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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Buy Only the Homeowners Coverage You Need

Saving Money on Your Insurance
Buy Only the Homeowners Coverage You Need
By José Montemayor
Commissioner of Insurance

It´s easy to pay too much for your homeowners insurance policy if you don´t understand what it pays for. It´s also possible to buy too little coverage and end up paying thousands of dollars out of your own pocket after a fire or other loss.

Some people mistakenly believe their homeowners coverage should equal their homes´ market value. The truth, however, is that a typical HO-B policy covers a home´s replacement cost, up to the policy´s dollar limit. And replacement cost may differ considerably from market value, particularly for older homes.

Market value is what a willing buyer would pay for your home, including the lot. Location is a major factor in determining market value.

Replacement cost, on the other hand, is what you would pay to rebuild your house from the foundation up. Unlike market value, replacement cost is not affected by the neighborhood where a home is located.

I know of one case in which a couple living in a desirable older neighborhood saved $600 a year in homeowners premium by reducing the amount of their coverage from market value to replacement cost.

The flip side is that replacement cost may exceed market value in many situations. In those cases, you might not have enough coverage if you insure for market value.

So how do you find out the replacement cost of your home?

Probably the easiest way is to have your insurance agent or company figure it for you by using widely accepted software and published tables. The software and tables factor in square feet, construction materials, local differences in construction costs and such special features as fireplaces, finished attics, built-in appliances and decks.
You also can find replacement cost calculators on the Internet.

A local contractor or local builders association might be able to give you a rough idea of construction costs per square foot in your area. Remember, however, that rebuilding a house is more costly than building a new house because of the added cost of tearing out the damaged materials and removing the debris.

A more expensive alternative, which in some cases may be worth the money, is to hire a real estate appraiser, who can tell you the replacement cost and the current market value of your house.

Some mortgage lenders require borrowers to insure their homes for the loan value, which may be closer to market value than replacement cost. If your home´s loan value is considerably higher than its replacement cost, your agent or appraiser might help you persuade the lender to accept less insurance. If you don´t succeed, you can still reduce the cost of insurance by buying two policies: 1) a homeowners policy for the home´s replacement cost and 2) a cheaper "dwelling" policy covering the additional market value of the land and outside improvements.

Another issue is whether to cover 100 percent of your home´s replacement cost.

A homeowners policy fully covers partial losses such as a hail-damaged roof if your house is covered for 80 percent of its replacement cost. However, such a policy can leave you short by thousands of dollars if you have a total loss. Most property insurance companies now require 100 percent replacement cost coverage.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spoil a Car Theif's Day

It takes less time for a professional thief to break into your car, start it up and drive away as it does for you to walk into 7-11, plunk down three bucks for a bagel and coffee and emerge to watch your ride recede into the distance. And don’t presume your elderly clunker’s immune; the most stolen vehicle of 2008, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, was the 1994 Honda Accord.

“We know that thieves never miss an opportunity to make a quick buck by stealing a car,” says Joe Wehrle, president and CEO of NICB. “They work weekends, nights and holidays and ironically, they are particularly busy on New Year’s Day and Labor Day.”

While there isn’t any way to stop a crook who really wants your ride and has the tools and know-how to make it happen, the following tips can help your car become a less inviting target and slow down, discourage or actually prevent car theft.

Park in plain sight

Holiday Car Theft
Holiday Number of Thefts
New Year's Day 3,017
Labor Day 2,847
Halloween 2,727
President's Day 2,683
Memorial Day 2,599
Independence Day 2,584
Valentine's Day 2,389
Christmas Eve 1,841
Thanksgiving 1,806
Christmas Day 1,267
New Year's Eve 916

The holidays ranked by number of thefts reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for 2008.
Our natural inclination is to hide something we don’t want anyone to steal, but for cars, visibility is the key to safety, say experts. Thieves prefer to work out of sight of people and electronic recording devices, so leave your car in a well-lit, populated area.

Take your keys---always.
If you think this tip falls into the “duh” section of car theft prevention, try Googling the phrase “keys in ignition” or similar and you’ll see many trusting souls leave the equivalent of a sign reading “FREE CAR!” hanging from their ignition switches on a daily basis. Car theft is often a crime of opportunity, so shut yours off and pocket your keys even if you’re only ducking into a convenience store.

Don’t hide your keys anywhere within or outside the car.
You know those magnetic key holders you can buy to store your spare key? Leave it in your house on the fridge, not under bumpers, in the glove compartment or anywhere in the car. Thieves know all the hiding places you do, and probably a few more.

Use a variety of methods to slow would-be thieves.
Car alarms are ubiquitous and often go ignored. When used in tandem with other theft prevention methods, though, they will make a thief naturally try to work faster, and if he comes across other security measures, he may give up altogether and move on. Apply the emergency brake, turn your wheels hard left or right and set the car in “park” or in gear, making it more difficult for you to be quickly towed, and consider using a vehicle recovery system like LoJack or an engine immobilizer device such as Ravelco.

Disable your battery if parking long-term
A thief won’t spend time trying to diagnose an apparent engine problem. Consider yanking one of the cable wires to your battery if you’re leaving your car parked at an airport or anywhere else where it will sit unattended for more than a few days.

Sign valuable parts
Take the time to embed your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the inside of your trunk, inside your doors, on your sound system components and any other pricey parts thieves like to chop. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, contact your local police precinct or even your insurance company, some of whom offer free VIN etchings.

Go east
California is the number one state for auto theft, according to the National Insurance Crime bureau, with the town of Modesto ranking #1 with 4,235 vehicles stolen in 2008.

The good news for all of us is that auto thefts were down almost 9% overall in 2008, according to the NICB, to less than one million a year in 2008. With foresight and preventive measures that don’t take much time, you can help ensure you’ll never have to experience that unique nausea familiar to anyone finding a grease spot where their car was parked.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Aetna Commends U.S. Senate on Adoption of Health Care Reform

Chairman and CEO Ron Williams calls expanding access essential, but not a complete victory if affordability for the average American is not addressed

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aetna (NYSE: AET) today commended the U.S. Senate for taking action to significantly expand access to health care coverage for millions of Americans. While noting progress toward meaningful reform, Aetna Chairman and CEO Ronald A. Williams said that more needs to be done to deliver on the full promise of health care system reform.

“Today, the Senate took an important step, but reform that doesn’t deal with affordability, tied to health care quality, is not a complete victory for consumers”

.“Today, the Senate took an important step, but reform that doesn’t deal with affordability, tied to health care quality, is not a complete victory for consumers,” said Williams. “Guaranteeing that Americans cannot be denied insurance and enhancing coverage for millions of people are essential actions. When consumers win, we all win, and that can only happen if health care reform addresses both access and affordability. The Senate has not done enough on addressing costs and has actually exacerbated the problem of affordability by choosing to pay for reform through billions of dollars in additional taxes on the health care system which will be transferred to the consumer through higher costs and will therefore hurt health care affordability for the average American.

“It’s imperative that the House – Senate conference committee get the final outcome right. As a company with a track record of leadership in health care policy, we stand ready to work with the committee to craft a workable outcome that addresses health care affordability and truly helps get the best out of our health care system.”

To learn more about Aetna’s position on health care reform, visit on

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see

Monday, December 14, 2009

Top Ten Stolen Vehicles During November

The following is a rundown of the “Top 10” makes of vehicles reported stolen to the Houston Police Department during the month of November 2009.

1. Chevrolet Trucks-157
2. Ford Trucks-130
3. Honda Cars-109
4. Dodge Trucks-78
5. Ford Cars-47
6. Toyota Cars-43
7. Chevrolet Cars-42
8. GMC Trucks-32
9. Dodge Cars-28
10. Nissan Cars-24