Making Travel and Car Insurance Tax Friendly

Over the last few years, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds. There has been a great improvement in the automobile industry. Although a relatively small portion of the Indian population owns a car, the percentage is slowly increasing. At the same time, a far larger portion of the population owns at least some sort of vehicle. Many who cannot afford a car own vehicles such as a scooter, a motorcycle, etc.
With the growing of the Indian middle class and the relatively affordable travel fare, travelling has become easier. More and more people have begun roaming the world. This calls for an increased demand for travel insurance. This is because no event is devoid of blunders. Luggage can be lost, flights and trains missed, accidents are not unheard of. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to afford this along with their travel expenses. Travelling internationally can be especially expensive and international travel insurance even more so.

On the other hand, car insurance is one of the more popular insurance policies opted for in India. This is because it is mandatory. Anyone who owns a car needs an insurance policy on it. As a result, buying a car incurs multiple other costs along with it. Its insurance policies are extremely costly and can dissuade people from buying a car altogether. In 2007, less than 1% of India’s population owned a car. Yet, the rapid increase in the car owning population shows the increased investment in this insurance policy. This can be seen as 4.7% of India’s population owned a car/jeep/van in 2013.

Today, as we stress on advancement, we must also look to the people. We need to discover better ways to aid them. Investing in motor insurance and international travel insurance is often the deterrence needed for putting people off of buying vehicles or travelling internationally. As a result, in order to facilitate the growth of such policies, it is important to make them more advantageous.

For why would people invest in an extremely expensive travel insurance policy? It is true that blunders are not unheard of, but they are not extremely common either. Many may consider it a waste of money. But there would also be some among these who have repented this decision. Almost everything in most places abroad, ranging from hotel stay to public transport, is more expensive.

Hence, in order to encourage people to spend on such useful policies, we need to make an effort. Making such policies tax friendly allows people to discern their advantages. The hesitation they suffer in the expense can be avoided in the advantages the policy proposes. This would be for the benefit of the people themselves as such policies offer a valuable back up.

10 Things About Car Insurance That You May Not Have Known

Many people don’t take a great deal of notice of their car insurance and, when the time comes for their auto insurance to be renewed, they simply renew it with their existing insurer. If you don’t shop around for car insurance, then you will end up paying more than you need to and, if you don’t check the small print on your policy, you might actually not be insured at all. So, if you don’t give a second thought to your motor vehicle insurance, check out these facts and tips about car insurance that might surprise you.

1. Pay your insurance premiums in one go

It may be convenient to pay your car insurance in twelve monthly payments, but it will nearly always be far more expensive than paying the whole amount up front. Most insurers add an exorbitant price for spreading the payments. It could cost you as much as 30% more.

2. Don’t overdo the excess

A lot of people get caught out by agreeing to an insurance excess over and above what they can really afford to pay. Yes, a high excess will reduce your car insurance premiums, but don’t forget that, if you have an accident, you are going to have to find that cash for repairs.

3. Tell the truth to your insurer

Be honest about what you use your car for, where you park it, and who is going to drive it. If you say that your car will be locked in a garage overnight, and it is stolen from the street outside your home, you could be in for a nasty surprise when you come to make a claim.

4. Check how comprehensive your fully comprehensive cover really is

The word ‘fully’ in fully comprehensive can mean different things to different insurers, especially if you opted for the cheapest policy that you could find. Typically, the cheaper car insurance policies won’t include a courtesy car, windscreen cover, or legal cover, so it’s worth checking your policy to see exactly what you are getting for your money.

5. Don’t make a claim unless you really have to

If you have a minor accident, it is very often cheaper to pay for the repairs yourself than to claim it on your insurance. You should still tell the insurer about the accident, because that is often a policy requirement, but claiming may well result in an increase your premiums and excess.

6. Your premiums can still rise, even if you have protected your no claims bonus

If you have an accident, your premiums could still rise, even if you have protected your no claims bonus. Your percentage bonus may well stay intact, but the underlying cost of your insurance will rise and, therefore, you will pay more.

7. Always take photographs if you have an accident

If you do have an accident, however slight the damage may seem, always take photographs of both your vehicle and the other persons. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dishonest people who will exaggerate their claims to their insurance company and lie about the circumstances of an accident. If you can, get the contact details of any witnesses too.

8. Don’t just automatically renew, shop around first

Insurance companies offer their best deals to new customers, so it is always worth shopping around for your car insurance. You can get your insurance broker to do for you, or check out a price comparison site, but always get several quotes before you decide.

9. Always notify your insurer of any changes in circumstances

Don’t forget to notify your insurer of any changes in circumstances, or you could invalidate your insurance. That includes moving home, changing jobs, any modifications you make to the vehicle and even if you have started driving your car to work.

10. Don’t rely solely on comparison websites for the best deal

Don’t forget that not all the insurance companies allow their details to be published on price comparison websites. To enable these companies to compete, they often offer better deals than you will find on the comparison sites.

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Purchasing Your Condo Insurance Policy

At the risk of stating the obvious, a condo is very different from a house. Nevertheless, both types of property must be insured. While it might seem counterintuitive that condo insurance is more complicated than homeowner’s policies, since the former is smaller, it’s actually quite true. Between dealing with the building association, the building’s master policy, and other residents, it’s not as straightforward as a simple homeowner’s policy. Check out these tips to keep in mind when shopping for your condo insurance.

1. Find Out What the Master Policy Covers First

When you pay your condo association dues, you’re throwing your money in with all the other owners to collectively insure the common areas of the building. This is called a master policy. Before you sign on to a personal policy for your own residence, investigate the terms of the master policy and find out exactly what you’re already paying for so that you don’t pay for double coverage unnecessarily. There are two main types of master policies: bare walls-in or all-in. Bare walls-in policies cover everything to do with the building’s actual structure, but nothing within the unit itself. All-in policies can cover certain fixtures inside the unit, such as lighting or flooring. Bare walls-in master policy owners will need a higher rate of individual insurance than those who hold an all-in master policy.

2. Content vs. Structure Policies

When you choose your condo insurance policy, you have to make sure your policy covers both content and structure, not one or the other. In the event of a fire, you not only want to be able to replace your rugs (content), but you also want to be able to replace your kitchen cabinetry (structure). Make sure you have a condo insurance policy that covers both.

3. Know the Difference Between Cash-Value and Replacement-Cost Coverage

Cash-value coverage factors depreciation into its payout amounts. For instance, if you were to replace a mattress five years after buying it, the cash-value policy would factor in five years of depreciation when figuring out how much money you are owed. Replacement-cost coverage does not factor in depreciation. You would get the money you need to replace your mattress with a new model today, resulting in a higher payout.

4. Natural Disaster Coverage

Does your condo insurance cover floods? What about if you have a toilet backup? While a master policy might cover flood damage to the actual building, it will not help you replace your belongings damaged by a flood. Water backup coverage is another area where residents should purchase individual policies in the case of a sewer overflow in the building.

5. Determine if Liability Coverage is Necessary

What would happen if someone sued you over damaged property caused by your guests or children? Does your insurance policy cover liability? When thinking over this type of coverage, it’s usually best to err on the safe side and get at least minimum liability coverage in case you or a family member is the cause of an accidental mishap or your dog bites someone.

It’s never a bad idea to purchase additional coverage beyond the minimal amount the condo’s master policy covers. You’ll have to consider your particular needs and lifestyle when deciding which policy to select, but the peace of mind will be worth it in the long run.

7 Ways To Spend Less On Your Home Insurance Policy

Property is a prized possession, and to safeguard it from unexpected damages in the event of fire, flood, earthquake, etc. getting a home insurance is always necessary. However, if your existing health policy is exhausting your monthly income, listed below are a few sure shot ways with which you can control your home insurance costs:

1. Shop around: The decision of buying a home insurance policy should not be taken in haste. Instead, you must explore and make a list of insurance policies that are being offered by various insurance providers. You may also get insurance quotes online to estimate the costs of different policies. Choose a reliable company from which you can buy the comprehensive home insurance plan that suits your needs, and of course, your budget.

2. Increase your deductibles: Deductibles is the fraction of the claim that you have to pay before your insurer pays the claim as per the terms of the policy. The higher the deductibles you set, the lower premiums you will have to pay every month. However, you must set the deductibles as high you can afford.

3. Locate intelligently: Purchase the property in a strategic location but make sure that it is based away from the damage-prone areas. Reason being, if you live in a disaster-prone areas where flood, storm or earthquakes are a common occurrence, there are chances that your home insurance policy may have a separate deductible for such kind of damages.

4. Avoid making small claims: This is the most common mistake that many people make. You exhaust your policy in small claims thus leaving no room for bigger loss protection. Rather it is advised to deal with smaller issues on your own and keep this policy to protect your home from bigger catastrophic losses.

5. Improve home security: To avoid getting your home damaged from little mishaps, it is suggested to increase the security in your home by installing devices like smoke detectors, burglar alarm, etc.

6. Merge Policies with one Insurer: Just like you pool your internet, phone, and TV package, you can also merge your insurance policies with one insurer. Buy your health insurance, homeowners, life, and auto insurance plan from one insurance company and come out cheaper by bundling these insurance products together. You may also buy policies in a package that is less expensive as compared to single policies. It also liberates you from the trouble of policy renewal.

7. Eliminate Unnecessary Coverage: Don’t buy the coverage you don’t need. Like earthquake coverage is often unnecessary in most zones, don’t include jewelry if it is at a catchpenny price etc. Also exclude a land value from your policy. Covering land on which your house is constructed is simply of no use as it is unlikely that your land will be stolen or burnt is fire. So to save big, insure the value of your home only.

There are many insurance providers who offer age and profession discounts as well. Some times there certain discounts for retirees and people with good credit rating. Never eliminate the coverage that is important just to save your money as spending extra on important services will benefit you in the long run.

Car Rental Insurance: An Innovative Way to Deal With Car Accidents and Breakdowns

A rental car may be a solution for all the problems that relate to the communication. It may give you all the conceivable conveniences during your travel, but together with some risks. But it must be remembered that after hiring a car, you will have to bear the expenses in case, any unexpected thing like an accident or breakdown happens to your luxury vehicles. These incidents may demand a big amount from your end in the form of compensation money. But there is a way following which renters can unravel from these type of circumstances. Car rental insurance is an innovative way to deal with these kinds of problems.

Getting an insurance for your luxury hired car is not a very complicated task at all. You can purchase it from the car hire companies. Salespersons may push you very hard to purchase various insurance policies. But it is always important to choose the right kind of insurance policy which will secure your rental car and you as well. Here are a few policies that can help you out in your need hours.

Collision Damage Waiver: It can protect your vehicle in case of collision of hire cars. You will be acquitted of the compensation for loss or damage of your vehicle. But the insurance company will not be liable to pay anything for the loss or damage of the hire car in case of theft of vehicles or damages occurred to the rental car, if not covered under this policy.

Liability Insurance: Only the collision occurred between two vehicles is not called an accident. Also, we call it an accident when a vehicle hits a man, an animal, a tree, a building or other things that are owned by someone else. Liability insurance policy can bring you out from these kinds of situations if your hire car makes the loss to someone’s property.

Personal Accident Insurance: Also, security of the lives of the passengers holds a great significance along with the security of the hire cars. Personal Accident Insurance keeps the lives of the passengers and drivers secure and provides compensation for the death of the driver and passengers.

The Relationship Between Insurance and Finance

Insurance and finance are closely interwoven fields of business, not least because they both involve money. They also often both involve speculation and risk, and often where one goes, the other will follow. Take property investment for example, it involves a large amount of capital out lay, swiftly followed by insurance to protect the capital investment. It would be ridiculous to spend such a vast sum of money on a venture and not protect it against possible damage. It therefore makes sense to store information on these two subjects together, as the relationship is so logical.

Insurance is a form of risk management used to protect the insured against the risk of a loss. It is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss from one entity to another in exchange for a premium. There are different kinds of insurance for just about every conceivable event. The most common insurance is probably life insurance, which provides a monetary benefit to a decedent’s family or other designated beneficiary.

It can cover funeral or burial costs and can be paid out to the beneficiary in either a lump sum or as an annuity. Property insurance is one of the more necessary insurances as property is extremely expensive and if it is lost or damaged for some reason (fire, earthquake, flood) it can be very difficult to replace without adequate reimbursement. Travel insurance used to be seen as an unnecessary expense and is still viewed as such by many. Its importance is, however, being increasingly recognised by the public at large. It is cover taken by those who travel abroad and covers certain unforeseen events such as medical expenses, loss of personal belongings, travel delays etc. There are numerous other types of insurance, too many to mention, all vital if you want to protect something of particular importance to you or another.

In the world of finance there are many sub-categories, also too numerous to mention but a few will be included here. Forex, or the foreign exchange market wherever one currency is traded for another. It includes trading between banks, speculators, institutions, corporations, governments, and other financial markets. The average daily trade in the global forex is over US$ 3 trillion.

Tax consulting usually involves CPAs and tax lawyers in addressing any tax issues that you may have. There may also be Professional Strategic Tax Planners and Enrolled Agents, depending on the company that you hire. They will help you reduce your tax debt, eliminate tax penalties, an innocent spouse claim, tax liens, bank levies, and preparing unfilled tax returns, as well as any other tax resolution problem that you might have.

Property investment is usually when an investor buys property with an eye to generate profit and not to occupy it. It is an asset that has been purchased and held for future appreciation, income or portfolio purposes. In some instances an investment property does not have to be held for profit, as some landlords in New York lease office buildings to non-profit organisations for tax purposes. Homeowners consider their homes to be investments but they aren’t classified as investment properties. Perhaps if you’re buying your second or third home, it can be considered an investment property, especially if you plan to rent it out to help pay off the home loan.

Business networking is a marketing method, which is as old as business itself. It’s been around since ever since people learned to hold a glass of whiskey and schmooze. In fact, its probably been around a lot longer, Cro-Magnon man probably gathered around the newly discovered fire and showed each other their collection of animal teeth and traded them. Creating networks of crocodile teeth owners and sabre toothed tiger owners, who tried a take over bid against the sabre toothed leopard owners. Business networking is designed to create business opportunities through social networks. It helps if the people involved are of the same frame of mind.

Health Savings Accounts – An American Innovation in Health Insurance

INTRODUCTON – The term “health insurance” is commonly used in the United States to describe any program that helps pay for medical expenses, whether through privately purchased insurance, social insurance or a non-insurance social welfare program funded by the government. Synonyms for this usage include “health coverage,” “health care coverage” and “health benefits” and “medical insurance.” In a more technical sense, the term is used to describe any form of insurance that provides protection against injury or illness.

In America, the health insurance industry has changed rapidly during the last few decades. In the 1970’s most people who had health insurance had indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance is often called fee-forservice. It is the traditional health insurance in which the medical provider (usually a doctor or hospital) is paid a fee for each service provided to the patient covered under the policy. An important category associated with the indemnity plans is that of consumer driven health care (CDHC). Consumer-directed health plans allow individuals and families to have greater control over their health care, including when and how they access care, what types of care they receive and how much they spend on health care services.

These plans are however associated with higher deductibles that the insured have to pay from their pocket before they can claim insurance money. Consumer driven health care plans include Health Reimbursement Plans (HRAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), high deductible health plans (HDHps), Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Of these, the Health Savings Accounts are the most recent and they have witnessed rapid growth during the last decade.

WHAT IS A HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States. The funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. These may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

Another feature is that the funds contributed to Health Savings Account roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent. These can be withdrawn by the employees at the time of retirement without any tax liabilities. Withdrawals for qualified expenses and interest earned are also not subject to federal income taxes. According to the U.S. Treasury Office, ‘A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care.

HSA’s enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.’ Thus the Health Savings Account is an effort to increase the efficiency of the American health care system and to encourage people to be more responsible and prudent towards their health care needs. It falls in the category of consumer driven health care plans.

Origin of Health Savings Account

The Health Savings Account was established under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act passed by the U.S. Congress in June 2003, by the Senate in July 2003 and signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

Eligibility –

The following individuals are eligible to open a Health Savings Account –

– Those who are covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).
– Those not covered by other health insurance plans.
– Those not enrolled in Medicare4.

Also there are no income limits on who may contribute to an HAS and there is no requirement of having earned income to contribute to an HAS. However HAS’s can’t be set up by those who are dependent on someone else’s tax return. Also HSA’s cannot be set up independently by children.

What is a High Deductible Health plan (HDHP)?

Enrollment in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is a necessary qualification for anyone wishing to open a Health Savings Account. In fact the HDHPs got a boost by the Medicare Modernization Act which introduced the HSAs. A High Deductible Health Plan is a health insurance plan which has a certain deductible threshold. This limit must be crossed before the insured person can claim insurance money. It does not cover first dollar medical expenses. So an individual has to himself pay the initial expenses that are called out-of-pocket costs.

In a number of HDHPs costs of immunization and preventive health care are excluded from the deductible which means that the individual is reimbursed for them. HDHPs can be taken both by individuals (self employed as well as employed) and employers. In 2008, HDHPs are being offered by insurance companies in America with deductibles ranging from a minimum of $1,100 for Self and $2,200 for Self and Family coverage. The maximum amount out-of-pocket limits for HDHPs is $5,600 for self and $11,200 for Self and Family enrollment. These deductible limits are called IRS limits as they are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In HDHPs the relation between the deductibles and the premium paid by the insured is inversely propotional i.e. higher the deductible, lower the premium and vice versa. The major purported advantages of HDHPs are that they will a) lower health care costs by causing patients to be more cost-conscious, and b) make insurance premiums more affordable for the uninsured. The logic is that when the patients are fully covered (i.e. have health plans with low deductibles), they tend to be less health conscious and also less cost conscious when going for treatment.

Opening a Health Savings Account

An individual can sign up for HSAs with banks, credit unions, insurance companies and other approved companies. However not all insurance companies offer HSAqualified health insurance plans so it is important to use an insurance company that offers this type of qualified insurance plan. The employer may also set up a plan for the employees. However, the account is always owned by the individual. Direct online enrollment in HSA-qualified health insurance is available in all states except Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Contributions to the Health Savings Account

Contributions to HSAs can be made by an individual who owns the account, by an employer or by any other person. When made by the employer, the contribution is not included in the income of the employee. When made by an employee, it is treated as exempted from federal tax. For 2008, the maximum amount that can be contributed (and deducted) to an HSA from all sources is:
$2,900 (self-only coverage)
$5,800 (family coverage)

These limits are set by the U.S. Congress through statutes and they are indexed annually for inflation. For individuals above 55 years of age, there is a special catch up provision that allows them to deposit additional $800 for 2008 and $900 for 2009. The actual maximum amount an individual can contribute also depends on the number of months he is covered by an HDHP (pro-rated basis) as of the first day of a month. For eg If you have family HDHP coverage from January 1,2008 until June 30, 2008, then cease having HDHP coverage, you are allowed an HSA contribution of 6/12 of $5,800, or $2,900 for 2008. If you have family HDHP coverage from January 1,2008 until June 30, 2008, and have self-only HDHP coverage from July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008, you are allowed an HSA contribution of 6/12 x $5,800 plus 6/12 of $2,900, or $4,350 for 2008. If an individual opens an HDHP on the first day of a month, then he can contribute to HSA on the first day itself. However, if he/she opens an account on any other day than the first, then he can contribute to the HSA from the next month onwards. Contributions can be made as late as April 15 of the following year. Contributions to the HSA in excess of the contribution limits must be withdrawn by the individual or be subject to an excise tax. The individual must pay income tax on the excess withdrawn amount.

Contributions by the Employer

The employer can make contributions to the employee’s HAS account under a salary reduction plan known as Section 125 plan. It is also called a cafeteria plan. The contributions made under the cafeteria plan are made on a pre-tax basis i.e. they are excluded from the employee’s income. The employer must make the contribution on a comparable basis. Comparable contributions are contributions to all HSAs of an employer which are 1) the same amount or 2) the same percentage of the annual deductible. However, part time employees who work for less than 30 hours a week can be treated separately. The employer can also categorize employees into those who opt for self coverage only and those who opt for a family coverage. The employer can automatically make contributions to the HSAs on the behalf of the employee unless the employee specifically chooses not to have such contributions by the employer.

Withdrawals from the HSAs

The HSA is owned by the employee and he/she can make qualified expenses from it whenever required. He/She also decides how much to contribute to it, how much to withdraw for qualified expenses, which company will hold the account and what type of investments will be made to grow the account. Another feature is that the funds remain in the account and role over from year to year. There are no use it or lose it rules. The HSA participants do not have to obtain advance approval from their HSA trustee or their medical insurer to withdraw funds, and the funds are not subject to income taxation if made for ‘qualified medical expenses’. Qualified medical expenses include costs for services and items covered by the health plan but subject to cost sharing such as a deductible and coinsurance, or co-payments, as well as many other expenses not covered under medical plans, such as dental, vision and chiropractic care; durable medical equipment such as eyeglasses and hearing aids; and transportation expenses related to medical care. Nonprescription, over-the-counter medications are also eligible. However, qualified medical expense must be incurred on or after the HSA was established.

Tax free distributions can be taken from the HSA for the qualified medical expenses of the person covered by the HDHP, the spouse (even if not covered) of the individual and any dependent (even if not covered) of the individual.12 The HSA account can also be used to pay previous year’s qualified expenses subject to the condition that those expenses were incurred after the HSA was set up. The individual must preserve the receipts for expenses met from the HSA as they may be needed to prove that the withdrawals from the HSA were made for qualified medical expenses and not otherwise used. Also the individual may have to produce the receipts before the insurance company to prove that the deductible limit was met. If a withdrawal is made for unqualified medical expenses, then the amount withdrawn is considered taxable (it is added to the individuals income) and is also subject to an additional 10 percent penalty. Normally the money also cannot be used for paying medical insurance premiums. However, in certain circumstances, exceptions are allowed.

These are –

1) to pay for any health plan coverage while receiving federal or state unemployment benefits.
2) COBRA continuation coverage after leaving employment with a company that offers health insurance coverage.
3) Qualified long-term care insurance.
4) Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance for: Part A (hospital and inpatient services), Part B (physician and outpatient services), Part C (Medicare HMO and PPO plans) and Part D (prescription drugs).

However, if an individual dies, becomes disabled or reaches the age of 65, then withdrawals from the Health Savings Account are considered exempted from income tax and additional 10 percent penalty irrespective of the purpose for which those withdrawals are made. There are different methods through which funds can be withdrawn from the HSAs. Some HSAs provide account holders with debit cards, some with cheques and some have options for a reimbursement process similar to medical insurance.

Growth of HSAs

Ever since the Health Savings Accounts came into being in January 2004, there has been a phenomenal growth in their numbers. From around 1 million enrollees in March 2005, the number has grown to 6.1 million enrollees in January 2008.14 This represents an increase of 1.6 million since January 2007, 2.9 million since January 2006 and 5.1 million since March 2005. This growth has been visible across all segments. However, the growth in large groups and small groups has been much higher than in the individual category. According to the projections made by the U.S. Treasury Department, the number of HSA policy holders will increase to 14 million by 2010. These 14 million policies will provide cover to 25 to 30 million U.S. citizens.

In the Individual Market, 1.5 million people were covered by HSA/HDHPs purchased as on January 2008. Based on the number of covered lives, 27 percent of newly purchased individual policies (defined as those purchased during the most recent full month or quarter) were enrolled in HSA/HDHP coverage. In the small group market, enrollment stood at 1.8 million as of January 2008. In this group 31 percent of all new enrollments were in the HSA/HDHP category. The large group category had the largest enrollment with 2.8 million enrollees as of January 2008. In this category, six percent of all new enrollments were in the HSA/HDHP category.

Benefits of HSAs

The proponents of HSAs envisage a number of benefits from them. First and foremost it is believed that as they have a high deductible threshold, the insured will be more health conscious. Also they will be more cost conscious. The high deductibles will encourage people to be more careful about their health and health care expenses and will make them shop for bargains and be more vigilant against excesses in the health care industry. This, it is believed, will reduce the growing cost of health care and increase the efficiency of the health care system in the United States. HSA-eligible plans typically provide enrollee decision support tools that include, to some extent, information on the cost of health care services and the quality of health care providers. Experts suggest that reliable information about the cost of particular health care services and the quality of specific health care providers would help enrollees become more actively engaged in making health care purchasing decisions. These tools may be provided by health insurance carriers to all health insurance plan enrollees, but are likely to be more important to enrollees of HSA-eligible plans who have a greater financial incentive to make informed decisions about the quality and costs of health care providers and services.

It is believed that lower premiums associated with HSAs/HDHPs will enable more people to enroll for medical insurance. This will mean that lower income groups who do not have access to medicare will be able to open HSAs. No doubt higher deductibles are associated with HSA eligible HDHPs, but it is estimated that tax savings under HSAs and lower premiums will make them less expensive than other insurance plans. The funds put in the HSA can be rolled over from year to year. There are no use it or lose it rules. This leads to a growth in savings of the account holder. The funds can be accumulated tax free for future medical expenses if the holder so desires. Also the savings in the HSA can be grown through investments.

The nature of such investments is decided by the insured. The earnings on savings in the HSA are also exempt from income tax. The holder can withdraw his savings in the HSA after turning 65 years old without paying any taxes or penalties. The account holder has complete control over his/her account. He/She is the owner of the account right from its inception. A person can withdraw money as and when required without any gatekeeper. Also the owner decides how much to put in his/her account, how much to spend and how much to save for the future. The HSAs are portable in nature. This means that if the holder changes his/her job, becomes unemployed or moves to another location, he/she can still retain the account.

Also if the account holder so desires he can transfer his Health Saving Account from one managing agency to another. Thus portability is an advantage of HSAs. Another advantage is that most HSA plans provide first-dollar coverage for preventive care. This is true of virtually all HSA plans offered by large employers and over 95% of the plans offered by small employers. It was also true of over half (59%) of the plans which were purchased by individuals.

All of the plans offering first-dollar preventive care benefits included annual physicals, immunizations, well-baby and wellchild care, mammograms and Pap tests; 90% included prostate cancer screenings and 80% included colon cancer screenings. Some analysts believe that HSAs are more beneficial for the young and healthy as they do not have to pay frequent out of pocket costs. On the other hand, they have to pay lower premiums for HDHPs which help them meet unforeseen contingencies.

Health Savings Accounts are also advantageous for the employers. The benefits of choosing a health Savings Account over a traditional health insurance plan can directly affect the bottom line of an employer’s benefit budget. For instance Health Savings Accounts are dependent on a high deductible insurance policy, which lowers the premiums of the employee’s plan. Also all contributions to the Health Savings Account are pre-tax, thus lowering the gross payroll and reducing the amount of taxes the employer must pay.

Criticism of HSAs

The opponents of Health Savings Accounts contend that they would do more harm than good to America’s health insurance system. Some consumer organizations, such as Consumers Union, and many medical organizations, such as the American Public Health Association, have rejected HSAs because, in their opinion, they benefit only healthy, younger people and make the health care system more expensive for everyone else. According to Stanford economist Victor Fuchs, “The main effect of putting more of it on the consumer is to reduce the social redistributive element of insurance.

Some others believe that HSAs remove healthy people from the insurance pool and it makes premiums rise for everyone left. HSAs encourage people to look out for themselves more and spread the risk around less. Another concern is that the money people save in HSAs will be inadequate. Some people believe that HSAs do not allow for enough savings to cover costs. Even the person who contributes the maximum and never takes any money out would not be able to cover health care costs in retirement if inflation continues in the health care industry.

Opponents of HSAs, also include distinguished figures like state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, who called them a “dangerous prescription” that will destabilize the health insurance marketplace and make things even worse for the uninsured. Another criticism is that they benefit the rich more than the poor. Those who earn more will be able to get bigger tax breaks than those who earn less. Critics point out that higher deductibles along with insurance premiums will take away a large share of the earnings of the low income groups. Also lower income groups will not benefit substantially from tax breaks as they are already paying little or no taxes. On the other hand tax breaks on savings in HSAs and on further income from those HSA savings will cost billions of dollars of tax money to the exchequer.

The Treasury Department has estimated HSAs would cost the government $156 billion over a decade. Critics say that this could rise substantially. Several surveys have been conducted regarding the efficacy of the HSAs and some have found that the account holders are not particularly satisfied with the HSA scheme and many are even ignorant about the working of the HSAs. One such survey conducted in 2007 of American employees by the human resources consulting firm Towers Perrin showed satisfaction with account based health plans (ABHPs) was low. People were not happy with them in general compared with people with more traditional health care. Respondants said they were not comfortable with the risk and did not understand how it works.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, early experience with HAS eligible high-deductible health plans reveals low satisfaction, high out of- pocket costs, and cost-related access problems. Another survey conducted with the Employee Benefits Research Institute found that people enrolled in HSA-eligible high-deductible health plans were much less satisfied with many aspects of their health care than adults in more comprehensive plans People in these plans allocate substantial amounts of income to their health care, especially those who have poorer health or lower incomes. The survey also found that adults in high-deductible health plans are far more likely to delay or avoid getting needed care, or to skip medications, because of the cost. Problems are particularly pronounced among those with poorer health or lower incomes.

Political leaders have also been vocal about their criticism of the HSAs. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. issued the following statement criticizing the HSAs “The President’s health care plan is not about covering the uninsured, making health insurance affordable, or even driving down the cost of health care. Its real purpose is to make it easier for businesses to dump their health insurance burden onto workers, give tax breaks to the wealthy, and boost the profits of banks and financial brokers. The health care policies concocted at the behest of special interests do nothing to help the average American. In many cases, they can make health care even more inaccessible.” In fact a report of the U.S. governments Accountability office, published on April 1, 2008 says that the rate of enrollment in the HSAs is greater for higher income individuals than for lower income ones.

A study titled “Health Savings Accounts and High Deductible Health Plans: Are They an Option for Low-Income Families? By Catherine Hoffman and Jennifer Tolbert which was sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported the following key findings regarding the HSAs:

a) Premiums for HSA-qualified health plans may be lower than for traditional insurance, but these plans shift more of the financial risk to individuals and families through higher deductibles.
b) Premiums and out-of-pocket costs for HSA-qualified health plans would consume a substantial portion of a low-income family’s budget.
c) Most low-income individuals and families do not face high enough tax liability to benefit in a significant way from tax deductions associated with HSAs.
d) People with chronic conditions, disabilities, and others with high cost medical needs may face even greater out-of-pocket costs under HSA-qualified health plans.
e) Cost-sharing reduces the use of health care, especially primary and preventive services, and low-income individuals and those who are sicker are particularly sensitive to cost-sharing increases.
f) Health savings accounts and high deductible plans are unlikely to substantially increase health insurance coverage among the uninsured.

Choosing a Health Plan

Despite the advantages offered by the HSA, it may not be suitable for everyone. While choosing an insurance plan, an individual must consider the following factors:

1. The premiums to be paid.
2. Coverage/benefits available under the scheme.
3. Various exclusions and limitations.
4. Portability.
5. Out-of-pocket costs like coinsurance, co-pays, and deductibles.
6. Access to doctors, hospitals, and other providers.
7. How much and sometimes how one pays for care.
8. Any existing health issue or physical disability.
9. Type of tax savings available.

The plan you choose should according to your requirements and financial ability.

Tips to Finding the Best Business Insurance Quotes

For many company owners, their company is their pride and joy. They dedicate long hours to their company, working hard to make it succeed, so when it comes to business insurance quotes, they want to be assured they are getting the best level of cover at the best possible premium.

For any company owner, their monthly expenditure is what determines their profits. Spending too much money on insurance, for example, can leave them with fewer profits than if they were able to find a good level of cover without breaking the bank.

The economic crisis caused many companies to let their policies lapse, leaving them in a very serious situation when it came to risk. A claim against them could have pushed them over that edge, forcing them to close their doors for good.

The first step to finding the best business insurance quotes is to search online for a reputable broker that works with leading companies throughout the country. This way you know that you will have the best insurers on your side, should you ever need to claim.

You want a company that offers more than just the best business insurance quotes. You want a company that is reliable in terms of their service and claims process. Anyone can find cheap premiums online, but the level of service you get for your company is just as important.

The saying “cheaper isn’t always better” couldn’t be truer when dealing with your company and assets. Rather choose a company with reliability and reputability even if they are slightly more expensive than some of the other companies you have found.

When looking for business insurance quotes, ensure the company you choose works with a choice of leading insurers throughout the country. This way you are offered variety in terms of policies and premiums. Each company will have different advantages.

The most important factors are their claims process, reliability and their customer service.

You want flexibility when paying for protection for your company. If you were to purchase a new vehicle and sell the old one, you want a quick and easy way to update your policy without any hassle.

The best time to test an insurer’s flexibility is when obtaining business insurance quotes. Chances are the first estimates you get, won’t quite meet your requirements and you may have to make some minor changes. Seeing how the insurer manages these changes is a sign of what you can expect in the future. If they are quick and do the changes without hassle, then you are on the right track.

It’s so important when obtaining business insurance quotes online that you check the level of cover you are being offered. When you use comparison sites, for example, you tend to find you are offered the very basic level of cover, nowhere near enough to protect your daily operations.

Always check the level of cover and compare it to your risk assessment to ensure that your company has the best level of cover, protecting you on a daily business whether you run a small home office or a large corporation.

Ensure you look closely at the estimates to see where you can reduce the premium. Most insurers will take any no claims bonuses you have into consideration. These prove you are a low risk to them, helping reduce your premium.

If the premium still appears too high, you can ask them if they offer a voluntary excess. Many insurers will offer this, helping keep your premium low and charging you a higher excess should you ever need to claim.

Arkwright Insurance is an independent insurance broker providing a range of insurance products. This broker is dedicated to customer service. They offer an effective, efficient and professional service to private and business clients on a daily basis. Arkwright Insurance work with leading insurers, enabling them to place risks with more than one insurer, this ensures they constantly meet their customer’s needs. Established in 2003, Arkwright Insurance, based in Bolton, offer a host of products including home and car cover to business and motor trade cover. They also offer property, fleet and specialist cover.

Car Insurance – Understanding the Significance of Car Insurance

Any kind of motor vehicle in public places is considered as a potential threat to the life of the driver, the passengers as well as pedestrians. It can also cause damage to your own or third-party properties. Keeping these probabilities in mind, the motor vehicle insurance law, has made it mandatory for every car owner or driver to insure their vehicles as well as themselves.

Car insurance is nothing but a safeguard against the financial risks involved in an accident. Not everyone can afford the unexpected expenses as well as the legal issues that are brought about by an accident and trying to pay all of them by yourself may empty your pocket.

However, car owners who are safe drivers may ask why do they need car insurance if they follow all the safety measures while driving – like wearing seat belts, maintaining enough gap between his car and the one in front and breaking well on time? At the end of the day if he is driving carefully and is confident and comfortable behind the wheel, he need not fear about meeting with an accident.

The question above might sound justifiable, but there is a flip side to it. You might be a careful driver and follow safety measures. But does that really immune you from all dangers? Accidents need not always happen due to a mistake of your own. As one of the famous tire brand commercials rightly says “Roads are full of idiots”. Accidents are never pre-planned, it just happens at the flick of a moment. Expenditures due to accidental damages are mostly high and to cover all of them from your pocket can cost you a fortune. It is in these situations that car insurance comes to your financial aid.

There are more reasons that prove car insurance is important? Consider a situation where somebody’s rash or uncontrolled driving causes death of a pedestrian or damages the property belonging to somebody else. If the driver is not able to pay for the damage and if the vehicle is not insured, then he will be in a soup. Besides, physical damages and third-party casualties generally involve extensive legal procedures to find the perpetrator, which is also highly expensive. You will be covered for all these expenses if you have a car insurance policy.

The above points thus clearly explain why car insurance is made mandatory and not optional. So if you own a car, do not have any ambiguity about buying car insurance. Just compare all the relevant policies online as per your requirements and get the best one to shield yourself, your car and the co-passengers any unforeseen incident.

Effect of Liberalisation in Insurance Industry

Introduction

The journey of insurance liberalization process in India is now over seven years old. The first major milestone in this journey has been the passing of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999. This along with amendments to the Insurance Act 1983, LIC and GIC Acts paves the way for the entry of private players and possibly the privatization of the hitherto public monopolies LIC and GIC. Opening up of insurance to private sector including foreign participation has resulted into various opportunities and challenges.

Concept of Insurance

In our daily life, whenever there is uncertainly there is an involvement of risk. The instinct of security against such risk is one of the basic motivating forces for determining human attitudes. As a sequel to this quest for security, the concept of insurance must have been born. The urge to provide insurance or protection against the loss of life and property must have promoted people to make some sort of sacrifice willingly in order to achieve security through collective co-operation. In this sense, the story of insurance is probably as old as the story of mankind.

Life insurance in particular provides protection to household against the risk of premature death of its income earning member. Life insurance in modern times also provides protection against other life related risks such as that of longevity (i.e. risk of outliving of source of income) and risk of disabled and sickness (health insurance). The products provide for longevity are pensions and annuities (insurance against old age). Non-life insurance provides protection against accidents, property damage, theft and other liabilities. Non-life insurance contracts are typically shorter in duration as compared to life insurance contracts. The bundling together of risk coverage and saving is peculiar of life insurance. Life insurance provides both protection and investment.

Insurance is a boon to business concerns. Insurance provides short range and long range relief. The short-term relief is aimed at protecting the insured from loss of property and life by distributing the loss amongst large number of persons through the medium of professional risk bearers such as insurers. It enables a businessman to face an unforeseen loss and, therefore, he need not worry about the possible loss. The long-range object being the economic and industrial growth of the country by making an investment of huge funds available with insurers in the organized industry and commerce.

General Insurance

Prior to nationalizations of General insurance industry in 1973 the GIC Act was passed in the Parliament in 1971, but it came into effect in 1973. There was 107 General insurance companies including branches of foreign companies operating in the country upon nationalization, these companies were amalgamated and grouped into the following four subsidiaries of GIC such as National Insurance Co.Ltd., Calcutta; The New India Assurance Co. Ltd., Mumbai; The Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., New Delhi and United India Insurance Co. Ltd., Chennai and Now delinked.

General insurance business in India is broadly divided into fire, marine and miscellaneous GIC apart from directly handling Aviation and Reinsurance business administers the Comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme, Personal Accident Insurance, Social Security Scheme etc. The GIC and its subsidiaries in keeping with the objective of nationalization to spread the message of insurance far and wide and to provide insurance protection to weaker section of the society are making efforts to design new covers and also to popularize other non-traditional business.

Liberalization of Insurance

The comprehensive regulation of insurance business in India was brought into effect with the enactment of the Insurance Act, 1983. It tried to create a strong and powerful supervision and regulatory authority in the Controller of Insurance with powers to direct, advise, investigate, register and liquidate insurance companies etc. However, consequent upon the nationalization of insurance business, most of the regulatory functions were taken away from the Controller of Insurance and vested in the insurers themselves. The Government of India in 1993 had set up a high powered committee by R.N.Malhotra, former Governor, Reserve Bank of India, to examine the structure of the insurance industry and recommend changes to make it more efficient and competitive keeping in view the structural changes in other parts of the financial system on the country.

Malhotra Committee’s Recommendations

The committee submitted its report in January 1994 recommending that private insurers be allowed to co-exist along with government companies like LIC and GIC companies. This recommendation had been prompted by several factors such as need for greater deeper insurance coverage in the economy, and a much a greater scale of mobilization of funds from the economy, and a much a greater scale of mobilization of funds from the economy for infrastructural development. Liberalization of the insurance sector is at least partly driven by fiscal necessity of tapping the big reserve of savings in the economy. Committee’s recommendations were as follows:

o Raising the capital base of LIC and GIC up to Rs. 200 crores, half retained by the government and rest sold to the public at large with suitable reservations for its employees.
o Private sector is granted to enter insurance industry with a minimum paid up capital of Rs. 100 crores.
o Foreign insurance be allowed to enter by floating an Indian company preferably a joint venture with Indian partners.
o Steps are initiated to set up a strong and effective insurance regulatory in the form of a statutory autonomous board on the lines of SEBI.
o Limited number of private companies to be allowed in the sector. But no firm is allowed in the sector. But no firm is allowed to operate in both lines of insurance (life or non-life).
o Tariff Advisory Committee (TAC) is delinked form GIC to function as a separate statuary body under necessary supervision by the insurance regulatory authority.
oAll insurance companies be treated on equal footing and governed by the provisions of insurance Act. No special dispensation is given to government companies.
oSetting up of a strong and effective regulatory body with independent source for financing before allowing private companies into sector.

competition to government sector:

Government companies have now to face competition to private sector insurance companies not only in issuing various range of insurance products but also in various aspects in terms of customer service, channels of distribution, effective techniques of selling the products etc. privatization of the insurance sector has opened the doors to innovations in the way business can be transacted.

New age insurance companies are embarking on new concepts and more cost effective way of transacting business. The idea is clear to cater to the maximum business at the lest cost. And slowly with time, the age-old norm prevalent with government companies to expand by setting up branches seems getting lost. Among the techniques that seem to catching up fast as an alternative to cater to the rural and social sector insurance is hub and spoke arrangement. These along with the participants of NGOs and Self Help Group (SHGs) have done with most of the selling of the rural and social sector policies.

The main challenges is from the commercial banks that have vast network of branches. In this regard, it is important to mention here that LIC has entered into an arrangement with Mangalore based Corporations Bank to leverage their infrastructure for mutual benefit with the insurance monolith acquiring a strategic stake 27 per cent, Corporation Bank has decided to abandon its plans of promoting a life insurance company. The bank will act as a corporate agent for LIC in future and receive commission on policies sold through its branches. LIC with its branch network of close to 2100 offices will allow Corporation Bank to set up extension centers. ATMs or branches with in its premises. Corporation Bank would in turn implement an effective Cash Flow Management System for LIC.

IRDA Act, 1999

Preamble of IRDA Act 1999 reads ‘An Act to provide for the establishment of an authority to protect the interests of holders of insurance policies, to regulate, to promote and ensure orderly growth of the insurance industry and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Section 14 of IRDA Act, lays the duties, powers and functions of the authority. The powers and functions of the authority. The powers and functions of the Authority shall include the following.

o Issue to the applicant a certificate of registration, to renew, modify withdraw, suspend or cancel such registration.
o To protect the interest of policy holders in all matters concerning nomination of policy, surrender value f policy, insurable interest, settlement of insurance claims, other terms and conditions of contract of insurance.
o Specifying requisite qualification and practical training for insurance intermediates and agents.
o Specifying code of conduct for surveyors and loss assessors.
o Promoting efficiency in the conduct of insurance business
o Promoting and regulating professional regulators connected with the insurance and reinsurance business.
o Specifying the form and manner in which books of accounts will be maintained and statement of accounts rendered by insurers and insurance intermediaries.
o Adjudication of disputes between insurers and intermediates.
o Specifying the percentage of life insurance and general and general business to be undertaken by the insurers in rural or social sectors etc.

Section 25 provides that Insurance Advisory Committee will be constituted and shall consist of not more than 25 members.Section 26 provides that Authority may in consultation with Insurance Advisory Committee make regulations consists with this Act and the rules made there under to carry the purpose of this Act.Section 29 seeks amendment in certain provisions of Insurance Act, 1938 in the manner as set out in First Schedule. The amendments to the Insurance Act are consequential in order to empower IRDA to effectively regulate, promote, and ensure orderly growth of the Insurance industry.

Section 30 & 31seek to amend LIC Act 1956 and GIC Act 1972.

Impact of Liberalization

While nationalized insurance companies have done a commendable job in extending volume of the business opening up of insurance sector to private players was a necessity in the context of liberalization of financial sector. If traditional infrastructural and semipublic goods industries such as banking, airlines, telecom, power etc. have significant private sector presence, continuing state monopoly in provision of insurance was indefensible and therefore, the privatization of insurance has been done as discussed earlier. Its impact has to be seen in the form of creating various opportunities and challenges.

Opportunities

1. Privatization if Insurance was eliminated the monopolistic business of Life Insurance Corporation of India. It may help to cover the wide range of risk in general insurance and also in life insurance. It helps to introduce new range of products.
2. It would also result in better customer services and help improve the variety and price of insurance products.
3. The entry of new player would speed up the spread of both life and general insurance. It will increase the insurance penetration and measure of density.
4. Entry of private players will ensure the mobilization of funds that can be utilized for the purpose of infrastructure development.
5. Allowing of commercial banks into insurance business will help to mobilization of funds from the rural areas because of the availability of vast branches of the banks.
6. Most important not the least tremendous employment opportunities will be created in the field of insurance which is a burning problem of the presence day today issues.