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4 days ago · by · 0 comments

INSURANCE: THE OLD COLLEGE TRY

4Labor Day is coming soon — which means that you might have children who will be heading off, or back, to college soon. Together with the many lifestyle changes that they (and you) will be making in this time of transition, remember that it’s also important to give your insurance a tune-up.

A recent industry report recommends considering these types of insurance when Johnny or Sally leaves the nest:

  • Auto: Your family coverage will cost less if your student doesn’t take a car. Also, if your child keeps a B average or higher, you might receive a discount.
  • Housing: If the child happens to live in a dormitory, your Homeowners insurance might protect them.
  • Health: Your child is eligible to receive health benefits through your plan — as long as they’re unmarried, remain in school full time, and are younger than 26 (under the Affordable Care Act) Once they exceed this age, you’ll need to obtain coverage for them from your employer.

These are general guidelines, so please consult with us to make sure you have the right protection at the best possible price. Even if your child already is at school, give us a call and we can make adjustments if needed.

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2 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Why Riding a Bike to Work is Good for Your Health

Do you live within five miles of your workplace like half of all American workers? If so, the 20-minute ride one way burns 3,000 calories and provides key health benefits you’ll appreciate.

Boost Your Energy

Instead of waking up with coffee, tea or energy drinks, ride your bike. A recent study found that a low to moderately paced bike ride releases endorphins that boost your energy level by up to 20 percent and decrease your fatigue by 65 percent. That’s a big wake up call.

Increase Your Heart’s Health

Ride at a moderate to high intensity speed for 30 minutes at least three times a week, and watch your cholesterol and blood pressure drop in one year. You can easily achieve this goal simply by riding the long way home.
Protect Your Joints

Riding your bike is one low-impact exercise that’s perfect if you have joint conditions or leg, ankle, knee or hip injuries. If your knees aren’t bent at a 25-degree angle on your down pedal stroke, ask your bike shop professional for a saddle adjustment.

Improve Your Mental Health

There’s no denying that work and even daily life can be mentally challenging. Use your bicycling commute to regulate your emotions, combat depression and anxiety, prepare for the day or unwind after the day and improve your overall mental health.

Tone Your Muscles

Want to tone your arms, thighs and calves for summer? Riding a bike tones muscles you didn’t even know you had. The pedaling works your lower body, and you’ll tone your triceps and core by pedaling uphill while standing.

Boost Your Immune System

Exercise and fresh air support a healthy immune system. Plus, your body will be stronger and better able to fight germs inside and outside of the office.

Are you ready to jump on your bike and ride to work? Today and every day, gain healthy benefits and have fun simply by cycling. For additional tips on way to stay healthy, talk to your health insurance agent.

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

Top 10 Men’s Health Risks

Men are less likely than women to visit the doctor, but men do face several serious health concerns. Learn the top 10 risks as you stay healthy this Father’s Day and all year.

  1. Accidents and Unintentional Injuries
    Men tend to take more risks than women, and that increases their chances of being injured from accidents. Slow down while driving, don’t overestimate your abilities and think before you act as you avoid accidents and unintentional injuries.
  2. Heart Disease
    More than one in three men suffers from a form of cardiovascular disease, according to the America Heart Association. Keep your blood pressure in check, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get routine physicals as you keep your heart healthy.
  3. Respiratory Diseases
    Smoking, asbestos exposure and environmental toxins can lead to respiratory diseases like emphysema, COPD and lung cancer. Stop smoking, eat a balanced diet and avoid environmental triggers as you reduce your risk.
  4. Liver Disease
    The size of a football, your liver digests food, absorbs nutrients and gets rid of toxins. Protect it from cirrhosis and cancer when you avoid alcohol and smoking.
  5. Diabetes 
    Anxiety, depression and sexual impotence result from high blood sugar. It can also cause nerve and kidney damage, vision problems and heart disease or stroke if it’s not treated. Exercise and eat a nutrition diet to combat this health risk.
  6. Prostate Cancer
    One in six men develops prostate cancer. It’s not aggressive, but gets regular screenings as you protect yourself.
  7. Skin Cancer 
    Men over 50 face a high risk of developing skin cancer. Lower your risk when you wear long sleeves, pants, a hat and sunscreen while working or playing outside, and see your doctor about any suspicious spots.
  8. Flu and Pneumonia
    Flu and pneumonia can affect any man, but it’s more common if you already have a compromised immune system. Get the flu shot and avoid anyone who’s sick as you stay healthy.
  9. Alcohol
    Drinking too much alcohol can lead to chronic illnesses like oral, liver and colon cancer. It also interferes with reproductive health and increases aggressive behavior. Never binge drink, cut down on your alcohol consumption and address any underlying issues like depression that cause you to overindulge.
  10. Depression
    As many as six million men suffer from depression, including suicidal thoughts, reports The National Institute of Mental Health. Stay connected to friends, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and seek professional help if you’re struggling with this health challenge.

This Father’s Day, give your loved ones the gift of health when you address the top 10 health risks for men. Visit your doctor for regular physicals, and discuss ways you can get and stay healthy.

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6 months ago · by · 0 comments

ACA INDIVIDUAL MANDATE PENALTY NO LONGER APPLIES

On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, after it passed both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

This tax reform bill makes significant changes to the federal tax code. The bill does not impact the majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax provisions. However, it does reduce the ACA’s individual shared responsibility (or individual mandate) penalty to zero, effective beginning in 2019.

As a result, beginning in 2019, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage.

?The ACA’s individual mandate penalty no longer applies, beginning in 2019. However, individuals will still need to certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018.

In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019).

The Individual Mandate

The ACA’s individual mandate, which took effect in 2014, requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members or pay a penalty. The mandate is enforced each year on individual federal tax returns. Starting in 2015, individuals filing a tax return for the previous tax year indicate, by checking a box on their returns, which members of their family (including themselves) had health insurance coverage for the year (or qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate). Based on this information, the IRS then assesses a penalty for each nonexempt family member without coverage.

Effect of the Tax Reform Bill

The tax reform bill reduces the ACA’s individual mandate penalty to zero, effective beginning with the 2019 tax year. This effectively eliminates the individual mandate penalty for the 2019 tax year and beyond. As a result, beginning with the 2019 tax year, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members.

Impact on Years Prior to 2019

Although the tax reform bill eliminates the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, this repeal did not take effect until 2019. As a result, individuals were still required to comply with the mandate (or pay a penalty) for 2018. This means that individuals must still certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018. Therefore, taxpayers should indicate on their 2018 tax returns whether they (and everyone in their family):

  • Had health coverage for the year;
  • Qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate; or
  • Will pay an individual mandate penalty.

In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year. Individuals who are liable for a penalty for failing to obtain acceptable health coverage in 2018 will be required to pay that penalty when they file their federal income taxes in 2019. As a result, some individuals may be required to pay the individual mandate penalty in early 2019, based on their noncompliance for the 2018 tax year.

Effect on Other ACA Provisions

Despite the repeal of the individual mandate penalty, employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other ACA provisions. The tax reform bill does not impact any other ACA provisions, including the Cadillac tax on high-cost group health coverage, the PCORI fees and the health insurance providers fee. In addition, the employer shared responsibility (pay or play) rules and related Section 6055 and Section 6056 reporting requirements are still in place.

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12 months ago · by · 0 comments

To Bundle, or Not to Bundle

If you’ve ever shopped around for insurance, you’ve likely been asked if you want to bundle your policies—in other words, combine your home or renters, auto and life insurance policies with the same carrier. Although you have the option to shop around individually for each policy, it almost always makes sense to have the same carrier cover as many of your policies as possible.

Benefits of Bundling

  • The discount—Most policyholders bundle their policies because of the promise of a discount. The amount varies by provider but can generally range between 5-25 percent.
  • The option of a single deductible—With bundled policies, your deductible may be cheaper in the event of a claim that affects multiple policies. For example, if your home and auto policies are with two separate carriers, and a hailstorm damages your home and your car, you’re responsible for paying both your home and auto deductibles before receiving payment. But if you bundle your policies, your provider may offer you the option to pay only the higher of the two deductibles.
  • Less chance of being dropped—If you’ve made claims or gotten tickets, having your policies bundled with one provider can decrease the chance of them dropping you.
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When it Doesn’t Pay to Bundle

It isn’t always better to bundle your policies with one insurance carrier. Here’s when it may be better to split them up:

  • If you have tickets or past claims that make your auto insurance expensive—In this case, it may be cheaper overall to buy each policy from separate providers.
  • When premiums increase—Bundling discourages people from price shopping, which makes it easier for providers to increase their rates. Most assume that you won’t go through the effort of shopping around when your policies renew.
  • If policies aren’t technically bundled—Some carriers may insure you with an affiliated company. Although you may get a discount with that company, you’ll lose the convenience of paying your premium with one familiar provider.

A Few Tips to Consider

Although discounts are the main reason people bundle their insurance policies, never assume that bundling is the cheapest option. Your needs and circumstances will dictate whether you should combine your policies with one carrier. Consider the following tips:

  • Shop for new coverage when your policies renew, and ask for the price of the individual premiums as well as the price of the bundled premium so you can decide whether it is worth it. Just make sure you compare the same coverage when shopping for quotes from each carrier.
  • Ask if the provider uses a third-party insurance company. Remember that you may save money but lose the convenience of dealing with one provider and a combined bill.
  • Ask an independent insurance agent to get prices from multiple companies so you don’t have to do the legwork. An agent that is loyal to a particular carrier may be able to offer discounts that you can’t get alone.

With multiple factors contributing to the price of your insurance premiums, it is important to shop around in order to get the best rate for your insurance needs. Feel free to contact Scurich Insurance to determine if bundling is right for you and help you take advantage of all available discounts.

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12 months ago · by · 0 comments

Final Rule Expands Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance

On Aug. 3, 2018, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury (Departments) published final regulations amending the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance for purposes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These regulations:

  • Provide a maximum coverage period of up to 12 months; and
  • Amend the notice to provide additional specificity, including a list of benefits that might not be covered.

In addition, the final regulations allow short-term, limited-duration insurance to continue for up to 36 months in total, taking into account renewals or extensions.

As a result of these final regulations, issuers can now offer short-term, limited-duration insurance policies that last up to 12 months. According to the Departments, this will provide consumers with more affordable options for health coverage.

Short-term, limited-duration insurance is a type of health insurance coverage that is designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage when an individual is transitioning from one plan or coverage to another plan or coverage. Specifically, existing regulations defined short-term, limited-duration insurance as “health insurance coverage provided pursuant to a contract with an issuer that has an expiration date specified in the contract (taking into account any extensions that may be elected by the policyholder without the issuer’s consent) that is less than 12 months after the original effective date of the contract.”

Although short-term, limited-duration insurance is not an excepted benefit, it is specifically exempt from the definition of “individual health insurance coverage” and, therefore, is not subject to the ACA’s market reform requirements. However, the Departments have become aware that short-term, limited-duration insurance is being sold as a primary form of health coverage, in some instances.

2016 Final Regulations

On Oct. 31, 2016, the Departments published final regulations revising the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance for purposes of the exclusion from the definition of individual health insurance coverage. Under this revised definition, short-term, limited-duration insurance coverage was required to be less than three months in duration, including any period for which the policy may be renewed. The final regulations eliminated the ability for the coverage period to take into account extensions made by the policyholder “with or without the issuer’s consent.”

In addition, a notice must be prominently displayed in the contract and in any application materials provided in connection with enrollment in short-term, limited-duration insurance coverage with the following language:

THIS IS NOT QUALIFYING HEALTH COVERAGE (“MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE”) THAT SATISFIES THE HEALTH COVERAGE REQUIREMENT OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT. IF YOU DON’T HAVE MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE, YOU MAY OWE AN ADDITIONAL PAYMENT WITH YOUR TAXES.

The revised definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance applied for policy years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2017. However, HHS stated that it would not take enforcement action against an issuer with respect to the sale of short-term, limited-duration insurance before April 1, 2017, on the ground that the coverage period is three months or more, provided that the coverage:

  • Ends on or before Dec. 31, 2017; and
  • Otherwise complies with the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance in effect under the final regulations.

States were also permitted to elect not to take enforcement actions against issuers with respect to this type of coverage sold before April 1, 2017.

2018 Final Regulations

Following the 2016 final regulations, there was concern that shortening the permitted length of short-term, limited-duration insurance would drastically reduce affordable coverage options for consumers. As a result, the Departments issued the 2018 final regulations to lengthen the maximum period of short-term, limited-duration insurance, in an effort to provide more affordable consumer choice for health coverage.

These final regulations were issued as a result of the following recent developments:

  • On Oct. 12, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13813, which directed the Departments to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance to expand the availability of short-term, limited-duration insurance by allowing it to cover longer periods and be renewed.
  • On Dec. 22, 2017, President Trump signed a tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, into law, which reduces the ACA’s individual mandate penalty to zero, effective beginning in 2019.

In light of these developments, the final regulations amended the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance so that it may offer a maximum coverage period of less than 12 months after the original effective date of the contract, consistent with the original definition (that is, the final rule expanded the potential maximum coverage period by nine months). Under this definition, the expiration date specified in the contract takes into account any extensions that may be elected by the policyholder without the issuer’s consent, provided that it has a duration of no longer than 36 months in total (taking into account renewals or extensions).

In addition, the final rule revised the required notice that must appear in the contract and any application materials, due to concern that short-term, limited-duration insurance policies lasting almost 12 months may be more difficult to distinguish from ACA-compliant coverage (which is typically offered on a 12-month basis). Accordingly, one of two versions of the following notice must be prominently displayed (in at least 14-point type) in the contract and in any application materials provided in connection with enrollment:

This coverage is not required to comply with certain federal market requirements for health insurance, principally those contained in the Affordable Care Act. Be sure to check your policy carefully to make sure you are aware of any exclusions or limitations regarding coverage of pre-existing conditions or health benefits (such as hospitalization, emergency services, maternity care, preventive care, prescription drugs, and mental health and substance use disorder services).

Your policy might also have lifetime and/or annual dollar limits on health benefits. If this coverage expires or you lose eligibility for this coverage, you might have to wait until an open enrollment period to get other health insurance coverage. Also, this coverage is not “minimum essential coverage.” If you don’t have minimum essential coverage for any month in 2018, you may have to make a payment when you file your tax return unless you qualify for an exemption from the requirement that you have health coverage for that month.

Due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalty beginning in 2019, the final two sentences of the notice are only required to be included with respect to policies that have a coverage start date before Jan. 1, 2019.

The notice should be in sentence case (rather than all capital letters), and may contain any additional information, as required by applicable state law.

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Scurich Insurance Services
Phone: (831) 661-5697
Fax: (831) 661-5741

Physical:
783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Suite7,
Aptos, Ca 95003-4700

Mailing:
PO Box 1170
Watsonville, CA 95077-1170

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