For nearly a year, we have been unable to make long-term plans or create a realistic budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment, furloughs, and pay cuts have made it difficult for many people worldwide to pay their bills.
Many of our radio show listeners have asked how the pandemic plays a part in their insurance policies. We have broken down how the pandemic may affect your various policies.
If you have a mortgage, most lenders require homeowners insurance.
“Homeowners insurance is typically less expensive than monthly mortgage payments. At the start of the pandemic some insurance companies began offering discounts, rebates, or other forms of relief to homeowners. It might not be too late to take advantage of these savings. Call your current insurance carrier to inquire if you can still take advantage of them,” explains Clay Janson of Phocus Insurance, a Rosie-certified Partner.
The pandemic has also slowed down response times for homeowner damage, repairs, and claims. With newly-issued health and safety restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and a current shortage of claims adjusters and insurance underwriters able to come by your home to inspect the damage, be prepared to experience a delay in the processing time for your claim. Homeowners often forget that it is their responsibility to secure and prevent further damage while you wait for the insurance company to jump into action. Taking pictures is a good way to document the damage.
If your family or loved ones have needed to move back into your home during the recession and pandemic, their personal belongings may not be covered on your policy. Encourage or require your guests to buy a renters insurance policy just in case there is a covered claim that occurs during their stay. Renters insurance is typically not expensive and can often cover damage in the event of fire, wind, or water damage.
The chances of some damages or losses are also increased when you, children, and others are spending more time at home.
Working from home and distance learning
Working from home and distance learning continues. Many workers may continue to work from home, even after the pandemic. Janson suggests reviewing your homeowners insurance policy to look for potential gaps in coverage. For example, most policies won’t cover damages to property that you don’t own, such as property from your workplace or the school (computer, printer, etc.). “It may make sense to increase your coverage. Ask your insurance carrier for a special endorsement or ‘rider’ to cover the property you bring home from work in the event they are stolen or damaged in an incident such as a theft or fire,” he said.
To register a vehicle with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division, most lenders and leasing companies require auto insurance even if you’re not driving the car.
In early 2020 at the onset of the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, most cities and states and many auto insurance providers discounted or partially refunded premiums because policyholders were working from home and thus driving less. U.S. News & World Report reported in December 2020 most of those discounts have ended, but you may still be able to reduce your premium. Let your insurance company know if your driving habits have changed or if you may be partially or fully working from home.
The coronavirus shouldn’t affect your ability to file an insurance claim, though it might affect the time it takes to get your vehicle repaired.
If you currently have life insurance, the good news is that premiums cannot be raised for specific customers due to individual circumstances. “Even if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, your existing current life insurance premium will not be directly affected,” said Janson. “However, rates are subject to periodic group increases based on an insurer’s claims history, actuarial projections for future claims, or if you are adding or increasing coverage for a new policy.”
You can purchase new life insurance policies even during the pandemic. Some life insurance policies require an in-person medical exam, which may be delayed due to stay-at-home orders or lack of available exam personnel. There are no-exam policies, but they can have higher premiums and lower benefits.
Most disability insurance policies will pay a benefit if you cannot do your job due to an injury or illness. This includes viruses such as COVID-19. However, you must first reach the elimination period before any benefits will be paid and you must be unable to do your job due to the illness. If you are quarantined, this does not necessarily mean you are incapable of doing your job.
The elimination period is the waiting period before benefits begin, starting the day you become ill or injured. It is like a time-based deductible, and you can alter the cost of your policy by changing its elimination period. In the case of coronavirus, the elimination period would begin the day you are tested and begin quarantine, not when the results come back.
Some health insurance providers eliminated patient cost-sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and treatment — no copay, no coinsurance required. Health insurance providers are continuously monitoring COVID-19. Check with your provider to confirm your coverage.
Because of the virus spread, and increased need for care, many health-care providers have turned to telehealth services and continue to expand telemedicine programs. Health insurance companies have expanded their telehealth offerings to cover mental and behavioral health care. They also have been offering access to wellness apps and tools, as well as access to a wide network of specialists they can see virtually.
Give yourself peace of mind. Keep your policies up to date and competitive.
Rosie Romero is the host of the Saturday morning “Rosie on the House,” heard locally 10-11 a.m. on KNST (790-AM).