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    How to Buy a Life Insurance Policy

    • Know the reason why you are looking to purchasing a life insurance policy.  Are you looking to pay off debt when your significant other passes away?  Do you need income to replace the primary wage earner?  Are you looking for a policy to cover final expenses (aka burial costs) only?  Knowing the reason for the policy will help determine the direction to take next.
    • How much coverage you need?  The answer to this question will depend on the answer to the 1st question.  If you are looking to pay off debt, you’ll need to know how much debt you currently have.  If you are looking to cover final expenses, you’ll need to have an idea of the type of burial you want (cremation or in-ground). 
    • Educate yourself on the different types of policies available (term life, whole life, universal life).  Each provides coverage for a separate need.  Term life provides coverage for paying off debt, whole life provides coverage for final expenses/burial costs, and universal life provides a combination of the two.  It is important that you understand how each policy works, especially Universal Life.
    •  Obtain a quote.  Many financial advisors and insurance agents offer life insurance policies.  I suggest obtaining a quote from a company with a strong financial background and good customer service.  You want to be able to talk to someone that has knowledge in the products they are offering and is there when you need them.
    • Fill out the application.  Provide honest answers, without being too honest.  Remember, the carrier only needs to know the health conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, not the conditions you think you may have.
    • Prepare for the phone interview.  Once an application has been submitted, the carrier will reach out to ask you additional questions.  This is to verify the information on the application is correct and to obtain additional information that may not have been asked originally.  Have a list of your doctors available along with medications and dosages.
    • Schedule a life insurance medical exam.  The carrier will contact you to schedule an exam based on your schedule and at your preferred location (work or home).  The medical exam typically consists of height, weight, mouth swab (to check tobacco use), urine sample, and blood.  *NOTE: Not all plans will require a medical exam. *
    • Wait for approval.  The whole process takes about 1-2 weeks depending on your medical history.  If the carrier needs additional information from your doctor, it can take longer.

    While the process may seem overwhelming to some, working with a good agent that can answer your questions and provide updates along the way is important.  If you are unsure on how to begin, don’t over think it, something is better than nothing! 


    Commercial insurance protects a company’s financial assets, intellectual property, physical property and liability from a covered loss. There are many risks that a business is susceptible to, including fire, theft, lawsuits, property damage, injuries, loss of income and more.


    Most Common Types of Commercial Insurance policies:


    Business Owners Policy (BOP) -Combination of property coverage and liability coverage.  The property coverage works like homeowners’ insurance.  If the business is broken into, robbed, or vandalized, it will be covered to replace and repair the property to its original condition.  If tools or equipment are stolen or destroyed by a covered loss, they too will be replaced.


    General Liability– Protects the business owner against accidents, injuries, or property damage on the business premises or due to the business operations.  Policy covers costs if a claim is filed against your business for bodily injury or property and advertising damage. If you do not have general liability insurance, you would have to pay for your own defense.

    Many factors affect general liability rates, including the type of business operations, your experience in the industry, the location of the business, and claims history.

    This policy is often confused with workers compensation policy.  General Liability does NOT provide coverage if an employee is injured.


    Workers Compensation– Provides compensation to an employee due to an accident, injury, or illness caused by the job.  These policies are rated based on the type of business operations, and employee payroll.  Business owners can opt out of the policy to reduce the rate. 

    These policies are audited so it is important to provide accurate numbers when estimating payroll.  If you use subcontractors in your business, it is important to obtain proof of insurance, otherwise their pay will be calculated in your payroll resulting in higher premiums.


    Commercial Auto- Provides liability and physical damage coverage for vehicles used for business purposes.

    Commercial auto insurance is for any vehicle, that is used for business purposes. The number of vehicles you insure, as well as your employees driving record(s) will impact your rate.

    If you are in an accident while driving to see a client or delivering goods, for instance, your personal auto insurance may not cover your losses.  If you are unsure if you need commercial auto coverage, contact your personal lines insurance agent first.  They should be able to tell you if the type of business operation you are handling can be covered under your personal policy. 

    Understanding Health Insurance Claims Process

    Health Insurance Explained

    The number one complaint I receive about health insurance is how confusing it is.  Below are some tips to help explain the process.  I will start with a brief explanation of some of the key terms.

    CO-INSURANCE is often confused with co-payment. A co-payment is typically a fixed dollar amount, while the co-insurance is a percentage that you pay after the deductible has been met. 

    OUT OF POCKET MAXIMUM is the amount you pay before the carrier is responsible for 100% of your medical expenses.  The out-of-pocket maximum is a combination of your deductible, co-pays, and co-insurance.

    DEDUCTIBLE is a fixed amount you are responsible for before the carrier begins to pay their share.  A higher deductible means lower health insurance premiums.

    CO-PAYMENT is a fixed amount you are responsible for a particular service.  Typically, a visit with the primary care physician has a lower co-pay than a visit with a specialist. 


    Tips to Filing a Claim

    1. Know Your Network. 

    You should have an idea before needing to use the coverage of who is in network vs out of network.  While you can go out of network on a PPO plan, co-pays and deductibles are significantly higher for an out of network provider.  HMO plans do not allow coverage for out of network providers.  This means you are responsible for 100% of the charges.

    You can keep this simple by sticking with the same medical group (i.e. Advocate, Duly Health, Northwestern Medicine, UIC, etc.).

    *If treated for an emergency, ALL services are covered as in network regardless of the location*


    1. Know Your Plan Coverage Limits.  While I do not expect you to know everything, having a general idea of your co-pays and deductible is helpful.  This eliminates any surprises in the end and alleviates stress when something major occurs.


    1. Urgent Care vs Emergency Room. Pay attention to the location of the urgent care facilities in your area.  The wait is much shorter than the emergency room AND the cost is much less.  It is common to see a $1,000 copay for the emergency room vs a $40 copay for the urgent care.


    1. Wellness Visit vs Follow Up. While wellness visits are typically covered at no cost, if the doctor codes the visit as a follow-up, you will be responsible for the payment.  The service itself is typically shorter and less involved if it treated as a wellness visit.


    1. Additional Charges. As a reminder, each service renders a separate bill.  For example, if a service requires additional testing, it is common to receive a separate charge for each service (i.e. labs, x-rays, etc.).  This is the same for hospitalization or surgery.  You can expect to receive a bill for the location, the doctor’s time, and whatever additional testing was required at the time.


    1. Consult an agent with any questions or issues. Many assume we are alerted every time someone files a claim, but we are NOT.  Your agent can help set expectations, obtain answers, and fight if need be.  While we are not able to discuss your claim with the carrier (HIPAA requirement), we can help you through the process.

    What to Consider When Filing a Claim

    Whether we want to admit it or not, accidents do happen, and you should know what to do in the event of a claim. Many people react at the first site and immediately file the claim. Only to be aggravated later when the claim is not covered, or the claim does not outweigh the deductible. What you may not realize, once you file a claim (whether the carrier pays out or not), the claim will remain on your record for 5 years. While the impact is not huge for a $0 claim, it can affect your rate with a new carrier or the new carrier could deny coverage due to the number of $0 claims.

    1. Assess the damage.
    Home: Walk the property and take pictures of the damage.
    Auto: Walk around the car, be sure to look underneath the vehicle and take pictures. It is important to take pictures of both vehicles, the location of the accident, etc. Often the police will not come out for a minor accident. You need to have evidence to determine which driver is at fault.
    If the police do not indicate fault on a report, it is up to the insurance carrier to determine fault. This becomes your word against the other driver!

    2. Swap information *This is only related to an auto claim*
    Get the other driver’s name, phone number, and picture of their insurance card. This is helpful during the claims process. If the other driver is at fault, file the claim with their company. If you are not at fault and you file with your own, you will pay your deductible. You will get this back, however it can take MONTHS if the other driver has a substandard carrier.

    3. Know your deductible!! It only adds more time to your repair if you file the claim, wait for the adjuster to come out and obtain your assessment only to find out the damage is less than your deductible. It also means the claim will be on your record for 5 years.

    4. Contact service professionals for a bid to determine if the damage outweighs your deductible. Do your homework. If the claim is less than your deductible and the claim is filed with the carrier, it will be on your record for 5 years. I have had clients denied coverage by other carriers due to too many small claims.

    5. Mitigate the damage. Once pictures have been taken it is safe to clean up the area. You want to do this so the damage does not become worse.

    6. Consult your agent with any questions or issues. Many assume we are alerted every time someone files a claim, but we are NOT. Your agent can help set expectations, obtain answers, and fight if need be.

    *Please note, this is only for small claims. If it is a large claim (i.e. fire, major roof damage, etc.) call immediately to get the process started. The carrier will provide you immediate relief funds to stay somewhere safe!


    Feel free to email or call me with any questions or comments about my services or if you have any insurance related inquires.


    Phone: 708.444.0050
    Email: kelly@kellyburkeinsurance.com


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