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Medicare Open Enrollment: It’s Time to Review Your Coverage Options

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, the annual fall Medicare open enrollment period (Oct. 15- Dec. 7) is the perfect time to review your Medicare coverage options to see if they are still right for you. If you currently have original Medicare and would like to try a Medicare Advantage plan, or if you’d like to change Medicare Advantage plans, this is also the time to do it. Any change you make will take effect beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

A quick reminder: Medicare Advantage plans combine Part A (hospital coverage), Part B (medical coverage), and usually Part D (prescription drug coverage) of original Medicare. The plans, offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare, may also contain additional coverage, such as vision or dental.

To help you decide which option is best for you, think about what medical services and treatments you need—do you take prescription medication, or need vision or dental care, for example? What about specialized care or physical therapy? Once you know what types of benefits you need, you can compare plans to see which one is right for you.

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If you need help deciding which Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Supplement is right for you, please call us at 813-672-4100

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Due to COVID-19, another increasingly popular Medicare Advantage plan benefit you might want to consider is “telehealth”—the ability to consult with medical professionals virtually without leaving your home. More and more plans are offering this now.

Whether you are signing up for Medicare Advantage for the first time, or are considering renewing your current plan, here are some things to consider:

  • Are your doctors and preferred hospital part of your plan’s network of providers?
  • What will your out-of-pocket costs be? Can you afford the co-pays and deductible?
  • Do you need vision and dental benefits?
  • Does the plan cover you when you’re away from your primary residence? This is an important consideration for “snowbirds,” because some plans only offer emergency coverage if you’re away from home.

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Staying with original Medicare but concerned about out-of-pocket costs? Ask us about a Medicare Supplement (“Medigap”) plan.

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Medicare coverage can be confusing, so if you’d like to talk to a local agent, L & M Insurance Group is here to help. Let us work with you to find the Medicare option that best fits your situation. We offer plans from Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and others.  Please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

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

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Hurricane Preparation in the Age of COVID-19

The 2020 hurricane season started June 1, and we’ve already seen Tropical Storm Cristobal impact Louisiana and beyond. Even though many of us are already feeling stressed and anxious about the COVID-19 coronavirus, this is not the year to be blasé about preparing for a hurricane. This year more than ever before, it’s crucial to be as prepared as possible. Here are some suggestions for preparing for a hurricane in the age of COVID-19.

Emergency supplies

If you haven’t already done so, check your emergency supplies and use up or donate any items that will expire in the next few months. Take an inventory to be sure you have enough food, water, medicine, and other essential supplies (like toilet paper!) to keep your household going for at least three to seven days—and possibly more. (Click here for a list of items to have on hand.)

Allow more time than usual to collect your emergency supplies of food, water, and medicines. We are just now beginning to see grocery shelves refilling as we cautiously begin to go about our business in a more normal fashion. With social distancing measures in place, and some businesses closed or working reduced hours or at reduced capacity, we should not take for granted our ability to find what we need to shelter in place if a storm comes through the Tampa Bay area. At the same time, only buy what your family needs, so that others who are preparing will also be able to find what they need.

While you’re collecting your emergency supplies, minimize your possible exposure to the coronavirus by opting for at-home delivery or curbside pickup whenever possible. If you need or prefer to do your shopping in person, be sure to follow social distancing and other precautions recommended by the CDC. When collecting medications or prescriptions, limit in-person contacts in pharmacies by calling in your prescriptions, using the drive thru, or signing up for at-home delivery.

Collect copies of essential paperwork, such as medical records, insurance policy information, and personal identification. Keep them in a waterproof container, and remember to take them with you if you need to evacuate.

Will you need to evacuate?

Have several ways to receive weather alerts for approaching storms, and follow local authorities’ guidance about when and where to shelter. Find out whether or not you live in an evacuation zone, and if you do, begin planning where you will go if forced to evacuate. Designated shelters may have changed because of COVID-19, and if you plan to evacuate to a friend or family member’s home, be prepared to take special precautions to protect yourself and others from spreading the coronavirus. If you live in a well-built house not in an evacuation zone, your safest place is probably your home.

Remember to make a plan for your pets. Not all shelters accept animals. Make sure you have plenty of food and medications for your pets as well.

If you are planning to evacuate, be sure to include items to protect your family from catching or spreading the coronavirus in your “go kit.” These items include face masks (two per person), hand sanitizer, and bar or liquid soap. Remember, children under the age of 2 should not wear a face mask, nor should anyone who is experiencing difficulty breathing.

If you must go to a shelter, try to maintain social distance between yourself and non-household members. Wash hands often and follow shelter instructions regarding face coverings. Try to avoid touching high touch items, such as doorknobs or handrails.

We at L & M Insurance Group sincerely hope our clients will be stay safe during the 2020 hurricane season. We share this information in order to remind you not to be complacent, especially since community conditions are different this year. Please give our office a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your insurance coverage during hurricane season (or any time!).

For more information:

https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/residents/public-safety/emergency-management/find-evacuation-information

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Five Reasons You Might Need an Umbrella Policy

You might think that if you have homeowners and auto insurance, you have enough insurance coverage in place to protect you financially if you’re responsible for an accident of some kind. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true. If you are sued because of an accident (car, trip and fall on your property, etc.), you may find your coverage isn’t adequate and you’re on the hook for a devastating payout.

That’s why purchasing an umbrella policy can be a smart move for many people.

What is an umbrella policy?

An umbrella policy is excess liability coverage that will protect you financially if you’re sued because of injury or property damage for which you’re responsible. This coverage is over and above what you carry through your personal auto or homeowners insurance. For example, say you’re in an auto accident and you’re deemed responsible in a lawsuit. The judgment is 900,000 and your insurance policy only pays up to 300,000 per accident—you ’re responsible for the remaining $600,000.

You can buy an umbrella policy in increments of $1 million dollars, and your goal is to purchase enough coverage to protect your net worth. Your L & M Insurance Group agent can help you determine how much coverage you need.

Who needs an umbrella policy?

If one or more of the following examples applies to you, you should consider purchasing an umbrella policy:

1. You have a swimming pool, trampoline, or play equipment in your yard. These “attractive nuisances” can be great fun for you and your family, but can pose accidental danger for house guests, visitors, even neighborhood kids who sneak onto your property without your permission. If someone is injured using one of these, your homeowners insurance liability limits may not be high enough to cover damages from a resulting lawsuit. In addition, some homeowners policies don’t cover these items at all.

2. You have assets that could be lost in a lawsuit. Assets such as savings, investment properties, second homes, and non-retirement investment accounts can be at risk if someone sues you.  And even if you don’t have much now, a lawsuit can wipe out not just your current assets, but also your future earnings if your wages are garnished.

3. You own a dog. Sad but true, man’s best friend can also cause you financial problems. If your dog bites someone or knocks them down and injures them, you could be at risk for a lawsuit. (Click here to learn more about dog bite liability coverage.)

4. You spend a lot of time on the road. If you drive a lot, especially during rush hour, you have a higher chance of being in an accident.

5. You entertain frequently. Again, with more people visiting your home, your exposure to a possible lawsuit if someone is injured on your property is higher.

An umbrella policy can be a great choice for financial peace of mind, and most policies cost only a few hundred dollars per year.  If you’d like to know more about umbrella policies, or any other insurance products, L & M Insurance Group would love to help. We’re an independent Florida insurance agency located in the Tampa Bay area, serving Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, and surrounding communities.  Call us at 813-672-4100 to learn more, or if you prefer, reach us via email by clicking here.

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Florida Drivers, Remember Texting While Driving Is Against the Law

Texting while driving has been illegal in Florida since 2013, but law enforcement could only ticket you for it if they pulled you over for another violation. Not anymore. The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law went into effect July 1, but officers have been issuing warnings rather than ticketing drivers during a grace period which ends Dec. 31. After that, they will issue tickets.

What is/is not allowed

The law forbids texting, emailing and instant messaging—anything that involves you manually typing multiple characters into your phone.

You may still use your phone or GPS for navigation, but be sure to type in the address before you start driving. Use the voice feature so that you don’t have to look at your device while you’re on the road.

Hands-free requirements for certain zones

Another change is that while it’s still legal to talk on your hand-held phone while driving (though it’s not recommended), the new law prohibits using a hand-held phone if you are in a school zone or construction zone. If you use a hands-free device, you may still talk on your phone in one of these zones.

Your rights

If you are stopped by law enforcement for texting, the police officer must inform you of your right to decline a search of your phone. He or she may not search your phone without a warrant, confiscate your phone while waiting for a warrant, or coerce you into allowing him or her to search your phone.

We all know how dangerous distracted driving is. In 2016, Florida had nearly 50,000 accidents caused by distracted driving (233 of which resulted in death), according to statistics cited by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And, of course, texting is not the only thing that can distract you from your driving. We at L & M Insurance Group encourages you to abide by this law, as well as minimize any other activity that could distract you while you’re behind the wheel. Not only will you be more likely to avoid an accident that could harm you or others, you’ll also avoid getting ticketed for a violation that could raise your insurance rates.

Have a happy and safe holiday season! 

L & M Insurance Group is a locally owned, independent insurance agency, serving Riverview, Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding communities. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or email us if you need any assistance with your personal or business insurance needs.

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Builder’s Risk Policy Basics

There are some instances when a standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover your property, such as when you’re building a home from the ground up, or you own a vacant property undergoing renovations. What happens if your property burns to the ground, or incurs another type of serious damage or loss? To protect your under-construction or renovation properties, you’ll need a builder’s risk policy.

What is a builder’s risk policy?

A builder’s risk policy provides insurance coverage for either residential or commercial buildings under construction or renovation. If you’re a homeowner, property investor, builder, or contractor building or remodeling a building, this is the policy you’ll need to protect your financial interest. You can purchase a policy for as short a term as one month, all the way up to a year, depending on how long you think the construction process will take. If the project doesn’t finish in the expected time, you can extend coverage. You can also cancel the policy if the building is finished before the end of the policy term.

Depending on what perils you choose to include, builder’s risk policies cover loss or damage at construction sites, including building materials being used to remodel or complete ground-up construction of a building. You can buy a builder’s risk policy with varying deductibles and levels of coverage—your L & M Insurance Group agent can help you decide what policy features are best for you.

What builder’s risk doesn’t cover

Builder’s risk policies do not typically cover liability for accidents or injuries on the construction site that are related to the construction itself. Also, a builder’s risk policy is different from a vacant dwelling policy, which is just what it sounds like: a policy that covers your home or investment property when it is vacant, but not under construction.

L & M Insurance Group has many years of experience helping clients in Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, Gibsonton and surrounding areas choose the right insurance coverage to protect their financial interests. We understand the insurance needs of property investors as well as private individuals, and would love to help you with all your property insurance needs. Please contact us via phone at 813-672-4100 or click here to email us.

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Tips for a Safer Thanksgiving

As you prepare to gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, L & M Insurance Group wants to thank you for your business, and wish you a happy holiday. We also want to remind you of a few Thanksgiving safety precautions to take to ensure that you also have a safe holiday. Thanksgiving can be a surprisingly perilous day.

While your car and homeowners/renters insurance should protect you financially if you face one of these Thanksgiving mishaps, we hope you will never have to spend any of your holiday time making a claim. Here’s a look at the more common accidents that happen on Thanksgiving, and some tips for avoiding them.

Car accidents

Millions of motorists hit the roads during the four-day Thanksgiving break. Unfortunately, many of them will be distracted or driving while under the influence of alcohol. The National Safety Council estimates that 417 people will die in traffic accidents during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, and 47,500 injuries will occur. If you’re driving to a Thanksgiving celebration, take extra care. Buckle those seat belts, put away your phone. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving celebrations, make sure you designate a driver, or use a ride service. If you’re the host, don’t be shy about arranging a ride home for a guest who’s had too much to drink. 

Fires

On Thanksgiving Day, cooking fires are three times more common, do more property damage, and claim more lives than on any other day of the year. Unattended cooking is usually the culprit, so keep a close eye on the stove and oven when they’re in use. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, and know how to use it. Check the batteries in smoke detectors and make sure they’re functioning before the festivities start.

Candles left burning are another source of home fires. Be sure to blow them all out before leaving the house or going to sleep. And never leave children unattended in a room with a lit candle.

Falls

To prevent a slip or trip and fall, keep all high traffic areas clear. Watch out for kids playing, toys, purses, or bags where people will be walking. Check handrails for sturdiness, and warn guests of any slippery spots on your driveway or walkways.

Pet problems

Holiday parties can be stressful to pets, and cause even friendly ones to bite or scratch. If you have pets, for both their safety and that of your guests, provide a safe and quiet place for them to retreat while you have company. A dog bite or cat scratch can quickly spoil a party. (Click here for more information on dog bite liability.)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at L & M Insurance Group. We thank you for allowing us to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to call (813-672-4100) or email us if you have questions about your insurance needs. We’re here to help.

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Distractions and Driving Don’t Mix

We’ve all done it. We hear the telltale ping or ring of our cell phone while driving. Surely it will be OK just to sneak a peek at the screen to see who is trying to reach us? Maybe even answer the phone?

Unfortunately, all too often it’s not OK. Instead of focusing our full attention on the road, we’re driving distracted.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,450 people were killed in 2016 in “distraction-affected” crashes—92 percent of all crash fatalities. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted driving.

Using a cell phone while driving increases crash risk, but phones aren’t the only things distracting us on the road. Eating or drinking, interacting with passengers (or pets), adjusting the radio, consulting navigation, and personal grooming (applying makeup, combing hair) all keep our full attention from being on our driving. Distracted driving is driving while doing any activity that takes full attention away from driving, whether it takes our eyes off the road, our hands off the steering wheel, or our minds off our driving. Texting is the worst thing we can do, since it involves all three of those things. Sending or reading a text for even five seconds at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with our eyes closed!

Many states already ban hand-held cell phone use and texting. The Florida Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit drivers from texting, reading data, or talking on hand-held devices. Texting while driving is now only enforced as a secondary offense when a driver has been stopped for another infraction.

Whether or not the bill passes, for our safety and the safety of others on the road, we should decide to put aside all distractions and keep our full attention on our driving. We also need to share this information with our teens, some of the worst offenders when it comes to phone use while driving.

So the next time a call or text comes in while you’re driving, do the right thing and keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road until you get to your destination, or you can pull off the road safely to check your phone. We promise we will, too.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency. Our staff has been serving eastern Hillsborough County, Tampa, Riverview, Lithia, Valrico, Seffner, Bloomingdale and surrounding areas for more than 25 years. We represent more than 15 quality auto insurance companies, and strive to provide our customers with the best coverage at the most competitive rates. If you need help with your auto insurance, please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or request an insurance quote by clicking here.

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Show Your Home Some Love With These Maintenance Tasks

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and love is in the air! Once you’ve taken care of your significant other, why not show your home some love? Maintaining your home can save you money, hassles—and maybe even a homeowners insurance claim!

You don’t have to do a major remodel to improve your home. Here are a few areas where a little loving attention will do the most good.

First, see your home with fresh eyes. Walk through your entire home, noting areas of wear, safety issues, and so on. Don’t forget your attic, deck, patio, porch, or lanai. Take pen and paper, and jot down any areas that need attention.

For instance, are there signs of leaks, such as discoloration on walls, floors, or ceilings? What about around toilets, tubs, and sinks? Is a faucet dripping or a toilet running?

Even minor leaks can do major damaged, and unlike a sudden accident, such as a burst pipe, gradual damage caused by neglected maintenance is not covered under homeowners insurance policies.

Check Fire Safety Items

Check and replace fire safety items. Change batteries in smoke detectors, and every 10 years, replace the smoke detectors themselves.

Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly. Click here for instructions on how to properly inspect your fire extinguisher. (And remember, only use a fire extinguisher on a small, contained fire. In many cases, it’s more important for everyone to get out of the house and let the fire department handle a fire.)

Drains and Pipes

Keep drains and pipes clear. If water drains slowly from sinks or tubs, try using vinegar and baking soda, or commercial drain cleaner, to get things moving again. Don’t put things down the kitchen sink unless it’s equipped with a garbage disposal. In the bathroom, use traps in drains to keep hair from clogging the plumbing, and don’t use flushable wipes as these also cause plumbing backups.

Air Conditioning

Maintain your HVAC system. Replace air filters on an appropriate schedule, and have the unit cleaned and serviced according to manufacturer’s directions. These tasks improve air quality and help your unit operate more efficiently, as well as lessen the chance of a breakdown when it’s 90 degrees outside!

Check Large Appliances

Inspect and clean large appliances. This includes cleaning the dishwasher, which can become clogged with food particles or soap residue, resulting in dirtier dishes or even a breakdown. If your dishwasher has a filter, take it out and clean it. Run some white vinegar through a wash cycle, or use a commercial dishwasher cleaner.

Check dishwasher and washing machine hoses and replace if they’re cracked or worn.

Clean refrigerator coils.

Empty the dryer lint trap after every load, and periodically clean dryer exhaust vents in order to prevent fire.

Review Home Insurance Coverage

Review and update your insurance coverage if necessary. Are you receiving all available discounts? Have you made home improvements that have added value to your home? Did you replace your roof? Notify your L & M Insurance Group agent of any changes to your personal situation, such as marriage or divorce.

L & M Insurance Group is Here to help

Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have a question about how a home improvement project might affect your homeowners insurance, or if you need a quote. Happy Valentine’s Day to you—and your home!

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We Can Insure That! Let L & M Insurance Group Help With Specialty Insurance Coverage

You already know L & M Insurance Group can get you great deals on your homeowners, car, and business insurance (and if you don’t, contact us today for a free quote!). But what if you buy a recreational vehicle, boat, or personal watercraft? Where should you go for insurance? Wonder no longer—we can insure that!

We want to be your one-stop insurance agents. Not only can we insure your home, car, and business, we can also provide specialty insurance coverage.

What is specialty insurance coverage?

Simply put, specialty insurance coverage is insurance for special or unique items or situations not typically covered under a standard home or auto insurance policy. This might include insurance coverage for classic cars, boats, ATVs, motorcycles, RVs, or personal watercraft.

In addition, important coverages such as flood insurance and umbrella policies can also be considered specialty insurance.

Protection from financial loss

The purpose of any insurance is to provide protection from financial losses—both physical losses and liability losses. Once you have the basics covered—insurance on your home and vehicles appropriate for your situation—you should consider what losses you might incur that would not be covered by those policies. What assets do you want to cover—like boats, RVs, and other “toys,” for example? You may need flood insurance, since flood damage is not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, or an umbrella policy to protect your financial assets in case of a lawsuit.

This might sound confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. As an independent agency, L & M Insurance Group has been serving Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Tampa and nearby communities for more than 10 years. We represent dozens of financially stable, A-rated insurance companies, and we will be happy to advise you in choosing the right specialty insurance coverage for your needs. Please call 813-672-4100, contact us, or visit www.landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

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Hot Tips for Staying Cool—Don’t Let Summer Heat Make You Sick  

We all love to play outdoors during the summer—the kids are out of school, we have more time to enjoy our toys and take vacations. But while you’re having fun in the sun, remember to take some common sense precautions during summer’s hot, humid days.

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service, resulting in hundreds of deaths every year. Here in Florida, we especially need to be mindful of the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is considered along with air temperature. It’s not uncommon for us to have “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees during the summer. And temperatures that high can cause heat-related illness.

Anyone can be affected by the heat, but children younger than 2, people over 65, and those suffering from chronic disease or mental illness are most susceptible to heat-related illness. Here are some common-sense reminders to help you and your loved ones stay cooler and avoid heat-related illness this summer:

Heat Safety Tips At Home

During times of high heat, stay in air conditioning as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning or it’s not working, find air-conditioned places you can go for relief during the hottest hours of the day, such as a library, theater, or mall.

Keep shades or curtains closed on windows that receive direct sun, or install awnings or window tinting. This will help keep your home cooler.

Provide shade and plenty of cool water for pets outside, and check on them frequently to make sure they’re not suffering from the heat. During the hottest times of the day, bring them inside if possible.

Heat Safety Tips Outside

Even though it’s cooler inside, you probably won’t want to stay there all summer long! Here are some tips for staying safe when you venture outside:

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Schedule most outdoor activity, whether play, exercise, or work, for the cooler morning and evening hours.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. If no shade is available, limit outdoor activity to 15-20 minutes at a time during times of highest heat and humidity.
  • Take frequent breaks, and use the buddy system when working or exercising outdoors in high heat.
  • Stay hydrated. Sip cool water or a sports drink every 20 minutes. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.
  • NEVER leave children or pets alone in an enclosed vehicle. It only takes a few minutes for temperatures to reach a dangerous level.

Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Even if you take precautions, you’ll still want to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; and exhaustion. If you or someone you’re with shows these symptoms, move into a cooler environment, remove or loosen as much clothing as possible, and apply cold, wet towels to the skin. Every 15 minutes drink four ounces of a cool sports drink, juice, milk, or water, to replace lost electrolytes.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency, and occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and begins to stop functioning. Symptoms include very high body temperature, red skin which may be either dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures. If you suspect you or someone else has heatstroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Attempt to cool the body quickly by immersing it up to the neck in cold water if possible. You may also spray the person with cold water, or cover him or her with towels soaked with ice water, changing the towels frequently.

By taking proper precautions, you and your family can enjoy all the summer fun the Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, and Gibsonton areas have to offer. Remember, L & M Insurance Group is here for all your insurance needs. Whether you need to protect your home, car, boat, or business, just give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online.

 

For more information on heat safety, visit:

The Red Cross

National Weather Service

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention