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A Beginner’s Guide to Insurance

Having the right kind of insurance is central to sound financial planning. Some of us may have some form of insurance but very few really understand what it is or why one must have it. For most Indians insurance is a form of investment or a superb tax saving avenue. Ask an average person about his/her investments and they will proudly mention an insurance product as part of their core investments. Of the approximately 5% of Indians that are insured the proportion of those adequately insured is much lower. Very few of the insured view insurance as purely that. There is perhaps no other financial product that has witnessed such rampant mis-selling at the hands of agents who are over enthusiastic in selling products linking insurance to investment earning them fat commissions.

What is Insurance?

Insurance is a way of spreading out significant financial risk of a person or business entity to a large group of individuals or business entities in the occurrence of an unfortunate event that is predefined. The cost of being insured is the monthly or annual compensation paid to the insurance company. In the purest form of insurance if the predefined event does not occur until the period specified the money paid as compensation is not retrieved. Insurance is effectively a means of spreading risk among a pool of people who are insured and lighten their financial burden in the event of a shock.

Insured and Insurer

When you seek protection against financial risk and make a contract with an insurance provider you become the insured and the insurance company becomes your insurer.

Sum assured

In Life Insurance this is the amount of money the insurer promises to pay when the insured dies before the predefined time. This does not include bonuses added in case of non-term insurance. In non-life insurance this guaranteed amount may be called as Insurance Cover.

Premium

For the protection against financial risk an insurer provides, the insured must pay compensation. This is known as premium. They may be paid annually, quarterly, monthly or as decided in the contract. Total amount of premiums paid is several times lesser than the insurance cover or it wouldn’t make much sense to seek insurance at all. Factors that determine premium are the cover, number of years for which insurance is sought, age of the insured (individual, vehicle, etc), to name a few.

Nominee

The beneficiary who is specified by the insured to receive the sum assured and other benefits, if any is the nominee. In case of life insurance it must be another person apart from the insured.

Policy Term

The number of years you want protection for is the term of policy. Term is decided by the insured at the time of purchasing the insurance policy.

Rider

Certain insurance policies may offer additional features as add-ons apart from the actual cover. These can be availed by paying extra premiums. If those features were to be bought separately they would be more expensive. For instance you could add on a personal accident rider with your life insurance.

Surrender Value and Paid-up Value

If you want to exit a policy before its term ends you can discontinue it and take back your money. The amount the insurer will pay you in this instance is called the surrender value. The policy ceases to exist. Instead if you just stop paying the premiums mid way but do not withdraw money the amount is called as paid-up. At the term’s end the insurer pays you in proportion of the paid-up value.

Now that you know the terms this is how insurance works in plain words. An insurance company pools premiums from a large group of people who want to insure against a certain kind of loss. With the help of its actuaries the company comes up with statistical analysis of the probability of actual loss happening in a certain number of people and fixes premiums taking into account other factors as mentioned earlier. It works on the fact that not all insured will suffer loss at the same time and many may not suffer the loss at all within the time of contract.

Types of Insurance

Potentially any risk that can be quantified in terms of money can be insured. To protect loved ones from loss of income due to immature death one can have a life insurance policy. To protect yourself and your family against unforeseen medical expenses you can opt for a Mediclaim policy. To protect your vehicle against robbery or damage in accidents you can have a motor insurance policy. To protect your home against theft, damage due to fire, flood and other perils you can choose a home insurance.

Most popular insurance forms in India are life insurance, health insurance and motor insurance. Apart from these there are other forms as well which are discussed in brief in the following paragraphs. The insurance sector is regulated and monitored by IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority).

Life Insurance

This form of insurance provides cover against financial risk in the event of premature death of the insured. There are 24 life insurance companies playing in this arena of which Life Insurance Corporation of India is a public sector company. There are several forms of life insurance policies the simplest form of which is term plan. The other complex policies are endowment plan, whole life plan, money back plan, ULIPs and annuities.

General Insurance

All other insurance policies besides Life Insurance fall under General Insurance. There are 24 general insurance companies in India of which 4 namely National Insurance Company Ltd, New India Assurance Company Ltd, Oriental Insurance Company Ltd and United India Insurance Company Ltd are in the public sector domain.

The biggest pie of non-life insurance in terms of premiums underwritten is shared by motor insurance followed by engineering insurance and health insurance. Other forms of insurance offered by companies in India are home insurance, travel insurance, personal accident insurance, and business insurance.

Buying Insurance

There are an umpteen number of policies to choose from. Because we cannot foresee our future and stop unpleasant things from happening, having an insurance cover is a necessity. But you need to choose carefully. Don’t simply go with what the agent tells you. Read policy documents to know what is covered, what features are offered and what events are excluded from being insured.

1. Know your Needs

Determine what asset or incident must be protected against loss/damage. Is it you life, health, vehicle, home? Next determine what kinds of damage or danger exactly would the assets be most probably be exposed to. This will tell you what features you should be looking for in a policy. Of course there will be losses which cannot be foreseen and the cost of dealing with them can be very high. For instance nobody can predict that they’ll never suffer from critical illnesses no matter if they’re perfectly healthy at present.

The biggest mistake while it comes to buying insurance, particularly life insurance is to view it as an investment. Clubbing insurance and investment in a single product is a poor idea. You lose out on both fronts because for the premiums you’re paying more cover could’ve been got in a term plan and if the premiums were invested in better instruments your returns could’ve been several times more.

Be wary of agents who want to talk you into buying unnecessary policies like child life insurance, credit card insurance, unemployment insurance and so on. Instead of buying separate insurance for specific assets or incidents look for policies that cover a host of possible events under the same cover. Whenever possible choose riders that make sense instead of buying them separately. Unless there is a fair chance of an event happening you do not need insurance for it. For instance unless you are very prone to accidents and disability due to your nature of work or other reasons you do not need an Accident Insurance policy. A good Life Insurance policy with accidental death rider or waiver of premium rider or a disability income rider will do the job.

2. Understand Product Features and Charges

The worst way of choosing an insurance product or insurer is to blindly follow the recommendation of an agent or a friend. The good way to do it is to shop around for products that suit your need and filter out the ones offering lower premiums for similar terms like age, amount of cover, etc. All details you need about the product features and charges will be provided on the company’s website. Many insurance policies can now be bought online. Buying online is smarter because premiums are lower due to elimination of agent fees. If buying offline in case of life insurance, tell the agent that you’re interested only in term insurance.

Before you sign on the contract make sure you have understood what items are covered and what items are exempted from the cover. It would be so devastating to learn in the event of damage or loss that the item you hoped to cover with the insurance was actually excluded. So many people rush to their insurers after being treated for diseases only to realize that the particular disease was excluded. Understand details like when the cover begins and ends and how claims can be filed and losses be reported.

Don’t choose an insurance company because your neighbourhood friend is their agent and never let them coax you into buying from them. Insurance premiums run for years and it means a sizeable amount of money. Apart from the premiums charged look for the service provided. When you are faced with a peril you want the claims collection processed to be complicated with non-cooperating staff in the insurance company’s office. Seek answers from people who have had previous experience with the company for questions like how customer friendly and responsive the company is when it comes to handling claims.

3. Evaluate and Upgrade in Time

As you walk from one life stage to another or when the asset insured changes your policies must be reviewed. Perhaps your cover will need to be increased (or decreased) or you’ll need to top it up with a rider. Some instances when you need to review your cover are when you getting married, when you have children, when your income increases your decreases substantially, when you’re buying a house/car and when you’re responsible for your ageing parents.

More Fallout From Obamacare, Fewer Insurance Companies and Less Choice

We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it – Nancy Pelosi

Principal Financial Quits Writing Health-Care Policies

One of my harshest criticisms of Obamacare was the secretive manner in which it was written. Drafted behind closed doors by congressional staffers and lobbyists, Pelosi, Reid and Obama did not make the bill available for review before passage. The ability to deliver votes or large campaign contributions determined who had input into the bill.

Large insurance companies were one such pressure group, along with trade unions, allowed to influence the actual wording of the legislation. Although large insurance companies are motivated by profit and not the health of their patients, no one can accuse them of stupidity. A simple number these companies surreptitiously managed to slip in the bill will simultaneously guarantee their profits and destroy their competition. The article referenced is the first example of one such deception.

Hidden the 2000 pages of the health care bill is the requirement that 80-85% of health care premiums be spent of patients for actual health care. For those ignorant about the functioning of insurance companies, (Congress, Obama, the national press and the populace), such a number seems quite reasonable. It keeps those greedy insurance companies from taking too much of the money for themselves, and guarantees money for patients. In actuality, this numerical requirement will limit choice, increase costs, and insure the dominance of the legacy insurance companies.

Paying health care claims involved fixed and variable costs. These fixed costs include complex computer and software systems to deal with the arcane medicare rules prescribed by the government. Once these systems are installed, scaling them to larger operations is less expensive. Hence, as insurance companies get larger, their fixed costs become a smaller percentage of overall expenditures, which is common in many industries.

Meeting the 80% ratio is therefore far easier for larger than smaller companies, and will be virtually impossible for new start-up insurance companies. I think the 80% number was not just pulled out of the air, but probably represents the ratio already being spent by Anthem, Aetna, United Health, and the other large companies.

So in one stroke of the pen, large insurance companies have been able to force out smaller companies, eliminate the possibility of new competition and assure themselves of a 15-20% profit margin. I would say Insurance companies campaign donations were money well spent. The outcomes for the rest of us will be fewer choices, little innovation, lack of competition, and further centralization of power in the hands of a few large corporations.

The secretive manner in which Obamacare was written insures more deceptions remain to be discovered. Who knows what other pressure groups and lobbyists have slipped into the bill to protect their interests at the expense of the American people? I will not be surprised, nor am I optimistic.  

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704789404575524281126700388.html

What Are The Typical Health Insurance Premiums In The US?

In health insurance, two major factors affect policy premiums or rates. The first major factor is your family health or personal health history. The second factor is age.

While calculating the life insurance premiums and health insurance premiums, the insurance companies, consider family history and personal health of the individual, as the major contributors. Most health insurance companies request urine samples and blood samples to ensure that there are no pre-existing health problems.

Most insurers offer policies with higher premium amounts to people, suffering from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and other health risks.

People who have perfect health can observe that the standard term policy may have more premiums simply, because such policy covers most health risks. This policy is good for those people, who do not have time to lower their risk factors and can afford to pay huge premiums.

Thus, before applying for policy, people can check out various online quotes that can help them to locate a guaranteed issue policy. Moreover, people can also refer to FAQ’s to see, what factors they need to consider while obtaining an ideal health coverage plan.

Unfortunately, even though policyholders can have low insurance premiums, family history and health are not always controllable. Therefore, such people may have to pay high premium amount.

Some Statistics:

In the early part of the decade, typical health insurance premiums skyrocketed with an annual growth of 10.8 %. In the year 2003, the premium growth shockingly remained strong, before it decreased to 8 % in the year 2004. Right from the year 1982, health insurance premiums have registered an average 7% annual growth. For health insurance premiums, volatile business cycle is very typical thing.

In the year 1992, health insurance constituted 6.3 % of the employee compensation for the private industry employers. In the month of September 2007, health benefits comprised a large portion of employer provided benefits. This included 7.1% of the entire compensation. This made health insurance the largest compensation share for employers having an excess of 500 employees.

The moment the costs escalated, most employers passed their increased premium on to their employees. This has really just shifted the problem.

Conclusion:

An aging population has a significant impact on the future of health care industry in the United States. In terms of pharmaceutical treatment, in-patient care stays and physician visits, the elderly are the most high-cost demographic groups.

The main cause of rising health insurance premiums are the aging population. An aging population creates huge problems in terms of the Medicare Program, since it attempts to fund the services of at least 22 % of the total population.

It is important for people, to pay their monthly premiums on time. Some insurance firms also provide discounts for such people. Secondly, it is also essential that the policyholders compare various health insurance plans. Thereafter, they can select the best plan amongst them all.

Health insurance has become an extremely important issue in America due to spiraling health costs. Thus, easy to pay typical health insurance premiums can ensure coverage for majority of American population.

If you need to cover your own health care cost consider getting a free quote to see if you could save money. You can get them free instantly by simply visiting one of the sites below.