Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Insurance and Divorce

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i-love-you-1310934-640x480Statistics tell us that over half of married couples end up in divorce.  This is sad, sobering news and even with the use of a pre-nup, the process of divorce is both emotional and difficult.  There are large issues to decide when your relationship ends up in separation or divorce, and insurance may not be on the top of the list.  Nonetheless, break ups have insurance issues to be resolved and so it should be on the list of items to be discusses and decided.  While not all divorces are contentious, it is human nature to have anger, selfishness, revenge and pettiness sometimes show their faces when unraveling the marital assets.  The courts and lawyers may hammer out the final decrees, but here are the insurance areas that need to be considered.

Health Insurance

If you had your health insurance through your spouse’s employer, then once your divorce is final, you have to get your own coverages.  It is important that there are no gaps in the date of coverage from the time you leave the company plan to the time you start your own plan.  The kids can stay on the company plan or go with your new plan depending on the custody agreement.  The court may decide this for you as well as who will pay premiums if that becomes a new expense for you.

Providing COBRA for the party no longer covered by the company plan is required of the employer for up to 36 months.  The company must be notified within 60 days of the divorce.  If you choose to go with the COBRA coverage offered by your ex’s company, you are 100% responsible to pay for those premiums unless the court assigns payment to your ex as part of the support agreement.  It would be wise to shop around for a new plan before you just accept COBRA as prices for Health Insurance do vary.

For a legal separation, it is the same as divorce but make sure you check to see what the company policy is when it comes to separation.  Some companies only recognize a legal divorce, others treat separation and divorce as if they were the same.  You or your lawyer should have the conversation with Human Resources before you start making any changes.  If you find yourself in legal separation mode and the divorce is dragging, you are not obligated to keep the insurance on your ex unless the court orders it.  If the court orders your spouse to keep the insurance in place, you can keep your current plan with the employer, unless the employer says no and then the spouse must get and pay for COBRA or another plan to not be in violation of the court order.

Finally, for both separations and divorce – make sure you update the name and address on all documents and policies.  If there are health proxies in place, next of kin notices, and contact names involved, these must be changed too.

Life Insurance

The purpose of Life Insurance is to protect the income of the providing spouse, with the beneficiary of benefits usually being the receiving spouse.  Life Insurance replaces income to the surviving spouse if the providing spouse dies.  Ownership is key on a life policy as only the owner of the policy can change the beneficiary and they have control of the policy’s cash value.  This can become an issue with remarriage as there is no way to know what the ex-spouse/owner has done – even if actions were courted ordered because there is no method to monitor their actions.  It may be best to take control of the life policy AND pay the premiums – which could be part of the divorce settlement.

Again, names, addresses and beneficiaries should all be changed when the divorce is final.

House / Homeowners / Tenants Insurance

The house is always a big item to deal with in divorce.  At the very least, one of you will have a new location in which to live soon.  Home/tenant insurance must change from the one policy location you share, to now two policies covering where you both will live, contents you have with you and your personal liability exposures.  Floaters or schedules should reflect the actual items each party ends up with when the divorce is final. An ownership change in the property requires a name change on the main policy.  If the woman keeps the house but changes her name, that must be reflected on the policy too.  If the change involves removing a name from the current policy, BOTH people should sign the request and it should be made in writing to avoid issues and one spouse removing another without their knowledge or consent.  You lawyer should be able to help you with this if it becomes nasty.

Car Insurance

If each of you owns a car, titled in your own name, then it is an easy change.  Each person will get their own policy in their name with the car they own.  Update the name on the policy, the mailing address, garaging location and billing method.

If both own a car, the title must be changed to show only the new owner.  That person will have the insurance policy in their name for that car.  If you have both owned the car and been on the same policy, you can not remove the other without their consent or remove the vehicle with their consent.

Don’t make changes until the divorce is final.  Change requests should be in writing, signed by both parties and include name changes, address changes, ownership change, garaging and usage change, and billing method change.

These changes may cause you to lose policy bundled discounts like: Multi-car; Auto and Home credits with the same company; Occupational / Affinity Group discounts

Disability & Long Term Care 

This can be a big issue for the now single party because they will not have that automatic next in line person to care for them if something occurs.  Changes here will depend on how the disability components are set up.  Was it set up to compensate for lost earnings due to a disability or is it used in place of retirement benefits from work during the marriage.  Review these issues with your lawyer to best decide on how or if the disability benefits will continue now.

Long Term Care plans are individual policies and usually not impacted by divorce except for a name and address change and a married discount will be lost.

Divorce is by no means an easy season, but there are plenty of people who have passed this way and they can give you great emotional support.  When it comes to the legal issues, don’t hesitate to depend on your lawyer for help.  And when it comes to insurance issues, don’t hesitate to call us to help you through it all.

 

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Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

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Be Prepared For Volatile Spring Weather With a Home Emergency Kit

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Heavy rains, floods, hurricanes and tornados can all threaten your home and family this spring. While no amount of preparation prevents volatile spring weather, a home emergency kit helps you prepare to be safe and survive.

Survival Essentials

A warm blanket, spare set of clothes and matches could make the difference in your survival. Pack these and all other essential supplies you might need in an airtight container that’s easily accessible.

Food and Water

The Red Cross suggests families store two weeks’ worth of food and water, which means you’ll need one gallon of water per person per day and a variety of easily prepared, non-perishable foods. Don’t forget to stock baby and pet food if necessary, too.

First Aid

Minor bumps and bruises can occur as your family rushes to safety. Your first aid kit should include basic first aid supplies like bandages, antibacterial cream, burn cream and pain reliever. Pack prescription medications, hearing aid batteries and other specialized medications if needed.

Hygiene Items

Toilet paper, toothbrushes and diapers are essential. Hand sanitizer and bleach should also be included in your emergency kit.

Stay Connected

You’ll want to stay connected to the outside world and signal for help, so include a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, your cell phone and chargers in your emergency kit. A flashlight and whistle for each person is also a good idea.

Tools

Whether you have to dig out of the basement or open a soup can, tools come in handy. Stock a multipurpose tool, work gloves, scissors, shovel, screwdriver set, hammer and manual can opener in your kit.

Important Papers

In the rush of an evacuation, you may forget to grab your purse or wallet. Copy important papers like your driver’s license, birth certificate, insurance policies and medical information. Store them, extra cash and your family’s emergency contact information in a waterproof bag to keep them safe.

This home emergency kit will play a big role in keeping you safe when volatile spring weather strikes. Update your insurance policies, too, as you stay protected and prepared.

Falls may be tied to irregular heartbeat

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By Kathryn Doyle  (Reuters Health)

Older adults who suffer a fall are twice as likely to have a common type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, according to a new study.

“These results are certainly surprising, as an association between AF and falls has not been shown in the general population before,” said Dr. Sofie Jansen of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Certain arrhythmias are known to cause fainting or blackouts, but this is the first study to show the link with falls, Jansen told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on 4,800 adults over age 50 in Ireland who completed questionnaires, personal interviews and physical health assessments, including electrocardiograms, between 2009 and 2011.

Twenty percent of participants reported falling at least once in the past year. Fainting and blackouts were less common.

Overall, three percent of people had atrial fibrillation (AF): about one percent of those ages 50 to 64, four percent of those up to age 74, and almost eight percent of those ages 75 and older. More than a third did not know they had AF before the study.

Almost 30 percent of those with AF had fallen over the past year compared to about 20 percent of those without AF, the researchers reported in Age and Ageing.

After accounting for other risk factors that might contribute to falls, the authors found that having AF doubled people’s odds of falling.

In addition, 10 percent of people with AF reported fainting or blacking out compared to four percent of those without the arrhythmia.

At least five million U.S. adults in 2010 had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which may rise to about 12 million cases by the year 2030, according to a 2013 study (see Reuters Health article of July 26, 2013 here: reut.rs/1BSOiNn).

The irregular, usually very fast, heartbeat can cause uncomfortable palpitations, limit the ability to exercise or lead to heart failure or stroke, but it may not cause symptoms for some. It can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes to reduce stroke risk, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There are several ways AF could cause a fall, Jansen said.

“AF can impair the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body, including the brain,” she said. “This can lead to a reduction in the amount of oxygen going to the brain, causing either a faint or black-out (syncope), or dizziness resulting in a fall in a person who is already unstable.”

The irregular heartbeat can also be tied to stroke and hypertension, which can lead to degenerative changes in the brain.

“All of these changes in the brain can also affect walking, mobility, and other conditions that affect fall risk, such as depression and dementia,” Jansen said.

But, she emphasized, this study did not show that AF causes falls, only that it is significantly more common among people who fall.

“Falls are very common in older adults,” Jansen said. “People with AF have an even greater risk of falls, and when they suffer from falls they should definitely mention this to their physician, as there are several treatment or prevention options for falls.”

“Because falls usually have several causes or contributing factors, recognition and treatment of all of these factors is vital to reduce fall risk,” she said.

The most common causes of falls are muscle weakness, balance problems, gait problems, medication side effects, neurological issues, dizziness or cognitive impairment, according to Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, who chairs the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

Cardiac arrhythmias, including AF, do cause some falls but less commonly than the other causes and risk factors mentioned, said Rubenstein, who was not part of the new study.

“Falls are a very important problem in the older population and we’re always looking for ways to reduce them,” he said. “When you do a post-fall evaluation, listening to the heart is an important part of that,” and a doctor would likely discover signs of AF it were present, he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1aM2BaD Age and Ageing, online February 21, 2015.