Monthly Archives: January 2014

How Does The New York City Sidewalk Law Affect Homeowners?

sidewalklawTo paraphrase a famous movie, “Yes, Virginia there is a sidewalk law in New York City and it is enforced!”

Property owners, lessees, tenants and occupants of New York City property are all subject to the provisions of a law passed in 2003 governing sidewalks in the City of New York. So what does the law say? Previously, the concrete located between the curb and the front of most commercial and multifamily residential buildings was considered the responsibility of the City. So, if someone fell and claimed injuries, they could make a claim against the City. This law, transfers that responsibility to you! Failure to comply with the provisions of this law can result in fines, 10 days in prison or both. Also, part of the law mandates that a property owner must keep liability insurance in force to pay for injuries due to snow covered, icy, broken or defective sidewalks. Failure to keep insurance in full force and effect might result in the City paying on your behalf, but make no mistake that they will bill you for any resulting expense as part of your taxes for the next fiscal year. However, this law governs a lot more than snow removal as is commonly thought.

Did you know that the law even includes a specific time constraint for removal of ice, snow, dirt, and debris? According to the law, you have four hours after snow stops falling, or after dirt is deposited on a sidewalk or in a gutter, for removal. The law even addresses snow and ice on a sidewalk that is so frozen that it can’t be removed without actually doing damage to the pavement. In such cases, the owner, lessee, tenant or occupant is expected to put down ashes, sand, sawdust or any other material as a temporary measure to remedy the condition until weather permits sidewalks to be thoroughly cleaned. Failure to comply with the law can result in fines of, no less than, $10 and no more than $150, imprisonment of up to ten days, or both. And, that is not all! If you chose to ignore this law, the city will step in and clean your property with the understanding that they will charge you the going rate for cleaning the city streets. The ensuing charges will be sent to the City Comptroller’s office and added to your annual taxes for the next fiscal year.

The purpose of the law is to shift the responsibility for accidents from the City to the property owner. Sidewalk defects including concrete laden with snow, ice and dirt or uneven and broken sidewalks cause countless injuries every year. While the law only applies to accidents occurring on or after September 15, 2003, to date it has been a boom for the City coffers.

Owners, who don’t maintain insurance for their premises, are in violation of the law. When there is no insurance, the City Comptroller pays the uncompensated medical expenses of an injured person and then goes after the property owner for reimbursement.

According to statistics, since the law has been in force, there has been a steady decline in the number of sidewalk related injury claims filed against the City. So it pays to know what your responsibilities are. Ignorance of your responsibilities can be very expensive. One way or another you will wind up paying should you fail to comply with this law.

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Will My Health Insurance Pay For Weight Loss Programs?

weightAbout 20% of Americans are currently on a diet according to NPD’s National Eating Trends. In these times of changing health insurance guidelines, the question is often posed as to whether or not insurance carriers will reimburse consumers for their participation in weight loss programs. The quick answer is that “it depends upon your carrier and the health incentives provided by your plan.” You didn’t really think it was going to be a “yes” or “no” answer did you? Let me explain.

It would certainly make sense that a lifestyle based on a healthy diet, good nutrition, and an exercise program are all elements that contribute to better health, increased stress reduction, and greater longevity . In addition, the medical community touts preventative medicine in combination with diet and exercise as a means of thwarting major diseases such as cancer, heart disease, type two diabetes and other serious illnesses.

Since most weight loss programs require a doctor’s permission before starting, the introduction of a plan for good nutrition, counseling and monitoring of food intake, physical activity and a food plan during, as well as a maintenance plan afterward, it would make sense that every insurer should assist the consumer in paying for their chosen weight loss program. However, this is not a standard practice and varies depending upon your insurer, your plan and the yearly allowances for healthy lifestyle incentives. Some insurers do actually pay toward health club memberships while others offer discounts per plan year and still others provide a single lifetime benefit.

While commercial weight loss programs such as those seen advertised on TV can be accessed online, at work or via attendance at weekly meetings, some carriers have their own online portal which provides resources for assisting their members in his or her efforts at weight loss.

Regardless of the specific plan providing your health insurance coverage, and the program you chose to support a healthy lifestyle, to find out what reimbursements are available to you, it is always best to consult your policy before you make the choice.

However, even if your individual health insurance coverage may not cover this, don’t let that affect your determination to participate in a weight loss program because you are definitely worth it!

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Why Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?

past-dueRecently a friend of mine hosted a dinner party for six women, nowin their mid-sixties, who had previously been married. We get together once a month to play cards, go to the theater, or just sit around and have a grand old time. Currently, all the women are alone, either by choice or circumstance, and the subject of Long-Term Care Insurance came up for discussion.

Needless to say, the conversation became somewhat heated amongst the women. Nobody likes to think about losing their independence and having to rely on others for assistance. However, in a time of increasing life spans, uncertain economic realities, minimal increases in social security and low interest on investments, it’s a reality most of us will have to face. My friend, Laura, whosehusband is presently residing in an assisted living facility, said that for her, this type of insurance had become a necessity rather than a luxury. Why?

Laura’s husband is now in his third year of residence in a facility at a cost of approximately $42,000 a year just for room and board. Add to this his need for continuing medical and prescription care, and the result is that the couple’s financial resources are quickly being drained. During their marriage, Laura just assumed that the money they had saved would take them into their “Golden Years” with some left over as an inheritance for their children. However, that will not be the case if this goes on much longer and Laura can’t help thinking about what will happen to her if she, too, needs continuing medical care in or out of a facility at some point in her life. My other friend, Amy, a lovely person with a devil-may-care attitude and not interested in details, suggested that Laura apply for Medicaid for her husband’s on going care. As with most people unfamiliar with the rules, her thinking might not provide a realistic solution to the problem of a family’s dwindling financial resources.

To qualify for Medicaid in most states, a healthy partner is allowed to maintain a house, a car, and in New York, maximum assets of $115,920, which includes any Social Security payments as of 2013. This cap on assets can be much less in other states. In addition, if neither spouse resides in the family home, not only is there a cap on the value of the home, but a written document must be prepared stating that one of the spouses has an intent to return to the family home. When you accept Medicaid in exchange for ongoing care, upon the death of the last surviving spouse, the proceeds from the sale of the home belong to Medicaid. You cannot leave it to your children. Basically, Medicaid is a program for people who have exhausted all other resources and have no way to pay for ongoing medical or nursing care. It is not ever an effective means of protecting assets acquired over a lifetime of hard work and financial sacrifice.

Therefore, in planning for retirement, Long-Term Care insurance is just another means of protecting the hard-earned assets of a lifetime. If you are in the midst of planning for your future, we strongly suggest that you discuss your concerns with your agent. Knowledge, after all, is power and the lack of knowledge might just render you powerless at a time in your life when that is the last thing you need.

By: Karen Skoler, CPCU

Will my Homeowners Policy cover my child who will be going away to college?

Q: Will my Homeowners Policy cover my child who will be going away to college?

A: MAYBE !!!
You may have SOME automatic property coverage to cover your child’s stuff in their dorm room
You may need to buy additional theft coverage
Be careful of those electronics – your policy may not cover those
Better call your agent right away to be sure you have the proper coverage

Does It Really Matter if I Pay My Insurance Premiums Late?

past-dueI remember an old sitcom about a family where money was tight and they had a lot of bills to pay. What did they do? Well, to buy some time, they sent their electric bill payment to the water company and the water bill payment to the electric company. Then they pretended they never received the gas bill by wadding up the bill, throwing it up in the air, thus buying themselves a few days. While pretty funny on TV, there are some real life consequences for late payments that aren’t too funny.

Paying your insurance premiums late on a regular basis can affect you negatively. How?

1. You May Be Required to Pay Your Entire Premium up-front

Each time an insurance company has to issue a Cancellation Notice, it costs them money to process this paperwork. Once they receive the payment they have to issue a Reinstatement Notice advising that payment has been received and there is no lapse in coverage. If the coverage was legally required insurance, such as Workers’ Compensation or Automobile Insurance, they also have to notify the regulatory agency so that the insured is not fined for any lapse in coverage. After numerous cancellations, some insurance carriers penalize customers by refusing to allow installments and requiring that the entire premium be paid up-front.

2. Insurance Companies are NOT Required to Reinstate a Policy

Did you know that in most states an insurance company is NOT required to reinstate a policy? While a carrier will usually reinstate, for clients that repetitively have Cancellation Notices, they can decide not to reinstate the policy and simply return your payment. The result is that you now have to find insurance elsewhere.

3. Your New Insurance Policy May Cost More

Now, since your policy was cancelled for non-payment of premium, most carriers when approached for a replacement policy, will check your past payment history. Since late payments invariably affect your credit score, you are likely to be offered coverage at a higher price. Some carriers refuse to offer quotes to insureds who have been cancelled for non-payment within the last three years!

So as you can see, it simply doesn’t pay to play the late-pay game with your insurance. If you are one that simply forgets to pay, you might consider signing up for “Electronic Funds Transfer” where the carrier will automatically transfer the funds from your bank account on a specified date. Either way, if you’ve had a few Cancellation Notices within the same policy period, discuss this with your agent so that you don’t suffer the consequences of late payments.

By Ray Alvarez, AAI, AIS

The Affordable Care Act – What is “Cost Sharing”?

Affordable_Care_Act_100413With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which took effect on 1/1/14, we now hear the constant mention of the term “cost sharing”. Many consumers of the new health insurance plans are unsure of what the term means and what payments actually constitute “cost sharing.”
Cost sharing is the payment any consumer contributes toward their health care based on the policy they’ve selected. These cost sharing payments include, but aren’t limited to:

• Deductibles
• Co-insurance
• Prescription deductible or co-insurance charge
• Primary care doctors or specialists co- payment

Regardless of which plan you select, these costs will be referred to as your “out of pocket maximum” per contract year.

When selecting a plan it is important to understand that cost sharing determines the premium for that particular plan. The higher your cost sharing, or put simply, the more you are willing to pay for your share of medical costs, the lower your monthly premium will be. Similarly, if you need to select a plan with lower cost sharing, where you are paying less of the costs, then, undoubtedly, your monthly premiums will be higher because the carrier will be shouldering more of the burden for payments to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.

It is also important to keep in mind that a deductible is a fixed amount that must be satisfied by you, the insured, before the insurance company will consider paying their portion of any covered health claim. Once the deductible is satisfied, you as the insured are still responsible for the specified percentage of co-insurance and any co-payments outlined in your chosen plan.

Once you have satisfied your portion of the cost sharing, your insurance company will cover 100% of the covered claims for any given contract year. When your contract year is over and it is time to renew your plan, then cost sharing starts all over again.

If you are confused, or have any questions at all, please contact your independent insurance agent for guidance. They will be able to help you choose a plan that most suits your needs and your budget.

– Narima Prashad

Ask Sherri: Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover A Wedding?

wedding-insurance-rates-comparedDear Sherri,My daughter is getting married next year so I just booked a caterer, a Hall, and a very expensive wedding dress and had to place a very large deposit for each of those items. If something were to happen, such as the caterer goes out of business before the wedding, how would I go about getting back my deposit? Does my homeowners insurance cover this? – Getting Cold Feet

Dear Cold Feet,Congratulations for your daughter and my condolences to your bank account! Unfortunately, your Homeowner’s policy would not cover you for this. What you need to do is purchase Wedding Insurance. This type of insurance protects you for lost deposits, ruined photos, flowers that don’t show up in time, wedding gifts that are damaged, lost or damaged wedding rings and a host of other perils up to and including problems with their Honeymoon Suite. Unfortunately, it won’t cover you if your daughter or her fiance back out at the last minute. That will just need a mother’s tender loving care …upside the head! So call your agent today for details about Wedding Insurance. And if none of that works, I recommend that you discreetly recommend eloping! – Sherri

How Do I Get Insurance For A Painting?

dogs-playing-pokerDear Sherri,I just purchased a very, very expensive painting and now I need to purchase insurance for it. How do I go about it? Sincerely, Picasso’s Mom in NY

Dear Picasso’s Mom in NY,
The painting wasn’t “Dogs Playing Poker,” was it? I have that one too! Anyway, to insure your new painting, you must forward a detailed receipt or preferably an appraisal to your insurance agent. Your agent will either schedule your new item to your Homeowners/Renters policy or write a separate Personal Articles Policy through your Homeowner’s carrier. Also be prepared to answer questions such as, where will the item be kept, your occupation, and what type of security do you have to protect the painting to name a few. Be sure your policy includes “Agreed Value” coverage as in case of a total loss you will be reimbursed for the agreed value shown on your policy. This is important as most works of art are not replaceable.
Sincerely,
Sherri

2014 NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT

Beautiful-Happy-New-Year-2014-HD-Wallpapers-by-techblogstop-23During 2013 each of us has faced many significant economic and environmental challenges. With 2013 almost a memory, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, our clients, for your continued commitment, trust and loyalty to Petschauer Insurance.

In 2014 we hope that you will continue to go to our website for important information relating to insurance, to our community and, of course, The Petschauer Team. Be sure to check out our videos for entertainment, our blogs for knowledge and “like” us on Facebook! If you haven’t availed yourself of our Social Media presence, now is an excellent opportunity to get connected. We’ll be looking for you!

I wish each and every one of you a New Year filled with good health, happiness and much success in all your endeavors. And should a bump in the road arise, I hope you will reach out to us because together we can figure out a way to make things go smoother.