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Safest Picks for 2017

December 9th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Institute for Highway Safety has awarded 82 new vehicles as the safest picks for 2017

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded 82 new vehicles as the safest picks for 2017.

Of the 82 vehicles awarded Thursday, 38 earned the highest ranking of Top Safety Pick+. Those vehicles not only earned good ratings in five crash test evaluations but have effective features that can prevent crashes, the IIHS said.

Toyota/Lexus led among automakers with nine of its 2017 models making the Top Safety Pick+ list. Honda and its Acura division had five Top Safety Pick+ awards.

Meanwhile, 44 vehicles were in the Top Safety Pick category, one ranking lower.

IIHS said that it toughened the criteria for Top Safety Pick+ to reflect headlight evaluations that it launched this year. Only seven of the vehicles in the top category earned a good rating for headlights.

The vehicles that got a good headlight rating are: Chevrolet Volt small car, Honda Ridgeline pickup, Hyundai Elantra small car, Hyundai Santa Fe midsize SUV, Subaru Legacy midsize car, Toyota Prius v midsize car and Volvo XC60 midsize luxury SUV.

“The field of contenders is smaller this year because so few vehicles have headlights that do their job well, but it’s not as small as we expected when we decided to raise the bar for the awards,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said in a report.

The 2017 report also found that autobrake features are becoming more common, with 21 of this year’s winners including a standard front crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities.

Here’s the complete list of this year’s winners.

Standard Homeowners Policies

December 9th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Hedda's Hints

Holes in Standard Homeowners Policies

Sewage Backup

shutterstock_350130326Sewage backup in one of the several hazards that people widely assume is covered by their homeowners insurance. Standard policies do not cover damage from sewage and water backups. To get this protection, you need to buy special coverage.

Check with your agent to see if you have this coverage. If you don’t you should consider adding a rider for approx. $50 a year that would pays up to $10,000 for sewage backup damage. It will also cover damage from sump pump malfunction.

Flooding

Most people who live near a river or coastline know that homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, and they purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. But Flooding can be a problem even if you don’t live near water.

Consider adding Flood Insurance. It is sold at government set prices, depending on your proximity to a flood zone. For more information on the cost of flood insurance and how to buy it, see the NFIP’s Web Site (www.fema.gov/nfip), or call 888-225-5356.

Home Office

If you have a home office, don’t assume that your equipment is protected by the personal possession coverage in your homeowners policy. Homeowners and renters policies typically cap the coverage for business personal property at $2,500. The coverage drops even more if you take any of the property out of the house. It only pays $250 if your laptop is stolen on a business trip.

Also, a typical policy provides no liability coverage for business related claims.  For instance if your delivery person slips on you front stoop while delivering a business package and ends up suing, your homeowners may leave you high and dry.

Consider adding a rider for approx $200 a year that would set the business personal property and liability coverage to the same amounts as stated in your homeowners policy.

Be a Wise Health Care Consumer

December 9th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

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25 Ways to Reduce Your Health Care Costs

The way we purchase health care is unlike most other purchases we make. Many Americans will hunt for a coupon that saves them 50 cents at the local supermarket. However, when it comes to health care—a far more complex and expensive service—we rarely ask questions or consider all the options that could save us time and money.

Learn to shop for value when it comes to health care. With little effort, you can save thousands of dollars on your medical bills.

  1. Let’s make a deal. Ask your doctor, hospital or dentist if they will accept less. Studies show that the majority of individuals who bargain succeed.
     
  2. Know how much it costs. You will be better armed to negotiate discounts when you know the real costs of care. You can find rates on the websites of large insurers like UHC, Cigna and Aetna.
     
  3. Pay in cash. You can routinely save up to 10 percent on your bill by paying in cash up front, and often much more than that. Doctors lose thousands of dollars every year on credit card processing fees, unpaid bills and collection fees.
     
  4. Look at your bill closely. You will often find mistakes. Keep track of your visits, tests and medications, and compare them against your bills. Request a corrected bill if you find an error and notify your insurance company.
     
  5. Follow instructions. Follow your health care provider’s instructions for medications. Most medications work most effectively when they are used according to your doctor’s instructions. Ignoring instructions could result in additional prescription costs, extra trips to the doctor or even hospitalization.
     
  6. Visit a retail health clinic. Retail health clinics are growing in number. They are popping up in high-traffic retail outlets in metropolitan areas around the country. While these clinics lack the personal nature of seeing a family physician who knows your complete medical history, they offer convenience and low prices.
     
  7. Stay in-network. Your medical costs can increase greatly when you visit a provider who is not in your plan’s network. Make sure your primary care doctor and any specialists you may need to see are in your network whenever possible.
     
  8. It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you must see a specialist who isn’t within your network, call your insurance company’s pre-certification department and explain why you must use an out-of-network specialist. You can often get your insurance company to agree to pay in-network rates in order to avoid the expensive appeal process. If that doesn’t work, ask your specialist to accept the in-network rate.

     
  9. Understand what treatment your plan covers. Are you paying for chiropractic care, massage therapy or acupuncture? Check your insurance company’s website or call their customer service line to make sure you aren’t needlessly paying for health care that is covered by your insurance.
     
  10. Stay insured. Despite its costs and limitations, health insurance offers you significant discounts on most health care services, as well as protection from astronomical health costs, should you or a dependent suffer a major health event. If you lose your employer-based health insurance, understand your options for retaining health coverage. First, you may be able to extend your current policy through COBRA, which allows you to keep your current coverage for up to 18 months by taking over the employer’s portion of the premiums. Secondly, you may become eligible to enroll in an individual health plan through the Marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which carries the possibility of several discounts depending on your income.
     
  11. Fight back. If your claim has been denied, start with a phone call to customer service. If that doesn’t work, follow your plan’s appeal process. Remember to document everything and keep copies.
     
  12. Choose your health plan wisely. Choosing the plan with the lowest premiums or sticking with the same plan year to year may not be the smartest option. Anticipate your family’s medical expenses and look closely at each plan option to find the most appropriate and cost-effective one for you.
     
  13. Consider an HSA. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are growing in popularity. They are combined with a high deductible health plan. The high deductible policy protects you from the cost of a catastrophic illness or prolonged hospitalization. You control the savings account and use it for small and routine health care expenses. Although you own and manage the account, employers will often make contributions to HSAs as well. Funds you don’t use grow tax-free and can be rolled over from year to year. For 2016, you can contribute up to $3,350 for an individual account and up to $6,750 if you’re insured under a family plan. In 2017, you can contribute up to $3,400 for an individual account and up to $6,750 if you’re insured under a family plan. If you’re 55 or older, your contribution levels rise by an additional $1,000.
     
  14. Take advantage of flexible spending accounts. A flexible spending account, or FSA, is an employee benefit program that allows you to set aside money on a pretax basis for certain health care and dependent care expenses. That means you keep more of your money. Your employer may also contribute to your FSA account. The maximum total FSA contribution for 2016 is $2,550.
     
  15. Don’t skimp on preventive care. Be sure your child gets routine checkups and vaccines as needed, both of which can prevent medical problems (and bills) down the road. Also, adults should get the preventive screenings recommended for their age in order to detect health conditions early.
     
  16. Look for free services. Look for free health screenings and vaccinations in your area. With a little research, you could find free or reduced-price flu shots, Pap smears, prostate exams, cholesterol screenings and more.
     
  17. Visit a dental school. Look into local dental schools where you will be treated by dental students who perform the dental treatment while closely supervised by their instructors. Expect to pay about 20 to 60 percent of what you’d pay for the same treatment by a private dentist. Check this list from the American Dental Association to see if there’s one near you.
     
  18. Don’t forget to floss. Studies have demonstrated that those who floss regularly have a decrease in bad breath, cavity incidence and the risk for periodontal disease. The cost of periodontal disease treatment can range in the thousands of dollars depending on the severity of the conditions.
     
  19. Discount contact lenses. Discount websites and stores can provide the contact lenses prescribed by your eye doctor, in factory-sealed packaging, at a cost that is up to 70 percent off what you would pay at the retail level.
     
  20. Chill out. According to WebMD, up to 90 percent of doctor visits are for stress-related conditions. Studies show that relaxation techniques are effective in controlling anxiety, enhancing the immune system and reducing conditions such as high blood pressure, substance abuse and chronic pain.
     
  21. Quit smoking. Under the ACA, health insurers are allowed to charge smokers 50 percent higher premiums than nonsmokers for new polices sold to individuals and smaller employer groups. Plus, if you quit smoking you can expect to save approximately $2,000 a year on the cost of cigarettes alone.
     
  22. Live a healthy lifestyle. Focus on eating nutritiously, cutting down on fast food and getting more physical exercise. Striving toward a healthier lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight can drastically reduce future medical conditions and diseases.
     
  23. Wash your hands. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand hygiene is the most important factor in preventing the spread of germs. In fact, health experts estimate that 80 percent of common infections are spread through hand contact. Save hundreds of dollars a year on cold and flu treatments.
     
  24. Get a second opinion. Save thousands of dollars a year on cutting-edge medical tests, which usually are not covered by insurance, by following the guidelines recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. You can find these guidelines at ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm.
     
  25. Think twice about the emergency room. Don’t go to the emergency room (ER) when your regular doctor or an urgent care visit would suffice. If you or your child is feeling ill on Friday, get into the doctor that day to avoid overpaying at the ER during the weekend.
     

Reduce Your Holiday Stress

December 9th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

livewellworkwellnewsletter-december2016The holidays can bring joy, but they can also bring stress. Whether you are worried about money, gift-giving or finding enough time to get everything done, using the following coping mechanisms can help you manage and reduce your holiday stress.

  • Get organized—Writing down the things you need to do or places you need to be can help you visualize your to-do list and make it seem much more manageable.
     
  • Know that it’s OK to say “no”—If attending an event that isn’t important to you will interfere with you getting work done or running errands, just say “no” politely.
     
  • Create and stick to a budget—Money is one of the biggest holiday stressors for people. Set a realistic budget this holiday season and don’t go over it.
     
  • Ask for help when you need it—You don’t have to decorate, wrap presents or cook by yourself. Ask friends or family members to help you complete these tasks.
View more Live Well, Work Well tips here.

December Events in DC Area

December 9th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Spotlight on the Community

The Washington, DC area and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host lots of annual festivals and special events. Enjoy the holiday season including, Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, holiday open houses, candlelight tours, concerts, shows, light displays, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa events and more. All dates, prices, and activities mentioned are subject to change, so please check the official website or call to confirm information.

pexels-photo-238467Holiday Craft Shows in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia
Find unique gifts for the holidays at a variety of craft shows held in the Washington, DC area.

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree at a Maryland or Virginia Farm
Find Christmas tree farms in the Washington, DC suburbs.

The National Christmas Tree and the Pageant of Peace
Lighting ceremony – December 1, 2016, 5 p.m. Ellipse near the White House. Visit the National Christmas Tree and enjoy live entertainment through January 1.

Candlelight Tours in the Washington, DC Area
Enjoy the festive holiday decor of historic homes by candlelight tour, complete with seasonal music, storytelling and holiday treats.

Holiday Shows in Washington DC
See the schedule of live theatrical holiday performances in the DC area.

ICE! – Christmas at the Gaylord National Resort
Through January 1, 2017. The award-winning holiday attraction is a winter wonderland created entirely of 5,000 BLOCKS of ice hand-sculpted by 40 international artisans.

Six Flags America – Holiday in the Park
Through January 2, 2017. Upper Marlboro, MD. The amusement park offers a holiday celebration featuring millions of glittering lights, holiday entertainment, seasonal treats, Santa’s Village, and many popular rides.

Washington Redskins
Enjoy the football season and cheer for DC’s team.

Nutcracker Performances in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia
Enjoy the Christmas holiday classic ballet. The Nutcracker is performed at a variety of theaters, from community theaters in the suburbs to Washington, DC’s most formal performing arts centers.

Holiday Concerts in Washington, DC
Find a schedule of holiday concerts of Christmas classics, Hanukkah songs and much more.

Holiday Model Train Exhibits
Toy train displays are a family favorite for the holiday season. Visit these holiday model train exhibits in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Washington DC Area Christmas Light Displays
Celebrate the holiday season with a drive or a stroll through one of the Washington, DC area’s spectacle of lights at a local park or along the water in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia.

Best Christmas Events for Kids in the Washington, DC Area
While you are busy preparing for the holiday, be sure to take some time out to make some special Christmas memories with your kids.

National Cathedral Christmas Events
Take a guided tour, hear festive music, make Christmas decorations, or attend a religious service.

Holidays at National Harbor
Enjoy nightly light shows, a weekend holiday market, ICE at the Gaylord and more.

Downtown DC Holiday Market
November 25-December 23, 2016. Sidewalk on F Street between 7th and 9th in front of the National Portrait Gallery. Enjoy a unique seasonal shopping marketplace of downtown Washington DC including gift items by more than 180 exhibitors.

Christmas in Old Town Alexandria
The holiday season in Old Town Alexandria is magical with historic streets decorated brightly for the holidays, entertainers on street corners, colorful shop windows and lots of fun activities.

Christmas at Mount Vernon
Through January 6, 2016. Learn about the Christmas traditions of George Washington and his family, meet historic characters and tour the Mount Vernon Estate by candlelight.

Hanukkah Events in the Washington, DC Area
Various Dates. Find special events celebrating the holiday in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia

Kwanzaa Events in the Washington, DC Area
Various Dates. Find special holiday events around the region.

Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon
December 16-17, 2016, 5:30-9 p.m. Mount Vernon Estate, Mount Vernon, VA.  Enjoy an evening of holiday-themed fireworks and special programs. Before the fireworks show begins at 8:45 p.m., watch colonial artisans make chocolate, meet re-enactors from the First Virginia Regiment, enjoy cider by a bonfire, and learn 18th century dance moves from costumed guides.

Arlington Wreath Laying Ceremony
December 17, 2016. Holiday wreaths adorn thousands of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Wreaths Across America.

National Cathedral Children’s Christmas Pageant 
December 17, 2016, 2 p.m. Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC. This joyous event is designed for children and is free and open to the public.

The Water-skiing Santa
December 24, 2016, 1 p.m. Old Town Alexandria – new location this year! This unusual annual event features a water-skiing Santa, flying elves, the Jet-skiing Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman performing on the Potomac River.

10 Things to Do on Christmas Day in Washington DC
Although not everyone celebrates the holiday, most businesses and attractions are closed on December 25th. Find out what’s open on this day.

National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony
December 25, 2016, 4 p.m. Ellipse, White House Grounds, Washington DC. The festivities include musical performances and hot latkes and donuts.

Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship
December 26, 2016, 4-9 p.m. Frederick, Maryland. More than a dozen churches open their doors to the public for special programs, angelic choirs, and nativity scenes celebrating religious diversity and local history.

Military Bowl and Parade
December 27, 2016. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland. College football bowl game benefits the United Service Organizations.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations in the Washington, DC Area
December 31, 2016. Check out these suggestions of ways to ring in the New Year in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia.

First Nights and Family Friendly New Years Eve Events
December 31, 2016. Ring in the New Year at a family-oriented, non-alcohol event in Maryland or Virginia.

Source: dc.about.com

Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes

December 9th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Impress your guests this holiday with some quick and easy holiday delights from the chefs at Food Network.

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Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com

30 Simple Holiday Décor Ideas

December 9th, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Looking to update your holiday decor? Find more easy holiday decorating ideas here.

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Twist on a Traditional Wreath

Instead of the traditional evergreen, try a homemade wreath of citrus fruits. Start with a circular piece of florist’s foam, then use wooden florist’s picks to secure large items, such as oranges, first. Continue with smaller fruit: kumquats, clementines, limes. Tie with a thick velvet ribbon.

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Sparkly Ornament Display

Place vintage ornaments on a cake stand nested with leaves for a stunningly simple centerpiece.

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Personalized Place Settings

Serving holiday dinner buffet style? Wrap each dish in a sheet of parchment paper and tie with a length of ribbon before stacking it. Guests will be rewarded with a pretty presentation (not to mention a little gift-opening practice).

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Invite Greenery Inside

Lush greenery draped around the house, especially doorways, creates an inviting atmosphere and a woodsy aroma.

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Get More Great Ideas

Visit http://www.realsimple.com/ to see the rest of these awesome decorating ideas.