Local Experts. Familiar Faces.
Welcome to insurance done right.

We’re the insurance provider more local residents and businesses trust. To help earn this trust, we provide the right coverage to fit your exact needs. You get expert, licensed agents who are there when you need them, and you also work with one person – “your person” – throughout the entire process. And we’re as committed to the community as you are.

Our claims department is in-house, which means we’re always on your side. With one point of contact and expert agents who walk you through the process every step of the way, we’re committed to providing the right coverage and smoothest service.

All of our account managers and sales team are licensed, which ensures you receive the highest level of expertise and advice. We understand the discounts that are available to you throughout the various stages of your life.  We also partner with ten companies which gives you the power to shop a multitude of companies through our one agency! 

It all adds up to coverage, price, and service second to none. Our expert team can help you secure the right coverage for:

  • Your home or condominium
  • Automobiles
  • Mobile Home, Boats, & Motorcycles
  • Your toys, including Classic Cars, ATVs & Snowmobiles
  • Life, Long-Term Care, & Disability Insurance

Contact Us today to get started!

We’ll help you find the right coverage for your needs.

Call us at

Request a quote

Report a claim

Our Claims Department is here to help you through the claims process.

Contact Us

Local experts. Familiar faces.
Welcome to insurance done right.

We pride ourselves on being your insurance advisor as well as your community partner. It’s this unique combination that helps us know you better and inspires your trust. Working with us, you always get a licensed agent dedicated to finding the coverage that’s right for you.  That’s what makes us a trusted choice for insurance.

We know that every business is different and so are its needs. With our staff of experts, we partner with you to find the insurance solutions that protect you against the unique risks that your business faces.  We pride ourselves on providing you with Piece of Mind.

So whether you need Property, General Liability, Equipment, Builder’s Risk, Commercial Auto or Workers Compensation coverage, you can trust that our experienced agents will simplify the complexities of purchasing insurance while making sure you’re correctly covered.

Our expert team can help you secure the right coverage for:

  • Business Property
  • General Liability
  • Surety & Commercial Bonds
  • Products & Completed Operations Liability
  • Workers Compensation
  • Business Automobile
  • Commercial Umbrella
  • Professional Liability
  • Buy-Sell & Business Continuation
  • Group Benefits

Contact Us today to get started!

We’ll help you find the right coverage for your business needs.

Give us a
call today at

Request a quote

Report a claim

Our Claims Department is here to help you through the claims process.

Contact Us

Construction & Commercial Surety Experts

Surety is a business centered on relationships and trust.

Do you consider your bonding agent to be one of your most trusted business advisers?

Your agent is your company’s voice to the surety market, and your conduit to procure work. It’s important to have the right adviser speaking on your company’s behalf, helping you analyze and understand your financial statements, and working with you to create a bonding program that best aligns with your business plan.

Our company understands the intricacies of the complex bonding industry and has the expertise to put together the most competitive bonding packages available in the marketplace.

For decades, we have been a leader in providing Surety Bonds and related risk management services to businesses and individuals in the local market, and to clients across the country. From small transactional commercial bonds to the largest construction bonding needs, we have you covered.

Contact Us today to find out how we can help your business!

We’ll help you find the right coverage for your business needs.

Give us a
call today at

Request a quote

Report a claim

Our Claims Department is here to help you through the claims process.

Contact Us

More than anything, today's executives, business owners and HR decision-makers desire one characteristic from an Employee Benefits strategy: Simplicity.

In partnership with OneDigital, we offer innovative employee benefits solutions to simplify your health care journey. Our goal is to provide you with a cutting edge approach to employee benefits. 

Through a sophisticated technology platform, OneDigital delivers affordable solutions with a personal touch.  Our Compliance Advantage service offers you peace of mind that your organization is in compliance with Health Care reform. Simplified onboarding, HR and reporting technology provides an administrative solution to your biggest human resource headaches. This combined with the expert knowledge of our Customer Advocate Center helps you navigate the complexities of health networks’ billing procedures, claims reimbursement, and more.

OneDigital’s Healthy U service provides employers with customized workforce health programs created in alignment with high-performing benefit plans. Each Healthy U plan includes access to an executive workforce health consultant.

In partnership with OneDigital, we are focused on finding new and improved ways to deliver the five things that matter most to our customers:

  • Lower costs
  • Best benefits possible
  • Healthier employees
  • Help with compliance and healthcare reform
  • No administrative headaches

 Let our benefits experts help you achieve your strategic goals and navigate this ever changing benefits landscape.  Contact us today.

 Learn more about OneDigital.

Learn more about our employee benefits tailored to your specific business needs.

Contact a Benefits Consultant

Employee Group Benefits

  • Health Plans
  • Disability Plans
  • Dental Plans
  • Life Plans
  • Vision Plans

You deserve MORE!

Check out the self-service protection programs and services available through the “MORE Store”!
Apply online quickly and easily for these services, and gain added peace of mind.


Finding an affordably priced lawyer to assist you can be a challenge. Now, there’s an easy solution. This plan covers you, your spouse and dependents, and is a convenient and cost-effective way to receive advice and fully covered legal services.

Click to learn more and shop now!

Emergency Travel

Whether its medical care in London or a toboggan for transport down Mt. Kilimanjaro, this plan provides global emergency medical assistance services, for travelers who find themselves in need more than 100 miles from home.

Click to learn more and shop now!

Event Liability

This plan protects you from financial loss if you are held legally responsible for property damage to the venue or bodily injury to someone injured at your event.

Click to learn more and shop now!


This plan offers low-cost, comprehensive dental coverage to individuals of all ages.

Click to learn more and shop now!

Discount Plan

Every year, thousands of pet families take advantage of this plan. It’s a great value that can save pet families money every year.

Click to learn more and shop now!

Travel & Concierge

With the discounts available through this plan, you can save on travel products and services, such as hotel and car rental, roadside  assistance, 24/7 travel concierge service, and more.

Click to learn more and shop now!


Plans provided through Renaissance Alliance Insurance Group

Our Team

Insurance Management Team

Jonathan Denmark, LIA, CLTC, CISR, CLCS

President & COO
Insurance Division

Holly Taylor, RHU, LIA

Group Benefits Division

Bill Robinson

Senior Vice President
Insurance Division

Donna Bishop, CIC, CPIW, CISR, CRM

Vice President
Insurance Division

Grace Gray

Vice President
Insurance Division



Bonding Services & Business Insurance

Eric Pratt

Vice President

Linda Febles, CPIW, CRIS

Vice President
Business Insurance

Diane Wojcik, CISR

Account Executive & Branch Manager
Business Insurance


Group Benefits

Jean Stone, LIA, CEBS, GBS, CMS

Vice President
Group Benefits Division

Brian Drake, MBA

Vice President
Group Benefits Division



Personal Insurance | Claims | Life, Disability & Long-Term Care

Debbie Baker, CISR

Account Executive
Personal Insurance

Erin Palmer

Claims Representative

Sharon Coe, ACS, LIA, CLTC

Account Executive
Life, Disability & Long-Term Care


Business Insurance News

Homepreneurs: Beware This Common Home-based Business Mistake! 

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that there are 29.6 million small businesses in the U.S. of which 52% are home-based — and this trend is only expected to increase, according to Network Solutions Small Business Index research. We even have a new word for this vital rising demographic: “homepreneurs” — but some home-based small business owners make the dangerous assumption that their homeowners insurance will cover their business needs. In fact, it’s critical to consult with your insurance rep to understand the limits of your homeowner’s insurance in regard to your home business.

For example, many homeowners policies provide a maximum of $2,500 coverage for business equipment (computers, fax machines, etc.) in the home — while your actual investment may far exceed this figure, so you may need business property insurance to adequately cover equipment and any inventory. Additionally, depending on the nature of your business, you may require liability insurance: “If you are sued because of your home-based business activities — the company that hired you as a consultant believes your advice was dead wrong; the computer equipment you “fixed” doesn’t work; the cookies you baked made someone ill — your homeowners policy won’t protect you.”

Finally, you may want to insure against loss of income in the case of fire or natural disaster.

If you are like millions of other home entrepreneurs, your business is too important to risk with sup-optimal coverage; here are some items to consider when consulting with your agent:

  • Equipment and furniture
  • Inventory
  • Business items belonging to others in your care
  • Accounts receivable
  • Important records, documents and reference material
  • Electronic data
  • Liability for personal injury, products, services and contractual obligations.
  • Auto — be sure your existing policy covers all business uses

And you may have special considerations for disability, life, and health insurance. Your agent can help tailor your coverage to your specific needs, and protect your important home business. See also, our Small Business Insurance Tool Kit.


Group Benefits News

Employee Leave: Clarifying STD, FMLA, and ADA

by Annette Bechtold, OneDigital SVP Regulatory Affairs and Reform Initiatives

In addition to the federal requirements under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many states, and even many localities and municipalities, have enacted employee leave laws. Due to the various leave requirements, employers may have a hard time understanding how different leaves coordinate with each other and how wage replacement benefits fit into the equation.

The purpose of this article is to clarify some of the differences between the federal FMLA, the ADA and short-term disability (STD). Employers must keep in mind that state and/or local leave laws may also need to be considered.

STD is not a form of job-protected leave with rights to continued health coverage and job reinstatement. STD is merely a wage replacement benefit that employees may receive when they are unable to work for certain reasons. Eligibility for STD benefits has no bearing on eligibility for FMLA leave. Any short- or long-term disability benefit provided to an employee is separate from an employer’s obligations under the federal FMLA and other state leave laws. An employee who is eligible for STD benefits while on federal FMLA leave does not receive any extra leave benefits.

The FMLA, however, is job-protected leave that provides eligible employees with job reinstatement rights and continued health insurance benefits for the duration of FMLA leave (up to 12 weeks in any 12-month period). If an employee on FMLA leave is also receiving STD benefits, it is worth noting that in this situation, neither the employer nor employee can require the substitution of available paid time off. This is because leave under a disability plan, such as STD, is not unpaid leave.

Leave must also be considered as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Need for leave under the ADA may arise when a disabled employee exhausts job-protected leave (such as under the FMLA), or when he or she is ineligible for such leave. The amount of time that will be considered reasonable will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the situation. Leave as a reasonable accommodation includes the right to return to the employee’s original position. However, if an employer determines that holding open the job will cause an undue hardship, then it must consider whether there are alternatives that permit the employee to complete the leave and return to work. In addition, group health benefits are not required to be maintained during an employee’s leave under the ADA. Therefore, continuation of these benefits is determined based on plan terms.

It may be helpful for employers to think of STD benefits as wages an employee may be eligible for when on leave, but that do not provide for the employee’s leave. The ADA comes in when FMLA is exhausted or unavailable to a disabled employee.


Personal Insurance News

Get free emergency apps for National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month – here’s one simple thing you can do: Download some free apps for your phone so that if you find yourself in an emergency, you are ready. Pass them along to your family members too, so you can all be informed. Here are a few suggestions.

The free FEMA app

The free FEMA app is a must. One great new feature is that you can get weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the nation. That allows you to follow severe weather alerts for friends and family located anywhere in the country – even if your phone is not located in the area.  The app is available in English but it will default to Spanish if those who have set that as the default language. It can be downloaded from the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices.

The new weather alert feature adds to the app’s existing features: a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and Disaster Recovery Centers, and tips on how to survive natural and man-made disasters.

Some other key features of the app include:

  • Safety Tips: Tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after over 20 types of hazards, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes
  • Disaster Reporter: Users can upload and share photos of damage and recovery efforts
  • Maps of Disaster Resources: Users can locate and receive driving directions to open shelters and disaster recovery centers
  • Apply for Assistance: The app provides easy access to apply for federal disaster assistance

Red Cross has an excellent suite of free emergency apps:

  • First Aid – Get instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies.
  • Pet First Aid – Be prepared to help your furry friends with veterinary advice for everyday emergencies.
  • Blood – Schedule blood donation appointments, track total donations and earn rewards as you help us meet the constant need for blood.

They also have emergency apps for tornado, hurricane, wildfire, flood, earthquake and general emergencies, along with a few apps for kids.


Business Insurance News

Increase in Off-site Workers Intensifies Small Business Data Risks

Small businesses have become more aware over the years of the importance of data protection and backup. It’s a rare company that doesn’t have backup procedures in place, but it’s always a good idea to make sure those policies and procedures are up-to-date. Since surveys show that the average data breach costs a company $7.2 million, or $214 per breached record, properly protecting your company’s data should always be one of the top items on your priority list. Plus, many states are enacting laws about customer data privacy and security, and at this writing, 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have enacted legislation requiring notification of security breaches involving personal information. Experts recommend that you routinely back up your data, develop data and disaster recovery plans and educate your employees to the importance of customer data security.

Educating employees is crucial in today’s increasingly mobile society. A recent survey has found that up to 80% of workers in small to midsize businesses routinely use their own portable devices, such as laptops, iPhones and iPads, to work from home or on the road. Although most companies have formal policies in place to protect their vital data in the office, a surprising data protection gap has emerged with the growth of off-site workers. Fully one third of companies let employees make their own decisions about how, or whether, to back up company and client data on their own devices and as a result, valuable data could easily be lost or compromised. Instead of these informal arrangements, it’s a good idea to implement a formal Acceptable Use Policy that may include installing security software on the employee’s device.

If your business entails storing personal customer data electronically, you should talk with your independent insurance agent about exactly what your business liability insurance covers and discuss whether you need a specialized product to cover data loss coverage and electronic data liability to deal with the aftermath of a data breach. And while you’re having that discussion, you might also inquire about cyber liability coverage for protection against various legal liabilities related to disseminating information via the Internet.


Group Benefits News

Navigating The HSA Process: What I Thought I Knew

by Jessica Lee, OneDigital Senior Market Analyst

On the TV show Modern Family, characters Gloria and Jay annoy the first-time parents and the instructor in their baby-care class with their jokes and know-it-all attitude about parenting. “Done…I win!” yells Gloria as she holds up her swaddled plastic baby like a trophy and then slams it down on the table in triumph.

In my experience, I was probably more like one of the nervous first-time parents in the class, but with regards to handling the finances of having a baby I thought I had it in the bag. I had been on my own insurance plan for ten years managing my own health care expenses. I was on a high deductible health plan for several years and had amassed a decent amount of funds in my health savings account (HSA). In addition, I work in the health insurance industry. Although, I’m not involved in educating clients about HSAs (as some of my colleagues do), I have a good understanding of how they work, or at least I thought I did. Being a financial analyst, I thought that dealing with the costs associated with having a baby would be a breeze. Ironically, navigating the healthcare system was more challenging than I anticipated. Throughout the process of going through a pregnancy and delivery with complications, I learned the following four things about navigating the HSA process:

1: Insurance carriers often tout their online capabilities, including the ability to price out certain medical procedures and find which facilities are the most cost-effective. Use this tool to help guide you when researching a doctor, facility, or medical procedure pricing.        

One of the first decisions I made after discovering I was pregnant was selecting both an obstetrician and a hospital. I selected an OB practice and affiliated hospital based on the recommendation of a friend who was a Labor and Delivery Nurse. Occupied with fighting nausea and comparing my growing baby to a fruit or vegetable each week, I did not think about the cost of delivery until halfway through my pregnancy. Luckily, most of the major hospitals in my area charged about the same amount for a delivery, including the hospital I had chosen. However, as I would later find out, if you have any sort of medical complication, all bets are off on how much everything will cost.

2: Know your deductible period.

I have been fortunate that I have never had any serious medical issues. Prior to my pregnancy, my experience utilizing the healthcare system consisted of annual checkups and the occasional doctor’s visit for a minor illness. Even though I had a general idea of what the prenatal checkups and delivery were going to cost, I was still cost-conscious because my pregnancy and delivery were going to cross two deductible time periods. Since my insurance policy was on a January policy period, and my baby was not due until April, I could potentially have to satisfy my deductible twice on the high deductible health plan.

3: Anticipate additional expenses.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was asked if I wanted to take optional prenatal tests. It was difficult to determine how much these tests would cost as the doctors did not know, and delaying the procedure to call the insurance company to find out would have required another doctor’s visit. Frankly, I did not have the time for this; however, I also did not want to be a bad mother by refusing the test.

During my pregnancy, I had minor complications which involved an outpatient procedure in the hospital operating room. This one procedure caused me to blow through my single deductible the first-time and make a small dent in my health savings account. My biggest surprise was when I delivered my baby girl five weeks early. Nothing from my prenatal visits indicated a preterm delivery. However, due to respiratory issues my baby stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for ten days.

Whatever treatments the doctors suggested, my husband and I contemplated what was best for my baby, without thinking of the potential cost. We breathed a sigh of relief when my baby was released, and we switched our focus to learning how to be first-time parents. In the midst of sleepless nights, learning how to breastfeed, and changing endless amounts of dirty diapers, the bills started coming in from multiple areas: the hospital, labs, the NICU.

Even though my check-ups and delivery occurred in the same facility, the bills came from different billing offices and were numerous. We received different iterations of bills for the same services with many adjustments, but no details on what they were for. The term explanation of benefits (EOBs) was meaningless to me because the statements did not explain anything at all (especially on the larger claim amounts). They included clarifying descriptions such as “medical services” and “inpatient physician services.” Two of the largest stressors were worrying that services would be deemed out-of-network (subject to an even higher deductible) and getting final notices before being sent to the collections agency. As a new mother, I did not have the energy or time to dig deeper into the EOBs. I was just thankful I had enough money saved in my HSA to make the problem go away.

4: Billing offices and Insurance Carriers make mistakes.

One particular genetic screening that I needed cost $25, but it was not billed correctly and I received a bill for thousands of dollars as the lab was out-of-network. It took a few phone calls to the insurance carrier and laboratory performing the test to straighten out. In another instance, I received a bill for $4,000 which did not correspond with any of my EOBs. It turns out; there were some adjustments that the insurance carrier made which did not carry through to the doctor’s office until later. Eventually, I got a revised bill for $2,400 which did tie to my EOBs.

Having a baby is arguably the happiest thing you can be in the hospital for and I cannot imagine the stress involved dealing with a life-threatening condition on top of facing huge medical bills. Although there is not much we can do to change the cost associated with hospital visits and medical care, we can work to educate ourselves and become wiser healthcare consumers. It is one thing to be able to articulate how a medical plan should function, but it is another to actually navigate the healthcare system. My pregnancy and delivery not only produced a beautiful daughter, but also provided me with practical experience to share with others.


Personal Insurance News

Kids heading off to college? Double check insurance coverage first

If you have a child headed off to college, it’s time to check your current insurance policies and have a talk with your insurance agent to ensure your student has adequate protection.

Homeowners / renters insurance
If your student will be living in a dorm, their possessions may be covered by your homeowners policy for perils like fire, theft, vandalism and natural disasters such as a hurricane. But your coverage may have limits – the Insurance Information Institute (III) explains:

“Other policies may limit the amount of coverage for a college student’s belongings to 10 percent of the total amount of a policy’s overall coverage for personal possessions. So if parents have $100,000 worth of personal possessions insurance for the family’s primary residence, for example, only $10,000 would be applicable to possessions in their youngster’s dorm room.”

If your student has expensive electronic equipment, as many students do, you should check limits to ensure you have adequate coverage. Laptops, smartphones, tablets and TVs can add up! Plus, talk over cost/benefit scenarios related to deductibles with your agent. You want them high enough to keep insurance rates reasonable but not so high that it will create a hardship to replace a stolen laptop.

Not in a dorm? If students will be living in an apartment, your homeowners probably will not cover them. Renters insurance is inexpensive and may be the best bet. See our recent post that covers myths and misconceptions about renters insurance.

Auto insurance
If your student is under the age of 25 and college is within 100 miles of your home, he or she may be covered by your policy. If further than 100 miles away, the student still may be covered on your policy if they only drive while visiting your home. If your student will only be driving while on college breaks, talk to your agent to see if this could help to lower rates – you may be able to get a discount.

If your student will be 100+ miles away with a car, a separate policy may be required. Talk to your agent to determine the best option for your situation. III also suggests checking to see if your student is eligible for any “good student” discounts or whether safe driver training programs could reduce rates.

Tuition Insurance
Check to see what the college refund policy is. If tuition is very high, you may want to talk to your agent about a specialty tuition reimbursement insurance coverage that would kick in if the student had to leave school due to an unforeseen illness or physical disability – or in the event of the student’s death. Typically, these plans do not provide reimbursement for students who are expelled or who decide to leave the college for other reasons.

Identity theft insurance
Students are at high risk for identity theft. You may want to educate them about safety concerns and it might be worth investing in an ID theft protection product.

Stand-alone coverage for electronics
III suggests this option: “Parents may want to look into acquiring stand-alone policies for desktop computers, laptops, tablets and iPads, and other electronics as they may provide coverage against accidental damage, liquid spills and other events not included under a standard homeowners or renters policy. Keep in mind that if you are using a credit card to buy such items, some insurance protection may also be available through the card itself.”


Business Insurance News

Small business insurance: Learn the basics

There’s a lot more to business insurance than getting the lowest business insurance quotes. It means understanding your business’s unique needs and the potential hazards that can threaten its success. The Insurance Information Institute (III) offers a good primer on Small Business Insurance Basics, which outlines and explains the major coverages: Property, Liability, Business Auto and Workers’ Compensation. The article also offers a brief explanation of other common business coverages, including coverages for various types of liability.

Many small businesses opt for BOP coverage or Business Owners Policy. This packages several common business coverages in one package, but note that III says:

“BOPs do NOT cover professional liability, auto insurance, worker’s compensation or health and disability insurance. You’ll need separate insurance policies to cover professional services, vehicles and your employees.”


Group Benefits News

What is the Best HR Technology Solution for Your Organization?

by Elvia Tito, Digital Benefit Advisors Chicago

According to Forbes, 57% of companies plan to make a major new HR software purchase in the next 18 months. The HR software industry has exploded in the last few years and HR administrators are faced with more choices than ever. The big question:  What is the right solution for my organization?

Here are a few factors to consider when making your decision:

1.      Evaluate your organization. It’s important to take a step back and determine your main objective in implementing or improving your HR software. Does your organization have significant turnover and you need an HR software solution to onboard employees in an efficient way? Or, your workforce is stable, but you want to provide employees with the option of completing their benefit elections online and accessibility to an employee portal? This is a key differentiator because it will help you determine the tools and functionality the software should provide.

2.      Improve Efficiency. Is it essential for your HR software solution to communicate with your payroll provider and/or the insurance carriers? What cross technology will be available to help eliminate redundant work? How will the software help with any compliance requirements such as providing employees with required notices, Affordable Care Act tracking and reporting?

3.      User Experience. How customizable is your portal? Can it be branded to reflect the organization’s culture and needs? Will the software provide employees with a positive experience with the ease of use, accessibility and visual appeal?

4.      This is the component weighed most heavily; what is the return on my investment? As the portal includes more sophisticated features, such as connectivity to vendors, compliance reporting and tracking, the cost of services will be higher. However, implementing a sophisticated HR technology solution can alleviate the HR staff of routine data entry, allowing them to focus on tasks that provide greater value to the organization.

5.      Having the right support team is critical in developing a functional, accurate employee portal. Errors are inevitable, but having a support team of professionals will help obtain answers to your questions, ensure accuracy of the data being imported and provide responsiveness to your requests.

If your organization is ready to take the next step in implementing or enhancing your HR technology, it’s important to find a benefits advisor that can explore all areas of concern in an unbiased manner. Contact your benefits broker or a Digital representative today to begin working through these questions for your organization.


Personal Insurance News

Bike helmets save lives: Learn how to get the right fit

Consumer Reports has a special August feature on the importance of bike helmets noting that, “More head injuries occur in biking than in any other sport—and bike helmets can save your life.” They cite data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: 60% of people who died in a bike accident in 2014 were not wearing a helmet. See our prior post on biking fatalities. The Consumer Reports article talk about some of the newer bicycle helmets and the protection they offer, along with ratings of 35 helmets.

But it’s not just enough to get a helmet, to ensure maximum protection, it’s important to get the right bike helmet fit. Consumer Reports offers the following tips for finding the right bike helmet fit:

  • The helmet must be level on your head.
  • The front edge should be no more than an inch or so above your eyebrows.
  • The strap should fit closely under your chin.
  • Straps should meet just below your jaw and in front of your ears, forming a V under your earlobes.

A fabulous resource for everything bicycle-helmet related is Helmets.org, a non-profit consumer-funded helmet advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. It includes the latest research, innovations in helmet safety – pretty much anything you could ever want to know about helmets. They offer a great page on how to fit a bicycle helmet.  Below, we feature a short clip on how to fit and secure bike helmets for kids.

No state laws require adults to wear bicycle helmets, but many states have requirements for children – see your state bicycle helmet law. Even if there is no state law, you might also want to check local ordinances.


Business Insurance News

Insurance lingo watch: umbrella policy

Two common insurance questions we hear: “What’s an umbrella policy?” and “Do I need one?”
An umbrella policy is an added layer of liability insurance protection that goes above and beyond your policy’s stated coverage limits. This coverage is designed to kick in once any other coverage has been exhausted. Umbrella policies can extend your liability coverage for personal policies, such as your homeowners and auto, and they can also add a layer of liability protection for commercial and business policies. In the commercial arena, umbrella policies may also be referred to as “umbrella liability” or “excess liability” policies.

Your standard insurance policies should provide adequate liability coverage for most situations that would arise, but in today’s lawsuit-happy age, an umbrella policy can provide an added layer of protection. Should a problem arise, this secondary coverage would pick up where your primary coverage stops.

The Insurance Information Institute talks more about personal umbrella coverage: Should I purchase an umbrella liability policy?

Financial Web offers more on business liability umbrella insurance: Commercial Umbrella Insurance: is it indispensable for your business?

Just a reminder that this is only a brief informational overview. As with any insurance issue, coverage specifics will vary by policy and by insurer. If you think that you or your business might benefit by umbrella coverage, pick up the phone and have a talk with your independent agent. Be it personal or commercial matters, your agent can help you to plan the best combination of coverages to meet your specific and unique needs, and can also shop around to find the best available coverage at the best price.


Group Benefits News

Three Not-So-Obvious Advantages of Utilizing an HRIS for Benefits Management

By Courtney Calabrese, Senior Advisor, Digital Benefit Advisors Chicago

A Human Resource Information System (HRIS) is an information system or managed service that provides a single, centralized view of the data that a human resource management or human capital management group requires for completing HR processes. In other words, it’s a tool that organizes all of the data pertinent to the HR function.

The HRIS is all the rage in HR and benefits management lately, and for good reason. It’s a game changer for simplifying and organizing the life of busy HR professionals and benefits administrators. The versatility and functionality is vast, but for purposes of keeping this article manageable, my focus will revolve around employee benefits.

The fact is we live much of our lives online, and the benefits world has lagged behind. Larger organizations have been making the digital transition over the past few years and it’s now becoming a standard for every organization, regardless of size.

There are a multitude of benefits to an HRIS, including the drastic reduction of paperwork, the autonomy for employees to manage their own benefits, online filing systems, and more.

However, it is the lessor thought about capabilities that get me excited. Sometimes, it’s knowing the day-to-day responsibilities that will improve that make all the difference when considering an HRIS.

1.       Online Enrollment Improvements for Multi-Plan Options and/or Age Rated Plans

As benefit costs have escalated, many employers have turned to an increased number of plan offerings. That, along with the advent of ACA age rated plans, has made presenting options to employees cumbersome and even confusing. When a plan is age rated, an employer is forced to break it down for employees and dependents individually (a massive undertaking especially with multiple plans involved) or provide a table in which employees must figure out their own contributions, which has its own pitfalls.

HRIS to the rescue! Individual employee and dependent contributions are calculated and presented by the system with no additional time investment on the part of HR or benefits administrators.

2.       ACA Compliance Features and Reports

Not only has ACA made benefits administration more complicated and burdensome for organizations, it also carries the threat of hefty financial penalties for non-compliance. Here is how an HRIS system can help:

  • Applicable Large Employer (ALE) Reporting – The information that needs to be reported is built into the system. Many systems can also produce the forms at a minimal charge depending on the company’s needs and the HRIS platform selected.
  • Variable Hour Employee Tracking
  • Proof of Health Coverage and Offer of Coverage (for those that decline)
  • Proof of Required Documents and Notifications Distribution – The system can be used to furnish notifications and track that they are opened and digitally signed. Excellent audit protection!

3.       Data Reporting Capabilities

An HRIS system contains considerable amounts of employee and plan data, all of which can be retrieved in the form of reports. Do you see the possibilities? Fellow Excel lovers, rejoice!

Let me provide some examples of how this can make life easier:

  • Imagine an open enrollment in which every employee must choose a new plan. Now imagine all of those changes and subsequent payroll deductions are easily uploaded in excel. Better yet, imagine you can import that into the format your payroll company requires so the process is seamless.
  • Worried about aged out dependent children on your plan? Click one button and there they are.
  • Quoting out a new line of coverage that requires salaries, occupations and zip codes? You can produce that in a minute.
  • Want to see which plans employees trended toward based on contributions in the past 3 years? It’s all there and easily accessible.
  • How about Total Compensation Statements? That’s one click as well.

Recently, an administrator was concerned that HMO employees were assigned to incorrect PCPs. With one download, we had the list to audit. Just use your imagination and the information is easily available to you.  

This is just a small segment of how an HRIS can modernize and revolutionize the way you administer your company benefits. When you add additional HR functionality to the mix, it’s something you really can’t afford not to consider!


Personal Insurance News

Getting Married? What You Need to Know About Wedding Insurance and Other Financial Considerations

Getting married? There’s a lot you need to think of both before and after the wedding, but in all the planning, one of the things that is often overlooked is your insurance needs. Have you notified your insurance agent about your plans? He or she can be one of your best friends! For example, as a couple, you may be eligible for auto discounts or a savings on health insurance. You may also want to secure life insurance, and should be sure to change the beneficiaries on any key insurance or savings plans that you do have. The Insurance Information Institute (III) offers a handy checklist of insurance considerations for married couples.

You should also ask your agent about wedding insurance to protect your investment in the big day, particularly if you are planning a big celebration. Wedding insurance is a type of special event insurance designed to provide financial protection for various problems that could arise, such as the need to cancel or postpone due to weather or natural disasters. Check our our MORE Store for information on event insurance. III says:

“Most policies also provide coverage for cancellation due to the death, illness or serious injury of key participants in the event, such as members of the immediate family. Also, if an officiant, such as a minister or rabbi, or a key vendor, like the caterer, florist or photographer, does not show up, you can recover some of the costs.”

Different insurance companies offer special coverage that you can add on, such as protection for gowns, gifts and honeymoons.

Of course, insurance is only one of the things you need to think about. You need to know your state law. Below is a very helpful 2-part guide to getting married in Massachusetts … it offers a great breakdown of things you need to plan both before and after the wedding. While laws vary by state, the MA Guide offers a simple checklist for some of the common issues and responsibilities people need to consider and address, no matter where they live. We’ve also included links to laws for other states.

Getting Married in Massachusetts

Part 1: What you need to do before the wedding

  • Who Can Get Married in Massachusetts?
  • Who Can Conduct a Wedding in Massachusetts?
  • Where Can We Get Married in Massachusetts?
  • What Paperwork Do We Need to Get Married in Massachusetts?

Part 2: What you need to do after the wedding

  • Getting Proof of Your Marriage
  • Changing Your Name and Getting a New ID
  • Filing Taxes After You Get Married
  • Marriages Outside of Massachusetts

Marriage laws in other states


Business Insurance News

Developing a Small Business Disaster Recovery Plan

Businesses that are forced to close down following a disaster run the risk of never being able to open their doors again. While there’s no way to lower the risk of a natural disaster like a hurricane, there are critical measures that can be taken to protect your company’s bottom line from nature’s fury. A disaster plan and adequate insurance are keys to recovery.

Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan

No matter how small or large a business, a business impact analysis should be developed to identify what an operation must do to protect itself in the face of a natural disaster. Large corporations often hire risk managers to handle this task and some companies hire consultants with expertise in disaster planning and recovery to assist them with their plans. But small businesses can do the analysis and planning on their own.

Steps for Developing a Business Recovery Plan

  • Set up an emergency response plan and train employees how to carry it out. Make sure employees know whom to notify about the disaster and what measures to take to preserve life and limit property losses.
  • Write out each step of the plan and assign responsibilities to employees in clear and simple language. Practice the procedures set out in the emergency response plan with regular, scheduled drills.
  • Compile a list of important phone numbers and addresses. Make sure you can get in touch with key people after the disaster. The list should include local and state emergency management agencies, major clients, contractors, suppliers, realtors, financial institutions, insurance agents and insurance company claim representatives.
  • Decide on a communications strategy to prevent loss of customers. Post notices outside your premises; contact clients by phone, email or regular mail; place a notice in local newspapers.
  • Consider the things you may need initially during the emergency. Do you need a back-up source of power? Do you have a back-up communications system?
  • Human Resources. Protect employees and customers from injury on the premises. Consider the possible impact a disaster will have on your employees’ ability to return to work and how customers can return to your shop or receive goods or services.
  • Physical Resources. Inspect your business’ plant(s) and assess the impact a disaster would have on facilities. Make sure your plans conform to local building code requirements.
  • Business Community. Even if your business escapes a disaster, there is still a risk that it could suffer significant losses due to the inability of suppliers to deliver goods or services or a reduction in customers. Businesses should communicate with their suppliers and markets (especially if they are selling to a business as a supplier) about their disaster preparedness and recovery plans, so that everyone is prepared.
  • Protect Your Building. If you own the structure that houses your business, integrate disaster protection for the building as well as the contents into your plan. Consider the financial impact if your business shuts down as a result of a disaster. What would be the impact for a day, a week or an entire revenue period?
  • Keep Duplicate Records. Back-up computerized data files regularly and store them off-premises. Keep copies of important records and documents in a safe deposit box and make sure they’re up-to-date.
  • Identify critical business activities and the resources needed to support them. If you cannot afford to shut down your operations, even temporarily, determine what you require to run the business at another location.
  • Find alternative facilities, equipment and supplies, and locate qualified contractors. Consider a reciprocity agreement with another business. Try to get an advance commitment from at least one contractor to respond to your needs.
  • Protect computer systems and data. Data storage firms offer offsite backups of computer data that can be updated regularly via high-speed modem or through the Internet.

Review Your Insurance Plan

Make sure you have sufficient coverage to pay for the indirect costs of the disaster—the disruption to your business—as well as the cost of repair or rebuilding. Most policies do not cover flood or earthquake damage and you may need to buy separate insurance for these perils. Be sure you understand your policy deductibles and limits.

New additions or improvements should also be reflected in your policy. This includes construction improvement to a property and the addition of new equipment.

For a business, the costs of a disaster can extend beyond the physical damage to the premises, equipment, furniture and other business property. There’s the potential loss of income while the premises are unusable. Your disaster recovery should include a detailed review of your insurance policies to ensure there are no gaps in coverage. Your policy should include business interruption insurance and extra expense insurance. Even if your basic policy covers expenses and loss of net business income, it may not cover income interruptions due to damage that occurs away from your premises, such as to your key customer or supplier or to your utility company. You can generally buy this additional coverage and add it to your existing policy.

Basic Commercial Insurance to Consider

  • Building Coverage provides coverage up to the insured value of the building if it is destroyed or damaged by wind/hail, or another covered cause of loss. This policy does not cover damage caused by a flood or storm surge nor does it cover losses due to earth movement, such as a landslide or earthquake, unless added by endorsement.
  • Business Personal Property provides coverage for contents and business inventory damaged or destroyed by wind/hail, or another covered cause of loss.
  • Tenants Improvements and Betterments provides coverage for fixtures, alterations, installations, or additions made as part of the building that the insured occupies but does not own, which are acquired and made at the insured's expense.
  • Additional Property Coverage provides for items such as fences, pools or awnings at the insured location. Coverage limits vary by type of additional property.
  • Business Income provides coverage for lost revenue and normal operating expenses if the place of business becomes uninhabitable after a loss during the time repairs are being made.
  • Extra Expense provides coverage for the extra expenses incurred, such as temporary relocation or leasing of business equipment, to avoid or minimize the suspension of operations during the time that repairs are being completed to the normal place of business.
  • Ordinance or Law provides coverage to rebuild or repair the building in compliance with the most recent local building codes.