How to avoid or remove PMI

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) has been around for more than 60 years, helping make mortgages more affordable for buyers who can’t afford a 20 percent down payment. Loans with PMI certificates have often accounted for a decent percentage of mortgages issued each year. In fact, in 2019, that number was just below 40 percent.

But PMI does add an expense to your home loan, and you likely want to sidestep it if possible. Find out below if you can avoid PMI, or learn how to remove PMI if you’re already paying it.

What is PMI?

PMI is insurance, but don’t get it confused with homeowner’s insurance—that’s a different product you might need to pay for. PMI is insurance for the lender. It’s meant to be a fail-safe to help a lender recover losses if you default on the loan.

Lenders require that you purchase PMI in cases where you aren’t putting at least 20 percent down on your home. Most commonly, you pay PMI as part of your monthly mortgage payment. In rarer cases, you might pay all of the PMI as a lump sum when you close on the home or pay a partial lump sum and pay the rest in your monthly mortgage payments.

Regardless of how you pay, PMI can be an expensive addition to your mortgage. It’s important to note, however, that PMI works differently with FHA loans and certain other government-backed loans. For example, FHA loans have MIP, which is a mortgage insurance premium, instead of PMI.

What factors affect the cost of my PMI?

According to Freddie Mac, PMI can cost on average between $30 and $70 extra per month for every $100,000 you borrow. So, if you’re borrowing $200,000 for 30 years and you pay PMI for half of that term, you could pay between $60 and $140 per month for 15 years—or 180 months. That’s between $10,800 and $25,200 added to your mortgage.

The exact amount you pay for PMI depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Size of down payment (the more you pay up front, the less risk there is to the lender because the home has some equity—or profitability—built in)
  • Credit score (the higher your score, the less risky of a borrower you appear to lenders)
  • Loan appreciation potential
  • Borrower occupancy
  • Loan type

How can I avoid PMI?

In today’s mortgage market, it can be difficult to steer clear of PMI altogether. But here are some things you can do, depending on your situation, to avoid this expense.

Make a 20 percent down payment

If you can make a 20 percent down payment, you typically avoid PMI. That’s because PMI kicks in when you owe more than 78 to 80 percent of the value of the home. Assuming the home you’re purchasing is priced at or below its appraisal value, paying 20 percent up front automatically gets you enough equity to not need to pay for PMI.

Get a VA loan

VA loans don’t require a down payment at all, and no matter what, they don’t come with PMI. These loans are reserved for qualifying veterans and their eligible beneficiaries.

Get a piggyback loan

A piggyback loan is a second mortgage or home equity line of credit that you take out at the same time you take out your first mortgage. You use the piggyback loan to fund all or part of your down payment so you can meet the 20 percent requirement. If you consider this option, make sure to do the math to determine which saves you the most money: paying PMI or paying the interest on the second mortgage.

Request lender-paid mortgage insurance

In some cases, the lender might be willing to take on the burden of the PMI cost. They would do so through lender-paid mortgage insurance, or LPMI. Typically, the lender charges a higher rate of interest in exchange for this favor. Again, it’s important to do the math to find out which one is in your best interest.

How can I remove PMI once I have it?

As a homeowner, you have some options for removing PMI once you have it. You can take some of the actions summarized below, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that you must also meet four criteria to protect your right. Those are:

  • Asking for the PMI cancellation in writing
  • Being up to date on payments and having a generally solid payment history
  • Certifying, if required, that there are no other liens on your mortgage
  • Providing evidence, if required, that the property value has not fallen below the original value of the home when you purchased it

If you can fulfill these criteria, here are some ways you can cancel your PMI.

Get enough equity in your home

The PMI Cancellation Act, or Homeowners Protection Act, mandates PMI cancellation when your principal mortgage balance reaches 78 percent of the value of the property (or you can also think of it as you reaching 22 percent equity). At that point, lenders must remove PMI. If you want, you can ask for PMI cancellation as soon as you reach 20 percent equity, but lenders aren’t required to remove PMI at that point.

Lenders are also required to tell you when you will reach the point of PMI cancellation if you continue to pay on your loan as agreed. You can calculate where you are in the process at any time by taking your current loan balance and dividing it by the amount the property originally appraised for. For example, if you owe $170,000 and the property appraised for $200,000, you are at 85 percent.

Get halfway through your mortgage term

Values can rise and fall, but you’re not stuck with PMI forever. Lenders must remove PMI when you’re halfway through your mortgage regardless of values. So, if you have a 30-year loan, your PMI should be canceled at the 15-year mark.

Refinance your mortgage

Another way to remove PMI is to remove your mortgage altogether. If you can arrange it so you meet the 78 percent value requirement on a new mortgage, you avoid PMI.

Get a reappraisal

Perhaps your home has gone up in value substantially and you owe much less than 80 percent of the current value. If you can demonstrate this, the lender may remove PMI because there’s less risk involved with the loan.

Remodel your home

If your home hasn’t gone up in value on its own, you might be able to add value with a remodel. Certain types of remodels, such as kitchen upgrades, could add enough value to impact the loan-to-value ratio so you don’t need PMI anymore.

Getting rid of PMI can be a great way to save money on your mortgage, but always remember to follow good personal financial management. Look at all your options and run the numbers to ensure you’re not spending more than you would save. If you’re already considering a home remodel, tossing PMI to the curb is a great perk. But you might not want to put in $30,000 worth of remodel costs just to save $10,000 in PMI, for example.

Finally, while you’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on your mortgage expenses, make sure you don’t lose track of other financial matters. Keep an eye on your credit report, and if you find something that looks wrong, consider working with Lexington Law on credit repair.


Reviewed by Vince R. Mayr, Supervising Attorney of Bankruptcies at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Vince has considerable expertise in the field of bankruptcy law. He has represented clients in more than 3,000 bankruptcy matters under chapters 7, 11, 12, and 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Vince earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Government from the University of Maryland. His Masters of Public Administration degree was earned from Golden Gate University School of Public Administration. His Juris Doctor was earned at Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, California. Vince is licensed to practice law in Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

  • Health Insurance

With the growing use of paperless forms, electronic information transfers and storage has become the norm. This is true about our medical information as well. So, how do we know that our sensitive medical records are being kept private? Thanks to a federal law entitled Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses are required to abide by a set of standards to protect your data. While this law does offer protection for certain things, there are some companies that are not required to follow these standards. Keep reading to find out where the loopholes are and how you are being protected by this law. 

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What is the HIPAA Law and Privacy Rule?

Although HIPAA and Privacy and Security Rules have been around since 1996, there have been many revisions and changes over the years so to keep up with evolving health information technology. HIPAA and the HIPAA Privacy Rule set the bar for standards that protect sensitive patient information by making the rules for electronic exchange as well as the privacy and confidentiality of medical records and information by health care providers, health care clearing houses, and health plans. In accordance with HIPPA, Administrative Simplification Rules were created to safeguard patient privacy. This allows for information that is medically necessary to be shared while also maintaining the patient’s privacy rights. The majority of professionals in the health care industry are required to be compliant with the HIPAA regulations and rules. 

Why do we have the HIPAA Act and Privacy Rule?

The original goal of HIPAA was to make it easier for patients to keep up with their health insurance coverage. This is ultimately why the Administrative Simplification Rules were created to simplify administrative procedures and keep costs at a decent rate. Because of all the exchanges of medical information between insurance companies and health care providers, the HIPAA Act aims to keep things simple when it comes to the healthcare industry’s handling of patient records and documents and places a high importance on maintain patients’ protected health information. 

HIPAA Titles

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law which was designed to safeguard healthcare data from data breaches, has five titles. Here is a description of each title:

  • Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform: The objective of Title I is to help individuals maintain health insurance coverage in the event that they lose or change jobs. It also prevents group health plans from rejecting applicants from being covered for having specific chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification: Title II holds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for setting national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. In accordance with this title, healthcare organizations must implement data security for health data transactions and maintain HIPPA compliance with the rules set by HHS. 
  • Title III: HIPPA Tax-Related Health Provisions: This title is all about the national standards regarding tax-related provisions as well as the general rules and principles in relation to medical care.  
  • Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements: Title IV elaborates further on issues related to health insurance coverage and reform, one key point being for patients with pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title V: Revenue Offsets:  This title has provisions regarding company-owned life insurance policies as well as how to handle situations in which individuals lose their citizenship due to issues with income taxes. 

In day to day conversations, when you hear someone bring up HIPAA compliance, they are most likely referring to Title II. To become compliant with HIPAA Title II, the health care industry must follow these provisions:

  • National Provider Identifier Standard: Every healthcare entity is required to have a 10-digit national provider identifier number that is unique to them, otherwise known as, an NPI. 
  • Transactions and Code Sets Standard: Healthcare organizations are required to follow a set of standards pertaining to electronic data interchange (EDI) to be able to submit and process insurance claims.  
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This rule sets national standards that help to protect patient health information.
  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule establishes the standards for patient data security. 

What information is protected by HIPAA?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule safeguards all individually identifiable health information obtained or transferred by a covered entity or business associate. Sometimes this information is stored or transmitted electronically, digitally, on paper or orally. Individually identifiable health information can also be referred to under the Privacy Rule as PHI. 

Examples of PHI are:

  • Personal identifying information such as the name, address, birth date and Social Security number of the patient. 
  • The mental or physical health condition of a person.
  • Certain Information regarding the payment for treatments.

HIPAA penalties

Health industries and professionals should take extra caution to prevent HIPAA violations. If a data breach occurs or if there is a failure to give patients access to their PHI, it could result in a fine. 

There are several types of HIPAA violations and penalties including:

  • Accidental HIPAA violations could result in $100 for an isolated incident and an upward of $25,000 for repeat offenses.
  • Situations in which there is reasonable cause for the HIPAA violation could result in a $1,000 fine and an upward of $100,000 annually for repeat violations.
  • Willfully neglecting HIPAA can cost anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and $250,000-$1.5 million depending on whether or not it was an isolated occurrence, If it was corrected within a specific timeframe. 

The largest penalty one could receive for a HIPAA violation is $50,000 per violation and $1.5 million per year for repeated offenses.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Indexed Universal Life (IUL) vs. 401(k)

Indexed Universal Life (IUL) vs. 401(k) – SmartAsset

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When creating your personal retirement plan, there are a variety of tools you can use to fund your long-term savings goals. An employer-sponsored 401(k) is one of them while indexed universal life insurance (IUL) is another. A 401(k) allows you to invest money on a tax-deferred basis while also enjoying a tax deduction for contributions. Indexed universal life insurance allows you to secure a death benefit for your loved ones while accumulating cash value that you can borrow against. Understanding the differences and similarities between IUL vs. 401(k) matters for effective retirement planning. Working with a financial advisor can also make a substantial difference in the amount of money you’ll have when you retire.

What Is Indexed Universal Life Insurance?

Indexed universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance coverage. When you buy a policy, you’re covered for the rest of your natural life as long as your premiums are paid. When you pass away, the policy pays out a death benefit to your beneficiaries.

During your lifetime, an IUL insurance policy can accumulate cash value. Part of the premiums you pay are allocated to a cash-value account. That account tracks the performance of an underlying stock index, such as the Nasdaq or S&P 500 Composite Price Index. As the index moves up or down, the insurance company credits the cash value portion of your policy each year with interest.

IUL is different from fixed universal life insurance or variable universal life insurance. With fixed universal life insurance your rate of return is guaranteed, making it the least risky of the three. With variable universal life insurance, your cash value account is invested in mutual funds and other securities so you’re exposed to more risk. An indexed universal life insurance policy fits in the middle of the risk spectrum.

Cash value that accumulates inside an IUL insurance policy grows tax-deferred. You can borrow against this cash value if necessary, though any loans left unpaid at the time you pass away are deducted from the death benefit.

What Is a 401(k)?

A 401(k) is a type of qualified retirement plan that allows you to set money aside for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis. Contributions are deducted from your paychecks via a salary deferral. Your employer can also offer a matching contribution. The IRS limits the amount you can and your employer can contribute each year.

With a traditional 401(k), contributions are made using pre-tax dollars. Any money you contribute is automatically deducted from your taxable income from the year. When you begin taking money out of your 401(k) in retirement, you’ll pay ordinary income tax on withdrawals. Any withdrawals made before age 59.5 may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty as well as income tax.

Traditional 401(k) plans allow you to invest in a variety of securities, including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Target-date funds are also a popular option. These funds automatically adjust your asset allocation based on your target retirement date.

There’s no death benefit component with a 401(k). This is money you save during your working years that you can tap into in retirement. Unless you’re still working with the same employer, you’re required to begin taking minimum distributions from a 401(k) beginning at age 72. Failing to do so can trigger a tax penalty equivalent to 50% of the amount you were required to withdraw.

IUL vs. 401(k): Which Is Better for Retirement Savings?

Indexed universal life insurance and 401(k) plans can both be used as investment tools for retirement. But there are some important differences to note. With IUL, returns are tied to the performance of an underlying index. If the index performs well, then your policy earns a higher interest rate. If the index underperforms, on the other hand, your returns may shrink. Your insurance company can also cap the rate of return credited to your account each year, regardless of how well the underlying index does. For instance, you may have a cap rate of 3% or 4% annually.

In a 401(k) plan, you have the option to invest in index mutual funds or ETFs but you’re not locked in to just those investments. You can also choose actively managed funds, target-date funds and other securities, based on your time frame for investing, goals and risk tolerance. Your rate of return is still tied to how well those investments perform but there’s no cap. So, if you invest in an index fund that goes up by 20%, you’ll see that reflected in your 401(k) balance.

A 401(k) also affords the advantage of an employer matching contribution. This is essentially free money you can use to grow retirement wealth. With an indexed universal life insurance policy, you’re responsible for paying all of the premium costs.

Another big difference between the two centers on tax treatment and withdrawals. With an indexed universal life insurance policy, you can borrow against the cash value at any time. You’ll pay no capital gains tax on loans and no penalties unless you surrender the policy completely or fail to repay what you borrow. Death benefits pass to your beneficiaries tax-free.

With a 401(k), you generally can’t tap into this money penalty-free before the age of 59.5, even in the case of a hardship withdrawal. You may be able to avoid a tax penalty if you’re withdrawing money for qualified medical expenses but you’d still owe income tax on the distribution. You could take out a 401(k) loan instead but that also has tax implications. If you separate from your employer with an outstanding loan balance and fail to repay the loan in full, the entire amount can be treated as a taxable distribution.

Qualified distributions in retirement are taxable at your regular income tax rate. And if you pass away with a balance in your 401(k), the beneficiary who inherits the money will have to pay taxes on it. Talking with a tax professional or your financial advisor can help you come up with a plan for managing tax liability efficiently both prior to retirement and after.

The Bottom Line

Indexed universal life insurance and a 401(k) plan can both help you build wealth for retirement but they aren’t necessarily interchangeable. If you have a 401(k) at work, this may be the first place to start when creating a retirement savings plan. You can then decide if IUL or another type of life insurance is needed to supplement your workplace savings as well as the money you’re investing an IRA or brokerage account.

Tips for Investing

  • When using a 401(k) to invest for retirement, pay close attention to fees. This includes the fees charged by the plan itself as well as the fees associated with individual investments. If a mutual fund has a higher expense ratio, for instance, consider whether that cost is justified by a consistently higher rate of return.
  • Consider talking with a financial advisor about how to maximize your 401(k) plan at work and whether indexed universal life insurance is something you need. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to get personalized recommendations for professionals in your local area in just minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/yongyuan, ©iStock.com/kupicoo, ©iStock.com/Piotrekswat

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.

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Indexed Universal Life vs. Whole Life Insurance

Indexed Universal Life vs. Whole Life Insurance – SmartAsset

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Life insurance can provide a measure of financial protection against the worst-case scenario. Whole life insurance and indexed universal life insurance (IUL) are two types of permanent policies you might consider if you’re interested in lifetime coverage. While both policies can offer the opportunity to accumulate cash value while leaving behind a death benefit for your loved ones, they aren’t exactly the same. Understanding the differences between IUL vs. whole life insurance can help you decide which one may be right for you.

A financial advisor can help you sort through all the decisions that go into successful financial planning, not just deciding which type of insurance is appropriate.

Whole Life Insurance, Explained

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance. When you buy a whole life policy, you’re covered for life as long as your premiums are paid. This is different from term life insurance, which only covers you for a set term, say 20 or 30 years.

With a whole life insurance policy, you have a guaranteed death benefit that’s paid out to your beneficiaries when you pass away. Premiums usually remain level even as you age and the policy accumulates cash value over time.

You can borrow against that cash value if needed or use it to cover the premiums for your policy. Any outstanding loans remaining when you pass away are deducted from the death benefit that’s paid to the policy beneficiaries.

Indexed Universal Life Insurance, Explained

Indexed universal life insurance is also permanent life insurance coverage. Similar to whole life insurance, IUL insurance policies can accumulate cash value over time. You can take out loans against the cash value or leave it in the policy to grow.

The biggest difference between whole life and IUL is how cash value accumulates. With a whole life insurance policy, the cash value is guaranteed by the insurance company. If you’re using life insurance as an investment, that means the rate of return on your policy is fairly predictable.

Indexed universal life, on the other hand, works differently. The rate of return and the rate at which cash value accumulates in the policy is based on the performance of an underlying stock market index. Stock market indexes track a particular sector or segment of the market. So, for example, your IUL policy may track the movements of the S&P 500 Composite Price Index or the Nasdaq.

While the return potential for an indexed universal life policy can be higher than whole life insurance, returns aren’t unlimited. Insurance companies can impose a cap rate or ceiling on your returns each year. For instance, your policy might have a cap rate of 3% or 4% annually. The insurance company may also offer a minimum guaranteed rate of return.

IUL vs. Whole Life: Which One Is Better?

Indexed universal life insurance and whole life insurance can both help you accumulate cash value while retaining a death benefit. But one may suit you better than another, depending on your financial needs and goals. This is where it helps to understand what each one is designed to do. For instance, you might choose a whole life insurance policy if:

  • You’re interested in guaranteed, stable returns year over year
  • You want reassurance that premium costs won’t increase over time
  • You want a guaranteed death benefit with the option to borrow cash from the policy if needed

Whole life insurance is more expensive than term life insurance, but it can be less expensive than indexed universal life insurance. Guaranteed returns also make it the less risky option of the two, which may appeal to you if you’re looking for a more conservative addition to your financial plan.

On the other hand, there are some benefits to choosing an IUL policy over whole life. For example, you may consider an indexed universal life policy if:

  • You’re interested in earning higher returns
  • You need or want flexible premiums
  • You’re looking for a way to supplement retirement income

Indexed universal life insurance carries more risk since your returns hinge on how well the policy’s underlying index performs. It’s possible that you could even lose money but those losses may be limited if your insurance company offers a guaranteed minimum rate of return.

You also have more leeway with IUL insurance premiums compared to whole life insurance premiums. For example, you may be able to adjust your premium amount or temporarily suspend making premium payments and allow them to be covered by the policy’s cash value.

With both types of policies, the cash value can grow on a tax-deferred basis. You wouldn’t owe capital gains tax on earnings unless you were to surrender the policy. And any death benefits passed on to your policy beneficiaries would be tax-free.

How to Choose a Life Insurance Policy

Life insurance is something most people need to have and there are several questions to consider when choosing a policy. Specifically, ask yourself:

  • How long you need coverage to remain in place
  • What amount of coverage is appropriate for your financial situation
  • How much you’re comfortable paying toward premium costs
  • Whether you’re interested in accruing cash value
  • What degree of risk you’re comfortable taking

These questions can help you determine whether term life or a permanent life insurance policy is the better fit. And if you opt for permanent life insurance, they can also help you decide between IUL vs. whole life insurance.

Don’t forget that there’s also a third permanent life insurance option available: variable universal life insurance. With variable universal life insurance, you’re investing the cash value portion of the policy directly into mutual funds or other securities, rather than tracking a stock market index. This type of policy can offer the highest return potential but it can also carry the most risk.

Talking to an insurance agent or broker can help you decide whether IUL vs. whole life insurance or another type of life insurance, makes the most sense. You may also want to talk to your financial advisor about how to use life insurance effectively when crafting your estate plan.

The Bottom Line

Indexed universal life insurance essentially combines an investment tool with a life insurance policy. You might find that attractive if you’ve exhausted your 401(k) contributions or IRA contributions for the year but still have money to invest. On the other hand, you might lean toward whole life insurance if you want a guaranteed death benefit with lifetime coverage.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Using an online life insurance calculator can help you determine how much life insurance you need. Generally, financial experts often recommend having anywhere from 10 to 15 times your annual income in coverage but the specifics of your situation may dictate having a larger or smaller death benefit.
  • Talk with your financial advisor about the best type of life insurance for your needs and how much coverage to get. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors in your local area in minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/AleksandarGeorgiev, ©iStock.com/PeopleImages, ©iStock.com/designer491

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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Does Medicare Cover the Shingles Vaccine?

Both Medicare Part D plans — also called Medicare drug plans — and Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage cover the shingles vaccine, which prevents shingles infections and is approved for use by people 50 and older. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) doesn’t provide coverage.

Medicare drug plans and the shingles vaccine

Unlike Medicare parts A and B, which are government insurance plans that cover hospital insurance and outpatient medical insurance, respectively, Medicare drug plans are private insurance policies developed by providers that have contracts with the federal government. You might purchase such a policy if you have Original Medicare or a Medigap plan and need prescription drug coverage.

While all Medicare drug plans cover the shingles vaccine — along with all commercially available vaccines that are reasonable and necessary to prevent illness — the coverage levels, premiums, copayments, deductibles and coinsurance requirements vary. For instance, while you may find a policy with a very low or even a $0 drug deductible, many have drug deductibles over $400. If you haven’t met your deductible, you may end up paying full price for the shingles vaccine.

Your final cost will also depend on how your plan classifies the shingles vaccine in its formulary, the list of drugs it covers. Shingrix is often classified as a Tier 3 drug, one of the most expensive tiers, which means you’ll have to pay much more than you would for a generic drug.

Can Medigap help?

Medigap, or Medicare Supplement Insurance, adds coverage to Original Medicare. Such plans are sold through private insurers. Although some older Medigap policies may cover prescription drugs, any Medigap policies sold after Jan. 1, 2006, don’t include drug coverage and won’t help pay for the shingles vaccine.

Does Medicare Advantage cover the vaccine?

Like Medicare drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, otherwise known as Medicare Part C plans, are private insurance policies from providers that have contracts with the federal government. This means each plan has its own set of premiums, benefits, copayments, deductibles and coinsurance.

Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug insurance also cover the shingles vaccine. Some plans even have a $0 deductible for drugs. If your Medicare Advantage plan doesn’t include prescription drug coverage, you may be eligible to purchase a separate Medicare drug plan to help cover vaccine costs.

What does the shingles vaccine cost?

The average retail price for a single dose of Shingrix, the shingles vaccine recommended by the CDC, is about $200, and the typical copay for patients who’ve paid their deductible but haven’t reached the drug expense threshold known as the donut hole or coverage gap can range from $0 to $164, according to the prescription drug coupon website GoodRx.

You may be able to offset the cost of the shingles vaccine with discount coupons from GoodRx or other similar companies. Those who meet certain income and asset requirements may also qualify for programs such as the Part D Low-Income Subsidy or state pharmaceutical assistance programs to reduce out-of-pocket costs.

Who should get the shingles vaccine?

The CDC recommends that adults age 50 and older receive the two-dose Shingrix shingles vaccine. This recommendation extends to those who’ve had shingles in the past, since shingles can sometimes reoccur. However, the CDC recommends against getting the vaccine in certain cases — for instance, if you’re currently experiencing a shingles outbreak.

If you’re unsure about whether you should get this vaccine, ask your primary care provider.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Why Everyone Over 30 Should Start Thinking About Life Insurance

I don’t like to make generalizations too often, but I do feel that everyone over 30 should start thinking about the importance of life insurance. That is, if you’re 30 and over and don’t have any life insurance.

No one likes to think about their demise, but life insurance is an extraordinary product that can be used to reduce the financial burden you could leave behind for loved ones. Plus, different types of life insurance can even help you build wealth and diversify your assets.

Here are 4 important reasons why everyone over 30 should start thinking about life insurance.

The Insurance At Your Job is Probably Not Cutting It

By now you probably realize the life insurance coverage that your job offers is not enough. Some employers include life insurance in their list of benefits which is great, but the coverage amount often doesn’t come close to your insurable need.

Your insurable need represents how much life insurance you should hold depending on factors like your age, liabilities, health conditions, and so on. One common rule of thumb is that your average life insurance coverage amount should be 7 to 10 times your annual income.

So if you’re earning $60,000 per year, you might want to consider a policy of $420,000 to $600,000 depending on your needs. However, the average employee life insurance policy amount is only around $25,000 to $50,000 or one years’ salary. This is not nearly enough.

Plus, when you leave your job, you’ll lose your insurance benefits too. This is why it’s always important to consider having your own life insurance coverage independent of your employer. So many people are switching jobs every 2 to 3 years so you may not want your life insurance benefits to be tied to your employer anyway.

Term life insurance is pretty affordable and you can get a free quote in just a few minutes from Bestow.

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You Want to Protect Loved Ones From a Financial Burden

You don’t have to be married with kids and a house to want to consider life insurance. However, more people in their 30s do focus on settling down and working toward some of these milestones.

If you do have kids, a mortgage, etc. you’ll definitely want to consider how your partner would get by if anything did happen to you. Would the kids still be able to go to college? Would your spouse be able to keep the house? These are important questions that life insurance can help you answer.

Even if you’re single and at the height of your career. More people in their 30s are carrying debt like student loans and personal loans. Did you know that some types of student loan debt can not be forgiven even if you died? You probably don’t want to pass on any financial burdens to your parents or other loved ones who would have to fit the bill.

Life insurance provides a tax-free payment to your beneficiary which can help cover everything from debt payments, loss of household income, funeral arrangements, and more.

RELATED: How Much Life Insurance Do You Really Need

30 Is Still Young Enough to Lock in Affordable Rates For Whole Life Insurance

Let’s say you’re considering the importance of life insurance. Whole life insurance in particular. Whole life insurance is permanent insurance that builds cash value as you continue to pay your premiums.

Other types of insurance, like variable whole life, even allow you to invest some of the cash value and grow the amount faster. You can borrow from your cash value, use it to pay your life insurance premiums, or even withdraw it while you’re still alive and well.

While whole life insurance is cheaper than term life, costs increase around the board as you get older. If you’re considering whole life insurance, the best option is to get a policy while you’re younger. Thirty years old is not too old to still get a decent rate for your life insurance premiums. Plus, it allows you enough time to build cash value that could be put to use in the future.

Get Insured and Protected From Medical Issues

Yes, life insurance is geared toward providing financial relief for your loved ones. Depending on your policy, you may be able to obtain something called ‘living benefits’. Living benefits are an insurance rider (which means it’s an added on feature) that can be added to your term or whole life insurance policy.

Living benefits can allow you to use some of your life insurance coverage amount to pay medical expenses for a serious illness or condition. Of course, this will reduce the benefit provided to your beneficiary, but it can still be a helpful feature to help you cover medical bills that could otherwise be left for your loved ones to deal with anyway.

No one likes to think about getting sick or becoming terminally ill, but planning for the best and worst is just a part of adult life. As you get older, your health tends to decline but if you’re still healthy in your 30s, it’s the perfect time to lock in a life insurance policy and consider adding a living benefits rider.

RELATED: Should You Get Disability Insurance? 4 Ways to Decide

Summary

Life insurance should be apart of everyone’s financial plan. Knowing the importance of life insurance can be life-saving information. If you’re over 30 and still don’t have coverage. Consider all the reasons to get a term or whole life policy. Consider your current future needs and carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Remember, you can get a free no-obligation quote from Bestow in just two minutes.

Source: everythingfinanceblog.com

How to Get or Replace Your Medicare Card

When you need to get a Medicare card or replace one, you can easily request it online or by phone. Whether you’re enrolling in Medicare for the first time or replacing a lost, stolen or damaged card, obtaining the traditional red, white and blue Medicare card shouldn’t be an obstacle to receiving and paying for health care.

The card includes your name and Medicare number, and if you’re an Original Medicare beneficiary, it will show if you have Part A (hospital coverage), Part B (medical coverage) or both. You’ll use this card to get your Medicare-covered services. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D prescription drug plan, you’ll get a card from the provider when you enroll.

If you signed up for Medicare or Social Security, your card will be mailed

If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits as your 65th birthday approaches, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare, and your card will be sent by mail to you.

Otherwise, soon after you sign up for Medicare, you’ll be mailed a “Welcome to Medicare” package that will include your card.

Replace a lost, stolen or damaged Medicare card

If you can’t find your Medicare card or it’s damaged (it’s printed on paper, not plastic), there are a few ways to replace it. You can get a replacement almost instantly by logging in to your secure account on Medicare.gov to print an official copy of your card at home, at a public library or wherever you have secure access to a printer. You can log in to or create your online account on Medicare.gov.

Alternatively, you can call Medicare at (800) 633-4227 to request that a new card be sent by mail. You can also call or visit your local Social Security office to apply for a replacement card. The downside of requesting a card through these agencies? You won’t receive it for about 30 days.

If you’re at a medical facility and realize you don’t have your card, ask the provider to look up your Medicare number online, which they often can. It’s also a good idea to make a copy of your Medicare card and keep it on your phone or in another safe place.

Medicare Advantage enrollees get a separate card

If you have Medicare Advantage, you’ll need your plan’s card to receive services. That card will be mailed to you automatically soon after you enroll. If you need to replace it, call your plan provider. Likewise, if you need a card for your prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), contact your provider.

In any case, always keep your Medicare card and Medicare number in a safe place. Medicare fraud is a big problem, and it will be a hassle if your card or number is stolen. If you believe that someone is using your Medicare number, call (800) 633-4227 to report it.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Does Medicare Cover Eye Exams?

Original Medicare doesn’t pay for routine eye exams unless you’re known to be in a high-risk group for eye disease — although some Medicare Advantage plans do include vision coverage.

Because some potentially serious eye conditions aren’t apparent to the patient in their early stages, when treatment could prevent or reduce loss of vision, it makes sense for anyone eligible for Medicare to find a way to get periodic eye exams.

Most Americans ages 60 and up should have an eye exam every year or two, as should people in high-risk groups, such as 40-and-older African Americans and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute.

When does Medicare cover eye exams?

Medicare Part B (part of Original Medicare) covers an eye exam only when a patient has diabetes, which can cause diabetic retinopathy, or is deemed at risk for glaucoma or macular degeneration. Any of these diseases can cause blindness.

Does Medicare cover eyeglasses or contact lenses?

Original Medicare doesn’t cover corrective lenses in most cases. However, Medicare Part B may cover one pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if needed after cataract surgery.

Can Medigap or Medicare Advantage cover vision care?

Medigap, also known as Medicare supplemental insurance, doesn’t cover routine eye exams for people who haven’t been identified as high risk.

Some Medicare Advantage Plans, also known as Medicare Part C and provided through private insurers, may cover eye exams even when you’re not in a high-risk group. Contact the private insurers that offer Medicare Advantage Plans to ask about their vision care coverage, which might include eyeglasses and contact lenses as well as eye exams.

But since a routine eye exam isn’t a major medical expense, choosing Medicare Advantage just for that coverage may not always be the best value.

How else can you get eye exam coverage?

Private vision insurance, provided by many employers and also available to individuals, is a way to spread out over the year some of the costs of eye exams, eyeglasses and contacts, and possibly save money. You might be able to get insurance for vision care for about $20 per month.

For some people, it may make sense to simply pay for their eye exam out of pocket. The average cost of a dilated eye exam, including a vision test, glaucoma check and other assessments, is about $200 for a new patient or $128 for an established patient.

For people with low incomes, Medicaid in most states covers routine eye exams. Some states have copays, but they’re usually small.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America program offers eligible people ages 65 and up an eye exam by a volunteer ophthalmologist, often with no out-of-pocket cost. You don’t need a low income to qualify for this program.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Discriminatory Practices Leave Black Americans With Less Life Insurance

The relationship between life insurance and the African American community is complex. Although Black Americans are more likely to own life insurance than whites, a recent study shows, their coverage is often far less.

The sizable coverage gap between Black and white Americans has many causes, experts say, including the way life insurance was sold in the Black community and how discriminatory practices have impeded access to coverage.

Without adequate life insurance, families may find it difficult to protect and pass on assets to the next generation. It’s not always obvious how much life insurance is enough, but there are ways to calculate the right amount of coverage.

What is the life insurance coverage gap?

Black Americans typically have one-third of the coverage of their white counterparts, according to a 2020 study by Haven Life, an insurance company. Both groups had less than the recommended coverage amount outlined in the study of five to 10 times annual income. But Black respondents reported having life insurance equal to about a year’s income, compared with almost three years’ worth for whites.

Having the right amount of life insurance can help beneficiaries cover costs like living expenses or debts. And given the COVID-19 pandemic, this safety net perhaps feels all the more necessary.

But historically, life insurance was often sold to African Americans as burial insurance — smaller, cheaper policies that cover the bare minimum. “Those door-to-door salesmen weren’t always truthful with them,” says Jessica Smith, an insurance agent in Marietta, Georgia, and clients weren’t told about other options.

Causes behind the coverage gap

After the Civil War, insurers began classifying Black people who were former slaves as higher mortality risks, meaning they were charged more or denied coverage altogether. These practices stretched into the 1960s, with separate sets of rates for Black and white applicants. Some states banned race-based underwriting, but many insurers simply took their business elsewhere, reducing access to coverage and segregating the industry.

For a long time, Black people were “excluded from the conversation of just protecting their assets and protecting their loved ones,” says Malcolm Ethridge, executive vice president and financial advisor with CIC Wealth.

Insurance companies would also find creative ways to not pay claims, Ethridge adds, “so then there became this level of mistrust between the Black community and the insurance world.”

Years of discriminatory policies also reduced access to medical care, housing and education for many Americans, and all these things can factor into the cost of life insurance.

If an applicant with a high school diploma, living in a poor neighborhood, applies for the same $2 million policy as someone with a Ph.D. living in an affluent neighborhood, the less educated applicant may get approved for coverage but will likely pay more for it, Ethridge says.

If premiums are too expensive, coverage becomes inaccessible, wealth may be harder to pass down, and the situation compounds.

Why the gap is a problem

The legacy of segregation, redlining and discriminatory policies has made accumulating generational wealth a challenge for many in the Black community, and the Haven Life study found that Black Americans are more likely than whites to think of life insurance as a way to pass down generational wealth.

This approach poses a problem when a person dies and is underinsured. In this case, assets that would have been passed down are often liquidated to pay for expenses, and less wealth is passed on, Ethridge says.

Getting the right amount of coverage

Many of these causes are the result of bigger historical and social issues, making it hard for policyholders to close the gap themselves. And being underinsured isn’t always easy to recognize.

If you’re not sure whether you have enough coverage, a financial advisor, insurance agent or online calculator can help you estimate how much life insurance you need.

“We first want to figure out what they want the life insurance funds to do for them once they’re gone,” Smith says. “Then we have to determine what amount of money they would need to achieve that goal.”

If people rely on you financially, you may want a large payout to support them for multiple years after you die. Alternatively, if you don’t have any financial obligations or dependents, you may not need coverage at all.

Source: nerdwallet.com