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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Insurance

As the year draws to a close, many people are already looking forward to the new year.  Whether you see resolutions as a dreaded chore or as an exciting fresh start, they can be helpful. This year, consider fully embracing the world of adulting by making new year’s resolutions for insurance.

Getting your insurance ducks in a row might not be the most glamorous project. But it’s crucial for your long-term financial stability.

Here at Lake Region Insurance Agency, we take insurance seriously and want to help our customers wherever we can. Don’t let anything take you by surprise in 2021. After the craziness of 2020, preparation and planning are more important than ever. 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Insurance Shouldn’t Be That Way

You probably don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about insurance plans and policies. You might prefer to avoid it all together. But the truth is, if you ignore your coverage, you could end up with significant problems.

Get ready for the upcoming year with our top new year’s resolutions for insurance. You’ll be able to rest assured that you have the coverage you need.

New year's resolutions for insurance help you start the year right.

1. Figure Out What You Already Have

For many people, one of the key priorities for next year is to declutter, streamline, and minimize. But you can’t do this until you go through everything you currently have.

Why not extend this idea to your insurance by examining your current policies? Dig out your statements and take an hour or so to clarify what coverage you have in place, making a note of premiums, limits, and deductibles. That way, if you need to shop for a new policy, you can make sure you are getting the very best deal.

Better yet, set a time to meet with your insurance agent to review everything. They will help you find redundancies and gaps so that you can adjust your policies as needed.

2. Inventory and Document

The notion of doing a full, whole-house inventory can be overwhelming. But it is a vital part of your new year’s resolutions for insurance. 

If you are a victim of a fire, flood, storm, or natural disaster, the aftermath will be stressful. The forms and paperwork that come with filing an insurance claim can feel overwhelming when you are reeling from a loss.

With an up-to-date home inventory, you can significantly reduce the stress that comes with this process. Set aside some time, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and power through this job.

Make an inventory of all your household items in case you need to file a claim.

Don’t skimp on your inventory. Include anything that you would want to cover in an insurance claim. Go room by room and create a digital document that lists all pertinent items.

Alternatively, making a video inventory is a great option. It can be a relatively quick project, and you can store a copy off-site or in the cloud. Ideally, you will have an inventory list and a video. 

Make sure you include as much detail as possible. For big-ticket items, note when you purchased them and for how much. The more work you do now, the easier it will be if you need to make a claim.

3. Change Your Habits

Most resolutions involve establishing new habits, and this can also apply to your new year’s resolutions for insurance. Many people have behaviors or practices that boost their chances of needing to make an insurance claim. 

For example, do you tend to leave the kitchen while something is on the stove? Maybe you decide to do a quick chore like moving laundry to the dryer and then get sidetracked folding clothes. Soon, something could be burning. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the top reason for home fires and injuries. Something as simple as supervising the stove could keep you safe and reduce the risk of a fire. 

Avoid kitchen fires by staying close to the stove while cooking.

Some other habits that can lead to insurance claims include:

  • Leaving keys in a vehicle
  • Driving while distracted
  • Driving while impaired
  • Speeding

Working to change these dangerous habits will help you avoid an auto insurance claim or having your rates increase due to a ticket.

4. Increase Your Chances of A Deal

Your credit score can have a significant impact on your eligibility for good insurance deals and policies. With this in mind, improving your credit score should be one of your top new year’s resolutions for insurance. 

Many factors go into your credit score, and they are under your control. Some of the most critical considerations are bankruptcies, debt load, missed payments, and the length of your credit history. 

Make it a new year’s goal to get a copy of your credit report. You legally have the right to claim a report from each major reporting agency once every year. TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian each have a file that contributes to your credit score. 

Take time to examine your file so that you can dispute any errors and identify areas you need to improve. Improving your credit score may have a tremendous impact on your insurance rates.

5. Consider Umbrella Insurance

Once you have taken care of your major policies – life, auto, and home – it can be a good idea to invest in an umbrella policy. This plan is sort of a ‘catch-all’ policy designed to cover a wide range of circumstances. In a sense, it offers an extra layer of protection to your existing policies.

Umbrella policies can be useful for extreme situations that exceed the limits of your other policies. For example, if your dog gets out and bites someone, the medical and legal costs could surpass your homeowners’ policy limits. An umbrella policy can cover the difference, giving you significant protection.

How Can We Help?

The team at Lake Region Insurance Agency has the experience and expertise to help you make and keep your insurance resolutions. As independent agents, we can search for the perfect policy from a variety of providers.

We take time to get to know our clients well so that we can help them find all the coverage they need to protect themselves. If you are ready for this level of service, let’s connect. We have offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN. Give us a call or stop in to get started.

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5 Tips for Choosing an Insurance Agent

Ads for large insurance companies dominate TV and social media. It can feel overwhelming to choose an insurance agent for your needs. How do you select the person that will serve you the best? Read on for tips and tricks to help.

The independent agent team at Lake Region Insurance Agency has served Greater Minnesota with integrity for over 40 years. We stand tall on our community values and work tirelessly for our clients, not the big insurance companies.

Call or come in for a free policy review and insurance quote. We’re always excited to find our neighbors the right coverage at a fair price.

Direct vs. Independent Agents: It Pays to Have Choices

Insurance companies like State Farm and American Family have agents who sell their policies directly to clients. These so-called direct or captive agents can only sell plans from their affiliate companies. 

Working with a direct agent is what many people are familiar with, but it significantly limits your options. Direct agents are called “captive” for a reason. They are unable to look elsewhere for policies that will serve you better.

Choosing an independent agent means you are their first focus, not one particular company. They can shop the market for you to discover which policies offer you the highest coverage for the best price.

Policy language can be challenging to sift through when it’s not your full-time job. A good agent takes the guesswork out of researching and buying a plan. 

Tips for Choosing an Insurance Agent You Can Trust

Choosing an insurance agent doesn't have to be difficult.

Whether you decide to use a captive or independent agent, there are certain things to consider as you make your choice. Here are five tips to keep in mind.

1. Determine Your Insurance Needs

Many insurance agencies specialize in specific policy types. While they can have expertise in those plans, they may not have the breadth of knowledge you need.

For example, if you run a small business out of your home, you could need any of the following types of coverage:

  • Home
  • Auto
  • Commercial Auto
  • Professional Liability
  • Cyber Liability
  • Medical
  • Umbrella

Anyone on your list of agent candidates should be able to handle all your coverage needs. Bundling all of your policies with one independent agent simplifies the process and usually saves you money.

It’s crucial for your agent to know about your professional and personal needs. With this information, they can search for policy options that may serve you better as your life changes.

2. Choose Someone Responsive

Insurance agents are people too. As with any collaboration, your personalities will dictate the comfort you feel with your agent. Be sure to find someone that puts you at ease and listens to your input and questions. 

The insurance world can be funny. You may go months or years without requiring any changes in your policies. And then you suddenly can find yourself needing immediate help with your insurance needs.

Be sure to choose someone responsive to your questions and will return calls and emails quickly. When you have life changes, you should be able to get information and help from your agent within a reasonable time.

Choose an agent who is responsive to your needs.

At a minimum, your agent should:

  • Return phone calls within 24 hours or less.
  • Have a pleasant and helpful demeanor.
  • Make a concerted effort to understand your needs, basic history, and life goals.
  • Check in with you to see if you’ve experienced any major life or business changes.

3. Ask Plenty of Questions

Hopefully, you will be building a long-term relationship with the agent you choose. So it’s vital that you get as much information about how they work as possible. Some important things to ask when choosing an insurance agent include:

  • What is their client retention rate? If the number is low or the agent isn’t forthcoming with the information, that should raise a red flag. 
  • Do they have a team of support staff? A solo agent who doesn’t have any help may be an insurance expert. But if they get sick or aren’t available, you could end up stuck without the help you need. 
  • How quickly do they return emails and phone calls?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • How often do they schedule insurance reviews?
  • Do they work nationwide? If you tend to move homes a lot, try to find an agent who can still work with you even if you are not in their state.

4. Check Qualifications and Complaints

Check your agent's certifications.

Make sure your potential insurance agent holds a license to sell policies in your state. Ask an agent about their experience and education before making any policy decisions. Some agents have insurance certifications that are pertinent to your needs. This training could make them better suited for you than others might be.

In addition to checking an agent’s qualifications, find out if there are complaints before choosing an insurance agent. Check with your state’s oversight office to see if the agent or agency has been the subject of lawsuits, complaints, or disciplinary actions.

5. Compare Quotes

Before settling on an agent, compare quotes from several representatives. Look at the deductibles and fine print so that you get a clear picture of what the proposed insurance coverage will include. If an agent doesn’t give you a quote without your promise to work with them, walk away.

Lake Region Insurance Agency: The Independent Team to Trust

We are proud at Lake Region to have a 98% customer retention rate. We work hard to serve our clients with integrity, kindness, and the highest level of expertise. With offices in Willmar, Cokato, and New London, MN, we are ready to go to work for you.

It’s a pleasure to watch our clients thrive and prosper. And it’s an honor to earn their trust as we meet their evolving insurance needs. As independent agents, we always have your best interest in mind as we search for the perfect policies.

Reach out and connect today to see how we can help you and your family have the protection you deserve.

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7 Tips to Stay Safe on Frozen Lakes

In the land of 10,000 lakes, winter’s frozen playground is why many of us choose to live here year-round. Staying safe on frozen lakes, streams, and ponds requires you to take extra precautions. Having sufficient insurance coverage against the unforeseen is crucial when enjoying some winter fun.

Call Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free insurance review and quote. Our friendly agents help you fill the gaps in your coverage so that you can have peace of mind this winter.

Caution: Thin Ice!

Hockey, ice skating, and ice fishing are just a few of the cherished pastimes during a Northern winter. But Minnesota kids grow up knowing they aren’t allowed to touch the lake ice until someone measures the ice with an appropriate tool.

Sadly, vehicles, snowmobiles, and people go through the ice every year. Children and males of all ages are the most likely to fall through the ice and into a frigid lake.

It’s crucial to remember that ice is NEVER completely safe. Recreational activities on frozen lakes always carry some risk. Those enjoying the wintry outdoors can help keep themselves safe with these seven tips.

1. Know the Ice Thickness

Before considering going on the ice, you need to know how thick it is. Augers, tape measures, and ice chisels all work to gauge the thickness. For ultimate safety, check the ice measurements every 150 feet. 

Beware of thin ice on frozen lakes.Here’s a helpful guide to general safety parameters for ice thickness, with the understanding that these are not guarantees that the ice will hold. The following measurements apply to new, clear ice: 

  • Under 4” – The ice is NOT SAFE.
  • 4″ – Activities on foot may be safe, such as ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
  • 5″ to 7” – ATV and snowmobile use is likely safe.
  • 8” to 12″ – The ice can probably safely support a car, ice house, or group game.
  • 12” to 15″ – The ice should now support a medium truck.

It’s essential to remember that these guidelines are for clear ice. Experts recommend doubling the thickness requirements before venturing onto a frozen lake when dealing with white or snow ice.

2. Stay Safe on Frozen Lakes by Sticking with Daylight

Whenever possible, avoid any activity on ice in the dark. A significant part of staying safe on frozen lakes is being able to see how the ice looks. 

In particular, you need to be able to examine the color of the ice. Gray or mottled-colored ice is unsafe. White ice requires double the thickness as blue to be safe. 

It’s also crucial to be able to see the bubblers that protect lake docks. The ice around bubblers is not strong enough to support you.

3. Use the Buddy System

Ice skating on frozen lake

When it comes to winter safety, you learned much of what you need to know in kindergarten: always stick with a friend. Whether you are snowmobiling, playing hockey, or ice fishing, don’t go alone.

Having another person with you when you are on the ice keeps you safer. And it helps ensure someone can get help if there is an accident. If someone falls through the ice, it’s essential that no one try to go in after them to help. Instead, throw a rope or lifesaving device and call for professional rescue help.

4. Car Safety on the Ice

If you determine that the ice is thick enough to support your car or truck, it doesn’t mean you can park and forget about it. The ice can start sinking when cars and trucks are sitting there. Keep vehicles at least 50 feet part and move them every two hours. 

Many experts also suggest cutting a hole near the vehicle. If water starts to come over the top of the hole, then the ice is sinking.

5. Know What to Do If You Fall Through the Ice

When someone falls into frigid winter lakes, time is critical. You have a few minutes before hypothermia takes hold and creates a dangerous situation. The first task is to keep your head above water.

Kick your legs until you can grab onto the ice and pull yourself to a horizontal position. After you get out of the water, roll to thicker ice, and then seek medical treatment immediately. 

Be safe when lakes freeze.

Again, if you’re trying to get someone else out of the water, do not go in after them. Everyone available can lay down on the ice and create a human rescue chain with the lightest person closest to the hole. 

Each person should outstretch their legs and arms to distribute their weight. Reach out something the person can grab to pull them out of the frigid water, such as a:

  • Tree Branch
  • Ski Pole
  • Snowshoe
  • Rope
  • Jacket

6. Consider Your Pet

Although pets are often fairly lightweight, they are not automatically safe. Ice in the spring and fall is particularly unpredictable, so take extra precautions during those months. 

If your pet falls in, get rescue help immediately. Your instinct will be to go after your pet, but if the ice can’t hold them, it can’t hold you. Call for help right away.

7. Wear a Life Jacket

Life jackets are not only for summer lake excursions. Personal flotation devices are critical for water safety, no matter the season. Wearing something that helps you float can make the difference in surviving or not for anyone who falls through the ice. 

And don’t forget a life vest for your pooch, too. Give them the best chance by fitting them with a life jacket.

Get the Right Coverage

Going through a winter hoping you have adequate insurance isn’t the wisest choice. And it could leave you unprotected. 

Instead, reach out to the independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a comprehensive policy review. They will look at all of your plans to see if any uncovered areas leave you at risk. 

With offices in Wilmar, New London, and Cokato, MN, we are available to help all of our Greater Minnesota neighbors. 

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Valuable Items Insurance Protects Your Heirlooms

When you buy a house, securing a homeowners policy is one of the first requirements. This policy covers a lot of scenarios and belongings, but it does not cover everything. Homeowners are usually surprised to learn that they may need valuable items insurance for adequate protection.

Many high-end belongings do not fall under the coverage of a typical homeowners policy. If you are concerned that your insurance plan might not be adequate, reach out to the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency

We work to help you protect your car, home, business, and more. Stop in and see us at one of our Greater Minnesota offices for a free insurance review and quote. We will go over your needs to find a plan that fits.

What Is Valuable Items Insurance?

Having a homeowners insurance policy is the first step toward protecting your belongings. But it does not guarantee that you would receive full replacement value for all the items in your home. 

Most plans will only insure individual objects for up to $1500 each. That certainly is not enough to replace expensive items. 

Some insurers may not even include those items in the policy for your home at all. So you would have protection for almost everything in your home except for the most valuable belongings. In this situation, your insurance would not work for you the way you hope it will.

Valuable items insurance, however, is precisely for this purpose. It provides a different level of protection for personal belongings that have a high financial value. Items that fit in this category can include: 

  • Jewelry
  • Musical Instruments 
  • Rare Books
  • Firearms 
  • Fine Art
  • Antique Furniture
  • China and Silverware
  • Furs
  • Coins and Stamps
  • Family Heirlooms

Policies that cover these possessions will protect you from the financial frustration and disappointment that can come with a significant loss. 

Valuable items insurance can protect musical instruments.

How Do I Determine Which Items Qualify as Valuable?

Figuring out which of your belongings require valuable items insurance can feel overwhelming at first. It can be particularly tricky because, unlike everyday things, their value is likely to go up over time, rather than down. 

For example, your great-grandparents’ wedding rings may have cost $100 when they were new. But they are most certainly worth much more than that now. You need to be sure your policy covers its current worth, not merely the purchase price.

Expert Appraisals

The most straightforward way to determine an item’s value and confirm its insurability is to have an expert appraisal. An appraisal sets a valuation of the personal property for insurance, legal, tax, and estate planning purposes.

It’s crucial that you choose an appraiser with expertise in your items. Depending on the variety and age of your belongings, you may need several different experts. For example, if you have fine art and old watches, you probably need two separate appraisers.

One important thing to note is that there are no federal or state licenses for appraisers. If someone tells you they are licensed, be wary. Be sure to choose someone who works in compliance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). In addition, several groups offer certifications for appraisers.

Valuable coin collections need special insurance coverage.

Proof of Purchase

An original receipt or invoice helps confirm ownership and value if a high-end item is lost, stolen, or destroyed. This evidence is particularly helpful for newer possessions that probably haven’t gone up in value yet. Insurance agencies will reference the proof of purchase when paying a claim.

For very old heirlooms, an original receipt and any subsequent bills of sale help the appraiser determine an accurate value. People are often surprised by how often their ancestors kept every single receipt. It was a common practice in previous generations, so you may find an original tucked away somewhere. 

How to Document Your Items

It’s essential to create an inventory of all personal belongings in your home, whether they qualify for valuable items insurance or not. The most efficient way to create this list is to go room by room, following these steps:

  1. Take video, photos, or both of all personal belongings in the room. Open closets and cupboards and get images of those items, too. For highly valuable pieces, get several photos from different angles. These may be necessary in cases of theft to prove an object’s authenticity.
  2. Make an itemized list of each room’s contents in a notebook or a computer document. For any appraised items, include a copy of the professional appraiser’s report.
  3. Keep a copy of the images, videos, and list in your home. But also put copies in a safe deposit box or other secure location outside of your home. 
  4. Provide a copy to your insurance agent, if requested.

Time-stamped photos and videos are vital in protecting all parties involved. The insurer prevents fraudulent claims, and the client can receive the proper payout. 

Even for standard homeowners coverage, this documentation is excellent any time you need to make a claim. Being able to access it will save you time and aggravation in the event of a theft or loss so that you can get replacements as quickly as possible.

We Have Your Back

There really is an insurance policy for every aspect of your life. Investing in valuable items insurance protects belongings that you cherish and that carry a high worth. It is just as important as any other insurance policy you choose to buy. 

Lake Region Insurance Agency has been serving our Minnesota neighbors since 1970, and it is an honor to provide the peace of mind you deserve. With policies to cover your home, car, business, health, and more, we make sure you have sufficient coverage for your needs.

Our agents work independently of any particular company. This autonomy means that we can search for the right policies for your situation without being forced to use a specific provider. 

We welcome you to bring us any questions you have about your insurance coverage. Stop into one of our locations in New London, Willmar, or Cokato, MN, to learn more.

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Do I Need Home-Based Business Insurance?

Times have changed, and our world is shifting to a more digital approach to business. Many people are now teleworking from home or running their own business. For the latter situation, it’s essential to consider home-based business insurance.

Make sure you have the protection you and your business deserve. Check in with the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a complimentary policy review and quote. We are here to serve our Greater Minnesota neighbors.

What Counts as a Home-Based Business?

What do Purex, Apple Computer, Hallmark, and Baskin-Robbins have in common? They all began in someone’s home, basement, or garage. So if you have a home-based business, you are in good company. 

And you aren’t alone, since roughly two-thirds of all companies begin in a house somewhere.

Running a home business has tax, liability, and insurance implications, so it’s critical to know if you fall into this category. Some examples of home-based businesses include:

  • Daycare
  • Pet Sitting
  • Dog Grooming
  • Hairdresser
  • Freelance Writer
  • Tutor
  • Professional Consultant
  • Web Designer
  • Online Clothing Boutique

As more and more owners shift to the virtual business model, the list of work-from-home companies continues to grow. If you fall into the category of a home-based business, you need to investigate your insurance requirements.

Daycare is a home-based business

Isn’t My Homeowners Policy Good Enough?

Many people who run a business from their house mistakenly assume that their homeowners insurance provides sufficient coverage. Unfortunately, this is rarely true.

For businesses with minimal equipment and no client foot traffic, a homeowners plan might be enough. But this is a rare situation and still warrants a chat with your agent to clarify your coverage.

If you regularly receive clients in your home or store inventory on-site, you likely need home-based business insurance. Your standard homeowners plan probably doesn’t adequately protect your business.

Be sure to talk with your independent agent to determine what supplemental or separate protection you need to protect your hard work. From property to liability insurance, you need to make sure you have sufficient coverage.

When you rent rather than own your home, you also need to verify your coverage. Just like a homeowners policy, a renters policy will not fully protect your home-based business.

Limitations of Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Most homeowners insurance policies have limits and exclusions that could leave you and your business unprotected. Typically, homeowners and renters insurance policies lack the following:

  • Protection for business documents and records
  • Sufficient coverage for loss of files and data
  • Liability coverage if an employee or client sustains an injury in your home
  • Adequate replacement protection for business equipment
  • Coverage for lost revenue if something prevents you from running your business from your house

There are many common scenarios when a business owner may run into one of these limitations. 

For example, let’s say that you are the victim of a home robbery, and they steal your business laptop, desktop, and monitor. Most homeowners policies will limit this business coverage to $2500. Anything beyond that will have no protection without a home-based business insurance policy.

Or imagine that a client is at your house for a meeting, and they trip and fall, breaking their arm. If this were a neighbor visiting for fun, your homeowners policy would kick in. But because this is a business relationship, you are out of luck.

Business liability insurance

You’ve worked too hard to leave your business unprotected. Make sure you get a sufficient policy in place.

You probably need a business insurance policy if:

  • You conduct business in your house, including receiving clients.
  • You have employees.
  • You store inventory in your house.
  • You have business-related equipment, such as computers or cell phones.
  • Your company owns one or more vehicles.
  • You store sensitive data.
  • You rely on your business income to pay your bills.

What Should a Home-Based Business Insurance Policy Cover?

When speaking with your independent insurance agent, you should discuss coverage for all of the following needs.

Business Property

As mentioned, most renters and homeowners plans have strict limits on what they will replace from a home-based business. Typically, business equipment far surpasses that amount. 

Additionally, a homeowners policy only covers equipment if it’s in the home. If your business laptop is lost, stolen, or damaged while you’re working in a coffee shop, you won’t have coverage. 

Company Vehicle

Do you use your vehicle for business activities? Your car insurance policy may not cover you if something happens while you’re conducting business. Business auto insurance is a crucial component of your coverage.

Liability

General liability coverage protects you if a client or employee gets hurt in your home office or on your property. It can also cover an employee who sustains an injury off-site while conducting company business.

Product liability is necessary if you sell physical products. This plan protects you if an item doesn’t work correctly or harms a person or their property.

Professional liability insurance offers protection for service-based businesses. This coverage can kick in if someone claims damages stemming from your services or advice.

Since legal and medical bills can escalate quickly, adequate liability coverage is crucial for your business.

Cyber Liability

Cyber liability coverage

Cyber liability insurance is critical for most businesses today. Unless you operate solely with paper and pencil, you should consider this type of policy. It protects you against losses stemming from hackers and data breaches.

Any business that relies on electronic storage or transmission of client and company information should have this coverage in place. 

Consider an Endorsement

In some situations, you may not require a stand-alone home-based business insurance policy. Talk with your agent to see if an endorsement makes more sense for your needs.

For example, for a small additional fee, you may be able to raise your homeowners policy limits for business coverage. Typically, an endorsement is only available to businesses that have few or no on-site visitors. 

Get the Perfect Policy 

Do you have any questions about your homeowners insurance policy and how you can protect your home-based business? The independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to help.

With offices in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, we can meet your personal and professional insurance needs. Reach out today to get started.

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A Guide to Choosing Group Health Insurance Plans

When it comes to choosing a group health insurance plan, the array of options can be overwhelming. Insurance is a crowded market with plenty of options on the table. As an employer, your responsibility is to your workers, and you want to offer them the best coverage.

Note that not all group health insurance plans are created equal. Some may be a better fit for your team than others. Engaging the services of an independent broker, such as Lake Region Insurance Agency, narrows down the search. Reach out today to talk with a team member.

Why Should I Consider Group Health Insurance Plans?

If your company’s workforce includes 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you are likely required to offer them medical coverage. The Affordable Care Act lays out guidelines and requirements

But even companies that do not have to provide insurance coverage often choose to do so as an employee perk. It is an excellent way to find and retain highly-qualified talent for your team.

Opting for group coverage offers a range of benefits for both the employee and employer, including:

  • Greater Choice – As an employer, you can shop from many insurance companies to find the best offering for your workers and yourself. And employees generally can choose from several plans that they otherwise would not be able to access. 
  • Affordability – The larger number of subscribers in group plans spreads the risk for the insurer. A lower risk for the underwriters translates into a lower premium for all of the people on the plan. 
  • Better Coverage – Group health insurance plans often cover more services than individual coverage. They may offer lower copays or more visits to specialists, such as physical therapists.
  • Tax Benefits – As the employer, you may qualify for tax credits when you offer group coverage and pay part of the premiums. 
  • Benefits For The Job Market – Offering health insurance is a sure-fire way to make your workplace more appealing to employees. It demonstrates that you have their interests at heart and value your staff. In addition, providing health insurance coverage can cut down on sick days and reduced productivity.

Doctor's visit covered under group health plans

Consider Voluntary Plans

If you are a small or microbusiness, a voluntary plan might be the best fit. This option allows employees to contribute a specific amount to a group plan while saving money on the total cost. This option carries little to no cost for employers. Premiums come from the worker’s paycheck pre-tax, so there is a tax saving for them, too.

How to Choose a Compliant Plan

Choosing a group health plan can be tricky, and it’s crucial that it is compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. In addition to the rules regarding the number of employees, group health insurance plans must also meet the following criteria:

Must Cover Essential Health Benefits

Any group plan you offer to your workforce must include coverage for the ten essential health benefits (EHBs):

  1. Hospitalization Services
  2. Ambulatory Care – This includes doctor visits and outpatient care.
  3. Emergency Services 
  4. Maternity and Newborn Care
  5. Mental Health Care and Substance Abuse Treatment
  6. Lab Tests  
  7. Prescription Drugs
  8. Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services – These can include things such as speech therapy or occupational therapy.
  9. Pediatric Services for Children – This section must include vision and dental care under most circumstances.
  10. Preventive Care, “Well Check” Visits, and Chronic Disease Management

To be compliant, a group plan must not place a dollar limit on EHBs. It may, however, set a limit on the number of visits in some categories, such as rehabilitative services. 

Physical therapy under group health plans

Must Qualify as Affordable 

In 2020, requirements state that the lowest coverage option must have premiums costing less than 9.78% of your employee’s overall income.

Must Provide Minimum Value

The plan must cover at least 60% of the expected total cost of services.

Making the Decision

Whether you have a legal obligation to provide insurance or not, having a group health plan is valuable. As you work with your independent insurance broker, here are some things to consider.

Make Sure It Fits Your Budget

If your staff has fewer than 50 employees, you are exempt from the ACA’s shared responsibility provision. As a result, you legally do not have to pay a percentage of the premiums. You will be able to choose to pay 100% of your employee’s premiums, pay a smaller portion, or have your employees pay the full cost.

It is essential to do your research in advance. You want a plan that balances the needs of your employees with the company budget.

Consider Health Spending Accounts

A health spending account can allow you to offer the flexibility employees need, at a price your business can afford. Employers and employees may contribute to these accounts, and then employees can use the funds for qualified health expenses. 

Group health plans and HSAs for medications

Work with an Expert

Trying to navigate this decision on your own is frustrating at best and costly, at worst. You will have hundreds of plans from insurance companies to consider. And finding the right fit is overwhelming for most business owners.

Companies may bombard you with options ranging from PPOs to HMOs. You will see lists of percentages and copayments. Comparing these plans as you try to decide which one to choose is enough to give business owners nightmares.

Instead, find an independent agent to help you make the right choice for your workers. An independent broker is not limited to a particular plan or company. They help you select what you need without stress.

How Can We Help?

Choosing your group insurance policy is time-consuming on your own because there are so many factors to take into account. Here at Lake Region, we have the autonomy to access the very best deals. 

We work hard to make sure you have a clear view of your options. And we help you understand the health insurance marketplace.

As an independent agency, we do not have ties to a particular firm, group, or policy. This objectivity means that we will be able to build the perfect plan for your business. Get in touch today to see how we can help. Our team members in New London, Cokato, and Willmar, MN, are here to serve.

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Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: What’s the Difference?

Protecting your loved ones in the event of your death or catastrophic illness is essential. People want to ensure financial security for their families but wonder about term life vs. whole life insurance. What are the benefits of each policy, and which one is the best fit for your family?

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we help Minnesotans in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN. We decode the particulars of whole life and term life insurance, so you avoid confusion. And we shop from an extensive list of insurance providers so that you can select the policy that meets your needs. Give us a call today to receive a free insurance review and quote.

Why Do I Need Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy can help those you love to pay for expenses like rent, mortgage, food, and childcare. And life insurance payouts can help cover funeral and burial costs, as well. 

Even if you’re not the primary breadwinner in your household, you should consider carrying life insurance. You likely provide necessary care for your family that they will still need if you’re gone. 

The services that a stay-at-home parent provides carry a value of more than $178,000, making them costly to replace. A life insurance policy can help cover the cost of those tasks so that the household can keep running.

When purchasing a life insurance policy, you need to look at who in the household provides both the finances and general upkeep. You can then choose adequate coverage to continue your life with as little interruption as possible if the worst happens. 

What Is Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance?

People often shy away from choosing a life insurance policy because they feel overwhelmed by the options. They may not know the difference between policies, so they just ignore this critical piece of their financial security. 

Owning a life insurance policy is too vital to ignore. So here is a breakdown of the primary two choices.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance means you purchase a policy that’s active for a specified period. You can choose how much coverage you have and the length of time you have it. You’ll pay a set monthly premium for your coverage that remains consistent throughout the length of the term.

Most term life policies come in chunks of 10, 20, or 30 years. These policies carry different premiums depending on your health and overall risk factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • History of Smoking
  • Occupation
  • Chronic Illness: such as diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol

A term life insurance policy pays out only if the insured person dies. Generally, people choose this type of coverage until certain milestones occur. For example, you may want to select a policy term length that would cover you until:

  • You pay off your mortgage.
  • Your children graduate from high school or college.
  • You pay off all consumer debt.
  • You save enough money to retire comfortably and pay your living expenses.

This type of insurance policy carries no cash value for the person who owns it.

Whole Life Insurance

As the name suggests, this type of permanent life insurance covers you for your whole life. These policies provide a cash payout to your loved ones in the event of your death, just like term life policies. 

However, whole life insurance builds cash value over time, like an investment. The premiums for this kind of policy are considerably higher than term life policies, but they stay consistent as long as you hold the policy. You also lock in a guaranteed cash value rate.

Some whole life policies may also pay out regular dividends. You can take this in cash or use it to offset premium costs or obtain more coverage.

Choosing the Right Life Insurance Policy

So, how do you choose the best policy for your family? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself. 

  • Are you caring for a loved one with a chronic illness or disability? If so, a whole life policy may be a good choice for you. You’ll pay more in a monthly premium, but you’ll also build cash value. This amount can help your beneficiaries cover any estate taxes as well as your final costs like funeral and burial.
  • How much can you afford in premiums? Permanent life insurance policies have higher premiums than term life plans. Depending on your current income, you may opt for a term life policy.
  • What are your health status and family situation? Your age, overall health, and the ages of your children can help you choose the right policy for your needs. You may opt for term life for lower premiums and invest the money you save in other retirement accounts. 
  • Are you looking for an investment option? Term life does not carry any value unless the policyholder dies. Then it pays out to the beneficiary. Whole life, however, does have a value that can be part of an investment strategy. It can also offer a cash payout if you surrender the policy.

 

How Much Coverage Do I Need?

A good way to calculate how much coverage to purchase is to multiply your annual salary by 10. The cash benefit of either a term or permanent life insurance policy should be enough to replace your income for several years.

If you are purchasing life insurance for someone who does not have income, choosing an amount can be trickier. Consider what it would cost to replace what they do for the household. Would you suddenly need to pay for childcare or housekeeping? Would you need to hire someone to do grocery shopping? All of these needs deserve attention.

Lake Region Insurance Agency Takes Care of Its Neighbors

We’ve seen our community in Greater Minnesota through some of the toughest challenges life dishes out. We can help your family feel secure in times of uncertainty.

And if you’re still not sure about term life vs. whole life insurance, we have you covered. Get answers to all your questions about life insurance and more with a free consultation. Call one of our independent agents today, and let’s get started.