COLUMBUS — Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor said at the top of Ohioans’ New Year resolutions list should be setting side time in January to review their insurance coverage to ensure they have adequate protection at the right price.
“Now is the perfect time to conduct an insurance audit and an insurance agent can be a great resource in getting the answers you need,” Taylor said. “Insurance touches all aspects of our lives, it provides a financial safety net and it also is a big part of the family budget – so it should be carefully analyzed.”
Ohioans are fortunate to have a competitive insurance market that produces some of the lowest priced premiums when compared to other states, Taylor added.
The process of choosing and reviewing insurance policies should take into account many important considerations:
The need for an agent
Whether or not you go through an agent is completely up to you. You may buy from an agent who sells policies for only one insurance company or from an “independent” who’s licensed to sell insurance for numerous companies. Some companies do not use agents, but sell their policies by mail or online. A list of agents licensed to do business in Ohio is available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Get quotes and look for more than price
Licensed insurance agents can quote prices over the phone or by email. Insurance company websites offer online quotes. However, your price won’t be firm until the company investigates your background.
The policy offered at the lowest cost may not offer the level of insurance protection you need. If you have been satisfied with your company’s service in the past, it may not be wise to jump to an unknown company to save a few dollars. If you have not been satisfied with your company or if you are shopping for the first time, ask friends and relatives for references about the service they have received from companies they have used. For a list of authorized to do business in Ohio, visit www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Discounts are typically available
Explore the possibility of buying all of your insurance products from the same insurance company. Many companies offer discounts if you purchase more than one policy from the same company.
Private rating firms provide additional information
Several private firms specialize in evaluating the finances and services of insurance companies. Each of these firms has its own methods and standards and grades a company based on the firm’s determination of the financial well-being of a company. Some of the well-known rating firms are: A.M. Best Company, Moody’s Investor Service, Fitch, Inc., and Standards and Poor’s.
Keep a home inventory and coverage up-to-date
Update your home inventory and make sure your homeowner’s or renter's policy is up-to-date with respect to any significant changes to your home or its contents. Not only can you keep track of your possessions, but if you have to file a claim, this information can be a significant benefit as you navigate the claim filing process. The myHOME Scr.APP.book from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) can be downloaded for free from your cell phone app marketplaces. A paper home inventory checklist is available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Other tips: Consider raising your deductible to lower your premium. Don’t over-insure or under-insure to avoid a co-insurance penalty. Consider a guaranteed replacement cost policy. Most insurance policies have separate coverage sub-limits for big-ticket items or multiple items of a particular category – like electronics, art, jewelry or sporting equipment so you may want to discuss insuring these items separately.
Review the coverages associated with your auto insurance
Have adequate liability coverage: Liability coverage pays for injury to persons or damage to property if you cause an accident. If liability coverage limits are too low, it is possible that you could be sued for any damages above your liability limits.
Adjusting your comprehensive and collision coverage: Review your deductibles for comprehensive and collision coverage. This is the amount you will pay if your car is damaged or totaled when a claim is submitted to your insurer. Adjusting these deductible amounts will affect your premium.
Uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage: Provides financial protection if you have an accident with a driver that has no auto insurance or has liability limits that are too low for the incident.
Insurance information and accident: Keep a copy of your insurance card and your insurance agent or company's number in your cell phone or car. It is also important to be able to record details if you are involved in an accident. The National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s (NAIC) free smartphone app WreckCheck walks you through the process of gathering information following an accident. Guard your personal information and only provide your name and insurance information. You can email your notes directly to your agent.
Review new insurance cards and paperwork, check provider lists
Open enrollment: Many families recently went through the open enrollment process for their health insurance, either for coverage provided at work, coverage purchased on their own or Medicare, which means you may have new insurance cards and paperwork coming in the mail.
Make sure to check your provider lists to verify visits to your doctor and any specialists are still covered by your policy, as in-network or preferred provider lists change from year to year. Also read through your documents and make note of your copays for in-network and out-of-network providers so you are not surprised later.
Ohioans with insurance questions can call the Department’s consumer hotline at 800-686-1526. Information, such as consumer guides addressing different insurance topics, is also available at www.insurance.ohio.gov. You can follow the Ohio Department of Insurance on Facebook and Twitter.