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Blanketing Your Home With Protection for Winter

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Blog, My Favorite Things

JakeHodgson2When the cold months roll around, most people like to have peace of mind that their furnace is going to be dependable and that the bills they receive for heating their homes are not astronomical. Here are some quick tips on getting your home ready for the cold.

Remove the debris from your gutters. Sticks and leaves can quickly accumulate in the gutters. Clogged drains and gutters can form ice dams in which water backs up, freezes, and seeps into your house. You can also use a hose to quickly rinse out your gutters and try to see if there are any possible leaks.

Try to minimize the air leaks in your home. One tip you can use is to walk around your home with a lit incense stick. In common drafty areas, you will be able to see the effect of the draft on the smoke. The most common draft areas are doors, window frames, electrical outlets, etc. You can minimize gaps in doors or window frames by sealing gaps with caulk or spray foam called “Great Stuff.” You can use door sweeps to reduce gaps under your door.

Make certain your fireplace is winter-ready! If you have a fireplace, you most likely enjoy using it during the winter as it can reduce heating costs and can be cozy. Your chimney does not need to be swept every year but should be inspected prior to use every year. Solid fuel burning stoves should be swept more than once a year due to the effect creosote has on mortar and metal dampers.

Most importantly, your furnace should be checked every year. An inspection can be done to make sure your furnace hums right along, but there are certain measures you can take to ensure furnace efficiency, such as replacing dirty furnace filters. Filters should be checked monthly.

If you’re like me, the winter months can’t end soon enough. It’s important to make sure you stay warm and that your home stays protected. By doing some of the steps above, you can ensure that damage to your home and belongings can be easily avoided.

Jake Hodgson
Personal Lines Underwriter

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Attention Illinois Storm Victims

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in News

Pekin Insurance is responding to the needs of its policyholders and the requests of the Illinois Department of Insurance in the administration of insurance policies, including all lines, resulting from a recent weather-related storm disaster that impacted 15 counties. Effective immediately, the following actions are applicable for all lines to policyholders who reside in or own property located in or around Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, La Salle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermillion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will, and Woodford Counties.

  • Moratorium on cancellations and non-renewals. For any cancellation or non-renewal notice issued on or after November 10, 2013, on any in-force policy issued to an affected policyholder or respecting affected property, Pekin Insurance will withdraw the cancellation or non-renewal and reinstate the policy with no lapse in coverage. In addition, Pekin Insurance will not issue any new cancellation or non-renewal notices to affected policyholders or for affected property until January 11, 2014.
  • Other insurance-related time period extensions. Extensions will be granted to affected policyholders for all policy provisions that impose a time limit for an insured or claimant to perform any act, including submission of a claim or proof of loss, reporting of information, submission of bills, or payment of funds.
  • Time period extension for repairs. If repair on affected property cannot be completed within the time period required under any policy or within the 90-day time period for repairs prior to termination due to condition of the property, Pekin Insurance will provide consumers with an extension of not less than 60 days to make the repairs.
  • Cancellation or non-renewal respecting affected property. Pekin Insurance will refrain from canceling or non-renewing policies respecting affected property due to “increase in the risk originally accepted” (215 ILCS 5/143.21 and 143.21.1) or due to the geographic location of the risk (215 ILCS 5/155.22).
  • Other exceptions to policy/contract requirement or rating/underwriting rules. Pekin Insurance will consider exceptions to policy or contract requirements or other rating or underwriting rules not listed on this announcement when contractual requirements are not met as a result of this disaster. Exceptions to policy or contract requirements or rating or underwriting rules will include an insured’s displacement from his or her home.
  • Availability of the Illinois Department of Insurance. The Illinois Department of Insurance is available for complaints regarding any disaster-related dispute or issue. Consumers may call the DOI’s toll-free complaint hotline at 1-866-445-5364 or file a complaint online at https://mc.insurance.illinois.gov/messagecenter.nsf.

It is our sincere goal to accommodate the needs of our policyholders that have been affected by these natural disasters. If you have questions, please feel free to contact your Pekin Insurance Agent or Contact Us through our website.

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What Is Celiac Disease?

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Blog, Happy Together

DanielleBanks2November is Celiac Awareness Month. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is estimated that 1 out of every 141 Americans have celiac disease, but 83% of those individuals who have it are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Although some individuals with celiac disease may show no symptoms, some of the most common symptoms include:

• Bloating or Gas
• Diarrhea
• Constipation
• Fatigue
• Pale Mouth Sores
• Headaches
• Discolored Teeth

Because these are very common symptoms for a variety of diseases, celiac disease tends to be misdiagnosed. The only treatment available for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Continuing to eat gluten can damage the intestine. A gluten-free diet consists of avoiding foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley. This disease is becoming more common; therefore, many products are also made gluten-free.

If you have family members or friends with celiac disease, remember to be sensitive to their gluten-free diet. During the upcoming holiday season, we will tend to have a variety of meals and desserts. Consider using some of these common gluten-free alternatives:

• Brown Rice
• Corn Flour
• Corn Starch
• Lentils
• Soy Flour

To learn more about this disease, visit http://www.beyondceliac.org

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Danielle Banks
Claim Analyst

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Keep Your Thanksgiving Disaster-Free

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Blog, My Favorite Things

ScottHomaBonfires, crisp nights, leaves turning colors, football, and pumpkins. What do all these things have in common? They remind us of autumn.

With autumn comes Thanksgiving and with Thanksgiving comes the one day a year that more cooking fires occur than any other day. In fact, grease- and cooking-related claims more than double on Thanksgiving Day, as compared to an average November day.

The title for this blog is, “My Favorite Things.” I can’t think of anything more valuable than my family and my home. These are my most favorite things. To prevent you from being a statistic and burning down your home, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers some tips for a safe and happy Thanksgiving while cooking ol’ Tom Turkey in that ever-popular deep fryer.

  • NEVER leave a fryer unattended.
  • Place fryer in an open area AWAY from all walls, fences, or other structures.
  • Never use your fryer IN, ON, or UNDER a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or any structure that can catch fire.
  • Completely thaw (USDA says 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds) and dry turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil.
  • Center the pot over the burner on the cooker.
  • Raise and lower food SLOWLY to reduce splatter and avoid burns.
  • COVER bare skin when adding or removing food.
  • Check the oil temperature frequently.
  • If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn gas supply OFF.
  • If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. DO NOT attempt to extinguish fire with water.

To make sure your possessions, your family, and your home are properly protected from disaster, contact your local Pekin Insurance agent to be certain all your insurance needs are answered.

Scott Homa, CPCU, AIC, AU
National Claim Specialist

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Navigating Health Care Reform as a Small Business

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Blog, Happy Together

JocelynDuncan2The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA for short) includes a very broad array of changes that impact the small business owner. Some changes require immediate action on the part of small business owners, while others will affect the health insurance products available to small businesses beginning in 2014. It’s important to understand these changes and anticipate changes in your processes that will need to occur so that you can remain compliant with new regulations.

Health Insurance Plan Changes
While it is true that if you like your insurance coverage today, you will likely be able to keep similar coverage, there are new requirements for health insurance plans beginning in 2014. Some or all of these requirements may require changes to your current coverage, whether it be a change of the specific services covered or a change of how much money an individual will have to pay for those services.

Waiting Period
Employers cannot require their eligible employees to wait any longer than 90 days from the date they become eligible under the plan for their health insurance coverage to begin.

Essential Health Benefits
One of the objectives of the ACA is to ensure that consumers have the health insurance coverage they believe they have when they purchase a policy or enroll in a group plan. One of the ways the law accomplishes this is by requiring that all plans cover some basic benefits, called Essential Health Benefits. Under federal law, these include ambulatory services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn services, mental health and substance use disorder services, behavioral health services, prescription drug coverage, rehabilitative services, habilitative services, laboratory services, preventive care and wellness services, chronic disease management services, and pediatric vision and dental services. There may be additional services that are required to be covered in some states based on individual state laws.

Metal Tiers
I’m sure many of you have heard of the metal tiers and how each tier covers a higher percentage of expected health care costs, but let’s look at an example to see what that looks like in terms of coverage. A very simple health insurance plan covers all required essential health benefits and nothing additional and covers physician office visits and prescription drugs under the deductible and coinsurance provisions. So what would the metal tiers look like for this plan? Here are some examples:

Bronze (60% of expected cost) – $2,000 deductible, 50%
coinsurance, and $6,350 out-of-pocket maximum per individual.

Silver (70% of expected cost) – $1,500 deductible, 70%
coinsurance, and $4,850 out-of-pocket maximum per individual.

Gold (80% of expected cost) – $1,000 deductible, 80% coinsurance,
and $2,000 out-of-pocket maximum per individual.

Platinum (90% of expected cost) – $500 deductible, 90%
coinsurance, and $1,500 out-of-pocket maximum per individual.

Plan designs can vary widely from carrier to carrier and even between different plans offered by the same carrier, so these metal tier designations can be achieved by a wide variety of plan design combinations.

Reinsurance Fees
The ACA includes a reinsurance program that begins in 2014 and continues through 2016. Each individual covered for health insurance will incur a fee, which is $5.25 in 2014 and is expected to decrease the following two years. Your health insurance carrier will be responsible for paying these fees.

Taxes, Notifications, and More
There are additional requirements beyond the health insurance plan changes that small business owners need to be aware of. These include the availability of tax credits, notification of the availability of the Marketplace requirements, Flexible Spending Account (FSA) limits, Medicare withholding and tax assessment changes, new incentives for workplace wellness programs, and new health insurance coverage reporting requirements. You can head over to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website for more information on these items.

In addition, the SBA is hosting a free one-hour webinar where small business owners can learn more about the Affordable Care Act. There are a number of time slots available from November through mid-December. You can visit http://www.sba.gov/healthcare to learn more and to register for a session.

Don’t get blindsided by health care reform changes. You can find a list of key principles of the ACA, including a complete timeline of past and future implementation dates, here.

At Pekin Insurance,® we understand the unique concerns and constraints of small business owners and will strive to go Beyond the expected® in assisting you with navigating through these changes. We offer a wide variety of ACA-compliant group health insurance products to meet your needs. Contact your Pekin Insurance agent today to find the right plan for you and your employees.

Jocelyn Duncan
Actuarial and Model Office Manager

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