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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.

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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.

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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 www.medicare.gov.

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 Medicare.gov 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?

Absolutely.

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

Net Worth Calculator

Social Security Quick Calculator

Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator

 

 

 

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The financial planning guidelines that apply to many people generally aren’t necessarily the same rules that doctors should apply to their financial planning efforts.

Debts are larger, income is more…so the possibility of making bigger mistakes are higher.  There are also so added variables unique to doctors that can complicate financial planning.

If you’re a doctor, you can’t be too careful when it comes for financial planning.

How financial planning for physicians is different

Most people spend four or five years in college to get a bachelor’s degree and some go longer for graduate degrees.

But on overage, doctors spend as many as 14 years in college and postgraduate schooling.  A bachelor’s degree is just the start and is followed by getting a medical degree, and then serving internships and residencies.

There is such a focus on learning how to treat patients that many doctors are not able to also focus on what it takes to run a practice.  Juggling a large amount of debt from schooling while also managing their family’s financial security is challenging.

Doctors also face a much higher liability risk; primarily the threat of malpractice.  In fact, an American Medical Association analysis showed that 60% of physicians older than 55 have experienced a lawsuit at some point in their career.

Because they may not actually start their careers until after they turn 30, doctors don’t have the advantage of compounding returns by starting early, although many make substantial income that can balance the scales as long as funds are invested in a safe and appropriate manner.

Regulatory burdens and a complicated tax code further serve to create challenges for doctors as well.  Financial problems can also impact a doctor’s relationships with colleagues, hospitals and universities.

When all of these factors are considered, the need for solid financial planning is amplified considerably.

The main reasons financial planning for physicians is a challenge

These differences translate into a number of financial planning challenges for doctors.

The biggest foundational problem is choosing a financial professional to assist them.  Because doctors are above average in intelligence and wealth, it can lead to overconfidence when it comes to investing as well.  They may actually fall prey to questionable financial strategies as they search to solve the problem of how to outperform the market.

Because they generally have larger portfolios, doctors are more attractive clients to all kinds of financial planners, some of whom may not be qualified to handle these types of portfolios or who may put their own self-interests first.  The irony is that because many times physicians have considerable income streams, doctors generally appreciate taking a slow and prudent approach when it comes to planning their portfolio strategy with an advisor.

The right asset manager will help a doctor develop a comprehensive financial strategy that accounts for all facets of their life.  This includes protecting their career and family and getting into good habits that make it easy to accommodate investing fluctuations that may occur from time to time.

One of the other challenges that may be overlooked is not adequately protecting against liabilities.  They must make sure there is adequate protection to deal with a potential costly settlement and protracted legal battle.  There are sources of nonmedical liability to deal with as well, such as liability for the actions of employees or employee lawsuits that can put a doctor and his family at risk.

Doctors may also be guilty of not protecting their families with enough life and disability insurance.  Many doctors do a decent job of buying life insurance, but from what we’ve found speaking with many advisors, the vast majority of physicians do not put enough emphasis on buying disability insurance which can be just as ruinous to a family’s financial stability.  Chances are Worker’s Comp, Social Security disability income, and savings will not be enough to cover the gap in income.

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What are the important components for a physician’s financial success?

Two physicians can have similar credentials, run the same kind of practice, have been in business for the same number of years, have similar patient demographics, but still wind up completely different when it comes to their level of financial success.

How can this be?

It all comes down to priorities and a commitment to spending the time it takes to oversee the financial aspects of their personal and professional lives.  There are no shortcuts if you want to give yourself the best possible chance at being financially successful as a doctor.

So what does that entail?

  • Surround yourself with good people. Hire the best staff, from the receptionist to the doctors you may partner with.  Your patients have every right to demand the highest level of care and it’s impossible to deliver that experience with a substandard staff.  Invest in training, regular reviews, morale building activities and more.
  • Use a business model that has worked for others. Combine elements of your practice with how other successful practices operate and incorporate those elements to your own situation.  This includes outsourcing services to vendors with outstanding reputations so that you can focus on what you do best as a doctor.
  • Invest in ongoing education and training. Medicine continues to evolve at a rapid rate and as advancements are made, you must stay abreast of those changes or run the risk of losing your competitive edge.  This extends to your staff, too.  Investing in your employees builds esteem at all levels of your practice.
  • Keep a close eye on costs. You’ve got to keep score and not let cost variables get out of control.  A constant leak that doesn’t need to be there can drain the financial health right out of a practice if left unchecked.  Look at ways to reduce costs by leasing equipment or working out the most favorable terms possible to keep your cash flow healthy.  Understand the nature of your short-term and your long-term liabilities.
  • Undertake business planning activities and focus on the future. Having achievable goals and visualizing how your practice should grow will go hand in hand with how your financial future will grow as well.  Plan for emergencies and challenges and implement preventative strategies to give you peace of mind for the next five or 10 years and beyond.
  • Seek mentors and learn from other successful people. Network and invest in personal relationships that can help grow your practice.  When you do this, your confidence and self-esteem will continue to grow as well.

What not to do in today’s market

Here are a few “don’ts” for you to think about in today’s market:

  • Don’t forget to seek the best advice for financial planning for physicians
  • Don’t forget to diversify your investments.
  • Don’t forget to undertake a regular review of your portfolio.
  • Don’t forget to be flexible.
  • Don’t listen to well-meaning but uninformed friends, relatives and colleagues.
  • Don’t over extend yourself.
  • Don’t buy on margin.
  • Don’t set all your investments on autopilot.

How much risk should you take to achieve your long-term financial goals?

As it is with financial planning for others, the amount of risk you take will vary based, in part, on your risk tolerance level, your long-term goals and your net assets and obligations.

Consider implementing some of these strategies at various stages in your life and your career:

If you are a resident or a fellow:

  • Start thinking about how to repay your debt and consider public service loan forgiveness as a possible avenue. Consider deferment, forbearance, consolidation or income-based repayment plans.
  • Purchase disability insurance. About one-third of all doctors will experience at least one period of disability at some point in their career.
  • Start building an emergency fund.
  • Meet with a financial professional and begin investing for retirement, even in small amounts.

If you are a first-year attending physician:

  • Consider purchasing life insurance, especially if you have a spouse or have started a family.
  • Start saving for a down payment on a home.
  • Meet with a financial planner on a regular basis to learn more about the investing process. Be an active participant in your own investment finances.
  • Ensure your disability insurance coverage is adequate.

Mid-career physicians:

  • If you have not already done so, buy a home.
  • Consider college savings plans for your children’s college expenses.
  • Set up a budget for retirement and make sure you contribute on a regular basis to retirement accounts.
  • Work with a financial planner on estate planning and asset protection strategies.

Close to retirement:

  • Review your budget for retirement, make sure it is in line with your current goals.
  • Update your estate documents as needed.
  • Consider buying long-term care insurance.
  • Begin looking at ways to downsize your responsibilities.

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How life insurance fits into an investment plan for doctors

Physicians with families should own life insurance to provide for their family’s needs in the event of their untimely death.  Owning the right type of insurance and the right amount is critical to making sure a family can meet its financial goals, even if the main source of income dies prematurely.

There are several way ways to arrive at the amount of life insurance a physician should carry.  Two of the more popular include:

  1. Human Life Value or Multiple of Income Method. The method calculates the net present value of a physician’s after-tax earnings over the course of their work life. From this, an arbitrary multiple of gross income is used, such as 10- or 20-times gross wages to arrive at a policy amount.
  2. Needs-Based Analysis. This method calculates the gap between a doctor’s financial resources available today (such as retirement funds and college savings) and the present cost of future goals. For example, if a physician’s family needs $2 million in today’s dollars to fund retirement and the family currently has $500,000, then the coverage gap would be $1.5 million. This method is more accurate and often lowers overall amount of recommended life insurance, saving premium dollars.

Different ways doctors can save for retirement

There are a number of ways doctors can save for retirement.  Here are a few suggestions:

Save about 20% of what you make.  “The most important way for physicians to save for retirement is to spend about 20 percent less than they earn and put that toward retirement,” said James M. Dahle, MD, FACEP, editor and founder, The White Coat Investor, author of The White Coat Investor: A Doctor’s Guide to Personal Finance and Investing, and instructor for various online training courses.

“This should include a mix of stocks, bonds, and real estate and when possible placed into

tax-protected accounts such as 401(k)s and Roth IRAs or their equivalent in other countries.”

Partner with a physician-friendly financial advisor.  The American Medical Association (AMA) has a variety of financial planning resources, including physician retirement planning and services that can connect you with vetted planners who meet specific criteria.  Working with a certified financial planner who specializes in working with doctors is the smartest and most direct way to chart a clear path to retirement.  Also consider asking colleagues for referrals to financial planners they may know or use who understand the unique needs of doctors.

Consider opening a 401(k).  This is the most traditional form of retirement planning for doctors who are working for a company or for those who are self-employed.  Physicians employed by a company that offers a 401(k) plan should also check to see if the organization offers a company match that can boost retirement earnings.

Doctors employed by a government or nonprofit healthcare organization may be offered a 403(b) or 457(b) plan. Overall, they work the same way that 401(k) plans do, with a few unique distinctions.

Pensions or IRAs may be an option.  Doctors who are self-employed and locum tenens can set up Roth IRAs, defined benefit plans and Keogh retirement plans.

What is locum tenens and why it might help a physician’s financial future?

Locum tenens is a Latin phrase that means “to hold a place.” Today, it refers to physicians and advanced practice clinicians who fill in for other staff on a temporary basis.

These assignments can range from a few days to up to several months or more.  From a financial standpoint, this allows a medical professional to bolster their income and work more aggressively toward their long-term financial plans, creating a secondary income stream or helping to establish a career full-time as a locum tenens.

Many physicians who are about to retire often find locum physician jobs rewarding and a great way to “wind down” practicing by just taking a few contracts a year.

There are a number of other benefits for both the medical provider and the facility:

For the facility:

  • Fill vacancies while maintaining patient care quality
  • Add flexibility to physician and clinician staffing plans
  • Test the need for a new staff position or specialist
  • Control long-term recruitment and overhead costs

For the medical provider:

  • Take control of their career, choosing their work environment and schedule
  • Gain experience in their medical specialty
  • Try out a new city, just for a short time or to consider a permanent move
  • Make more time for family or other obligations
  • Transition from full-time to part-time, or from working to semi-retirement
  • Concentrate on patient care instead of managing a practice

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Should doctors hire a family office?

First, lets address what is a family office?

Wall Street Journal said it best.

“Family offices are private firms that manage just about everything for the wealthiest families: tax planning, investment management, estate planning, philanthropy, art and wine collections – even the family  vacation compound.”

This doesn’t mean that every doctor is going to need to use a family office for their financial planning, but it’s certainly an option as career advancement occurs and net worth increases.

Suggested books on financial planning for doctors

Here are some suggested additional resources you can plug into to learn more on the subject:

“Physician Wealth Management Made Easy” by Michael Zhuang

“The Doctors Guide to Eliminating Debt” by Dr. Cory S. Fawcett

“Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners” by David Edward Marcinko and Hope Rachel Hetico

“The White Coat Investor” by James M. Dahle, MD

“The White Coat Investor’s Financial Boot Camp: A 12-Step High-Yield Guide to Bring Your Finances Up to Speed” by James M. Dahle, MD

“Financial Planning Basics for Doctors: The Personal Finance Course Not Taught in Medical School” by Marshall Weintraub, Michael Merrill and Cole Kimball

“Get It Right!: The Five Most Important Financial Planning Concepts Doctors Get Wrong” by Jason Dyken

Now what?  How to find a medical financial advisor

There are several things to consider before you decide on a medical financial advisor.

Do you want an advisor who charges a flat-fee advisor or by the hour?  Fee-only advisors can be harder to find but a good place to start is with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Flat fee advisors can be expensive, charging as much as $5,000 a year or more.  Having someone there to call about more complicated things without worrying about racking up additional hourly fees is something to think about.  On the other hand, an hourly advisor may be all you need if your finances are comparatively simple.

There are also commission-based advisors who make money when they sell you products such as stocks, annuities or life insurance policies.  Keep in mind when someone makes money only when they sell you something—and not when YOU make money—there can be a potential conflict of interest.

Consider finding an advisor who is also a CPA.  Having a person handle your financial planning who knows and keeps up on the tax code means you could enjoy several added benefits.  A CPA credential adds an extra layer of certainty for important decisions and may get you a discount on tax preparation.

Look to your colleagues for suggestions and referrals or search online. You will need to decide if you want only a local advisor, or one who you are comfortable working with primarily online from a distance.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a variety of financial planning resources, including physician retirement planning and services that can connect you with vetted planners who meet specific criteria.

Also, try to find an advisor who works with medical professionals at the same stage in their career as you.  They will be more in tune with your specific needs.

The key is to find an advisor who has experience working with medical professionals and understands their financial challenges and quirks.

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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.

Getting an indexed universal life insurance policy tailored for you can be a daunting task.

Why?

Because universal life insurance was designed to be flexible, which means there a lot of options to consider. In fact, if you took some time to shop online, you’d likely end up empty-handed.

To help you get a handle on the topic, I reached out to Scott Karstens, Partner and President, Life Division of Nelson Financial Group (NFG), who specializes in indexed universal life insurance.

Below are four golden rules to remember when considering indexed universal life insurance.

Rule #1: Shop your Broker, Not your Companies.

This is where the internet can get you in trouble. There are tons of calculators and companies to be found on search engines that will try to persuade you to make a hasty decision, typically by pitching the cheapest rate. The most important item to remember about IULs, however, is that one size does not fit all.

“The fortunate thing for consumers is they have many strong options when shopping for permanent life insurance such as an IUL. The unfortunate thing is they have many options,” says Karstens.

I wholeheartedly agree with Scott. This is why it’s more important to shop your independent agent versus trying to shop all the companies on your own. Find an independent agent who specializes in indexed universal life insurance, not just term or whole life, and let them shop for the best options that meet your specific goals.

Having a strong independent agent can have a drastic impact on the quality of your policy.

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Rule #2: Living Benefits or Bust

Living benefits are the biggest thing to come along in life insurance in many years. In simple terms, living benefits are riders to your policy that provide benefits before you pass away. These enhanced benefits allow you to accelerate all or a portion of your life insurance death benefit while you’re still living.

Below is a quick glance at the most common living benefits included with indexed universal life policies:

  • Terminal Illness: Insured policyholder is diagnosed as terminally ill and has 12-24 months to live.
  • Chronic Illness: Insured cannot complete some minimum specified activities of daily living.
  • Critical Illness: Critical illness benefit has many triggers such as heart attack, cancer, kidney failure or stroke. Normally, the greater the severity of the illness, the greater the living benefit payout. For example, Stage 3 cancer has a higher paying lump sum benefit that Stage 2 cancer.
  • Critical Injury: Client experiences severe burns, traumatic brain injury, paralysis or coma. Most companies do not offer critical injury benefits, so it’s important to ask your agent if your policy options include this benefit. (this benefit is largely lumped into Critical illness, only one or two separate it into Critical Injury.

For example here is Global Atlantic’s: certain cancers, stroke, heart attack, diagnosis of end stage renal failure, major organ transplant, paralysis, coronary artery bypass, coma, severe burn, and AIDS the only thing it is missing is ‘brain injury’.

According to Karstens, “Living benefits complete your safety net portfolio and provide an alternative to other standalone insurance solutions such as Long-Term Care, which is especially important for families living on a tighter budget.”

Why would you want a life insurance policy that doesn’t allow you to access the death benefit funds if you were to get sick or injured?

Rule #3: Level out the roller coaster.

We’re all aware of the roller coaster that is investing and maximizing our ROI. The stock market goes up and down, and while you’ll likely have more gains than losses, it’s still good to consider ways to level out the dips in the roller coaster.

“Indexed Universal Life policies are one solution to that anxiety-filled roller coaster ride by offering products with minimum crediting guarantees from 0-3%,” says Karstens. This means, regardless of the market performance, the money within your policy is contractually guaranteed. (Variance in minimum guaranteed is another reason to shop around).

What does that mean? It’s true that you might not earn as much as you would have invested in the stock market, but you are protected from what you could potentially lose. It’s diversification 101.

Karstens adds: “When the index increases by the end of a policy year, the insurance company adds interest credits to your policy up to the maximum amount of your policy.”

This means your policy is subject to a cap or crediting ceiling. Depending on the company, the caps are often in the range of 8%-18%. A cap of 18% means that, if the market returned 20%, you would only receive up to the cap of 18% — not 20%. If the market was negative, however, you would still get your policy guarantee.

So, there you have it. Make sure to review policy floors and caps, as they can make a drastic difference in long-term performance.

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Rule #4: Cost of Insurance and Underwriting

Although an IUL is a great vehicle to diversify your retirement savings, it’s not a solution for everyone.

For example, it’s much more expensive to insure a 60-year-old than a 30-year-old. The cost of insurance can quickly offset the policy’s ability to positively perform as the bulk of the policy premium is absorbed by the minimum cost of insurance (death benefit and associated fees), leaving less of the remaining premium to accumulate growth.

Underwriting is the next hurdle. If you’re facing health challenges, you may receive a sub-standard rating during the review. However, if you’re young, healthy and have substantial assets, an IUL could be a great option to diversify your portfolio.

These are the important items to consider before making a decision on an IUL. Remember to seek advice from an experienced independent resource who will provide all options — not just what’s in their company’s best interest.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

Yes.

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.

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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.

 

What you Should Know About Death Certificates

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When a person passes away, there are several important actions necessary to ensure the person’s estate is handled in a timely and appropriate way.  To initiate many of these tasks, such as collecting on a life insurance policy or to legally transfer assets, a person will need to have a death certificate as proof of the person’s passing.

Some people seek out death certificates when they are researching family genealogy as well.  It should be noted that most states did not start recording deaths until the early 1900s and some states did not start until as late as 1930.

New England states including Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have records dating back the longest when some towns began the documentation process when the first resident of the town passed away.

In this article we will be covering some important factors about what you need to know about death certificates.

  1. What is a death certificate?
  2. How are death certificates used?
  3. Issuing a death certificate
  4. What information is on a death certificate?
  5. What information is on a death certificate?
  6. Getting copies of a death certificate
  7. How to make changes to a death certificate
  8. Are death certificates public records?
  9. Can I view death certificates online?

What is a death certificate?

A death certificate is an official government document that certifies the date, time, location and cause of death.

It also provides other important information that is used by a variety of entities who have financial interests in the deceased person’s estate, and is also used to track changes in society.

Death certificates must be completed and signed off by a medical practitioner such as a doctor, medical examiner or a coroner, as well as the entity requesting the issuance of a death certificate.

Many times, this is a funeral director or a burial agent, or a family member acting in those capacities.

What are death certificates used for?

Death certificates are used to facilitate closing bank accounts, claim life insurance benefits and file taxes, along with many other personal and legal purposes.

In some instances, a person will need to supply an entity with an official death certificate that bears an official state stamp or seal, and in other cases only a copy will be required.

If you are handling the deceased person’s affairs, here are some scenarios where you will need either a copy, or you will supply an original death certificate, which will be returned to you:

  • Social Security
  • Local bank accounts
  • Credit Cards
  • Utilities and phone companies
  • Motor vehicle licensing
  • Filing a will with your county courthouse

You will need to supply an original death certificate under the following circumstances:

Can a death certificate be changed?

Yes, one of the common reasons death certificates are changed is incorrect information.  The biggest reason you need to make sure the death certificate is accurate is so it doesn’t impact any associated insurance settlements.

You should always check with your states about who can request changes on a death certificate as all states are not created equal.

For example, changing death certificates in Texas is a different process than death certificates in Michigan or death certificates in California.

Who issues a death certificate?

A funeral home or other entity in charge of a deceased person’s remains will be responsible for gathering information that will be used to file and ultimately issue a death certificate.

This will involve getting information from family members and securing the signature of an appropriate medical professional who will certify the death.  In some instances, a police officer or a paramedic may also be able to sign a death certificate as well.

State laws dictate that this process be completed within a matter of a few days following the person’s death.

Once the information has been gathered, the death certificate will be filed with the registrar and the county health department where the death took place.

Typically, deaths must be reported to the health department within 72 hours after the death takes place.

What information is on a death certificate?

A death certificate contains important information about the person who passed away. Information will vary from state to state, but at a minimum, the information included on death certificates will include:

  • The deceased person’s full name
  • Address
  • Birth date and birthplace
  • Father’s name and birthplace
  • Mother’s name and birthplace
  • Social Security number
  • If the deceased was a member of the U.S. armed forces
  • Marital status
  • Name of surviving spouse
  • Cause of death (cancer, heart attack, etc.)
  • Manner of death (natural, accident, homicide, etc.)
  • Race
  • Usual occupation
  • Date, time, and place of death
  • A signature line for a medical professional or coroner to certify the death and information on the application

To see a U.S. Standard Certificate of Death application from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, what specific information is required, and how it might be filled out, go here.

The National Home Funeral Alliance also has several examples of death certificates that you can view as well.

NOTE:  Since 1990, for public versions of death certificates, some states may redact the specific cause of death to comply with HIV confidentiality rules.  However, immediate family members, government agencies and law enforcement personnel can always access a death certificate containing the full cause of death.

Getting copies of a death certificate

The easiest way to get copies of a death certificate is to order them through the funeral home or mortuary that is handling the deceased’s remains.

In most cases, if you are the executor of the deceased person’s estate, you will need at least 10 copies, and maybe more, depending on the complexity of the person’s estate.

If 60 to 90 days or more has gone by since the deceased person passed away, you will need to contact the county or the state office of vital records to get copies.

Be prepared to pay for copies of the death certificate, which normally run about $10-$15 for the first copy.  If you are the executor of the person’s estate, you can reimburse yourself for those costs from the estate at a later date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a list of where to write for vital records for each state.  You can access the list here.

Informational copies of death certificates are available to anyone who requests them, but certified copies are only available to those with a direct connection to the deceased, such as an immediate family member, an executor, or someone who has a financial interest in the person’s estate.

Some jurisdictions approach this differently and may be more restrictive regarding the availability of death certificates.  For example, in New York, only close relatives such as a spouse, parent, child or sibling of a deceased person can obtain a death certificate.  The only other exception in this case is by a person or organization that has a documented lawful right, a medical need, or a New York state court order.

In all cases, you should wait for the coroner or medical examiner to determine a final cause of death before trying to order copies of the death certificate.

Many institutions, such as insurance companies and banks, may require the final and official cause of death to be shown on the certificate before transacting business with an executor.

How to make changes to a death certificate

There are times when the information on a death certificate changes, is missing, or is originally recorded inaccurately.  When this happens, initiating changes in the death certificate can be by anyone as long as evidence is presented to support the claim and the changes are approved by the person who originally approved the death certificate.

However, some states have restrictions on who can file the necessary paperwork.  You will need to check the laws of your state to see to what degree you are eligible to change a death certificate.

Making changes on a death certificate is important because it may impact life insurance policies as well as demographic data.  All errors such as misspelled names, wrong addresses and other personal information should always be corrected.

The other thing to consider is that there may be time restrictions on who can make a change in a death certificate.  After a certain length of time, you may only be able to make changes through your state’s vital statistics and information registry.

In many states, you can initiate the change process online by accessing forms and researching the step-by-step process.  However, to complete changes, you will probably need to mail those forms along with supporting documentation because in most cases originals of documents are needed.  Supporting documentation could include a birth certificate, armed forces discharge papers, or other similar types of information.

You may also be able to amend a death certificate in person by going to your local registrar.  Local registrars will vary by jurisdiction, but may include a county health department, county clerk, or county recorder.  You can also visit the funeral home that handled the deceased’s services and they will probably be able to make the changes for you.

Are death certificates public?

Yes.

Just like marriage and divorce records, death certificates are public records.

Your county recorder, county clerk or other similar record-keeping body will maintain the death certificate on file and it can be accessed for viewing at any time.

To view death certificates when a person passes away outside of the United States, you will need to access the National Center for Health Statistics.

After the death certificate information has been received and entered into the system, the actual certificate is sent to the appropriate physician or medical examiner for their signature.  It is then submitted to the county’s vital statistics office where certified copies are created.  This can take anywhere from 10 days to several weeks.

Death Certificate Delays

Delays can occur when there is an investigation surrounding the death, an autopsy needs to be performed or there are other delays for various reasons.

One of these delays may be due to a doctor refusing to sign a death certificate if they are unsure of the cause of death.  While there are laws that prevent doctors from delaying a final death certificate without good reasons, you may encounter this and you could have to force the issue to get the death certificate completed.

In other cases, the cause of death may be missing due to the fact that it is unknown or that there were several health issues that were contributing issues to the cause of death.

After they have been signed, certified copies of the death certificate with an official seal are generated and then returned to the requesting parties, such as funeral homes or funeral directors, who will then disburse the official copies to requestors.

Can death certificates be found online?

It depends.

Each state is responsible for administering its own records and some states have been more proactive than others.  Record keeping for deaths was not standardized until the early 1900s and while some states have records that date back to much earlier, such as Massachusetts which began keeping vital records in the 1600s, others have been far less diligent.

In other instances, some states allow access only to family members and authorized members will need to go through a process to order and view copies online.

In some instances, private companies, such as FamilySearch.org,or Ancestry.com, may have records online that you might be able to access for a fee.

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in your Area

 

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.

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

Yes, I would like to speak with an agent about BayCarePlus Medicare Advantage

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

 

 

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
Cardio
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
Zumba(R)
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
Zumba(R)
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
Jazzercise(R)
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
Zumba(R)
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

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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 sympathy 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 sympathy card and demonstrating that you care 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, 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 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. 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 should a sympathy card say?

Sympathy cards 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.”
  • 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 with a sympathetic and sincere phrase. “With deepest condolences on Bill’s passing,”

What occasions do people send sympathy cards?

A sympathy card is most often used for funerals of loved ones or pets.  It’s common to have a loss for words when an occasion surprises you unexpectedly.

Occasions for sympathy cards:

  • Funerals
  • Loss of a pet

How should I word a sympathy card?

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.  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:

What to write in a sympathy card 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.”
  • “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 assistance insurance is a policy that protects you form 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 towing services to a nearby facility if something major occurs.

Minor problems may include running out of gas, replacing a flat tire, jump-starting a dead battery or unlocking your car 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 assistance 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 assistance 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.

Automakers

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 Edmunds.com 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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