Tag Archives: Health Insurance

Stricter Laws For Hand-Held Devices While Driving


What Californians Need to Know About Assembly Bill 1785

Smartphone technology is ever-evolving and while these phones conveniently allow us to carry the Internet in the palm of our hands, they’re also a source of distraction for modern-day drivers.

Many states have passed laws against hand-held cell phone use to combat distracted driving, and California’s is about to get stricter.

Distracted driving has declined since 2009 due to laws regulating cell phone use for drivers, but it continues to be a big problem and it’s the cause of many collisions.

The new law Governor Jerry Brown recently signed, Assembly Bill 1785 (AB1785), prohibits ALL hand-held use of electronic devices while driving. Drivers should be encouraged knowing that the law is intended to protect them by keeping their undivided attention on the road. So, put down those smartphones while driving because it’s now against the law to:

  • Read, write or send a text message.
  • Hold your phone and talk.
  • Check or post to social media.
  • Take a video.

Basically, it’s against the law to use technology in your hands in any way while behind the wheel.

This new law requires drivers to mount their smartphones to the windshield or dash, similar to the mounting of GPS devices in vehicles, provided that the device’s use is activated by a simple swipe of the screen to turn features on or off. These conditions impose much stricter rules surrounding cell phone use in vehicles with the aim of reducing distracted driving crashes that are caused by smartphone or electronic device use.

Mercury Insurance wants to remind everyone that distracted driving is not worth the risk. Visit our Drive Safe website for driving tips, vehicle tips and tools to help keep you and your family safe behind the wheel.


Health Insurance Open Enrollment Ends Soon


Open Enrollment for health insurance ends January 31, 2017. This is the deadline to change or get health insurance.

Please call Integrity First today @ (805) 495-1122. We can help find the best coverage available for the lowest premium.  We can help with Covered California, the marketplace exchange, or direct.  You may eligible for a subsidy to help pay your health insurance.  We offer Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and more.

After January 31, 2017 you will need a special exception to buy medical insurance. If you do not have medical insurance there will be a fee/penalty.

The fee for not having health insurance in 2016 & 2017

The fee is calculated 2 different ways – as a percentage of your household income, and per person. You’ll pay whichever is higher.

Percentage of income

2.5% of household income
Maximum: Total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan sold through the Marketplace
Per person

$695 per adult
$347.50 per child under 18
Maximum: $2,085

Please call us today @ (805) 495-1122

Understanding Car Safety Ratings


Although newer vehicles are generally more expensive to insure than older ones, consumers can often get discounts if their new vehicles have the latest safety features. Advances in crash and accident avoidance technology mean that consumers who buy a new vehicle equipped with the latest safety features are often less likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.

Safety ratings are a function of two major factors: prevention—how well the vehicle is designed to prevent an accident—and, crashworthiness—how well the vehicle performs in a crash.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks its Top Safety Picks based on good, acceptable, marginal or poor performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and evaluations of seat / head restraints for protection against neck injuries during rear impacts. Crash tests are conducted on a half-dozen types of vehicles, including large cars, mid-sized cars, small cars, minivans, mid-size SUVs, and small SUVs. You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for a full report on recalls and defects.

Currently, some of the top-rated safety features are:

  • Adaptive front airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Side curtain airbags
  • Knee airbags
  • Electronic stability control
  • Anti-lock braking systems
  • Brake assist
  • Tire pressure monitors
  • Back-up sensors
  • Park assist
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Smart headlights
  • Crash-alert systems (such as OnStar)
  • Built-in car seats

Technology is ever-improving, and, as time goes by, manufacturers and the government are standardizing these features. Doing your homework ahead of time and knowing what your options are can make the decision-making process smoother and get you into that new car faster!

Insurance 101 for College Students … And Parents Too

college-student-insuranceMoving away from home to go to college is an exciting time for most kids. It’s their first real taste of independence, but this newfound freedom also comes with increased responsibility.

Mom and dad aren’t around anymore to nag you about the hours you spend on your smartphone or to wake you up for school in the morning, but this also means they aren’t there to fix problems either. What, for example, would you do if someone were to steal your precious smartphone?

Students can easily get swept away in the excitement and bustle of the college social scene, forgetting that not everyone they meet at school has the best of intentions. Crime exists in most communities, and college life is no exception. According to the FBI, 97 percent of crimes reported by college students in 2012 were property crimes and a whopping 41 percent of these crimes occurred on campus grounds.

Students bring many pricey belongings from home – electronics like laptops, smart phones, tablets, televisions and gaming systems are common dorm room items. They may also have a skateboard, bike, vehicle or combination of all of the above.

Another on-campus threat to personal property is fires. Firefighters responded to an average of 3,870 college housing structure fires per year1. These fires caused an annual average of $15 million in personal property damage and losses.

So, how can you protect your belongings while you’re away at school? The first step is to check with your insurance agent to see if your stuff is covered under your homeowners insurance policy. Some policies, like those offered by Mercury Insurance, will extend coverage to college students living away from home.

Another option is to purchase renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance is designed to protect property owners in the event that their belongings are stolen or damaged in a fire. It will also provide liability coverage in the event someone is injured while visiting your apartment or dorm room.

To maximize your college experience, here are a few tips to protect personal property:

Cover personal belongings with an insurance policy. Students who live on-campus may have coverage available through their parents’ homeowner’s policy. Some companies have policy options that extend personal property coverage for students away from home. Students living off-campus may not be covered by their parents’ policy and should look into purchasing renters insurance.
Create an inventory. Record the value of all personal property to determine the right amount of coverage needed in the event of a loss.
Always lock doors. Talk to roommates and make sure to communicate the importance of securing personal belongings.
Conceal valuables. Never leave electronics or other valuables out in plain sight, and do not advertise their presence on social media.
Secure valuable electronics, like TVs and laptops, to stable fixtures with locking mounts in your room so they can’t be easily removed. Also, protect personal electronics with passwords to guard accessibility and discourage theft.
Use a bicycle lock when you’re out and about or for added security while on-campus. Steel and titanium locks are difficult to cut and provide thieves with a challenge. Reinforcing these locks with cable locks, which can be threaded through wheels, will provide extra security.
Install or activate an alarm if you have a vehicle on-campus. Insurance companies frequently offer discounts for vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. Students with good grades – at least a B average – may be eligible for an additional discount as well.
Ensure your auto insurance is up-to-date. Coverage for vehicles left at home while in school should be maintained to protect the vehicle from theft or any damage that may occur while it is parked. This will also protect you if you forget to notify your agent to add coverage back to your vehicle when you return.

Consult with your local Mercury agent to learn more about renters insurance and they’ll help build the protection plan that best suits your needs.

The bottom line: with greater independence, comes greater responsibility.

1 The National Fire Protection Association reports this annual average occurred during the five-year period from 2009-2013.

Yearly Disaster Preparation Check-Up


When was the last time you thought about an emergency-preparedness plan? “Never,” is the answer most people would give, which could have terrible consequences if you happen to be caught in the middle of a disaster. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), natural disasters in the U.S. have increased 700 percent since 1950 and reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate severe weather events are also occurring more frequently, so now is the time to get prepared.

September is National Preparedness Month, but since disasters can strike at any moment, it’s important to   prepare before disaster strikes …Today. Creating an emergency plan is a good start, but remember, you should review it with your family annually. For example, do you have a newborn in the family? Did you adopt a pet? Have emergency kit materials expired? If you’ve experienced any of these or other changes, then you need to update your plan to make sure you’re prepared. Here are six things to consider during your routine yearly disaster preparedness check-up:

  1. Check emergency kit materials
    Refresh everyone’s memory of where the emergency kit is located.  Check expiration dates of materials in the kit to assure perishable items will last for at least another year, including food, water and batteries. According to FEMA, here’s a full list of materials to include in a basic emergency kit.
  2. Update your emergency plan
    A basic plan should have a meeting place in case disaster hits and your home becomes unsafe, as well as at least two escape routes. Each year, make sure to remind everyone of the meeting place, ensure it is still a safe location and evaluate everyone’s escape routes to avoid new obstructions. Take into account any special needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities, family members who don’t speak English and pets.
  3. Know how to turn off your utilities
    Learn where the utility shut-offs are located and how to operate them. Turning off gas mains can prevent leaks and turning off electricity can help prevent potential fires started by electrical sparks. Additionally, turning off your water main can help prevent flooding.
  4. Practice home safety
    Home safety should be observed year-round, not just in the event of an impending disaster. Install smoke detectors in each room of your home and replace the batteries every six months. Store heavy items on the lowest shelves. Combustible items such as firewood, picnic tables, boats and flammable liquids should be kept separately and 50 feet from your home and other structures.
  5. Prepare your insurance
    Getting ready for a natural disaster actually starts by choosing your insurance policy. Ask yourself: Do I have enough insurance to repair or replace my home if it is damaged or destroyed? Mercury recommends you get an insurance check-up from your agent or broker once a year to help you make an informed decision about the coverage you need.
  6. Catalog your property
    Recovering from a disaster takes time. To ease this process, keep a detailed inventory of your property and update it annually. Photos and videos of your home can be presented to insurance adjusters to help your claim. Mashable, a technology blog, provides a list of eight home inventory apps that make creating inventory of your property easy. Visit the Mercury Insurance website for additional tips to help with the claims process in the event your home suffers damage.

Be proactive about disaster preparedness. You’ll be investing in your family’s safety, property and peace of mind.

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Thousand Oaks CA

Health Insurance Open Enrollment is Almost Here!

Integrity First helps with Covered California open enrollment starting November 1st.

Health insurance open enrollment begins on November 1st for 2016 and will run through January 31st, 2016.

The researchers found 36 percent of uninsured Californians don’t understand that federal tax subsidies to offset the monthly cost of insurance are available for eligible customers. The survey was conducted for Covered California and randomly sampled about 2,200 legal state residents ages 18 to 34.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to get health insurance or face a tax penalty. Every year, the tax penalty will increase. In 2016, the fine for no health insurance coverage is 2.5% of your yearly household income or $695 per person, $347.50 per child under 18. The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a Bronze plan. So why not get insured?

At Integrity First Insurance, located in Thousand Oaks, California, we can help you select the right Covered California health insurance plans.  As an independent insurance agency, we offer a variety of plans which can be tailored to your needs and budget though Covered California Insurance Exchange or outside the exchange. Contact us today to get started!

Deductibles Explained

Deductibles 101

When investing in insurance, the word deductible gets thrown around a lot. While most people know that a deductible is part of their policy, they do not fully understand what it really is. Knowing exactly what your deductible is and how it will come into play when you make a claim can help to ensure that you choose the right deductible for your needs.

Your deducible is the amount that you will have to pay out of your own pocket before your insurance coverage will kick in after you make a claim. The point of your deductible is to help you share the risk of an accident with your insurance company. All insurance policies, from your health insurance to your homeowners insurance have a deductible.

While it may seem like a no-brainer to choose the lowest deductible policy to help save money when you make a claim, it may not be the best choice. Even though a low deductible means less cash out of your pocket after a loss, it can increase the cost of your policy, leading to much higher payments each month. When choosing the right price for your deductible, you should choose the highest amount that you can comfortably pay in the event of a loss to help keep your premiums as low as possible.

Your deductible is basically a way to help you control the cost of your premiums, as well as share some of the risk that your insurance company takes on when you open a policy.

For all of your Conejo Valley insurance coverage needs, contact the insurance professionals at Integrity First Insurance in Thousand Oaks, California. We will work with you to ensure that you have the protection that you deserve, all at the right price to fit your budget.

What Happens If I Miss Open Enrollment?

Your Next Steps After The Deadline Passes

February 15th is not just the day many people will wake up in a panic because they forget to do something special for their sweethearts on Valentine’s Day. It also marks the day that open enrollment ends. Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals and families have been able to secure healthcare in the marketplace since November 15th, 2014 and will be able to do so until the 15th of February. If you fail to secure coverage by that date, you have two options.

  1. Qualify For A Special Enrollment Period: If you have experienced major changes in your life (e.g. getting married or divorced, having or adopting a child, moving to a new state), you might be able to get an extension on your enrollment period. These qualifying life events or loss of coverage through your work can yield a sixty-day extension from the date of the qualifying life event.
  2. Pay The Penalty Fee & Secure Short Term Insurance: If you miss the open enrollment period and do not have a qualifying life event enabling you to secure an extension, you will face a penalty fee when you file your 2015 taxes. For 2015 the fee is 2% of your household income or $325 per adult ($162.50 per child), whichever is greater. You will not be able to secure a marketplace healthcare plan, but you may be able to secure short term insurance to save yourself from significant out of pocket expenses until the next open enrollment period begins.

Fortunately, you still have a little over a week to secure coverage before the upcoming open enrollment deadline! Contact Integrity First Insurance in Thousand Oaks, California for all of your Conejo Valley health insurance needs. Get started by securing a quick and easy quote today!

Have You Signed Up For Health Insurance Yet?

Open Enrollment Deadlines

Open enrollment is almost over, which means it is the best time to sign up for health insurance coverage for 2015. If you miss the deadline to sign up for health insurance during open enrollment, you will have to pay heavy fines and will not have any health insurance protection for the entire year.

If you had signed up for health insurance for 2014, your coverage ended on December 31, 2014 unless you already renewed the policy. You have the option to renew your policy before February 15th, or you can change your policy to any of the available policies through open enrollment.

If you do not sign up for health insurance through open enrollment, you will have to pay either $325 per adult and $162.50 per child in your household or 2 percent of your total household income (whichever amount is higher). You will pay the fine through your 2015 federal income taxes, which are typically paid early in 2016.

The only way that you can sign up for health insurance outside of the open enrollment period is if you have a qualifying life event. Some of the most common qualifying life events include:

  • Getting married or divorced.
  • Having a new baby, putting a child up for adoption, or adopting a child into your family.
  • Leaving incarceration.
  • Moving your permanent residence to a new state that does not offer the same health insurance policy that you are currently enrolled in.
  • Losing your health insurance coverage due to the loss of a job, aging off of your parent’s health plan, losing eligibility for Medicare or CHIP, or any other similar event. Keep in mind that voluntarily giving up your health insurance does not qualify you for a qualifying life event.

Contact Integrity First Insurance in Thousand Oaks, California for all of your Conejo Valley health insurance coverage needs.

Important Information About Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment Deadlines and Information

With the recent changes to health insurance, we understand the difficulty Americans may face in navigating the Affordable Care Act and ObamaCare guidelines. At Integrity First Insurance Services, we want to the make the process as smooth as possible, so we have gathered some useful information for you to properly acquire health insurance coverage for the New Year.

Open Enrollment Deadlines

The Open Enrollment period is open from November 15th, 2014 until February 15th, 2015. During this period you can sign up for a new healthcare plan or you can update your existing plan to fit any new needs you may have. After this period, you cannot sign up for healthcare though the Marketplace until the Open Enrollment of the next year.

Penalties: Health insurance is mandatory, if you do not sign up for health care coverage, you may be subjected to a fine. The penalty is 2% of your annual household income, or $325 per each adult in your household and $162.50 per each child under 18, whichever is more. This penalty fee appears on your federal income tax return for the year you do not have coverage.

Exceptions: You may qualify for a Special Enrollment period if you have had a significant life changing event occur, such as a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, etc. There are also some exceptions that will allow you to avoid the fine if you do not invest in a policy. Some of these situations include:

  • If you are a member of a federally recognized health care sharing ministry.
  • If you are a member of a federally recognized religious sect that has religious objections to insurance, including Medicare and Social Security.
  • If you qualify for a hardship exemption.
  • If you do not have health insurance coverage for less than 3 months out of the year.
  • If the lowest price health coverage that is available to you will cost more than 8 percent of your total household income.
  • If you do not have to file a federal income tax return because your total income is too low.
  • If you are eligible for health services through an Indian Health Services provider or are a member of a federally recognized tribe.

For all of your health insurance needs throughout the Conejo Valley, contact the insurance professionals at Integrity First Insurance Services in Thousand Oaks, California. Please call our certified agent, Jason Mayling for any questions or concerns you may have about your health insurance coverage for next year.