A little homework assignment before filling your next prescription

Health care is a hot topic of conversation lately in politics since the Affordable Care Act and now numerous methods of reform are being discussed. But also with regard to the economy since the cost of care seems astronomical lately. Many argue that one of the drivers behind a lot of that cost increase is prescription drugs.

According to data analyzed by 3 Axis Advisors (a health care research firm), retail prices for 460 prescription drugs are increasing by an average of 5.2% in 2020 – more than double the projected rate of inflation for the year. Many manufacturers are raising the prices on existing drugs as well, so it isn’t just new therapies being introduced.

While patients typically don’t have a say in the diagnosis or treatment plans they receive from medical professionals, they do have a choice (and a right) to look into where they get prescription medications from. You, as the patient, owe it to yourself to do a little bit of research and get your drugs at the lowest cost possible to you.

Here are a few ideas to explore so you can be sure you’re doing all that you can as an advocate for yourself:

• Sourcing for lower cost – A common misconception is that one drug will cost the same regardless of where you have the prescription filled… Publix, CVS, Walgreens, Winn Dixie, etc. There are tools such as GoodRx that allow you to search specific drug names and find the cost at different retailers in your area.

• Coupons – There are websites online, the manufacturer itself, and retailer coupons that can provide significant savings. Some pharmacists will check for coupons on your behalf but not always.

• Websites such as Drug Store Unlimited that get drugs from other countries can also save money.

• Patient assistance programs – Ask your doctor about programs available in your area that may offer advice and guidance, more so with Medicare but also for individual health plans.

Just a few minutes of your time before you fill your next prescription could be very beneficial to you.

What exactly is a sinkhole and do I have coverage for it?

With sinkhole activity up all around the state of Florida and especially a few big ones in the news lately, many people are wondering what exactly a sinkhole is and if they have adequate coverage for the damage one could cause.

To first clarify what a sinkhole is – it is a depression, cavity or hole in the ground caused by some sort of collapse. Some believe these are a result of a soil issue, earth movement, nearby development, erosion, or running water such as a broken pipe underground. There are several things that can cause a sinkhole to open up and unfortunately, they can happen rather quickly and unexpectedly. Because there are not always indications or warnings, sinkholes can be very dangerous.

When there are symptoms of sinkhole activity, they typically include the following:

  • cracks in interior joint areas, windows or doors
  • cracks in exterior block or stucco
  • windows and doors become harder to close properly
  • depressions in your yard, other yards near you or the street
  • deep cracks and separation of paved concrete walks and drives
  • circular patches of wilting plants
  • sediment in your water
  • neighbors with confirmed sinkhole activity
  • observation of an actual cavity beginning to open

In order for a claim to be covered as a sinkhole loss, there must be “actual physical damage to the property covered arising out of or caused by sudden settlement or collapse of the earth supporting such property only when such settlements or collapse results from subterranean voids created by the action of water on a limestone or similar rock formation.” More simply stated, not all direct collapses from settlement problems fall within sinkhole coverage.

At this time, most home insurance companies in Florida do not provide sinkhole coverage unless you have an underwriting approved sinkhole inspection.

It is important to note that a sinkhole differs from catastrophic ground cover collapse. This coverage is almost always on home insurance policies in Florida. There are a few things to consider as somewhat of a rule-of-thumb when it comes to catastrophic ground cover collapse such as:

  • the abrupt collapse of the ground cover
  • a depression clearly visible to the naked eye
  • structural damage to the building including foundation
  • the structure being condemned or vacated by government authority or official

Because sinkhole activity has grown to be just about as common as hurricanes and water damage in Florida, it is very important for all home owners to understand what coverage their policy has and pursue endorsements and inspections as they see fit to protect their property and belongings from damage. If you ever suspect sinkhole activity, it is advised to secure the location from people and pets and then contact local authority and your insurance agent.

Is Technology the Future of Construction Site Safety?

We can all agree that safety is a huge concern in the construction industry. Out of every 5,000 private-industry worker fatalities, 20% are in construction. Contractors and subs alike are constantly looking for ways to improve their safety protocols to be more time efficient, cost effective and proactive in keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Sure, smart phones and Wi-Fi have helped. But to really address OSHA’s Fatal Four Hazards (falls, struck-by, electrocution and caught-in/between), it appears that we need to dive even deeper than just a phone or internet access. Here are some of the technology apparatuses you may see implemented, or even required, sooner than later:

WEARABLES: There are lots of companies out there developing wearable devices. Some are a small device that slips into a Velcro armband. Some consist of a safety vest and hard hat that integrates wearable computers, sensors, GPS and real-time locating systems. These can even have inflatable airbag collars should a worker fall. Some can detect and monitor vital signs or temperature. Others have a “press and record” button so voice messages can be recorded for the jobsite supervisor. We’ve seen some wearables that also detect a push or pull motion in excess of what is considered strenuous to prevent injury. It’s amazing what these devices can do, all the while being portable.

While to a worker, it may feel a bit like “Big Brother”, it does not invade their privacy by recording video, sound or personal information. And from an employer’s perspective, keeping an extra watchful eye on the jobsite altogether can help predict an accident before it occurs.

DRONES: Currently, drones are being used on jobsites for everything from site surveying and inspections to creating promotional or training videos to taking daily progress photos. Drones can also be used to quickly identify potential hazards each day. They can also be used to monitor workers throughout the day to ensure everyone is working safely and wearing the proper PPE.

TELEMATICS: Telematics refers to technology such as front facing cameras, sensors, GPS, and vehicle engine diagnostics. These devices can effectively monitor driving behaviors such as location, hard braking, rapid acceleration, speeding and hard cornering. Identifying these habits is an important element of commercial auto insurance, especially given the increasing rates lately.

The results of these telematics can help determine the risk, along with appropriate pricing and proactive loss control. Some of the technology can even alert the driver itself in real-time of any unacceptable driving behaviors to prevent an accident or injury. Devices like these can be used on commercial autos or even heavy equipment on site.

SITE SENSORS: Some companies have developed site sensors that can be deployed across a construction site to monitor things like temperature, noise levels, dust particulates and volatile organic compounds to help limit exposure to workers.

The sensors are mounted throughout the site to alert workers immediately when they are at risk from permissible exposure levels being reached. Data from the sensors are collected and can be analyzed to mitigate exposure levels and keep workers safe and stay compliant with OSHA regulations.

What technology tools have you implemented on your job sites to ensure your workers are protected and keeping safety a top priority? You probably devoted a lot of time and energy in to finding good help so it’s worth the investment in technology to keep them around and well.

What do mortgage interest rates have to do with life insurance?

You may have heard that, or even capitalized on, mortgage loan interest rates being at historic lows lately. That has in turn resulted in more homes being purchased. And what do people consider their biggest financial asset and also their financial safe haven? Their home. Many new homeowners will obtain life insurance upon purchasing a home, with the thought that their biggest bill (the mortgage) would be covered in the event that they pass away. Are you seeing the connections now between homes, mortgages and life insurance?

Let’s dive a little deeper… Let’s talk about a form of term life insurance that may connect the dots even more called mortgage protection life insurance. Any new home owner is inundated with information on this but very few bite, for good reason. Mortgage protection life insurance operates just like a regular insurance policy: an individual buys coverage, pays premiums and if the policyholder dies during the term, the policy pays a death benefit.

There are some significant differences though. Unlike a traditional life insurance policy, the death benefit of a mortgage protection policy goes directly to the mortgage company or lender, not the policyholder. Also, the total death benefit is designed to decrease year after year as the mortgage is paid down. And lastly, mortgage protection insurance tends to be more expensive than a comparable term life insurance policy.

On the flip side, regular term life insurance is typically low cost and gives policyholders the flexibility to use its benefits any way they wish — and they can set their own benefit amount. In a payout event, term life insurance provides beneficiaries with a tax-free lump sum of cash (annuities are also available) that can be used for mortgage repayment… or other things such as retirement savings, college savings, or day-to-day bills. That is up to the discretion of the beneficiary. And the coverage amount stays the same, regardless of how long or what may have occurred from the time it was purchased.

Another reason that now, rather than later, is a good time to consider life insurance in any form or fashion is that the premiums are typically much lower for a younger individual and there can also be little to no medical underwriting. So while you may view a new home as an asset, it’s also a debt (until paid for, of course) that your family would be stuck with unless you prepare accordingly.

Whether or not you’re in the market to purchase a home, or if you already have and just skipped the next step of life insurance… We’re happy to help guide you and help you rest assured that your family is well taken care of. That peace of mind is a much larger asset than any home in the world could ever be.

Back to School – What Does it Mean for Employee Leave?

Across the country, students are getting back in the groove of classes, whether in-person or virtually. It’s been five months since there’s been a real routine with school, making this yet another transition period for parents and business owners.

The Department of Labor released a compilation of Frequently Asked Questions regarding employee leave under the FFCRA that may be helpful to you as your workplace and workflows are affected by this. Here are some examples or you can view the full list here.

If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?
You may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave. You may take both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period thus covers the first ten workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act unless you elect to use existing vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first ten workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent ten weeks under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act. *Please note that you can only receive the additional ten weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

My child’s school or place of care has moved to online instruction or to another model in which children are expected or required to complete assignments at home. Is it “closed”?
Yes. If the physical location where your child received instruction or care is now closed, the school or place of care is “closed” for purposes of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. This is true even if some or all instruction is being provided online or whether, through another format such as “distance learning,” your child is still expected or required to complete assignments.