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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 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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Doing Things the Safe Way Is the Right Way

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Blog, Small Business Safety

Occasionally, we look at an account that is significantly above average. They go the extra mile to control losses and make sure customers and employees are as safe as possible. One such account I recently surveyed was an antique and restoration shop operated by a husband and wife team, Tom and Mary, located in Southern Illinois.

The shop operates as an antique resale shop. They sell all types of furniture, collectibles, and vintage items. They also have 4 classic cars for sale. They intend to someday do car restoration work in the back of the building. They operate out of a one-story masonry non-combustible structure that was originally a Western Auto store.

So what makes this insured above average? For starters, they already have a NFPA 33 approved spray paint booth for when they begin doing classic car restoration work. And yes, the spray paint booth is fully sprinklered. They have more than the required number of fire extinguishers, properly serviced, and they have been meticulous about housekeeping and maintaining clear aisles in the shop.

Mary indicates that both she and Tom have worked for large construction companies in the past. She says this has shaped their attitudes toward safety. They have assisted with safety programs and safety meetings and fully believe that doing things the right way and the safe way is the only way. Mary indicates that when they set up their shop, customer safety and property loss control were paramount in their decisions. She can certainly be proud that they more than accomplished those goals!

Mike Goodman, ARM
Senior Loss Control Representative

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Managing Your Medical Claims is Good for Your Health

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in Blog, Happy Together

AmyDarlingInsurance can be confusing. The more medical care you have, the more there is to keep track of. No one plans to be sick, but preparing and having a system in place will help if you do have claims. If you or your family member becomes ill, the number of bills can be extensive. A simple outpatient surgery could easily generate several bills. You can expect bills, at minimum, from the hospital or surgery center, surgeon, pathologist, and anesthesiologist. Organization will allow you to take care of yourself or your family member and not stress about the paperwork. Managing your medical claims can be easy if you do the following:

  • Start a file at the beginning of each year to keep all of your health insurance documents in one place.
  • As bills come in, avoid paying the bill until you have your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance carrier. Many times a doctor or hospital will bill you before the insurance discount is applied. They also do not usually know the exact benefit and will estimate the insurance payment. This oftentimes creates an overpayment on the account. You should never ignore a bill, but be cautious of paying before your insurance which could create more work for you later to recover the overpayment.
  • Once you have both the bill and the EOB, you should be able to match them up to figure out exactly what amount is a discount, how much the insurance paid, and any amount that is not covered and why it was not covered.
  • If you get a bill and do not get an EOB within 30 days, it is a good idea to contact the doctor or hospital to be sure they properly billed your insurance company. Have a copy of your insurance ID card handy to provide them any information they may need to bill your insurance.

Pekin Insurance® constantly strives to provide our insureds with Beyond the expected® claim service. We want you and your family focused on being healthy. Let us help make the claim process as easy as possible. If you ever have questions on your Pekin Insurance medical insurance, we are just a phone call away! Call 800-371-9622 for assistance on managing your medical claims.

Amy Darling, FLMI, FLHC, ACS, ARA
Director of Life Claims

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Tips to Avoid a Deer Collision

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in Blog, My Favorite Things

BeckyCalhoun Fall is the time of year when many people are dreaming of bagging that big buck. But you sure don’t want to do it with your vehicle! Here are a few tips to avoid a collision with a deer.

  • Be Alert, especially at This Time of the Year! During hunting season and breeding season, deer are extremely active. Sunrise and sunset to midnight are particularly high-risk times of the day.
  • Slow Down and Know Your Surroundings. Driving slower will provide you with more time to react if you spot a deer along the roadway. When you are driving in rural or wooded areas or where there are signs posted warning of deer crossings, be extra cautious.
  • Drive Defensively. Wear your seat belt, and be sure to look for deer. Deer usually do not travel alone, so if you see one deer, it is likely there are more nearby.
  • Use High-Beam Headlights at Night. When there is no oncoming traffic, use high-beam headlights to help illuminate the area you are driving through and make deer more visible.
  • Don’t Swerve Your Vehicle. Swerving your vehicle to miss hitting a deer may cause you to lose control of your vehicle and possibly cause a collision with another vehicle, a tree, or other object.
  • Watch for warning Signs from Other Vehicles. If you notice other vehicles are slowing down or have their flashers on, this could be a warning there are deer in the area. Be prepared to take appropriate action.

What Coverage Applies if I Hit a Deer?

Although you may think Collision coverage would repair damage to your vehicle if you are in a collision with an animal, it is actually Comprehensive Coverage that provides coverage for damage to your automobile resulting from a covered loss due to animal collision. Most Comprehensive coverages have a deductible that would also apply to an animal collision loss.

Be careful, drive safely, and leave the deer for the hunters!

Becky Calhoun, CPCU, AU
Senior Personal Lines R&D Specialist


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Know Your Stuff Should Disaster Strike!

Posted by on Oct 15, 2013 in Blog, My Favorite Things

ShannonMullisNo one ever thinks tragedy will strike them or their family. Unfortunately, things do happen when we least expect them to. The best way to handle tragedy is to have a plan. We can’t feasibly have a plan for every tragedy that may occur, but for the big ones such as fire, tornado, or theft, having essential tools in place can save you time and headaches.

Dealing with the loss of your personal items to fire or catastrophic storm can be overwhelming. Here are 5 tips to make the process a little easier.

1. Document, document, document. The more information you have about your personal property, the easier it will be to replace the items in the future. Your insurance carrier is going to want to know some important information, such as purchase date, model number, and cost at the time of purchase. The Insurance Information Institute has made the process relatively simple through their free online home inventory software available at

There are also apps you can download to your smartphone. All of the apps below offer the same basic information on recording your property.

Apps for the Apple iPhone include:
• Suresafe Inventory (Free)
• Unisafe Home Inventory (Free)
• Allmythings Home Inventory (Paid)

Android offers many free apps for home inventory and two pay apps. Some of these free apps are:
• MyHome Pro Inventory
• Visual Home Inventory
• The Insurance Information Institute’s mobile app

All iPhone apps can be found in the Apple store, and all Android apps can be found in the Google Play store.

2. Video logging is also a great way to keep accurate records for your insurance carrier. Download the information onto a web page that can be accessed from any computer, or keep the information on an external hard drive in a fire-proof safe. Generally, external hard drives cost in the range of $15 to $100.

3. Keeping receipts of credit card bills is a great way to prove cost on big-ticket items. Insurance carriers are going to want to know when the items were purchased, how much they cost, and what model they are. Keeping important information like this will make the process swift and drama-free when working with your claim adjuster.

4. Know the difference between ACV (actual cash value) and RCV (replacement cost value).

• Actual Cash Value is what you would pay for a similar item at today’s cost minus depreciation.

• Replacement Cost Value is what you would pay for a similar item at today’s cost.

If you do not understand the difference between the two, replacing your items can become a huge headache. Always remember, if you don’t understand something on your Homeowners policy, contact your agent or the claim adjuster to break it down for you.

5. Going room to room and making a complete video log or picture log can ensure that you will get the best results from your Homeowners policy when attempting to replace your personal property. This also gives you an idea of whether you have enough coverage for all of your property.

Finally, any loss can be overwhelming, and with the claim process being unfamiliar, confusion and misinformation can make the process even more tiresome. These tips are just a quick and easy way to document what you have and what you will be replacing should the need ever present itself. I would suggest that after Christmas you update your video logs or picture logs as this is the time of year we tend to acquire new things.

Shannon Mullis
Adjuster – Mt. Vernon Service Office

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