Hurricane Season: Know Your Insurance IQ
If a tropical storm severely damaged your roof, would you know how much you were responsible for paying out of pocket? What about the flood damage to your living room? Would your homeowners insurance cover that? With hurricane season officially underway, these are just some of the questions every homeowner should know the answer to before a storm threatens.
In an effort to avoid the sticker shock policyholders experience after a storm, the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) is urging all homeowners to review their homeowners policy now and take action to ensure they’re financially prepared should a storm damage their property. The LDI advises all policyholders to ask themselves the following questions:
- What’s my storm deductible? Generally, windstorm damage is covered under your standard homeowners or renters policy with a separate wind and hail, named-storm deductible, which usually ranges from two to five percent of the insured property value.
- Do I have flood insurance? Flood damage resulting from heavy rain or storm surge is excluded under standard homeowner policies. Flood insurance can be obtained through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). You can find out more information about the NFIP at www.FloodSmart.gov. Remember, there is typically a 30-day waiting period before policies become effective.
- Are there any incentives for strengthening my home? Homeowners who voluntarily build or retrofit their home to comply with the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code can reap benefits that include insurance premium discounts, tax deductions and state sales and use tax exclusions. Keep in mind premium discounts vary by company and location, with coastal residents receiving a more significant discount than non-coastal residents.
Ease Insurance Claims by Making a Home Inventory
The process of making a home inventory—painstakingly listing each valuable item in your home, when you bought it, and how much it costs—seems like a stressful, time-consuming task. But waiting until after disaster strikes can mean big losses and bigger stress in the long run.
By making a home inventory ahead of time, you can streamline the claims process for yourself and your insurance provider, make certain you’re adequately compensated for your losses, and give yourself one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to recover after a flood, hurricane or similar disaster. It can also help you decide if you have the right amount of insurance to adequately cover your possessions.
Here are some important tips to remember when creating a home inventory:
Take a pictures or video—or both. Snap a shot of each angle of the room so you'll have a visual memory of what was there, as well as proof that you owned those items. Take individual photos of especially valuable items, such as electronics, artwork, and expensive collectibles. For bonus security, walk through your house with a recording device and describe as you go. Don’t forget to go through closets, garages and drawers.
Make a list. No need for pen and paper. Home inventory apps like the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' (NAIC) MyHome Scr.APP.book lets you quickly capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers of your prized possessions. MyHome scr.APP.book can be downloaded on iPhones and Android devices. Many insurance companies offer similar apps which allow you to e-mail a backup copy to them. The important thing is to be as thorough as possible—the more information you have, the easier it will be for your insurance company to know how to compensate you.
Show your list to your insurer. Your agent can tell you which valuables you own are covered in case of emergency and which aren’t—and which might need extra coverage. Certain items, such as expensive paintings, jewelry, or antiques, may need a “rider” (a separate insurance policy) to be insured up to their full cost.
Store your inventory safely. Keep copies of your inventory in places other than your home—whether that be a friend’s house, safety deposit box, or even in digital cloud storage. Multiple copies are never a bad idea. You want to be certain that wherever you are, you can quickly and easily find a copy for your insurance company.
Update the list each year. Once your home inventory is started, keeping it updated is simple. Keep track of the big ticket items you acquire during the year and make sure they’re added to the list.
Don’t get overwhelmed! You don’t have to complete it all in one day. Set small goals for yourself, like finishing one room at a time. Or start with more recent purchases, then work your way back to older possessions. Even having a partially complete inventory is better than no inventory at all.
Hurricane Health insurance Preparedness
It’s hurricane season, and you know that this year, you’re going to be fully prepared. You’ve got an emergency evacuation plan, a surplus of nonperishable food and bottled water, and everything is catalogued and accounted for. But many people neglect a vital step in their emergency planning—reviewing their health coverage.
You or your loved ones could become injured or ill as the result of a disaster, or have to flee your home, putting you out of contact with your regular doctors and pharmacists. Before severe weather strikes, take these steps to make sure you can get the care and coverage you need:
- Review your health insurance policy to become familiar with what you should do in the event of an emergency.
Identify your network hospital. Find out from your provider what coverage your plan provides when you are displaced and need medical care outside of your area.
- Identify the pharmacy you are most likely to use and have their contact information on hand.
- Collect an emergency supply of items like eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aid batteries, dentures and any over the counter medicines you may need. Pack a general first aid kit to take with you in case of an evacuation.
- If you have anyone with special needs in your family, plan ahead of time where you will evacuate in case of an emergency. If necessary, locate a special needs shelter and make sure one family member is able to go with and stay with that individual through the emergency.
When a storm is approaching:
- Find out about filling prescriptions in the event you are displaced and try to have at least a one-month supply of medication on hand. You will need to contact your insurer, not your pharmacy, to find out if you can fill a prescription early.
- If you have online accounts for your insurance policy and pharmacy, keep a hard copy of your log-in and password information on hand so you can be able to access it from anywhere.
- Find out if your doctor will give you a written prescription for any important medications you may need to fill away from home such as insulin or heart medications.
- Keep your prescriptions in their original containers and make sure they are properly stored in case some need refrigeration.
- Keep any important health related documents in a waterproof protector such as copies of prescriptions, unfilled prescriptions, prescription cards, health insurance cards and policy information.
- Have the name and contact information for an emergency contact, next of kin, and any medical provider who is currently treating you, where it could be easily located by others in the event you cannot provide that information.
- Anyone who is dependent on life supporting devices such as oxygen or dialysis must evacuate. Have the name and phone number of your medical supply company on hand and, if possible, make arrangements with them ahead of time to assure you have adequate supplies.
- If someone is on dialysis, locate dialysis centers in other parts of Louisiana or nearby states and have your records sent to that center and make arrangements to stay in that area.
After the storm:
- If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), remember to save any medical or prescription receipts to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.
- Let your health insurance company know if you will be away from home for a period of time and provide them with your temporary address and contact information.
- Contact your insurance company or go to their webpage to see a list of preferred hospitals and medical providers in the area you are staying.
- If you are in need of a hospital, check with your provider to make sure they have admitting privileges.
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