Top Ten Car Buying Mistakes

May 18, 2010

Lots of people buy a new car, and then regret their purchase soon thereafter. If you don’t take a lot of precautions, you will be a car buying victim instead of a smart buyer. So, here are the top ten mistakes that buyers make when shopping for a new car. These mistakes are not listed in order of importance…but don’t miss the message in every mistake.

1. Impulse buying

An impulse is an emotion. The worst reason to buy a car is emotion. Car sales people are taught that they must try everything they can to sell you a car during your first visit. Statistically, they know that if they don’t, they won’t get a second chance. If you pull into a dealer lot to just “kick a few tires,” but you have not sworn to yourself that you will not buy on that visit, you’re doomed. Don’t say things like “I love this car” or “I’ve got to have this car.” Don’t get your emotions involved in this buying decision. If you’re talking too much, the car salesman will read that as buying signals. And salesmen are much better at clubbing you with your own buying signals than you are at resisting them.

Tons of people make impulse car purchases. You cannot do your research and wise shopping if you make an impulse buy.

2. Lack of research

Goes hand in hand with an impulse buy. You need to go online and research about cars, including:
a. safety
b. recalls
c. resale value
d. maintenance and repairs
e. range of car prices for the make and model you want

Research will give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

3. Unrealistic about your car needs – new vs. used.

Many car shoppers grossly overestimate their needs. Instead of buying a car that reflects their actual driving experience, they buy a vehicle that feeds their future plans or perceived future needs. For instance, a buyer who plans to own a boat and trailer may buy an SUV or heavy pickup. But he does not own the boat YET. Overall, it’s best to buy a vehicle for your present needs, not your future desires.

4. Not calculating the true cost of a hybrid

Hybrid vehicles, like the Prius, are priced far above a regular gas or diesel. When you subtract the cost of the regular vehicle from the hybrid price, you’ll see the premium you pay for the hybrid. Now, will the fuel savings pay for themselves over the number of months you own the vehicle? Hardly ever! Most times you’ll pay more overall for a hybrid vehicle. Gas and diesel vehicles are becoming more and more efficient. Remember, over 50% of the vehicles in all of Europe have diesel engines, and it’s been that way for 50 years. Must be a reason, eh?

5. Not shopping for car insurance before the car purchase

Here’s a big no-no. How many times have you called your insurance agent and gotten a quote on the car you WANT to buy? If you’re upgrading from an average car to a different kind of car…like going from a Toyota Altima to a Corvette…the increase in insurance premiums could make the new car purchase unaffordable. Unfortunately, most people find this out AFTER they buy that shiny new car. But just going from an older car to a new car could drastically increase your insurance costs. What if your old car didn’t have collision coverage, but your new car will? That could mean hundreds of dollars in added premiums.

6. Talking trade-in during negotiations for the new car purchase

Don’t include trade-in for your old car in the new car deal. It’s too easy for the car dealer to structure your deal to look like you’re getting much more for your trade-in. Make your car deal apart from any trade-in consideration. Then, get the trade-in offer and deduct it from the total. Also give serious consideration to selling your old car yourself. You’ll get much more money for your old car.

7. Dealer financing

This is a mine field, and the dealers have set the mines in your path. The most dangerous place in a dealership is the Finance and Insurance (F&I) office. The F&I office accounts for a big percentage of the total profits of a dealership. You must be wary of every offer here…financing, warranty, insurances like life insurance that pays off your loan balance. I recommend that you decline everything offered from an F&I office except a low interest rate on a loan of no more than 36 months.

8. Not buying at the end of the month and end of the year.

At the end of the month…any month…the salesmen and dealership are trying to maximize their bonuses and incomes. You’ll get your best deals if you buy in the last couple days of the month. The same goes for end-of-year purchases. Dealerships are desperately trying to get rid of last year’s models, and finish the year strongly. So, when’s the absolute best time to buy a car? The last couple of days in December of any year. You can hardly lose if you’re a smart buyer.

9. Leasing a car

Do you know why you see so many auto ads on TV that feature low lease payments? Because the car companies and dealers make a TON of money on a lease…far more then when they just sell a car. The lease agreement you sign is written totally in favor of the lease company. You never own the car, you only rent it for a number of months. You are responsible for maintenance and insuring the car. Plus, your lease limits you to a certain maximum number of miles driven. If you exceed the limits, the mileage penalties are staggering. I’ve looked at leases every time I’ve bought a car since the early 80s, and I’ve never once found a scenario in which I could come out ahead with a lease.

10. New vs. Used.

Most people do not need a brand new car. When you buy a new car, you get hammered on depreciation in the first year. Sometimes the value of your car drops as much as 20% the moment you drive your new ride off the dealer lot. The car lots are jammed with excellent used cars. You can save a bunch of money by buying a used car. But you won’t know that for sure unless you do some research. Compare the TOTAL cost of a new car versus the used car, including finance costs, maintenance and insurance. Most times, the used car will win…even when dealers offer zero percent car loans.

* * * * * * * * * *

Buying cars are some of the largest, most expensive purchases you’ll ever make. You might only buy one house in your lifetime, but you’ll likely buy many cars. Become a smart buyer and you’ll keep tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket.

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.


Gulf Oil Spill Disaster: The Trigger of American Economic Collapse?

May 16, 2010

This article is written to analyze the potential economic fallout of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion that occurred on April 20, 2010. I maintain that this incident could be the trigger of the American economic collapse. My expertise is in the insurance risk management and claims field. So, let’s look at what is going to happen as this disaster unfolds over time.

The oil drilling platform that burned and sank was drilling a well about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The derrick, the Deepwater Horizon, is owned by Transocean Ltd., and was leased to British Petroleum (BP). It was connected to the ocean floor by a “riser”…a 5,000 foot pipe that is now kinked like a garden hose. But the leaks are at the sea floor, not in the pipe. If BP, the lessee, cannot close the valve at the mile-deep wellhead, they may have to drill another well to relieve pressure. Some experts estimate that it could take two months to cap the well at the mile-deep ocean floor. And every day, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 BARRELS (200,000 to 1 million gallons) of crude oil float to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

The leading edge of the oil slick is about to make landfall at the Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi coasts. But there exists the possibility that the oil spill may be caught by the Gulf Stream…the powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic Ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico, exits through the Strait of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

And, we are just about to enter the Hurricane season, which extends from June 1st to November 30th. Any hurricane that enters the Gulf of Mexico will disperse the surface oil to parts unknown. There is no predicting which coastlines could be coated with crude oil. Any Gulf hurricane will impede and stall cleanup efforts as well as vastly expanding the geographic footprint of the spill. Cleanup cost could multiply exponentially.

So, we may be witnessing the humble beginnings of a disaster that could potentially affect the American coastline from Texas to Newfoundland.

Insurance Claims Issues

First Party Claims

There will be a flood of first-party claims, which are claims for direct loss or damage to covered property. But most Commercial Property insurance policies exclude pollution-related losses unless the loss was caused by a “specified cause of loss,” usually named in the policy…and usually confined to occurring on the insured premises.

Tens of thousands of claims will be filed under the Business Income and Extra Expense sections of commercial insurance policies. Untold number of businesses will be adversely affected by the oil spill, such as resort owners, commercial fishermen and shrimpers, coastal rental property owners, seafood wholesalers, most tourist-related business at the seashore, and charter fishermen.

But once again, BI and EE coverage requires direct physical loss to covered property. So, many businesses will be shocked to discover that even though they have Business Interruption insurance, it does not mean that they have a legitimate BI claim.

Even those policyholders that do have acceptable and covered BI claims may be limited in their monetary recovery by the policy language. The period of restoration usually does not include any increased period of time due to the enforcement of any ordinance or law that may require a policyholder to mitigate the effects of, or clean up the pollutants.

So most policyholders will be out of luck by filing claims with their own insurance companies. More on this later.

This denial of coverage will spell the bankruptcy and end of tens of thousands of coastal businesses. The ripple effect from those businesses to their customers and suppliers, as well as the families employed by all parties, will be catastrophic.

Third-Party Claims

Another huge consideration is the certainty of third-party claims. First-party insurers that pay claims related to the oil spill will subrogate (seek recovery) against those parties responsible and liable for the damages. Then consider all of the business that will file third-party claims directly against the parties responsible and liable for the damages. The list will continue to mount over the coming decade or longer. Timing will be crucial in this matter, since many of the responsible parties may have already exhausted their liability coverage and their corporate assets. Lawyers may find that many responsible parties will close their doors, effectively barring recovery.

Post-Katrina Insurance Industry Reality

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, scores of insurance companies paid claims that they had originally denied. Sympathetic courts ordered them to pay claims that were arguably not covered. The same kinds of pressures will be brought to bear on ALL insurance companies in the aftermath of this oil spill disaster. In these kinds of widespread catastrophes, insurers will be required to pay claims that they may not owe simply because they CAN PAY. That takes some of the political pressure off of states and Washington.

Monstrous insurance loss payments can bankrupt insurance companies. But even worse are these politically-motivated claims for which the insurance company had not collected a premium. Do not be surprised to see many insurance companies fold in the wake of this ecological disaster if they are required to settle claims politically. And all insurance companies are backed up by reinsurance companies. The reinsurers will be hit with losses also, adding more ripples throughout the worldwide economy.

Lawsuits

In war, there is an old saying; “Kill them all…let God sort ‘em out.” That is kind of the philosophy of trial lawyers. In giant commercial enterprises such as BP, there will be dozens of entities that are involved…the parent company, subsidiary companies, contractors and suppliers. Trial lawyers customarily target the entities with the deepest pockets…plus everyone else. The lawsuits have already begun, and will name every business entity even remotely connected to the operation of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform. Every entity named in the lawsuits will be forced to defend itself.

And here’s where it gets even more complicated.

Many contracts between businesses and contractors contain a Hold Harmless clause that forces the contractor or vendor to absolve the business from liability, or at least to provide legal defense for the business. Common sense will tell you that subcontractors or vendors will have lower liability limits than the controlling entity, like BP. So lower liability limits will max out quickly.

The lawsuits will continue to be filed, and it will take years of legal wrangling to begin seeing damage awards meted out by all the various courts that will be involved.

Gigantic lawsuits and gigantic jury awards have the very real possibility of bankrupting the companies responsible for this oil spill.

Political Realities

Your Washington politicians have already passed legislation that protects their oil company buddies while exposing Americans to immense cleanup costs and business losses. A law passed in response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska makes BP responsible for cleanup costs. But the law sets a $75 million limit on other kinds of non-cleanup damages. So, Federal law limits how much BP has to pay for damages such as lost wages and economic suffering in the Gulf Coast oil spill, despite President Barack Obama’s assurances that taxpayers will not be on the hook.

But the hue and cry from the Gulf Coast will be so great that Washington will feel entirely compelled to swoop in and start writing checks. The Hurricane Katrina/Rita debacle of 2005 is a scab on Washington’s skin that they don’t want torn off. And no Congressman is going to take a position against helping the poor Gulf fishermen and the rest of the populace that makes their living from Gulf and gulf-shore businesses. And despite Obama’s assurances, there is no way that he would refuse to sign a disaster relief law.

All of that means that the Federal Government will print more paper money and go deeper in debt. But printing paper money will hasten hyperinflation. And in order for Washington to go deeper in debt, foreign nations must by American debt securities. Eventually, foreign nations will cease cutting their own throats and say no to Washington.

Tens of thousands of Gulf Coast businesses will cease operations in the months to come. Banks that hold loans and mortgages on those businesses…as well as the loans and mortgages of the employees now thrown out of work…will suffer financial losses. Hundreds of thousands of coastal residences will be unemployed. Cars will be repossessed. Home foreclosures will escalate. Credit card companies will hold uncollectible accounts. Even the local Dairy Queen could suffer economic losses when the surrounding coastal community’s economy collapses.

And we haven’t even left the Gulf of Mexico yet. If the Gulf Stream moves the oil up the Eastern Seaboard, multiply all these predictions by an X factor.

Conclusion

As you see, the economic impact of the oil spill will reach around the world. Companies in the UK will be affected. Likely some insurers at Lloyd’s of London are involved. Reinsurance companies will take hits, which might affect companies in Germany, Switzerland, France and Bermuda. Domestic insurers will likely pay claims due to political pressure. Banks will suffer losses. Businesses will close. Unemployment will spike. Most importantly, it will place crushing pressure on Washington to fix the problem with money…and Washington withstands pressure like a Dixie cup under an elephant’s foot.

Therefore, I submit to you that the April 20th Gulf of Mexico oil disaster could very likely be the trigger of the collapse of the American economy.

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.


Health Care Legislation: The Future of Health Care in America

March 28, 2010

(This is a reprint of an article I posted at http://www.DumpDC.com)

You didn’t really think that I could resist weighing in on this health care debacle, did you? With my 35-plus year background in the insurance business, I think I can bring some unique perspective to the table.

I don’t know for sure what is in the bill. But from what I read all over the Internet, there are a few features that need early discussion.

First, this bill has a name already. But, on the day that President Obama signed the bill, Vice President Joe Biden whispered in Obama’s ear that this was a “Big F**king Deal,” which was picked up by microphones and broadcast around the world. So, from now on, I will refer to this bill as the BFD.

One bound copy of the BFD

The agenda hidden in plain sight

The BFD is not about providing health insurance coverage for the 32-40 million ESTIMATED Americans without health insurance. It’s about a government takeover of a giant portion of this nation’s economy, and fascism.

How do I know for sure?

Well, let’s use the low end of the estimates, 32 million. I’m only using that because the government always lies, and the true number is probably a lot lower. And let’s say that the annual premium for the best health insurance policy you can buy is $5,000 per year per person regardless of age. Then do the math. 32 million uninsured people times a $5,000 annual premium per person is only $160 Billion.

Congress and President Obama could have bought every uninsured person in America a deluxe insurance plan for only $160 Billion. But that’s not what they did.

This bill is estimated to cost over 900 Billion dollars…and they ALWAYS underestimate on the low side.

So, as I said, this ain’t about insuring the uninsured.

But it IS about demographics.

Demographics and Two Major Players

The health care providers didn’t fight this bill. That’s because right now there are a lot of uninsured people that use the hospital Emergency Room as a free clinic. But under the BFD, all of those people will either pay for coverage, or the Federal Government will pay for their coverage. The days of hospitals providing free health care to the poor and indigent will be gone. The health care providers see the tidal wave of health care benefit money that will hit their shores. All they have to do is soak it up.

The health insurance industry didn’t fight this bill, either. That’s because they see 32 million people (questionable estimate) that aren’t paying premiums that will begin buying insurance. And many of those people will get the DC crowd to pay their premiums for them through “low income” subsidies. In addition, the health insurance companies already have the trained staff to help DC roll out this health care law and administer it for the DC bureaucrats. More money for the insurers.

What pact did the big insurance companies make with the devil?

The insurance industry has not fought this BFD. They have not used their club in the closet. So, the logical conclusion is that the insurance industry has made a yet-to-be-discovered pact with the DC Devils to enrich themselves at the public’s expense.

All of the insurance companies domiciled in the USA have investment portfolios. Part of their money is always invested in government securities. That means bonds and other debt instruments. These can be Federal, State or even municipal bonds. But they all hold a large percentage of US securities.

Their bond holdings are sufficiently large that if they suddenly sold even a small portion of the bonds, it would collapse the entire bond market. And with the volatility of the dollar, and the mind-boggling Federal debt that is constantly growing, the value of all government bonds is dropping like a stone.

The insurance companies know this. They already know that they could cause the bond market to meltdown any day that they began selling off government securities. The US Federal government would finally be proven to be bankrupt. So, in essence, they have created a government interference insurance policy for themselves that protects them from Washington’s meddling in their business. It’s the equivalent of the old “club in the closet”…the weapon you bring out when it’s needed. And NOTHING prevents them from threatening DC with that club.

One of the features of the BFD is that pre-existing conditions will no longer be considered in underwriting a health insurance policy. In practice, this will mean that I could wait until my doctor diagnoses me with terminal cancer before I buy an insurance policy. Then, I pay my copays and stick it to the insurance company.

Another feature is that there will be no lifetime cap on benefits. Underwriting and actuarial considerations are worthless when an insurance company cannot calculate the limits of their loss exposures. Insurance ceases to be insurance…a transfer of risk…when there ceases to be any risk. Under the BFD, health insurance becomes a healthcare welfare system.

No insurance company would ever agree to this…unless underwriting and actuarial decisions don’t matter anymore. That would only occur if there was some entity above the insurance company that was going to pay all the benefits. Guess who?

Health Care Rationing is Inevitable

Here’s the way for Washington to screw up any economic activity:

1. Tax it
2. regulate supply and demand
3. impose price controls
4. impose wage controls
5. impose limits on profits, or “windfall profits” taxes

The DC bunch is going to do this with health care. The health care industry will naturally shrink in size as many people realize that it makes no economic sense for them to continue in this path.

As the BFD unfolds, and the regulations start to affect doctors, the number of doctors will diminish. Some will retire early, some will switch to other careers, premed students will switch majors, and most doctors will just sing “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”

Some doctors will opt out of the government benefits system and stop treating anyone covered by the BFD. But that brings up another possible scenario. If the number of participating doctors drops, and rationing inevitably begins, I can see Washington stepping in and forcing doctors to treat BFD patients. Think about it. Doctors are licensed in every state. Congress could easily pass a new law that mandates all licensed doctors to accept BFD patients and BFD benefits…or no license for the doctor. What’s to stop Congress from doing this? Nothing.

But some medical professionals will adapt and prosper.

Doctors are going to watch as their incomes shrink. But some will think of ways to escape the American healthcare system while still practicing medicine.

That means an escape from America.

Canadians have been coming to American doctors and hospitals for decades to escape the rationing in Canada. Now it’s America’s turn to run for the border.

Over the next ten years, thousand of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals will set up shop outside the USA. They will establish clinics and surgical practices “just across the border” with the most modern and advanced medical treatment facilities possible…free from Washington’s crushing burden of regulation.

Expect the offshore medical industry, or commonly called “Medical Tourism” to explode in Mexico, the Caribbean (and Cuba, once Castro dies) and Latin America, in places like Panama and Costa Rica. Read more about Medical Tourism HERE.

For example, the prestigious Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Global Health opened the Hospital Punta Pacifica in Panama City, Panama in 2006. It is the most advanced hospital in Panama and rivals any great American hospital. Medical tourism will be a huge cash cow for this facility as health care falls apart in America.

Big Pharma is Smiling

The pharmaceutical industry has entered in the Promised Land. They will negotiate their pricing with the government, and the government health care will promote and buy their products. All Big Pharma has to do is continue paying bribe money to Congress.

The Swami Predicts…

1. Health care rationing nationwide
2. Price controls on everything related to medical treatment
3. Hundreds of hospitals close their doors
4. Dozens of health insurance companies close their doors
5. Thousands of doctors stop practicing medicine in the US
6. Thousands of doctors and nurses become Federal employees
7. Pharmaceutical companies’ stock value soars
8. Mortality rates in America creep upward due to rationing
9. Hyperinflation must occur as DC monetizes debt with paper money
10. The US economy collapses and America enters a Dark Age

OR…

11. Courageous states of the United States secede and the United States dissolves into the ashbin of history.

Which will YOU choose?

Secession is the Hope for Mankind. Who will be first…and wisest?

DumpDC. Six Letters That Can Change History.

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.


Fill Your Vehicle’s Tires With Nitrogen

March 26, 2010

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a shimmy in my Mercedes when I’m driving over 70 mph. So, today I took the car into Butler Tire Company in Austell, Georgia, to get the tires rotated and get a high-speed balancing for all four tires.

Man, did I learn a lot from those guys!

Chris Arthur, the superb front desk guy, explained to me the benefits of inflating my tires with nitrogen instead of regular air.

I learned that the airlines and most private planes fill their tires with nitrogen. Even NASA fills the tires on the Space Shuttle with nitrogen. And NASCAR, Indy racers and drag racing cars have nitrogen-filled tires.

Oxygen is an enemy of your rubber tires. Atmospheric air is comprised of about 78% oxygen, 21% nitrogen and 1% other gases. When pressurized air is pumped into your tires, it also has moisture in it depending on the humidity of the air around the air compressor. The combination of the oxygen and the humidity works on the inside of your tires, causing oxidation of the rubber. Over time, the tire loses some of its elasticity and strength.

Clemson University did a study of nitrogen versus air in vehicle tires, both passenger vehicles and fleet vehicles. They discovered the following benefits of nitrogen:

• A 6% fuel savings over air-inflated tires
• A 31% increase in tire life
• A reduction in tire pressure loss of 35-55%
• Road failures were reduced by 50%

Other benefits of nitrogen inflation:

• Nitrogen molecules are fatter than oxygen molecules. So, tires hold their pressure longer. Therefore, tires last longer because they don’t run underinflated as much as happens with air-filled tires.
• With a nitrogen tire fill, you should only need to check your tire pressure once every four to six months.
• Heat doesn’t affect nitrogen like air. A tire’s pressure can vary up to 10 pounds depending on the temperature of the tire. But nitrogen stays cooler and the pressure hardly fluctuates at all.
• Nitrogen is not flammable. So, if you have a blowout, your tire is much less likely to burn.
• Tires properly inflated with nitrogen roll better and your motor doesn’t have to work to overcome soft tire resistance. You save fuel and save money.
• Chrome wheels sometimes rust inside the tire from the humidity of the air. Nitrogen has no moisture and causes no rust or corrosion on wheels.

Use nitrogen with a purity of over 98%, or don’t bother. 99% is best. Using a low purity of 95% or lower is no better than inflating your tires with regular air.

You should use the same tire pressures as the vehicle manufacturer recommends when using nitrogen. Check you tires when they are cold to get the most accurate pressure readings.

If your tire is damaged or picks up a nail and deflates, try to have the repair shop fill it with nitrogen, but if they don’t have it, go ahead and fill it with air. Then, when you get back home to your favorite tire dealer (mine is Butler Tire), have them refill the tire with nitrogen. Many tire shops will do this for free.

After the guys at Butler finished their work on my tires and wheels, I took the Benz out onto I-75 for a test drive. I took the car up past 90 mph, and it rode as smooth as glass.

I love those guys! If you’re in the Atlanta area, you can do no better than Butler Tire. They baby your car. They have five locations: Marietta, Austell, Doraville, Buckhead and Alpharetta. Check out their great website at: http://www.ButlerTire.com.

By the way, I’m not getting a penny for writing this. Use nitrogen in your vehicle tires, no matter where in the world you are. Can’t do any better!


Medical Tourism: Could Medical Tourism Save Your Life?

March 24, 2010

A growing number of people worldwide are seriously considering a new phenomenon called “Medical Tourism” as an answer to high cost and/or unavailable health care. Others who have already used medical tourism are praising it as a terrific solution to an ongoing problem.

If you don’t live in the US, you may still have some interest in medical tourism–perhaps your health care provider doesn’t cover a procedure you want, or maybe the wait for the procedure is too long. For those people worldwide without health insurance, and with limited access to the health care system, going to another country for a medical procedure could literally save your life.

The cost of medical care here in the United States is high and going higher. However, the World Health Organization ranks the US healthcare system as #37 in the world. We are behind nearly all Europeans nations, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica.

So, you might survive your medical condition and treatment. But will you survive financially when the medical bills arrive at your door?

For a growing list of reasons, Medical Tourism is an idea whose time has come.

There are two prominent resources for Medical Tourism listed below:

PlanetHospital.com

PlanetHospital began in 2002 as a coordinator of overseas healthcare for the uninsured desiring to travel abroad because they could not obtain or could not afford healthcare in the US or their respective country. Over time, as news of medical tourism spread, carriers, employers and self-insured groups began to ask PlanetHospital to explore ways that would allow PlanetHospital to solve their skyrocketing healthcare cost problem. Consequently, while maintaining their commitment to individual self payers, they expanded into healthcare solutions. As a result, over the past two years, PlanetHospital has developed several products for the marketplace. Most of their products center around four critical needs:

1. Self insured companies and their related partners (such as Stop Loss agencies, TPAs, and MGUs)
2. Uninsured and underinsured individuals
3. Healthcare plans that need to control expenses
4. Immigrants and guest workers who need affordable healthcare while working in the US.

I strongly urge you to spend some time touring their website at: http://www.planethospital.com

HealthCare Tourism International

HealthCare Trip, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit service of HealthCare Tourism International, was started on April 1, 2006 as a portal and service that connects all people interested in healthcare abroad with safe and effective information and accreditation. In addition, they do not have any financial partnerships or arrangements with for-profit healthcare tourism operators, hospitals, or providers, so that they may maintain a non-partisan approach to safe healthcare services abroad. HCTI is the world’s first 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization specifically for health travel safety.

Visit their website at: http://www.healthcaretrip.org

Medical Tourism includes many of the following specialties in Medicine.

Alternative Medicine

There are many treatment procedures with long histories of success that are not approved and available in the US. For example, German cancer specialists have alternative treatments that are much more successful than traditional American procedures. Other alternative medicine is found in heart disease, for example.

Nursing Home/Long Term Care

In order for Medicare to pay for nursing home care, one must be basically broke (under $2500 in assets). If you do not have Long Term Care insurance, the monthly costs can easily run between $3,000 and $5,000. In other countries, high quality nursing care can be found for less than $50 a day.

Dental

Some of the most popular and widely-used medical procedures are dental procedures. With only half the US population covered by dental insurance, Americans are streaming overseas for high quality, low cost dental care. Medicare does not cover dental work, and elderly people have elderly teeth that require more care than the young.

In certain areas of Prague, Budapest, Bangkok and Tijuana, streets are lined with dental clinics. The savings the patients realize can more than compensate for their travel costs. Teeth caps that range from $750 to $1,000 in the U.S. cost $150 in Mexico. In Budapest, a top-quality crown costs $780, compared with $1,200 to $2,000 in the United States. In Great Britain the average cost of an implant is $3,500, but in Budapest you can get it done for $1,000.

What about the quality of the work? According to the non-profit group Healthcare Tourism International, their surveys of patients found high levels of satisfaction. But that should come as no surprise. A spokesman from the New York University College of Dentistry states that they bring in over 100 dentists a year from 33 countries, train them in advanced procedures, and send them home.

In March 2008, FOX News reporter Lori Lundin blogged about her husband’s dental excursion to El Salvador. The quote they got in the US for the dental work he need was $60,000. They had the work done in a world-class Salvadoran facility for about $19,000. He had the procedures done and experienced no pain, plus they had a tropical vacation while they were there. Lundin figured that the total cost including travel expenses and lodging was $30,000.

Cosmetic Surgery

Tummy tuck, Breast Augmentation/Reduction, facial, liposuction, butt/thigh lifts and other cosmetic procedures can be done through Medical Tourism.

Conventional Treatment

Medical procedures include:

• Fertility
• Orthopedic Surgery
• Heart Surgery
• Bariatric
• Cancer/Radiation
• Eye and vision
• Gynecological
• Lung procedures
• …and many others

Pharmaceutical purchases

Pharmaceuticals outside the US cost a small fraction of US prices. For the most part, the manufacturer is the same as you would find in an American pharmacy. Countries like India, Brazil and Thailand have huge generic pharmaceutical industries, and many of their companies are importing product into the US. Patients can save hundreds per year by buying drugs outside the US.

Travel benefits

One of the other benefits to medical tourism is that, depending on how long you stay for your medical procedures, you may be able to take in the sights while you are being treated. Imagine yourself on a Costa Rican beach while you wait for your dental work to be completed! Picture yourself attending the Prague Symphony while you are in the city for your medical treatment. Wonderful!

Caveat Emptor

As with any major purchase, you should do extensive research before you spend your money. Do not trust ANYONE just because the letters “MD” are tacked onto his name, or because he’s wearing a white lab coat. Spend the time necessary to thoroughly investigate any medical provider. Then, make an informed decision.

Medical Tourism can be a tremendous money saver for you, and can provide you with world class medical treatment and a memorable vacation. Good luck and good health!


Public Adjusters: A Battle Looms in Florida

March 5, 2010

By Russell D. Longcore

In the State of Florida over the last twenty years, Public Adjusters (PA) have been very successful in helping policyholders recover all the money they are entitled to collect.

Way too successful for the insurance companies’ liking.

So, a major battle is looming in the State of Florida over the business practices of Public Adjusters.

Three insurance associations are supporting legislation to restrict how Public Adjusters operate. The Florida Insurance Council, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the Florida Property Casualty Association issued statements which criticize Public Adjusters…who represent homeowners in the professional preparation of insurance claims…accusing them of “inflating” claims, driving up costs for all policyholders.

But think about it for a moment, friends. The insurance companies enter into agreements with the PA and the policyholder to settle a claim. That means that “a buyer and a seller” agree on a price. Nothing forces the insurance companies to agree to a price they believe is too high. The insurance companies simply hate the fact that a policyholder goes into the marketplace and hires a claims professional to represent himself in the preparation of his claim. That is akin to the IRS getting mad at people for having their taxes prepared by an accountant.

State Senator Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole filed new legislative bills in February. The bills (S2264 and H1181) seek to:

• Prevent Public Adjusters from soliciting customers either by phone or in person unless both parties had a prior knowledge of one another or were family members.

• Prevent PAs from sending mail to prospective clients in the first 30 days after a storm. Further, the bill seeks to force Pas to label their letters “ADVERTISEMENT” in 14-point font red letters.

• Prohibit PAs from informing a prospective client of their firm’s success record in obtaining claim settlements for policyholders.

• Cap fees for PA services at 10% for hurricane claims, and a 20% cap for all other property claims.¹

It is a criminal restraint of trade to suggest that a Public Adjuster cannot attempt to make contact with a prospective client for 30 days after a storm. After a major hurricane, communications systems are usually broken for a time. In most instances, the only way a PA can contact a prospective client in the dasy after a storm is through either a personal visit or mail delivery.

Insureds with damages have immediate needs for emergency board-up, mitigation of damages, Living Expenses and other policy benefits. The insureds will need this kind of help immediately, not 30 days after the storm.

There is no legislation that prevents a building contractor from soliciting business right after a storm. Same goes for a roofer, tree removal company, or a debris hauler. So, no restriction should be imposed on PAs either.

You don’t see a restriction on accountants in tax season. You don’t see restrictions on Personal Injury attorneys after accidents. Why pick on PAs?

Think about this also. Hurricanes happen in hot weather. Damages from water quickly become mold damages. Mold left untreated for 30 days could render a building entirely useless and could require demolition. Further, the insurance companies have written ironclad Mold Exclusions that you can be sure they would invoke.

The state legislators wish to deny policyholders the timely assistance in preparation of their insurance claims, under the guise of protecting the policyholders of the State of Florida. But this effort to too transparent not to be seen for what it is…a desperate insurance industry trying to maximize its own profits at the expense of the policyholders of the State of Florida.

A recent state study found that in the past six years, the Division of Insurance Fraud received 937 complaints about public adjuster-related fraud from insurers and policyholders. It investigated only 269 of the complaints and made 31 arrests from 2004 to 2009. Curiously, the study did not say how many complaints it had received from policyholders about their own insurance companies’ claims practices. Nor did the study show how many hundreds of thousands of claims had been filed from 2004 to 2009. But we do know that SIX major hurricanes struck Florida in that time period.

They were:

Charlie – Category 4
Frances – Category 3
Jeanne – Category 3
Dennis – Category 4
Katrina – Category 3
Wilma – Category 4

Let’s run some numbers to show how deceptive this report is and give some perspective.

Let’s say that the total number of property claims filed for all the listed hurricanes togetherover six years was 1,000,000 claims. You already know that this number is ridiculously small, since tens of millions of property owners suffered repeated losses in the hurricanes. But at 1 million claims, 937 complaints is less than 0.0937% of all the claims filed. That is less than one percent of a purposefully low estimate of claims. And in only 31 cases was there enough evidence for even an arrest, much less a conviction.

And 31 arrests…not convictions…over six years is not enough illegal activity to cause legislators to pass additional laws restricting the business operations of ALL Public Adjusters.

Looks to me like the Public Adjusters, taken as a group, are paragons of virtue. They should be praised, not pilloried…lauded, not legislated…decorated, not demagogued.

I wonder if Senator Mike Bennett and Rep. Janet Long would open up their financial records and disclose how much money they have received in contributions from insurance industry-related donors. My guess is that these Florida solons are bought and paid for by the insurance lobby.

Write to your own Senate or House representative and vigorously protest the enactment of these bills into law. Florida policyholders would once again be taken advantage of by the insurance companies if this bill is passed.

¹To read the bill for yourself, go to: Public Adjuster Bill

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.


State Farm Reverses Course, Stays In Florida

February 2, 2010

The Office of Insurance Regulation of the State of Florida released a statement about State Farm Insurance Company’s intent to leave the State of Florida. Commissioner Kevin McCarthy issued a consent order that ends the pending litigation between State Farm and the Insurance Commissioner’s office concerning State Farm’s plan to leave Florida’ property insurance market. State Farm will now continue writing business in Florida’s residential insurance market, and Citizens Property Insurance dodges a bullet that could have been fatal.

The Florida legislature established Citizens Property Insurance, the high risk pool, in 2002, in response to insurance companies that either went bankrupt, cancelled or pulled out of Florida because of repeated hurricanes. So, Citizens Property Insurance places the Florida taxpayers at risk for residential losses. Since 2002, storm after storm have struck Florida, nearly bankrupting Citizens. And Citizens is only one big storm away from ruin. So, when State Farm, the largest residential property insurer in Florida announced that they were leaving the state, the Insurance Commissioner’s office panicked.

This allowed State Farm to figuratively bend the Commissioner over the couch and have its way with him. Prior to State Farm’s announcement that they were leaving Florida, the company requested a rate increase of over 65% which was denied by the Commissioner. But rather than wave goodbye to Florida’s largest insurer, the Commissioner has granted the smaller…yet generous…rate increase of 14.8%. And, it is allowing State Farm to get rid of 125,000 policies that are arguably the highest risk policies they have on the books.

So, not only does State Farm get a rate increase on all policies, but it gets to keep its most profitable business and shove the riskier business off onto the taxpayers of the State of Florida. And for Citizens, 125,000 risky policies is better than 860,000.

You’ve got to admire that kind of moxy. State Farm, being the largest insurer in Florida, took full advantage of their market position and finally showed the State of Florida who is the boss. The regulators and the Florida legislature had little choice and no options but to give in to State Farm’s demands. The press release issued by the Commissioner’s office was a pitiful attempt to save face and spin the story to look like the Commish’s office was protecting Florida’s property owners.

Don’t you wonder if the terms of the consent order was what State Farm wanted all along?


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