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Texas Insurance Tips

November 2022

Tips to buying a health plan—and getting what you want

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Are you looking for health insurance for your family?

Some timely shopping tips:

  • If you’re using HealthCare.gov, note these deadlines:
    • You have until December 15 to sign up for coverage that starts January 1.
    • You have until January 15 to sign up for coverage that starts February 1.
  • If you are using HealthCare.gov, check if you can get a tax credit.  Premium tax credits and subsidies are based on your income. Update this information and shop for a new plan each year. There are lots of changes for 2023, so you need to login to consider your options.
  • If you have a health issue or doctors you like, make sure that any plan you consider includes your doctors in the plan’s network.
  • If you take medication, make sure it’s covered by reviewing the plan's drug list. Call the health plan if you have questions about what’s covered.
  • Review a plan’s out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and copays. See if any services in addition to preventive care are covered before meeting the plan’s deductible.
  • Ask the plan if you have to use doctors, hospitals, and urgent care centers in the plan’s network or if you can use any that you want. Ask what the cost difference is.
  • Ask the plan if you’ll have to get permission from a primary care doctor to visit a specialist.

Use the Texas Department of Insurance’s “Health plan shopping guide” to help you decide on health coverage.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


October 2022

What to know about replacing your roof with insurance

Roofer nailgun

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Texas weather can batter a home’s roof. Before you replace your roof or make repairs, know how your insurance could help.

Ask your company or agent these questions:

  • Replacement cost or actual cash value? When you buy or renew your home insurance policy, ask how they pay for roof damage and replacement. Some policies pay the full cost to repair the roof. This is called replacement cost coverage. Some policies pay less if the roof is older or showing wear. This is called actual cash value coverage.
  • Does insurance always cover roof replacement? If your roof is in poor condition, your company might not pay. Ask your company if your policy has roof coverage. If you replace your roof, consider roofing materials resistant to wind, hail, or fire. You might get an insurance discount.
  • What’s my deductible? A deductible is what you pay before your company will pay. Your deductible for wind and hail damage might be different from your deductible for other damage. If it is, you could pay more up front for repairs.
  • When should I file a claim? You can file a claim if a storm, tree, or something else damages your roof.
Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.

September 2022

Are you ready?

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You already know … Planning for a disaster when a disaster is heading your way isn’t ideal and could be too late. You need to prepare now. Here are some easy steps:

  • Install a weather app on your phone. Turn on notifications or check it before bad weather to know what’s headed your way.
  • Make an inventory of the stuff in your house. Email it to yourself or keep it somewhere else online. Include item model and serial numbers. Take photos or videos of each room in your house, including closets and drawers. If you need to file a claim, the list and photos will help.
  • Pack a “go bag” of supplies you can grab if you need to leave in a hurry. Include water, food, clothes, chargers, medicines, and pet supplies. Have copies of your home, auto, and health insurance cards.
  • Consider buying flood insurance. Your home insurance policy doesn’t cover flood damage; you need a separate flood policy. Most flood policies have a 30-day waiting period before you can file a claim.
  • Check that your insurance policies are up to date and provide enough coverage. Your coverage limits might be too low if you’ve built onto your house or bought new furniture or electronics.

Learn more:

Do you have enough home insurance?  

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit  www.tdi.texas.gov.


August 2022

Spacecraft hit your home? Most insurance covers that.

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Maybe you heard; NASA plans a year-long study of reported UFOs.

But did you know that most home insurance policies would pay if a spaceship hit your house?

Really.

In the unlikely event a spacecraft damages your home, most home policies would pay for damages. Falling objects is a “covered peril.”

Here’s what else your home policy probably covers—and doesn’t:

  • Damages from hail or fire are covered.
  • Tornado and inland hurricane damages are covered. If you live near the Gulf Coast, you’ll likely need a separate windstorm policy.
  • Most policies cover water damage from leaks and broken pipes, but there are exceptions. Read your policy to see what’s covered.
  • Most policies do not cover damage from water that comes from outside your home. You’ll need a separate flood policy.
  • Damages from earthquakes are not covered. Neither are termites, wear and tear, and sewer backups.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit  www.tdi.texas.gov.


July 2022

Leave July 4 fireworks to the professionals

people watching a fireworks show

Love fireworks? To stay safe, let a professional light up your Independence Day.

State Fire Marshal Orlando Hernandez advised: “If you want to see great fireworks, go to a professional show. Our office has issued many permits for communities to enjoy Fourth of July shows. So, you should have one nearby.”

Another caution: Your county might be under a burn ban. Most communities don’t allow you to use fireworks within city limits or during burn bans.

Check with your local fire department to see what’s allowed.

“Also, there are no safe fireworks for children,” Hernandez said. “Some sparklers burn at temperatures of nearly 2,000 degrees, as hot as a blow torch.

“Celebrate,” Hernandez said, “and stay safe.”

Want to learn more about fireworks safety? Visit the Texas Department of Insurance’s website at www.tdi.texas.gov.


June 2022

Hurricanes predicted? Here are 5 tips to prepare.

Hurricane map

Texas has been hit by more than 25 major hurricanes
over the years (NOAA illustration).

Click on image to enlarge

Texas and the U.S. could be in for another busy hurricane season, which runs from June through November.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to 10 hurricanes. Colorado State University experts forecast 9 hurricanes and they say there’s a 54% chance that a hurricane comes within 50 miles of the Texas coast.

Some tips to prepare:

  • Consider buying flood insurance. Flood damage isn’t covered by your home insurance. Don’t wait long: flood policies typically don’t take effect for 30 days after purchase.
  • Write a family disaster plan. Start from the TexasReady.gov website.
  • Decide where and how far you’ll go if you have to evacuate.
  • Build a “go-kit” with food, medicine, clothes, pet food, and other vital supplies.
  • Make a room-by-room  home inventory (PDF). This could help later if you file a claim.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit  www.tdi.texas.gov.


May 2022

How to avoid getting struck by lightning

Lightning

Shocking fact: Lightning can strike 10 miles away from rain.

In any given year, your chances of getting struck by lightning are slim. Of course, if you ignore the dangers of thunderstorms your chances of getting hit go higher.

Heed these tips and avoid zaps from the sky:

  • If you’re outdoors and you see lightning or hear thunder, go inside a sturdy building or get inside a hard-top car or truck and close the windows.
  • Avoid utility poles, barbed wire fences, tractors, and motorcycles.
  • Don’t lie flat. If your hair stands on end, squat down and put your head between your knees.
  • If you’re indoors, stay away from plugged-in appliances and don’t take a shower or bath, wash dishes, or stand near plumbing. Water pipes conduct electricity.

Learn more:

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


April 2022

Want to save money on car insurance?

People routinely price-shop food, clothes, tech products, and other items.

It also pays to shop around for insurance. Companies charge different rates and the company you’re with might have raised rates. Insurance companies want your business, and you often get the best rates when you’re willing to switch companies.

Do companies have discounts to help lower the cost?
Yes! Some companies offer discounts if you have a good driving record. There are also discounts for having an alarm on your car, taking defensive driving or driver’s education courses, and having more than one car on a policy. Companies have a lot of discounts, so ask your agent what type of discounts they offer.

What about lowering my deductible? Would that save money?
A deductible is the amount you must pay before the insurance company will pay. A lower deductible generally means that you’ll have to pay more for the policy. You’ll want to think about how much you can afford to pay if your car is damaged.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


March 2022

Get a CLUE about the insurance history of a home or car

Wondering how much it will cost to insure that home you’re thinking of buying? Or if a used car you’re interested in has been in a major accident?

You can check by getting a report that reveals the insurance history of a home or car.

What’s the report? It’s the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange or CLUE report. It shows claims filed for homes and cars for the past seven years—even if you weren’t the owner. Insurance companies are supposed to report information based on filed claims, including:

  • Date of loss
  • Loss type
  • Amount paid on claim

How do I get a report? If you’re buying a home or car, you can ask the current owner for the report.

Each year, you can get a free report on property you own by contacting LexisNexis. You also can contact LexisNexis to dispute information in the report or to add an explanation.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


February 2022

Surprise doctor’s bill? You might not have to pay it.

A surprise bill from a doctor or other medical provider can be unwelcome.

Good news: You might not have to pay it.

A new federal law and 2019 state law ban surprise billing in emergencies or when you didn’t have a choice of doctors. Federal law also protects you from surprise bills from air ambulance services.

If you get a surprise bill, visit the Texas Department of Insurance website,  www.tdi.texas.gov  and click on “ Get help with a surprise medical bill.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


February 2022

Using a space heater? Remember these fire safety tips

A space heater can instantly warm a room.

“But be cautious,” said Orlando Hernandez, the state fire marshal. “In the past few years, several fatal Texas fires were started by space heaters.”

To avoid setting an accidental fire with a space heater, follow a few safety tips:

  • Inspect the heater to make sure it has no loose wires or cracked or broken plugs. If so, replace the heater.
  • Always plug your heater directly into a wall outlet. Avoid extension cords or power strips.
  • Reduce risk by keeping your heater at least three feet from anything that can burn.
  • Turn off your heater before you leave the room or go to bed. The best way to be sure: Unplug it.
  • About 80% of home heating fire deaths in the U.S. involve space heaters, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And nearly half of home heating fires are in January, February, and December.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


January 2022

Trying to get fit? Your health insurance could help

Are you resolving to shape up in 2022?

Your health insurance plan could help.

Check your plan’s website or call your agent to see if your plan offers:

  • Free or discounted weight loss or wellness programs.
  • Free or discounted programs to help quit cigarettes and other tobacco products.
  • Discounts on gym memberships or fitness equipment.
  • A free app to help you count steps and track your fitness.

Similarly, your workplace might have wellness incentives. Some employers offer coaching by phone or health screenings. Check with your human resources department.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


December 2021

Prepare your home in advance of the next winter freeze

Snow and cold weather resulted in billions of dollars in damage and hundreds of thousands of insurance claims last winter.

Tips for preparing your home in advance of another freeze:

  • Get your chimney inspected and cleaned. Creosote buildup can start a fire.
  • Test your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. Replace alarms that are 10 years old or more.
  • Trim trees hanging over your house and cars.
  • Seal leaks or cracks around bathroom and kitchen pipes.
  • Wrap outdoor pipes and indoor pipes in unheated areas (like a clothes washer in your garage).
  • Drain lawn sprinkler lines and house fire sprinklers.
  • Find your water shut-off valve. It’s usually under a metal lid near the street.
  • If you leave your house before a freeze, turn off the water at the shut-off valve and leave your heat on.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


November 2021

Outdoor burning: What to know before you light the match

If you plan to light an outdoor fire this fall, remember to check first with your city and county about burn bans and local fire rules. Check the Texas burn ban map to see county burn ban information maintained by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Statewide, Texas limits outdoor burning to:

  • Campfires, bonfires, fire pits, and cooking fires.
  • Household trash fires on your home property—only if you lack trash pickup.

Most wildfires start from carelessness. Control your fire by putting trash, grass, leaves and branch trimmings in a burn barrel or similar container. Top it with a screen or metal grid.

Also, keep water, a shovel and a rake handy in case your fire starts to spread. Finally, stay by your fire until it’s out.

Certain items should never be put in a fire—such as aerosol cans or anything that could explode; electrical insulation; building/construction materials including treated lumber; and plastics and asphalt-based materials.

If you spot a dangerous fire, call local law enforcement. You may also call the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at 888-777-3186.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


October 2021

Trying to find mental health services? Help is available

Each year, nearly one in five adults experiences a mental health illness. But fewer than half get treatment. Knowing treatment options—including those available through your health plan—can help you or a loved one.

Most comprehensive health plans must cover mental health services—and with no lifetime caps on benefits. And plans that cover mental health services must provide the same level of benefits, such as copays or access to emergency care, as they do for a physical illness or injury. You also may benefit from mental health help lines, telemedicine care, and other valuable services.

If your request or claim for mental health services is denied, ask why. Your health plan will have a way for you to review and appeal denied claims. You can also request an external review by an independent third party—at no charge to you. The Texas Department of Insurance can show you how external reviews work.

TDI’s website provides even more information on mental health coverage, including links to hotlines and how to get help.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit  www.TDI.texas.gov.


September 2021

Do your social media posts make you a target for identity theft?

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If you use social media to keep in touch with friends, you might be risking identity theft.

Tips to protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Never post a photo of your driver license or ID card. It could include your birthdate and other personal data.
  • Watch out for quizzes that ask for personal information. Scammers ask questions to get information you already use to log in to bank or credit card accounts.
  • Protect other family members. Teens are most likely to overshare online. They usually have clean credit histories, which makes their identities valuable. Older relatives don’t use social media as often. But they might not know when they’ve been hacked. Check the accounts of family members in these groups.
  • Consider identity theft insurance – which might already be included in your homeowners or renters policy.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


August 2021

My car was totaled! Now what?

man with head in hands and a wrecked car in the background

Was your car declared a total loss after an accident or flood? Here are some answers to questions you might be asking.

What does ‘totaled’ mean? Your insurance company compares the value of your car and the cost to repair it. If the repair costs are about the same or more than the car’s value, it will likely consider the car totaled.

What if I think my car is worth more? If you think your car is worth more than the insurance company is offering, you can try to negotiate. Be prepared to show what a car like yours would sell for in your area:

  • Get quotes from used car dealers.
  • View prices online and look for local ads for similar vehicles.
  • Document special features or custom parts on your car.

Can I fix my car instead? To keep your car, let your insurer know quickly. The company will subtract the car’s salvage value from the amount it was planning to pay you. The car also may be issued a salvage title, which could make it harder to insure or sell later.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


July 2021

Is your house ready for your vacation?

person with crowbar walking outside closed windows in a darkened room

Planning an out-of-town trip? Before heading out, take time to make your home is as safe as possible:

Set timers on interior lights. Criminals look for easy targets. Use a timer on a few lights to make it appear someone is home. Also, don’t let newspapers or mail pile up. Make sure valuables aren’t visible to someone looking through windows, and don’t leave a key outside.

Don’t post on social media. It’s wise not to post online that you’re away even if you think only friends and family can see your social media updates.

Lock doors and windows. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. Before you leave, walk around the house to make sure everything is locked.

Unplug TVs and computers. It’s Texas. So you never know when an electrical storm could cause a power surge. To protect expensive electronics, unplug them or plug them into a surge protector.

Turn off the main water supply to your home. Even a minor leak can cause major damage if no one is home to catch it.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.


June 2021

After you marry, look for insurance savings

small car with cans tied to the bumper and a "Just married!" sign!

If you’re getting married, we can’t you help find a caterer or band.

But this insurance checklist could help you save money:

  • Renters insurance: The average Texas renters policy costs about $20 a month. That’s an affordable way to protect your wedding gifts. The coverage will pay to replace items damaged by a burst pipe, fire, or other cause. It also will cover personal items stolen from your home or car.
  • Auto policies: Combining your auto policies may save you money. Most insurance companies offer a discount if you cover more than one vehicle. Also, rates are usually lower if you’re married.
  • Health coverage: You have options. If both of you have coverage through work, compare policies. One may offer better benefits, a lower deductible, or a lower cost to add a dependent. Check if there’s a deadline to add a spouse.
  • Life insurance: Life insurance helps your spouse and family maintain their standard of living after you die. Consider how much income would need to be replaced to help with childcare, your mortgage, and other debts.

Have a question about insurance? Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.