Is this insurance right for you?

Several industry groups, government offices and consumer advocates offer tips to help understand long term care insurance.

Here are some of their suggestions and questions to ask, as well as some telephone numbers and addresses for further information.

Realize how the policies work

Most provide a fixed amount of coverage for each day in a nursing home or for home health care services like a visiting nurse, adult day care and other such services. Usually it’s from $30 to $100 or so a day. Some cover assisted living communities, which provide assistance with activities like eating, dressing and bathing. Almost all require a deductible period. Understand what the policy covers . . .

Does it require prior hospitalization before paying benefits in a nursing home or starting home health care, as some older policies do? Will it pay only for skilled nursing care, where you get 24-hour nursing and rehabilitative care? If so, this could be a problem if you need only custodial care, like help with eating or bathing. How long will the policy pay; consumer groups recommend three years as a minimum. . . . and what it doesn’t cover

Policies sold in Florida must include coverage for such things as Alzheimer’s disease, but they often don’t pay for mental illness, alcohol or drug addiction, treatment paid for by another insurer or the government, and attempted suicide. Your medical history does matter

Don’t let an agent tell you otherwise. You can be denied coverage for an existing condition, like heart disease or Alzheimer’s, if you have it when you try to buy the policy. Don’t buy insurance you can’t afford

This sounds simple but think about it. Some analysts recommend you spend no more than 10 percent of your annual income on such policies – unless you have large assets you want to protect if you get sick, like a house, business or stocks and bonds. If you are getting by on Social Security and have few assets, it might not make sense.

Consider buying inflation protection

This is important especially if you think you won’t use the policy for a few years. Nursing homes in Florida cost about $80 to $100 a day, which is usually what the policies cover after a deductible period that often runs 100 days. But the costs have risen quickly in recent years and there is little reason to expect it to stop. Without buying the inflation rider on the policy, you could be stuck with benefits that don’t cover the cost of your nursing home or home health care. Florida requires companies to offer at least a 5 percent annual inflation protection as an option.

You’re protected from cancellation

In Florida your policy can’t be canceled, unless you don’t pay or you lie about your medical history. But your long term care insurance rates can go up, if they are raised for all policyholders. The insurance is not cheap

Comprehensive policies that cover nursing home and home health care, with inflation coverage and coverage for from three years to lifetime, likely will cost from $1,000 to $2,000 a year per person for someone who buys a policy at age 65. There is usually a discount if a couple buy the coverage together. The cost increases quickly – sometimes doubling or quadrupling – if the policy isn’t purchased until age 75 or later. Some companies won’t sell to people over age 79. Check for group insurance coverage

Many businesses are adding the policies as an optional benefit for their employees. Such group plans can lower the annual premiums.

Review your old policy

Many of the critical comments about long term care insurance quotes involve older policies that set rigorous standards before paying benefits. A newer policy, with more lenient benefits, might work better – although it likely will cost more than what you are paying. Don’t feel pressured to buy

You have the right to take the company’s policy and review it with family, friends or your attorney.

Check out the agent or company- make sure the agent or company is licensed to sell in Florida. Call the Insurance Department’s Consumer Helpline at (1-800) 342-2762. You have a 30-day free-look period

By state law you can review the policy for 30 days and then cancel it for a full refund. If you return it, the Florida Department of Insurance recommends you do it by registered or certified mail.

How to Get the Best Price on Magazine Subscriptions

If you “buy in bulk” by extending your subscription from six months to a year, you’ll sometimes pay a much higher price per issue.

Why the wide range of pricing and rate setups?

Partly because of the variety of sales agents operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Publishers, eager to expand circulation, hire independent businesses to sell subscriptions at rates often less than what the magazine charges directly.

The magazine seller assumes all the promotional expenses and delivers paid-up subscriptions to the publisher — “in effect, a risk-free way of getting subscribers,” says Dan Capell, editor of Capell Circulation Report in New York.

Marketers may offer different deals on varying subscription offers. Lengths of subscriptions range from weeks to years. And you may be offered special discounts because you’re a student, an educator, a professional or simply a “valued reader.”

Most offers are aimed at attracting new readers with discounted prices, said Christopher Irving, senior manager of consumer affairs at Publishers Clearing House. Before the subscription expires, the magazine offers renewals directly — often at substantially higher prices.

So how do you keep your price down? Here are some alternatives to subscribing directly with publishers:

You may already be a winner. Publishers Clearing House and American Family Publishers together sell about 30 percent of all new subscriptions for mass-circulation magazines, said Michael Pashby of the Magazine Publishers of America.

And the companies offer more than the chance to win millions of dollars. They also offer some Cheap Magazine Subscriptions.

A one-year subscription to Ebony, for example, costs $12.97 through Publishers Clearing House, compared with $16 direct from the publisher.

“We’ll beat any other offer which is available to the general public,” promises Irving of Publishers Clearing House.

American Family Publishers usually has prices that match those of Publishers Clearing House. A year of Ladies Home Journal goes for $10, compared with $12 through the magazine. American Family Publishers will not match lower prices offered directly from magazine publishers.

Both sellers also offer the benefit of dealing with well-known national companies. And both will allow you to pay for your magazines in installments.

Fund-raisers. You can do well by doing good if you buy magazines from schools and other charitable organizations.

Rock-bottom prices. Some of the best deals can be found at Below Wholesale Magazines Inc. and Delta Publishing Group. Both say they’ve cut out the frills and expenses of the giant marketers.

“We don’t have a contest of any sort,” said Cliff Schwartz, president of Below Wholesale. “No sweepstakes, no $10 million. Just the lowest prices on your magazine subscription.”

Students, educators pay less. Educational rates “are by far the best deals,” Pashby said, because the magazines want to make young people regular readers.

University Subscription Service recently offered a one-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal for $87 — far below its regular $164 rate.

Bargains on the Internet? A search through cyberspace found one service selling subscriptions: NetQuest. But prices were generally what you could get directly through the publisher, with little or no discount.

Ask for discounts. If you prefer dealing directly with publishers, you can still save. Just call the publisher’s toll-free circulation number, cite the lower prices you’ve seen and ask for a matching rate. “Almost without exception,” Capell said, “they’ll honor the request.”

Medigap health insurance plans

Recent (or about to be) retirees with medicare¬† insurance may not realize how few offers for private Medigap policies (to fill in where Medicare leaves off) are coming their way by phone or mail. The main reason: A 2010 federal law prohibits selling duplicate insurance protection, whether from employee benefits individually. That is if you have medicare supplement insurance that doesn’t cover costs as much as you like, insurance companies cannot sell you another policy if any part of it duplicates what you already have.

Extra policies to help pay for long-term care, cancer or other dread disease, $100-a-day hospital payments, etc., are likely to have coverage in bits and pieces and duplicate what you have, says Noel Morgan, consumer advocate at the Ohio Department of Insurance Senior Health Insurance Information Program.

Morgan explains: Say you have an employee retirement health care plan which has a dollar-benefits cap, or which pays 80 percent of your actual costs. You pay 20 percent, Medicare pays 80 percent. But 80 percent of your 20 percent can leave you with a high due bill; so can a dollars cap.

Dropping a limited benefit employer’s health care plan in order to buy a better one isn’t always possible when insurance benefits are part of a union contract.

Consumers aren’t breaking the law when buying extra health insurance, says Morgan. The law was meant to protect consumers from buying more than one Medigap policy with duplicate benefits. The law applies to insurance companies; and each violation is subject to a $25,000 fine and prison stay. Yet, Morgan adds, insurance companies-including some big names-continue to sell duplicate medicare insurance plans. And as long as you sign and the company accepts the contract, the company must pay the benefits listed.

Who enforces the law? After three years, the federal government hasn’t decided which federal agency will be the enforcer, Morgan adds. And, changes in the law to soften it for consumers’ need has failed in Congress – the most recent proposal was dropped from President Obama’s budget bill.

The Medicare and Medicaid cuts would help fund new benefits for seniors in the form of a medicare drug benefit and the beginnings of a long-term home and community health care program. But seniors have felt that the new benefits are not enough. To avoid attracting only high-risk subscribers  elders could sign up for the proposed new program only when they first became eligible for Medicare, usually at age 65, and for a limited time afterward.

Web hosting services – many companies outsource the job to ISPs

Web hosting is essentially an outsourcing arrangement. Putting a high-visibility business tool into someone else’s hands means doing some serious advance work–there are literally thousands of Web-hosting companies, some of which have more experience handling large customers.
Regardless, there are some key factors to keep in mind. Find out right away whether the ISP has high-speed, redundant, secure Internet connections and server farms. Decide if the service meets the company’s bandwidth needs – if it doesn’t, look elsewhere. Examine performance guarantees: Some ISPs have them; those that don’t might be willing to negotiate. Finally, look into reporting capabilities – all ISPs deliver Web site usage statistics, but only a few hand out reports on network and server performance.
And it helps to remember that file hosting services aren’t for everyone. Organizations that have a stable of highly trained technicians ready to spring into action at any time probably don’t need an ISP. Those companies whose Web sites run complex, custom applications also might be better off staying in control.
Good deals and dedicated staffs may not be enough for net managers reluctant to relinquish control of the Web site. That wariness is justified, according to some observers, who believe Web data automatically becomes vulnerable when someone else is in charge of the server.
Others say the opposite is true, that moving the Web site to an ISP reduces the chance of hackers using it to worm their way into the corporate net. It’s usually more secure to bring your content to the Internet than to bring the Internet to your content.
When control is the issue, it’s better to use a dedicated server. Many corporate networkers want root access – or the ability to add, change, or delete files or directories. For some it’s simply a matter of wanting to operate the Web site efficiently; for others it’s all about peace of mind.
Another thing net managers should look into is whether the ISP makes a staging server available. For some companies, this could be a real advantage: The staging server is where changes, updates, and additions can be made to the Web site before trotting them out for public viewing. Once the changes are finalized, customers can instruct the server to transfer the file into production mode.
Staging servers also can be used by customers to store copies of old Web sites.