,000, so the premiums are extremely affordable.

Costs covered by this insurance include funeral service, cemetery plot and headstone, casket, funeral procession and other miscellaneous costs.  Some policies also provide expanded coverage for medical bills directly related to end of life as well.

Depending on the life insurance company, a final expense policy may have added features such as child riders, accidental death and dismemberment, or support benefits for surviving loved ones. Not all policies are the same, so make sure you review the policy’s benefits carefully.

Unlike term policies, final expense insurance is whole life insurance and won’t expire if you pay your premiums.

The importance of starting early and planning ahead

When you’re young, life comes at you fast.  There’s a lot to know and a lot of lessons you’ll need to learn along the way.  Information overload can be staggering and sorting out what’s important vs. what’s not can be difficult to say the least.

As hard as it may be, if you’re smart while you’re juggling the immediate challenges in your life, you’ll also take time to think and plan for the long term.  Setting plans in motion now to protect you and your family can make all the difference in the world 10, 20, or 40 years down the road.

Financial planning in general is critical, but many young people don’t always include life insurance as part of that planning process.  But the right policy at the right price should be a priority for a number of reasons.

If you have just gotten married or you’re starting a family, life insurance can be used to replace income lost if you pass away.  Your family is going to depend on you for many years to come and providing for their security is one of the most foundational things you can do for them.

Also consider that student debt topped $1.3 trillion in 2017, with more than two-thirds of all students graduating with some level of debt.  There are currently more than 44 million student loan borrowers in the United States.  If you die before that debt is retired, your estate could still be on the hook for paying that debt.  If your parents co-signed for the loan, they would be liable.  Just because you are single, it does not mean you have no responsibilities.  Death at any age impacts a lot of people around you.

While money is probably going to be tight starting out, also consider that life insurance becomes more expensive as you age.  And in some cases, if you buy life insurance when you’re young and healthy, you may be able to buy additional insurance in the future even if your health changes.

Life insurance can also protect the viability of your business if you pass away.  From a succession planning perspective, life insurance can be used to fund purchase or sale arrangements, or it can provide an inheritance to your heirs who won’t receive a share of the family business when you hand over the reins.

You might also think about key person insurance which is often purchased to replace income needed by the business due to the untimely death of one of the primary revenue generators. Life insurance can also be offered as part of your overall benefits package to attract and retain talented employees.

A Guide to Personal Accident Insurance

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

Personal accident insurance provides an extra added layer of financial security in the event you sustain a bodily injury or a killed as a result of an accident.  When combined with other forms of insurance, such as life insurance, it can provide valuable protection for a family at an unexpected time when it needs it the most.

What is Personal Accident Insurance?

Personal accident insurance, also referred to as accidental death and dismemberment insurance, provides payouts to policy holders or their families who suffer losses due to unintentional injuries.  It does not provide payouts for deaths due to natural causes or diseases.

Polices can be written many different ways or combined for comprehensive personal accident insurance coverage.  Coverages may include:

Accidental Death.  If you die from any kind of accident, your beneficiaries will be paid on your behalf.  This policy is similar to life insurance, but it covers a much narrower spectrum of circumstances and often is less expensive than life insurance.  You must die from an accident, and not from a disease, illness or natural causes.  Often, people with active lifestyles will get both forms of insurance to make sure their loved ones are doubled up when it comes to financial protection.

Disability.  If you are injured so severely that you can’t work anymore, then disability insurance will pay you a monthly income.  Many people think that workers’ compensation or other forms of employer provided insurance will cover them, only to find out that they might be covered at a substantially reduced amount and for a limited amount of time of only up to 26 weeks.  A personal accident insurance policy that provides disability payments will fill in financial shortfalls you may experience and will provide benefits for a much longer period of time.  If you work in a dangerous occupation, this might be an exceptionally valuable type of policy to have.

Accidents.  Many policies are written to pay you cash if you sustain an injury due to an accident.  Cash can be used to cover the costs of treatment and for other expenses such as rent, groceries or utilities.  Coverages will vary according to the type of accident you have.  Some will cover just about any qualifying mishap even if the injury is minor.  Other policies will only cover serious injuries.  That’s why it is important to ask the right questions and make sure you understand all the details of coverage when you shop for a policy.

Even policies that provide coverage for all of these circumstances will vary by the amount of payout you could receive.  A percentage of the face value of the policy may be paid depending on the severity of your injury as well.  If you lose a limb or an eye, for example, you may receive a 50% payout as compensation versus if you die in an accident.

What Personal Accident Insurance Does Not Cover

Personal accident insurance pays out for several clearly defined scenarios, but it also does not pay out for several clearly defined scenarios as well.  The most well-known instance of personal accident insurance not paying off if an injury or death takes place due to sickness or disease, but there are many others.

Keep in mind that every policy is a bit different and so exclusions may vary, but generally speaking, no benefits will be paid if any of the following circumstances exist:

  • If the accident takes place in a country where a state of war exists whether it is declared or not, and the accident and resulting injuries were a direct consequence of the war.
  • If you took drugs other than according to a manufacturer’s instructions or your doctor’s prescribed instructions.
  • If you take drugs for the treatment of a drug addiction.
  • If you cause an accident while driving a vehicle and your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit in the state or in the country where the accident takes place.
  • If your injuries are intentionally self-inflicted.
  • If injuries or death takes place while committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide.
  • If you sustain an injury or are killed while directly involved in an unlawful act.
  • If you deliberately or recklessly expose yourself to danger.
  • If you are injured or killed while you are flying, unless you are a fare-paying passenger on a commercial aircraft.
  • If you are injured or killed while you are practicing, training or participating in a sport as a professional or semi-professional athlete.

How Does Personal Accident Insurance Work?

Most personal accident insurance policies pay out a lump sum benefit when a policy holder dies or suffers a bodily injury as a result of an accident or unforeseen event.  Standard polices are normally written to include payouts in the event of accidental death, permanent total disablement due to an accident, the loss of a specified body part, or the loss of the use of a specified body part.  Some policies also cover permanent partial disablement, or temporary total or partial disablement as well.

The policy does not pay out if the death is caused by sickness, disease or any naturally occurring condition or process.  In other words, if you get hit by a car, you will be paid.  If you die of cancer, you will not be paid.

The amount of the benefit, the areas of coverage and exclusions all vary from policy to policy.  That’s why it is important to pay close attention to the details when you are shopping for a policy.  Do not assume that a specific type of accident is covered and for a certain amount.  You owe it to yourself and your family to ask these important questions up front.

In addition to being able to purchase personal accident insurance as an individual consumer, many times an employer will offer it as a benefit, getting more favorable rates because it is part of a group policy.  At other times, personal accident insurance may be bundled with other types of insurance, such as life insurance or with travel insurance.

Before determining whether or not to pay out a claim, an insurer will look at the sequence of events of a death or injury to make sure the provisions of the policy have been met.  Sometimes this is a straightforward process.  At other times, it is not.   There are also exclusions in a policy and if they are present, then a claim probably will not be paid.  Exclusions can include things such as if the policyholder was using drugs or alcohol, and what role they played in the accident.

Reckless exposure to danger is another exclusion and may include things such as driving with excessive speed in a car or taking on the hobby of parachuting or base jumping.  You should check with your potential insurer before taking out a policy to get a clear definition of what constitutes reckless exposure.

Another common exclusion is suicide.

Sometimes it is clear that a suicide was a cause of death.  At other times, it may be less so. In those instances, an insurer will look to a coroner for a verdict.  Coroners must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed suicide before recording a death that way.  When it is recorded that way, the death is not accidental, and a benefit will not be paid.

Policies may pay as much as $250,000 for some kinds of accidental deaths.  When an injury is involved, the amount of benefit you can receive will vary depending on the injury and the associated costs.  Those associated costs can include things such as a trip to the emergency room, ambulance transportation, surgery, hospital stays and other related out-of-pocket expenses.

When an accident results in a permanent disability, you will be paid a percentage of the policy amount.  For example, if you lose a limb or the loss of sight in one eye, you may receive a lump sum payment of 50% of a policy value.  If you become a paraplegic, you may be entitled to 75% of the policy amount.

When your policy is in force, unless certain exclusions are in play, you are covered 24/7.  With a few exceptions, coverage is generally worldwide.

Policy costs will vary based on several factors but expect to pay about $25-$35 per month for family depending on the level of benefits, the type of benefits you choose and the carrier who writes the policy.

What is the Difference Between Personal Accident Insurance and Life Insurance?

Personal accident insurance and life insurance can work hand in hand to provide complementary coverage for you and your family in a variety of situations much greater than either one can provide on its own.

It’s true that life insurance offers broader coverage than accidental death insurance if you pass away, but you should still consider obtaining a personal accident insurance policy for a number of reasons.

Life insurance pays benefits when death occurs due to natural causes and in deaths caused by unintentional injuries, such as in a car accident.  In a 2013 CDC study, statistically speaking, accidental deaths were ranked as the fourth leading cause of deaths in the United States (just behind heart attacks, cancer and chronic respiratory disease), meaning that your family could be financially vulnerable if a sudden accidental death takes place.  While a life insurance policy will pay benefits, a personal accident insurance policy is an affordable way to provide additional financial peace of mind at a time in your life when your expenses may be the greatest and your loss would be financially devastating more than at other times.

Many people have active periods or higher risk periods in their lives and use term insurance to protect against death for a defined period of time.  Personal accident insurance is also used as an added layer of protection in these instances.

Another thing to consider is that if you’re leading an active lifestyle, you could be more susceptible to accidents if you engage in any kind of risky activities.  These activities may not even seem obvious, such as if you like to ride bicycles or perhaps surf or snow ski on a regular basis.  Many people are killed in accidents each year while participating in these activities, often through no fault of their own.

Personal accident insurance also means that even if you aren’t killed in an accident, you may also receive a financial payout for permanent injuries you may receive even if you’re engaged in some types of active or risky lifestyle choices.  Obviously, you must pass away to have your family receive life insurance benefits.

In other cases, you may have an existing medical condition that makes it challenging to buy life insurance.  While personal accident insurance will not give you the same kind of coverage as life insurance, it will still give you partial coverage is you are injured or killed in an accident.

What Does Personal Accident Insurance Cover?

Because every policy is different, there is no standard answer for this.  Depending on the policy and coverage that you choose, personal accident insurance may cover:

Accidental death.  A death must be ruled accidental and must not be attributed to natural causes.  Also, every policy has certain exclusions (i.e. suicide, death due to reckless behavior, etc.) that will not be covered.  It’s vital you understand all circumstances that the policy will pay out before buying it.

Permanent total disablement.  Benefits are paid when physical injuries lead to total disability of the policyholder.  In most cases, the entire policy sum is paid.

Permanent partial disablement.  When an accident leads to partial incapacity, payment may be up to 100% of the policy amount, or depending on the nature of the disablement, the policy may pay out a percentage.

Temporary total disablement.  If an accident injury results in total disablement for a limited amount of time, then a policy will normally pay a weekly amount, up to the policy limits, until the person is able to return to their work.

Out-of-pocket expenses. Personal accident insurance will also pay for out-of-pocket expenses for lesser injuries that will still leave you with medical costs and living expenses that must be addressed.  Some of those expenses may include:

  • Deductibles
  • Co-payments
  • Doctor visits
  • Hospital stays
  • Transportation
  • Lost wages
  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Car payments
  • Groceries
  • Utilities
  • Child care

Once you make your claim, payment usually takes place within a matter of days so that you can rest easy in knowing your short-term financial impacts are covered.

A claim could be denied if you have pre-existing medical conditions or injuries or if you failed to disclose any conditions or an occupation that is specifically not covered by a policy. Also, if you sustain a workplace injury, you may not receive payment if your workplace provides you with compensation to cover you for your injury.

In addition to pairing up a personal accident insurance policy with life insurance, it is often used in conjunction or instead of other types of insurance as a form of income protection as well.

Depending on the level of coverage for a health insurance policy, it can be used to cover deductible amounts that don’t kick in on a health policy.  It fills in what could otherwise be considerable gaps if a person seeks treatment under a health policy with a high annual deductible.  It can also be used as a complementary source of income if a person has long-term disability insurance.  Disability insurance typically only pays a percentage of a person’s income, and personal accident insurance can help bring income to closer to 100% after an accident.

At other times, to save money on expensive car insurance, people may not have collision coverage on their vehicles.  Personal accident insurance can be used as a protective measure in this instance as well.

Why Buy Personal Accident Insurance?

There are many reasons why you should consider buying personal accident insurance:

  • Family security. If you are vital to the financial security of your family, then you must do everything you can to protect them.  This alone can be a powerful enough motivator to spur you to buy a policy.
  • Family coverage. It is easy to also take out policies on any member of your family.
  • Low cost. Depending on where you live, your age and how much coverage you want, you may be able to get a policy for as little as $20 a month.
  • Lower premium. Although payout terms are restricted, the cost of a personal accident insurance policy is much less than what you would pay in premiums for life insurance policy.
  • Worldwide coverage. Although there are a few exclusions (e.g. you aren’t covered in a country where war is taking place), you are otherwise covered throughout the world.
  • Easy claim method. Submitting a personal injury accident claim is generally a streamlined and easy process.
  • No demand for medical tests and documentation. Depending on your policy, it can be a relatively easy process to activate the policy without burdensome tests and documentation.  For standalone coverage, this can be an attractive benefit if you have been turned down for life insurance.
  • Additional coverage above normal health insurance coverage. This can include costs for rehabilitation and other expenses not normally coverage by your existing health care policy.
  • Premiums are tax deductible. You can claim a tax deduction if you pay the total cost of the premium out of pocket.
  • Flexibility on how the benefit is paid. You can choose to receive a payment in a lump sum or have the benefit paid on an ongoing basis to help with monthly living expenses.
  • Flexibility on how benefit payments are used. You can use benefits to pay for a variety of incidental expenses related to your injury or for living expenses.

How Much Does Personal Accident Insurance Cost?

Naturally, there are several variables that will determine the actual cost of a policy, but you can find coverage for about $20 or less per month for an individual and $35 to $40 per month for a family, depending on the policy benefits, amounts, and the carrier you choose.

Some of the factors that affect the cost of personal accident insurance include:

Age.  The older you are, the most likely you are to have an accident, so expect that your premium will be higher.  Also, insurers generally only provide coverage for people up to 70 years old.

Occupation.  If you’re a professional skydiver or heavy crane operator, expect to pay more than if you’re any kind of an office worker.

Benefit amount.  The higher the benefit amount, the higher the premium.

Coverage options.  The more comprehensive policy that you choose, the higher the premium will be.

Who Needs Personal Accident Insurance?

Some people will derive more potential benefits from having personal accident insurance than others.  It can prove to be an effective policy for people such as:

  • Motorcyclists, from casual weekend riders to daily drivers using a motorcycle as a primary form of transportation;
  • Bicyclists, especially those who ride in groups for extended periods and geographic lengths;
  • Horse riders or those who regularly engage with large and potentially dangerous animals;
  • Senior citizens and the elderly who are more prone to accidents as shown by statistics;
  • Children and students who are especially active during their formative years through college;
  • Self-employed who may need additional coverage that health insurance may not provide or who engage in highly active occupations;
  • Members of sports clubs;
  • Tradesmen who work with dangerous equipment such as saws, drills, presses, and other power tools, and
  • Families who want an extra layer of financial protection in addition to other forms of insurance.

Is Personal Accident Insurance Necessary?

Not always, but there are many instances where it makes good sense to invest in a policy.

For example, if you’re engaged in a dangerous occupation or you can’t afford the premiums for a life insurance policy, then a personal accident insurance policy may be necessary to provide you and your family with added security and peace of mind.  If that is an important goal for you and your family, then personal accident insurance is a wise and reasonable investment.

Is Personal Accident Insurance Worth it?

The short answer is, it depends.

Under several circumstances, personal accident insurance is worth it.  According to the National Safety Council, close to 40 million Americans get medical attention for injuries each year.  In addition, the NSC also provides details on the odds of dying due to various activities, many of which could be classified as accidents ranging from motor vehicle crashes to firearm discharges or electrocution.

Personal accident insurance may also make sense for you or your family if:

  • You work in a dangerous occupation.
  • You drive long distances for your job.
  • You have an active lifestyle with family members who play a lot of sports.
  • You engage in hazardous hobbies such as hang gliding, rock climbing, scuba diving, or riding dirt bikes.
  • You want added protection to offset the high out-of-pocket expenses that may be associated with your healthcare plan. With personal accident insurance in place, you may be able to lower your health insurance premium by raising the deductible because of the added coverage you enjoy at a less expensive cost.
  • You have a low tolerance for financial risk and exposure when it comes to medical expenses.
  • You do not have a life insurance policy or cannot afford to get one.

How Much Personal Accident Insurance do I Need?

Part of determining how much personal accident insurance you need is driven by what you can afford. If you are financially able, insurance experts recommend buying the same amount of personal accident insurance as life insurance coverage that you have.  Ideally, this means if you have a $100,000 life insurance policy, you should also have a $100,000 personal accident insurance policy as well.

Many people can’t afford to buy enough life insurance coverage, or they underestimate the financial hardships they might encounter if a loved one dies.  In those instances, because personal accident insurance costs less, it might be wise to buy more accident insurance as a safeguard that fits within your budget.

How much personal accident insurance you should buy can also be influenced by your occupation.  The more dangerous your occupation, the more you should consider a personal accident insurance policy.  It may make sense for people who are heavy equipment operators, commercial fishermen, construction workers and other similar employment where serious injuries are higher than normal.

How Do I Choose Which Personal Accident Insurance to Buy?

Like any other major purchase, you need to do research, shop and compare before deciding which personal accident insurance to buy.

Some things to consider include:

Policy terms and conditions

  • Exclusions
  • Cost
  • Policy limits
  • Financial stability of the provider
  • Customer service reviews and reputation
  • Payment turnaround time
  • Ease of submitting a claim
  • Payouts for out-of-pocket expenses
  • How does a policy work in concert with my life insurance?
  • Details of family coverage
  • Is my age a factor?
  • How does this particular policy fit into my overall financial strategy?

Which Personal Accident Insurance is Best?

There is no one set policy that is the absolute best.  It depends on your needs and circumstances.

First, determine the type of coverage you need and the amount that you want.  Look for stable, well-known companies that have strong financial metrics which can be determined by looking at ratings agencies such as A.M. Best.  It is the oldest and most widely recognized provider of insurance company and industry data and news.  You can also check out the Better Business Bureau, a reliable provider of unbiased information on insurance companies based on consumer input.

In some cases, an employer will offer personal accident insurance through a group policy.  In this case, the work has been done for you and you can either decide to opt in at a reduced premium or go your own way by working with an independent agent.

Another possibility for comparing and purchasing accident insurance policies from various insurance companies is Emerge.  This website helps you make decisions about personal accident insurance based on your lifestyle and budget.




Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

When you’re involved in a car accident, there are a lot of things to sort out.  You might have to deal with the police, doctors, attorneys, and of course, insurance companies.

Once you get past the immediate shock of an accident and take care of the pressing needs required to get your life back on track, one of the things you’ll probably want to know is how long an accident will impact your life.

Assuming you recover fully from any injuries, that your car has been repaired, and other parties in the accident have been provided for, one of the few remaining questions will be how long an accident will stay on your driving record because it could have a direct impact on your wallet or pocketbook.  If you’re at fault, and sometimes even when you are not, an accident can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in increased insurance premiums for as long as an accident appears on your driving record.

Unfortunately, there is no simple or single answer to this question; much of the answer will depend on the severity of the accident, if you were at fault, and where you live.  The good news is there are some things you can do to counteract a premium increase due to an accident as well, so you may not be completely stuck if you’re involved in a collision.

Knowing how long an accident will stay on your record is important, but you should also be aware that there are several factors that go into determining the car insurance rate you’ll pay:

  • Vital statistics. Your age, gender and number of years of driving experience.
  • Where you live. Statistically, drivers in some places are just at more of a risk for accidents than in other places.
  • Credit score. Some insurance companies use this as an indication of how much risk you might be while driving.  Be aware that this factor is not allowable in all states.
  • How often and how far you drive. More miles and time spent on the road translates into a greater risk for accidents.
  • Driving habits. Insurance companies also look at how and when you drive.
  • Occupation. Some occupations are considered to be more at risk or safer by some companies.  This is also not an acceptable factor in some states.
  • Accident record. More accident claims translate into a higher risk for auto insurers.

Because insurance is regulated at a state level, where you live will have a major impact on how long an accident will remain on your driving record.  Every state is different, and not just in the amount of time, but taking into consideration the circumstances of an accident as well.

Here’s a sampling of how long an accident will stay on your record in certain selected states:

  • California – Most offenses stay on a driving record for either three years or 10 years. Car accidents stay on a record for three years from the date of the accident.  DUI convictions stay on a record for 10 years.
  • Colorado – Complete driving records are available for a period of seven years, including citations, accidents, violations and fines.
  • Florida – Traffic violations remain on a driving record for three to five years and severe violations will remain even longer. Alcohol-related violations stay on a record for 75 years.
  • Georgia – If no ticket is issued, it will not appear on your record. Otherwise, most violations and accidents stay on your record for seven years.
  • Texas – Accidents and tickets stay on the state’s motor vehicle agency records for three years. DUI infractions stay on a driving record forever.
  • Michigan – Any tickets due to moving violations stay on state records for two years from the conviction date. Accident convictions stay on the state records for at least seven years from the conviction date.  DUI convictions are permanent, as are convictions for a fatality.
  • New York – An accident stays on the state motor vehicle record during the year it took place and for the following three years. It is removed on January 1 of the fourth year after the accident.

If you’re trying to determine how long an accident will stay on your driving record, check with your insurance company or with your state’s motor vehicle department.

How Much Will Your Car Insurance Increase After an Accident?

The answer could be zero.  The answer could be a lot.  But for the most part, the answer is somewhere in between because there are so many variables that go into a rate increase decision.

On the low end, if an insurance company has an program in place that forgives accidents, then your first accident could result in a zero increase in premiums.  But you’ll have to meet certain requirements for this to happen.

You shouldn’t see a premium increase if you’re not responsible for the accident either.  One stumbling block is if you live in a state where no-fault insurance is in place.  If that’s the case, then both parties in an accident will end up paying for some of the losses incurred in an accident.  And when an insurance company has to pay out on your policy, you can expect that you’ll see some amount of an increase.  However, some states prohibit insurance companies from raising your premiums after accidents that weren’t your fault.

The other scenario where you might not see a bump is when an accident is minor and there’s very little damage.  Even if you’re the one who is at fault, if it’s only a scratch or two, then you might avoid a premium increase.  This will vary from state to state.  A premium increase after an accident will usually last anywhere from three to five years but will also vary by company and state.

You can expect a percentage bump up when an accident is more serious, when you are primarily at fault and/or when you receive a ticket as part of the accident.  How much of a bump will depend on the particulars of your case, but a 25 to 50 percent increase or more might be in your future.

A 2016 study by InsuranceQuotes revealed the five states that reported the largest premium increases after a single auto claim worth $2,000 or more were California (63.1%), New Hampshire (60.3%), Texas (59.9%), Massachusetts (57.3%), and North Carolina (57.3%).

Conversely, states with the lowest premium increases after a similar claim included Maryland (21.5 percent), Michigan (26.1 percent), Oklahoma (27.9 percent), Montana (30.2 percent), and Kentucky (30.6 percent).

Not surprisingly, rates tend to jump the most when a driver causes an accident where a bodily injury is involved.  The least significant jump in rates were those accidents involving comprehensive claims.

How Long Does an Accident Affect Your Car Insurance Rate?

There is no single or simple answer to this question.  Insurance companies take into account where you live, if you were at fault, whether or not you got a ticket, and how serious the violation was in deciding the length of time your rates may be affected.  Who you are insured by will also be a consideration as well.

Minor accidents and violations can stay on your record for three to five years on your state’s motor vehicle agency.  However, if you have a more serious conviction, such as a DUI where an accident took place, this can stay on a driving record for 10 years even if you were not at fault in places such as California.  But in Florida, terms are much more onerous, with alcohol-related accidents staying on a person’s driving record for 75 years!

Some states limit how far back an insurance company can consider at-fault accidents when determining a driver’s insurance premium.  For example, Massachusetts limits the look-back period to no more than five years.  And if you were not at-fault in an accident, then it may not count against your record and impact your insurance premiums, but this is not always the case.  In other instances, state laws prohibit insurance companies from raising your rates after an accident if it was not your fault.

In jurisdictions where premium increases are allowed after an accident, assuming there are no aggravating factors, increases will last three to five years.  The surcharge due to an accident may also decrease as each year goes by, assuming you do not get into any more accidents.

How Much Does an Accident Affect Your Car Insurance?

Aside from the physical and emotional trauma that often occurs with people in car accidents, there is also an overarching financial concern as well.  Many people worry that if they are in a car accident that their insurance rates will go up for many years.  In fact, many people hesitate even filing a claim at all because they attempt to weigh the financial pros and cons after an accident.

There is no “one size fits all” response to this very real concern.  Several factors come into play when determining if and how much an accident will affect your car insurance.

  • Who was at fault? If you were not at fault, then there’s a chance your premium will stay the same.  But if you were responsible for the accident, you’re more likely to experience a rate hike.  Things get a bit more complicated if you live in a no-fault state which means that both insurance companies will pay for some of the costs of the accident.  Like it or not, in a no-fault state, there’s a good chance your rates will rise no matter who caused the accident.

Premium bumps can vary widely, too.  For example, according to a 2015 industry study, Massachusetts drivers saw a nasty premium spike of 76% after just one claim.  Conversely, Maryland drivers saw an average increase of only 22% under the same circumstances. Overall, the same study found that drivers who make a single claim of $2,000 or more could expect an average premium increase of 41%.

  • How severe was the accident? It’s one thing to get a scratch on your paint, a bang on your bumper or a pushed in quarter panel, but quite another set of circumstances if your car is totaled.  The more damage, the more the insurance company will have to pay, and that could lead to a greater rate hike.  Also consider that if someone is injured and you were currently getting a reduced rate because you have been a good driver, you could lose that benefit and a resulting 20-25% discount if you were at fault.
  • What is my driving record? If you have a long history of no incidents (accidents and tickets), and you have been with a company for a long time, then you may be considered more valuable as a customer to an insurance company.  This is because safe drivers are cheaper for car insurance companies to provide coverage for, and as a result, you may see less of a premium hike than someone who has a poor driving record.
  • Does my insurance company offer accident forgiveness? Some companies reward good drivers with accident forgiveness, meaning that your first accident while covered under the company will result in no rate hikes. There is no auto insurance industry standard when it comes to defining what accident forgiveness is, so terms will vary from company to company and from state to state.  For example, GEICO currently offers accident forgiveness to its customers, except in California, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  This benefit is not offered on every policy, and terms and conditions are governed by state laws and regulations.

How Can You Reduce Your Car Insurance After an Accident?

There are strategies you can employ to try and keep your out-of-pocket car insurance expenses in line following an accident.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Increase your deductible. It’s true that you’ll trade a lower premium on the bet that you will be a safe driver who won’t get into an accident where you will end up paying more if you do.  But consider that if you increase your deductible from $200 to $500, according to the Insurance Information Institute, you could reduce coverage costs by 15-30%.  Bump the deductible and you could be looking at as much as a 40% reduction.
  • Consider bundling your coverage. Some insurance companies are also in the business of providing other kinds of insurance.  You can enjoy a nice discount if you buy renter’s or homeowner’s insurance from the same company who sells you your car insurance.
  • Consider other possible discounts. If you drive an older car, now may be the time to think about dropping your collision or comprehensive coverage.  Also make sure that the number of miles you drive is accurately reflected in your policy.  The less miles you drive, the less risk you are for an insurance company, and rates are often based using the number of miles driven as a consideration.
  • Report every accident to your insurer. Even if you are just in a fender bender, make sure to report it to your insurance company.  How can this save you money?  The simple answer is that it provides you with protection against legal actions by the other party that may not take place for months after the accident.  If you don’t report the accident, you and not the insurance company could be on the hook for legal expenses, medical bills, vehicle damage and any other judgments in the plaintiff’s favor.  It’s easy to see how this could quickly exceed any bump in policy costs you might experience.
  • Shop for a new policy. This one may appear to be a bit obvious, but if you think you can find a better deal, or you don’t like how you’ve been treated due to excessive increases, then explore the marketplace to see what else is available.  If you do, make sure you don’t base a final decision on strictly premium costs alone.  Research companies online and through consumer publications.  Also check with your state insurance department for customer satisfaction surveys and at A.M. Best to make sure an insurance company is financially stable.



Florida Medicaid Explained

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What is Medicaid?

Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 66 million Americans, including eligible low-income adults, newborns and children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. It is administered by individual states according to federal requirements. State and federal governments share costs for the Medicaid program.

In Florida, Medicaid is administered by the Agency for Health Care Administration.  It is the chief health policy and planning entity for Florida and oversees a $25 billion budget for Medicaid that serves more than 4.2 million of the state’s residents who receive Medicaid benefits.  The agency also oversees licensing for more than 48,000 health care facilities and is responsible for sharing important data that helps shape public health policies in the state.

AHCA administers the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program.  Most Florida Medicaid recipients are enrolled in the SMMC Program. It has three components: Long-Term Care (LTC) program, Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) program, and the Dental program.

Medicaid eligibility in Florida is overseen by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the Social Security Administration for those people who receive SSI benefits.

DCF’s Automated Community Connection to Economic Self Sufficiency (ACCESS) is a system that allows customers to connect with the public assistance information, including Florida Medicaid, 24/7 after they set up a MyACCESS account.

ACCESS Florida promotes strong and economically self-sufficient communities by determining eligibility for food, cash and medical assistance for individuals and families.

Florida Medicaid has services for many scenarios.

  • Florida Medicaid for AdultsFlorida Medicaid for Seniors
  • Florida Medicaid for Elderly
  • Florida Medicaid for Assisted Living
  • Florida Medicaid for Autism: This falls under the federally mandated medicaid benefits.
  • Florida Medicaid for Long Term Care
  • Florida Medicaid for Nursing Homes
  • Florida Medicaid for Mental Health
  • Florida Medicaid for Dental

The Difference Between Medicaid and Medicare

The federal government administers two healthcare related programs to assist individuals.  One is Medicaid and the other is Medicare.  Although they sound alike and are sometimes confused with each other, they are distinctly different.

The main difference is that Medicaid is an assistance program and Medicare is an insurance program. 

Medicare helps people who are 65 and over or who have qualifying conditions under age 65 by providing coverage for their medical bills.  Medicare is divided into four parts known as Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.  Each provides certain types of coverage.  For some services and coverages, beneficiaries may need to pay a monthly premium.  If a person has paid into Medicare throughout their working life, then some parts of Medicare will be free.  Medicare is strictly a federal program and is administered uniformly throughout the United States.

Medicaid is an assistance program and has no age restrictions.  It is based purely on need and will provide benefits if a person falls below certain income and asset levels.  Most all services are provided at no cost, except in a few limited cases.  Although Medicaid adheres to federal guidelines, it is administered by state and local governments.

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Who Qualifies for Florida Medicaid?

In Florida, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) determines eligibility for public assistance programs, including Medicaid.  Federal regulations and Florida Statute and Administrative Rules contain the specific polices that must be adhered to for eligibility.  For those people who receive Supplemental Security Income, the Social Security Administration will determine eligibility.

He or she who qualifies for Florida Medicaid must be a U.S. citizen or a qualified non-citizen, must be a Florida resident, and must provide Social Security numbers to facilitate data matching.  Eligibility may be verified electronically through the Federal Data Services Hub.

Applicants must also apply for all benefits to which they are entitled including pensions, Social Security and Medicare benefits.  Income from wages and self-employment is also used to determine eligibility as well.

Family-Related Medicaid is based on need and there are strict income limits for those who want to receive benefits. Income limits are based on the expected tax filing status for each applicant.  A household’s countable income, after allowable deductions, must be less than the applicable income limits.  To view the 2018 limits for each target group, go here.

Households with income that exceeds limits for Family-Related Medicaid will be enrolled in the Medically Needy Program.  Those applicants may be referred to the Federally Facilitated Marketplace or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

There are several targeted groups who are potentially eligible for Medicaid:

  • Parents and caretaker relatives of children
  • Children under age 19
  • Children from 19 to 21
  • Newborns and infants under age 1
  • Pregnant women
  • Former foster care children between 18 and 26 years old
  • Non-citizens with medical emergencies
  • Aged or disabled individuals not currently receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

People may also be eligible for Medicaid for up to three months prior to the date they apply if they have unpaid medical bills for one or more of the three months preceding the month that they apply.  This is known as retroactive Medicaid and individuals will be notified by mail if it is determined they are eligible.

Medicaid is authorized for a 12-month period and to continue receiving coverage, a beneficiary must complete and submit a renewal annually.  All beneficiaries are required to report any changes that may affect their eligibility within 10 days of an event taking place.  Some of the examples of changes affecting eligibility may include:

  • Florida Medicaid for Pregnancy
  • Florida Medicaid for Newborns
  • New or increased earnings
  • Termination of employment
  • Arrival or departure of members in a household
  • A change in address
  • A change in living arrangements
  • Relocation to another state

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What Does Florida Medicaid Cover?

States establish and administer their own Medicaid programs and determine the type, amount, duration, and scope of services within broad federal guidelines. Federal law requires states to provide certain “mandatory” benefits and allows states the choice of covering other “optional” benefits.

Mandatory benefits include services like inpatient and outpatient hospital services, physician services, laboratory and x-ray services, and home health services, among others. Optional benefits include services like prescription drugs, case management, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

Federal Mandatory Medicaid Benefits

Following are the federally-mandated Medicaid benefits:

  • Inpatient hospital services
  • Outpatient hospital services
  • EPSDT: Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment Services
  • Nursing facility services
  • Home health services
  • Physician services
  • Rural health clinic services
  • Federally qualified health center services
  • Laboratory and X-ray services
  • Family planning services
  • Nurse midwife services
  • Certified pediatric and family nurse practitioner services
  • Freestanding birth center services (when licensed or otherwise recognized by the state)
  • Transportation to medical care
  • Tobacco cessation counseling for pregnant women
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism)

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Florida Medicaid Covered Services

In addition to the required medicaid services, Florida Medicaid also covers several additional services.  Click on the link to each of these services to get more detailed information:

  • Allergy Services
  • Ambulatory Surgical Center
  • Anesthesia Services
  • Assistive Care Services
  • Behavioral Analysis
  • Behavioral Health Overlay Services
  • Birth Center and Midwife Services
  • Cardiovascular Services
  • Certified School Match Program
  • Certified Substance Abuse County Match
  • Chiropractic Services
  • Community Behavioral Health Services
  • County Health Department (CHD) Services
  • Dental Services
  • Dialysis Services
  • Durable Medical Equipment (DME) and Medical Supplies
  • Early Intervention Services
  • Evaluation and Management Services
  • Family Planning Waiver Services
  • Federally Qualified Health Center Clinic Services
  • Gastrointestinal Services
  • Genitourinary Services
  • Hearing Services
  • Home Health Services
  • Hospice Services
  • Hospital – Inpatient
  • Hospital – Outpatient
  • Hospital – State Mental Health
  • Integumentary Services
  • Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IID) Services
  • Laboratory Services
  • Medical Foster Care (MFC) Services
  • Neurology
  • Nursing Facility
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Services
  • Orthopedic Services
  • Pain Management Services
  • Podiatry Services
  • Prescribed Drug Services
  • Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care (PPEC) Services
  • Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
  • Radiology and Nuclear Medicine Services
  • Redirections
  • Reproductive Services
  • Respiratory Services
  • Rural Health Clinic Services
  • School-Based Services Programs – County Health Department (CHD) Program
  • Specialized Therapeutic Foster Care
  • Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program Services
  • Targeted Case Management – Child Health
  • Targeted Case Management – Children at Risk of Abuse and Neglect
  • Targeted Case Management – Mental Health
  • Therapy Services – Occupational
  • Therapy Services – Physical
  • Therapy Services – Respiratory
  • Therapy Services – Speech-Language Pathology
  • Transplant Services
  • Transportation – Emergency
  • Transportation – Non-Emergency
  • Visual Aid Services
  • Visual Care Services

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What is the Medically Needy Program?

This program can help pay for Medicaid-covered services. Beneficiaries enrolled in this program have income or assets that exceed the limits for regular Medicaid.

Before Medicaid benefits can be approved, an enrollee must meet their “share of cost” meaning that they must pay a portion of the medical bills they incur before Medicaid benefits kick in.  This is similar to what a deductible would be in a health insurance policy.  The amount of “share of cost” is based on a family’s monthly income.

Once an individual meets the share of cost for the month, the individual must contact DCF to complete bill tracking and approve Medicaid for the remainder of the month.

Information about this program can be found in the Medically Needy Brochure.

What is the Florida Medicaid Waiver Program?

The Florida Medicaid waiver helps elderly and permanently disabled adults at risk of being placed in a nursing home to remain living in their own homes or those of their caregivers while receiving assistance.  The waiver also includes adult day care to give respites to caregivers to go to work while also caring for an aging parent.

When an application is made, applicants are assessed to determine what level of care they require.  They can be approved for any of the following benefits:

  • Adult day health care
  • Attendant care
  • Case management
  • Chore services
  • Disposable medical supplies
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Home delivered meals
  • Homemaker services
  • Nutritional risk reduction (counseling)
  • Personal care
  • Pest control
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Respite care
  • Skilled nursing (however not for long term)

To qualify, persons under 65 must be certified as disabled by the Social Security Administration.

Florida Medicaid for seniors 65 and older do not need to be fully disabled but must require nursing home level care.

Waiver participants must also qualify for Florida Medicaid with a determination based on income and financial resources.  The spouse who is not applying is allowed to keep sufficient income to all him or her to keep living independently.

It should be noted that demand exceeds available resources for this program and as such waiting lists to receive services are normal.

To apply, persons under 60 years of age should contact the Florida Department of Children and Families. Persons 60 and older should contact the Department of Elder Affairs.

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When is Florida Medicaid Open Enrollment?

People can apply for Medicaid at any time in Florida.  Those who are accepted can also make changes in their plan online, by phone or in person at statewide customer service centers.

Medicaid applications in Florida can also be filed through the Health Insurance Marketplace for those seeking coverage.  Open enrollment for Marketplace insurance is typically offered for those who may not qualify for Medicaid or who may want different benefits than what Medicaid offers.  Open enrollment runs for about six weeks in October, November or December each year and gives applicants the ability to sign up for healthcare coverage during that time.

There are also supplemental enrollment periods that accommodate people who may qualify due to life events such as losing other coverage, getting married or having a baby.

Where Do I Apply for Florida Medicaid?

The easiest way to apply for Florida Medicaid is online by completing an application you will find here.

Applications can also be turned in at any of the ACCESS Service Center locations found throughout Florida.  To find the location nearest to you, go here.

Florida also works with several community partner agencies that help the Department of Children and Families provide access to all forms of public assistance.  This includes applying for food stamps, cash or Medicaid.  To find a local community partner agency near you, go here.

How Do I Apply for Medicaid in Florida?

You can apply for Florida Medicaid online by completing an application you will find here.

You can also complete a hard copy paper application that can be mailed, faxed or returned in person to any ACCESS Service Center location.

To get a hard copy of the Florida Medicaid application, go here.

There are also several community partner agencies that help the Department of Children and Families provide access to all forms of public assistance, including Medicaid. To find a local community partner agency near you, go here.

You will need to provide your full name, Social Security number and birthdate as well as any citizenship or immigration documentation.  Income and employer information will also be required, and you will also need to provide details on any existing healthcare coverage or potential healthcare coverage through your employer.

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What Happens After I Apply for Florida Medicaid?

After you submit an application, it can take up to 30 days to process your request.  If you need a disability determination, the process could take longer.  If you signed up for email alerts when you created your MyACCESS account, you will be sent a notification when there is something posted to your account.  If you didn’t sign up for email alerts, you will be sent notices by the U.S. mail.

When your application is reviewed, it may be determined that you will need to be interviewed to get more information about your situation.  If this is the case, you will be contacted by phone to arrange for the interview.

If it is determined that you need to provide more information, you will be sent a notice detailing what is needed, along with a deadline to provide the information.  Several items may be requested, including proof of identity or citizenship, proof of earned and unearned income by providing check stubs, child support information or notices from other government agencies.  You can fax, mail or upload these documents to your MyACCESS account, or turn over the information at a local Community Center partner.

After you have completed these steps, it may take an additional 30 days to process your application.

If your application is approved for food or cash assistance, you will be mailed an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, or you can use an existing card if you received benefits within the past 24 months.

If you are eligible for Medicaid, you will receive a gold card in the mail for all eligible members as well as Medicaid Choice Counseling information.  You will present this gold card when you receive Medicaid covered services through your provider.  If you picked a plan while your application was being processed, you will be enrolled in that plan. If you did not pick a plan while your application was being processed, a plan will be chosen for you.

If you are denied Medicaid benefits, you will receive a notice in the mail or through your MyACCESS account explaining why you did not qualify for benefits.  You have the right to appeal a denial.

Applicants determined not eligible for Medicaid will be referred electronically to the Federally Facilitated Marketplace or Florida KidCare.

How Do I Change My Florida Medicaid Plan?

After you have enrolled in a Medicaid plan, you can change your choice in several ways.

The easiest way is to go online to the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care page and log on to your account.  From there you will be taken through the steps to make your desired changes.

If you can’t make a change online, you can access the MMA automated phone system at 1-877-711-3662.  You will need your pin number to access your account

Florida Medicaid also offers counselors that are available to assist with changes by calling 1-877-711-3662, Monday through Thursday, 8 am to 8 pm, and Friday from 8 am to 7 pm.  TDD users only should call 1-866-467-4970.

You will need to make sure you have your Florida Medicaid number or Social Security number and birth year for each person you want to make changes.

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How Do I Cancel My Florida Medicaid Plan?

To cancel your Florida Medicaid coverage, you will need to call the DCF at 866-762-2237 if you currently reside in Florida.  If you live outside Florida, you will need to contact Florida medicaid to determine the proper process.  Most states will provide a mailing address, we strongly advise calling DCF prior to making any changes.

Can Florida Medicaid be Used Out of State?

Many people assume that Medicaid benefits from one state can be used when traveling to another state.  Although Medicaid is managed with oversight from the federal government, each state is given flexibility to set its own eligibility and coverage requirements.

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, Florida Medicaid will not cover health services provided in another state.  At best, Florida Medicaid will only cover out-of-state emergency room visits to stabilize an emergency situation.  All other non-emergency costs will not be covered, and costs will be out-of-pocket for a beneficiary.  When in doubt, it is best to contact Florida Medicaid first to determine if a service will be covered elsewhere.

Florida Medicaid beneficiaries who will be moving to another state, either temporarily or permanently, must apply for Medicaid in the new state where they will reside.  Federal law prevents a person from being enrolled in Medicaid in two states at the same time, so a beneficiary will need to cancel their Medicaid coverage in Florida before applying for coverage in a new state.  The good news is that retroactive coverage does exist, and beneficiaries should not be concerned about a gap in coverage when seeking a new plan in a new state.  The only concern is that each state has its own set of eligibility criteria, and what qualifies in Florida may not qualify in other states.

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How Do I Contact Medicaid in Florida?

Florida Medicaid Customer Call Center

8 am to 5pm, Monday through Friday


Florida Relay 711 or
TTY 1-800-955-8771

FAX: 1-866-886-4342

Florida Medicare Mailing Address

ACCESS Central Mail Center
P.O. Box 1770
Ocala, FL 34478-1770

ACCESS Florida Medicaid website

ACCESS Service Center Locations

The state maintains Service Centers throughout Florida.  To find the Service Center nearest to you, go here.

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Florida Department of Children and Families

The Florida Department of Children and Families also maintains regional facilities for your convenience.

Central Region – Brevard, Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Sumter

Northeast Region – Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Volusia

Northwest Region – Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla, Walton, Washington

Southeast Region – Broward, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie

Southern Region – Dade, Monroe

SunCoast Region – Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota

The Agency for Health Care Administration also provides information several state health care related topics.  This includes things such as Civil Rights Compliance, Complaint Investigations of Facilities, Financial Statements for the ACHA, Hospital Financial Data, Recipient and Provider Assistance, and many more.  To access a complete list of information topics, go here.


Accountable care organizations (ACO Model) could transform U.S. healthcare system, and we want to make sure you understand how they work and why they are so wildly disruptive to the traditional fee for service healthcare model.

For more than a decade, a debate has been growing about the state of healthcare in America.  The issue has intensified even more as baby-boomers seek higher levels of care, putting more stress on the nation’s healthcare system than ever before.  Costs continue to escalate, taking a much larger share out of the nation’s economy, and forcing an urgent discussion between the healthcare providers and government about how to find a better model to deliver quality care in a fiscally responsible way.

From these discussions, one of the most viable solutions gaining traction across the board has been a move toward value-based healthcare and the creation of accountable care organizations.

In this article we’re going to explain to you the importance of Accountable Care Organizations and why they are playing a critical part in the positive overhaul of US based healthcare.  Simply choose from any of the links below to learn more about how accountable care organizations work:

Quick Navigation: Guide to Accountable Care Organizations

An Overview of Accountable Care Organizations.

To better understand accountable care organizations (ACO) and how they could have a major impact on how healthcare is delivered in the future, it’s best to back up a bit and take a broader look the health of the American healthcare system.

What Are Accountable Care Organizations?

Accountable care organizations are groups of doctors, hospitals and related healthcare providers who have joined together to provide a coordinated system of care.

The overall goal is to provide a higher quality healthcare experience for patients; providing the right care at the right time and avoiding unnecessary duplications of services while also reducing treatment errors through better communication among providers.

There are three primary stakeholders in accountable care organizations.

  1. Providers. The size and scope of an accountable care organization will dictate how many and what kind of healthcare providers are in the ACO.  All ACO providers include hospitals and physicians but depending on the other providers, may include health departments, social security departments, home care services and others depending on the type of services they provide and the size of the ACO.
  2. Patients. Because accountable care organizations were originally conceived by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the majority of ACO patients are Medicare beneficiaries.  In larger and more integrated accountable care organizations, patients may also include uninsured and homeless people.  More and more, private accountable care organizations are also expanding their patient populations.
  3. Payers. Medicare is the primary payer to accountable care organizations.  In some instances, private insurance companies and employer-purchased insurance programs are also payers as well.  Payers are an integral part of ACOs because they play a key role in helping set higher quality standards and striving for lower costs.  Payers may collaborate with each other to make sure payout incentives are aligned and create consistent financial incentives for providers to achieve their quality care goals.

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Accountable Care Organizations vs Fee For Service

Currently, the clear majority of Americans pay for healthcare under a fee-for-service model. This traditional model pays healthcare providers based on the quantity of tests and procedures so that a patient is exposed to multiple options to receive the best care.  The downside is that patients are often burdened with tests and procedures they don’t need, weighing down a system with unnecessary treatments, and more important, with unnecessary costs.

The fee-for-service model has been effective with patients receiving quality care and the treatments they need. However, the emphasis on quantity over quality is not a sustainable model for the healthcare industry.

Enter value-based healthcare with a promise to radically transform the way healthcare will be delivered in the future. Under this new model, the emphasis is on healing a patient as opposed to just managing their healthcare problems.

It’s an exciting concept worth digging into here.

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Value-based Healthcare is the Concept — Accountable Care Organizations Are the Execution of That Concept.

To deliver on the concept of value-based healthcare, a new type of healthcare delivery system needed to be put in place.  This led to the creation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO).

The actual physicians and team that implement the strategy of value based care to improve the patient experience and have better cost containment.

When Did Accountable Care Organizations Start?

The term was first introduced a decade earlier and was later included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  When the ACA was signed into law in 2010, the Medicare Shared Savings Program was created.

This program pioneered the launch of ACOs and spelled out the broad terms of value-based healthcare, making providers jointly accountable for the health of their patients and providing financial incentives to save money by cooperating with each other.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed an initial set of guidelines for accountable care organizations under the Medicare Shared Savings Program.  Administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, three core principles guided the development of ACOs:

  1. Provider-led organizations with a strong base of primary care that are collectively accountable for quality and per capita costs across the continuum of care;
  2. Payments linked to quality improvements and reduced costs;
  3. Reliable and increasingly sophisticated performance measurement, to support improvement and provide confidence that savings are achieved through care improvements.

For the accountable care organization concept to work, a system would have to be created to seamlessly share information.  Doing so would create efficiencies and save money while making it easier to hit quality care targets.  ACOs that accomplished these goals would get to keep a portion of the savings.

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Accountable Care Organizations vs. Patient Centered Medical Home

With an accountable care organization, patients will have many providers that will serve as “homes” and provide them with healthcare services.  In other words, many providers will assume primary responsibility for the care of a patient.

As part of the overall need to reform healthcare, another value-based healthcare model has emerged that also focuses on the same goals as ACOs. The Patient-Centered Medical Home model (PCMH) also strives for improved care through coordination with healthcare professionals, but instead of many homes, the PCMH focuses on a primary care physician as the single home for a patient.  The primary provider takes a much more front and center role than under the ACO model.

The primary care physician provides continuous care and refers the patient to other specialists and hospitals as needed.  All selected providers collectively accept responsibility for the patient’s care. Under the PCMH plan, all providers may be given bonuses for improvements in primary care services for each patient, providing an additional incentive to offer quality care.

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How Do Accountable Care Organizations Work?

The concept behind accountable care organizations is simple: Teams of healthcare providers come together to share patient data, focus on prevention and better coordinate patient care.  Following are the benefits for a patient:

  • Local healthcare providers voluntarily decide to work together to provide patients with coordinated care.
  • Doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers will communicate with each other and partner with a patient to help make the best possible and most informed healthcare decisions.
  • Patients spend less time filling out paperwork because doctors across the ACO may already have medical history contained in a centralized electronic health record.
  • There will be less duplication of tests due to coordinated care because doctors and hospitals are sharing information.
  • The patient is made the center of the care and because of this, doctors do a better job of communicating with the patient and helping them make better choices.
  • For patients in Medicare ACOs, Medicare will share certain health information with the ACO about the care a patient is getting from their doctors and hospitals.
  • The privacy and security of a patient’s medical information is protected by federal law. Patients have the right to request that Medicare not share certain information with the ACO.
  • Doctors and hospitals will likely refer patients to hospitals and specialists within the ACO network. But patients can still choose to see providers outside the ACO network.  Healthcare providers who are part of an ACO are required to let patients know they are in an ACO network.  Patients are then free to opt out if they do not want to participate in an ACO.
  • Under the ACA, an accountable care organization must manage the healthcare needs of at least 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries for at least three years. In addition, all ACOs must meet a lengthy list of quality control measures to make sure they are not saving money by skimping on necessary care.

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Do Accountable Care Organizations Save Money


The model for accountable care organizations places financial responsibility on the doctors.  With the goal of improving care and limiting unnecessary tests and procedures, ACOs can save money by giving incentives to doctors, hospitals and other providers to form connections and facilitate coordinated delivery of healthcare.

By coordinating care, unnecessary medical care and improved outcomes will reduce the overall amount of care a patient needs.  When this happens, cost savings are achieved.  By early measures under the ACO model, it was estimated that Medicare savings of about a half billion dollars were realized from 2012-2015.

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How Do Accountable Care Organizations Make Money?

With a traditional fee-for-service model, doctors and hospitals are paid for each test and procedure, rewarding providers for doing more even when it is not needed and, consequently, driving up costs.

Accountable care organizations create incentives to be more efficient and meet specific quality of care benchmarks by focusing on prevention and more closely managing patients with chronic diseases.  ACO providers get paid more for keeping their patients healthier and out of hospitals.

Accountable care organizations are incentivized to save money and may have to pay a penalty if they do not meet their performance and savings benchmarks.  Most ACOs have not opted to take on that amount of risk yet, preferring smaller payouts in exchange for not participating in downside risk.  Some ACOs can actually receive payments in advance to help them build out their infrastructures that are necessary for coordinated care.

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Are Accountable Care Organizations Only for Medicare?

Although ACO’s started out as a public option under Medicare, they have grown and expanded into the commercial payer market as well.  It is not unusual for an ACO to have multiple contracts with payers including several private insurance companies and Medicare.

Medicare offers three main accountable care organization options, each with varying degrees of risk for the ACO:

  1. The Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) was rolled out in 2012 and was the first ACO option put into place for Medicare fee-for-service providers. At inception, it was intended to improve the quality of care, connect providers and encourage savings.
  2. The Pioneer ACO Model was also introduced in 2012 and was specifically targeted to work with early adopters of coordinated care who had already developed high performing healthcare networks. Because of the pre-existing infrastructure already in place, the Pioneer ACO assumed higher risk and shared savings than the MSSP ACOs.
  3. The Next Generation ACO Model was designed for experienced ACOs and allows them to assume an even higher degree of risk and reward than the other two Medicare models. The Next Generation model is tasked with testing to see if larger financial incentives combined with a larger network of data and delivery of services can lead to even better patient outcomes and lower costs.

End-Stage Renal Disease Care a Growing Model for ACOs

Medicare also has a targeted Comprehensive End-Stage Renal Disease Care ACO Model which is focused exclusively on dialysis facilities, nephrologists, and other kidney care professionals.  Large dialysis organizations with more than 200 facilities can receive shared savings payments, but also are liable for shared losses. They also share in greater levels of risk than their smaller counterparts.

Originally, small dialysis organizations could receive shared savings payments, but were not liable for shared losses. Beginning in 2017, they were able to include the option of assuming downside financial risk, accompanied by the opportunity for greater shared savings.

Based on the success of the Medicare ACOs, private healthcare systems began to realize there could be benefits and efficiencies found in shared data as a means of rewarding cost control and benchmarked quality healthcare.

Based on an American Journal of Managed Care study, it was determined that the private sector had three primary motivations for developing their own accountable care organizations.  These included the opportunity to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare services, to jumpstart population health improvement, and to accept that changes in how medical payments are going to be made was an inevitable change coming to the healthcare marketplace.

In many markets, private ACOs are now starting to engage patient populations as the trend toward value-based healthcare gains wider acceptance.

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What are the Pros and Cons of Accountable Care Organizations?

Accountable care organizations and the concept of value-based healthcare are a significant departure from the fee-for-service model.  While there are many reasons to like the ACO model, there are also several challenges to overcome.

10 Accountable Care Organization Pros

1: A Collaborative Delivery of Services

When all healthcare providers in an accountable care organization work together to ensure a better outcome for patients, they can combine their resources and analytics to create a single and comprehensive snapshot of care that results in better care.

2: Reduced Errors

ecause a collaborative approach means that healthcare providers are no longer working in provider silos, it is easier to implement checks and balances that rely on the combined skills and talents of providers.  With a greater collective approach, errors are less likely to happen.  Costs can be further reduced if better care reduces malpractice suits.

3: Greater emphasis is placed on prevention

Because there is a shift to improving the baseline health of patients backed by financial incentives, providers in accountable care organizations are more likely to implement preventative strategies instead of managing illnesses and conditions.

4: Patients spend less money overall

Because efficiency is the goal, patients will only receive the medically necessary treatments and procedures they need.  This means they’ll spend less on co-pays and meeting deductibles while their overall treatment arc should be shorter than under a fee-for-service model.  Less doctor visits, fewer and more targeted treatment protocols and fewer prescription medications go great lengths to not only reduce the patient’s financial burden, but the system’s financial burden as well.

5: Greater efficiency means more satisfied patients

When an accountable care organization meets its goals of delivering more efficient treatment with a greater emphasis on wellness, patients have a better healthcare experience and are more satisfied with their healthcare.

6: Healthcare providers are viewed more favorably

When patients are happy with their treatment, that translates into the healthcare industry being seen in a more positive light.

7: Payer’s costs are reduced

When ACO’s deliver better care at a reduced cost, payer’s costs are reduced and that lessens the bottom line impact that can put pressure on premium pools and investments.  When it all works, the healthcare industry is more fiscally solvent and healthy as well.

8: Society benefits as a whole

When people spend less money on healthcare, this frees up money that can be put back into the economy for other purposes.

9: Accountable care organizations are part of a solution that will make healthcare sustainable over the long term

The current fee-for-service model is rapidly becoming outdated.  Value-based healthcare is the preferred model for the future, and accountable care organizations will deliver that model in a way that best provides for a healthy and sustainable healthcare industry. Private healthcare providers are coming to this realization and they have started to embrace value-based healthcare and ACOs as a long-term viable solution.  Many providers have started pilot programs on their own, and others are seeking guidance from Medicare to make sure there is a coordinated effort.

10: Accountable Care Organizations vs. HMO

ACOs are a lot like HMOs.  To many people, accountable care organizations sound much like health maintenance organizations.  But the biggest difference with an ACO is that a patient is not required to stay in the network.  ACOs are trying to replicate the HMO model but without limiting patient options that created a consumer backlash a few years back.  ACOs are also required to meet a long list of quality measures to make sure they are not saving money by delivering substandard care.

6 Accountable Care Organization Cons

1: Resistance to change.

Many providers are profiting nicely from the current fee-for-service model and are apathetic when it comes to implementing a new system that may put less money into their pockets.

2: Changing over is a massive task.

The U.S. healthcare system is huge and that means any switch in how healthcare services are delivered is going to be a massive task, one that will take years to implement in a best-case scenario.  This will require significant time, resources and financial commitments to remake a system and integrate accountable care organizations into the healthcare fabric.

The other big challenge facing a makeover is trying to set policies that everyone in the system can agree on.  Accountable care organizations are already in place and operating on a somewhat limited basis.  They are continuing to gain traction but sharing patient information on a global scale among ACOs will be problematic given the fractured nature of American healthcare.

3: Financial concerns.

Changing to value-based healthcare and creating many more accountable care organizations is expected to save money in the long-term, but short-term it is expected to cost quite a bit more.  Providers will only see it as a hit to their bottom line since they won’t be able to bill payers as they have in the past.  Although they will be rewarded in a better way after the transition period, getting through that period will be a cause for concern.

The other big cost will be implementing a new billing system, because bundling payments will be the new norm in the future instead of payments for individual services.  In other instances, deciding which healthcare provider is responsible for which part of a patient’s treatment could prove problematic, creating questions about who should receive payment and who should be held accountable.

There are also concerns when trying to decide what costs of services should be among various providers because there will be varied structural costs based on each individual provider.

4: Creating measurement systems for patient outcomes.

Accountable care organizations will be judged and paid based on patient outcomes. Determining how to measure those outcomes is sure to cause debate until standards can be put in place.

5: ACOs are not familiar with evidence-based outcomes and quality measures.

The criteria to judge success for doctors and hospitals under a fee-for-service system is quite different than under a value-based system.  Accountable care organizations will need to implement different criteria based on a new kind of measured outcome to be able to get paid.  A lack of experience with this type of measurement system will create reluctance to implement value-based healthcare among some current providers.

6: Mergers and patient consolidation.

Private practice doctors are finding it necessary to consider joining ACOs as a means of having their private practice survive.  Many fear this consolidation could have a long-term negative effect on the healthcare industry.

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Who Owns Accountable Care Organizations?

Private physicians own accountable care organizations.

They may be regional or as in the case of United Healthcare and Aetna, they have created a nationwide ACO serving many markets throughout the United States.

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How Are Accountable Care Organizations Funded?

In many cases accountable care organizations are funded by the providers, but in some instances, as an incentive to create more ACOs, Medicare will fund them through its ACO Investment Model.

This is a model of a pre-paid shared savings that builds on Medicare’s experience with the agency’s Advance Payment Model.  The goal is to make the barrier to entry into an accountable care organization much lower, providing funding to build coordinated care infrastructure, especially in rural and underserved areas.  It is also designed to encourage current Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs to transition to arrangements with greater financial risk.

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How Many Accountable Care Organizations are There in the U.S.?

In a study conducted by Leavitt Partners, in January 2016, there were 838 public and private accountable care organizations in the United States.  These covered service areas in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and indicated an increase of almost 13% from the previous year.  In 2016, almost 240,000 physicians participated in Medicare ACOs across the country.

It is also estimated that in 2017, between Medicare and private accountable care organizations, there were more than 28 million patients who were enrolled in ACOs.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has enrolled 561 Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) in the Medicare Shared Savings program in 2018, an increase from 480 in 2017. The number of beneficiaries in these ACOs in 2018 is 10.5 million.  Shared Savings ACOs receive a portion of any financial savings if they meet quality and cost benchmarks. Providers can also choose to share in losses in exchange for receiving a higher percentage of savings. For 2018, 101 ACOs have chosen these higher risk/reward payment tracks.

CMS also announced that 58 ACOs will participate in the Next Generation ACO model which gives participants the opportunity to take on even higher levels of financial risk, up to 100 percent. In exchange, Next Generation ACOs receive a greater share of potential savings.

While many challenges remain, the promise of the ACO model represents a big step forward in providing sustainable healthcare for millions of Americans in the future.  There will be growing pains as ACOs take hold but in the long-term this is a viable solution that will have a number of positive impacts on Americans and their health for years to come.

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Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

No matter how hard we try to avoid them, life is full of surprises, and visiting the dentist is no exception.  Sometimes, your teeth, mouth and gums break down despite how well you take care of them.  Age also takes its toll, potentially leading to bridges, crowns and dentures.  Accidents can also cause major damage.  You may lose or damage your teeth if they are knocked out or you bite down on something the wrong way and a tooth crumbles into several pieces.

Many people don’t like going to the dentist because they fear the pain, even though dentistry has advanced to the point where pain has been minimized or eliminated for most procedures.

Perhaps what people now fear the most is the financial pain that comes from paying for everything from routine fillings to expensive restorative work.

What is Full Coverage Dental Insurance?

While not all financial dental pain can be eliminated, when a patient opts to purchase full coverage dental insurance, they can reduce a large amount of the costs associated with their dental work.

There are many options when it comes to full coverage dental insurance.  It’s best to anticipate current and future dental needs and then if it makes sense, purchase an appropriate policy to meet those needs.  Do the kids need braces?  Have you put off getting bridge work done?  Do you need to place a crown on a troublesome tooth?  Nobody can plan for all eventualities, but making an educated guess is a good start when it comes to deciding what insurance is right for you.

If you’re not sure what your future needs will be, sometimes it makes sense to just go with a policy that provides preventative and basic care such as regular visits and cleanings.

After you decide what your needs are, if you have a dentist you already use and like, check with him or her to see what dental insurance their office accepts.  It may be worth it to pay a little more if you’re happy with the service, or you may choose to go to a new provider if budget is your primary concern.

When shopping for dental insurance, you must also decide if you want to pay monthly premiums and co-pays when you visit, or if you would prefer to pay full amounts to the dentist all at one time.

Full service dental plans come with various options and can be tailored to your specific needs.  Preventative services receive the highest amount of coverage, but plans will vary depending on the types of procedures that are covered and to what degree.

Just like any other insurance policy, you pay a premium and receive coverage in exchange.  When you pay a higher premium, you will likely receive better coverage and have lower copays and deductibles.  However, you must shop around to make sure you find just the right mix of services, premiums and coverage for your particular situation.  You should also be aware that dental insurance plans may also provide coverage for using dentists that are out of the plan’s network, but in most cases, the costs to a patient will be more.  It’s always advisable to try and use an in-network dentist whenever possible.

What is Covered by Full Coverage Dental Insurance?

There are three levels of “full coverage” when it comes to dental insurance.  Depending on the level or the procedure, some plans require a patient to go through a waiting period before coverage will kick in.

Class I services include diagnostic and preventative visits such as x-rays and regularly scheduled cleanings.

For preventative services, there is usually no waiting period because dental insurance providers want patients taking a proactive role in their own dental health.  When a person keeps their mouth, teeth and gums clean and disease free, they require less invasive and costly procedures which could result in expensive future claims against an insurance provider.

Class II coverage include basic restorative care such as fillings and root canals.

Class III coverage includes major restorative care such as crowns, bridges and dentures.  This level includes all work that replaces damaged and missing teeth.

When you need to have major work done, you should also check with your medical insurance provider who may be able to cover some of the costs associated with your dental work.  For example, your medical insurance may cover the cost of antibiotics you will need to take before having a root canal done.  Similarly, medical insurance may cover a part of any oral surgery procedure that is required due to non-biting accidents or related diseases.  This can include jaw surgeries for extracting wisdom teeth, skeletal deformities, cleft palate or facial issues associated with sleep apnea or other airway obstructions.

Unfortunately, health insurance rarely pays for dentures, implants or bridges because these treatments only address function, comfort and appearance, so they are not deemed medically necessary.  However, health insurance may cover braces that are necessary to reposition teeth after a non-biting accident.

There are some other things to know when it comes to dental insurance coverage.

If a person has a medical emergency and needs treatment, then health insurance covers emergency dental work.  Traumatic injuries from accidents, playing sports or other similar situations should be covered and claims should be paid to remove, repair and restore natural teeth and any tissues in the mouth.  Filling a cavity or dealing with a toothache does not qualify as a medical emergency.  Reimbursement assumes that the patient already had health insurance in place before the accident or medical emergency took place.

Unless expressly stated or added as a rider, dental insurance will not cover procedures that are considered purely cosmetic.  This means there is no payment for tooth colored fillings, invisible braces or adult cosmetic orthodontics.  If this is a type of treatment you are considering, you should shop around to see what coverages are available and what you will be required to pay.

If you had dental insurance that expired no more than 60 days prior to seeking new coverage, that full coverage dental insurance providers will often waive the pre-existing condition exclusions.  This means if you need major work, the new provider will often pay for services without waiting periods.  Two groups that qualify for this benefit include anyone who recently lost coverage after changing jobs or for other life events (divorce or death) and people with existing plans who are seeking a second and supplemental policy.

Factors That Impact Full Coverage Dental Insurance Costs

Trying to determine how much full coverage dental insurance costs is like trying to figure out how much a car will cost.  You simply can’t put an accurate price tag on how much your coverage will cost without first identifying the factors that will impact what those costs will be.

In general, it’s estimated that Americans pay about $360 per year for dental insurance with costs running between $15 and $50 per month.  Factors that influence what exact premium costs will be are location, the type of dental plan you choose, your overall dental health and what type of provider you choose.

Another factor is how much the maximum annual benefit is for the policy you choose.  Most amounts fall between $1,000 and $2,000, but unlike medical insurance where you must meet a deductible before coverage kicks in, with a maximum amount in place, coverage ends when you reach your annual limit.  You are on the hook for any costs that go over the specified amount.

One of the most common full coverage dental insurance plans that is offered is known as 100/80/50 coverage.  Taking the three levels of dental care into account, this means that preventative care is covered 100%, basic care is covered 80%, and major care is covered 50%.

You can also add orthodontic care for an additional cost if you know that braces are in the future for one or more of your family members.  A few plans will let you also add cosmetic care coverage for teeth whitening, bonding, veneers, or bleaching procedures, but in most cases, this is an out-of-pocket expense.

To fund dental procedures that are required immediately but not covered by insurance, many people turn to financing programs that may include personal loans from a lender, practice payment plans set up directly by the dentist, or using a credit card to pay for services.  Each has pros and cons that should be weighed before making a final decision about how to pay for services.

Low Cost Alternatives to Pay for Dental Services

There are a number of options people can tap into if they are either low-income or just trying to save as much money as possible.  Here are some options to consider:

  • At dental schools, students work on patients and are supervised by trained dentists. In exchange for giving students much needed experience, you will pay a low cost for appointments even if you have no insurance.  The American Dental Association has a list of dental schools you may be able to visit for services.
  • Dental clinics offer a sliding fee scale for patients who pay for services based on income. Some services may also be free.  You can find a local branch from national clinics such as the America’s Dentists Care Foundation if costs are a concern for you.  An online search should also reveal several possible options locally or you can check with your state dental society to see what options they may have.
  • With a discount dental plan, you will not need to make monthly premium payments and you can still get discounts on coverage. There are no annual caps or waiting periods for discount plans, but you should comparison shop to see what coverage is right for you.
  • If you are a military veteran, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has two dental insurance programs for retired service members and their families. You must enroll in advance and pre-existing conditions are not covered without a waiting period.  Former service members may be eligible for VA dental care under Class IIA, IIC, IV, or I for any necessary treatment to maintain or restore oral health and masticatory function.  The VA Dental Insurance Program is available for enrollment beginning November 15 each year with coverage starting December 1.
  • Medicaid covers dental work for some adults and all children. There are no waiting periods for pre-existing conditions.  Families who meet eligibility criteria can enroll at any time but because this program is administered by individual states, coverage will vary depending on where you live.

Can I Get Full Coverage Dental Insurance with No Waiting Period?

Many people assume that once they are covered by dental insurance that most of their dental costs will immediately be covered, minus a small deductible.  Unfortunately, many of those same people get a rude awakening when they find out that most dental insurance plans include a waiting period which means you must wait a specified amount of time before you are covered for services.

The good news is that full dental coverage with no waiting period is available, but chances are there will be some caveats to your coverage.  You need to understand that just because full dental coverage is available, it does not mean that all of your costs are paid for.  Full coverage means that all major services are partially covered, but you will still need to pay some of the costs.

The percentage of coverage generally ramps up over a three-year period.  For example, in the first year of full dental coverage, a plan may cover 20% of the cost of major dental work after you meet your deductible.  In year two, this amount of coverage will increase up to 30% and then to 50% in the third year of coverage. Full coverage dental insurance with no waiting periods generally include a one-time deductible for as long as you are on the plan.

The other thing you need to be aware of when shopping for a plan with no waiting period is that annual maximum coverage amounts may come into play.  This means a plan will pay up to only a certain amount each year, and then the patient will be responsible for all of the overage amounts.  Plans with sliding increases in the percentage of coverage they offer may also increase the maximum annual amount each year as well.  If you are facing large dental expenses, this is a question you may want to ask when you are shopping for a plan.

Although you will still need to pay for a large majority of your dental work with a plan that offers no waiting period, you can still have major work done immediately and save some money in the process.  This may work best for patients who are in immediate need of major dental work such as crowns or dentures, those experiencing a lot of pain or may be missing prominent front teeth that cause them embarrassment, or someone who needs other work done as soon as possible to avoid a dental problem from growing worse and requiring even more costly work done at some point in the future.

Full service dental coverage may also provide exceptional value for parents of students who play contact sports.  Even using mouthguards, it’s not uncommon for high school football, hockey or lacrosse players to sustain blows to their mouths, resulting in lost or chipped teeth.  Waiting six months or more to replace or repair a damaged tooth or teeth is not viable at a time when children are still growing and developing.  Waiting too long can result in permanent damage or speech problems for children of all ages.

If no waiting period is a primary concern for you because you’re in immediate need of having major dental work done, then you do have a couple of options other than full coverage dental insurance.

  1. Some people opt for coverage through a Dental DMO. The trade-off is that you are required to use in network providers, but you are typically granted coverage for a wide variety of services.  You simply pay a one-time fee for the service you are seeking with no worries about waiting periods, deductibles or annual maximums.
  2. Other patients may choose to purchase a discount dental plan. This is not an insurance plan, but it can offer an affordable alternative when you use in-network dentists.  These types of plans generally charge a one-time annual fee instead of a monthly premium.  Instead of making a payment to an insurance provider, you make payments directly to a dentist.

In all cases, it pays to shop your various coverage options to see which one is right for you.

Can I Get Full Coverage Dental Insurance with No Maximum?

Yes.  In general, two types of dental coverage providers do not have an annual maximum.  They are Dental Health Maintenance Organizations (DHMO) and discount dental plans.

  1. Dental Health Maintenance Organization plans require you to choose a primary dentist from the sponsor’s network and you pay a fixed dollar amount for services. Preventative treatments such as cleanings are included in the premiums you pay.


  1. Discount dental plans entitle you to membership in a group that has negotiated discounted rates with a group of dentists. You pay for the services you receive plus an annual membership to belong to the plan.

Most all major dental insurers offer DHMO or discount plans, but coverage will vary by state.  Check with providers such as Delta Dental, Cigna Dental, Aetna, Humana or Careington to see if you can be covered under their offerings.

Where can I get Full Coverage Dental Insurance?

Many major dental insurers offer full coverage dental insurance.  You will need to decide which type of plan is right for your situation.  Dental plans fall into three main categories:

Indemnity or fee-for-service plans let you pick a provider and your insurer will pay a percentage of the dental provider’s fee.  These plans have the widest variety of choices in providers.  Deductibles will be lower and maximum amounts will be higher. This does mean that premiums will also be higher than with other plans

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans allow you to pay lower fees to see in-network or preferred providers.  You aren’t required to do so, but you will save money by staying in-network.  With a PPO, some procedures may not be covered, or a waiting period will be required before coverage kicks in.  If you want some flexibility in which provider you see and don’t want to pay high premiums then a PPO may work best for you.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans require you to see providers in their specific insurance network.  Preventative services are covered 100% but basic services will come with some form of co-pay.  Premium payments are generally lower with an HMO.  You may not have a large choice of providers and restorative services will be covered at less than 50% if at all.

The best way to decide what full coverage dental insurance is right for you is to try and anticipate what services you or your family members might need, find out if there is a waiting period, and then shop for the package of benefits that best meets your individual situation.

What is the Best Full Coverage Dental Insurance?

The short answer to this is what ever plan best meets your needs for coverage, price, convenience, quality of service and overall value is the best full coverage dental insurance.

Just like any other important purchase, it pays to do your homework, talk to various providers, and to your friends and relatives to get input to help you decide.

You can also check out various review sites such as Top Ten Reviews which has recently published The Best Dental Insurance of 2018 on its website.



Cremation has become a more popular alternative to traditional burials in recent years with as many as 50 percent of all final dispositions of remains now being cremated.  Cremation has become an increasingly favored alternative to traditional burial because it is more economical, flexible, simple and uses less of the earth’s natural resources.

If you’re considering cremation for a loved one or eventually for yourself, here are some things you should know about the process.

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

What is Cremation?

Some people assume that creation is an actual funeral service or an action that completes the final disposition of a person’s remains.  That is not the case.  Cremation is simply the process of preparing human remains for final disposition by reducing the body to ashes and bone fragments using high heat and flame.

The process takes two to four hours in a sealed cremation chamber and then the remaining fragments are broken up even further to create a granular whitish grey texture (ashes).  The average adult’s cremated remains will weigh between four to six pounds.

Most religions allow cremation except Orthodox Jewish, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox and some fundamentalist Christian faiths.  The Catholic Church allows cremations as long as it is not chosen for reasons that are in conflict with Christian teachings.

What is the Process for Cremation?

 A casket is not required for cremation, but most states require that there is some kind of container that is either made of wood or cardboard that is cremated with the body.  Embalming is not required before cremation, but some people choose to have a body embalmed if they are going to have a funeral service before the body is cremated.

If there has been a traditional funeral service, the body is typically cremated in the clothing worn at the funeral.  Otherwise, a body is cremated in whatever clothing they were wearing when they passed away.  This may be a hospital gown, pajamas or just a sheet, whichever the family prefers.

Although a funeral home is involved most of the time, cremation is generally contracted out to a third-party provider at an offsite location.

After the body is transported to the crematory, jewelry is removed, and if the person had a pacemaker or other medical device, it is removed as well since this represents an explosion hazard.  The container is placed in a cremation chamber and the temperature is raised to between 1,400 and 1800 degrees resulting in all organic matter being consumed by the heat or by evaporation.

The remaining material is known as cremains which are carefully removed from the chamber.  A magnet is also used to collect any metal that was in the body such as metal joints, or bridgework.  Gold or silver teeth are vaporized during the cremation.  After the cremains are further pulverized, they are placed in a temporary container or in an urn provided by the family.

There are strict rules regarding operating policies and procedures to make sure that remains are clearly identified and there are no mix-ups when it comes to delivering cremains after the fact.

In addition, it is not only illegal to cremate more than one person at a time, it is also physically impossible, because most cremation chambers are only large enough to accommodate a single body at a time.

How Soon After Death Should Cremation be Done?

There are several steps that are part of the cremation process:

  • After a person passes away, their body is stored in a climate-controlled environment until a death certificate is processed. This takes about 48 to 72 hours in most states.
  • A burial transit permit will need to be issued in the county where the death took place so that the body can be transported to either the funeral home for services or directly to the crematory.
  • A medical examiner will need to approve the cremation which can take another two to three days depending on the laws of the state where the cremation is to take place.
  • The next of kin will also need to give written permission for the cremation unless the deceased gave cremation authorization prior to passing away.
  • After that, the cremation is generally completed in another three days.
  • Overall, the entire process will take between 10 and 15 days in most cases.

Where Should I go for Cremation Services?

In some states, only a licensed funeral director can make arrangements for a cremation.  Depending on the laws of your state, you may be able to work directly with a crematory or you may be required to work with a funeral home.  Some crematories will only work with a funeral home.

By law, all funeral homes and cremation businesses must quote their prices either over the phone or by providing you with a copy of their General Price List if you visit them in person.  You should either seek a referral from a trusted source or call several funeral homes or crematories to get pricing, see what services are provided and how they can assist you with all aspects of a cremation.  In some markets, the local Funeral Consumers Alliance will publish a price survey making it easy to compare pricing at a glance.

It should also be noted that no casket is required for a cremation, but most crematories require that a body be placed in a rigid and combustible container.  As a result, federal regulations require that funeral homes must provide these containers at a reasonable cost.

If you want to hold a service before you have your loved one cremated, funeral homes will also rent a nice casket that families can use for visitation or services.  Be aware that just renting a casket can cost as much as $800 for a single use, so if you’re trying to keep services within a reasonable budget, you may want to consider other alternatives.

Can the Family Watch the Cremation?

Generally, family members may be present when the body is placed into a cremation chamber.  Policies do vary from one crematory to another so it’s best to ask what those policies are when you are shopping around for a provider.

Can Cremation be Done After Embalming?

Yes, but in many cases, embalming may not even be required if a body is to be cremated.

Generally, people have a body embalmed when there is going to be a public viewing of the body or if the body is going to be transported a long distance, or if there will be a long time before the body is actually cremated.

Check with your local funeral director to find out the specific rules for your state before deciding on embalming or not.

Many people choose direct cremation, which is the most affordable cremation option.  Direct cremation takes place shortly after a person dies, without embalming or a viewing.

What Can I Do with the Cremated Remains?

Options vary from state to state, but there are many things a family can do with remains after a cremation has taken place. Cremains are sterile and pose no health hazard, so there are not a lot of heavy-handed regulations regarding their final disposition. Here are some possibilities to consider:

  • You can scatter remains on land just about anywhere as long as you are discreet. Many people request scattering over places that have been special to them in their lives, and for the most part, scattering on land is legal in most jurisdictions.  If you want to scatter cremains on private property, the appropriate thing to do is to get permission from the owner beforehand.
  • Scattering at sea is also a popular option. Many people rent boats to hold a private service on the water.  Federal regulations require that cremains be scattered at least three miles out from shore, but the Environmental Protection Agency does not enforce this rule.  Scattering at sea is also popular for military personnel, retirees and their dependents.  The Navy or the Coast Guard will perform this service free of charge.  However, because a ship must be deployed in the ocean, no family members may be present.
  • Many people choose to place remains in an urn in a columbarium niche. These are located in mausoleums in cemeteries and provide a private and protected place where family members can return to pay their respects and honor their loved ones.  Some churches also have columbarium niches to place remains as well.
  • Burial in a cemetery is also an option. It is possible to either bury the remains in a regular grave or in a special urn section of a cemetery.  You may be able to bury two or three urns in a single grave site depending on the regulations of the cemetery, meaning that your loved ones will be together in perpetuity.
  • Some people choose to keep a loved one’s remains at their home. They may choose to place an urn on a mantel or bookcase, or have a special container created that reflects how the person is chosen to be remembered.
  • It is possible to also bury a person’s remains on land that you own or on another person’s private property, with their permission. The only caveat here is that the grave and the remains may be disturbed or possibly destroyed if the property is sold and used for other purposes.
  • Another option gaining popularity is memorializing a loved one through the creation of cremation jewelry. Cremation jewelry is either created using a small vessel that stores a small amount of the person’s remains and is then worn as jewelry or using the ashes to be transformed into glass beads, synthetic diamonds or other similar pieces.

What is Cremation Jewelry?

Cremation jewelry is also known as memorial jewelry, remembrance jewelry or funeral jewelry.  Although it has been around for quite a while, the idea behind cremation jewelry is new to many people.  Essentially, cremation jewelry allows family members to keep the memory of a loved one close at hand at all times by transforming a small amount of the deceased person’s remains into a permanent keepsake.

There are two types of cremation jewelry.  Cremated ashes can be placed in a small vessel which can then be worn like regular jewelry.  A small urn with a screw-off top is loaded with the ashes and then sealed.  Pendants are the most common form of this type of cremation jewelry.  The second type of cremation jewelry is made from the ashes of the deceased person.  Ashes can be mixed with glass or porcelain and then transformed into beads, crystals or even synthetic diamonds.  This is the more expensive option of the two and can take months to complete.

Many people love the idea of cremation jewelry for a variety of reasons.

  • Many people will spend thousands of dollars on a traditional funeral and while cremation is a less pricey alternative, there can still be expenses ranging into the hundreds of dollars if a traditional cremation urn is placed in a cemetery or a columbarium.  Cremation jewelry can cost as little as $50 per piece, providing a family with more financial flexibility when cost is a concern.
  • Cremation jewelry is also more portable and can easily be customized. With cremation jewelry, it is easy to carry a loved one’s memory with you at all times, and several people can honor a loved family member at the same time.  Each person can also choose a unique piece of jewelry that is special to them, making the memory even more personal.  There are a wide variety of jewelry options for both men and women to choose from creating maximum flexibility when it comes to making an important choice about what to wear.

Can I Use Veteran’s Benefits if I Choose Cremation?

All honorably discharged veterans, their spouses and minor children are eligible for interment in a national cemetery if they choose cremation.  There is no charge for the interment and cremated remains can be placed in an in-ground grave, garden niche, or in a columbarium based on the family’s preference.  It’s advisable to check in advance on these options because not all national cemeteries offer all three options.

If the interment takes place in a national cemetery, free military honors will be provided for eligible veterans if families request them.  This will include a funeral honor ceremony consisting of the folding and presentation of the American flag and the playing of Taps.  Free headstones and markers are also available.

The VA will reimburse honorably discharged veterans with up to $300 for expenses as long as they meet requirements.  Veterans who died during active duty or who were discharged due to a service related injury can receive up to $2,000.

For more information on burial and cremation benefits are available on this VA fact sheet.

Can Cremation Ashes be Mailed or Taken on an Airplane?

Cremains can be mailed or carried by hand to another destination.  If they are to be mailed, the remains must be placed in an inner container and sealed, and then surrounded by a padded outer container.

If you want to fly with cremated remains, the best thing to do is to contact an airline directly to see what their policies are regarding traveling with remains.  Some airlines will allow them to be carried on board or checked as baggage.  Other airlines will only allow remains to be sent as cargo.

When you take remains on a plane, it is best to just leave them in the container as they came from the crematory.  Keep in mind that they will be x-rayed so you must not place the remains in a metal container, such as an urn, prior to your flight.  Metal containers prevent officials from seeing what is inside.

If you have been issued a certificate of cremation, you should bring that with you on the flight to authenticate that you are indeed traveling with remains.  Some airlines may actually have this as a requirement before you can board the plane.  You might also let the funeral home know beforehand that you intend to travel with the remains on a plane or that you plan on mailing them, so that appropriate measures can be taken.

Which is Cheaper Cremation or Burial?

One of the things that will help determine if a cremation or a burial is better for your situation is price.

According to industry statistics, a traditional funeral will cost anywhere from six to eight times more than a direction cremation.

Cremation vs Burial Cost

Depending on the region of the country, a cremation will run from about $700 to $1,200.

The average burial costs can exceed $6,000 and may not include grave vaults or memorial markers and other add-ons that may be presented to you.

To get an accurate accounting of the costs associated for each, the FTC’s Funeral Rule requires providers to provide pricing up front and you must also be presented with a full range of options, not just the most expensive ones.

Which is Greener Cremation or Burial?

Cremation is considered a much greener form of final disposition than a burial.  Here’s why.

  • For starters, traditional burials usually mean embalming bodies with formaldehyde and it’s estimated that about 800,000 gallons are used in that process every year. When a body goes into the ground, so does that toxic chemical.  Burial plots and cemeteries also use large amounts of acreage, and also create an added problem of leaving unrecycled metals, concrete and other materials in the ground for a long period of time.
  • Although cremation uses more energy and releases greenhouse gases into the air, some state-of-the-art crematories have installed emission controls to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is released. New filtering technologies and energy efficiencies are also being implemented to continue to abate pollution issues related to cremation.
  • If you are concerned about keeping a cremation as green as possible you can always choose a casket or container made of recycled cardboard, ask your crematory to recycle any medical devices or metals left over from the cremation process, or choose an energy efficient cremation provider.
  • You can also choose scattering on land or at sea instead of a permanent burial place or placing an urn in a columbarium, or opt for a direct cremation which will eliminate the need for using embalming fluid.

Some people are now also choosing bio-cremation which uses alkaline hydrolysis instead of high heat to dissolve a body.  It uses 1/8th of the energy used in a traditional cremation.  It is currently legal in 14 states and many others are considering approval to permit the process.

Is it possible to be cremated for free?

If a body is donated to science, then cremation can take place free of charge.

There are several organizations throughout the country that will work with families to donate a loved one’s body upon death for medical research purposes.  Generally, cremated remains are returned to family in about two to four weeks.  Not only are families helping the greater good, they can also save hundreds of dollars by going this route.

If this is a possible option for your family, it’s best to try and make arrangements in advance.  Here are some organizations that accept donated bodies:

Anatomy Gifts Registry – a Maryland nonprofit that supplies body specimens for research

Banner Sun Health Research Institute – an Arizona organization that specializes in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cardiovascular research

Science Care – the world’s largest accredited whole body donation program

Medcure – a whole body donation program for professionals engaged in anatomical study

Several medical schools also accept body donations to allow students to further their studies.  An online search should produce several additional possibilities if this is an avenue you would like to consider.


Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

General Liability Insurance for Small businesses was provided by guest author, Ben Walker.

Before you launch your business, there are a lot of moving parts and pieces that all need to come together. Some of the obvious are getting a business license, a website, and a bank account.

Did you know that your checklist should also include general liability insurance?

All it takes is a slip and fall to make you and your business responsible for someone’s medical bill, or worse. You could end up in a lawsuit. It may seem like another expense that interferes with starting a business.

On the contrary, it can help generate more business.

My company is in the transcription business. I made sure we had general liability insurance before we opened for business. Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements are something that almost all transcriptionists are familiar with. In one instance, we were asked to transcribe some interviews for a Fortune 500 company in the healthcare industry.

Our general liability insurance put the client’s mind at ease.

The client also asked to be included as an insured before we started the project.  If the transcripts of these interviews were to somehow become public, my insurance policy would have protected my business from potential lawsuits.

If you haven’t already, you should look into getting general liability insurance for your small business or proprietorship.

What Does General Liability Insurance for a Business Cover?

General liability insurance covers certain lawsuits like customer injuries, customer property damage, advertising infringement, and reputation damage.

Therefore, general liability insurance is one of the first policies a small business owner should get. What the policy covers can vary based on the insurance provider, but it typically covers the cost of a legal team, witnesses, cost of evidence, and the final amount of damages owed to the other party if you were to lose a legal decision.

Everyone hopes to never have to experience going through a lawsuit. It is best to be prepared though, as no one can predict the future.

What Does General Liability Insurance for a Small Business not Cover?

General liability insurance typically doesn’t cover events like employee workplace accidents, damage to your business property, or data breaches. Other insurance policies exist that can cover those situations.

It all depends on what type of business you have and how large of a risk your business is to an insurance company.

Who Needs General Liability Insurance?

It is a good business practice for all companies to have some sort of general liability insurance policy. All businesses need something to rely on in case things go awry.

You may be thinking “why would I need that for my business?” After all, you’ve spent enough money already on the other things it takes to start a business. This happens to be one expense that you should splurge on, in my humble opinion.

What Risks Do You Face by Not Having General Liability Insurance?

There is a long list of risks a small business faces when it chooses to forego general liability insurance. Here are a few examples that aren’t so far-fetched:

  • A marketing company that accidentally uses another company’s logo can face copyright infringement issues. Should that occur, that company can file for a copyright infringement claim.
  • A business that does projects for government agencies or any type of law agency. General liability insurance will protect your company in the event a client’s private information is leaked to the public. The same goes for medical information. Even if an employee is responsible for letting that information out, you (the business owner) are on the hook. You will be the one sitting in court alongside a very upset client, not the employee.

Don’t let cost stand in your way from investing in a general liability insurance policy. The IRS considers insurance a cost of owning and running a business. Businesses are usually able to deduct general liability insurance as it is what is covering the cost of any potential legal expenses.

You must keep reminding yourself about the long-term benefits. Having it in your back pocket sure comes in handy when a new prospect asks you for a copy of your general liability insurance.  Trust me, this has happened to me when I was a new-ash company and no one had heard of us yet.

How Do I Determine what Type of General Liability Coverage I Need?

A business in an office setting will need different coverage than the business whose clients have outdoor projects. Someone who is on top of roofs all day will need insurance that protects them from physical injury. Meanwhile, a business that runs solely from the office will need coverage in case someone hacks their data.

Choosing an insurance broker is very important. First, you should get several quotes to compare. You should compare the following items; the cost of the deductible, premium, damages covered and not covered. Most important of all is the quality of an insurance company’s customer service. After all, in the worst of times, you need someone who genuinely cares about getting you back up and running.

Review Your Policy with an Agent

After you’ve found the right coverage, keep on top of any upcoming changes that could affect your policy. Most agencies require you to renew annually, which will require a signature. Be sure nothing has changed since the year prior. Laws and regulations are always changing and can impact your policy. Or, if there is a major change to your business, make sure you speak with your agent and confirm you are still covered. A small change to your business may be a big change to the way it is insured.

What Does General Liability Insurance Cost?

The question on every business owner’s mind. Before an insurance company can give you that answer, they need to know more than what type of business you own. They’ll ask simple questions to get to know more about your background. How long you have been in business? What does your payroll look like? What is your history of claims prior to this point. Low-risk businesses could pay a few hundred dollars per year, whereas high-risk ones can pay thousands.

How Much General Liability Insurance Should You Get?

The most common coverage limit for a small business is around one or two million dollars. As your business grows, you should increase the amount of coverage as well. Even the most expensive policies to get the most coverage are worth buying when it boils down to the hassle and cost of a lawsuit.

General Liability Puts Your Clients at Ease

Are you a web design company who is online with a client’s information all day? The biggest fear you probably have is the possibility that their information gets hacked and put out on the web.

Companies put themselves on the line in the case where a client’s information is breached. General liability insurance is one way to protect yourself from malicious attempts to attack your servers and get access to your data. The same goes for any of the other services previously mentioned. Lawsuits can damage your business reputation and financial standing. To put both your mind at ease, as well as your client’s, general liability insurance is a must.

Want the public to know more about you and your services? Let them find out through advertising and positive reviews, not negative press. Even a small business can end up in the news for a data breach or injured employee. You become a more desirable candidate to work with when you mention that you have general liability insurance. It shows that you have a client’s best interest in mind and you are a responsible business owner.

About the Author:  

Ben Walker is a CEO, entrepreneur and visionary leader who enjoys helping others become successful in business. Ben’s company, Transcription Outsourcing provides user-friendly and cost-effective transcription services for the medical, legal, law enforcement and financial industries for organizations all over the world. Ben is a sought-after thought leader and has made contributions to publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, Built in Colorado, CoBiz Magazine and LinkedIn.

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

Urgent care is one of the fastest growing areas of health care, and BayCare has invested heavily in creating a network of BayCare urgent care centers across the Tampa Bay regional area.

BayCare Urgent Care provides preventive care like routine physicals to treatment for more urgent situations like the flu. BayCare locations serve adults and children ages two and older. No appointment is required, and online check-in is available to make it more convenient and fast.

Learn more about BayCare Plus Medicare Advantage Plans

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There are many advantages to an urgent care facility versus an emergency room:

  1. Less expensive. Generally, your out of pocket costs at an urgent care center will be less, sometimes significantly, than an emergency room.
  2. Wait time. You can typically be seen by a provider in a half hour or less.
  3. Hours of operation. Urgent care centers are typically open seven days a week, often into the evening hours.
  4. Convenience. You can walk in without an appointment.
  5. Locations. There are 15 BayCare Urgent Care locations in the Tampa Bay area.

Why is urgent care important?

Urgent care centers were created to handle non-life-threatening situations, thus reducing the stress on emergency rooms so they can concentrate on more serious injuries.

Does insurance cover urgent care?

In most situations, yes. Remember, urgent care is designed to handle non-life-threatening situations. An emergency room is designed and staffed to handle a much wider variety of issues; thus, its costs are often much higher than smaller urgent care centers.

Each Insurance provider decides whether it cover urgent care centers, but most do.

Is it less expensive to use urgent care versus the emergency room?

In most cases, yes. You will have to pay a co-payment or deductible at the time of your visit.

How do I know when to go to urgent care or the emergency room?

The easiest way to think about it is that emergency rooms are designed, staffed and equipped to handle life-threatening situations such as a patient experiencing a heart attack, stroke, broken bones, etc.

Urgent care is designed to handle non-life-threatening situations such as moderate fever, ear aches, flu, cuts and bruises, etc.

When should I go to urgent care versus my doctor?

That’s as great question. In cases where your issue could be treated with medicine, many doctors will prescribe medicine over the phone, saving you both the cost and time of a trip to urgent care.

Following are the BayCare Health System locations and contact information:

BayCare Urgent Care Locations

Clearwater: BayCare Urgent Care (Countryside)

3351 N. McMullen Booth Road
Clearwater, FL 33761

Clearwater: BayCare Urgent Care

711 S. Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33764

Haines City: BayCare Urgent Care

36245 U.S. Highway 27
Haines City, FL 33844

Largo: BayCare Urgent Care

13670 Walsingham Road
Largo, FL 33774

New Port Richey: BayCare Urgent Care

4821 U.S. Highway 19
New Port Richey, FL 34652

St. Petersburg: BayCare Urgent Care

2331 Fourth St. North
St Petersburg, FL 33704

St. Petersburg: BayCare Urgent Care (Tyrone)

1599 66th St. North
Saint Petersburg, FL 33710

St. Petersburg: BayCare Urgent Care (St. Pete Beach)

6455 Gulf Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33706

Tampa: BayCare Urgent Care

3440 W. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Suite 100
Tampa, FL 33607

Tampa: BayCare Urgent Care

1155 S. Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL 33629

Tampa: BayCare Urgent Care (Town ‘n’ Country)

6909 W. Waters Ave.
Tampa, FL 33634

Tampa: BayCare Urgent Care (Carrollwood)

11921 N. Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL 33618

Tampa: BayCare Urgent Care (New Tampa)

17512 Dona Michelle Drive
Suite 5

Tampa, FL 33647

Valrico: BayCare Urgent Care

2016 State Road 60 East
(In front of LA Fitness)
Valrico, FL 33594

Winter Haven: BayCare Urgent Care

400 First St. North
Winter Haven, FL 33881

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area


BayCare Plus Medicare Advantage Plans Include Silver Sneakers

Yes, I would like to speak with an agent about BayCarePlus Medicare Advantage

Silver Sneakers is offered in more than 193 locations across the Tampa, FL area.  If you’re currently a silver sneakers member, you can simply choose the Silver Sneakers location near you in Tampa and start using your gym membership.

What Gyms Accept Silver Sneakers in Tampa, FL?

We compiled 193 Silver sneakers locations in Tampa, FL and the surrounding cities such as St. Petersburg and Clearwater.


Silver Sneakers St. Petersburg, FL

Below are 13 Silver Sneakers locations in St. Petersburg, FL

Oldsmar Senior Center

Address: 400 St. Petersburg Dr. E, 34677

Cardio and Strength
Schedule: Wednesday (10:00 AM), Friday (10:00 AM) Instructor Name: Carter Mayzik
Instructor Phone: (727) 614-2738

LA Fitness – St. Petersburg @ 4th St. N.

Phone: (727) 521-1500 Address: 5900 4th St. N., 33703

Anytime Fitness – St. Petersburg, FL

Phone: (727) 502-9100 Address: 900 Central Ave., 33705

Anytime Fitness – St. Petersburg, FL

Phone: (727) 388-9766 Address: 3725 49th St. N., 33710

Jim and Heather Gills YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg

Phone: (727) 328-9622 Address: 3200 1st Ave. S., 33712

YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg – Bardmoor Branch YMCA

Phone: (727) 394-9622 Address: 8495 Bryan Dairy Rd., 33777

Planet Fitness – St. Petersburg

Phone: (727) 826-0976 Address: 5335 66th ST. N., 33709

Youfit – St. Petersburg-9th Ave. N

Phone: (727) 209-6100 Address: 6157 9th Ave. N., 33710

LA Fitness – St. Petersburg – 22nd Ave. N.

Phone: (727) 322-4010 Address: 7044 22nd Ave. N., 33710

Anytime Fitness – St. Petersburg, FL

Phone: (727) 388-1314 Address: 4055 Tyrone Blvd., Bldg. B, 33709

Anytime Fitness – St. Petersburg, FL

Phone: (727) 864-0333 Address: 4949 34th St., S., 33711

Anytime Fitness – St. Petersburg, FL

Phone: (727) 345-1213 Address: 6800 Gulfport Blvd. S., 33707

Anytime Fitness – St. Petersburg, FL

Phone: (727) 954-3492 Address: 10660 Gandy Blvd N., 33702

BayCare Plus Medicare Advantage Plans Include Silver Sneakers

Yes, I would like to speak with an agent about BayCarePlus Medicare Advantage


Silver Sneakers Clearwater, FL

There are 10 Silver Sneakers locations located in Clearwater, FL

The Hamptons at Clearwater

Address: 1099 N McMullen Booth Rd, 33759
Zumba Gold(R)
Schedule: Thursday (5:30 PM) Instructor Name: Lena Redding Instructor Phone: (201) 563-5798

Anytime Fitness – Clearwater, FL

Phone: (727) 712-1575 Address: 2522 N. McMullen Booth Rd., Ste. B, 33761

Planet Fitness – Clearwater

Phone: (727) 201-8392 Address: 11141 US Hwy. 19 N., 33760

Curves – Clearwater, FL – Southeast

Phone: (727) 536-6910 Address: 1488 S. Belcher Road, 33764

LA Fitness – Clearwater – U.S. Hwy. 19

Phone: (727) 791-0980 Address: 21750 U.S. Hwy. 19 N., 33765

Anytime Fitness – Clearwater, FL

Phone: (727) 781-2222 Address: 30210 US Hwy. 19 North, 33761

YMCA of the Suncoast – Clearwater Branch YMCA

Phone: (727) 461-9622 Address: 1005 S. Highland Ave., 33756

Anytime Fitness – Clearwater, FL

Phone: (727) 330-7664 Address: 1595 S. Highland Ave., 33756

Anytime Fitness – Clearwater, FL

Phone: (727) 216-6378 Address: 701 Cleveland St., 33755

Clearwater Beach Library & Recreation Facility

Phone: (727) 462-6138 Address: 69 Bay Esplanade, 33767

BayCare Plus Medicare Advantage Plans Include Silver Sneakers

Yes, I would like to speak with an agent about BayCarePlus Medicare Advantage

Silver Sneakers in Tampa

Crunch Fitness – Channelside

Phone: (813) 443-9102 Address: 1120 E Kennedy Blvd, 33602

Central City Family Branch YMCA

Phone: (813) 229-9622 Address: 110 E. Palm Ave., 33602

Anytime Fitness – Tampa, FL

Phone: (813) 749-0420 Address: 2905 W. Kennedy Blvd., 33609

Jewish Towers

Address: 3001 W De Leon St, 33609

Revello Medical Center – Himes Ave

Address: 2601 N. Himes Ave, 33607

Schedule: Monday (11:15 AM), Thursday (11:15 AM) Instructor Name: Zakeia Smith
Instructor Phone: (610) 453-4017

LA Fitness – Tampa – S. Dale Mabry Hwy.

Phone: (813) 775-6492 Address: 301 S Dale Mabry Hwy., 33609

Crunch Fitness – South Tampa

Phone: (813) 284-7777 Address: 4055 S. Dale Mabry, 33611

South Tampa Family YMCA

Phone: (813) 839-0210 Address: 4411 S. Himes Ave., 33611

Youfit – Tampa-Hillsborough Ave.

Phone: (813) 849-4700 Address: 3916A W. Hillsborough Ave., 33614

Crunch Fitness – Hillsborough

Phone: (813) 563-6568 Address: 4340 W. Hillsborough Ave., Ste 600, 33614

FlavaFitness Studio

Phone: (813) 413-6457 Address: 3744 W. Lambright St., Ste. B, 33614

Planet Fitness – Tampa (Florida Ave.)

Phone: (813) 444-9955 Address: 210 W. Waters Ave., 33604

Youfit – Tampa-Gandy Blvd.

Phone: (813) 675-8888 Address: 4465 W. Gandy Blvd., 33611

Pearlena’s Adult Activity Center

Phone: (813) 270-1388 Address: 9309 N. Florida Ave., Ste. 101, 33612

Gold’s Gym Tampa

Phone: (813) 935-2639 Address: 3689 W. Waters Ave., 33614

Caltas 24/7 Fitness

Phone: (813) 882-4103 Address: 4913 W. Waters Ave., 33634

Humana Neighborhood Location – Tampa – Dale Mabry

Address: 10037 North Dale Mabry Hwy, 33618
Schedule: Tuesday (10:00 AM) Instructor Name: Sandra Salvione Instructor Phone: (813) 765-1457

Anytime Fitness – Temple Terrace, FL

Phone: (813) 425-5000 Address: 9225 N. 56th St., 33617

Revello Medical Wellness – Lake Carrol Way

Address: 10213 Lake Carroll Way, Ste D, 33618
Cardio and Strength
Schedule: Tuesday (11:15 AM) Instructor Name: Zakeia Smith Instructor Phone: (610) 453-4017

Youfit – Tampa-Fowler Ave.

Phone: (813) 341-1500 Address: 1104B E. Fowler Ave., 33612

Anytime Fitness – Tampa, FL Northdale

Phone: (813) 264-1861 Address: 11113 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., 33618

Omar K Lightfoot Recreation Center

Phone: (813) 506-6630 Address: 10901 N. 56th St., 33617

Shapes Fitness for Women – Temple Terrace

Phone: (813) 989-1676 Address: 11301 N. 56th St., 33617

Revello Medical Center – Webb Road

Address: 5901 Webb Rd, 33615

Cardio and Strength

Schedule: Tuesday (10:00 AM), Thursday (10:00 AM) Instructor Name: Zakeia Smith
Instructor Phone: (610) 453-4017

Anytime Fitness – Tampa, FL

Phone: (813) 886-9747 Address: 8424 W. Hillsborough Ave., 33615

Zone Fitness Club – Tampa

Phone: (813) 515-4181 Address: 4802 Gunn Highway, 33624

Youfit – West Brandon-Brandon Town Center

Phone: (813) 712-7800 Address: 322 Brandon Town Center Dr., 33511

Planet Fitness – Fowler

Phone: (813) 898-8993 Address: 5681 E. Fowler Ave., 33617

LA Fitness – Brandon

Phone: (813) 685-9160 Address: 2890 Providence Lakes Blvd., 33511

Planet Fitness – Waters

Phone: (813) 999-4980 Address: 7310 W. Waters Ave., 33634

Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA

Phone: (813) 249-8510 Address: 8950 W. Waters Ave., 33615

Fitness for 10

Phone: (813) 654-6568 Address: 1903 W. Lumsden Blvd., 33511

Anytime Fitness – Riverview, FL

Phone: (813) 269-8463 Address: 10875 Bloomingdale Ave., 33578

LA Fitness – Tampa – Gunn Hwy.

Phone: (813) 960-3783 Address: 5735 Gunn Hwy., 33625

Youfit – Carrollwood-Dale Mabry Hwy.

Phone: (813) 284-2064 Address: 14350 N. Dale Mabry Rd., 33618

Fitness 360 Westchase

Phone: (813) 513-2967 Address: 10031 West Hillsborough Ave, 33615

Tampa Family Fitness

Phone: (813) 968-6088 Address: 14968 North Florida Ave, 34613

The Worx 24 Hr Fitness Magnolia Park

Phone: (813) 324-8827 Address: 9050 Progress Blvd , 33578

Florida Blue – Tampa – Carrollwood

Address: 15030 N. Dale Marby Hwy, 33618

Dance – Line Dancing
Schedule: Thursday (10:00 AM) Instructor Name: Sandra Soule Instructor Phone: (813) 239-4090

Anytime Fitness – Brandon, FL

Phone: (813) 409-2000 Address: 501 W. Brandon Blvd., 33511

Crunch Fitness – Tampa Palms

Phone: (813) 579-3692 Address: 15313 Amberly Dr., 33647

LA Fitness – Tampa – W. Hillsborough Ave.

Phone: (813) 814-1414 Address: 11252 W. Hillsborough Ave., 33635

Tampa Jewish Community Center

Phone: (813) 264-9000 Address: 13009 Community Campus Dr., 33625

Crunch Fitness – Carollwood

Phone: (813) 304-2491 Address: 15798 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., 33618

The MAC at First Baptist Church of Brandon

Phone: (813) 315-3280 Address: 216 N. Parsons Ave., 33510

Anytime Fitness – Tampa, FL

Phone: (813) 792-2900 Address: 9602 W. Linebaugh Ave., 33626

Planet Fitness – Seffner

Phone: (813) 575-2757 Address: 725 W Dr MLK Jr , 33484

YMCA Express

Phone: (813) 792-7838 Address: 9878 W. Linebaugh Ave., 33626

Xtreme FiT

Phone: (813) 649-8039 Address: 815 W. Bloomingdale Ave., 33511

Bob Sierra Family Branch YMCA

Phone: (813) 962-3220 Address: 4029 Northdale Blvd., 33624

Anytime Fitness – Riverview, FL

Phone: (813) 443-4747 Address: 11252 Boyette Rd., 33569

North Brandon Family YMCA

Phone: (813) 685-5402 Address: 3097 S. Kingsway Rd., 33584

YMCA Camp Cristina

Phone: (813) 677-8400 Address: 9840 Balm River View Rd., 33569

New Tampa Family YMCA

Phone: (813) 866-9622 Address: 16221 Compton Dr., 33647



LA Fitness – Tampa – Cypress Preserve Dr.

Phone: (813) 337-0966 Address: 5225 Cypress Preserve Dr., 33647

Youfit – East Brandon- East Brandon Blvd.

Phone: (813) 315-9821 Address: 1423 E. Brandon Blvd., 33511

LA Fitness – Valrico – State Rd. 60 E.

Phone: (813) 982-4149 Address: 1930 State Rd. 60 E., 33594

LA Fitness – Lutz – N. Dale Mabry Hwy.

Phone: (813) 962-7358 Address: 17631 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., 33548

Youfit – Tampa-Race Track Rd.

Phone: (813) 792-4305 Address: 13891 W. Hillsborough Ave., 33635

Apollo Beach Racquet Fitness

Phone: (813) 641-1922 Address: 6520 Richies Way, 33572-2125

Snap Fitness – Tampa

Phone: (813) 814-1984 Address: 12611 Race Track Rd., 33626

Anytime Fitness – Riverview, FL

Phone: (813) 677-4800 Address: 13184 US Hwy. 301 S., 33579

Anytime Fitness – Apollo Beach, FL

Phone: (813) 641-7171 Address: 6110 Hwy. 41 ., 33572

Crunch Fitness – Bloomingdale

Phone: (813) 381-4106 Address: 3236 Lithia Pinecrest Rd., 33594

The Worx 24 Hr Fitness

Phone: (813) 381-3903 Address: 13432 Boyette Rd., 33569

Campo Family YMCA

Phone: (813) 684-1371 Address: 3414 Culbreath Rd., 33594

St. Anthony’s Carillon Wellness Center

Phone: (727) 502-4444 Address: 900 Carrillon Pkwy., 33716

Snap Fitness – Apollo Beach

Phone: (813) 671-1200 Address: 236 Harbor Village Ln., 33572

Anytime Fitness – Odessa, FL

Phone: (813) 926-6777 Address: 17765 Gunn Hwy., 33556

Infinity Integrative Medicine

Phone: (813) 777-1511 Address: 531 Main St., Ste. G, 34695

Suncoast Fitness

Phone: (727) 822-9394 Address: 203 38th Ave. N., 33704

Town Apts N
Address: 1900 61st Avenue N, 33714
Zumba Gold(R)
Schedule: Monday (10:00 AM) Instructor Name: Linda Beaulieu Instructor Phone: (727) 280-3300
Zumba Gold(R)
Schedule: Friday (2:00 PM) Instructor Name: Kathleen McDonnell Instructor Phone: (727) 579-4427

Mainlands Clubhouse #3

Address: 10050 Mainlands Blvd, 33782
Zumba Gold(R)
Schedule: Wednesday (6:45 PM) Instructor Name: Linda Beaulieu Instructor Phone: (727) 280-3300

Mainlands Of Tamarac Unit 6

Address: 3550 Mainlands Blvd S, 33782

YMCA of the Suncoast – High Point Branch YMCA

Phone: (727) 507-9622 Address: 5345 Laurel Pl., 33760

Fitness 360

Phone: (727) 797-5100 Address: 1580 N. McMullen Booth Rd., 33759

Anytime Fitness – Lutz, FL

Phone: (813) 575-8879 Address: 1408 Dale Mabry Hwy., 33548

Mainlands Clubhouse #5

Address: 4275 Mainlands Blvd S, 33782
Aqua Zumba(R) (Outdoors)
Schedule: Thursday (6:00 PM), Saturday (9:30 AM) Instructor Name: Kathleen Bara
Instructor Phone: (727) 259-3277

Jazzercise at St Petersburg Fitness Center

Address: 2501 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 33704
(727) 687-6695

Anytime Fitness – Oldsmar

Phone: (727) 787-9000 Address: 3161 Curlew Rd., 34677

LA Fitness – Lutz – State Rd. 54

Phone: (813) 948-4040 Address: 23048 State Rd. 54, 33549

Pasco Health and Fitness

Phone: (813) 949-4120 Address: 23900 St. Rd. 54, Unit 102, 33559

LA Fitness – New Tampa

Phone: (813) 435-6040 Address: 6411 County Line Rd. E., 33647

Anytime Fitness – Wesley Chapel, FL

Phone: (813) 929-3191 Address: 1041 Bruce B Downs Blvd., 33544

Meadow Pointe I Clubhouse

Address: 28245 County Line Road, 33543
Schedule: Thursday (9:30 AM), Friday (9:30 AM) Instructor Name: Margarita Blasini
Instructor Phone: (813) 732-7011

Anytime Fitness – Lithia, FL

Phone: (813) 438-8474 Address: 16144 Churchview Dr., Ste. 201, 33547

Quadrum Fitness Center

Phone: (727) 827-7979 Address: 7670 49th St. N., 33781

City Gym

Phone: (727) 898-3302 Address: 33 6th St., Ste. 100, 33701

LA Fitness – Largo – E. Bay Dr.

Phone: (727) 451-9650 Address: 5320 E. Bay Dr., 33764

Anytime Fitness – Largo, FL

Phone: (727) 388-7009 Address: 5395 E. Bay Dr., 33764


SunCity Health Plex

Phone: (813) 419-5020 Address: 787 Cortaro Dr., 33573

Amped Fitness

Phone: (727) 873-6998 Address: 830 3rd Ave. S., 33701

Countryside Recreation Facility

Phone: (727) 669-1914 Address: 2640 Sabal Springs Dr., 33761

USTA Masters Tennis at The Henry L. McMullen Tennis Complex

Phone: (727) 669-1919 Address: 1000 Edenville Ave., 33764

Anytime Fitness – Sun City Ctr.

Phone: (813) 245-3107 Address: 3730-3846 SR 674, 33573

Christ Lutheran Church

Phone: (727) 526-3265 Address: 3451 30 Ave. N., 33713

Morningside Recreation Complex

Phone: (727) 507-4064 Address: 2400 Harn Blvd., 33764

Williamsburg Clubhouse

Address: 28429 Williamsburg Drive, 33543
Schedule: Tuesday (10:00 AM), Saturday (10:00 AM) Instructor Name: Margarita Blasini
Instructor Phone: (813) 732-7011

Anytime Fitness – Odessa, FL

Phone: (813) 333-9900 Address: 16244 State Rd. 54, 33556

Oakstead Clubhouse

Address: 3038 Oakstead Blvd., 34638
Cardio and Strength
Schedule: Monday (9:00 AM), Friday (9:00 AM) Instructor Name: Sandra Soule
Instructor Phone: (813) 239-4090

Strive Athletic Club

Phone: (813) 428-6973 Address: 2626 Cypress Ridge Blvd., 33544

Bayou Dance Club

Address: 6541 102 Ave North, 33782
Schedule: Monday (9:00 AM), Wednesday (9:00 AM), Friday (9:00 AM) Instructor Name: Bonnie Capra
Instructor Phone: (727) 687-6695

Kinetix Inspired Fitness

Phone: (727) 541-1969 Address: 6561 102nd Ave. N., 33782

Anytime Fitness – Palm Harbor, FL

Phone: (727) 330-7545 Address: 4942 Ridgemoor Blvd., 34685


The Long Center and Aging Well Center

Phone: (727) 793-2320 Address: 1501 N. Belcher Rd., 33765

YMCA of the Suncoast – North Pinellas Branch YMCA

Phone: (727) 772-9622 Address: 4550 Village Center Dr., 34685


Meadow Pointe 2 Clubhouse

Address: 30051 County Line Rd., 33543
Zumba Toning(R)
Schedule: Wednesday (9:30 AM) Instructor Name: Margarita Blasini Instructor Phone: (813) 732-7011

Concord Station Clubhouse

Address: 18636 Mentmore Blvd., 34638
Schedule: Tuesday (6:15 PM), Thursday (6:15 PM) Instructor Name: Carmen Uzelac
Instructor Phone: (727) 686-4939

Harbordale YMCA

Phone: (727) 821-9348 Address: 2421 4th St. S., 33705

Anytime Fitness – Pinellas Park, FL

Phone: (727) 388-9015 Address: 7620 66th St., 33781



Planet Fitness – Palm Harbor

Phone: (727) 786-1915 Address: 30701 US. Hwy. 19N., 34684

Youfit – Pinellas Park-66th St.

Phone: (727) 541-7296 Address: 6421 66th St. N., 33781


Gold’s Gym – Largo

Phone: (727) 240-1400 Address: 2178 E. Bay Dr., 33771

LA Fitness – Dunedin

Phone: (727) 601-0822 Address: 1681 Main St, 34698

BayCare Fitness Center (Palm Harbor)

Phone: (727) 772-2254 Address: 32672 U.S. 19 N., 34684

City of Largo Community Center

Phone: (727) 518-3131 Address: 400 Alt. Keene Rd., 33771


Anytime Fitness – Dunedin, FL

Phone: (727) 733-1100 Address: 1471 Main St., 34698

Palm Lake Village

Address: 1515 County Road, 34698
Strength and Balance
Schedule: Tuesday (10:30 AM), Thursday (10:30 AM) Instructor Name: BJ O’Brien
Instructor Phone: (727) 459-5811

Highland Recreation Complex

Phone: (727) 518-3016 Address: 400 Highland Ave., 33770

Plant City YMCA

Phone: (813) 757-6677 Address: 1507 YMCA Pl., 33567

LA Fitness – Palm Harbor

Phone: (727) 213-2458 Address: 35104 U.S. Hwy. 19 N., 34684


Snap Fitness – Palm Harbor West

Phone: (727) 330-7570 Address: 1370 Tampa Rd., 34683

Terrace Park of 5 Towns

Address: 8141 54th Ave N, 33709
Zumba Gold(R)
Schedule: Tuesday (2:30 PM) Instructor Name: Linda Beaulieu Instructor Phone: (727) 280-3300

All Care

Phone: (727) 545-4545 Address: 8900 Park Blvd., N., 33777

LA Fitness – Largo – Missouri Ave

Phone: (727) 559-2001 Address: 1229 Missouri Ave. N, 33770

Youfit – Largo – Missouri Ave.

Phone: (727) 228-9500 Address: 1111 Missouri Ave. N., 33770


Ross Norton Recreation & Aquatics Complex

Phone: (727) 462-6025 Address: 1426 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., 33756

YMCA of the Suncoast – Greater Palm Harbor Branch YMCA

Phone: (727) 787-9622 Address: 1600 16th St., 34683

North Greenwood Recreation Complex

Phone: (727) 462-6276 Address: 900 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., 33755


Anytime Fitness – Plant City, FL

Phone: (813) 567-1057 Address: 2402 James L Redman Pkwy., 33566

Anytime Fitness – Wesley Chapel, FL

Phone: (813) 994-1912 Address: 27325 Wesley Chapel Blvd., 33544

Limitless Fitness

Phone: (813) 717-7773 Address: 1418 S. Evers St. , 33563

Planet Fitness – Plant City

Phone: (813) 704-6955 Address: 1864 James L. Redman Pkwy., 33563

Curves – Plant City, FL

Phone: (813) 719-1822 Address: 1822 James L. Redman Pkwy., 33563

Dunedin Family Fitness

Phone: (727) 736-6698 Address: 2646 Bayshore Blvd., 34698

Seminole Isle

Address: 7253 Key Haven Rd., 33777
Aqua Zumba(R)
Schedule: Monday (6:00 PM) Instructor Name: Kathleen Bara Instructor Phone: (727) 259-3277

Cheek-Powell Fitness Center

Phone: (727) 462-7656 Address: 455 Pinellas St., Ste. 100, 33756

Dimmitt Community Center

Phone: (727) 518-3728 Address: 918 Osceola Rd., 33756

Youfit – Land O’ Lakes-Village Lakes

Phone: (813) 712-7700 Address: 21707 Village Lakes Shopping Center Rd., 34639

Curves – Seminole, FL

Phone: (727) 320-9737 Address: 8992 Seminole Blvd., 33772

Land O’ Lakes Family Fitness

Phone: (813) 388-2520 Address: 7016 Land O Lakes Blvd., 34637

YMCA of the Suncoast – Greater Ridgecrest Branch YMCA

Phone: (727) 559-0500 Address: 1801 119th St. N., 33778

YMCA of the Suncoast – James P. Gills Family Branch YMCA

Phone: (727) 375-9622 Address: 8411 Photonics Dr., 34655

Anytime Fitness – Palm Harbor 2

Phone: (727) 266-4126 Address: 679 Alderman Rd., 34683

Zone Fitness Club – New Port Richey

Phone: (727) 375-9663 Address: 1252 Seven Springs Blvd. , 34655

Snap Fitness – Tarpon Springs

Phone: (727) 937-4999 Address: 852 E. Tarpon Ave., 34689

Seminole Gardens

Address: 8275 113th St, 33772
Zumba Gold(R)
Schedule: Thursday (9:00 AM) Instructor Name: Yineth Zuniga Instructor Phone: (818) 903-8295
Cardio and Strength
Schedule: Monday (9:00 AM) Instructor Name: Yineth Zuniga Instructor Phone: (818) 903-8295

LA Fitness – Seminole – Park Blvd.

Phone: (727) 440-8065 Address: 7635 113th St., 33772

Total Fitness Health Club & Spa

Phone: (727) 938-8551 Address: 1888 S. Pinellas Ave., 34689

Anytime Fitness – Tarpon Springs, FL

Phone: (727) 943-0400 Address: 1254 S. Pinellas Ave., 34689

The Groves Community Development District

Address: 7924 Melgold Circle, 34637
Strength and Balance
Schedule: Wednesday (9:00 AM) Instructor Name: Thomas Marbell Instructor Phone: (352) 409-2984
Strength and Balance
Schedule: Friday (10:30 AM) Instructor Name: Thomas Marbell Instructor Phone: (352) 409-2984

Family Fitness Center

Phone: (727) 375-1116 Address: 4028 Little Rd., 34655

USTA Masters Tennis at Southwest Recreation Complex

Phone: (727) 518-3125 Address: 13120 Vonn Rd., 33774

Southwest Recreation Complex

Phone: (727) 518-3125 Address: 13120 Vonn Rd., 33774

Anytime Fitness – Zephyrhills, FL

Phone: (813) 782-3100 Address: 34617 State Rd. 54, 33541

Treasure Island Athletic Club

Phone: (727) 360-6652 Address: 133 107th Ave., 33706

St Pete Beach Recreation Center

Phone: (727) 363-9245 Address: 7701 Boca Ciega Drive, 33706

Fit For Life

Phone: (727) 367-0075 Address: 575 75th Ave., 33706

Get Fitness Largo, LLC

Phone: (727) 595-4505 Address: 13845 Walsingham Rd., 33774-3244

Anytime Fitness – Largo, FL

Phone: (727) 388-9010 Address: 11700 Oakhurst Rd., 33774

Fitness Inc

Phone: (727) 937-6422 Address: 1817 US Hwy 19 S. Unit B, 34691

Snap Fitness – Seminole

Phone: (727) 474-3801 Address: 9360 Oakhurst Rd., 33776

Tropical Acre Estates

Address: 3221 Paradise Way, 33541
Cardio and Strength
Schedule: Friday (9:30 AM) Instructor Name: Michelle Mack Instructor Phone: (352) 457-1585
Senior Stretch
Schedule: Tuesday (12:00 PM) Instructor Name: Michelle Mack Instructor Phone: (352) 457-1585

Beach Front Fitness

Phone: (727) 498-7056 Address: 73 170th Ave. E., 33708

Planet Fitness – Holiday

Phone: (727) 935-4818 Address: 4637 Sunray Dr., 34690

Access Health Care Physicians

Address: 36542 Florida State Road 54, 33541
Strength and Balance
Schedule: Friday (9:30 AM) Instructor Name: Kristin Jenkins Instructor Phone: (813) 618-2252
SilverSneakers Yoga
Schedule: Tuesday (10:30 AM) Instructor Name: Kristin Jenkins Instructor Phone: (813) 618-2252

Elfers Senior Center

Phone: (727) 847-1290 Address: 4136 Barker Dr., 34680

Sunset Park

Address: 1700 Sunset Dr., 34689
Tai Chi/Qigong (Outdoors)
Schedule: Wednesday (9:00 AM), Thursday (9:00 AM), Friday (9:00 AM), Sunday (9:00 AM) Instructor Name: Minette Howell
Instructor Phone: (727) 331-7568

Town Hall of Indian Shores

Address: 19305 Gulf Blvd., 33785
BOOM – Muscle
Schedule: Friday (12:00 PM) Instructor Name: Yineth Zuniga Instructor Phone: (818) 903-8295
BOOM – Move It
Schedule: Friday (11:30 AM) Instructor Name: Yineth Zuniga Instructor Phone: (818) 903-8295

With tax penalties in place that could be as much as 5% a month, filing your taxes late as a business owner can be a costly venture that you just can’t afford to undergo. 

To make sure you meet the tax deadline on time this year and every year going forward, you need to stay organized all year and spend the time it takes to get your tax documents in order early on. This will speed up the process when it is time to file and ensure you hit those deadlines with ease.

Ten members of Forbes Finance Council share smart tips for small business owners to make the process of filing their business taxes less painful. Here is what they have to say:

Tax Tip #1: Stay organized all year

For small business owners, filing tax returns can be a painful experience. Often, data is gathered over an evening or a weekend and can be incomplete. Stay organized all year. It winds up saving time and stress. Keep a separate file for taxes, and make sure income and expenses are categorized in the computer or ledger and are accurate. Then, it is just a matter of printing it out. – David Frisch, Frisch Financial Group, Inc. 

Tax Tip #2: Keep good records of revenues and expenses

Keeping good records of revenues and expenses on a daily/weekly basis will prevent a huge pileup at year’s end. Software like QuickBooks can help streamline the way you run your business. It can connect to your bank and payroll statements, etc. Not only does this make tax filing seamless, it keeps you in touch with the pulse of your business, always knowing your cash flow and net income/loss. – Jared Weitz,United Capital Source

Tax Tip #3: Stop spending time in Excel

You should really stop trying to keep tabs on how your company is doing in Excel. Spend a few dollars a month to get a proper accounting platform in place. Sure, it’s another cost. And sure, it’s a system to set up. I get it. Doing this sooner will not only let you keep better tabs on your business, but come tax time, you and/or your CPA will be so much happier. – Louie Balasny,botkeeper

Tax Tip #4: Set checkpoint meetings

Proactive tax maintenance throughout the year leads to fewer surprises at filing time and a better understanding of your key performance indicators. Not only will you break tax prep into smaller ongoing chunks (such as quarterly), but if you structure your checkpoint meetings properly, you’ll better understand your income statement in no time. Know your numbers. – Gregory Ostrowski, Scarborough Capital Management

Tax Tip #5: Rely on others’ expertise

As small business owners, we want to control everything and know everything about our businesses. However, when it comes to taxes, it’s best to rely on the experts to figure out how to pay the lowest amount to the IRS. With the new tax law changes, it’s even more critical to work with a CPA and run the calculations to understand where the best strategies are for structuring our businesses. – David Gass, Anderson Business Advisors, LLC

Tax Tip #6: Make taxes part of your financial planning

Business owners should make taxes part of their overall financial planning. Begin working in tax planning for the current year in the spring. Then, in summer, ensure records are up to date. Toward the end of the year, meet with your planners to ensure you’ve maximized all possible tax reduction strategies. Come January, your taxes are ready because you planned them out for an entire year. – Justin Goodbread, Heritage Investors 

Tax Tip #7: Always be ready

If you’re following accounting best practices and using software such as QuickBooks, then filing your taxes should be a relatively simple matter for your tax professional — and it pays to use a professional. Make sure to take stock of your income and expenses in advance of your fiscal year end and consult with your accountant to avoid unpleasant surprises when it comes time to file. – Ismael Wrixen, FE International

Tax Tip #8: Leverage specific tools.

Annual tax filings can be streamlined if incrementally addressed throughout the year. Do not wait for your accountant to ask for documents to start digging through old paperwork. Rather, simply share the well-maintained electronic file with them. Leverage one of the many free or inexpensive tools that organize and auto-code all business transactions; little work is required thereafter. – Collin Greene, ShipHawk

Forbes Finance Council is an invitation-only organization for executives in successful accounting, financial planning and wealth management firms. Do I qualify?

Tax Tip #9: Allocate weekly time to track your taxes

As a business owner, you are running around all day trying to keep the doors open but not tracking expenses accurately will shut the doors down before you could understand what happened. The IRS’ number one target is small business owners. Take at least one hour a week to do your checks and balances and track your expenses.  – Chad Otar, Excel Capital Management, Inc. 

Tax Tip #10: Break the effort down

Compiling your business tax return is the act of reconciling the business payroll, sales tax filings, accounts receivable and payable to your bookkeeping efforts. The result is a set of financial statements that are used to create the return. A perpetual bookkeeping effort along with a good summary of the segments mentioned will save you hours of your CPA’s billable time and make return time easy. – Perry D’Alessio, D’Alessio Tocci & Pell, LLP

**This article was originally published by the Forbes Finance Council.


Many older business owners eventually face the difficult decision of having to sell their business. After decades, there may not be a natural heir to take over the family business, nor may there be an employee who can provide the financial “exit” that you will likely desire to head into retirement.

If you think about it, over the long run every business will either shut down or be sold.

The smart business owner plans ahead for his or her eventual sale. As an insurance broker, we know that selling your business creates the opportunity to take advantage of life insurance. How? Life insurance policies can be invested in with the proceeds of a business sale to:

  • Create tax-free or tax saving investment buckets
  • Transfer excess sale proceeds into a future benefit amount for your estate
  • Minimize the capital gains taxes you pay on the sale of your business
  • Understanding any tax or county court liabilities
  • and many more . . .

It simply depends on your situation.  Our advisors have setup direct relationships with investment bankers and business brokers in different areas across the country.  Through those relationships, we’ve helped business owners of varying ages and net worths choose a financial strategy that includes a life insurance policy that fits their needs.  Our partners include:

Contact us to learn the answer to several questions, including: “How can life insurance help me save money on capital gains?” and “How do I sell my business and get the most money?”

Every senior is going to experience some degree of a drop-off in their eyesight as they grow older. But the good news is that through lifestyle choices, regular check-ups and maintaining a watchful eye on your eyes, you can enjoy a life in focus for many years after you turn 65.

How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

One of the easiest ways to maintain your eye’s health is through diet. You should eat foods that are rich in antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, which can be found in fish and leafy green vegetables. When you don’t get enough antioxidants or you over consume saturated fats, free radical reactions can take place, potentially harming the macula. Just as elsewhere in the body, when you eat a diet of high-fat foods, this can constrict the blood vessels around the eye, possibly leading to serious vision issues.

Other lifestyle choices can affect your vision, too. If you smoke, quit. Aside from all the other documented health problems that come with smoking, it also exposes your eyes to higher than normal degrees of oxidative stress, increasing your risk of things that can harm the health of your eyes.

Another important choice that affects your eyes is exercise. Exercise improves blood circulation and that improves the amount of oxygen that goes to your eyes. Making sure you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays when you are outside and being mindful of taking breaks and setting your computer up for optimal eye health are two other ways to help ensure healthy eyes.

Reasons to Visit Your Optometrist

On top of the health benefits, having healthy eyes can also help with lower premiums or deductibles whether that be in your life insurance policy or health coverage. For these reasons, you shouldn’t be afraid to visit the optometrist for regular check-ins. Additionally, there are several things you should be on the look out for in between visits to the optometrist:

Cloudy eyes – this is one of the best indications that cataracts may be forming on one or both of your eyes. Cataracts remain the leading cause of vision loss among seniors in the United States. Surgery remains the most effective way to treat cataracts.

Blurring or the onset of tunnel vision – the loss of peripheral vision, nausea, halos around lights or blurred vision are indications of glaucoma. Glaucoma results from increased pressure on the eye cavity that creates nerve damage. Although there is no cure, medications and surgeries can slow its progression.

Spotting – fatty deposits that build up under eyelids resulting in spots could be an indication of high blood lipids. High blood lipids may indicate the presence of diabetes, high cholesterol or even cancer. If you notice spots, you should schedule an examination as soon as possible.

Yellowish eye hue – hepatitis, cirrhosis and gallbladder problems may result in the production of too much bilirubin, a brownish-yellow compound that is produced by the liver when it attempts to break down red blood cells.

Unable to close and eye or excessive watering – these symptoms are an indication of Bell’s palsy which is a temporary paralysis on the side of a face. Bell’s palsy generally clears up in about 10 days, but you should visit a doctor to rule out anything more serious.

Dark and blurry spots – when a small and central portion of a person’s retina begins to fail, age-related macular degeneration may be at fault. Although it is not painful, there is no cure, but doctors can sometimes prescribe treatments to slow the progression.

Bulging eyes – this is an indication of an overactive thyroid, also known as Graves’ disease. Doctors can treat this condition with medication or surgery.

The presence of a stye – if a small and red bump appears on your eyelid and does not go away, this could mean cancer is present.

According to the 2010 Census, there were more than 50,000 people living in the United States who were at least 100 years old. That represents a significant jump in centenarians from previous generations. Although many have ailments commensurate with their age, surprisingly, many are still fully functioning adults. About one-third still live at home and roughly one in four were described as “cognitively intact.”

That bodes well for seniors who have set living to 100 as a goal, because maintaining a good quality of life makes all the difference in the world.

While some of living a very long life is tied to genetics, and another part is just good old fashioned luck, there are several things youngsters who have just reached 65 can do to improve their odds of seeing 100 candles on their birthday cakes.

Steps To Get There

Eat right. May sure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables.

Don’t forget the nuts. Nuts in general, and walnuts, in particular, offer a variety of life-extending health benefits.

Exercise. More is better. Target workouts for five days a week if possible. On top of mental benefits, exercise and avoiding obesity can help you avoid a variety of other problems that can often shave years off someone’s life. Jack LaLanne, who passed away at 96 was once quoted as saying “Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you have a kingdom.”

Spend time with a hobby. Doing what you love reduces stress and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Laugh. Find a reason to do it often. It really is the best medicine.

Go shopping. Even if you don’t buy anything, the ritual of going out into a retail environment can lower the risk of death by about 25% for men and women.

Get cooking. People who cook at home at least five nights a week have a higher propensity to live longer.

Practice yoga. It’s not for everybody, but it does improve your longevity.

Practice optimism. When you see the glass as half full instead of half empty, your optimism will translate into a more outgoing and easy way of life.

Marriage is the best medicine. Married couples tend to live longer according to a Duke University Medical Center study.

Make it a happy marriage. The more arguments you have with your spouse, the more likely your health will suffer.

Brush. And floss. Good dental hygiene reduces risk for heart disease, strokes and dementia.

Don’t smoke! This one is so obvious it barely needs to be stated. One study showed that women who smoked and gave it up lived as much as ten years longer than their counterparts who continued with the habit.

Become a parent. Contrary to what some folks might think on those days when you want to pull your hair out as a mother or a father, being a parent can actually extend your life.

Get smart. Staying in school to get at least a high school diploma will help you live longer according to a Harvard University study.

Go to church on a regular basis. It can add up to three years to your life expectancy.

Volunteer. When you give your time to help someone else, it may actually be you who benefits by living a longer and more purposeful life.

Make some whoopee. Having sex two to three times a week may reduce the chance of heart disease by as much as 45 percent for men. Women who have sex on a regular basis may live as much as eight years longer than those who do not.

Drink coffee. It’s rich in antioxidants, but the trick is to keep your consumption to four cups or less a day.

How does your garden grow? – Gardening is a calming activity that can also give you a great source of delicious home grown vegetables.

Turn off the tube. Research from The University of Queensland, Australia showed that every hour of television watched after age 25 reduced a person’s life by 22 minutes. That can really add up, especially during football season!

As you grow older and approach the age of Medicare enrollment, your body changes in many ways. Because of this, how your body processes food also changes, and this will have an impact on your diet, nutritional needs, and your appetite.

Metabolism Changes

It’s no secret that growing older means your metabolism is going to slow down. When your metabolism slows down, you don’t burn as many calories as quickly as you did before, and that means you don’t need to eat as much to maintain a healthy weight. A lack of exercise causes your metabolism to slow down even more than it might otherwise, also contributing to the need to eat less.

To compensate for a slowing metabolism and the need to eat less food, as you age you should begin to shift to a diet that is as nutrient-rich as possible. It’s estimated that men with average activity levels will need about 2,300 calories daily, while women will need about 1,800 calories to maintain a healthy weight. If you get little exercise or are housebound due to illnesses or other health related issues, then that sedentary lifestyle means you need even fewer calories.

As your metabolism changes, your digestive system also changes as well. When you grow older, your body produces less of the fluids you need to process food in your digestive system. This means that it is more difficult for your body to absorb nutrients such as folic acid, vitamins B12 and B6 and others, that are critical for your optimum health. Because of this, you need to increase your intake of these nutrients to make sure you get the same levels of them as when you were younger.

Digestive Changes

Other digestive problems that increase as you age may include chronic gastritis, constipation, gas or sour stomach issues. Many times, this may cause seniors to avoid healthy fruits and vegetables, increasing the likelihood of malnutrition. Taking medications can cause an appetite to be depressed or it can result in a chronic upset stomach, both of which can also lead to malnutrition.

Another food challenge seniors face is that as the body ages, changes take place in taste and smell. A common complaint among seniors is that food does not taste the same or as good as it did in the past. The decrease in the functioning of taste buds means that the taste for salty and sweet also decreases, and many times that can make food taste more sour and bitter. The loss of smell also means that there is less anticipation and satisfaction when choosing foods, sometimes contributing to poor food choices.

Dental Issues

A common but frequently overlooked health problem that contributes to nutrition issues in seniors are dental issues. When teeth can wear out, become hyper-sensitive, or are removed, it can lead to seniors avoiding certain types of hard or sticky foods. Dentures that don’t fit right or that produce pain in gums also make it difficult to enjoy food, which can lead to not eating properly or sometimes, not at all.

Psychological and Social Issues

Psychological and social issues can come into play as a person ages, and they definitely impact nutrition. Seniors who are depressed or lonely often times lose interest in eating. In some cases, just the opposite is true, and a senior may seek solace in food and eat too much, putting on many unwanted pounds.

Malnutrition may also come about as the result of:

  • A loss of a spouse or other family member
  • Financial concerns and the ability to afford food
  • The inability to go grocery shopping due to health or psychological issues
  • Hospitalization which changes a senior’s diet and adds stress, resulting in a rejection of food.

Many nutrition issues can be minimized with the creation of a nutrition plan, either with the help of a trained dietician or self-administered after doing appropriate research.

{updated January 2022}

Getting life insurance with pre-existing conditions continues to be a hurdle for many individuals and families.

Life insurance is a thoughtful and efficient safeguard for protecting your loved ones and affairs in the case of your death. In many cases, finding a life insurance policy that fits your needs and budget is easy simply because there are so many options offered by numerous insurance providers.

Unfortunately, people with pre-existing health conditions have difficulty selecting a policy that does not drain their wallet, or an insurance company that will offer them coverage.

While pre-existing conditions can impact or limit your life insurance policy selection, it is not impossible to still get the coverage you want to protect your family later down the road.

What is a pre-existing condition?

In a basic sense, a pre-existing condition is a medical or health issue you may have before an insurance provider offers you coverage. This means if you have diabetes, a heart defect or a chronic illness before you apply for a life insurance policy, you are considered to have a pre-existing condition.

People with long-term or ongoing health issues are labeled as having pre-existing conditions by insurance companies as a way for the provider to determine how much of a risk you are.

Pre-existing conditions tell insurance companies that you have health concerns, which may cost them more money in the long run.

For example, an individual with diabetes who signs up for a life insurance policy can be considered more risky to cover, simply because diabetes can cause a myriad of health issues that lead to death.

In some cases, death occurs before the insurance company has collected a substantial amount in premiums, leading the company to lose money when paying out the policy. For this reason, many life insurance providers are weary about extending coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

As a protection for themselves, many insurance companies will not sell policies to people with certain pre-existing conditions or may charge a higher monthly premium.

What counts as a pre-existing condition?

There is no set list that explains every medical issue considered a pre-existing condition.

Insurance underwriters — financial professionals who evaluate how risky it is for the insurance company to cover applicants — are often the determiners of if you can receive coverage or not based on your health situation.

For this reason, many insurance providers require physicals, blood draws, health histories or other kinds of health analysis to determine if you have any conditions that make you a higher-risk applicant.

Some common pre-existing conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Heart Attack(s)
  • Heart Disease
  • High Cholesterol
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • High Blood Pressure or Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Depression or mental illness
  • Chronic health conditions

Insurance underwriters may also calculate other factors to determine if you have a pre-existing condition, such as weight issues, sleep apnea, drug and alcohol abuse, or even smoking.

While many of these conditions can make it more difficult to obtain affordable life insurance, they are not necessary hard and fast reasons for why you cannot get life insurance.

In some cases, insurance providers may offer closer-to-normal premiums if you can show that you are in remission for a health condition, such as cancer, or have made great strides towards improving your health, such as lowering your high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Even if you do not make improvements to your health, some providers will still offer coverage at reasonable rates or provide a policy with slightly different rules, such as waiting periods before your policy can be used.

How life insurance with pre-existing conditions can be hard to obtain.

As we explained earlier, pre-existing conditions tell insurance providers that you may be a riskier applicant to cover, and for that reason, they may not sell you a policy.

While this occasionally happens, there are other alternatives to be aware of if you are seeking out life insurance with a pre-existing condition.

Higher monthly premiums: Your life insurance policy may charge you a higher amount than the average person with the same plan.

All insurance underwriters grade applicants based on their health and group them accordingly into one of four categories:

  • Preferred Select/Preferred Plus: A person in excellent health who has no health risks or family history of genetic conditions (such as heart disease).
  • Preferred: A person in excellent health who may have some concerns such as slightly above-average blood pressure, cholesterol or weight.
  • Standard Plus: A person who has great health but may have minimal health concerns such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Standard: A person who is generally healthy but may have some health concerns or a family history of illness.

Individuals who fall in the preferred plus category will have lower premiums that people in the standard category because they are considered less of a risk to insure.

But sometimes, people with pre-existing conditions do not fall into any of these categories. In these scenarios, you may have even higher premiums if the company chooses to extend a policy to you.

Luckily, if your health is expected to improve, you can contact the insurance company later down the road to request an updated medical evaluation. If you can show improvement, it is possible to lower your premium and change your insurance grading.

Waiting periods: Some people with pre-existing conditions are still able to receive life insurance, though they face limitations such as mandatory waiting periods.

With this kind of restriction, your life insurance policy is in place but cannot be used until a certain amount of time has passed while you are alive.

Some common waiting periods are between two and three years, meaning your family cannot use the policy if you die within that time. During waiting periods, you are still required to pay a monthly premium. 

Longer application process: With a pre-existing condition, your application may take longer to process.

Many healthy people in the preferred plus or preferred categories may have quick approval times, but because there is more risk to analyze, an insurance provider may take longer to determine if you are eligible.

How do I get life insurance with pre-existing conditions?

Shopping for life insurance with pre-existing conditions is as simple as selecting a company and looking through their available options.  Or, find an independent agent who can shop the best life insurance companies for you.

While a pre-existing condition can be a barrier, every insurer offers different options and has different requirements that you may meet.

To help make the process less complicated, consider contacting a PolicyZip life insurance specialist who can aid your search — just fill out the form below or call (719) 451-7552.

Estate planning may seem like an elaborate legal process for people with large amounts of real estate or wealth. But truthfully, estate planning is not contingent on how much money you have or the property you owe — it’s the process of planning for how your personal belongs, property and finances will be handled upon your death. Estate planning is a helpful process for anyone and can be a lifeboat for family members and loved ones after your passing.

Many people consider life insurance when thinking about protecting their family in the future, but do not realize that there is more they can do. Instead of thinking about just one or other, combining life insurance and estate planning can create a well-rounded end of life plan that helps take care of loved ones.

What is the difference between life insurance and estate planning?

It is easy to see life insurance and estate planning as related subjects, but they are more intermingled that you may expect. In fact, life insurance is considered a tool for estate planning, instead of an alternative to managing your affairs.

Life insurance offers financial security for your spouse, children or another person of your choosing in the event of your death. With life insurance, you pay a monthly premium to ensure that if you were to pass, your family would receive a lump sum of money (of your choosing when you signed up for the policy). This money can be used for funeral arrangements, to pay off expenses or debts you left behind, keeping a business you might own afloat until other arrangements can be made, or simply for daily living expenses for your family until they can get back on their feet. Life insurance does not designate who receives your belongings or assets and is simply a form of monetary support.

Estate planning, on the other hand, is a guide for your loved ones on how to handle your personal belongings, finances, and affairs after your death. Estate planning includes a variety of factors, such as who receives your personal assets (like money or real estate), your will, naming a caretaker or guardian for your dependents or pets, and more. Life insurance can be a tool used in estate planning to help your last wishes be carried out or to help with the costs of business or personal affairs you leave behind. Overall, life insurance is part of the estate planning umbrella and can be used in a variety of ways.

Life insurance in estate planning

Life insurance can be helpful in several ways when it comes to planning your estate. Everyone’s plans for life insurance differ based on each personal situation, but there are many common scenarios that fit your needs. When considering how you may want to use life insurance when planning your estate and last wishes, ask yourself these questions:

Do I have a family or young children who rely on me for their daily needs?
Many people believe that estate planning is for retirees, but many people begin the process at a young age, just in case, to ensure care for their growing family. Many parents choose to designate a family member or guardian for their children or dependents in the case of their death. A life insurance plan can provide a level of protection for loved ones in that it offers near-immediate payouts that cover their daily living expenses. In addition, you can use life insurance as part of your estate plan to ensure that young children are able to afford the cost of college should you no longer be around when they are old enough to attend.

Do I have a large estate?

Unlike life insurance, handling your estate and other affairs can take some time. In this situation, money to help with funeral arrangements or daily living expenses can be tied up for some time as it moves through the estate process. Life insurance can help your family during this time, with everything from big expenses to daily needs.

How will my family pay for funeral or memorial arrangements?

In the United States, the average traditional funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. The sticker shock can be additionally difficult for families facing unexpected deaths or who are not sure how to cover the cost. One important component of estate planning is handling the final expenses of a funeral  — and here, life insurance is a commonly used tool that can help.

Do I own a business that I want to pass on to a family member?

Life insurance can also be used to ensure your business or entrepreneurial venture keeps going even after your death. In many cases, sole proprietor businesses are difficult to run after the owner’s death because of a lack of funds; as the business is closed for some time, bills can stack up and lenders can begin calling. Life insurance policies can be used to float the business until arrangements can be made, but estate planning encourages you to consider a business plan for the company after your departure. In this case, the policy can be used to buy shares or a portion of the company to transfer ownership to a family member.

Do I have a large life insurance policy, such as a million dollar policy?

If you already have life insurance, estate planning can ensure that the money designated for your loved ones does not run out before necessary. With large policies such as million dollar life insurance plans, you may choose to create a trust of sorts that determines how the funds can be used after your death. This can tie in with wealth you are already leaving behind, or can have separate rules for disbursement. In many cases, people who take out million dollar policies often have business ventures or assets with some level of investment or debt; estate planning can dictate how you would like the funds to be used, which is especially helpful in situations where your spouse or children may not understand how business operations or your personal wishes.

Estate planning and thinking about the end of life are not necessarily fun things to do, but considering how life insurance can play into your estate plan is important. If you are thinking about starting the process, let PolicyZip help you locate the life insurance plan that fits your estate planning needs by filling out the form below or calling (719) 451-7552.

It may seem strange that a prior or in-progress bankruptcy could impact your ability to get life insurance, but unfortunately, it can. Bankruptcy proceedings can make it difficult to get a life insurance policy, especially if you are currently going through the bankruptcy process or you have just made your way through it. But why does your personal financial situation make it more difficult to get a life insurance policy? Insurance providers consider many factors when determining if they will give you a policy and the level of risk you present to them greatly impacts the kind of coverage you receive or how much you might pay for it. Unfortunately, bankruptcy can be a deciding factor in terms of risk.

While filing bankruptcy can make finding and getting a life insurance policy a more tricky process, having your debts cleared doesn’t mean that you are forever ineligible for a life insurance policy — it just takes time and understanding of how the bankruptcy process plays into your ability to purchase a life insurance policy.

Why Life Insurance Companies Are Weary of Bankruptcy

Life insurance companies rely on insurance underwriters — professional financial analysts whose job is to evaluate how risky it is for an insurance company to give you a policy — to determine if you qualify for life insurance. These underwriters work through each application to decide if extending you a life insurance policy would cost the company, and they do so through examining your health, financial situation, and other factors. This is why many people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or cancer have a more difficult time finding a budget-friendly insurance policy for which they qualify.

Just like pre-existing conditions, medical underwriters will evaluate your personal financial situation to also determine risk. This is partially because a life insurance company wants to know that they will receive the monthly premium you pay for coverage. Someone going through bankruptcy or who has a recent discharge may have difficulty getting back on track financially, making you a less desirable life insurance candidate.

In addition, bankruptcy is a financially stressful and difficult time that can impact your mental health and big life decisions. Not every person who receives a bankruptcy discharge has all of their debts cleared, and many are still responsible for some kinds of repayment for the debt they own. In this situation, life insurance companies are wary of potential life insurance fraud, or contributing to a situation where someone considers life insurance one way of fully clearing debt for their family. This is especially the case immediately after a bankruptcy discharge when you haven’t paid much in premiums, and a life insurance policy payout upon death would be a financial loss for the company.

How Bankruptcy Can Impact Your Life Insurance Application

Listing a recent or ongoing bankruptcy on a life insurance application can impede your ability to get a policy. In most cases, it can lead to several outcomes:

Higher monthly premiums: The insurance provider may accept your application and grant you a policy, but because you are a risky client, they make try to protect themselves with higher monthly premiums. Generally, the longer you wait after bankruptcy to apply for a life insurance policy, the less your financial status will impact your application. This means that you may pay a higher premium six months after a bankruptcy discharge than you would one or two years later.

Waiting periods: An insurance company may still choose to give you a life insurance plan, but to add extra protection for themselves, they may institute a waiting period. Waiting periods prevent your beneficiaries from collecting a life insurance payout before a certain amount of time has passed — and in almost all cases, the owner of the policy must have been living through the waiting period. Common waiting periods range from two to three years, and if you die during that time, there is no payout. Following the waiting period, your beneficiaries have access to your life insurance funds if the situation were to arise.

Rejection: Unfortunately, a recent bankruptcy filing can lead to rejection of your life insurance application. An insurance company may deem you too risky to cover and choose to deny you a policy. In some cases, the insurance provider may recommend you try again after a certain period of time (ranging between months and years depending on how long it has been since your bankruptcy case). In almost all situations involving bankruptcy and life insurance plans, time is a key factor to determining whether or not you can get coverage. The longer the time since your bankruptcy discharge, the better.

What Happens If I Am Rejected?

It can sting to know that your life insurance application was rejected because of a bankruptcy filing, but do not be discouraged. Not every life insurance provider has the same underwriting rules, meaning some companies may still choose to give you coverage even if you have been rejected by another insurer.

Seeking out companies that are willing to work with bankruptcy can help you to find the best plan that fits your budget. Life insurance applications are generally free, so do not be afraid to narrow down your options and try again. But in all applications, it’s important to be honest about your medical and financial background — it can be tempting to fib or minimize details to get coverage, especially after rejections, but in the long run, insurance companies can still deny your application if they determine you have lied. Or, if the policy is awarded and the provider later learns you lied, you could face higher premiums.

Whether you have been rejected or are starting the search for a life insurance policy after bankruptcy, remember that there are different kinds of plans. Whole life plans often cost more upfront and may have more loopholes to jump through, making term life plans a strong option for someone who has recently filed bankruptcy. Since term life plans are only around for a span of several years, insurers may be more willing to extend a policy to you regardless of your financial situation. In any case, consider speaking with a PolicyZip life insurance specialist to see what your life insurance policy options are after bankruptcy.

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Life insurance is a great safety net to ensure that loved ones and family members are cared for in the event of your death — whether untimely or natural. But going through the steps of the process can be tedious. After qualifying for a policy at a monthly premium price you can afford, you may be wondering: “who should my life insurance beneficiary be?” While it may be obvious for some people, in other situations it can be a little more difficult to determine who should receive the financial payout upon your death.  Do not worry — there are a few things to know that will help narrow down the best recipient.

What is a life insurance beneficiary?

Life insurance is a tool that helps you care for personal affairs, funeral expenses and any dependents you have upon dying. In fact, most people have a particular person, be it a spouse, child, parent or friend, in mind when they make the decision to purchase life insurance. Doing so is often one step of estate planning that ensures you can take care of them even when you are no longer living. But to do so, you must legally designate a person to receive the life insurance payout. This person is the beneficiary.

The beneficiary is able to handle the life insurance funds and use them to pay for funeral and other expenses related to your estate. They can also use this money to cover living expenses or other costs, which is common in situations where a dependent spouse is the beneficiary.

Are there different kinds of beneficiaries?

When you are filling out your life insurance details, you may notice that there are two different types of beneficiaries listed: primary and contingent. It is important to understand how these kinds of beneficiaries work.

Primary beneficiary: The person you list as the primary beneficiary will be the initial person contacted to receive your life insurance payment. This person, in most cases, will receive the funds, so it is important to put your first pick here. In many cases, spouses or significant others are listed as primary beneficiaries.

Contingent beneficiary: The second person you list is somewhat like a backup beneficiary, in that if the primary beneficiary is deceased or cannot be found after your death, another person of your choosing will receive the life insurance payout. Choosing a contingent beneficiary is important, especially if you chose a spouse or significant other as your primary beneficiary. This ensures that if something happens to both of you, a person you designate will handle the life insurance funds. Common contingent beneficiaries are parents, siblings or adult children.

Who cannot be a beneficiary?

When you are narrowing down your beneficiary short list, it is good to know that some people cannot receive life insurance funds. In most cases, minor children (under the age of 18 or 21 depending on the state) cannot be beneficiaries. If you choose to list a child as a beneficiary, it is important to also list an adult legal guardian who would handle the payout on your child’s behalf.

In addition, incarcerated beneficiaries may not receive payouts, either. Many states have laws that prevent life insurance payments from going to people in jail, meaning that your life insurance funds could instead be handled by the person managing your estate.

Do I have to pick a person as my beneficiary?

Choosing a specific person to be a beneficiary can be difficult, especially if you have no next of kin or multiple children. In these cases, it is possible to designate a charity, trust or simply your estate as the beneficiary. Some people without heirs choose charities as their beneficiaries, which allows them to support a cared for cause even after death. In other cases, especially with large payouts or minor children, you may want to choose a trust as the beneficiary to ensure that funds are used appropriately and fairly. Designating your estate as beneficiary is also an option, and allows whomever is handling your estate to use the funds as described in your will or estate plans.

Do I need to have my beneficiary’s approval?

In many situations, you do not need to have a person’s approval to list them as a beneficiary. This allows you to choose whomever you want to receive the life insurance payout. But, beware if you consider designating someone other than a spouse as a primary beneficiary. Some states, such as Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada and Wisconsin, give legal claim to spouses who are not listed as beneficiaries. This means that if you designate a friend or family member as the beneficiary, your spouse could still have access to a portion of the payout upon your death.
Even if you choose a beneficiary without their permission, it is important to let them know you have a life insurance policy. Doing so can help expedite the payout process later down the road.

 What happens if I outlive my beneficiary?

Some people outlive the person designated as their life insurance beneficiary. This is one reason why life insurance companies require you to designate a contingent beneficiary so that in the case of a primary beneficiary’s death, funds will still go to the person of your choosing.

After your primary beneficiary’s death, you have the option of updating your beneficiary information. This means you can choose a new person to receive the life insurance funds. Keeping this information up to date can help with promptly dispersing funds.

Can I change my beneficiary?

It is important to know that you have the option to change your beneficiary, and life insurance companies will often suggest keeping your beneficiary information up to date. Many people look to change beneficiaries after major life events such as weddings, divorce or the death of a spouse. Doing so is especially important after divorce if the beneficiary listed is an ex-spouse, who legally would have the right to funds if you did not update your life insurance policy. Choosing to change your beneficiaries may also be an option after the birth or adoption of a child, especially if you decide to create a trust to ensure their case in case you were to unexpectedly pass.

In any case, it is a good idea to always be specific with whomever you choose to list as a beneficiary. Simply listing “wife” or “spouse” can lead to complications if you divorce later down the road, or writing in “child” can make it difficult to determine which children receive funds after your death.

As a business owner, you have a lot to think about and juggle when it comes to managing the day-to-day operations of your company. But something many entrepreneurs do not consider is the importance of business owner life insurance, a safety net that can help your family, business and employees in an unfortunate situation such as disability or death.  Life insurance strategies for business owners can have many faces, it’s important to think through your objective before making a decision.

There’s no set business owner life insurance policy, but there are variety of options that can help alleviate strain on your business and family should you become incapacitated or unable to support either. In many cases, some forms of insurance can ensure your business dreams continue on even after you are no longer able to run the company.

Why do I need life insurance?

You already know how risky it can be to launch your own business — it is a risk you take every day through fluctuating markets and a growing global economy that increases competition. It is easy to anticipate many of the variables related to operating your own business in analyzing the risk and benefits. But there are many variables you cannot truly predict such as accidents, disability and even death. As an entrepreneur, guarding your family and business is important, and life insurance is one safeguard that makes certain both can thrive, even if you are not around to help.

Talking about life insurance can seem grim, but consider it a necessity to securing the future of your family and business. This is especially important in the case of small or sole-proprietor businesses that rely on one person to generate income. Many businesses do not have contingency plans in place to tackle the “what ifs” of life, especially those that can lead to the demise of a business.

If you are still unsure about whether you really need life insurance as a business owner, consider these questions:

  • What happens to my family and business if I become disabled or die? Who will continue on the business and how will my family be able to support itself without me?
  • What happens to my business if an employee becomes disabled or dies? What if this employee is a key employee with knowledge that is difficult to replicate, and is no longer able to work?

What kind of insurance plans are out there?

Like we said before, there is no single kind of life insurance for business owners, but instead a variety that can be beneficial at protecting your business assets and family. Among the most common types geared towards entrepreneurs are individual life insurance, key person insurance, disability insurance and buy-sell agreements.

Individual life insurance: Many people are familiar with individual life insurance policies, which provide coverage for your family after your passing. This kind of life insurance ranges in amount and can be used to support your family financially, especially if you were the sole provider. Individual life insurance policies can also be used to cover some or all of your business debts, which is exceptionally beneficial if you operate a small business that relies on you to be feasible. Utilizing this kind of insurance policy can give your family time to determine what to do with a company, keeping debts and lenders at bay for a short time.

Key person insurance: Small business and large businesses alike can take advantage of key person insurance. This kind of policy provides a cash infusion if a key employee or company member dies. In many cases, top or key people impact the company’s directional planning, and having a policy for this person can give the business time to steady itself during the loss of an important person.

Disability insurance: When it comes to selecting insurance policies, many people worry about what will happen if they pass, but not if they suffer a life-altering disability that keeps them from working or managing their company. Disability insurance can provide income if you are no longer able to work — an especially important consideration if your family relies on you to generate income.

Buy-Sell Agreements: Some businesses have contingency plans for the death of an owner or key employee. Buy-sell agreements are meant to help ensure the company can continue moving forward even in this situation. This kind of insurance acts as a contract among multiple business owners that determines how the deceased owner’s shares will be sold and for what price to ensure the business continues operating. Fellow business owners can purchase the shares, which can be helpful in situations where the owner has no heir, or family is not interested or knowledgeable in running the business.

How large should my policy be?

The needed size of a life insurance policy varies among business owners, especially based on annual income, responsibilities and other factors. It is difficult to give a specific number that you should consider based on a variety of elements. But, there are components that you should build into your evaluation of life insurance policies, such as:

  • Your expected income per year and over your lifetime
  • Personal and business debts
  • Personal and future expenses
  • Personal and family responsibilities and obligations
  • The number of key employees you have

These factors can help you determine how much money would be needed to pay your debts and support your family while they make both life and business arrangements if you were to become disabled or die. While it is easy to look at the monthly premium as one more cost, a life insurance policy that considers in these things can make the difference when it comes to giving your family and employees enough time to gain their bearings before lenders, debt or other obligations come knocking. In the long run, this can allow a business to thrive down the road instead of shuttering its doors.

How do I go about getting life insurance as a business owner?

There are several kinds of insurance policies that benefit business owners and it can be tricky to determine which one is the best option. Evaluating your choices with help from a PolicyZip insurance specialist at (719) 451-7552 can help save time and money — two important things for busy business owners.

When planning for your future — or your child’s — it is easy to think of all the wonderful things: going to college, getting a fine education and starting down the path to an excellent life. But there are some not-so-rosy sides to thinking about the future, such as considering the need for life insurance for college students. At a time when many young adults are entering school without a family or financial obligations, it may seem strange to consider a large life insurance policy. But what many parents and children do not think about is the situation where death could occur and large student loan bills could loom.

Why consider life insurance for students?

In most cases, students heading off to college do not have a mortgage, a family to support or other financial obligations. In these cases, purchasing a large life insurance plan may seem strange. But as the cost of college increases, along with the amount of student debt accrued after four years of education, the reality is that losing a child or family member who has not repaid their student loans could leave you with a financial nightmare. This is especially true for family members who co-sign for students so that loans can fund their education; co-signers are often held responsible for remaining debt in cases where the primary borrower has stopped making payments, even in situations of death or disability.

Unlike many forms of debt, student loans do not necessarily go away when the borrower dies. While federal student loans are often forgiven, private loans are not legally required to do the same, meaning a co-signer dealing with the loss of a loved one could remain responsible. And to make matters worse, student loan debt often cannot be discharged during bankruptcy, meaning that if you are required to make payments but cannot meet the monthly cost, bankruptcy will not help.

What about college graduates?

The difficult truth of student loans is that they usually do not disappear quickly after graduation. For this reason, many people pay back educational loans into adulthood, even as they get married and raise families. Life insurance policies with enough room for student loan debt can help protect your family from financial burdens in the event that you die before the loans are repaid.

Do I really need life insurance to cover student loans?

While it is easy to see life insurance as another monthly expense that likely will not be used, mounting student loan debt should be a factor in decided whether to open a policy. If you are not sure if it is the right kind of financial protection for you, consider these factors:

  • Does your student loan lender offer death discharge? This is when lenders agree to erase debts owed if the student dies before they are repaid. If the lender does not, life insurance can be a strong financial safety net.
  • Are your student loans provided by the federal government or a private entity? Government and private loans operate by different sets of rules. Generally, government-issued student loans are wiped clean upon a student’s death, while private loans are not.
  • Is your student loan co-signed? For private loans, co-signers can be responsible for the cost of your unpaid debt, even in the event of your death. If this is the case with your loan, protecting a co-signer, just in case, can prevent burden at a rough time.

It is important to know the terms of your student loans (or those of a child or family member) when it comes to setting up safeguards. Doing so can help keep financial stress at bay during already difficult times.

What kinds of life insurance policies are available?

Life insurance generally comes in two options: term life and whole life. Both provide a payout in the event of you or a loved one’s passing, but term and whole life policies operate in two different ways. And, both kinds can be used to pay loan debt after a student’s death.

Term life insurance policies: Term life policies are designed to give you life insurance coverage but only for a period of time. For this reason, they are often more affordable than other kinds of life insurance policies. Term life insurance comes in pre-determined increments of time such as five years, 10 years or 20 years and can be used if the policyholder dies within that interval. If the covered person does not die, the plan simply expires when the interval ends. A large difference with term life policies is that they have no cash value, meaning that you cannot cash out your policy while living (that is cancelling the plan and receiving the money you have paid into it). While it may seem strange to invest money into a policy that will not retain value if you keep living, term life policies are a strong option in times where you have more financial responsibilities than income — such as while in college with student loans.

Whole life insurance policies: Whole life policies can also be used to help with student loan expenses in the case of death, but they function a little differently than term life insurance policies. Whole life policies do not have terms and do not expire, hence the name “whole life.” One perk to this kind of policy is that it cannot be canceled so long as you pay your premium on time each month, so there is no concern about changing health conditions affecting life insurance. In addition, whole life policies can be cashed out during your lifetime, meaning that money that has been paid in premiums can be borrowed and used on big expenses such as a college education or a down payment on a home. Whole life premiums are often more costly per month, but in the long run, this kind of insurance policy can be a beneficial financial tool.

Both kinds of life insurance policies are effective safety nets for student loan debt.

How large of a policy should I get?

It is difficult to say for sure how large of a life insurance policy you should take out, especially when it comes to incorporating the potential of paying back student loan debt. But, there are factors that can help you determine the amount to insure yourself or a child in college for:

  • How much income does my spouse or child need to survive without me?
  • What personal and family obligations do I have?
  • What persona, family or business debts do I have?
  • What living expenses will my family face without me?
  • What is my income, and how will my family get by without it?
  • How much student loan debt do I have, and how much am I anticipating paying in interest?

Buying a policy

Countless private insurance companies offer life insurance, and it can be hard to determine where to find the best policy at the most budget-friendly price. If you are not sure where to start, let PolicyZip help. Our life insurance specialists are here to help you make the most of your life insurance policy selection.

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Medicare Supplement Insurance plans, also known as Medigap, help cover some of the costs not covered by Original Medicare (Parts A and B). If you have a Medigap policy and are not satisfied with the benefits, coverage, or cost of that plan, you may be able to switch Medigap policies, helping you obtain a plan that better suits your needs.

When to Switch Your Medigap Policy

Switching Medicare supplement plans may arise from a want or need to do so. You may want to switch Medigap policies if:

  • Your Medigap policy offers benefits you don’t need.
  • You need more benefits from your Medigap policy that you didn’t need before.
  • You want to change insurance companies.
  • You want a new Medigap policy that is less expensive.

You may need to switch Medigap policies if you are eligible for one of the following guaranteed issue rights.

  • Your Medigap insurance provider is going bankrupt or going out of business.
  • Your Medigap insurance provider committed fraud.
  • Your Medigap insurance provider was misleading in some way.

If you qualify for one of the above situations (guaranteed issue rights), then you may switch Medigap policies outside of your Medigap open enrollment period.

Other Situations on Switching Medigap Policy

If you are wondering if you need to switch Medigap policies based on other situations, see the following common scenarios regarding switching Medicare supplement plans.

  • Your Medigap policy is older – If you bought your Medigap policy before 2010, or even as long ago as before 1992, you do not have to switch your policy, but there are a couple of things you should know about older Medigap plans. If you bought a plan before 2010, that plan may offer coverage that isn’t offered by newer plans. Therefore, you may be better off keeping that plan rather than switching to a new policy. If you bought your Medigap policy before 1992, you still do not have to switch plans, but keep in mind that your plan may not be a guaranteed renewable policy and may have a greater premium increase.
  • You are moving out of the state – Even if you are moving to a different state, you may still keep your current Medigap policy as long as you still have Original Medicare.
  • You have a Medicare SELECT plan and are moving outside the plan’s coverage area – You can either purchase a standardized Medigap policy from your current insurance provider as long as the new plan offers equal or fewer benefits than your current Medicare SELECT plan, or, using your guaranteed issue right, you may purchase a Medigap Plan A, B, C, F, K, or L that is sold my most insurance companies in most states.

Things to Keep in Mind About Switching Your Medigap Policy

If you want or need to switch medicare supplement plans, keep in mind the following information about changing Medigap policies.

  • Under Federal law, you typically do not have the right to switch Medigap policies unless you are switching within your open enrollment period, or you are eligible for a guaranteed issue right.
  • If the insurance company is willing to sell you a Medigap policy outside of the open enrollment period, you may have to answer some medical history questions or pay a higher premium for the new Medigap policy.
  • You do not have to wait a certain period of time after purchasing your first Medigap policy before you may switch to a new Medigap policy.
  • You may have to wait up to 6 months before pre-existing conditions or new benefits your old plan did not offer are covered by your new Medigap plan after switching policies.
  • You should drop your Medigap policy if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, and it is illegal for insurance companies to try to sell you a Medigap policy if you have a Medicare Advantage plan.

How to Switch Medigap Policies

To switch your Medigap policy, you must either switch during your 6-month Medigap open enrollment period or be eligible for one of the guaranteed issue rights mentioned earlier.

Once you have decided to switch change Medicare supplement plans, first call the insurance provider of the new Medigap policy to apply for that policy. If the insurance company accepts your application for a new Medigap policy, you should then call the insurance provider of your old Medigap policy to request for the coverage to end.

After Switching Medigap Policies

After you have successfully switched Medicare supplement plans, you are given a 30-day period in which you can decide if you want to keep or cancel your new plan. This 30-day period is known as a free-look period, which begins right when you get your new Medigap policy.

Once you change Medigap policies, it is recommended that you do not cancel your old plan right away. It is a good idea to keep your old Medigap policy until you have decided that you are satisfied with your new policy. This way, you can easily go back to using your old Medigap plan if you decide that you do not like your new policy.

Medicare late enrollment penalties are amounts added to your monthly premiums as a result of not enrolling in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period. Unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you may be subject to Medicare enrollment penalties if you wait to sign up for Medicare after you are already eligible for enrollment.
Medicare enrollment penalties are a thing to be aware of and to be taken seriously. Medicare late enrollment penalties are not one-time penalty fees; they are extra amounts you must pay in addition to your monthly Medicare premiums. For some Medicare Parts, you must pay these additional amounts for the rest of the time you have that insurance (as opposed to only having to pay for a certain period).

Each type of Medicare (Parts A, B, and D) have a different late enrollment penalty that is calculated differently. These penalties vary from person to person depending on how many months you go without enrolling in a certain type of Medicare after becoming eligible. The Medicare late enrollment penalty costs can add up and become quite expensive, which is why it is important to be aware of these penalties and remember to enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period.

Medicare Part A Penalty

Medicare Part A is usually premium-free for most people. As long as you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working for at least 10 years, you are not required to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A. If you are not eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A, you may purchase Part A for a monthly premium, which could be as high as $411 per month according to the Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare.

You must sign up for Medicare Part A (and Part B) during your Initial Enrollment Period, which is the 7-month period that includes the three months before the month that you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and the three months after the month you turn 65. If you do not enroll in Part A during your eligibility period, you may be subject to Part A late enrollment penalties.

The Part A late enrollment penalty is typically a 10% increase in your monthly premium, which you must pay for twice the amount of time you were eligible to enroll in Medicare Part A, but did not enroll. For example, if you enroll in Part A after being eligible for one year, your Part A premium increase will apply for two years. If you have a $200 monthly premium after signing up for Medicare Part A after one year of being eligible for enrollment, your monthly premium will be $220 ($200 + ($200 x .10)) for the next two years.

Medicare Part B Penalty

As with Medicare Part A, if you do not sign up for Medicare Part B during your Initial Eligibility Period, you may be subject to Part B late enrollment penalties. Typically, a 10% increase will apply to your monthly premium for each 12-month period you are eligible for Part B, but have not yet enrolled.

For example, if the last month of your Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Medicare Part B was January 2014, and you enrolled in March 2016, there was a 26-month period in which you were eligible to enroll, which is two full 12-month periods. Since each 12-month period you go without enrolling amounts to a 10% increase in your monthly premium, in this scenario, you would be subject to a 20% increase. Medicare Part B late enrollment penalties apply for the duration that you have Part B insurance.

Medicare Part D Penalty

Medicare Part D late enrollment penalties may apply if you do not have credible prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage plan, or other Medicare health plan that covers prescription medications) for any continuous period of 63 days or more following your Initial Enrollment Period.

The Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty is calculated by multiplying the national base beneficiary premium (which is $34.10 for 2016) times 1% of the number of months you did not have Medicare Part D or other credible prescription drug coverage. This number is then rounded to the nearest .10, which is the penalty amount added to your monthly premium.

For example, if your Initial Enrollment Period ends June 30, 2014, and you did not sign up for Medicare Part D until the Open Enrollment Period ending December 7, 2015, this means that your prescription drug coverage did not begin until January 1, 2016, and that you went without prescription drug coverage for a total of 18 months (July 2014 through December 2015). In this scenario, your penalty would be 18% (1% x 18 months). The monthly Part D late enrollment penalty would be calculated as follows:

.18 (18% penalty) x $34.10 (national base beneficiary premium for 2016) = 6.138

Rounded to the nearest .10, your monthly penalty comes to $6.10, meaning you must pay an extra $6.10 in addition to your monthly premium for Medicare Part D.

Since the national base beneficiary increases each year, this means that your monthly Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty will also increase with each year.

In conclusion, avoiding Medicare late enrollment penalties is simple as long as you make sure to enroll in Medicare once you become eligible. Going without any type of Medicare for a certain period of time after becoming eligible is not only a risk to your health, but also a potentially expensive decision.

Discover more about Medicare Enrollment.

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Many people find them asking themselves, “do I need to enroll in Medicare every year”?

The short answer is NO.  Why, because you enroll in Original Medicare once when you become eligible either at age 65 or if you are on disability for 24 months or longer.

The real question here is do you need to renew your Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage Plan, and Medicare Part D plan?

That answer is YES, but it depends on the situation.  Below are those details.

Medicare Renewal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. When is Medicare open enrollment? October 15th through December 7th.  This is the only time you can openly change your Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan.  Any other changes throughout the year require a special enrollment period which we’ll explain in further detail below.
  2. Do I have to renew my Medigap during open enrollment? No, Medigap plans are not subject to the open enrollment guidelines of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).
  3. When do I renew my Medicare Part D?  Medicare Part D plans must follow the CMS guidelines for enrollment.  You can openly change your Part D drug plan during open enrollment, but must have a special enrollment period if you want to change any other time during the year.
  4. Do you have to apply for Medicare every year? No, but you absolutely should review your Medicare Advantage Plan and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan for changes.  Again, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans must follow the open enrollment guidelines from CMS, so make sure you review during those times with a licensed agent.
  5. Do I have to re enroll in Medicare each year? No, you enrolled when you became eligible for Medicare and will not have to re enroll.
  6. How to renew Medicare online? First you should speak with a licensed agent to review the available plans for the upcoming year. Then you should determine if the Medicare Advantage Plan you are enrolling in has an e-application platform.  If they do, then you can coordinate with your agent how to get enrolled online.  If you aren’t changing your plan, then there is no reason you need to renew online.
  7. Why do I need to renew my Medicare every year?  You don’t need to renew your Medicare plan every year, but you need to REVIEW it.  Plans change and unless you review your plan each year, you may get hit with an unexpected bill.

Let’s dive into all the details you need to know about your Medicare renewal below.

Medicare Renewal Basics

In general, you do not need to renew your Medicare plan as long as you are happy with your current MA-PD or Part D drug policy. Medicare renewal is not required since, in most cases, Medicare coverage continues each year without the need to re-enroll in the same plan. In other words, Medicare automatically renews as long as you are continuing to pay the required premiums.

This applies both to beneficiaries enrolled in Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B).

However, if you are currently enrolled in a private Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, you’ll want to make sure and understand when you can renew each year.

Medicare Part D renewal should always be considered as the drug companies change their formulary (published drug list) every year.  The last thing you want is to get a surprise at the pharmacy and realize your generic drug is now considered brand or your tier 2 is now a tier 3.

So, the take away here is make sure you review your Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part D prescription every year before it auto renews.  This is your only time to change.

When Medicare Renewal May Be Required

Although renewing Medicare is not required, there are certain situations in which you may need to take action regarding your policy. If any of the following situations applies, you may need to re-enroll in a new Medicare Advantage policy:

  • Your Medicare plan’s coverage area has changed, and you no longer live within that coverage area.
  • Your plan did not renew its Medicare contract for the following year.
  • Your plan left the Medicare program.
  • Medicare ended its contract with your plan.
  • You currently have a group health plan through your employer (NOT RETIREMENT PLAN) which would allow you to enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B outside of the IEP once you stop working.
  • 8 month SEP after you stop working.
  • You qualify for state pharmaceutical assistance plan (SPAP) which is a prescription drug discount program based on your household income.
  • You drop your Medicare Advantage plan to try a Medigap Plan for the first time.
  • You are enrolled in a Medicare Special Needs Plan (SNP) for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • You are a dual eligible for Medicare and Medicare and enrolled in a Medicare Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan (D-SNP).

In these situations, you may be given a Special Election Period (SEP) in which you will have an extended amount of time to decide on a new Medicare plan. SEP is an extension of the Medicare renewal period, or otherwise known as the Annual Election Period (AEP), or open enrollment which you must qualify for.

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Medicare Enrollment Period Basics

What is the Medicare Initial Election Period (IEP)?

IEP is the period of time when you initially become eligible for Medicare and enroll in Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, Medicare Part D, and your Medicare Advantage Plan or Medigap Policy.  You only have one Medicare IEP.

When is Medicare open enrollment (AEP)?

Annual Election Period (AEP) or otherwise known as Open Enrollment occurs from October 15th to December 7th, and allows Medicare plan beneficiaries to make changes to their policies, such as:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage
  • Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare
  • Change Medicare Advantage plans
  • Enroll in or drop Medicare Part D prescription coverage (Medicare Part D)

What is Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP)?

This is enrollment period you must qualify for to change your Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Part D prescription plan outside of the AEP window as outlined above.  If you cannot qualify for an SEP, then you will not be permitted to change your Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D prescription drug plan outside of AEP.

Medicare Plan Non-Renewal

In the case that your Medicare plan is not renewing its contract for the upcoming year or is leaving the Medicare program, you should be given a 90-day notice of its termination, outlining your options for enrolling in a new plan.

Yes, this happens often.  Companies are always moving in and out of the Medicare market.

You will also receive the SEP notice, giving you extra time to review your options and decide on a new Medicare plan.

If by the end of your SEP you have not taken any actions regarding the selection of a new policy, you may be automatically enrolled in the alternative plan being offered by your Medicare Advantage provider or Original Medicare.

Make sure you are reviewing your SEP notice carefully as all SEP’s are not created equal.

Reviewing Your Medicare Policy

Even though you do not need to renew Medicare coverage, it is recommended that you review your Medicare plan each year during AEP in which you may make any necessary changes to your current Medicare coverage. As mentioned earlier, during AEP you may switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage and vice versa, switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan, opt in or out of prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D), or make any other changes to your Medicare coverage based on your current needs.

It’s important to review your Medicare coverage each year during open enrollment as your health needs may change or the policy terms or costs may be revised. For example, each year Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans will send beneficiaries an Annual Notice of Change, which outlines the plan changes for the upcoming year. Once you receive the notice, you should review to make sure your plan still fits your needs or is still the best plan option available.

Does My Medicare Plan Offer Additional Benefits?

Many Medicare plans offer additional benefits that aren’t offered through original Medicare.  It’s important to review your summary of benefits to determine the additional benefits you may qualify for.  Below are some of the other benefits you may qualify for with select Medicare Advantage plans and more recently some Medigap plans.

Medicare Plans that offer additional benefits

  • AARP Medicare Complete
  • Aetna
  • Alignment Health Plan
  • Amerigroup
  • Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Avmed Medicare Choice
  • Blue Shield of California
  • Caremore Health Plan
  • Coventry Health Care
  • Essence Healthcare Medicare Advantage
  • Florida Blue
  • Freedom Health
  • Health Advantra
  • Humana
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Medical Mutual
  • Medigold Medicare
  • Optimum Healthcare
  • Scan Medicare Plan
  • United Health Care
  • Wellcare Medicare Plans
  • Many more.

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What to Do During Medicare Open Enrollment

During AEP, you should review your Medicare Advantage plan and any changes it may be implementing for the upcoming year.  You need to decide if that plan is still the best option for you based on your current health needs. If you are not completely satisfied with your current Medicare plan, AEP is the time to make changes to your coverage.

Consider the following questions during Medicare open enrollment to help you decide whether or not you should make any changes to your current Medicare plan.

  1. Is Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage a better option for me?

Medicare Advantage typically offers more benefits than Original Medicare. If you are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan and decide that you do not need the extra benefits included in your plan, you may want to switch to a Medigap or Medicare Supplement.

Likewise, if you are currently enrolled in a Medigap Plan and want to try a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch one time and always go back to original plan.

  1. Does my current Medicare plan cover my prescriptions?

Review your plan to determine if prescription coverage is included. Depending on your prescription needs, this may mean enrolling or dis-enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan if you have Original Medicare, or changing Medicare Advantage plans.

In either instance you should take your list of medications and enter them into the drug database on Medicare’s website.  This will help you determine your estimated drug costs based on the available Medicare Advantage Plans or Medicare Part D plans in your area.

  1. Am I satisfied with my current Medicare Advantage plan?

Review your Medicare plan’s coverage and costs and compare with other Medicare Advantage plans available, and decide if your current plan is still the best option for you. You may find a different plan that fits your health care coverage needs with lower premiums.  In that instance Medicare renewal might make sense for you.


Below is a summary of what you need to know regarding Medicare renewal.

  • When is Medicare open enrollment? October 15th through December 7th.
  • Do you have to apply for Medicare every year? No, but you absolutely should review your Medicare Advantage Plan and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan for changes.
  • Do I have to re enroll in Medicare each year? No, you enrolled when you became eligible for Medicare and will not have to re enroll.
  • How to renew Medicare online? First you should speak with a licensed agent to review the available plans for the upcoming year. Then you should determine if the Medicare Advantage Plan you are enrolling in has an e-application platform.  If they do, then you can coordinate with your agent how to get enrolled online.  If you aren’t changing your plan, then there is no reason you need to renew online.
  • Why do I need to renew my Medicare every year?  You don’t need to renew your Medicare plan every year, but you need to review it.  Plans change and unless you review your plan each year, you may get hit with an unexpected bill.

If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding Medicare renewal, re-enrollment, or plan changes, you may contact a licensed insurance agent or Medicare benefits advisor for specific guidance during Medicare AEP.