Pets And Health Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

The pet insurance industry got its start almost a century ago in Sweden where about half that country’s pets are now insured. In North America, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Nationwide, sold its first pet insurance policy in 1982 to cover the dog playing Lassie on television.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reports North America’s pet health insurance sector posted record growth in 2017, with combined gross written premiums hitting $1.2 billion. This represents a 23 percent increase in gross written premiums over 2016. The total number of pets insured in the U.S. and Canada reached 2.1 million at year-end 2017 up by 17 percent from 2016. According to NAPHIA, there are 12 major pet insurance companies in North America.

Pet ownership in the United States

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is up from 56 percent of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted.

NUMBER OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS THAT OWN A PET, BY TYPE OF ANIMAL

PetNumber
Dog60.2
Cat47.1
Freshwater fish12.5
Bird7.9
Small animal6.7
Reptile4.7
Horse2.6
Saltwater fish2.5

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

View Archived Tables

TOTAL NUMBER OF PETS OWNED IN THE UNITED STATES, BY TYPE OF ANIMAL

(millions)

PetNumber
Freshwater fish139.3
Cat94.2
Dog89.7
Bird20.3
Saltwater fish18.8
Small animal14.0
Reptile9.4
Horse7.6

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

View Archived Tables

TOTAL U.S. PET INDUSTRY EXPENDITURES, 2007-2017 (1)

YearExpenditure
2007$41.2
200843.2
200945.5
201048.4
201151.0
201253.3
201355.7
201458.0
201560.3
201666.8
201769.4 (2)

(1) Includes food, supplies and over-the-counter medicine, veterinarian care, live animal purchases and grooming and boarding.
(2) Estimate.

Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

BASIC ANNUAL EXPENSES FOR DOGS AND CATS (1)

ExpenseDogCat
Surgical vet$474$245
Routine vet257182
Food235235
Food treats7256
Kennel boarding322164
Vitamins5846
Groomer/grooming aids8430
Toys4730

Cold Weather Tips

Courtesy of iii.org

Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences to your home—and to your household budget. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid the expense and inconvenience of winter damage—and even help you save on heating costs. Get started when the leaves begin to turn so your home is well prepared when the cold, harsh weather hits.


Winter weather prep for the outside of your home

When temperatures drop dramatically and the snow flies, you’ll be glad to have taken these measures to safeguard your house.

  • Clean out the gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, which is what happens when water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
  • Install gutter guards. Gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
  • Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and, wind could cause weak trees or branches to break free and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.
  • Repair steps and handrails. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
  • Use caulking to seal cracks and wall openings to prevent cold air and moisture from entering your home. Caulk and install weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent warm air from leaking out and cold air from blowing in.

Winter weather prep for the inside of your home

Frigid temperatures, snow and ice can wreak havoc on water pipes and tax heating systems. Ensure all your home’s internal systems are “go” for winter safety and efficiency.

  • Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water then can refreeze, leading to more ice build-up—and may even lead to ice dams that can damage your roof. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes. Consider insulating garages and other unfinished areas to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Provide a reliable back-up power source. In the event of a power outage, continuous power will keep you warm and help to prevent frozen pipes, or a frozen battery operated sump-pump. Consider purchasing a portable power generator to ensure safety—and be sure to follow all guidelines for safe operation.
  • Have your heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
  • Check pipes closely for the presence of cracks and leaks. Have any compromised pipe repaired immediately.
  • Protect pipes in attics and crawl spaces with insulation or plug-in heating cable. Be sure to purchase UL®-listed models of heating cables with built-in thermostats; these will turn on the heat on when it is needed. When using the cables, always follow manufacturers instructions closely.
  • Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect the system against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Move combustible items away from near any heat sources that you’ll likely be using. This includes fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.
  • Install or check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Not only do residential fires increase in the winter, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning—so regularly check that your detectors are in working condition.
  • Know where your pipes are located and learn how to shut the water off. If your pipes freeze, speed is critical. The quicker you shut off water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better your chance of preventing major damage.
  • Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is found, have all necessary repairs performed as soon as possible.
  • Take steps to prevent flooding. Your licensed contractor can also advise you about measures to prevent flooding from melted snow and ice runoff. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other improvements can prevent water damage to your home and belongings.
  • Consider insuring yourself for a sewer backup. Flooding related to melting snow can overburden sewer systems. Raw sewage backed up into the drains in your home can cause thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture and electrical systems. Sewer backup is not covered under standard homeowners insurance or renters insurance policies, nor is it covered by flood insurance but can be purchased as either a separate product, or an endorsement.

Fire Hazards and the Holidays

Courtesy of iii.org

HOLIDAY FIRE LOSSES

Fireworks

On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires in 2011, according to a fireworks fact sheet from the NFPA. Key stats include:

  • Fireworks fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2013, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,400 people for fireworks related injuries; 55 percent of those injuries were to the extremities, and 38 percent were to the head.
  • The risk of fireworks injury is highest for young people under age 4, followed by children 10 to 14.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says Thanksgiving Day is the leading day for home cooking fires, with three times as many occurring on Thanksgiving as any other day of the year. In 2013, there were 1,550 fires on Thanksgiving, a 230 percent increase over the daily average.

Home Fires

  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says Thanksgiving Day is the leading day for home cooking fires, with three times as many occurring on Thanksgiving as any other day of the year. In 2013, there were 1,550 fires on Thanksgiving, a 230 percent increase over the daily average.
  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 210 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees from 2009 to 2013, according to a fact sheet from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
  • Home Christmas tree fires caused an average of seven civilian deaths, 19 civilian injuries and $17.5 million in direct property damage annually from 2009 to 2013.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 38 percent of the home Christmas tree structure fires. About one-quarter (24 percent) occurred because some type of heat source was too close to the tree. Decorative lights were involved in 18 percent of these incidents. Eight percent of home Christmas tree fires were started by candles.
  • The top three days for home candle fires were Christmas, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve, according to another NFPA fact sheet.
  • During the five-year-period of 2009-2013, the NFPA estimates that decorations were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 860 reported home structure fires per year. These fires caused an estimated average of one civilian death, 41 civilian injuries and $13.4 million in direct property damage per year, according to an NFPA fact sheet.

For information about Holiday Safety and Preparedness, see our Pinterest board.

FIRE LOSSES

Great strides have been made in constructing fire-resistant buildings and improving fire-suppression techniques, both of which have reduced the incidence of fire. However, in terms of property losses, these advances have been somewhat offset by increases in the number of and value of buildings. In 2014, on average, a fire department responded to a fire every 24 seconds in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. A structure fire occurs every 64 seconds; a residential structure fire occurs every 86 seconds and an outside property fire occurs every 52 seconds.

STRUCTURE FIRES

There are about a half million fires in structures each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In 2014, 78 percent of structure fires were in residential properties and 22 percent were in non-residential structures, including storage facilities, stores and offices, and industrial properties, and public assembly. Public assembly fires include fires in eating and drinking places and other entertainment venues, houses of worship and other places where people congregate. There are approximately 7,600 structure fires in eating and drinking establishments each year, according to a NFPA report based on data between 2006 and 2010.

According to the NFPA, fires in nightclubs are among the most deadly public occupancy fires, because they contain a large number of people in one main space. In January, 2013 a deadly nightclub fire in Brazil claimed over 230 lives, making it one of the most deadly nightclub fires on record. The deadliest nightclub fire in world history was the 1903 Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago, Illinois in which 602 people were killed, followed by a 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston, Massachusetts which claimed 492 lives and a fire at the Conway’s Theater in Brooklyn, New York in 1876 which killed 285 people. The 2003 Station Fire in Rhode Island claimed 100 lives, and ranks as number eight. The complete top ten ranking is posted at NFPA: Nightclub Fires.

Charity Updates-Week of Giving

Courtesy of iii.org

Each year, the insurance industry comes together for the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) Week of Giving. During this eight-day international and industry-wide initiative, insurance professionals complete volunteer projects in support of community nonprofit organizations.

The IICF is a nonprofit organization that unites the insurance industry in helping communities and enriching lives through grants, volunteer service and leadership. For more than 20 years, thousands of insurance industry volunteers representing their own companies work together in the spirit of industry camaraderie to serve local communities. These projects include partnerships with hundreds of nonprofits and charities, focused in the areas of early childhood literacy; homeless and veterans causes; support of women, children and families; food insecurity; child abuse prevention; beach, river and community park clean ups; disaster preparedness and safety; and other important programs. In 2017, nearly 10,200 industry volunteers, in 173 cities, participated in the IICF Week of Giving. More than 28,800 hours of service, dedicated to projects, were completed with nonprofits and community organizations across the United States and United Kingdom.

The 2018 Week of Giving runs October 13 – 20. For more information—and to sign up as a volunteer—go to www.weekofgiving.iicf.org.

2018 IICF Week of Giving Press Release

2018 IICF Week of Giving Communications Toolkit

2018 IICF Week of Giving Volunteer Team Leader Guide

2018 IICF Week of Giving How To Report Service Guide

2018 IICF Week of Giving FAQs

Driving and Seniors

Courtesy of iii.org

Older drivers are keeping their licenses longer and driving more miles than ever before.

The high fatality rates of this age group reflect the fact that older drivers are more easily injured than younger people and are more apt to have medical complications and die of those injuries.

There is a growing need to help older drivers sharpen their skills as well as recognize their changing abilities and adapt their driving practices appropriately. Insurers have partnered with state and local governments, and groups such as AARP and the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety to create programs designed to address these needs.

Improving Older Driver Safety

According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, impairments in three key areas—vision, cognition and motor function—are responsible for higher crash rates for older drivers. Vision declines with age; cognition, which includes memory and attention, can be impacted by medical problems such as dementia and medication side effects; and motor function suffers as flexibility declines due to diseases such as arthritis.

A 2018 report from TRIP, a nonprofit organization that studies transportation issues, calls for transportation improvements that will enable older Americans to maintain their mobility. Since there are about 46 million people age 65 or older, projected to more than double to over 98 million by 2060, roadway safety improvements are increasingly important as 90 percent of travel for this demographic takes place in a private vehicle. Almost 80 percent live in auto-dependent suburban and rural areas. Public transit accounts for only two percent of trips for older Americans. Ridesharing services can help seniors maintain their mobility although they often require the use of smartphones, which are owned by under one-third of older Americans. Self-driving and connected vehicles hold much promise for the mobility of older Americans.

Licensing requirements and restrictions

Many states routinely attempt to identify, assess and regulate older drivers with diminishing abilities who cannot or will not voluntarily modify their driving habits. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 18 states require older drivers to renew their drivers licenses more often than the rest of the state’s residents. In addition, 18 states require more frequent vision tests for older motorists. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia prohibit older drivers from renewing licenses by mail or online. One state, Illinois, requires older drivers age 75 and over to take a road test at renewal and the District of Columbia requires a doctor’s approval for drivers over the age of 70 to renew their licenses.

Some states restrict driving activities for people with certain medical conditions or after a serious accident or traffic violation. Depending on their ability, older drivers may be limited to driving during daylight hours or on nonfreeway types of roads. In most states restrictions such as these can be placed on anyone’s drivers license, regardless of age, if his or her medical condition warrants it.

A 2014 study published in the journal Injury Epidemiology found that no policy in state drivers license renewal laws examined had a significant impact on fatal crash involvement of drivers younger than 85 years of age. However, two provisions had some effect on the involvement of older drivers in fatal crashes. Mandatory in-person renewal was associated with a 31 percent reduction in the fatal crash involvement rates of drivers ages 85 and older. In states where in-person renewal was not required, requiring drivers to pass a vision test was associated with a similar reduction for drivers age 85 and older. But in states where in-person renewal was required, mandating a vision test was not associated with any additional reduction, along with requiring a knowledge test or an on-road driving test. Results were also not statistically significant for laws that require more frequent renewal or requiring healthcare providers to report cases concerning their patients’ driving ability.

Insurance discounts

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, as of January 2015, 34 states and the District of Columbia mandated premium discounts for older adults. (These state laws have not been changed since February 2013.) All but Massachusetts require older drivers (usually age 55 and over) to complete an approved-accident prevention course. In addition, 12 states mandate discounts to all drivers (including older drivers) who take defensive driving or other drivers’ education courses. In general, the state-mandated discounts apply to liability coverages because they are most relevant. The regulations can vary by state. For instance, in Massachusetts the older adult discount applies to all coverages for drivers over the age of 65.

In addition, some insurance companies offer discounts in the states in which they do business for drivers who complete defensive driving or other approved courses, including discounts for seniors who take AARP courses.

If You Need to a Locate Life Insurance Policy

Courtesy of iii.org

Locating life insurance documents for a deceased relative can be a daunting task—for one thing, as of this moment there are no national databases of all life insurance policies. However, with a little sleuthing, you can successfully navigate the paper trail.

Here are some strategies to help simplify your search.

1. Look for insurance related documents

Search through files, bank safe deposit boxes and other storage places to see if there are any insurance related documents. Also, check address books for the names of any insurance professionals or companies—an agent or company who sold the deceased their auto or home insurance may know about the existence of a life insurance policy.

2. Contact financial advisors

Present or prior attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, bankers, business insurance agents/brokers and other financial professionals might have information about the deceased’s life insurance policies.

3. Review life insurance applications

The application for each policy is attached to that policy. So if you can find any of the deceased’s life insurance policies, look at the application—will have a list of any other life insurance policies owned at the time of the application.

4. Contact previous employers

Former employers maintain records of past group policies.

5. Check bank statements

See if any checks or automated payments have been made out to life insurance companies over the years.

6. Check the mail

For the year following the death of the policyholder, look for premium notices or dividend notices. If a policy has been paid up, there will no notice of premium payments due; however, the company may still send an annual notice regarding the status of the policy or notice of a dividend.

7. Review income tax returns

Look over the deceased’s tax returns for the past two years to see if there is interest income from and interest expenses paid to life insurance companies. Life insurance companies pay interest on accumulations on permanent policies and charge interest on policy loans.

8. Contact state insurance departments

Twenty-nine state insurance departments offer free search services to residents looking for lost policies. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a “Life Insurance Company Location System” to help you find state insurance department officials who can help to identify companies that might have written life insurance on the deceased. To access that service, go to the NAIC’s Life Insurance Company Location System.

9. Check with the state’s Unclaimed Property Office

If a life insurance company knows that an insured client has died but can’t find the beneficiary, it must turn the death benefit over to the state in which the policy was purchased as “unclaimed property.” If you know (or can guess) where the policy was bought, you can contact the state comptroller’s department to see if it has any unclaimed money from life insurance policies belonging to the deceased. A good place to start is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration.

10. Contact a private search service

Several private companies will, for a fee, assist you with the search for a lost life insurance policy. They will contact insurance companies on your behalf to find out if the deceased was insured. This service is often provided through a websites.

11. Might the policy have originated in Canada?

If you think the policy might have been purchase in Canada, try contacting the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association for information.

12. Search the MIB database

There is no central database of policy documents, but there is a database of all applications for individual life insurance processed since January 1, 1996. (nb: There is a fee for each search and many searches are not successful; a random sample of searches found only one match in every four attempts.) For more information, go to MIB’s Consumer Protection page.

Insurance Claims and Irma FAQ

Courtesy of iii.org

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, policyholders may have questions about how insurance works following a natural disaster. Here are some answers to many of these common questions.


Q. Are flood losses covered under my homeowners insurance policy?

A. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage, including damage from a storm surge. Flood coverage requires a separate policy from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or from some private insurance companies.

More information about flood insurance.

Q. Is property damage from a storm surge considered flood damage?

A. Yes, it is?and, therefore, storm surge is covered by your flood insurance policy. A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover damage from floods, such as flooding from a storm surge.

Q. What is the “official” definition of a flood? If there is only water on my property in my neighborhood, is that considered a flood?

A. Flood damage is caused by an overflow of inland or tidal waters and is defined as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres and two or more properties of what is normally dry land. So if only one property is damaged, then that is not considered flood related.

Q. Is wind damage covered under my homeowners insurance policy?

A. Property insurance covers damage from windstorms, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, to the “residence premises,” whether it is a single-family home, a duplex where the policyholder lives in one of the units, or any other building where the policyholder resides as shown on the insurance declarations page. A standard homeowners policy also applies to attached structures, such as a garage or deck, and “other structures” that are unattached, such as a separate garage building or shed and swimming pools. The policy includes coverage for damage to contents.

More information about homeowners coverage.

Q. Does my renters insurance cover damage from wind?

A. A renters policy covers personal belongings that are damaged by wind from the storm. Damage from flooding may be covered under some, but not all, renters policies. A separate renters flood policy can be purchased from the NFIP. Damage unrelated to your personal possessions, such as part of the apartment’s structure like the walls and floor, is covered under the building owner’s policy.

More information about renters insurance.

Q. I live in a condo. Am I covered for wind damage to my unit?

A. If you have purchased a co-op or condominium policy for your apartment or townhouse, you are covered for damage to the interior space of your home. The condo association’s insurance might have coverage for your fixtures, wiring or plumbing, or it may only provide coverage from the “bare walls” and not what is behind them. You can obtain a copy of the master policy to better understand what is covered.

More information about co-op/condo insurance.

Q. My car was flooded in the storm. Is it covered?

A. Flood damage to vehicles, including flooding from a storm surge, is covered if you have purchased comprehensive coverage, also known as “other than collision” coverage, which is optional with a standard auto policy. Four out of five drivers choose to buy comprehensive coverage.

More information about auto coverage.

Q. If I make temporary repairs to my home, will I get reimbursed?

A. Yes. Do not wait until a claims adjuster arrives to make temporary repairs that will prevent further damage. Most insurance policies will reimburse you for the expense of making such reasonable and necessary repairs, up to a specified dollar amount. In fact, most policies require you to take these preventive steps. Be sure to save all the receipts from purchases related to your repairs so you can be reimbursed.

Q. The power went out during the storm and food in the refrigerator and freezer were spoiled. Is that covered?

A. Following a hurricane, some insurance companies may include food-spoilage coverage, usually for a set amount that can range from $250 to $500 per appliance. Check with your insurance professional.

Q. I have a percentage deductible for hurricane damage. How do I know what my out-of-pocket costs are?

A. The declarations page of your insurance policy details the exact dollar amount of your hurricane deductible. Whether a hurricane deductible applies to a claim depends on the specific “trigger”, which can vary by state and insurer and may be linked to wind speeds.

More information about deductibles.

Q. Should I file a claim if the damage is less than my deductible?

A. Yes. Sometimes there may be additional damage that becomes evident in the months following a significant storm. Filing a claim, even if the damage total is under your deductible, will protect you in the event further repairs are needed. And if your home suffers damage from more than one storm in a single season, the damage from the first storm may apply toward the deductible amount.

Q. My home was not damaged, but can I file a claim for the large tree that fell in my yard?

A. Homeowners insurance policies do not pay for removal of trees or landscaping debris that did no damage to an insured structure. If a tree hit your home, that damage is covered; if your tree fell on your neighbor’s home, his or her insurance company would pay for the damage. However, if the felled tree was poorly maintained or diseased and you took no steps to take care of it, their insurer may seek reimbursement from you for the damages.

More information about trees and insurance.

Q. My home is uninhabitable. How can I cover temporary living expenses?

A. Most homeowners and renters policies cover additional living expenses?any costs over and above your customary living expenses?when you are displaced from your home by a covered loss (such as wind damage) and need temporary shelter. The amount is generally 20 percent of the total insurance you have on your home. Some insurers pay more than 20 percent; others limit additional living expenses to an amount spent during a specific time period. Keep all your receipts to document your expenditures.

Q. If I evacuated due to the storm, are my evacuation expenses covered?

A. Generally, expenses related to evacuation are only covered if there is also damage to your property. This is because the coverage is part of the property policy.

Q. I’ve heard that Texas has a new law that affects prevents me from filing a lawsuit in a claims dispute. Is that true?

A. No, it is not. Texas law has strong protections for consumers, and those protections remain in place. A law that will effective Sept. 1, 2017 (HB1774) simply requires that an insurance company be given written notice of legal action before a lawsuit is filed. It does not bar any individual from having access to the courts nor does it prevent consumers from seeking legal counsel.

Q. Advertisements and social media traffic are suggesting that I need a lawyer or public adjuster. Do I need to hire someone to help me with my claim?

A. You have a right to hire outside claims help; however, be aware that it comes at a cost as public adjusters are paid a percentage of your claim and legal assistance is often charged at an hourly rate. The insurance premiums you pay include the services of a claims adjuster when it comes time to file a claim. Their job is to serve you and help you recover and rebuild?if you’re not satisfied with the results, you can contact the claims manager. Every natural disaster gives insurers an opportunity to do their best for you, and that should be your expectation.