Friday, August 15, 2014

Senior Health Care Insurance

Health Insurance For Seniors On The Net

When a good friend of mine inquired where he could obtain information about medical insurance for his out-of-state, elderly mother, I told him to try the Internet.

He reported back to me about a week later, in desperation: "I am giving up, I am too confused." He had taken on an overwhelming project with his widowed mother, living in another state. As the only child, and following the sudden death of his father, it was his responsibility to care for his mother.

In this world of technology, the family unit is often living in different geographical areas and the family members are usually quite involved with their own lives, careers, and families. In addition, when both parents are alive, often one or both parents are quite independent and do not require a lot of assistance. As time goes on things, of course, change, and sometimes change very suddenly. There can be a crisis, with regard to the health care needs of one or both aging parents.

With our baby boomers facing this problem in ever increasing numbers, and with the information highway in full bloom, there is a definite need for planning.

Protecting your parent's assets and health is a huge and daunting undertaking, which requires a tremendous amount of education and practical application. Our seniors face many diverse responsibilities upon reaching age 65. To name just a few: Estate planning, taxation, Medicare, social security, wills, insurance, and various other legal and financial matters. All of these different areas require expertise from accountants, lawyers, estate planners, insurance agents, home brokers, financial advisors, and others.

The Internet is a good starting point for most people to find resources for questions and solutions for your problems. There is, however, no replacement for good solid intelligent advice from an expert.

Twenty years ago, insurance for elders was sold by "senior insurance specialists", with just a handful of companies in each state. The programs were most often Medi-gap or Medicare supplemental policies, which covered the expenses not covered by Medicare, including hospital and doctor deductibles, durable medical devices, and non-approved Medicare costs. Ironically these specialists did not sell a lot of nursing care policies, even though Medicare paid a national average of less than 2% of these expenses. With the advent of "financial and estate planning" and more insurance companies entering this market, a more broad and diversified product line became available to agents, brokers, planners, and seniors.

Part of this new diversification was the "home health care plan", sold by itself, and in conjunction with senior health insurance products. The appeal of the "home health care policy" was that a senior could stay at home and still receive medical and custodial benefits, allowing a person to recuperate in the comfort of their own home.

This was the answer to a huge problem. The last place an older person wanted to go was a "retirement home", or "rest home", or, God forbid, the "nursing home." It appeared that seniors could now rely on this new innovation without worry of having to move out of their home environment in the event of a health problem.

As with most things," if it is too good to be true".... The home health care policy is no exception. The problem is, there is not enough coverage for a lengthy illness or recuperation time. The fact is, the new trend is toward an "all in one" type facility, allowing for a variety of levels of care all in one location. In other words a senior could start off with little or no health care concerns in an independent, less expensive area, and then go to an assisted living, or nursing care facility, all within the same compound.

A "nursing home" requires a nurse on the premises 24 hours per day, assisted living is just eight hours. The advantages to this are financial. The patient or senior is only charged according to the care level required during the time he or she is admitted to that facility. Another benefit is it alleviates a lot of planning because the care is delivered, as it is needed. The medical attention is available to all residents regardless of their current health.

Some people are offered a lifetime package, which covers their care for the rest of their life, regardless of their current age. It also allows for social outlets to an otherwise somewhat isolated group. On-line shopping services have become a huge business. It is definitely here to stay and many insurance policies are purchased from Internet quotes and on-line applications.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of insurance agents and brokers advertising on the Internet. Most of them will provide instant on-line quotes and even applications for the potential insured. I highly discourage a layperson to purchase insurance in this fashion. A little knowledge can be dangerous.

The federal government has mandated to all states through legislation, the standardized senior health insurance policy guidelines, which are governed and regulated by each state insurance department.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Insurance and The Engineer

The world is no longer right when the two words, Engineer and Insurance are used together, side by side in a conversation. Individually they are words that justify their use, with their own explanations and own meanings as those that compile dictionaries see fit! They each serve their own purpose until such a time as when they are used in the same sentence or even on the same page. Engineer and Insurance cannot be used together anymore, yes there was a time when this topic had no base but here and today it can be seen that the words are not in any sense synonymous with each other.

The dictionary tells us that, insurance is "a thing providing protection against a possible event" or "money paid to insure against something or by an insurance company in the event of damage, injury, etc". Well, that tells us something although it is a bit confusing.

The dictionary tells us that an Engineer is "a person qualified in Engineering" and also it says that an Engineer is "a person who controls an Engine or a Machine". And there we have it. It is sad that one cannot now look up "Insurance Engineer" or Engineering Insurance" to gain some valuable insight into what is involved and to shed some light on this matter.

What sadly and inadvertently sparked this subject was by what an Engineering Superintendent once said to a Ships Engineer whilst they supped beer in a bar one night. The Engineer was naturally complaining about the lack of spares that are made available to the ships he was on. NB: This is a frequent grumble of Engineers and probably does have value and meaning the world over, no company liking to part with expensive spares if they can help it. Anyway, the Superintendent, true to form agreed with the ships Engineer and blamed everything on the paper pushing bosses upstairs, current ships budgets and the economy, thus he followed all the usual avenues that Superintendents typically use in this regard. The superintendent unfortunately took one too many sips of his beer and forgetting that he had long since crossed the fence from Ships' staff to Office staff, let slip a snippet of conversation that he had either been party to or that his big ears had accidentally sounded out.

The statement was relayed like this: "It is not our policy to purchase spares for our vessels, we would rather wait until the equipment fails and then claim it back on Insurance".

Stunned is the word that comes to mind. Shock, disbelief and outrage could follow close second. The Engineer and the Superintendent naturally turned to other topics like discussing fellow Engineers and their faults before finally retiring to their respective beds and forgetting all about what had been discussed. Except for the Engineer who for some reason or other could never quite rid the Superintendents "slip" from his mind. And can anyone blame him?

Engineers struggle to perform their duties within parameters given and in often harsh and unforgiving environments but given the essential shore back up they invariably perform their duties well and to a high degree of end performance and safety standards. The dictionary states quite clearly that Engineers are qualified persons looking after machinery. Machinery needs both adequate spares and Engineers to provide a safe working environment and to keep the machinery and equipment in satisfactory working order. A machine that is awaiting a future Insurance Claim is not a safe working machine and the Engineer has failed in his duty to keep the Machine or Engine functioning. From an Insurance point of view an Engineer and required spares are the "things" that provide protection against a possible event.

Due to modern systems of communication and the fact that spares are readily available in most ports of the world it is not common practice to build up large stocks of spares on vessels. It is largely entrusted and accepted by Engineers and Office staff alike that when the Engineer orders spares he does so because he needs them. He orders spares through the company whilst retaining the knowledge that they should arrive at the next port of call or at the latest within one month or so. The Engineer furthermore orders them because he predicts a use for them. By placing such an order he is, without his being fully aware of doing so, enacting Insurance on the Machinery that he has ordered spares for. He is providing protection against a probable event, which in this case is his Insurance to keep the machine or engine in a functional and safe working condition - as prescribed by the duties of an Engineer.

To recap in simplified form: The Engineer insures his machinery by replacing worn or used parts as he sees necessary to maintain a certain piece of equipment in a satisfactory working and safe condition.

The Company in this regard have failed in their duty to the Engineer, by not supplying the necessary spares as the Engineer deems necessary to fulfill his duties.

Insurance contributions or money paid to an Insurer is a costly business when considering the size and scale of what is involved. To wait for failure and thus save money on spares and to have the cost attributed to failure, with the subsequent repair of the equipment paid for by the Insurance Company, must seem "great" to the Ship Owner/Manager. There he is having his money returned to him by those who take most out of his budget and into the bargain the Insurance Company pay for all damages invoked by the failure, stoppage times and subsequent replacement of the failed equipment.

An Engineer who is working on a vessel where spares will not be sent out upon request becomes a useless Engineer. Now preferably called a Caretaker with no skills or interest in insuring his property simply due to a lack of usable items to effect such. An Engineer is (was) Insurance against equipment failure as long as he has at his disposal the spares necessary - without these he negates any Insurance that goes with the title of Engineer. He is qualified to maintain and look after engines and equipment, but he only becomes Insured (the 'thing') if he has the necessary backup from ashore. Take that back-up away and we are left with a qualified yet uninsured Engineer. He cannot perform his duties satisfactorily, he cannot give insurance that his machines will perform well and safely under his care, he cannot fulfill his duties in any shape or form whatsoever and thus is a liability to all concerned.