Insurance Tips for the Consumer

Getting Smart About Insurance

When it comes to insurance, knowledge is your best policy.

Are you ready to "get smart" about your insurance coverage?

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and your state insurance department encourage you to take a look at your coverage. Getting smart about insurance is about making sure your family is properly covered.

According to a recent survey commissioned by the NAIC, although most Americans feel they have about the right amount of insurance coverage (67 percent), only 28 percent say they understand the details of the coverage "very well."

So what can you do to get smart about your insurance?

  1. Contact your state insurance department Your state insurance department exists to serve you. In addition to your insurance agent or provider, it is a great resource for insurance-related questions and concerns.
    Nebraska Department of Insurance
    941 "O" Street, Suite 400
    Lincoln, Nebraska 68508
    Phone: 402-471-2201
    Fax: 402-471-4610
    Toll-Free Consumer Hotline: 1-877-564-7323
    Web site:

    Although each state is different, most offer free guides that outline your state's insurance laws and regulations. They also may publish premium comparison reports for your use in shopping for insurance.

    Take advantage of the services of your state insurance department and make yourself a smarter insurance consumer.

  2. Select a carrier with care You should only deal with licensed insurance agents who work for companies licensed to sell insurance in your state. (Remember, business cards are not proof of a license.) Your state insurance department is a great resource for information on agent and company licensing status, and financial stability.

    You would be wise to shop at least three companies for the best coverage at the best price. You may start by asking friends and family for recommendations. Another factor to consider is the convenience and service of dealing with a local agent, compared to a company with no office in your area. Regardless of the carrier you choose, always read the policy application carefully before signing it . and never sign a blank form.

    The amount of insurance needed will vary by person and circumstance. Your insurance department can tell you what levels are required by law in your state. In general, your property should be insured for at least 80% of its replacement cost. When considering life insurance, one rule of thumb is to buy life insurance that is equal to five to seven times your annual gross income.

    Ultimately, it's up to insurance companies to choose the people they wish to insure. Some companies specialize in low-risk policies and others in high-risk policies. If a company turns down your request for coverage, check with other companies.

  3. Dig for discounts Depending on the kind of insurance you're considering, there are a number of ways to reduce the cost of coverage:
    • Multiple policy - Some insurers offer discounts of 5% to 15% if you have two or more policies with them. For instance, if you already have a homeowner's policy with an insurer, find out if the insurer will discount an auto policy.
    • Safety equipment - Make certain your insurers know of any safety equipment in the areas they insure. As an example, if you have an alarm on your home or auto, you may be entitled to a discount.
    • Long-time policy - If you've had coverage through an insurer for a number of years, ask about a reduced premium.
    • Healthy living - Some insurers take your lifestyle into consideration when determining premiums. For instance, you may reduce the cost of coverage by stopping smoking, driving more safely, or maintaining a healthy weight.
    • Higher deductibles - A higher deductible generally means a lower premium. But be sure to ask the agent about the pros and cons of higher deductibles before making your decision.
  4. Make claims with confidence Your first step in making a claim is to review your policy to be sure the service in question is covered. If you have questions, contact your agent or policy administrator.

    Find out who sends in the claim paperwork to the insurance carrier. If you are responsible for the claim form, send it in as soon as you get the bill. Confirm all of your information - including policy number and service dates - prior to mailing it. Be sure to keep a copy of the claim for your records.

    Allow a reasonable amount of time for your claim to be processed. You will be contacted if any additional information is needed to complete the claim. The insurance company will notify you in writing about the result of your claim.

    If you disagree with the insurance company's decision, follow the company's appeal procedures. You may be able to request further review of your complaint or claim. Although the company may answer basic questions over the phone, your appeal should be in writing. Take notes of phone conversations including the time, date, and name of the person with whom you spoke.

  5. Filing a complaint If a claim has not been resolved to your satisfaction, contact your state insurance department. Many times, your questions can be answered without filing a formal complaint. However, if you want to file a complaint, you should make your request for assistance to the department in writing.

    To assist in processing your request, be sure to include your name, address, ZIP code, and daytime number. Also include your policy number and the name of the insurance carrier. If available, it is also helpful to supply any documentation you have to support your case. Keep a copy of all documents for future reference.

  6. Schedule an annual insurance check-up Schedule a yearly insurance check-up with your agent or insurance carrier to review every policy you have . and to look for areas of too much or too little coverage. In general, you should review your coverage every 12 months or whenever there's a major change in your life (new car, new home, birth, etc.).

    Be informed about possible costs associated with replacement of certain types of policies, such as surrender fees during the early years of some life insurance policies or annuities. Find out if you can enhance or add benefits to an existing contract before deciding whether to replace.

    At every insurance check-up, don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions and be sure to take good notes. Try this: Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper, titling one side "What I Have" and the other "What It Means to Me." This will provide you with a handy summary of your coverage to use for future reference.


National Association of Insurance Commissioners
2301 McGee, Suite 800
Kansas City, MO 64108-2604
Phone: 816-842-3600