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Prevent House Fires with These Tips

A house fire can be one of the scariest perils a Florida homeowner can face. House fires are a major cause of injury and death at home, and young children and the elderly are most at risk. It only takes a few minutes for a small flame to become a major fire. Let these fire prevention tips help keep your family safe.

How common are house fires? In 2021, according to U.S. Fire Administration estimates, there were 353,500 residential fires, 2,840 deaths, 11,400 injuries, and nearly 9 billion dollars in fire losses.

The most common causes of accidental house fires include cooking mishaps; electrical fires (due to faulty wiring or appliances, overloaded circuits, and so on); fires started by heat sources such as space heaters or fireplaces; and careless smoking (the leading cause of fire deaths). Here are some simple tips to help you prevent a deadly house fire.

Simple fire prevention basics

Cooking fires: Never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended. Keep stove free of grease buildup, and make sure flammable items like paper towels or oven mitts are kept well away from heat sources.

Electrical fires: Inspect electrical cords and replace any frayed ones. Don’t cover electrical cords with rugs or pinch them between other objects. Don’t use too many extension cords or multiple multi-outlet power strips because this can cause an electrical overload.

Heating fires: Keep objects at least three feet away from space heaters. Space heaters shouldn’t be used while you sleep, and should be equipped with safety features including an automatic shut off if they’re knocked over. Space heaters shouldn’t be the main source of heat in a home.

Maintain your fireplace and chimney properly—have chimney cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep and keep fireplace clear of excess ash.  Don’t burn trash, wrapping paper, or cardboard in your fireplace.

Smoking fires: Do not smoke in bed, or leave burning smoking materials unattended. Make sure all ashes are cool before disposing of them.

Safety and preparation

The most crucial safety precaution you can take is to equip your home with working smoke alarms on every level and in every bedroom. Smoke and poisonous gases are more deadly than the fire itself and can harm you before you even know there is a fire. Smoke alarms more than double your chance of surviving. Change batteries regularly, and replace the detectors themselves every 10 years.

You should also have at least one multi-purpose fire extinguisher which is capable of putting out several types of fires. Keep one in the kitchen, and additional ones in your home’s main gathering areas and garage.

(Click here to see more ways you can protect your home from fire and other disasters!)

In addition to these methods of preventing fires, you should also prepare your family in the event a fire does break out. Create an escape plan and practice it. Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear that sound. If they’re unfamiliar with the sound, a wailing smoke alarm could frighten them and cause them to hide rather than try to escape.

Keep bedroom doors closed when sleeping. Each bedroom should have two exits—a window and a door. Remind all family members to stay low—crawl on the floor to a safe exit—and to use the back of a hand to test if their exit door is hot.

Agree on a place to meet after getting out of the house. If necessary, draw a simple map easy for all to understand.

Be sure children know their last names and street address, and how to call 911 for help. If you don’t already know your neighbors, introduce yourself and your children, so your family will have someplace to go in case of emergency. Stress that no one must go back into the house to get toys, clothes, or pets. If pets are inside, let firefighters know immediately.

Homeowners insurance is there to help

If your home is damaged or destroyed by a fire, your homeowners insurance should help you repair or rebuild your home’s structure, as well as your garage, fence, or shed if it was damaged in the fire. Homeowners insurance also covers your personal property—clothing, furniture, and other personal belongings. And if you have to move out of your home while it’s being repaired, your homeowners insurance usually covers loss of use, also known as additional living expenses.

We know that getting the right homeowners insurance at an affordable price can be difficult in Florida’s volatile homeowners insurance market. Your home is your most valuable asset, so you want to be sure you’re properly insured. That’s why choosing an independent agency with many homeowners insurance markets, like L & M Insurance Group, can be a great way to compare policies to find the one that is just right for your situation. Give one of our agents a call today 813-672-4100 for a homeowners insurance quote. If you prefer, you may contact us online by clicking here.

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Buying Life Insurance Is an Act of Love

Hearts, flowers, candy, jewelry—it’s the season of love…and life insurance?

Buying life insurance doesn’t sound “romantic.” But it’s actually a practical and lasting way to show your love, because it protects and provides for your loved ones after you’re gone. (And it might even be cheaper than that piece of jewelry you have your eye on…)

This Valentine’s Day, give the gift of a secure financial future.

Who needs life insurance?

No one wants to think about how their loved ones will cope after they’re gone. Losing you would not only be emotionally devastating; it could also cost your loved ones a stable and comfortable future. If someone you love—a spouse or partner, children, parents—depends on you financially, you need life insurance.

In addition, if you’re an at-home caregiver, you need life insurance, too. How will those you leave behind handle the expenses of replacing all you do, whether it’s child or elder care, transportation, cleaning, or other household services.

A life insurance death benefit may help pay for such things as debt you leave behind (including your mortgage); medical, funeral and burial expenses; day-to-day living expenses for your family; and education expenses for your children.

Life insurance basics

Life insurance comes in two basic forms: term and permanent (also referred to as whole or universal). Term life insurance offers a specific death benefit for a specific time period (10, 20, or 30 years, for example.) If you want to make sure your family is financially taken care of until the kids are grown or your mortgage is paid off, term might be the right choice for you. Term life often has lower premiums than permanent life insurance, but it does not accumulate cash value.

Permanent insurance is designed for you to keep for a lifetime. Not only will it provide a death benefit, in time it can accumulate cash value you can borrow against, or you can cash in the policy if need be. Permanent insurance premiums are usually much higher than term life premiums, however.

Life insurance premiums are based on factors which include your age, gender, whether or not you smoke, any preexisting medical conditions, and your family history. Since the most important of these factors relate to your life expectancy, the younger and healthier you are, the cheaper your premiums will be. For example, according to NerdWallet, term life insurance rates for a 30-year-old man average $221 per year, and $187 per year for a 30-year-old woman. At age 40, average rates are $334 and $282, respectively.

How L & M Insurance Group can help

Buying life insurance can be easier and more affordable than you expect. At L & M Insurance Group, we can explain your life insurance options and help you find a policy that fits your budget and your goals. Let one of our life insurance professionals help you sort through policy features and types of plans. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or click here for an online life insurance quote.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency, offering a full array of insurance products to meet all your insurance needs. Give us a call today if you need homeowners insurance, car insurance, renters insurance, business insurance, or if you have questions about the coverage you need.

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Investing in Your Business: Tips for Buying a Company Vehicle

As your small business grows, you might consider purchasing a vehicle to use for business purposes. If you or an employee are often using your personal vehicle to drive to multiple job sites or transport clients, a company vehicle can make good sense.

Note: Any car, owned by an individual or a business, which is used for business purposes should be covered by a commercial auto policy. Personal auto policies will not cover business use. Please consult your insurance agent if you have any questions about whether or not your usage is considered “business use.”

Some pros and cons of the company vehicle

Buying a company car has several pros and cons. On the pro side, it’s one way to reinvest profits in your business, and you can often take advantage of tax benefits. A company car can be an asset, as well as a perk for you or your employees.

You may find that a company car can help you project a professional image and provide reliable transportation. And a company vehicle can even provide advertising opportunities if you choose to add a sign or professional wrap to it.

On the con side, buying a company car can be a sizeable expense. Not only does it cost money to buy in the first place, you’ll also have additional costs to register and maintain the vehicle. With a dedicated company car available, you or your employees may find yourselves on the road more often, thus exposing your business to more liability should you be in an accident.

Tips for choosing a company vehicle

If you decide buying a company vehicle is right for you, just as you would when buying a car for personal use, take time to think through your needs, research potential vehicles, and determine your budget. Some questions to consider include:

Does it make more sense to lease or own?

Should you buy new or used? New usually costs more up front, but a used vehicle may have higher maintenance costs.

What type of vehicle will be best for your needs: sedan, SUV, van, or truck?

How will the vehicle be used? Making deliveries, driving between work locations, transporting clients?

Who will drive it?

How often will it be used?

What features are important to you, such as comfort, fuel economy, safety features, or a warranty?

What type of image does your business wants to project?

What will be the ongoing costs of owning and maintaining each possible company vehicle?

Tip: While you’re in the research stage, call your insurance agent to see how much commercial car insurance will cost for the vehicles you’re interested in. Some makes and models are expensive or hard to insure—don’t wait until you’ve bought the vehicle to find this out!

Call L & M Insurance Group for your commercial auto needs

Once you’ve decided on a vehicle, make sure you protect your investment with commercial auto insurance. Just like personal auto policies, commercial auto policies can cover liability, property damage, comprehensive and collision, coverage for injuries, and coverage for uninsured motorists. The policies do differ in some technical respects, so consult with an experienced insurance agent to discuss your options.

An independent insurance agency like L & M Insurance Group is a great place to start your search for the best commercial auto policy. We write with multiple commercial auto carriers and can help you compare rates and coverage options to suit your business needs. Please call one of our agents at 813-672-4100 or click here for an online quote. Our office is located in Riverview, and we also serve clients in Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, and surrounding communities.

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Simple Ways to Create a Home Inventory

In addition to the structure of your home, your Florida homeowners insurance also covers your belongings if they’re stolen or destroyed by a covered peril such as a house fire. But if you’re already stressed by a disaster, will you be able to remember what you own to make a claim? That’s why we recommend that you create a home inventory of your belongings. (It’s also a good idea to create a home inventory if you rent—renter’s policies also cover personal belongings.)

A detailed home inventory will not only make it easier to file a claim—it can also help you qualify for tax breaks or disaster assistance following a major loss.

Home inventory options

Creating a home inventory can be as simple as a handwritten list, a printable home inventory checklist, or a spreadsheet (like this one from non-profit United Policy Holders).

Another good way to create an inventory or add documentation for a written inventory, is to use your smartphone to take photos and video of your possessions. Record everything in each room, including what’s inside cabinets and drawers. Take photos of serial numbers, bar codes, brand names, and receipts if you have them. Verbally describe what you own if you’re taking video, and include where and when you bought each item and how much it cost if you know that information.

Make sure to include high-ticket items like appliances, TVs and other electronics, jewelry, rugs, art or collectibles. You don’t need to be as detailed with smaller items like clothes or kitchen basics. Make note of them (“Three pairs of jeans,” etc.), but your insurance company may create a “bulk estimate” for contents of closets or cabinets.

If you store belongings in a self-storage unit, remember to document them, too. Your homeowners insurance may also cover these items against theft or fire. You may choose to use a smartphone app to create your home inventory. There are many home inventory apps, both free and paid, and some insurance companies offer their own apps or forms to help you create your home inventory. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has created a free home inventory app that does not collect personal information. Check the privacy policy of any home inventory app you plan to use if you’re concerned about if and how your personal information might be collected and used.

If all this seems overwhelming, start slow. Record recent purchases (maybe a special holiday gift?), or choose one room to document at a time. Even a partial inventory will be helpful in case of a loss.

Storing and updating your home inventory

If you have a paper home inventory, keep a copy of it with other important documents in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box, and store a copy with a trusted friend or family member. Back up digital home inventory files on the cloud or to an external drive. Upload photos and video to a cloud-based service or email it to yourself.

Also remember to update your home inventory when you make a major purchase—and at least once a year, review it to see if anything has changed.

Review your homeowners insurance coverage

After documenting your possessions with a home inventory, review your homeowners insurance coverage to see if it continues to meet your needs. Check your homeowners or renters insurance declarations page to see what the limit is for your contents coverage. Standard homeowners insurance may limit coverage amounts on certain items, but you can add coverage for many of those items if you need to, usually for a nominal amount.  Also check to see if your contents coverage is replacement cost rather than actual cash value (the value of your items, less depreciation).

If you need homeowners or renters insurance, give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 (click here to contact us online). L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency, partnering with multiple homeowners insurance companies. We can help with all your insurance needs, from homeowners and auto, to business or investor insurance, and even life insurance. Our agents will be happy to discuss your insurance needs and help you find a policy right for you.  

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’Tis the Season…for Holiday Scams

The holiday season may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also the time of year that holiday scammers ramp up their efforts to separate you from your money. During the holidays, there are seasonal spikes in online shopping, bargain hunting, mailing packages, and charitable giving. This heightened activity can make it easier for scammers to catch you when you’re not paying full attention.

How big a problem is holiday scamming? In 2022, the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3) received complaints from nearly 12,000 victims, reporting losses of more than $73 million during the holiday season. (And that statistic only counts scams that were reported to that specific agency.)

Here are some of the things to watch out for, and a few tips to help you avoid being a victim of a holiday scam.

Most common holiday scams

Fake ads and websites. When shopping online, beware of bogus social media ads that may take you to fake websites. These websites often offer deals that sound too good to be true, but in reality, they can steal personal information like your credit card numbers, or install malware on your computer.

Watch for spelling errors, poor grammar, and slightly “off” URLs (like “amozan” rather than “amazon”), poor quality images, and fake-sounding reviews. Also use caution when scanning online marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Nextdoor for good deals on holiday gifts.

If you want to safely shop a smaller, less well-known retailer or check out an offer you’ve found, type “[retailer name]” plus “scam” into your search engine to see if it’s legit.

Charity scams. If you want to share your generosity with a charity, make sure your donation is actually going to the charity, not a scammer. Be cautious with requests for money, especially if it’s a charity you’re not familiar with. If you hear of a cause you’d like to help, go directly to their website for donation options. You can also check Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to see if the organization is legitimate.

Phishing emails. Your inbox is probably bulging with “special holiday offers”—but before you click on any links, make sure that email is really from the company it says it’s from. “Phishing” emails look like they come from companies you trust, but they actually come from scammers. Don’t click links embedded in the email. Go directly to the company’s website if you want to see if a deal mentioned is real.

Fake delivery emails or texts. You may receive an email or a text message claiming you have a package that can’t be delivered, asking you to click a link to provide more information, or to pay a fee to have the package delivered. These links take you to a website designed to steal your personal information and send it to scammers. FedEx, UPS, and the USPS will not request your social security number or credit card info to track a package.

Gift card schemes. Gift cards make great presents, but be careful where you buy them. Avoid fake stores online or ads on sites like Craigslist for discounted gift cards, and buy your gift cards from reputable websites or retailers. Always keep your receipts and activation codes, too.

A few more tips to protect and prevent holiday fraud

Pay by credit card rather than debit card. Most credit card companies offer some protection against theft and fraud.

Don’t use public wi-fi to make purchases or access password protected sites. Hackers can break in and steal your info.

Create unique passwords for your accounts, especially financial accounts. Turn on multi-factor authentication for extra peace of mind.

Monitor your bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized activity.

Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into making a purchase, providing information, or donating to a charity. Take your time to check out the legitimacy of the offer. If you do find you’re the victim of a scam, report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center, the online payment service you used for the transaction, and your financial institution—it may be possible to stop or reverse the transaction.

These are only a few of the precautions you can take to protect yourself from holiday scams. For more information on protecting yourself from cybercrime, see “Four Ways to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime.”

L & M Insurance Group can help with all your insurance needs

If you own a business and want to know more about cyber insurance, one of L & M Insurance Group’s agents will be happy to help you. Please call us at (813) 672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

Don’t own a business? We also write all forms of personal insurance: auto, homeowners, renters, and more. Please consider L & M Insurance Group, your local independent insurance agency, for all your insurance needs. And have a safe and happy holiday season!

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Florida Drivers, Here’s What You Can Do About Rising Car Insurance Premiums

While skyrocketing home insurance rates in Florida have gotten all the press lately, Florida drivers are finding the cost of auto insurance is also steadily rising. Major insurers in Florida, such as Progressive, Geico, Liberty Mutual, and State Farm, have raised their rates up to 44 percent over the past year.

“But I’ve never had a claim!”

We hear this lament every day, and we feel your pain! The fact is, you may not have had a claim, but thousands of other Florida drivers have. In addition to the same economic and social inflation factors driving up car insurance all over the nation, Florida faces some additional unique factors, including:

How can Florida drivers save on auto insurance premiums?

Auto insurance companies base their premiums on a number of factors, including the age and gender of the drivers, driving records, address where the vehicle is kept, and how much driving you do. But there are some things you can do to ensure you’re getting the best possible car insurance rate for your needs.

The first and most obvious one is keeping your driving record clean. In addition to a safe driving discount, ask about any other discounts available, such as good student (if you have teen drivers). (Sometimes “bundling” auto and home insurance policies will save you money—and sometimes not. An L & M Insurance Group agent will help you figure out what’s right for you.)

Shop for a better rate at renewal—at least once a year. Compare quotes from at least three insurers.

Before you add or change vehicles check with your insurance agent to find out what impact that will have on your car insurance. Certain makes and models can be very expensive or difficult to insure. To keep auto insurance premiums in check, when choosing a vehicle, opt for more “boring” versions with good safety records, like certain sedans or mini-vans.  

Pay your bill in full—some companies offer a five to 10 percent discount for paying your policy in full. You may also receive a small discount if you set your policy up on autopay.

Some people choose to drop comprehensive and collision coverage or raise deductibles if their auto insurance is too expensive. There are some situations where this is appropriate, but remember that if you do that, you’ll be responsible for paying for your own losses.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting the best price for your auto insurance is to work with an independent insurance agency like L & M Insurance Group. We partner with many auto insurance carriers and can compare the rates from multiple insurance companies for you. Click here to get an online auto insurance quote, or give us a call at (813) 672-4100. Our agents will be happy to help you find the best value for your insurance dollar. We’re located in Riverview, and also serve Brandon, Tampa, Valrico, Lithia, and nearby communities.  

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High Tech—and Affordable—Ways to Protect Your Home

With the cost of everything rising, from personal goods to homeowners insurance, it’s smart to look for ways to prevent loss before it happens. In our last post, we talked about ways to harden your home against damage. Today, let’s discuss some additional ways to protect your home using high tech and “smart” gadgets. These products are becoming more affordable all the time—and you might even find some of these included in Black Friday deals.

Water leak detector

Damage caused by a burst pipe or other water leak can cost thousands of dollars in repairs. If a leak goes undetected, you might have to rebuild walls, kill mold, and replace personal belongings damaged by water. Installing a leak detector is one way to stop that damage before it starts.

Leak detectors sense water leaks and alert you to the problem. Some can even automatically shut off water to your home if a leak is detected. These models are more expensive and need to be professionally installed, but if you’re often away from home for extended periods, they could be a great investment. Some are able to monitor water flow in pipes to detect a leak behind your walls, saving you money on your water bill as well as alerting you to a leak.

Ting

Ting (no affiliation) is a small sensor device you plug into a wall socket and monitor using an app. Its purpose is to prevent home fires by detecting unique signals given off by tiny electrical arcs that are “precursors to imminent fire risks,” Bob Marshall, co-founder of Ting’s maker, Whisker Labs, told the Insurance Information Institute.

According to U.S. Fire Administration data from 2012-2021, while home fires from cooking and heating have decreased, electrical fires have increased by 11 percent during that time.

“Electrical fires are often the most devastating type of house fire. Ting monitors your electrical network for the main precursors to electrical fires, micro-arcs, and sparks that develop in faulty wires, loose connections, and faulty appliances or devices. These signals usually develop over weeks and months, so Ting is designed to provide you with advanced warnings to address these hazards, prior to the hazard starting an electrical fire,” according to information found on Ting’s website.

Ting is not a smoke detector—it doesn’t alert you if a fire has started. What it does do is help to prevent an electrical fire from starting in the first place.

Some homeowners insurance companies offer Ting as a benefit to their clients, but if yours doesn’t, you can buy the device yourself and subscribe to Ting’s monitoring service on your own. Click here to learn more about Ting.

Smoke alarm

Most of us already have smoke alarms installed, but newer models have more features like voice alerts and flashing lights. Smart alarms offer text messaging so even if you’re not home you can be notified if the unit senses smoke. Some alarms must be wired into your electrical system, so you may need to hire someone to install them.

Video doorbell camera

Using live video and audio connected to an app on your phone, a video doorbell camera lets you see who’s at your door, even if you’re not home. Thieves often ring the doorbell to see if anyone is home, so being able to see and talk to someone at your door can be a deterrent to both break-ins and package theft.

Peace of mind

Installing these high-tech products can help you improve your family’s safety as well as prevent or reduce damage to your home. To add to your peace of mind, make sure you also have the best homeowners insurance coverage for your needs. This is where L & M Insurance Group can help. We are an independent insurance agency with more than 30 years of experience serving the insurance needs of Tampa, Brandon, Riverview and surrounding communities. We offer a wide range of choice of insurance carriers, and we’ll help you find the one that is right for you. Please call 813-672-4100 for a homeowners insurance quote, or click here to contact us online.

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Fall Is the Perfect Time to “Harden” Your Home

We’ve weathered another hurricane season in the Tampa Bay area. It’s always a relief when we escape major damage. But even though hurricane season is over, home disasters can happen at any time. For instance, home fires increase and are more severe during the winter holiday season. Flooding, fires, wind, and water damage are also possible at any time of year.

Before you get too comfortable, in addition to making sure your Florida homeowners insurance is up to date, why not take some time to strengthen (or “harden”) your home against the most common perils of wind, water, and fire? Of course, homeowners insurance is there to help you recover from disaster, but there are things you can do to lessen the extent of the damage. When we talk about “hardening your home,” we’re referring to ways to improve your home that make it less likely to be severely damaged by a peril such as wind, water, or fire.

Now that you likely don’t have to worry about an impending hurricane, you can take your time to shop for the best prices for any home improvements you make. Some home improvements may even save you money on your homeowners insurance!

(Check with your insurance company to see if any discounts on your homeowners insurance are available when you take steps to harden your home against loss.)

Water

Water damage is one of the most common homeowners claims, and is very costly to repair. To be covered, water damage must be “sudden and accidental”—such as a burst pipe or overflowing appliance. It can’t be due to lack of maintenance. Make sure you regularly inspect and maintain appliances and plumbing.

One great way to protect your home from water damage is to install a leak detector. By alerting you to a leak, leak detectors can keep a minor problem from becoming a major one. Some can even shut off water to your home.

What about flood damage? Coverage for flooding is not included in a standard homeowners insurance policy. You’ll need a separate flood policy if you need flood coverage. Click here for a flood insurance quote.

Wind

Strong winds, not just hurricanes, can damage your roof or send debris flying into your windows. Install wind mitigation features such as storm-resistant shutters, hurricane clips, and impact-resistant windows and doors. Keep trees trimmed and make sure limbs aren’t hanging over your roof or screen enclosure.

Florida homeowners take note: Certain items used to harden your home against hurricanes—impact-resistant windows, doors and garage doors—are exempt from sales tax until June 30, 2024.

What else can you do?

We realize some of these home hardening ideas require professional installation or may be too expensive for some of our clients. There are still ways you can help protect your home. Make sure your smoke detectors are working and have fresh batteries. Install items like deadbolt locks, surge protectors, and gutter guards. Install an alarm system. If your smoke detectors and alarm system are monitored, you may be able to get a small discount on your homeowners insurance.

(See “Fall Maintenance for Your Florida Home” for more ways to protect your home.)

Even though Florida homeowners insurance is there to protect you in case of a major loss, no one wants to go through the hassle of living through the repairs. Maintaining and upgrading these areas of your home may save you money and headaches in the future. Please call an L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100 if you need a quote for homeowners insurance. If you prefer to contact us online, please click here.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency in Riverview, FL, and we write personal insurance such as homeowners and auto, as well as commercial auto, business insurance, and more. Please give us a chance to help you with all your insurance needs!

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Make the Most of Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period

You’ve probably seen those TV ads urging Medicare recipients to call about Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare Part C, and talking about the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Some of their promises sound too good to be true. Should you consider a Medicare Advantage plan? Medicare Advantage plans can be a good option for many—in fact, according to AARP, in 2023 more than half of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.

The AEP, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, is the perfect time to examine your current Medicare coverage, note any changes taking place in the upcoming year, and see what other options are available to you. Changes you make now take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

But before you call that 800 number, why not call someone you know and trust—like local independent agency L & M Insurance Group? Read on for more information about Medicare Advantage plans and more!

Is a Medicare Advantage plan right for you?

There are two ways you can receive your Medicare benefits: through original Medicare or through Medicare Advantage. Original Medicare consists of Parts A (hospital coverage) and B (medical coverage). Many people also enroll in a standalone Part D prescription drug coverage policy.

Medicare Advantage plans consist of parts A and B and often Part D. These plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are similar to the managed care plans you may already be familiar with through your employer. They’re often HMOs or PPOs: you will need to see providers in the plan’s network or pay a much higher copay or risk not being covered at all. Most of these are regional networks, so if you’re a snowbird who lives up north during the summer, you probably won’t have in-network options for your non-emergency healthcare. You will likely need referrals for specialized care and preapproval before certain treatments are covered. Some say that denials of coverage are more frequent than with original Medicare. However, through the careful management of care, a Medicare Advantage plan can often cost you less out-of-pocket and sometimes include coverage for dental, vision, and hearing, which original Medicare does not.

The AEP is one of the only times you have to change the way you receive your Medicare benefits. During this period, you have several options:

Choosing between Medicare and Medicare Advantage

  • Change from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Medicare Part C)
  • Change Medicare Advantage plans
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to original Medicare

If you’re happy with your current choice, you can stay with it as long as it is still being offered—just be sure to check if there are any changes that affect your coverage to the plan you’re currently enrolled in. You should have received an Annual Notice of Change listing any upcoming changes. Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare drug plans may change what they cover, their costs, and their provider networks from year to year.

Health care costs can eat up your retirement savings, so carefully consider your health and financial situation. Someone with a health history of chronic disease that requires expensive prescriptions will likely need a different plan than someone who sees his or her doctor once a year for a physical.

Questions to consider when choosing a plan during Annual Open Enrollment

  • Have you received a new diagnosis or started taking a new medication?
  • Did you change doctors?
  • Can you afford the costs (copays, deductibles, etc.) that come with your current coverage?
  • Does your prospective plan include your doctor in network?

Find out more from L & M Insurance Group

There is a lot to sort through during the AEP, but it’s worth taking the time to review your health care coverage to see if it still meets your needs. If you’d like help understanding your Medicare options, why not have a trusted insurance professional help you? In addition to providing Medicare Advantage plans through companies like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, if you’re staying with original Medicare, L & M Insurance Group can also help you with a supplemental (“Medigap”) policy or a Medicare prescription drug plan. Call us at (813) 672-4100, or click here to contact us online.  

For more information, see the 2024 Medicare & You Handbook.

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Four Ways to Protect Yourself from Cyber Crime

Between work projects, ordering groceries, paying bills, and keeping in touch with friends on social media, most of us spend a lot of time online. While the Internet can make life so much more convenient, it can also expose us to cyber criminals trying to steal our money or our personal information.

Reducing the chance that you’ll be impacted by cybercrime doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In honor of Cyber Security Awareness Month, here are four ways you can stay cyber safe, courtesy of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Follow these procedures at home and at work. And see below if your small business needs cyber insurance!

Choose strong passwords and use a password manager.  Avoid using simple passwords like 12345, or personal details like birthdays or pets’ names. This information is easy for hackers to discover, leaving you vulnerable to breaches. CISA recommends passwords be long (at least 16 characters), random (mix letters, numbers, and symbols, or use a memorable phrase), and unique—one for every account.

Worried about remembering all those passwords? Use a password manager—a program that stores your passwords and automatically fills them in when you log on. Then all you need to remember is your password for the password manager! Check Consumer Reports, PC Mag, or CNET for advice and recommendations for a reputable password manager.

    Use multifactor authentication (MFA), also known as two-factor authentication or two-step authentication. This means whenever you log in, you’ll be required to have a second method of proving who you are—perhaps a numeric code sent to you by text or email, an authenticator app or use of biometrics (fingerprint or face recognition). Often, you’ll find this option under Account Settings & Privacy or similar. Turn it on every chance you get, especially for banking info, online purchases or bill paying, email, social media.

    Recognize and report phishing. Phishing refers to when criminals attempt to access your computers or personal information by getting you to open harmful emails, links, or attachments. The emails or links often appear to be from someone or some organization that you know and trust. They often use urgency and/or an appeal to emotion as tactics to get you to click. Watch for incorrect or shortened email addresses, links or URLs (“amazan” instead of amazon, for instance). They may also request personal or financial information. DO NOT click on any links or attachments including the “unsubscribe” button. Report them as spam, block the sender, and delete the message.

    Keep software updated. This is the simplest of all the tips. Check for updates regularly when you log on, or, better yet, sign up for automatic updates. Updates often include security patches for known weaknesses, as well as features to improve performance and fix bugs. If you choose to download updates yourself, make sure they’re from your device’s app store. Don’t respond to random pop-up windows on websites you visit.

    Need cyber insurance?

    If you own a small business that uses or stores the personal information of clients, you should consider buying cyber insurance. Cyber insurance protects your liability in case of data breach, loss or corruption of data, identity theft, cyber extortion, and more. It’s one more way you can protect your business from the unexpected.

    Please call an L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about cyber insurance, or any of your personal or commercial insurance needs. L & M Insurance Group is a full-service, independent insurance agency, serving Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, Valrico and surrounding communities. (Click here if you’d prefer to contact us online.)