The Top 5 Things You Need To Know This Hurricane Season

1. Trim your trees! Branches hanging over or that could break off easily are a major threat in a storm. Check for any signs of trees being dead or weak as well. Heavy winds or the weight of rain water can make even healthy trees fall or drop limbs so keep all of the area around your house and fencing as clear as possible.

2. Understand your “Other Structures†coverage. This is the part of your homeowner’s insurance policy that covers things like fences, sheds, detached garages, gazebos, swimming pools (if not attached to the home), etc. Anything that is not attached to the home itself would fall under this category of coverage. However, there are often times exclusions for hurricane loss to awnings, aluminum framed screen enclosures/carports, solar panels, solar water heaters not attached to the dwelling unless it is constructed with the same material as the main home. Typically, Other Structures coverage is 2% of the dwelling amount but it can be increased by endorsement with most companies to be sure you have enough. Evaluate these things on your property as sometimes they can be overlooked but also the things that commonly sustain damage in storms. “Other Structures†may also be referred to as Coverage B on your policy.

3. What’s your hurricane deductible? There is a difference between your typical All Peril deductible and a hurricane deductible. When a named storm (or spinoff weather) causes damage, the hurricane deductible will apply. Usually, this deductible is 2%. It can go up to 10% and also some companies allow you to have it as low as $500. If your carrier does not offer lower than a 2% hurricane deductible, there are options for a separate hurricane deductible buy-down policy that can get your deductible all the way to $0 if you wish. At the most common 2%, a home insured for $100,000 would have a hurricane deductible of $2,000, which would be their out-of-pocket responsibility before coverage from the policy kicks in.

4. Water vs. Wind: there’s a difference! Typically, homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage caused by water but with very specific limitations. Examples of water damage that are usually covered would be a leaking roof or busted pipe. However, it generally does not cover damage from water that has seeped in or risen up from the ground. This would be covered by a separate flood policy, if there is one. If the home is not in a flood zone that requires flood insurance, the separate flood policy would be elective. Wind damage is typically covered by HO-3 policies for things like a fallen tree, lifted or missing shingles, broken windows from debris, etc. Wind driven rain can get confusing since it’s a mix of wind and water. Usually, damage from the water that comes in with wind driven rain is not covered but damage from the wind is.

5. Be prepared to document and mitigate. If you sustain damage from a storm, it is best to take as many photos or videos as possible to document before making any changes to the condition of your property. Then, it is your responsibility as a homeowner to mitigate your home and belongings from further damage. This could mean boarding up, putting out tarps, removing debris, or whatever needs to be done to prevent more damage from occurring. This is only recommended within what is safe for you and your family. If any temporary repairs need to be done before a claims adjuster can view the damage, all receipts or invoices should be saved as well as photos of before and after repair.

Hurricane season can be a stressful time but being prepared will help alleviate that and will also assist in the claims process, in the event of damage. As always, we are happy to answer any questions during the preparation process and/or get involved if you should need to file a claim. Stay safe!

What if I lost my job and health insurance and don’t know when I’ll be employed again?

Contrary to hours being cut but remaining employed, when it comes to losing employment (and health benefits) altogether, there’s a little bit more action to take. The following information is from

• If you lost your job-based health plan: You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you lost health coverage through your employer or the employer of a family member in the past 60 days OR you expect to lose coverage in the next 60 days, including if you lose health coverage through a parent or guardian because you’re no longer a dependent. Note: Losing coverage you have as a dependent doesn’t qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period if you voluntarily drop the coverage. You also don’t qualify if you or your family member loses coverage because you don’t pay your premium.

• If your employer reduced the hours you work and you’re enrolled in a Marketplace plan: Update your application immediately within 30 days to report any household income changes. You may qualify for more savings than you’re getting now.

• If you were furloughed: In some situations depending on the status of your health coverage from your employer, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. You may be eligible for a premium tax credit to help pay for Marketplace coverage too.

• If you have COBRA continuation coverage:

– If you’re entitled to COBRA continuation coverage after you lost your job-based coverage, you may still qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to loss of coverage. You have 60 days after your loss of pre-COBRA job-based coverage to enroll in Marketplace coverage. You may also qualify for premium tax credits if you end your COBRA continuation coverage.
– If you’re enrolled in COBRA continuation coverage, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if your COBRA continuation coverage costs change because your former employer stopped contributing, so you have to pay full cost.

• If you lost your job, but didn’t also lose health coverage, because your former job didn’t offer coverage: You generally won’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. By itself, a job loss (or a change in income) doesn’t make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in Marketplace coverage… It’s the loss of coverage that does.

What should I do if my income has changed due to Covid-19 and I have a subsidized health plan with the Marketplace?

A subsidized health plan is a policy provided by the Marketplace with a discounted premium, since a portion of it is covered by the government. Eligibility is based on whether or not the insured’s household income qualifies. There is certain criteria for those that are single and those with other dependent family members in their household. It is extremely important that the applicant provides true and accurate information regarding their income, as that is what determines how much help they receive.

It’s also imperative that the insured then updates any changes to their income throughout the year of the policy’s coverage. In situations where their income increases, their subsidy may decrease and vice versa. The penalty for not keeping this information up to date is that a portion of the subsidy could be owed back at tax time if they failed to provide the right information earlier in the year.

The only instance in our current situation that does NOT need to be reported as an income change is the “economic impact†stimulus check that some recently received from the government. That is not required to be considered as true income.

With the current pandemic of Covid-19, there are unfortunately many people that have either had their income decreased, hours cut, or even lost their job altogether. If this happened or happens to you, contact the Marketplace or your agent immediately to update all income information and keep it as accurate as possible, no matter how many times it may change.