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Monday, April 18, 2016

Goat Rituals and Tree-Trunk Gravestones: The Peculiar History of Life Insurance

nce, when I visited my brother, who lives in a small Texas town, he took me down a winding road to a turn-of-the-20th-century cemetery in a forest clearing. There, we found three tall tombstones in the shape of tree trunks, each stamped with an insignia reading “Woodmen of the World.” What were these strange things?
WIMTBA_sitebug2When I got home, I dug into the mystery of these stone stumps, discovering the profoundly insecure time before Americans had Social Security, when anxieties about death and finances ran deep in the American psyche. In response to these fears, the Woodmen of the World order and its progenitor and competitor, the Modern Woodmen of America, made life insurance approachable and fun by packaging it in the familiar fraternal-order culture of the day. The two Woodmen societies succeeded in selling fraternal insurance where others failed, thanks to their innovations, which included offering distinct tombstones, flaunting ax-twirling pageantry, and holding clandestine rituals that involved slapstick pranks and mechanical goat rides. Today, both organizations still exist as insurance companies, but they’ve shed the fraternal antics. It’s hard to imagine their previous incarnations, which resembled a combination of LinkedIn, GoFundMe, and Jackass.
Death was everywhere in 19th-century America: Fatal injuries, disease epidemics, and the Civil War made families acutely aware of mortality. For women and children, the death of a husband and father could tumble them into poverty. Only the wealthiest Americans bought private life insurance. Women were not allowed to take out policies on their husbands, and if the husband bought the policy on himself, the money wouldn’t be protected from creditors.
Top: A Woodmen of the World tombstone for Ben Strickland who died in 1917, found in a country graveyard outside Greenville, Texas. (Photo by Lisa Hix) Above: Members of the Modern Woodmen of America with their axes. (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum)
Top: A Woodmen of the World tombstone for Ben Strickland who died in 1917, found in a country graveyard outside Greenville, Texas. (Photo by Lisa Hix) Above: Members of the Modern Woodmen of America with their axes. (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum)
And then, grieving families faced another layer of shame. In 19th-century America, taking charity was seen as a sign of weakness: The thinking was, if a lack of industriousness made you destitute, well, then you got what you deserved.
The middle and working classes did, however, have a workaround. Men could join secretive boy’s clubs like the Freemasons and Oddfellows that provided networking, entertainment, and a moral education. If a man proved himself to be hardworking and of good character through his initiation trials, his social standing meant his family could quietly receive financial support from the lodge without the stigma of accepting charity.
After the devastating Civil War, well-established fraternal orders began to formalize their benefits into insurance subsidiaries. New secret societies known as “mutual beneficiary societies,” created with the explicit purpose of offering life insurance policies, sprang up around the United States. Largely excluded from the original fraternal orders, women and African Americans even launched their own aid societies. Still, to join any fraternal order and receive its insurance benefits you had to prove that you were no slouch—a hard worker with high morals such as thrift, self-reliance, discipline, and generosity.
The1930 DeMoulin Bros. & Co. catalog details the Ferris Wheel Coaster Goat: "About the time the candidate has relaxed and has kidded himself into believing he is to enjoy a smooth ride—over he goes right on his head. The firing of a blank cartridge adds to the consternation." (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum.)
The 1930 DeMoulin Bros. & Co. catalog details the Ferris Wheel Coaster Goat: “About the time the candidate has relaxed and has kidded himself into believing he is to enjoy a smooth ride—over he goes right on his head. The firing of a blank cartridge adds to the consternation.” (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum)
But it wasn’t all about restraint. Before the days of TV, radio, or fantasy football, fraternal lodges offered plays, rituals, and camaraderie and allowed men to let loose, which kept members coming back for more. The clout of being an insider and the endless pursuit of mystical, esoteric knowledge ensured that men would make their insurance payments for decades to come. The payouts were between $1,000 and $2,000, a lot of money at the time.
The Woodmen came late to the party—incorporating in 1883 as the Modern Woodmen of America—but their leaders’ entrepreneurial innovations breathed new life into the fraternal insurance game. Founder Joseph Cullen Root, a businessman in Lyons, Iowa, seized the opportunity to create his own fraternal order when the mutual aid society Knights of Honor, which almost went under because of the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic, was selling its local lodge.
To avoid the financial pitfall that wrecked the Knights, Root made fitness a requirement to join his order, recruiting rural young men from the “healthiest states,” which meant those outside industrial New England. In the Woodmen, he fused Christian philosophy and pioneer values with ancient agricultural rites. “At that time, Root’s thought was that a cleared conscience and a cleared forest were synonymous,” says Bruce Lee Webb, who co-authored the 2015 book, As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society with Lynne Adele, published by the University of Texas Press. “The axe is an instrument that clears the forest but is also useful for constructing buildings and making progress.”
The members of Woodmen of the World lodge posing with their axes and their goat mascot.  (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum)
The members of Woodmen of the World lodge posing with their axes and their goat mascot. (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum)
Wielding aluminum-headed axes, members of Modern Woodmen lodges formed marching units known as the Foresters that performed precision drill routines in military-like uniforms. Eventually, there were roughly 10,000 drill teams nationwide. Dave Lettelier, curator of the Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library in Havana, Florida, says that such pageantry appealed to young men who’d grown up in awe of Civil War heroes. The fraternal beneficiary societies made signing up for insurance seem glamorous.
“When an initiate had to ‘ride the goat,’ everybody else would sit around the lodge room and have a big belly laugh.”
After an internal dispute with the other Modern Woodmen of America leaders, Root left the organization in 1890 and moved to Omaha to form a nearly identical “speculative woodcraft” order: the Woodmen of the World. One of his innovations was to provide free tombstones—Root believed passionately that no member of his order should be buried in an unmarked grave. So for 10 years, the Woodmen gave its members grave markers in the shape of tree stumps, inspired by the Victorian Rustic movement. (For another two decades, the members put down $100 apiece to reserve theirs.)
At a Woodman’s funeral, his personalized tombstone would be revealed in an elaborate ritual. The 4- or 5-foot-tall tree stump would be marked with the motto “Dum Tacet Clamet” (“Though Silent, He Speaks”) and rest on a stack of logs, each log symbolizing one of the deceased’s children. The local stone carver, who might alter the pattern, would add embellishments reflecting the Woodman’s personality, such as axes and doves.
A Modern Woodmen of American parade banner, circa 1900. (Courtesy of the Webb Collection/University of Texas Press)
A Modern Woodmen of American parade banner, circa 1900. (Courtesy of the Webb Collection/University of Texas Press)
The Woodmen tweaked another feature of the fraternal orders, most of which had solemn initiation rituals, loosely based on old Masonic ceremonies that symbolically forced recruits to confront their own mortality. Most societies had some macabre obstacle courses that ended with the young man facing a human skeleton lit by candles. According to As Above, So Below, in an early Woodmen of the World initiation, the blindfolded candidate wore weights symbolizing the “selfishness,” “hatred,” and “prejudice” he had to shed as he navigated a “dangerous path,” which involved wood boards on rollers, before he was allowed to see “the light of Woodcraft.”
The Modern Woodmen took such rites to new levels. They’d challenge recruits to put their hands in (fake) molten lead. Others were subjected to spanking machines and collapsing chairs. The Ferris Wheel Coaster Goat, patented and sold by a company co-owned by Modern Woodman member Ed DeMoulin, would flip the unsuspecting rider upside down and fire blanks from its rear.
What did a slapstick goat gag have to do with selling insurance? Everything. Besides reminding recruits that death was always at the door, the Woodmen “had to come up with all kinds of gimmicks to get people to join,” Lettelier explained. “When an initiate had to ‘ride the goat,’ everybody else would sit around the lodge room and have a big belly laugh. … If you ‘rode the goat,’ then you were in with the clique. Then that new member would bring in his buddies so the Woodmen could prank them. What it did was help build their insurance company.”
A Woodmen of the World gathering in 1911 in Mineral Wells, Texas. (Courtesy of the Webb Collection/University of Texas Press)
A Woodmen of the World gathering in 1911 in Mineral Wells, Texas. (Courtesy of the Webb Collection/University of Texas Press)
Thanks to pranks like these—soon adopted by other societies—fraternal-order membership reached its peak or “golden age” in the United States between 1890 and 1930, with as many as one-third of American men belonging to at least one secret society. While that’s impressive, it still means about two-thirds of American families did without such a safety net.
Another Woodmen tombstone. (Photo by Lisa Hix)
Another Woodmen tombstone. (Photo by Lisa Hix)
The Great Depression killed the fraternal insurance business in two ways. First, many men were unable to make their payments. Secondly, FDR’s New Deal created Social Security in 1935, filling the need aid societies once met. Radio, movies, and TV supplied the entertainment that the orders once provided. Woodmen of the World embraced these new media in Omaha, establishing a radio channel and a TV station—which launched the career of a local comedian named Johnny Carson—before both were sold to Meredith Corporation in 1958.
Today, the Woodmen groups have become all-inclusive not-for-profit insurance companies: WoodmenLife in Omaha and Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial in Rock Island, Illinois. Unlike for-profit insurance companies, they put profits back into their members’ communities with programs for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and orphans.
“We still have an active Woodmen of the World lodge here in Waxahachie, Texas,” Webb says. “I’ve talked to them, and they said that they no longer do the different degrees. They meet once a month for a little banquet where they discuss their insurance premiums.” The goats, the costumes, and the rituals are long gone.
A detail from a 1917 Woodmen of the World beneficiary certificate. Click on the image to see a larger version. (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum)
A detail from a 1917 Woodmen of the World beneficiary certificate. Click on the image to see a larger version. (Courtesy of the Phoenixmasonry Museum)

Wizards, Warriors, and the Quest for LARP Insurance

Liability policies are making adventuring safer and helping players defeat red tape.

 
LARPers. Fully insured. (Photo: Tom Garnett/CC BY 2.0)
"It's dangerous to go alone!” - Old Man, The Legend of Zelda
"You’re in good hands” – Slogan, Allstate Life Insurance Company
Questing is treacherous business, and no one knows more acutely than the heroes and villains taking part in fantasy live action role playing (LARP) events. Luckily for their fictional personas, there are healing spells and potions in case of injury. But should their real-world selves get hurt during the game, these miracle salves have no effect. Fortunately, the real world has LARP insurance.
Fantasy LARPing has been around since the 1970s. It grew out of the popularity of tabletop games of Dungeons & Dragons, when players began looking to add a deeper level of realism and experience to their adventures. Since then, LARPing has slowly grown in popularity and complexity. Now there are countless games and organizations in America alone, bringing to life worlds of fantasy, horror, and war, in which players risk fictional life with their real limbs.
No matter what system they’re a part of, players will generally decamp to a campground or a rented field, and exit our world for theirs—if only for a weekend at a time. With these increased numbers comes increased liability, and that’s where the insurance companies come in.
“Generally you have two plans. You have to have a liability plan, and then you have to have a health/accident plan,” says Joseph Valenti, owner and ruler of NERO LARP, the most extensive LARPing organization in the U.S.
Careful there, warriors. (Photo: jeager/CC BY 2.0)
With around 50 chapters spread across the country, NERO LARPs host hundreds of simulated battles and adventures each year. Players equip themselves with custom-made foam weaponry (called “boffers”), and wade into (untrained) fantasy combat, creating what seems like a potential litigation nightmare.
“If you have a liability plan, you’re really covering burning down one of the cabins or the main kitchen hall/tavern,” says Valenti. Accident insurance covers any medical costs that might arise from a warrior breaking their ankle, or a ranger falling down. It also makes sure the organizers have representation in case they get sued over such mishaps.
“Most LARPing injuries occur during reenactments of battles," states the website of Westpoint Insurance, which offers a LARP-specific insurance policy. Valenti doesn’t seem to agree. Even with warlocks firing off spells (“We throw spell packets, which are pieces of cloth with bird seed in them, wrapped with a rubber band. About the size of a film canister.”) at orcs, and barbarians working to cleave their enemies in twain (tapping them with boffers), he says that combat is rarely the source of accidents or injury at a LARP. While each LARP system uses its own rules for combat, most have the safety of the players foremost in mind.
Some LARPs use full-contact, heavy touch combat, but NERO’s system encourages light weapon touches that work with a point system to calculate damage. According to Valenti, accidents and injuries during these LARPs are pretty rare. “We don’t have many accidents at NERO at all,” he says. “We’ll run 200 events this year and we’ll have maybe one or two accidents ... We’re typically rated better than a Boy Scout little league baseball group, because they have more accidents than we do.”
Won't someone protect these adventurers? (Photo: RalfHuels/CC BY-SA 4.0)
This is not to say that accidents don’t happen. But when they do, they're usually pretty mundane in contrast to the high fantasy trappings of the events. Valenti recalls Baron Wolf of the Land of Tyrangel, a NERO LARPer in Atlanta, slipping on wet leaves, landing on his arm, and breaking it. In another instance, a player in Connecticut was running down a hill, slipped, and broke his wrist. In both cases, the LARPs were insured.
Generally LARP events have had to be covered by general event insurance contracts, but now that LARPing is a more common practice, some insurance companies, like Westpoint above, have taken to offering policies specifically catering to the game. Most of the policies offered by these companies are a cleverly marketed variation of sports insurance that takes care of equipment—the venue’s stuff—and injury.
Even though the insurance is easier to get, it is still rarely implemented. Anthony Insurance Services, which has offered a LARP insurance program since 2011, said that the company is yet to receive a claim on one of its LARP policies. "I think that because of the rules and guidelines the LARP groups implement, they are proactive in their risk management, which in turn is shown through the little to no loss history (claim history)," an Anthony rep wrote us.
But this coverage wasn’t always so easy to obtain. “There was a time when no one would insure me,” says Valenti. “[Insurance agents] were like, ‘What do you guys do exactly? You hit each other with what?’” Fortunately, the fates have changed, LARP insurance is now fairly easily obtained, and no one has to shell out too much gold should their IRL hit points drop. 

Read More at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/wizards-warriors-and-the-quest-for-larp-insurance
 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Proper safety and insurance can protect you during ski season

Two accidents this winter at a popular ski resort in Maine are a reminder of the dangers of snow skiing -- and of the need to check your insurance as well as your ski gear.
Just to be on the safe side -- before hitting the slopes -- find out whether your health insurance policy is up to snuff, says Jerry Becerra, president of Barbary Insurance Brokerage Inc. in San Francisco. Basic policies for health insurance and life insurance will provide coverage for people injured or killed at a ski resort, Becerra says.
Consumers also should look into travel accident policies that would add coverage for injuries sustained at a ski resort. These policies usually are available for $100 or less and can be purchased through travel agents, tour operators or online booking sites, according to Becerra.
insurance skiing
Once you're at the resort, you shouldn't rent skis there, says Frank Darras, an attorney in Ontario, Calif. When someone rents skis, he usually must sign a waiver. That waiver would provide a legal shield for the resort in case of a mishap involving the skis.
“If you sign a waiver, you’re giving up all of your rights to sue," Darras says.
What should I do if I get hurt?
One of the first things a skier should do if he is injured -- no matter how minor the injury -- is to report it to the ski resort, says Kenneth Sharperson, an attorney at New Jersey law firm Anderson Kill & Olick PC.
Rules vary from state to state regarding when a skier must report an injury. If the ski resort is run by a government agency, different reporting rules apply, says Frank Darras, an attorney in Ontario, Calif.
Aside from telling the ski resort, an injured skier should contact his health insurance company, which most likely will take care of medical bills (depending on the policy). If a lawsuit is filed, all records regarding the ski injury should be saved, experts say.
Downhill skiing advocates maintain that if people follow the rules, they can ski safely without getting injured.
Two accidents at the popular Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine in this winter have put the safety spotlight on this sport. More than 10 million Americans age 6 and up are downhill snow skiers, according to SnowSports Industries America, a trade association.

insurance skiing
The inherent risks of snow skiing
On Jan. 15, 2011, Joshua Waldron, a 16-year-old high school junior from Maine, died when he struck a piece of snowmaking equipment on the side of a trail at Sugarloaf.
While it’s too soon to tell, it's possible this accident resulted from what's known in legal circles as "the inherent risk of skiing," says Maine attorney Benjamin Gideon, who regularly skis at Sugarloaf. Most states (such as Maine, Colorado and Connecticut) that support large ski industries have laws protecting ski resorts from being sued if an injury or death is tied to the inherent risk of skiing.
However, if an attorney can prove that a ski injury or death was not tied to the inherent risk of skiing, then a lawsuit may be filed against the ski resort, Gideon says.
“If the ski resort stuck a pole in the middle of the trail and doesn’t mark it, then it’s not an inherent risk of skiing,” Gideon says. “There’d be no protection for the ski resort under the statues.”
Darras explains there are inherent, or assumed, risks with skiing. Ski resorts are legally protected when one of these assumed risks occurs. For example, if someone falls on ice while skiing, he wouldn’t have a legal case against the resort because ice is an inherent or assumed risk. However, if the resort is negligent and didn’t properly maintain equipment, then that type of accident is not an assumed risk and the resort could be held liable in a lawsuit.
Depending on the case, the ski resort's insurance company could end up paying damages in a lawsuit. But many factors come into play, such as whether skiing equipment was faulty itself or whether t wasn't properly maintained by the resort.
Chairlift accident spurs legal action
Currently, state officials in Maine are investigating the derailment of a chairlift Dec. 28, 2010, at Sugarloaf that injured eight people.
According to the resort, the area was hit with strong winds that day, so several lifts were shut down. Shortly after one of the lifts was put back in service, mechanics noticed a problem and began slowing the lift to take skiers off, but the lift cable dropped and five lift chairs with people in them fell to the snow below.
Ethan Austin, a spokesman for Sugarloaf, says the damaged chairlift remained closed as of Jan. 20, 2011, while state officials and resort workers continued their investigation.
Already, five of the victims of the December 2010 accident have hired Gideon to represent them. Gideon hasn’t filed a lawsuit yet. The attorney says he’s in the midst of his investigation and awaiting a final report from Maine officials. Austin says Sugarloaf does carry liability insurance.
“Obviously, our thoughts are with everyone on the lift, and we hope for a speedy recovery for all of them. We’ve been reaching out to everyone to address their individual concerns,” Austin says.
Darras, the California attorney, maintains that ski resorts that have encountered problems with chairlifts "are in deep trouble."
"If I’m going up on the chairlift and they’ve poorly maintained it and failed to inspect it and we all die, that’s not an assumed risk," Darras says. If it's not an assumed risk, that means the ski resort could be sued.
insurance skiing
Safety and snow skiing
Industry leaders maintain ski resorts adhere to rigorous standards for chairlifts. The most recent death involving a chairlift happened in 1993, says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. Twelve deaths involving chairlifts have occurred since 1973, when the industry began tracking safety.
“Chairlifts are breathtaking in terms of their safety,” Berry says. “You are nine times more likely to be in a fatal car accident than in a chairlift fatality.”
The SnowSport Safety Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to improve the safety of skiing and other snow sports, recently released a first-of-its-kind report on safety at 25 California ski resorts during the 2009-10 season.
The report examines hazards and risks at each ski resort, and safeguards in place for skiers, such as fencing and padding. The report also grades the resorts on their use of warning signs.
The report notes that none of the resorts required special training or instruction to skiers before using lifts, and none of the resorts mandated personal protection equipment such as helmets, goggles and pads.
Berry says about half of all snow skiers wear helmets. For more than a decade, roughly 40 snow skiers have died in skiing accidents each year, he says.
“Ten years ago, none of those people were wearing helmets. Last year, half were in helmets,” Berry says. “The solution to reducing risk or avoiding death is not an appliance. It’s all about your actions.”
To make sure you're taking the right actions, here are some snow skiing safety tips from the National Ski Areas Association:

• Remember that skiers ahead of you have the right of way.
• Don’t stop on the slope so that you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above.
• When merging on a trail, yield to others.
• Observe all posted signs and warnings.
• Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.

Read Original Article: http://www.insurancequotes.com/health/insurance-skiing


12 tips to follow when appealing a health insurance claim denial

Q: I've been having trouble getting my health insurance company to pay a claim. What should I do? Who can help me?
A: Navigating the inner workings of the health care system can be extremely time-consuming, frustrating and sometimes even fruitless. Minor mistakes and discrepancies in reporting information to a payer can prevent a claim from being accepted. Here are some of the key mistakes that could be causing your claim denial:
• Erroneous identifying information (name misspelled, date of birth mismatch, subscriber or insured group number missing or invalid).
• Terminated coverage.
• Required pre-authorization.
• Non-covered services.
• Missing or invalid coding.
Beyond these relatively simple reasons, other, more complex reasons that you may be unable to pinpoint could be causing the denial. So don’t just assume the denial is correct. If you think your claim should be covered, take action. Most health insurance companies want to do things right.
Here are 12 steps you can take to appeal your insurance company’s denial:
1. Prepare yourself with all the information. In addition to the "explanation of benefits" from your insurance company, obtain an itemized bill from the provider. Sometimes a quick review of the itemized bill can uncover mistakes that otherwise would have made your claim payable.
2. Use resources at hand. Your insurance agent or group policy administrator (human resources department) can provide guidance.
3. Make sure you filed properly. A filing error on your part should not result in a denial. But you may be off on technicalities or just simply filed the claim too late.
4. Exercise your right to an external review. If your insurance company’s internal review provides a denial, then you may have the right to an external review.
5. File a formal grievance. This action will require you to appear before a committee to state your case or to choose someone to represent you at a committee hearing.
6. Do some shopping. See what other doctors in the area are charging for the same procedure or treatment. Present this information to your insurance company.
7. Follow up with deadlines. If your insurance agent or policy administrator doesn’t close the case within 30 days, call the health insurance company yourself. Write another letter with your original correspondence attached. Send it to the company’s customer service department and president. As the head of a company, I appreciate being copied on correspondence from our customers.
8. Get your doctor on board. If your doctor says the treatment was necessary, you might find your road to claim approval easier.
9. Prove previous creditable coverage. Was your claim denied because of pre-existing conditions? Until a certain provision of the federal health care reform law takes effect, insurers still can deny claims for individuals who had pre-existing conditions but didn't have previous coverage.
To arm yourself against this sort of denial, be sure to keep a copy of the certificate of creditable coverage that each health insurance company sends when it terminates a policy. You should give a copy of this form to the HR professional at your new employer; if you're insured on your own, be sure to send a copy of the certificate to your new insurance company. Proof that you had previous creditable coverage is extremely important when it comes to claims being paid.
10. Determine whether the claim was denied because of recent coverage reductions. If you were not properly notified about coverage reductions, that’s a violation of the law.
11. Enlist a medical bill negotiation company. You may find experienced medical cost containment companies that previously just served businesses now are serving consumers. These companies typically employ a team of medical professionals, nurse bill auditors, certified coders and negotiators who review medical bills every day.
12. Talk with your provider. If your claim was denied because the provider was out of network or it wasn't a service allowed under your policy, your provider may be willing to negotiate with you on costs. Some providers will offer a discount if you pay cash, or they'll help set up a payment plan.
Remember that it’s crucial to stay organized throughout this process. Keep a log of all your communication -- emails, letters, phone calls. Stay positive throughout the process, and know that every time empowered consumers work to resolve medical billing errors and inaccuracies, you’re helping create a better, more efficient health care system.
is CEO of Chicago-based Rising Medical Solutions, a medical cost containment/care management company serving the workers' compensation, group health, auto and liability markets. Beans founded Rising in 1999. Since then, Beans has received a number of honors, including Business Council Advisory Man of the Year and Midwest finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Rising has appeared several times on the Private Company Index's Top 10 Growth list and Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 list.
Beans earned a master's degree from MIT’s Entrepreneurial Masters Program and a bachelor's degree in finance from Boston College.
For more information, visit www.risingms.com.
If you have a health insurance question for , please send it to john.egan@insurancequotes.com.
 
 
Read Original Article:  http://www.insurancequotes.com/health/how-to-appeal-health-insurance-claims

Traveling? Take 6 health insurance steps first

Health insurance while traveling

With luck, your trip will bring only good times, but it pays to be prepared for an unexpected health crisis away from home. If you get into a car accident or slip on ice, will insurance cover your care?
Your health insurance plan should cover medical emergencies while you’re on the road, whether for a holiday or vacation, but plans vary. So, do a little legwork before you travel to avoid any billing surprises when you get home.
Here are 6 health insurance steps to take before you leave on a trip:
1. Call your insurer
Talk to a representative from your insurance company, says Avrom Fox, a health advocate with North Shore Patient Advocates, a company that helps consumers navigate healthcare and health insurance claims.
“Say, ‘I’m going to New York to visit my kids for the holidays. Will I be covered?’” Fox says. “You can very easily get answers.”
See also: Worst holiday hazards and how to avoid them
It’s especially important to make such a call if you’ve got a condition like diabetes or heart disease that could increase the odds of your needing care on the road, he says.

2. Know you’re covered in an emergency
Don’t worry: if you have an emergency, like a serious car wreck, heart attack or stroke that requires an ambulance ride to the hospital, your insurer will cover it, Fox says. But what if you go to the ER just because you’re feeling sick?
That’s where it gets tricky because different insurers define emergency differently, Fox says. For example, some companies might cover you if you went to the ER with a bad cough, while others wouldn’t, he says. “It’s a real gray area,” he says.
However, many insurers also cover urgent care, such as cuts, ear infections and sprains, away from home. For non-emergencies, it’s probably best to visit an urgent care center rather than an ER, O’Brien says.

3. Check your network
A few plans offer a national network of health care providers, while many only have a statewide or regional network, says Eric O’Brien, a health insurance and employee benefits expert for Ardina, a healthcare discount program.
So, if you’re traveling across the state or out of state, you might not be able to find doctors and hospitals that are in-network for your plan. The best way to check: Log onto your insurer’s online portal, O’Brien says. Do a provider search of a 10 or 20-mile radius around the ZIP code where you’ll be spending your time, he says.
If you do find in-network providers, save their names and numbers just in case, he recommends.

4. Consider telemedicine
Before you go, you might check to see if your employer, health insurance plan or an association you belong to offers a telemedicine service, in which you can consult with a doctor remotely. Or, you can sign up for a service directly. It could save you money and time if you come down with something simple like a cold, rash or UTI while on your trip.
For example, O’Brien used such a service, Teladoc, when he woke up with a bad sinus infection while visiting his wife’s family over Thanksgiving. “The doctor called me within two seconds,” he says. “Within two hours, I had a Z-Pak and some sinus medicine waiting for me at the nearest pharmacy.”
And, O’Brien guesses he saved about $150 by avoiding an urgent care visit.
5. Put your card in your wallet
One of the most important things you should have with you in case something happens: your health insurance card, says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, an insurance consumer advocacy organization.
You can still get care without it, but it can be much more of a hassle. If you don’t have your card, make sure you have the phone number of your health insurance provider handy, Bach says.

6. Jot down your doctor’s number
It’s always a good idea to have your primary care physician’s number in your phone or wallet in case you want to ask about a health issue.
And if you’re a member of an HMO that requires a referral from your primary care doc to get other care, you’ll need to get that OK in order for care to be covered, unless your medical problem is an emergency, according to a primer on out-of-state travel from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
When you get back
If you do get the care you need while on vacation, and then you end up in a dispute with your health insurance company — for example, over the definition of an emergency — you might want to hire a medical billing advocate to help you get the problem sorted out. Advocates go to bat for the patient to try to get care covered or bills reduce, he says.
But keep in mind that even if your insurer covers your care, it’s probably going to be out-of-network, which means you will get a larger than normal bill and your payments may be applied to a separate out-of-network deductible.
“There’s likely to be sticker shock,” Fox says.

Read Original Article: http://www.insurancequotes.com/health/travel-health-insurance-tips


Wearable tech: The future of your health (and health insurance)



You can already purchase technology to wear on your body that can tell you everything from how many steps you walk in a day, to how well you sleep at night. Devices such as FitBit and Sony Core can take the guesswork out of staying fit and maintaining healthy habits - and they're swiftly growing in popularity. According to a 2013 report from Berg Insight, a telecom industry research company, about 8.3 million wearable computers were sold worldwide in 2012, and that number was projected to rise to 64 million by 2017.
However, the future of this kind of tech is moving to inside your body - soon, you will be able to use implantable and ingestible tech (such as digital pills) to monitor your health and perhaps treat chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. However, what if health insurers also have access to this data about your body? And if hackers can get your credit card information, what's to stop them from accessing private data on your health? Find out more in our infographic below.
health insurance and wearable tech


Read Original  Article: http://www.insurancequotes.com/health/health-insurance-and-wearable-tech

As Boomers Retire, Companies Prepare Millennials for Leadership Roles

Companies are working to ensure millennials are prepared to step into leadership roles.

 

by    

Vikram Ravinder was a little nervous as he faced the board members of Chicago nonprofit Bunker Labs in a conference room in early December. The 29-year-old Deloitte senior consultant for strategy and operations was pitching a plan that might help Bunker secure funding for a program enabling veterans to become entrepreneurs.
Ravinder developed the pitch, under Deloitte’s pro bono program, with his mentor, Jonathan Copulsky, the company’s chief marketing and chief content officer. The two meet regularly as part of a push to have senior managers train junior employees. Copulsky, who will retire in June 2017 when he reaches the company’s mandatory retirement age of 62, has mentored several younger Deloitte executives. “I was able to put this guy in a position, give him enough ‘got your back,’ but also give him the freedom that he could be successful and coach him as opposed to directing him,” Copulsky says.
Ravinder’s presentation helped the nonprofit secure new funding. “I see how he approaches clients,” Ravinder says of Copulsky. “Millennials bring data and analytics, but boomers have experience they can rely on when the data isn’t sufficient.”
Companies from Deloitte to defense contractor BAE Systems, General Motors, and General Electric are scrambling to ensure millions of younger managers from the so-called millennial generation—those born from roughly 1981 to 1997—are ready to step into leadership roles as baby boomers bow out of the workforce. About 10,000 reach retirement age every day. “Many large, older companies are caught up in a tsunami of baby boomers retiring and are unaware of how much tribal knowledge they are taking with them,” says Dorothy Leonard, professor emerita at Harvard Business School. Leonard’s firm, Leonard-Barton Group, developed knowledge-transfer programs at several GE divisions and at the nonprofit Educational Testing Service.
Until last year, boomers made up the largest portion of the U.S. population, and Generation X represented the biggest share of the workforce. Now millennials lead in both categories: They hold about 20 percent of all management jobs, up from 3 percent in 2005, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
GE runs programs in its GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and GE Transportation units, among others. Retaining technical knowledge and capabilities is a focus, says GE Global Research spokesman Todd Alhart. ETS set up knowledge-sharing partnerships between key personnel and colleagues within the same departments, to “deepen bench depth,” according to Candyce Wright-Citrone, a Develop Core Competencies Consultant in ETS’s Chief Learning Office Group. Action plans, based on individual learning goals established for participating employees, are followed over several months. GM uses educational training and mentorships to help bridge the generation gap. It wants its leaders to function more as coaches, the automaker has said. And Bank of America has a so-called onboarding program to help new executives adapt to the corporate culture and learn from senior executives.

“In the next 10 to 15 years, we’re going to have the greatest transfer of knowledge that’s ever taken place,” says Chip Espinoza, director of organization psychology at Concordia University Irvine. An effective way to handle the shift, he says, is for a company to create relationships between the generations.
“It’s clearly an emerging area that everyone is dealing with,” says Mike Preston, Deloitte’s chief talent officer. Within a decade, maybe sooner, he says, there will be no boomers in Deloitte’s top management.
BAE, a multinational defense and aerospace company, similarly has been preparing for the retirement cliff for several years, says Andrew Muras, the company’s advanced learning manager. BAE adapted a NASA program developed a decade ago when the U.S. space agency started to lose expertise from the lunar landings as senior engineers retired. Realizing it would need that knowledge for missions to Mars, the agency asked engineers who’d worked on the Apollo mission to share what they knew in meetings with new engineers.
When BAE learns that an employee with deep institutional knowledge plans to retire, whether in a few months or a couple of years, a knowledge-transfer group of about a half-dozen people of varying ages working in the same area is formed. The teams meet regularly over months to talk and exchange advice. Younger workers elicit tips, and in some cases older ones gradually hand off tasks to junior employees. The program began as a pilot in 2013; during the past two years, BAE has expanded it across the company. It eventually wants to hold as many as 60 sessions a year.
One manager who’s scheduled to retire in April demoted himself in the process and now works as an assistant to an employee who recently joined the company from the U.S. Navy to do the job the manager once held. According to Muras, the two worked together on a bid to handle maintenance and repairs on an amphibious ship for the Navy, a contract the older worker had run for 11 years. The contract has since been renewed, with the newer employee overseeing the work.
BAE has quantified the payoff of its knowledge-transfer efforts by looking at variables such as direct and indirect costs and productivity. “We’re saving on average between $120,000 to $180,000” per project, Muras says. Devoting more time preparing millennials for leadership roles may also encourage them to stay with the company. The median tenure of workers age 25-34 is about three years, compared with 10.4 years for workers age 55-64, according to BLS data.
Catie Perrella, 26, who coordinates parts production for the F-15 Eagle fighter jet, is part of BAE’s leadership development program. “You can take knowledge from position to position,” says Perrella, who joined the company in 2011 and is enrolled in an MBA program at Boston University. “I’ve had a lot of friends who leave a company after two or three years, but BAE has so many opportunities within the same walls,” she says, that she can advance her career by staying put.
The bottom line: Companies that don’t plan for generational management shifts risk falling behind and losing out to their competitors.

 

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Guide to Evaluating HSA Custodians

By Amy Fontinelle

OK, you've decided to open a health savings account (HSA). If you're doing so on your own, you can open your account at any bankcredit unioninsurance company or brokerage that offers these tax-advantaged vehicles for saving for medical expenses. If you open an HSA through your employer, you might be automatically enrolled with a particular HSA manager, but you have the option to switch.
Institutions that manage HSAs are called HSA custodians or HSA administrators.Whether you have to choose an HSA custodian or you’re wondering whether the one your employer chose for you is any good, there are key features to evaluate. With dozens of options available, how do you choose?
(For a quick backgrounder, read our tutorial How HSAs Work.)

Paying Fees

Like many a financial account, HSAs come with a long list of associated fees. Some you can avoid, and some you can’t. It’s important to know how not to incur the unnecessary ones, and how much the required fees will eat into your HSA balance. Here are the types of fees you’re likely to encounter, based on the schedules of three popular HSA custodians.
Health Savings Administrators
Bank of America
HSA Bank
Fee type
Administrative
$45/yr. ($3.75/mo.)
$54/yr. ($4.50/mo.)
$30/yr. ($2.50/mo.)
Custodial
$0.625 per $1,000 every three months
n/a
n/a
Withdrawals via paper check
$10.00
n/a
n/a
Excess contribution correction/return
$25.00
$25.00
$25.00
Non-sufficient funds (NSF)
$30.00
n/a
$30.00
Overdraft
n/a
$25.00
n/a
Transaction correction
$25.00
n/a
$25.00
Wire transfer
$25.00
n/a
$25.00
Account transfer/rollover to another custodian
$25.00
$25.00
n/a
Account closure
$25.00
$25.00
$25.00
Replace lost or stolen debit card
$12.00
$0.00
$12.00
Stop payment
$25.00
$25.00
$25.00
Copy of debit card merchant receipt
$25.00
n/a
$25.00
Duplicate copy of tax statement
$4.00
$5.00
$4.00
HSA Bank offers a particularly good outline showing how its customers can avoid fees.
HSAs that offer an investment option will have a separate fee schedule. Here, you’ll encounter fees such as online trading commissions for stocks and ETFs, annual fees, low-balance fees and mutual fund fees. These fees are similar to those you’d encounter in any brokerage account. You may be able to avoid them by selecting commission-free investments and keeping your account balance above a stated minimum. (For further reading, see How to Effectively Utilize Health Savings Accounts.)

You don’t want to choose an HSA custodian that charges you too often or too much,” says Stephen D. Neeleman, MD, founder and vice chair of HealthEquity, one of the oldest and largest health savings account custodians. “Find out whether fees are based on the amount of money in your account or on how much you contribute monthly, or whether it’s a fixed fee independent of how much money you have in your HSA. Ask whether the fees are waived once the balance reaches a certain level and whether your employer will pay the fees if the account is offered through them.”
For any fees you do incur, ask your HSA custodian about paying them by check from another source of funds rather than deducting them from your HSA balance, thus depleting your account of funds that grow tax-free.

Earning Interest

Some HSA custodians pay the same interest rate, regardless of your account's cash balance. Others have tiered rates, meaning the interest you’ll earn depends on how high your balance is. You might earn 0.05% annually if your balance is $0–$2,499.99; 0.1% if your balance is $2,500–$4,999.99; and 0.2% if your balance is $5,000 or more. Make sure your HSA custodian is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), so your funds are protected in the unlikely event the bank fails.
As with most bank checking and savings accounts, you’re unlikely to find an HSA custodian whose interest rates are high enough to keep up with inflation, even if your HSA balance falls in the highest tier. To earn more, you’ll want to invest any part of your balance that you can afford not to touch for medical bills for several years. And that brings us to another factor to consider in choosing your HSA custodian.

Investment Options

“I like banks that have brokerage accounts linked to the bank account, so once you’ve accumulated enough to cover your deductible for the year, you can invest your money in anything that is available on the brokerage platform,” says Michael E. Chadwick, owner of his own investment advisor firm in Unionville, Conn. You only want to invest the part of your HSA balance that exceeds your health insurance deductible, in case you have a big medical expense one year.
Plan not to touch any balance you invest for as long as you can. “If you don’t use it up, later in life you can roll it into a retirement plan and live on it,” Chadwick says. (For more details on this topic, read How to Use Your HSA for Retirement.)
The types of investments that are good for your HSA "depend on your investment sophistication and risk tolerance," Chadwick says. He suggests that most people be cautious and avoid high-risk instruments, aiming for a 3% to 4% return on the conservative side and 6% to 7% if you’re comfortable with a balanced investment strategy.
More specifically, look for a variety of low-cost funds that will let you invest in the S &P 500U.S.Treasuries, and other blue-chip choices. Investment costs such as Fund expense ratios and other investment costs are key because they can cut into your long-term returns. Avoid investments with early withdrawal fees unless you are sure you’ll hold them long enough to avoid the fee.
Choose an HSA administrator that offers these options – and maybe more, in case you want to change your investment strategy later. Similar to FDIC insurance, make sure the investment accounts are SIPC insured, meaning that if the administrator goes bankrupt, you can recoup your funds (up to a certain amount). SIPC insurance does not protect you against losses because the stock market declines, of course.

Contribution Strategies

If you don’t like your employer’s choice of HSA custodian, you can change. However, there are two big reasons why you might not want to close that account: matching contributions and tax savings.
“If your employer matches your HSA contributions, it’s better to keep contributing to their default HSA account and open up a secondary HSA with your preferred institution,” Neeleman says. “Then you can roll over all the funds from your employer-funded HSA into the secondary HSA in an annual sweep. Your employer will most likely only contribute to the HSA they’ve set up, and you don’t want to miss out on the free money.” You don't have to pay income tax or FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes on that match, remember.
You're also gaining money, in a sense, if your HSA contributions come directly out of your paycheck: They're considered as being made with pre-tax dollars, and so they effectively reduce your gross income for federal and state income taxes, and for the FICA contributions as well.
If you’re self-employed or you don’t have the option to contribute to your HSA through payroll deductions, all is not lost. You can contribute on your own. You’ll be contributing after-tax dollars, but you’ll then claim your contribution as an above-the-line adjustment to your gross income on your tax return's form 1040 and attach IRS form 8889, Health Savings Accounts, showing how your calculated your deduction. However, you will not get the FICA tax savings that you would get by having your contributions deducted from your paycheck.

The Bottom Line

Choosing an HSA custodian is similar to choosing a place to open a checking account, a savings account or a brokerage account. You want to find an HSA administrator with low fees (especially for expenses that regularly recur, such as maintenance fees and custodial fees), relatively high interest rates for short-term and cash balances, and low-cost investment options for long-term balances.
And of course, the custodian should provide an easy-to-use website and basic account protections like FDIC or SIPC insurance. Online tools such as HSA Search can help you get started.


Read more: A Guide to Evaluating HSA Custodians | Investopedia http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/021816/guide-evaluating-hsa-custodians.asp#ixzz40sIe6jZn 
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Top Financial Steps to Take on Disability

By John P. Schmoll | February 19, 2016

Going on disability, whether it be short or long-term, is a challenging and often stressful experience. Many things can potentially be impacted, from your health to your job to your finances. If you are disabled on the job, you may think you can count on disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can’t count on that as a possibility. According to the SSA, over 2.4 million individuals filed for benefits in 2015 though only 775,000 were approved. With that in mind, you may wonder what financial steps you need to take on disability. It will depend on the situation though following are some of the general things to consider.

Find Out What Coverage You Have

When you’re about to go on disability you first need to determine what kind of coverage, if any, you can access. The most common coverage for many will be through The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is available through qualifying employers and offers up to 12 weeks over a single 12-month period. There are a few things to remember with FMLA. Some employers will require you to use any paid leave (vacation and sick days) you currently have, as the initial part of the 12-week period. They also may require proof of a serious medical need. (For more, see: Types of Social Security Benefits.)
It doesn’t stop there. If you have disability insuranceyou will need to determine what's required to take advantage of benefits. If you believe you'll need longer disability coverage, you will want to reach out to the Social Security Administration. "Contact the Social Security Disability office in your state. You may qualify for benefits if you expect your condition to last more than one year, and you are not able to work at any job,” says Kevin Haney of Growing Family Benefits.

This work may seem overwhelming. Don’t let that hold you back as it’s vital to best prepare yourself for your time on disability. Haney also points out the possibility to upgrade your health insurance through special benefits available to those with lower incomes or those who meet certain qualifications. (For more, see: What Are the Maximum Social Security Disability Benefits?)

Cut Unnecessary Spending

One thing is certain when you go on disability, your finances will be impacted. It’s likely you won’t be bringing in the same level of income so you will want to prepare for that eventuality. Key in that is cutting your spending and living by a relatively modest budget. “Cut all unnecessary expenses. Your income is about to plummet, and your medical expenses may explode. This is not the time for extras like cable TV, smart phones, etc.,” Haney says.
This may seem harsh. It's not. It's meant to help you weather the financial storm you may face while on disability. If you're prepared, it will help mitigate the fallout though the key is to watch over your spending so as to not end up in a worse situation. (For more, see: Top 6 Features of a Great Disability Policy.)

Take Advantage of Benefits

Depending on the community you live in and professional or social associations you’re a part of, you may qualify for additional benefits. This will vary based on your location, specific situation and need. Haney points out that some states offer additional temporary coverage or possible unemployment coverage if your spouse loses their job while caring for you. In short, there are numerous avenues for assistance if you seek them out.

What to Do Prior

You may not always know when you’re going to need to begin disability. The best way to counteract that is to prepare for it to happen. If it does then, you'll be better prepared. If not, you'll be that much better off. (For more, see: Emergency Funds That Are Right for Your Tax Bracket.)
That can range from having a fully funded emergency fund to purchasing disability insurance coverage when healthy. “Buy a disability insurance policy while you are healthy. You will not qualify once you are already sick, hurt or pregnant. New policies exclude preexisting conditions for at least one year,” says Haney. It may be viewed as an unnecessary expense, though the last thing you want is to be in a situation where you need coverage but don’t have it because you didn’t want to spend the money to get it when you were healthy.



Read more: Top Financial Steps to Take on Disability | Investopedia http://www.investopedia.com/articles/financial-advisors/021916/top-financial-steps-take-disability.asp#ixzz40sIIDqkT 
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