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Don't Miss ACA's Enrollment Period
 
If you're considering an Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance plan, the open enrollment period for 2017 begins November 1, 2016, and ends January 31, 2017. If you miss this important coverage window, you cannot buy coverage from the healthcare marketplace until the 2018 open enrollment period begins in late 2017.

While health insurance is expensive, the penalty for not obtaining coverage through a qualified health plan can be substantial. In 2017 and beyond, you will pay either 2.5% of your household income or $695 plus a cost-of-living adjustment, plus $347.50 per child. The maximum is $2,085.

You likely have relationships with medical providers you trust; so it's imperative your plan covers the bulk of your current medical providers while offering the lowest copays, deductibles and coinsurance possible.

The health care coverage you choose is one of the most important decisions you make in your life. The ACA has been helpful to many Americans who previously struggled to find health coverage. Under the ACA, for example, health insurers cannot deny you coverage even if you have a pre-existing medical condition - as long as you buy coverage during the open enrollment period.

Although you can navigate the health insurance marketplace website at Healthcare.gov, you're usually better served if you work with an insurance agent who assists many people each year with these important selections. Agents hear from many people at this time and become busy quickly. Be proactive. Contact your agent several days (or even weeks) before open enrollment begins on November 1st to schedule an appointment.

To ensure you will have coverage and avoid penalties in 2017, you must act during open enrollment. However, if special circumstances occur such as a job loss or a divorce, you may qualify for coverage for up to 60 days after that event. In addition, you may enroll in the Children's Health Insurance Program or Medicaid at any time.

 
Don't Leave Your 'Home Alone': You May Not Be Covered
 
Have you moved to a new home, but the old one is still for sale? Is your rental property between tenants? Have you left temporarily during a remodel? And, most importantly, do you know that insurance requirements are different for vacant properties? 

Although many property owners don't realize there is a difference, it's a fact that if your property is vacant for whatever reason, you need a special insurance policy. Your options usually depend on the amount of time the property will be vacant and the type of coverage you want.

Common vacancy policies include three, six and 12-month terms. They can cover "named perils," meaning only the types of losses listed (lightning, hail, fire) will be covered, or they can be more comprehensive. If the vacancy is short, you may only need an endorsement to cover this time period. Note that during this time your regular policy won't apply. Typical options include:
  • Premises liability, in case someone is injured on your property
  • Personal property, if you are leaving furniture or appliances in the home
  • Vandalism, to cover damage or defacement
  • Burglary, for coverage of doors or windows broken during unauthorized entry and the theft of your personal items
  • Builder's risk, to cover improvements and repairs during renovations
If you know you will soon have a vacant property, consult with your agent immediately. Your provider will set up a policy to protect your home. After all, no one wants to leave their "home alone."

 
Three Easy Ways to Cut Household Expenses
Expenses
For many of us, it can be shocking to see how quickly our household expenses add up; it may feel like our entire paycheck goes toward paying bills!

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to cut back on our monthly expenses to relieve those financial burdens.

TV

With the emergence of so many available streaming services like Netflix and Apple TV, there are few reasons to have intense cable packages. Reduce your bill by downgrading to basic cable, or cut out your cable service entirely. Not only will you save money on your cable bill, but in reducing your TV viewing, you'll cut costs on your electric bill. Win-win!

Insurance

It can be a major investment in time and energy, but it will pay you to renegotiate your home and car insurance. According to a Forbes article, "you could be missing out on a lower rate if you don't shop around for new insurance at least once a year." Insurance rates are always fluctuating, and it's a very competitive industry. So it's in your best interest to make sure you're paying the lowest possible rates (while at the same time ensuring your insurance policies give you the coverage you need.)

DIY

Although it's easier to pick up cleaning supplies at your local store, you'll save money by getting rid of these expensive products altogether. As writer, Clare Hudson, points out in a Lifehack article entitled 30 Ways to Cut Your Monthly Expenses, you can easily make your own cleaning products with household staples like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. And they're just as effective (and usually less damaging to your family's health) than the expensive stuff.

It will take a concerted effort on your part, but there are ways to cut back on your monthly expenses.

Give it a try: the savings just might surprise you.

 
Why Your Company May Need Pollution Insurance
 
Today's marketplace likes green practices, and most companies are striving for a smaller environmental footprint. From printing less to recycling more, businesses are looking more and more green. 

However, even green companies make messes. Even if your business operations are as green as can be, you may still need pollution liability coverage. Your standard liability coverage may not cover this type of incident, so you might want to investigate supplementing it with an environmental liability policy.

The professionals at greatest risk (and therefore in greatest need of this coverage) are contractors. Most job sites pose pollution risks, despite the use of best practices. Broken pipes, leaking fuel tanks, oil spills, and other hazards happen, and they can result in contaminated soil and/or potential health hazards. But contractors are not alone. Any company, no matter how careful, can experience a fire or a spill. 

This type of insurance is available to property owners, specialists, and just about any company with the potential for a pollution-related problem. Typically it covers cleanup as well as third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage resulting from a pollution or contamination event, whether it happens suddenly or over a period of time. 

There also are environmental policies for specific types of businesses, such as errors or omissions policies for environmental consultants, and contractors' policies for remediation firms. Ask your agent about the coverage and limits that are appropriate for your business. When a pollution disaster strikes, your pollution insurance could mean the difference between cleaning up and shutting down.
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Recipe: Broccoli and Shredded Chicken Salad
Serves 6
1 large head of raw broccoli
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
6-8 slices cooked bacon, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups halved green seedless grapes
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
1 cup raisins
Dressing
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Directions
Break broccoli down into even sized florets and add to a serving bowl with chicken, almonds, bacon, onion, grapes, celery and raisins.

In a smaller bowl whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, sugar and vinegar. Add to serving bowl and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Can be kept refrigerated for up to four hours before serving.
This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial or medical advice. The publisher takes great efforts to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this newsletter. However, we will not be responsible at any time for any errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. Seek competent professional advice and/or legal counsel with respect to any matter discussed or published in this newsletter. This newsletter is not intended to solicit properties currently for sale.
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