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 healthcare.gov:

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.

If you’ve never considered your income an actual asset worth protecting, now is the time!

Most people think their biggest asset or need for protection is their home, since that’s typically the largest financial obligation or equity that they have. It’s often times overseen that your income is extremely worthy of protecting too.

Imagine not getting a paycheck for a month… maybe you have an emergency fund or savings to cover all of the bills temporarily. What about six months? Or a year? Things could get tight really quickly and some Americans are unfortunately experiencing this first hand right now with our current pandemic.

Disability insurance comes in to help in the event of injury or illness causing the insured to not be able to work, or even only able to work a reduced number of hours or abilities. Unlike the limited disability coverage that some employers offer, a personal disability insurance policy would follow the insured wherever they go in life and wouldn’t be lost if their job was ever in jeopardy (like health and retirement benefits would be).

The premium of this coverage varies based on income and overall health of the individual. There are typically medical exams but some companies are currently waiving those for up to $10,000/month coverage. And these policies can usually be bound rather rapidly so there aren’t long waiting periods.

It seems like a no-brainer, especially for high income earners, in the work force today. However, we find that many people just aren’t even aware of this type of coverage… which is why we use Disability Insurance Awareness month in May of every year as an opportunity to share this information.

There are a lot of moving parts with disability insurance causing things to vary from person to person so please reach out anytime you have questions on what this might look like for you and your situation. Nick Deas can be reached at nick@mcgriffwilliams.com or (352)371-7977.

COBRA and Medicare… Oil and vinegar or two peas in a pod?


There are lots of things that are consistent when it comes to Medicare. It runs very smoothly, is a pretty well-oiled machine, and policy holders are overall very pleased. But we also see a lot of uncertainty or overwhelm when trying to fully understand it all. It can be intimidating with the regulations and guidelines to follow that could result in financial penalties if not abided by appropriately. But it doesn’t have to be scary or stressful. That’s what we’re here for.

One of the areas that can seem confusing is when people are approaching age 65 (Medicare eligible) and planning to no longer work. There are options to select COBRA coverage, essentially extending the employer’s group coverage, or enroll in Medicare. Here, we’ll break this down as simply as possible to provide a little guidance.

First, let’s be sure we’re on the same page with what exactly COBRA is. COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) gives employees the right to choose a continuation of the previous employer’s group health plan for a limited time. Usually, that time frame is 18 months but may be extended up to 36 months in some situations. There may be some instances where the coverage changes slightly and the premium is usually a little higher than it was for an active employee prior to retirement, up to 102% of the cost of the plan. Employers with 20 or more full time equivalent employees are generally required to offer COBRA. Spouses can also be eligible for COBRA if:

• The covered employee either voluntarily or involuntarily leaves the job
• The covered employee’s number of hours are decreased making them ineligible for benefits
• The covered employee becomes eligible for Medicare
• Divorce or legal separation from the covered employee
• Death of the covered employee

A commonly used term when entering the Medicare world is “creditable coverage”. This is referring to coverage outside of Medicare being qualified to take the place of Medicare so that there are no late enrollment penalties if you don’t enroll on time. “Creditable” also means that the coverage is expected to pay on average as much as the Medicare coverage would. COBRA is NOT considered creditable for Part B of Medicare. Only active employer group coverage for an employee still working would suffice for that. Regarding Part D prescription drug coverage, it is plan specific whether or not it’s creditable.

Real life example: Bill decides to retire right at age 65. He’s been on his employer’s group plan for 25 years. He can elect COBRA to keep that plan but also needs to enroll in Medicare, now that he’s eligible. Medicare would then become his primary. If he didn’t enroll in Medicare and stayed just on COBRA, he could face a substantial gap in coverage. Let’s say he sees a doctor, they bill Medicare A&B for the standard 80% payment but he doesn’t have any Medicare. So then they bill COBRA, who could pay just 20% of the total cost or possible nothing at all, since they’re secondary with him being 65+ now and he technically doesn’t have any primary coverage. Bill could now be stuck with a bill (see what we did there?) for 80-100% being his responsibility to pay out of pocket. So, Bill, lesson learned… what he should have done is upon retirement, enroll in Parts A&B as soon as he stopped working and then compared his COBRA coverage and premium to that of a supplement or advantage plan to decide on the best secondary coverage.

A few things to consider if you’re going to stop working or are 65+ with COBRA:

• What are the options for your spouse or family?
• Is your employer’s COBRA coverage “creditable” for Medicare?
• What is the cost of COBRA vs a Medicare supplement or advantage plan?
• You have 8 months from when you stop working to enroll in Parts A&B without penalty

It may seem like a lot but this is a big transition from working to not, so don’t take it lightly. We can help work through the details and relieve some of the stress. The positive part of it all is that there are options for care and you get to pick the best fit for you.