Homeowners and Renters: The Value of Taking Inventory

Dover — Right now, thousands of homeowners are cleaning up and filing insurance claims following an outbreak of devastating tornadoes across the U.S. However, according to a February 2012 survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don’t have a home inventory of their possessions, putting them at risk for inadequate home insurance coverage, should severe weather strike.

The recent survey revealed 59 percent of consumers have not made a list or inventory of their possessions. Of those individuals with a home inventory, 48 percent do not have receipts; 27 percent do not have photos of their property; and 28 percent do not have a back-up copy of the inventory outside the home. Additionally, 59 percent of people with inventories have not updated their inventories in more than a year, meaning new purchases and gifts may not be covered.

“Violent weather events affected approximately 80 percent of the nation’s population over the past six years. In 2011 many Delawareans experienced the effects of Hurricane Irene which left widespread destruction in her wake,” stated Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart. “Creating a detailed inventory of your possessions is one the best ways to ensure you have the right amount of homeowners or renters insurance for you and your family.”

Last year alone, severe weather disasters across the country inflicted more than $43 billion in damage. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners myHOME Scr.APP.book application makes it easier for consumers to document their valuables, update their inventories and store the information for easy access after a disaster. The app is free and available for both iPhone and Android smart phone users.

Before severe weather strikes, consumers can use their inventory to evaluate their coverage and determine if they need to update their policies. It’s important to know that how much is reimbursed varies greatly from policy to policy. On average, home contents are reimbursed only up to 50 percent of the home’s insured value, i.e., $50,000 to replace the contents of a home insured for $100,000.

Creating a Home Inventory

The myHOME Scr.APP.book app lets users capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers of personal possessions and stores the information electronically for safekeeping. The app organizes information by room and creates a back-up file for email sharing. Located on the Delaware Department of Insurance (DOI) website are instructions for you to download this application to your phone.

For those without a smart phone, also on the DOI website is a downloadable home inventory checklist and tips for effectively cataloguing your possessions. Both are available at www.delawareinsurance.gov.

Attention Established Families

“All renters and homeowners should develop a home inventory, and this is especially important for established families with years’ worth of family possessions,” says Commissioner Stewart of the Delaware Department of Insurance. “Whether it is electronics, furnishings, collectibles, jewelry or clothing, families need to know what they own and how much it’s worth.”

As kids grow, the average family’s number of household possessions increases, as well. Families should consider the following areas when reviewing their home insurance needs:

  • Electronics —The standard $1,000 policy limit on electronics may not be sufficient to replace multiple computers, MP3 players and tablets. Additionally, many homeowners’ policies do not cover items, such as laptops and televisions, stolen from a dorm room; so families with children living on or off campus should consider renter’s insurance.
  • Jewelry — Most policies limit coverage for jewelry to $500, which typically is insufficient to replace a favorite pair of diamond earrings, a wedding ring or expensive family jewelry passed down from generation to generation.
  • Fashion — Considering the amount of laundry in the hamper each week, many parents realize the volume of clothing in the household is significant. Replacing clothes, shoes, handbags and accessories for today’s fashion-conscious family can add up.
  • Home Goods — Kitchen appliances, workshop tools and sporting equipment also should be included when creating a home inventory.

Disasters Happen, Be Prepared

Personal safety should always be paramount when considering the threat of severe weather. Developing an emergency kit, identifying storm shelters and gathering important phone numbers; including the 24-hour contact information for your insurance agent and insurance company, are all important preparedness steps. For more tips on preparing for severe storms and other disasters, visit: http://www.insureuonline.org/disaster_preparedness.htm.

If you have questions or are confused about how and why to complete a home inventory, contact Delaware Department of Insurance by visiting www.delawareinsurance.gov or calling 302-674-7303.


Commissioner Stewart Makes Key Appointments to the Department of Insurance

Dover – Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart announces the appointments of two key positions in the Delaware Department of Insurance. Paul Reynolds, a native Delawarean who graduated from Salesianum School and attended the University of Delaware, comes to the Insurance Department after 35 years of service working for New Castle County Government. During his career, Reynolds held numerous administrative and managerial positions. In November of 2011, Mr. Reynolds was tapped by Commissioner Stewart to be the Chief of Staff for the Department.

Ms. Marla Blunt-Carter, also a life-long Delawarean, has passionately given voice to the voiceless which has led to work in many capacities including Director of Community Planning and Policy Development for the Delaware HIV Consortium, Director of Constituent Services for then U. S. Senator Joe Biden, and Director of College Access and Career Readiness Programs at University of Pennsylvania. Ms. Blunt-Carter holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Delaware and a Masters in Social Work from Rutgers University. In 2008, making United States history, one of Blunt-Carter’s greatest honors and accomplishments was to serve as the statewide campaign Director for the 2008 Obama/Biden Presidential campaign and subsequently on the Washington staff in Executive Office of President Barack Obama.

Commissioner Stewart stated, “We are very excited that Paul and Marla are joining our team. Paul’s strong leadership and management skills and Marla’s commitment to ensuring accessibility of services to all Delawareans supports my vision and fulfills the Department’s mission of Putting the Delaware Consumer First.”


Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart Alerts “Baby Boomers” on Early Retirement Options

Many Will Have to Look For Alternative Health Insurance Coverage

DOVER – Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart expressed concern for soon to retire “Baby Boomers” (those born between 1946 and 1964), many of whom will face the uncertain prospect of finding alternative health insurance coverage until they reach the age of 65 when they are eligible for Medicare. The Commissioner said, “While for some in this age group, a lifetime of working means a good pension and benefits after concluding their careers. However because more and more companies are converting retirement benefits, too many in the ‘boomer generation’ are left in the precarious position of finding alternative health insurance coverage.” The Commissioner continued, “For those considering early retirement or need to consider retirement health insurance options, we at the Delaware Department of Insurance offer these options for where to look and what to consider in your decision.

  1. Spouse’s Policy – If your spouse is still employed and has access to benefits, you may be able to be added to the policy. While your spouse may have to pay more for the coverage, this is likely your most affordable option.
  2. COBRA – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) lets former employees and their dependents continue their coverage for up to 18 months. While your employer cannot refuse coverage through COBRA, it is unlikely that they will continue to subsidize the premium. They may also charge an administrative fee. The Commissioner is working on legislation for a “mini” COBRA bill that will provide options for continued health insurance coverage for small employer groups under 20 that will allow them to pick up COBRA coverage.
  3. Military – If you are a retired military veteran, you may be eligible to join the Defense Department’s Tricare plan. Read more about who is eligible for Tricare and the coverage offered here.
  4. Individual Coverage – These plans can be expensive, especially if you are on medications or have a chronic health condition. In some cases, preexisting conditions may make it difficult to find coverage. Starting in 2014, however, insurers will not be allowed to deny coverage based upon your health status. Shopping for an individual policy can be challenging. Make sure to compare policies carefully and ask questions about what benefits are included. Make sure you understand your deductibles and coinsurance requirements; and ask about prescription drug coverage. Also, the agent or broker you are working with, as well as the insurance company writing the policy, must be licensed in your state. Be sure to check with your state insurance department to confirm the agent and company before making any payments.
  5. Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan – These plans were created to help adults with preexisting conditions find individual coverage. In order to be eligible for coverage in one of these subsidized pools, you will need to meet certain qualifications. Contact us at 1-800-282-8611 toll-free in Delaware or (302) 674-7310 to find out more about these programs.
  6. High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) – These plans only cover catastrophic health care costs. This means you will be responsible for paying much more of the upfront cost before the policy would pay any benefits for eligible medical expenses. HDHPs have a lower premium to compensate for the higher out-of-pocket costs incurred with these high deductibles. Often these types of plans work with a Health Savings Account (HSA) that allows you to set aside funds for future qualified medical expenses. If you are considering an HDHP, make sure to read the policy form – paying careful attention to the benefits and the limitations of the plan. This consumer alert has more information about how to evaluate an HDHP and HSA.

Coverages – Make sure that you understand the terms and coverages of the policy. The lowest premium option may not provide the coverages you need for your health status.

  • What are the deductibles or co-insurance payments?
  • What are the limits on coverage?
  • Can you see your current doctor or seek treatment in the same hospitals?
  • Is there an annual limit to what the insurance company will pay for any particular coverage?
  • Is there a cap on the out-of-pocket amounts you have to pay?
  • How often will your policy be reviewed or how often can you expect a premium change?
  • Are prescription drugs covered?

Commissioner Stewart concluded, “I urge Delawareans to contact us with their concerns and problems. By doing so, we are not only able to provide assistance where our authority allows us to, but also to gather information in order to see if new legislation needs to be enacted, regulations and bulletins need to be written and/or policies need to be changed.”


Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart Announces BCBSD and Highmark Affiliation Decision

Commissioner Stewart at the BCBSD Highmark Affiliation News ConferenceDover, DE – Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart has approved the proposed affiliation of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware with Highmark, Inc., of Pennsylvania. Commissioner Stewart imposed 49 Conditions on the transaction, which added many protections not included when the application was first filed with her Department in October, 2010. Many of the conditions were included in the findings and recommendation to Commissioner Stewart by Judge Battle R. Robinson, who acted as Hearing Officer. In November, Judge Robinson announced her findings, recommending that Stewart approve the transaction.

Under the arrangement as approved, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware will remain a separate, Delaware based, non-profit health service corporation, with its corporate office and most of its Delaware functions and character to be maintained. Under the arrangement, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware will share in the financial strength and administrative functions of the much larger Highmark. The Conditions that accompanied the approval meet a variety of concerns that became evident in the fourteen (14) month process of analysis and public hearings that preceded today’s decision.

Commissioner Stewart stated: “With these protections, I find that the affiliation should go forward and I hereby approved the application early this morning. I am confident that this affiliation will prove to be in the best interests of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware and its subscribers.”

At today’s press conference in connection with the announcement of her decision, Commissioner Stewart elaborated on her concerns for the Delaware Company and its subscribers, and for other citizens of Delaware, as the health care insurance markets change in the future: “I have watched with great concern as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware and other small health insurers have struggled to compete with large national insurers who have billions of dollars of capital and resources. These small companies have limited ability to make the changes required by today’s health care reform.” Stewart agreed with the Delaware Company that it will benefit from the following advantages of the affiliation: expanded research and development of new products, prompt payment of claims, enhanced technology interface, regulatory compliance improvements, and immediate access to professional expertise.

Commissioner Stewart stated, “I am also very concerned for the many people who do not have health insurance, and the difficulties that this tragedy imposes on them, and on the entire health delivery system. As part of my approval, I have imposed certain conditions to help with this concern.”

With the conditions, Commissioner Stewart addressed the following:

  • BCBSD will remain in Delaware. Its corporate office will stay here and the people that Delaware subscribers interact with will be here. Employment in Delaware will be continued.
  • The Board of Directors will include independent Delaware residents who have lived in Delaware for at least five years and are not employees of BCBSD, Highmark, or any of its affiliates. This important class of independent directors will have substantial influence over the operations of the company.
  • The assets and reserves of BCBSD will be fully protected and can be used only for the benefit of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware or its subscribers.
  • The important community contributions that BCBSD has made in the past will continue; indeed, in many cases they will be expanded.
  • All operations will remain under the direct regulatory control of the Delaware Insurance Department.

Commissioner Stewart also approved an additional condition last night to make Delaware’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) affordable to families slightly above the federal poverty level. BCBSD has agreed to add $3 million dollars to their commitment to subsidize the CHIP program until June 30, 2014, or until the federal program goes into effect, whichever occurs first.

To obtain a copy of Commissioner Stewart’s Decision and Final Order and a copy of her press conference statement*, visit the Delaware Department of Insurance’s website at http://www.delawareinsurance.gov/.

###

* Commissioner Stewart’s Decision and Final Order and Statement


Commissioner Stewart Asks Delawareans to Make Their Holiday Season a Secure Season

Dover – Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart alerted Delaware’s consumers today of how best to stay safe, secure and insured on the roads of Delaware and the surrounding states. The Commissioner said, “In the early months of 2010 Delaware and the region experienced record consecutive snowstorms that made both for a winter wonderland as well as extremely hazardous roads. Driving was both difficult and dangerous. To insure that this winter is a celebration and not a calamity, there are a number of things, listed below; we can all do to safeguard our families and ourselves.”

The Commissioner continued, “Please do not hesitate to contact the Department of Insurance if you need assistance, have a complaint or a question. By doing so you help us help you. Our number is 1-800-282-8611 toll-free in Delaware or (302) 674-7310.”

The Commissioner encouraged Delawareans to do the following:

Your Car

  1. Winterize your car by getting regular tune-ups and oil changes.
  2. Maintain visibility and see if your wipers need replacing.
  3. Maintain your car’s hoses and belts and check for worn spots, cracks or shredding fabric reinforcement.
  4. Check all vital fluids including the engine, coolant, transmission, brakes, power steering and windshield washers.
  5. Use the right oil by checking your manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  6. Check your tires for worn treads and consider winter tires.
  7. Pack an emergency kit if you plan on traveling that includes a flashlight, flares or reflective triangle, a distress sign, first aid supplies, basic tools, blankets, water, a fully charged cell phone and if you have roadside assistance, the number stored in a safe place.

Your Insurance

  1. Check your auto insurance to make certain it is active, premiums are up to date and your insurance card is in your car.
  2. Select liability limits consistent to your financial circumstances so your assets are not at risk.
  3. Check your homeowners or renters policy to see if you are covered for theft. A car full of gifts is a target.
  4. Check your auto policy to see if it includes roadside assistance covering towing, fuel delivery, lockout service, jump starts etc.
  5. Check your policy to see if it includes coverage for renting a car and verify your coverage limits with your agent and make sure you are not duplicating any coverage from your home, health and auto insurance policy.
  6. Check your homeowner’s policy to see if you have sufficient coverage to address property damage from winter storms, accidental fires, winter emergencies etc.
  7. Check with your insurance agent what additional protections called “endorsements” are and what endorsements are available to purchase.
  8. Clearly know what your policies do and do not cover including:
  • Damage caused by wind or wind driven rain
  • The collapse of a structure caused by the weight of ice
  • Frozen pipes due to extreme cold in which negligence, by not maintaining an appropriate temperature, is not a factor
  • Interior water damage
  • Water damage as a result of a flood or backed up drains and sewers
  • Acquaint yourself with the flood insurance offered by the National Flood Insurance Program provided by the federal government. (1-800-638-6620)
  • Removal of fallen trees 
  • Food spoilage due to a power outage

The Commissioner concluded by urging citizens to plan now for a potential future claim by making an inventory of all property with serial numbers and model names, saving all sales receipts, taking photographs, videotaping each room etc. She said, “By reviewing your insurance thoroughly beforehand and being attentive to these suggestions you can go a long way to helping you and yours have a happy holiday season.”