How We Can Help With Medicare Coverage

Medicare Coverage

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Once you become eligible for Medicare at age 65, you have some decisions to make about Medicare coverage. Will original Medicare Part A and Part B be sufficient for your health insurance needs? What about Medicare Advantage (also known as “Medicare Part C”), prescription drug coverage (“Part D”), or Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance?

Now is the time to evaluate your Medicare coverage to see if it meets your needs, since we’re about to enter an annual election period (AEP). Between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, eligible people may sign up for Medicare Advantage or make other changes to their Medicare coverage.  Once this period is past, you’re more limited in the changes you can make in your health insurance plans

How we can help

Lakewood Financial offers both Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. We represent Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and other companies.

Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, is a different way to receive your Medicare benefits. Under original Medicare, the government pays for your benefits when you get them. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. The government pays these companies to cover your Medicare benefits. There are different types of Medicare Advantage plans, including those operating as Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs). Some Medicare Advantage plans offer benefits original Medicare doesn’t, such as vision or dental. Plan benefits can change from year to year.

As with any type of insurance, there are advantages and disadvantages to choosing a Medicare Advantage plan over original Medicare. Please call our office at 941-747-4600 to speak to an agent who will help you decide if a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you, and which plan offers the best coverage for the best price.

Medicare supplement, or Medigap, insurance helps pay certain out-of-pocket costs not covered by your original Medicare benefits, such as co-payments, coinsurance, or deductibles. Medigap policies are standardized and must offer the same basic benefits, but some policies offer more benefits than others. These policies can only be purchased by people who have original Medicare.

When deciding on health insurance for your retirement, you’ll want to think about what your healthcare needs will likely be, and compare premiums, deductibles, and co-payment requirements in order to decide which plan offers the best coverage at the lowest price.  Lakewood Financial can help you find the best Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan to suit your needs. Just give us a call at 941-747-4600.

For more information on Medicare benefits and plans, please see https://www.medicare.gov/

Got Great Credit? Let Us Save You Money on Your Auto and Home Insurance!

save money on your home and auto insurance

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What does your credit score have to do with insurance rates? Plenty. Since the 1990s insurance companies have been using consumers’ credit scores to help set insurance premiums. Industry studies have indicated that using credit-based scores helps insurance companies better predict risk.

What does that mean for you? It means that if you have good credit, you’ll likely save money on your home and auto insurance.

“Just as insurance scores help insurance companies assess and price risks, so too can these scores help insurance customers—particularly if they are considered good risks,” according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org).

Insurance scores are different from credit scores, though they are both based on your credit report. And each insurance company makes those calculations a little differently. For an insurance score, “Emphasis is placed on those items associated with credit management patterns proven to correlate most closely with insurance risk, such as outstanding debt, length of credit history, late payments, collections and bankruptcies, and new applications for credit,” according to iii.org.

Therefore, the higher your insurance score, the lower your insurance rates.

What if your credit isn’t so good?

If your credit scores could be better, lower insurance rates are one more reason to improve them. If you want to improve your score, start by keeping a closer eye on it. Make sure there are no errors in your credit history. Make payments on time, avoid high “credit utilization” (the amount you owe divided by your credit limit), and don’t make too many applications for new credit.

Remember, credit scores aren’t the only factor used in determining insurance rates. For car insurance, driving history and type of vehicle are also crucial. For homeowners insurance, your location, the size and age of your home, as well as your level of coverage will also affect your rates significantly. However, improving your credit score could make a significant difference in your insurance premiums. According to creditkarma.com, improving from one credit tier to the next can save you an average of 17 percent per year. And Consumer Reports noted that drivers who improved their credit score from the “good” level to the best paid an average of $214 less per year for their car insurance. 

If you have good credit, let Lakewood Financial help you reap the benefits with lower car and homeowners insurance rates. Call us today at 941-747-4600 for a free quote, or drop us an email. Lakewood Financial is an independent insurance agency serving Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and surrounding communities. We have more than 25 years of experience in the insurance business and represent more than 80 financially stable insurance companies so that our clients have many choices for the best policies to meet their needs.

Hurricane Proofing Your Yard

Hurricane Proofing Your Yard

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So far the Sarasota/Bradenton area has had a quiet hurricane season (knock on wood!). But that could change, and we may still experience one or more tropical storms or hurricanes. Before a storm hits, let’s take a look at one more way to reduce the chances of having significant damage to your home due to a hurricane: hurricane proofing your yard.

 

Inspect

First, walk through your yard. Look carefully at your trees, shrubs, mulch, and any other items found there. Here are some things to watch for:

 

In your trees, look for dead or dying limbs, or those weakly attached to the tree trunk. Also look for cracks in limbs or trunks, trees that lean and may be unstable and easily toppled by a storm, and branches that hang over your roof, screen enclosure, or are near power lines. You may need to do some pruning (see below).

 

What type of mulch to you have? Consider replacing rock or pea gravel with softer mulch, such as shredded bark. In high wind, rock and gravel can fly into the air, breaking windows or damaging your house’s exterior.

 

Does water pool near your house? Consider improving the grading and drainage around it.

 

Take note of anything in your yard that could become airborne in high winds: potted plants, toys, garden ornaments, bird feeders, lawn furniture, etc. Decide what you’ll do with these things if a storm is approaching—perhaps you can tie them to a sturdy tree, bring them into the garage, or position them in a place where they’re less likely to blow around, such as a corner of a fence or wall. If there are items in your yard you no longer enjoy or use, get rid of them.

 

Prune

Remove dead or diseased branches, and prune the crowns of trees to make them more wind resistant. For larger trees, you may want to hire a certified arborist for this.

 

Also prune shrubs that are top heavy, damaged or diseased.

 

Plan(t)

If you’re considering making changes or adding to your landscaping, do some planning first. If you want to plant new trees, choose wind resistant varieties. These include live oak, southern magnolia, sabal palms, and sea grape, to list a few (click here for more information). Plant them well away from your home and other structures, as well as power lines. This will help reduce the risk of limbs or even a whole tree coming down on your home during a storm.

 

Hurricane season doesn’t end until November 1, so we should remain vigilant in our hurricane preparations. Take a few minutes to walk around your property to inspect it, prune and plant appropriately, and decide what you’ll do with anything in your yard that could become a projectile. A little attention to your yard before a storm blows through can save you a lot of headaches later.

 

Lakewood Financial is a locally owned, independent insurance agency based in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. We would love to help you with your homeowners insurance—or any of your insurance needs. Please give us a call at 941-747-4600 for a free quote, or contact us online. For more information about homeowners insurance, click here.  

 

Is The Hartford Advantage Right for You?

The Hartford

As an independent insurance agency, Lakewood Financial represents many quality insurance carriers—not just one. We pride ourselves in finding YOU the best match for your individual insurance needs and financial situation. From time to time, we’ll draw attention to one of our carriers and what they specialize in. This month: The Hartford. 

If you’ve moved to Florida from up north, you’ve probably heard of The Hartford. They have more than 200 years of experience in insurance—in fact, they insured the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned! The Hartford provides personal lines coverage (home, auto, renters, umbrella) as well as business insurance, such as workers comp or general liability, and employee benefits, like group disability or life insurance. The Hartford specializes in insurance for the 50-and-over age group, and for the past 30 years, they have been the only direct auto and home insurance program nationally endorsed by the AARP.

The Hartford’s Open Road Advantage auto insurance policies offer benefits such as:

  • Lifetime Repair Promise: When you use a repair shop in The Hartford’s approved network, they guarantee the workmanship for as long as you own the vehicle.
  • New Car Replacement Benefit: if your new car is totaled during the first 15 months or 15,000 miles, whichever comes first, The Hartford will pay the cost of a brand new car of the same make and model with no depreciation.

The Advantage Plus program offers these additional benefits:

  • First Accident Forgiveness: If you qualify, your insurance premium won’t go up if you have an accident.
  • Disappearing Deductible: If you stay accident-free, your deductible decreases over time.
  • Optional 12-Month policy term: lock in your rate for a full year if you so choose.

If you’d like to see if The Hartford coverage is right for you, please call us at 941-747-4600 or email us for an auto or home insurance quote. And even if you don’t think they’d be right for you, one of our other quality insurance companies may be just right—call us, and we’ll be happy to help you find coverage that is right for you.

Moving to Florida 101: Registering an Out-of-State Car

Registering an Out-of-State Car

If you’re a new Florida resident, or are thinking of moving to Florida, you may have questions about your car insurance and what steps you need to take to get your vehicle registered. We get a lot of calls from people moving to Florida who have questions about this process, and we’re happy to answer them, and to welcome them to the state.

 

Once you move to Florida, you have 30 days to get a Florida driver’s license, but only 10 days to buy insurance and title/register your vehicles. Where should you start? Before registering an out-of-state car, you’ll need to buy insurance valid in Florida. And coverage requirements here are a little different than in other parts of the U.S.

 

Coverage requirements

Currently, to register a car in Florida, you must have an insurance policy with a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and $10,000 Property Damage liability (PD).  PIP covers injuries you or certain others receive in a crash, regardless of who is at fault. (It also covers your injuries if you’re hit while you’re a pedestrian.)  PD protects your liability if you’re at fault in an accident and you damage someone else’s property, such as a vehicle, building, or telephone pole. Please note that this is the minimum coverage required to drive legally in Florida, but such low coverage is not recommended for most people because it is most likely inadequate to protect you financially if you’re in an accident.

 

In addition, Florida has something called the Financial Responsibility law, which “requires that any person at fault in a crash resulting in bodily injury and property damage to others must have in effect at the time of the crash full liability insurance coverage.” This means that if you are at fault in an accident and you injure someone, you must be carrying at least $10,000 per person Bodily Injury (BI) coverage in addition to PIP and PD coverage at the time of the accident. 

 

Click here if you’d like to get a car insurance quote—you’ll need the driver’s licenses of all drivers in the household, as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle. Have your current car insurance policy handy so you can tell your new insurance agent what coverage you currently have as well as what you would like to have on your new policy.  

 

For additional information on insurance coverage in Florida, please see “New to Florida? Here’s What You Need to Know About Car Insurance.”

 

Remember: before you can transfer the title or registration for your vehicle to Florida, you have to have proof of insurance.

 

In addition to proof of insurance, you’ll also need proof of identity, your out-of-state title/registration, and you’ll have to have your vehicle’s VIN verified by inspection. (Please click the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department link below for printable application forms and complete details on what you’ll need to do to register your vehicle and get a Florida driver’s license.)

 

Your local independent insurance agent

When moving to Florida, you’ll want to find a local independent insurance agent to handle your insurance needs—an agent familiar with Florida’s insurance laws. An independent agent will also be able to check rates with multiple insurance companies, so he or she can shop for the best rates for you rather than being exclusively tied to one company. 

 

Lakewood Financial is a locally-owned, independent insurance agency in business since 2003 serving Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and surrounding areas. We have more than 25 years experience in the insurance business and we represent more than 40 financially sound car insurance companies. We want to be your Florida insurance agents—so please call us at 941-747-4600, or email us so we can help you begin your new life in the Sunshine State!

 

For more information:

Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Florida Department of Financial Services • Division of Consumer Services Florida Auto Toolkit

Four Ways You Can Drive More Safely on Florida’s Roads

Need Car Insurance and Have PIP claims?

 

Why Florida Drivers Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

uninsured motorist coverage

Photo by Erich Kasten from FreeImages

Despite the fact that insurance is required, too many Florida drivers go without it. In fact, Florida has the highest rate of uninsured drivers in the nation at 26.7 percent! If an uninsured driver injures you and/or your passengers, you’ll have to pay your own medical expenses, and you know how quickly those can skyrocket. One way to be sure you can protect yourself financially if an uninsured motorist hits you is to carry uninsured motorist coverage.

UM basics

First, let’s look at how uninsured motorist coverage protects you—and how it doesn’t.

Uninsured motorist (UM) pays your and your passengers medical bills if you’re in an accident caused by an uninsured driver. In addition, it reimburses you and your passengers for things like pain and suffering, wrongful death, and loss of enjoyment of life. It also covers you if the other driver is under insured—that is, if his or her insurance policy limits don’t cover the extent of the injuries caused by the crash. And it will pay if an uninsured motorist hits you while you’re a pedestrian, or if a hit-and-run driver injures you.

What an uninsured motorist does NOT do is pay for damages to your vehicle. You’ll need to carry collision insurance if you need or want your vehicle covered if an uninsured motorist damages it.

UM limits are indicated using two figures, such as 25,000/50,000. The first number is the limit of what the policy will pay per person, the second number is the limit per accident. You can only buy UM if you also purchase bodily injury (BI) liability, and you can’t purchase UM coverage higher than your BI limits.

Stacked vs. non-stacked

There are two types of UM coverage: stacked and non-stacked.

Non-stacked is cheaper to buy, but doesn’t offer as comprehensive coverage as stacked UM does.

Stacked UM provides higher limits and more complete protection. There are two ways in which stacked is more comprehensive than non-stacked.

If you insure more than one vehicle on your policy, the amount you’re able to collect can be “stacked”—that is, the maximum policy limit is multiplied based on the number of vehicles on your policy. So if you have limits of 25,000/50,000 and three vehicles on your policy, you can multiply the 25/50 limits by three, which means limits of $75,000 per person, $150,000 per accident will be available to you and your passengers.

What if you only have one vehicle to insure? Would you still want to carry stacked UM? Possibly. There are several scenarios in which you could be injured by an uninsured motorist where non-stacked insurance would not pay but stacked would. For example:

  • You ride a motorcycle. If you’re injured by an uninsured driver while riding, stacked UM from your auto policy will pay for your injuries. It will also pay for injuries to a passenger riding with you. Non-stacked will not. Stacked UM coverage on a personal auto policy is generally cheaper to buy than UM coverage on a motorcycle policy as well.
  • You are a “snowbird” who keeps one car in Florida and one car at your other home. You’re injured by an uninsured motorist while driving your “up north” car, but you don’t carry UM on that vehicle. You do carry stacked UM on your Florida vehicle—and that coverage will pay for your injuries, even though you were driving a vehicle you own that is not listed on your Florida personal auto policy.
  • You own a pickup truck which you use for business purposes and insure on a separate commercial auto policy, but you’ve chosen not to carry UM coverage on that policy. If you’re injured while driving the truck, and you carry stacked UM on your personal auto policy, it will cover your injuries.

We think UM coverage is important to carry, especially in Florida where so many drivers either have no insurance or don’t carry enough insurance. If you have any questions about uninsured motorist coverage, or anything else on your auto insurance policy, please call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600, or email us. We will be happy to discuss your financial situation to determine what coverage makes sense for you.

Property Investors: Do You Have the Right Insurance?

Property Investors

Photo credit: Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

As a property investor, your insurance needs are more complex than the average homeowner. Some insurance agencies are unfamiliar with the requirements of investment properties, particularly ones purchased in the name of an entity such as a land trust, LLC, or a corporation. At Lakewood Financial, we have a lot of experience working with property investors and others with complex real estate insurance needs.

 

Whether you intend to buy an investment property and flip it, or install a tenant, we represent many companies who are happy to insure your investment property. These companies offer a variety of policies tailored to the needs of property investors, including:

 

DP3 Dwelling Fire—Dwelling Fire policies provide coverage for residential buildings that are not owner occupied, but are usually rented to others. The most popular version of this policy is called a DP3. It provides coverage for the building’s structure from all perils except those specifically excluded in the policy, as well as personal liability and loss of use. It is also a replacement cost policy, and we consider it one of the best non-owner occupied policies on the market.

 

Builder’s Risk—This policy provides coverage for damage to the insured structure and liability coverage during a renovation period. We can write these policies in terms of two, three, four, five, six, or 12 months. Renovations need to improve the property by 50 percent of its value to qualify for a Builder’s Risk policy, so if your property renovations are only cosmetic, you may insure your property with a Vacant Dwelling policy (see below).

 

Vacant Dwelling—In addition to being appropriate for a property that doesn’t qualify for a Builder’s Risk policy, Vacant Dwelling also provides coverage for property investors who own rental property and are between tenants or are trying to sell a property no one lives in.

 

So whether you’re a property investor who buys and flips homes or one who rents to tenants, we’ve got you covered, even during the renovation process. Please call Lakewood Financial at 941-747-4600 or email us if you’d like to know more about how we can help you protect your investments. We’ve been serving Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton/Sarasota, and surrounding areas since 2003.

“When thunder roars, go indoors!”—Lightning Safety for You and Your Family

Even though summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, we’re already experiencing increased thunderstorm activity in Sarasota, Bradenton, and nearby areas. Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries in the past 50 years. While the odds of being struck by lightning are only 1 in 500,000, you’re at increased risk if you often work or play outdoors—and with summer activities soon to be in full swing, that’s most of us!

Since June is Lightning Safety Month, here are a few lightning safety reminders from your neighbors at Lakewood Financial.

Check the forecast

If you plan to spend a lot of time outside—going out on a boat, going dirt biking, hiking, or canoeing, for example, be sure to check the weather forecast. If thunderstorms are predicted, adjust your plans. And even if the forecast is favorable, be sure to keep an eye on the weather once you’re outside. Know where you can go for safety if a storm blows up. Your best options are an enclosed shelter not made of concrete (the metal wires and bars in concrete walls and flooring can conduct lightning), or a metal-topped vehicle.

“If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you,” according to the National Weather Service. Another rule of thumb: if you see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before you get to 30, go inside. Don’t go back outside until 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap. Lightning can strike before or after rainfall, and as far away from rain as 10 miles.

If you’re outside

During storms with lightning, if you’re outside, you’re at risk. Doing the following may make you slightly safer:

Avoid open areas, isolated trees, towers, metal fences, or bodies of water—though these things don’t attract electricity, they do conduct it. If you can’t get inside a metal-topped vehicle or fully enclosed building, get as low to the ground as you can, with as little of your body as possible touching the ground.  Look for a low spot such as a ditch or depression.

What if you’re inside?

You should still be cautious even if you’re inside when lightning is present—one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur inside. During thunderstorms, avoid using water (no showers, baths, hand washing, or doing dishes), electronics, or a corded telephone. These things all conduct electricity and you could be injured if lightning strikes nearby while you’re touching them. It’s safe to use a portable or cell phone. Also stay off porches, balconies, lanais, and out of open garages.

Also remember your pets during storms—a doghouse or screened porch is not a safe place for your pet. Bring him or her indoors until the storm passes.

If someone is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR if you have training. Strike victims often need immediate first aid and touching them will not give you a shock. Only 10 percent of lightning strike victims die, but many of the rest live with serious aftereffects such as severe pain, neurological disabilities, or depression.

If lightning hits your home, most standard homeowners insurance policies cover structural damage and damage to personal property caused by lightning. If your car is hit by lightning, if you carry comprehensive insurance, it should be covered, less your deductible. Be sure to report the lightning strike to your insurance company or to your Lakewood Financial agent as soon as possible.

Please feel free to call us at 941-747-4600 or contact us online if you have any questions about your insurance needs and coverage. And stay safe this summer!

 

 

Is Your Homeowners Insurance Hurricane Ready?

 

Hurricane deductibles

Image by David Mark from Pixabay


Hurricane season starts again June 1. Are you ready? Is your homeowners insurance? In addition to basic preparations such as creating a disaster kit and reviewing evacuation plans, you should also review your homeowners insurance coverage so you won’t have any surprises if a hurricane damages or destroys your home. Here are a few things to familiarize yourself with before hurricane season begins.

 

Hurricane deductible

Hurricanes have their own separate deductibles, different from the deductible you’d pay out of pocket for another named peril. Instead of a flat dollar amount, such as $500 or $1,000, a hurricane deductible is a percentage of your Dwelling A coverage (the part of your homeowners policy that covers you if your home has to be rebuilt or repaired). Most of the policies we see have a 2% deductible, but it can rise as high as 5 or 10% in Florida. That means that if you have a 2% deductible and your home is insured for $350,000, your hurricane deductible will be $7,000. (We do have a few companies that offer a flat hurricane deductible of $1,000-$2,000, which may be a better choice for some clients.) 

 

Once the storm passes, and the hurricane warning or watch has been lifted, you’ll still be on the hook for your hurricane deductible for 72 hours. That means if a tree falls on your roof a day after the storm passes through, your hurricane deductible will still apply.

 

What if you have damage from more than one hurricane in the same year? According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, “In Florida, you only have to pay one hurricane deductible within the calendar year, provided you are insured with the same insurance company or group of companies for the second or subsequent hurricanes during the same calendar year.” 

 

Other questions to ask

  • If your home is destroyed, do you have enough coverage to rebuild?  
  • Do you have flood insurance? Flood damage is costly, and even if the flood is caused by a hurricane, it won’t be covered by your homeowners policy. To have flood coverage, you need a flood policy. A “flood” can be anything from storm surge, to pooling water after prolonged rainfall, to rising water from a river, creek, or lake.
  • What about sewer backup? Damage from sewer backup is not covered by either homeowners insurance or a flood policy. You’ll need separate sewer backup coverage.

Before hurricane season begins, review your homeowners insurance declarations page, decide if you need any additional coverage, and make sure you’ll have access to funds to cover your hurricane deductible. Please call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 for a no-obligation homeowners insurance quote, or if you have any questions about your insurance coverage. You may also click here to contact us online.

Buying Commercial Trucking Insurance: What You Need to Get Started

commercial trucking insurance

One of the most important steps in running a commercial trucking business is purchasing adequate insurance, tailored to your needs, at the best rate possible. But because of the nature of the risk, insurance for your trucking business will likely be one of your major expenses. This isn’t surprising, since commercial trucking insurance protects your liability as well as your cargo and your physical assets (trucks and trailers). (Click here if you’d like to know more about what types of coverage you’ll need for your trucking business.) 

In order for us to help you purchase the coverage best suited for your business, we recommend that you collect the information we will need to give you an accurate quote, including the following:

  • Driver information: legal names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, marital status (insurance companies offer discounts for married drivers), and the original issue date of each driver’s CDL.
  • Vehicle information: make, model, year, cost when new, gross vehicle weight, vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • DOT number
  • What is your business? Will you be driving over state lines or operating locally? How is each vehicle used? Do you carry cargo, or transport people?
  • What types of cargo will be hauled, including if there will be any heavy equipment or hazardous materials. Is your cargo refrigerated? If so, what type of cargo are you hauling? If you’re hauling general freight, we need to know what types of freight you’re hauling.

If you already have a commercial vehicle policy, have the declarations page handy so you can confirm the coverage’s and limits you currently carry.

Remember, the more information we have, the better we will be able to match your needs to an insurance company that’s right for you.

Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been in the commercial trucking business for a while, let Lakewood Financial help you with this important aspect of your business. As independent agents, we represent several quality commercial trucking insurance carriers. Give us a call at 941-747-4600, or contact us online and we’ll be happy to answer your questions or give you a quote.

For more information:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/

http://www.floridatruckinginfo.com/