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Medicare Supplement Insurance

Medicare Supplement Insurance: Is Plan F Going Away?

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Medigap plans sold to people new to Medicare won’t be allowed to cover the Part B deductible. Because of this, Plans C and F will no longer be available to people who are new to Medicare on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

However, if you already have one of these two plans (or the high deductible version of Plan F), you’ll be able to keep your plan. Also, if you were eligible for Medicare before Jan. 1, 2020, but haven’t enrolled yet, you may still be able to buy one of these plans.

For individuals with existing Plan F coverage: If you ever decide to switch carriers for any reason, you’ll still be allowed to maintain your Plan F coverage. This type of change will be subject to underwriting, so those considering a switch should keep this in mind.

WHY IS PLAN F GOING AWAY?

On Jan. 1, 2020, MACRA officially takes effect. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) is the Federal Law that will be impacting Medicare Supplement plans in all states. Only beneficiaries with existing Plan F coverage will be able to keep Plan F. Plan G will be the new “go-to” plan for those newly eligible for coverage after Jan. 1, 2020.

WHAT IS PLAN G?

Medicare Parts A and B provide insurance coverage for health-related expenses, but they don’t cover all of the health care costs you may have. While all Medicare Supplement plans help offset those costs, Plan G will now offer the most comprehensive coverage for those becoming newly eligible to Medicare.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLAN F AND PLAN G?

The key difference between Plan F and Plan G is that Plan G does not cover the Part B deductible. This is because the federal government wanted to have each beneficiary have a vested interest in their care. The good news: premiums for Plan G are generally less expensive by more than the $250 deductible amount. Meaning although you’ll be responsible for the $250 deductible, you could save more than $350 in total premium. (Premium savings will vary by carrier.)

WHAT DOES PLAN G COVER?

If you choose Medicare Supplement Plan G from Erie Family Life, you won’t incur any out-of-pocket costs for expenses such as:

  • Part A deductible
  • Part A hospital copayments
  • Part B copayments
  • Part B excess physician charges
  • Skilled nursing facility coinsurance
  • Foreign emergency care

Medicare Supplement Plan G will still be a great option for those becoming newly eligible for Medicare. Plan G continues to allow you to choose any physician for your care, including specialists, while eliminating many out-of-pocket expenses associated with that care. Instead of paying copays and deductibles, you’ll pay a monthly premium for your Medicare Supplement plan.

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR A MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLAN?

If you are age 65 or over and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, you can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan policy.

You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan policy if you are age 65 or over and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. The one-time Open Enrollment period, which begins on the first day of the month an individual is 65, or older, and enrolled in Part B provides for guaranteed issue. Individuals under age 65 eligible for and enrolled in Part B; are not eligible for guaranteed issue unless they have lost or are losing creditable coverage. In some states, Medicare Supplement insurance policies are available to people with disabilities who are under the age 65.

If you’re considering a Medicare Supplement plan, a great place to start is by contacting your ERIE agent or find a local agent. Have your Medicare ID card ready. Your agent can help answer your questions to determine which plan is right for you, and provide a free quote.

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Customized Emergency Kits

5 Customized Emergency Kits to Weather Any Disaster

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 48% of Americans do not have emergency kit supplies.

Building a basic emergency kit for evacuations or stay-at-home orders will help to keep your family safe. (Having the right homeowners insurance helps give you peace of mind, too.)

You might already know the basic 31 items that should be in every home emergency kit. But when it comes to survival kits, one size doesn’t fit all. Here are five different ways to personalize yours so you’re prepared for whatever weather flies your way.

EMERGENCY KIT FOR POWER OUTAGES

When the power goes out, immediate concerns involve food and safety. (Read more about how to manage a power outage.) If a power outage is two hours or less, don’t worry about losing your perishable foods; an unopened fridge will keep foods cold for about four hours. Here are some helpful things to have on hand:

  • Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers preserve food when packed with ice.
  • Digital quick-response thermometers check your foods’ internal temperatures to ensure they remained cold enough to consume.
  • Generators are especially essential if you live with someone who depends on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment. (Read our list of 9 things to know if you have a backup generator.)
  • Flashlights provide safety by guiding you through a dark house and preventing fires from candles.

EMERGENCY KITS FOR WINTER STORMS

During a nasty winter storm, staying warm and safe take priority. Make sure you have these safety items:

  • Sand, rock salt or non-clumping cat litter make walkways and steps less slippery.
  • Warm coats, gloves, mittens, hats, boots, extra blankets and warm clothing are essential for all household members.
  • Fireplaces or wood- or coal-burning stoves provide necessary alternative heat. Pro tip: No matter which heating source you use, keep a smoke detector, a carbon monoxide detector and a fire extinguisher in the same room it’s in. Read more in our guide to safe home heating.

EMERGENCY KITS FOR HURRICANES AND FLOODS

Hurricanes and floods often mean evacuation. Have these additional items on hand so you’re ready to hit the road if needed:

  • Tools and supplies for securing your home.
  • Emergency blanket(s), extra clothing, hats, sturdy shoes and rain gear will help protect your family from extreme weather elements.
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen can come in handy if you are unable to be sheltered.
  • Map(s) of the area help you navigate out of the area, especially if cell service is unavailable.
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys can be used in case one set is lost while evacuating or if you and other household members split up.
  • Camera for photos of damage.

If you’re safe enough to weather the storm but under a hurricane or flood watch, here’s how to prepare.

  • Fill plastic bottles you have on-hand with clean water for drinking. Learn more about how to store drinking water during a natural disaster.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water to keep your household running. Never drink or bathe young children in this sitting water because lead can leak from the glaze in bathtubs and sinks into water stored in them. Use this water to clean floors, do laundry and flush the toilet.
  • Fill your car with gas, in case you need to evacuate later.
  • Make sure your food and water are safe if flooding occurs. Flood water can be contaminated with waste or other contaminants that lead to illness. Discard food and beverage products and anything you use to eat and drink that have contacted flood water (even if it’s only a little bit), including canned goods, water bottles, plastic utensils and baby bottle nipples. The Red Cross says: “When in doubt, throw it out!”

EMERGENCY PREPARATION FOR TORNADOES

Tornadoes can form quickly. While your basic emergency kit covers your basic needs, it’s also important to take these major steps well in advance to stay protected:

  • Strengthen existing garage doors to improve the wind resistance, particularly double-wide garage doors.
  • Decide on a safe space within your home where everyone knows to meet when tornado watches or warnings appear. Basements are the best place to shelter. Your next safest option is the lowest lying level of a sound structure in a hallway or an area without windows. According to the American Red Cross, mobile homes are never safe during tornadoes. It is best to safely get to a sturdy shelter immediately.
  • Always wear a seatbelt if you must drive your car during a tornado and toward safety.

EMERGENCY KIT FOR WILDFIRES

In wildfire-prone areas, experts recommend having supplies to stay at home for up to two weeks. However, if you have to evacuate, it’s recommended to have three days’ worth of supplies on hand – so make sure it’s portable if authorities say you have to move now. Beyond your basic kits, here are some tips to prep for wildfires in the long term:

  • Portable air cleaners work best when run continuously with doors and windows closed.
  • Water sources outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool should be identified and maintained, so they can be easily accessed if needed to fight flames.
  • Gather tools like a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel that you can use as fire tools before emergency responders arrive.
  • Regularly clean roofs and gutters. Dry, loose debris can spell trouble if sparks fly. See what else can happen if you don’t clean your gutters.
  • Keep a long garden hose that can reach all areas of your home and other structures on the property.
  • Install outdoor outlets on at least two sides of your home and near other structures on the property. Make sure they are freeze-proof exterior water outlets. In addition, you may want to install outlets 50 feet away from your home for more electricity accessibility.
  • Clearly mark your house number or address where fire vehicles need to enter your property.

PRINTABLE CHECKLIST FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

Want a handy printable? Check out these PDF checklists from the American Red Cross for the following disasters: power outageswinter stormshurricanesfloodstornadoesand wildfires.

LOOKING AFTER YOU

Emergency situations can be stressful, but you can feel confident knowing you’re prepared with the right tools on hand. When you’re with ERIE, you can rest easy knowing that your local agent is here to provide a little kindness on even the most difficult day.

For more than 95 years, we’ve been committed to providing claims service that comes from actual people, with empathy, in real-time. Depending on the size of the storm or weather situation, ERIE will deploy our Catastrophe Team to the scene to help service our customers who have claims. A helping hand and friendly face are a phone call (or walk to the CAT van) away.

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Working from Home

8 Tips for Working from Home

Who doesn’t love getting a few extra minutes of shut-eye and the more casual dress code that comes along with working from home? Working remotely can be great – except when your dog decides he needs to go out, again. And has anyone else noticed how your neighbors seem to align their lawn mowing times to your conference call schedule?

Remote work has unique benefits and distractions, too. So how can you make working from home work for you?

We asked a few full-time remote ERIE employees for their top tips to a productive and balanced remote work lifestyle. ERIE family members who are veterans of remote work have a message for the newbies joining their ranks: You’ve got this.

CHOOSING YOUR WORKSPACE:

  • Choose a dedicated, private space. Kitchen tables were great for doing homework back in high school, but you might find having a designated space where you can tune out distractions will keep you more productive.“Definitely have a room where you can close a door or an area sectioned off for privacy. It will really help with minimizing distractions.” – Dustin Eckman, property adjuster, remote for two years

     

  • Let the light in. Natural light has been proven to brighten your mood and increase productivity. So if you’ve always wanted that corner office with the big window, now is your chance to make the office of your dreams a reality.“Work near a window. I have two that I look out of. I love the outdoors and it helps me to feel better to see outside.” – Kim Lane, senior underwriting support specialist, remote for four years

PREPPING YOUR DAY:

  • Develop a morning routine. While you may not need to style your hair or commit to a long commute, waking up a few minutes before you clock in may not lead to the most productive workday.

    “I always wake up early enough to get a start in my day. Eating breakfast, catching up on current events, but ultimately waking my mind up so I’m not so drowsy when I begin my work.” – 
    Cherrish Wynder, auto adjuster, remote for two years
  • Plan out your tasks and projects. Working from home can bring a lot of distractions, the worst of which is losing motivation to do work. Creating a to-do list of assignments the day before can help make your remote day seem more official and keep you on track with projects.“Plan your days in advance. It helps when distractions or other tasks arise. I plan so that I know what has to get done that day.” – Matt Ladd, property adjuster, Knoxville Claims Office, remote for four years

     

  • Dress with your day in mind. Another big benefit to working from home is being able to dress outside of the company dress code. No more sweating in a suit jacket on 90 degree days or shivering under the air conditioner vent.“If you don’t have to meet your customers or have a big meeting, don’t be afraid to spend the day in your comfy clothes. I’m always more productive when I’m comfortable.” – Rebecca Petrie, commercial liability claims specialist, Fort Wayne Claims Office, remote for 12 years

DEVELOPING YOUR #WFH GROOVE:

  • Try a snack hack. The refrigerator has never been so close or stocked with all your favorites. (Another bonus? When you work from home, you have a very short list of suspects if someone steals your lunch.) However, it’s important to establish healthy habits when your desk is so close to the family pantry.“I try not to keep food in my home office because it’s too easy to just turn in my chair and grab it. If I want a snack, I force myself to walk downstairs and get it. Movement … it’s a good thing!” – Jennifer Reed, subrogation supervisor, remote for 17 years

     

  • Connect with your co-workers. While you no longer pass by their cubicles every day, technology has made connecting with co-workers easier.“Connect with some of your co-workers every day via email, company communications or phone. I always turn my camera on for meetings. I feel more connected when I can see people versus a phone call. However you decide to connect, if you can’t hear someone on a conference call, let them know!” – Kelly Gierczynski, talent management consultant, remote for 18 years

     

  • Take screen breaks. You no longer have in-person meetings or co-workers stealing you away for a coffee. Screens can be harsh on the eyes, causing headaches or strained vision – which can lessen your productivity over time.“Find ways to step away from your desk. Make time to get up, stretch, do yoga, go for a walk, grab some fresh air or do a quick chore. In the end, it will help you better focus when you begin working again.” – Morgan Kimble, medical claims facilitation supervisor, remote for one year

FIND WORK-LIFE BALANCE AT ERIE

Whether you are transitioning to a permanent remote work lifestyle, or just a temporary fix… the secret to finding the right balance is finding a company that supports you and your work-life commitments. At ERIE, about 40 percent of our workforce utilizes our flexible work arrangements full-time.

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Hail Damage

What to Know About Hail, Roof Damage and Common Scams

A hailstorm just blew in through your neighborhood. Suddenly, there are people at your door telling you they can repair your home’s damage quickly and easily. What would you do?

While some hail damage may be obvious, you can’t always trust that someone showing up to your door has your best interests in mind.

The size and density of a hailstone will determine the severity of damage you’ll find after a storm. While some hailstorms can cause severe damage to your car and home, others can leave little to no harm at all.

If you’ve recently battled a hailstorm, here is what you need to know about hail, roof damage, homeowners insurance and common scams.

WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER A HAILSTORM?

When the storm has passed and it’s safe to go outside, inspect any damage that may have occurred to your car or home. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommends contacting your insurance agent immediately if you suspect hail damage. Your ERIE agent knows the ins and outs of your specific policy and can help you determine whether you should file a claim to help cover the cost of repairs.

To help your agent, be sure to record the date and timeframe the storm occurred and take photos that can help support your claim.

For more hail safety tips, read our guide on what to do before, during and after a hail storm.

COMMON SIGNS OF HAIL DAMAGE

You may spot hail damage in a few different places on your property including roof, siding, windows, outdoor furniture and vehicles. Damage can look different depending on the object.

Signs of hail damage to a car:

  • Chipped or cracked windshield
  • Dents on the roof or other areas of your vehicle
  • Other dings or paint scratches

Signs of hail damage to a home:

  • Dents in gutters or outside vents
  • Chipped or cracked windows or skylights
  • Damage appearing on one side of the roof
  • “Bruises” or dark spots appear on shingles in a random pattern

While some damage can be easy to spot, you may not always be able to see the damage hail has done to your roof.

An insurance adjuster knows the difference between roof damage from hail versus regular wear and tear. We recommend letting a trained and trusted professional up on your roof to check for any potential problems.

WHAT IS HAIL FRAUD?

Having to deal with weather damage is bad enough. Unfortunately, there can also be fraudulent roofing contractors that emerge after a storm, sometimes called “storm chasers.”

They often appear quickly after a storm and claim that your roof has been seriously damaged by wind and hail. Many “storm-chasing” contractors are transient, moving around the country following recent storm activity to increase their chance of landing a sale.

The IBHS and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recently teamed up to offer this list of tips to spread awareness of roofing contractor fraud.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HAIL FRAUD?

Storm chasers may point out pre-existing damage, create their own damage, or say that there is damage when there isn’t. Here are some signs that you should think twice:

  • “Free” inspection: Someone wise once said nothing good in life is free. While reputable contractors might offer free inspections with no strings attached, be cautious that some fraudsters might use this tactic to get on your roof and point out damage that isn’t there. Worse, some might create their own damage.
  • They pressure you: Those in the con business often pressure you to make a quick decision during a difficult or stressful time. Give yourself space and time to contact your insurance agent and make the right decision.
  • The contract has blanks: Your contract should be detailed and include an estimate on cost, work schedules, payment schedules, listed contractors and more.
  • Upfront payment: While it’s reasonable for any contractor to ask for a down payment, fraudulent contractors often demand all or a large amount of the payment upfront. Sometimes, they’ll take your cash and dash after performing shoddy work – or no work at all. Trustworthy contractors will often organize a payment schedule that works best with your schedule.

If you do find damage to your roof or other areas after a storm, a trustworthy contractor will work with your insurance company to help fix the damage.

HIRING A CONTRACTOR AFTER A HAIL STORM

As you begin your search for a contractor, here are some tips:

  • Get multiple estimates. Don’t rely on a single estimate as being the one with the best price – or the best work. Do some research and get estimates from three to four different contractors.
  • Ask to see their license and proof of insurance. Make sure both are real and up to date.
  • Ask for references. Has this contractor worked on similar projects? Do their references speak highly of them?
  • Take the right steps. Hiring a contractor can be stressful, especially when you’ve discovered some recent damage from a storm. Read through our full checklist of tips to consider when hiring a contractor.

DOES MY HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COVER HAIL DAMAGE?

The average cost for a hail damage claim can average about $15,000 – which varies based on how long the storm was, the size of the hail and the amount of damage it caused.  Generally speaking, most homeowners insurance policies cover damage from hail and wind caused by storms. Coverage can vary, however, for example, manufacturing defects that existed prior to the storm might not be covered under a hail damage claim. Check with your insurance agent about the specifics of your policy.

Uncertainty is part of life, but that’s why you have insurance. Talk to an insurance professional like your local Erie Insurance agent.They can tell you more about the options ERIE offers and help you get you a free quote customized for your home.

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Severe Weather

Prepare for Hurricane Isaias

Severe WeatherHurricane Isaias is expected to travel northward, impacting North Carolina and Virginia early next week. Even if the storm center does not make landfall, it is likely to cause high winds and heavy rain along the coast and inland.

If you experience a loss related to the storm and need to file a claim, Erie Insurance and your Agent are here to help. For claims service during evenings and weekends, call (800) 367-3743.

We encourage you to stay off the roads during heavy rains and follow these tips to reduce damage and stay safe:

• Bring in garbage cans, lawn furniture, bikes, toys, hanging plants and lawn decorations. If possible, remove the swings on your child’s swing set to prevent unnecessary damage.

• Move furnishings and valuables to the highest point in your house.

• Keep a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy in case of loss of power. Avoid open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.

• If you lose power, turn off all major appliances to avoid a power surge when the power is turned back on.

• Do not drive or walk through standing water. Water can be deeper than it appears, and two feet of water can sweep away most cars and six inches of moving water can sweep you away when walking.

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Digital Estate Planning

Digital Estate Planning

What Happens to Online Logins After You’re Gone?

Update: Talk to your local agent to request a contact-free life insurance quote. For a limited time, we are waiving the requirement of a paramedical exam in light of CDC guidance to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can do just about anything online these days. Whether it’s watching a movie, checking your bank account balance, shopping for clothes or ordering pizza, each activity likely requires a username and password.

Studies have shown the average American internet user has 150 online accounts that require a login. That’s a lot of passwords to manage on a day-to-day basis. But have you ever wondered what happens to your accounts and logins after you’re gone?

As our digital footprints expand with each passing year, experts now recommend taking steps to manage your online accounts as part of the estate planning process. Like preparing a will, buying a life insurance policy or choosing an executor, a little bit of planning can make life much easier for those managing your estate when you pass.

Here are four ways you can plan ahead to make deactivating your online accounts quick and easy:

1. Create an inventory of your accounts.
To delete online accounts after your death, it’s important to know which digital logins existed in the first place. That’s why it’s helpful to make a complete inventory of your online accounts and the login information for each. Be sure to list every account you can think of, including:

  • Bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Retirement and savings plans
  • Social media profiles
  • Shopping sites
  • Insurance policies
  • Bills and utilities
  • Subscription services

For each account, include the website address, username, password, account numbers and answers to security questions. You may want to consider using a password manager to keep everything in one secure place.

2. Name a digital executor.
Similarly to an estate executor who manages your last will and testament, a digital executor can be named to take charge of your digital assets. Once assigned, the digital executor can be responsible for:

  • Archiving any files, photos, video or other content you’ve created
  • Deleting files and erasing hard drives
  • Maintaining certain online accounts while closing others
  • Transferring accounts to your heirs
  • Notifying online outlets of your death
  • Canceling recurring payments

Many states will allow you to legally name a digital executor in your will but since the need for managing online assets is fairly new, some states don’t recognize this role yet. Check with your estate attorney to learn the regulations in your state.

3. Understand each provider’s terms of service.
For every online account you create, you must agree to the provider’s terms of service. If you’re like most people, you probably scrolled to the bottom of the page to click “I agree” without reading the fine print.

But in the terms of service, there’s often language addressing how accounts are disabled in the event of a user’s death. Facebook, for instance, provides an option where a deceased person’s profile can be turned into a memorialized account. Commerce platforms like Amazon and PayPal require an executor to contact the company directly to deactivate an account. Understanding the policies of each account can help in providing instructions for your digital executor.

4. Delete unnecessary accounts. After creating an inventory of your online accounts, get a head start on cleaning up your digital presence by deleting accounts you no longer need. Having fewer active profiles will make life easier for your digital executor while also helping to protect you from the possibility of identity theft. And it will save you the embarrassment of someone finding those old Myspace photos.

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Like writing your will, the choices you make now about life insurance will ultimately speak on your behalf in representing your intentions for loved ones and family. As guardians of that legacy, Erie Insurance can help you make choices that will be true to your values.

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