- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

Does your family have enough life insurance? Are you paying the best rate for your car insurance? Would damage to your house and property be fully covered in the event of a fire or a flood?
These are some of the questions the National Association of Insurance Commissioners would like you to ask yourself during its annual "Get Smart About Insurance" week that begins today.
NAIC is made up of regulatory officials from all 50 states, the District, and the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.
The goal, said NAIC President Mike Pickens, is to raise public awareness about the importance of all forms of insurance.
"We're a neutral organization, and we want consumers to know that their state insurance departments are there to help them and to protect them," said Mr. Pickens, who also is the commissioner of insurance in Arkansas.
To that end, NAIC has set up a special call center at 1-866/SMARTWEEK where consumers can order a free brochure to guide them through a review of their insurance coverage.
The brochure also is available at the association's Web site, www.naic.org/gsw. The site has special tip sheets on buying life, auto, homeowners and long-term care policies, as well as links to member states' sites.
The states license insurance companies and agents, so their Web sites are a good place to start if you want to check out the credentials of someone you're considering for buying insurance, Mr. Pickens said. The state pages also are the place to file complaints.
He urges consumers to take advantage of the NAIC campaign to get in the habit of doing annual insurance checkups.
"I always tell consumer groups, 'We'll do everything we can do to protect you, but no state or federal agency can protect you as well as you can protect yourself,'" he said. "'Knowledge is your best protection.'"
He recommends that if families already have a trusted insurance agent, they should sit down together "and review what coverage they've got and, if circumstances have changed, what they need to add or subtract."
How much coverage do you need?
When it comes to life insurance, NAIC recommends five to 10 times your annual income. For property, insurance should cover at least 80 percent of replacement value, the association says.
Don't forget to "dig for discounts" on insurance, NAIC says.

ASSOCIATED PRESS


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