Submitted by Kyle Schmauch
Insurance Commissioner Rosendale recommends Montanans follow the guidelines below.
Insurance Checklist for the New Year
policies to review as you start the new year
Changes–such as a birth, divorce, remarriage or even a new mortgage or new job–are indicators that you might need to make changes to your life insurance policy – or at the very least –review your policy.
Read your policy carefully and answer these questions:
Do premiums or benefits vary from year to year?
Do the total benefits grow over time?
Are there benefits that are not guaranteed?
Do premiums change over time?
What happens if I quit paying premiums – do I maintain some of the benefits?
Are there any impacts associated with interest earned on the policy?
In what situations and through what procedures can you assess cash values?
Can the policy be converted into another form of insurance or annuity?
In the case of the birth of a child or a new marriage, you may want to consider increasing your death benefit. Alternatively, events like paying off your mortgage, retirement or children finishing college might mean that you can lower your life insurance coverage and premiums.
This past year we witnessed a significant number of natural disasters. If you were impacted by a catastrophe or live in an area prone to floods, earthquakes or wildfires, you should make sure you’re properly covered. These disasters can be costly, and may not be covered under a standard policy. Discuss the possibility of adding coverage for these perils with your agent or insurance company.
The start of a new year is also a great time to update your home inventory and make sure your homeowners or rental policy is up-to-date. Take photos or video of your prized possessions. Remember to note valuable antiques, artwork or jewelry so your insurance agent or insurance company can help determine if they are properly covered.
Remember to add any new expensive or sizable gifts to your home inventory, too. Include as many details as you can and take photos of each item. Most basic home insurance policies have standard limits for big-ticket items like electronics, art, jewelry or sporting equipment. You may need special coverage, so call your agent to discuss changes for your policy.
Have you had any changes to your driving habits? If so, tell your agent to ensure your auto policy will cover you in case of an accident. Also take some time to check your auto insurance policy by following the guidelines below:
Make sure your coverage is appropriate for your life situation. Liability is the part of the policy that pays for any injury or damage if you cause an accident. If your liability insurance is too low, you may be legally exposed for any damages above your liability limits.
Review your deductibles for comprehensive and collision coverage. This is the amount you will pay if your car is damaged or totaled without fault of another driver. Raising or lowering this amount can affect your premium.
Make sure you have a copy of your insurance card and your insurance agent or company’s number in your vehicle at all times.
You may have recently enrolled or changed your health insurance whether through your employer, Medicare or your state exchange. Make sure you have new insurance cards and paperwork before you visit a doctor.
Check your provider lists to make sure visits to your doctor and any specialists are still covered by your policy, as in-network or preferred provider lists change from year to year.
Read through your documents and make note of co-pays for in-network and out-of-network providers to avoid surprises.
When purchasing an insurance policy:
Ask for copies of everything you sign and keep a copy of the initial policy payment receipt or check you gave the agent or company.
Call the insurance company if you don’t receive a copy of the insurance policy outlining your coverage and its limitations within 30 days of your purchase.
Find more information about your insurance needs and tips for choosing the coverage that is best for you and your family at www. InsureUonline.org. If you have questions about your insurance options or about your insurance coverage, contact he Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance office.
Submitted by Kyle Schmauch