Feb. 14 Is National Organ Donor Day: Learn How You Can Help

Organ transplantation plays a huge role in the lives of many critically ill or injured people of all ages, yet it’s a topic many of us tend not to pay a lot of attention to – unless it affects us. And that’s a shame, because the need for organ donations in the U.S. is very real. For instance, did you know:

  • Big Valley…every day in the U.S., about 80 people receive an organ transplant?
  • …about 18 people die each day while waiting for a transplant that never comes?
  • …on average, every 10 minutes a new person is added to the organ donation wait list?
  • …about 120 million people are registered as organ donors?

Those organ donation statistics are provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and they serve to illustrate the problem of organ donation in the U.S. and throughout the world: the need for donor organs far outpaces the number of organs that are available for transplant. In fact, if you gathered all the people who are waiting for organ donations today, they’d fill a football stadium – twice.

February 14th isn’t just Valentine’s Day; it’s also National Organ Donor Day, a day set aside to learn more about organ donation statistics and how you can become a donor. For instance, while most people think of organ donation as something that you can only do if you’re deceased, that’s not true; there are plenty of opportunities for a living organ donor to make a difference.  And advances in medicine and technology have made it safer and easier to donate organs without risking your own health.

It’s easy to take good health for granted when you have it, and having good health insurance in place is one of the best ways to make sure you stay as healthy as you possibly can. When selecting an insurance policy, look for one that offers ample preventive care benefits so you can be screened regularly for signs of chronic diseases that can eventually increase the odds of you possibly needing a transplant someday.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can become an organ donor, the Internet makes it easy. Just visit organdonor.gov, or find your state registry by clicking here. And if you’re interested in learning about how your health insurance can help you stay as healthy as possible, give us a call, and let us help you determine if your policy is providing you with all the coverage you and your loved ones need.

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Ring in 2015 with Greater Peace of Mind

January is a time for New Year’s resolutions, fresh starts and better organization, which means it’s a great time to take care of a few basic insurance-related needs that can save you money throughout 2015. Here are four important steps to consider when making your 2015 New Year’s resolutions:

  • Consider your current coverage. Look back over the past year or two: have you made any claims? Are there areas where you feel you might benefit from added protection? Do you even know what your policy covers? Insurance companies send notices in the mail when coverage changes are pending, but if you’re like most people, you skim those notices before tossing them. The New Year is a great time to review your current policy and coverage to avoid any unpleasant surprises in 2015.
  • Big Valley, Century, Placer, OracleAsk about additional coverage. Many people don’t realize the gaps in their insurance policies until it’s too late. They assume, incorrectly, that because they have an insurance policy in place, their home and property will be protected and their losses will be covered no matter what. In fact, while a standard homeowner’s policy does provide a good amount of coverage, there are areas where it may fall short for certain homeowners and other areas where there may be no coverage at all. Flood insurance is a good example. Many homeowners mistakenly believe their standard insurance policy will cover them if flooding causes damage, but the fact is, flood insurance is an additional coverage that must be bought separately. Other homeowners might have unique needs – for instance, antiques, jewelry or other belongings that require additional “riders” to be adequately covered in case of loss. People who use their homes as offices also may need special coverage for equipment or liability issues.
  • Practice proactive home upkeep. Protect your home from storm damage by making sure windows are caulked and damaged trim is repaired or replaced. Sand areas where paint is chipped, and apply new coats of primer and paint to prevent water and insect problems. Make sure your gutters are clear to prevent water backups that can cause leaks.
  • Protect your home and belongings with a security system. Thanks to today’s plug-in and wireless security options, it’s easier than ever to add protection to your home. You don’t need to embark on an extensive and costly rewiring project to add smart features that help you keep your home safe and sound. Plus, many wireless systems let you monitor your home even while you’re away, making them a great option for travelers.

Setting aside a little time to review your insurance needs at the beginning of the year helps ensure your coverage evolves as your needs change, and it can also save you money. Call our office today, and learn how we can help you ring in 2015 with insurance coverage customized to your needs.

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Safe Driving through the Holiday Season: Six Tips for Defensive Driving

As the holidays approach, more drivers will be on the road trying to get through the woods and over the river to grandmother’s house; however, a simple trip can become a nightmare without the use of several key defensive driving techniques. Now, you may have heard about defensive driving in the past, but do you really know what it means to drive defensively? We’ve prepared a listing of the best defensive driving techniques to keep your holiday travel plans on track.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Accidents occur when one or more drivers make a poor decision during driving or fail to pay attention to something. Furthermore, an accident can occur as a result of malfunctioning equipment on your automobile. If you need “x” hours to arrive at your destination, leave “x” plus two-to-three hours before your planned arrival. This will give you plenty of time to account for traffic delays, unusual road conditions or even equipment failure.

Big Valley, PlacerQuick Inspection of Your Car

Before taking off on your trip, complete a brief inspection of your vehicle. Check that your turn signals, breaks and reverse lights are properly working. You should also check your tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge; the sidewall of the tire will identify the preferred pressures for each tire in cold weather.

Don’t Follow Too Closely

Do you remember the last time someone was tailgating you, and you kept thinking that person was going to hit you? Well, following too closely will anger other drivers, and it removes your ability to come to a safe stop in the event of an emergency. Your following distance should be a minimum of two seconds. When a vehicle passes an object in front of you, you should not pass that same object in less than two seconds. In cases of hazardous road conditions or traffic, you may want to increase your following distance to four-to-six seconds.

Don’t Try to Race Passing Cars

When a vehicle passes you, avoid speeding up to prevent the other driver from passing you. This will only frustrate the other motorist, and it could unexpectedly cause an accident.

Plan Your Trip ahead of Time

If you will be traveling to rarely-traveled or unusual areas, map out your route in advance. You need to know the proper turns to take, and you can avoid construction areas and cutting off other drivers during sudden turns by planning ahead.

Adjust Your Driving to Road Conditions

The posted speed limit applies for safe and clear road conditions, and you need to decrease your speed and increase your awareness during unusual road conditions. Unusual road conditions can include rock slides, precipitation, sand storms or even heavy traffic.

With these six basic principles of defensive, safe driving, you are on your way to having a safe and happy holiday season. You will now be able to answer and give advice when you hear someone ask “what is defensive driving?”

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Happy Holiday Travel Tips: 6 Ways to Stay Safe on the Road This Thanksgiving

Happy holiday travel isn’t easy to come by. However, if you follow just a few simple rules, your holiday travels this year can be smooth, easy and fun.

Make Sure Your Gas Tank Is Full.

Before you head out on the road, the first thing you want to do is ensure you have a full tank of gas. The last thing you want is to have to stop halfway there or about 50 miles down the road because you didn’t top off your tank before you left.

Be Prepared for an Emergency.

If you’re traveling a few hours away from your home, you want to make sure that you have the proper equipment, tools and items in your car in the event of an emergency. You want to make sure you have a first-aid kit, spare tire, jack, Fix-a-Flat, flashlight, several bottles of water, a few snacks and anything else you can think of that might make things more comfortable if you’re stuck waiting for a tow truck for an hour or longer. Although heavy snowfall, icy roads and severely cold weather isn’t something you have to worry about, it doesn’t hurt to have a blanket in the trunk.

Big ValleyBe Extremely Patient.

It’s inevitable that you are going to run into traffic. Thanksgiving is a busy time of year, and others are going to be traveling to see their loved ones, just as you are. Therefore, you may want to consider driving early in the morning and/or late at night to try and miss the bulk of the traffic. This will help ensure that you don’t have to be in the car longer than necessary and minimize the stress that you have to endure.

Always, Always Buckle Up!

Do not leave your driveway until you and everyone inside the vehicle has buckled up correctly. Children should be properly secured in a car seat, if necessary.

Take a Defense Driving Course.

To help make the drive go more smoothly, it may not hurt to take a defensive driving course to learn a few defensive driving techniques. This will help you learn how to manage certain conditions that you may experience on the road. You may be surprised at just how helpful one of these courses can be before you set out on the road.

Stay Focused and Alert.

When driving, stay alert and focused at all times. Be aware of all of your surroundings, and minimize distractions inside the car. This will minimize your risk of being involved in an accident. If you are involved in an accident and are fully alert, you will be able to react quickly, possibly saving everyone inside your vehicle’s lives.

Holiday traveling isn’t easy. However, you can make it go smoothly with the aforementioned happy holiday travel tips. Be safe, and have a wonderful holiday!

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Fire Safety Journal: Your Keys to Fire Safety and Prevention

According to the United States Fire Administration, over 3,400 people die each year due to a fire at home. 17,500 additional people will be injured in some way due to the same set of circumstances. Even if you think that you’ve taken every precaution imaginable, fire is a very real concern that you should always be aware of on a regular basis. The key to fire safety and prevent involves taking a proactive approach on an ongoing basis to make sure that your habits are conducive to the safest possible environment for both you and your family members.

Century and Oracle and Big ValleyGeneral Fire Safety Journal

  • Keep matches, lighters and all other types of materials out of the hands of children at all times. The risk for accidental burning is far too great, and it can result in an accidental fire.
  • Check all smoke detectors at least four times a year to make sure that they always have functional batteries and are operating to expectations.
  • Keep functional fire extinguishers in or near every area of your house at all times.

One of the most important fire safety and prevention tips doesn’t necessarily have to do with flammable materials but with items that can cause a fire due to electricity. Fire Safety Journal indicates that, in an average American home, it is common to see a huge entertainment center complete with video game consoles for the kids, Blu-ray players for the adults, high definition television sets and more.

Each one of these devices will be connected via a series of cords, connecting both one device to another and each device to a power outlet. If these cords become tangled, they pose a very serious risk for a fire that could break out at any moment. Overloading a surge protector or wall outlet can create the same type of risk, even if you don’t realize it.

Additionally, Fire Safety Journal indicates that cords that are strewn about the floor and are generally unkempt also pose a very serious fire risk. If your child is running through the house and trips over the cord to your television set, for example, that cord could be violently pulled out of the outlet and could start a fire. Always make sure these types of cords are in a fixed position and well out of the way of any foot paths.

Another important Fire Safety Journal tip involves making sure that you’re replacing mattresses in your home that may have been made before 2007. The Federal Mattress Flammability Standard was established in 2007. Since then, all mattresses have been designed to be as fire resistant as possible. Any mattresses that you may have purchased prior to this time are not in keeping with the new standard and may pose a very serious risk for a home fire.

Have more questions about fire or home safety? Contact one of our knowledgeable insurance agents via phone or email, or stop in our Lodi or Tracy office!

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Do You Have the Best Auto Insurance for Your Needs?

California has strict financial responsibility laws. That means vehicle owners must get basic car insurance to drive legally. However, many drivers need more than just the basic policy that our law requires. At Big Valley Insurance, we get to know our clients in order to recommend the right package of California car insurance for their own needs and budget.

There are some things to keep in mind when you shop for an auto policy:

  • The coverage limits on a basic policy are not that high when compared with possible damage or injury claims on our local streets.
  • Many car owners also need collision and comprehensive insurance to satisfy their lenders.

Basi and Big ValleyUnderstanding Common Types of Car Insurance

Consider some common types of auto insurance that might be included in your policy:

  • Auto liability: This actually covers the claimant if you cause an accident. Basic policies protect you against property damage and injury claims.
  • Collision insurance: This covers your own property if you get involved in an accident when no other insurance company is liable for the bill.
  • Comprehensive: If your car gets damaged because of something other than an accident, this pays for repairs or replacements.
  • Roadside assistance: Roadside assistance is not really insurance. It works like a motor club that gives you access to emergency road services.

You also have a choice of deductibles and coverage limits. By increasing deductibles or reducing limits, you have a chance to lower premiums. Just remember that these changes could increase the risk of having to pay more out of your own pocket. In fact, some high-asset clients find that umbrella insurance is an affordable way to extend both auto and home liability insurance limits.

We Can Help You Find the Best Auto Insurance

As independent agents, we compare a variety of different insurers to find you a good price and a good value. Cheap auto insurance will not save you money if you end up paying more when you do need to make a claim. At Big Valley Insurance, we are eager to meet you and find the best solution for your own family, business and budget. Give us a call today.

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Insurance Every Senior Citizen Should Have

National Senior Citizens Day was created when President Ronald Regan made his Presidential Proclamation on August 19, 1988. He wanted a day dedicated to encouraging others to recognize and show their appreciation toward the senior citizens within our communities. This year we celebrate Senior Citizens Day on August 21, 2014.

This day should also serve as a reminder to ensure that the senior citizens in our lives are fully protected and covered by the right insurance policies. Here is a list of insurance policies every senior citizen should have.

shutterstock_137228210Health insurance

To help pay for medical bills, every senior citizen should have at least one form of medical insurance. This can be through Medicare, Medicaid or a private insurance company. The level of coverage will depend greatly upon any medical conditions and how often he or she needs to see the doctor.

Life insurance

It is never too late to purchase a life insurance policy. There are two types of life insurance: term and permanent. Term life insurance will only pay out if you die within a set amount of time. Permanent life insurance may provide more long-term financial protection.

Some factors that affect life insurance premiums include:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Health habits
  • Hobbies, such as skydiving and rock climbing
  • Driving record
  • Area of residence

Auto insurance

Every senior citizen needs auto insurance to protect themselves and others in case of an accident. Tips to help reduce the costs of car insurance include:

  • Ask for a mature driver discount
  • Complete a defensive driving course
  • Have a clean driving record
  • Drive a newer car with low mileage

Homeowners insurance

Senior citizens work hard to get where they are at, including being able to purchase a home and fill it with furniture and other personal belongings. Homeowners insurance policies will protect seniors, should anything happen to the home or the contents of it.

Travel insurance

For those who are retired and planning to travel, we suggest purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance offers protection from anything unexpected, including delays, lost luggage and accidents.

Tips for getting insurance

Unfortunately, not all insurance agencies have their clients’ best interests at heart. Here are some tips to help ensure senior citizens are not taken advantage of when purchasing the insurance they need:

  • Take your time reviewing and reading the entire insurance policy
  • Ask as many questions as you can think of
  • Get all proposals in writing with a date it expires
  • Never buy the policy that day
  • Go home and think about the options
  • Never be pressured into signing
  • Use a reputable insurance agent, broker or company
  • Get a list of full disclosures

For more information about our senior insurance services contact our offices at Big Valley Insurance in Lodi, California.

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Stay Cool, Save Money

When most people think of California summers, they instantly think of the sunshine that this state is famous for all year round. However, as summer intensifies, the heat gets kicked up a notch and many homeowners struggle to stay comfortable while also preserving the cash in their wallet. These tips will help residents save money on their energy bills this summer, without compromising their comfort levels in their own homes.

dogTips for Saving Energy This Summer

  • Create new meal plans that don’t involve using your oven. When you turn your oven on, especially to high temperatures, it will heat up your kitchen and may even force your air conditioner to continue running. It can make it hot and stuffy within your home. Instead of using your oven, plan for lots of grill nights, sandwich meals and even meals that can be made in the microwave.
  • Replace your air filters. Your air filters should be replaced every 30 days throughout the summer months. These filters trap dust and dander that travel through your heating and cooling system, and they can easily become clogged. When they are clogged, your air conditioning system has to work harder in order to keep your house cool.
  • Tilt your blinds closed during the daylight hours. This prevents the sun from baking the inside of your home and driving up the temperature. It can help reduce the amount of time your air conditioner is running throughout the day, which ultimately cuts costs.
  • Turn on your ceiling fans. Your ceiling fans will circulate the air in your home and help keep the temperature down. This minimizes the need for your air conditioning system to be running constantly and will decrease the costs associated with cooling your home throughout the dog days of summer.

These easy-to-implement tips are not only going to help you save money throughout the hottest months of summer, but they also will help you stay cool and comfortable within your living space. Instead of worrying about how high your next utility bill is going to be, you can simply kick back, relax and enjoy all of the fun that summer brings. After a fun day of surfing the waves and playing in the sand, you can come home to a house that is cool, refreshing and also affordable.

Sources: https://www.pacificpower.net/res/sem/het/tsest.html, http://freshome.com/2011/07/21/10-energy-saving-tips-for-this-hot-summer/

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California Health insurance Facts in 2014

ImageWith the implementation of Obamacare, and the subsequent healthcare reform around the United States, there are a lot of changes to health insurance everywhere. Many of these can be quite confusing, especially if you live in the state of California. That’s because California health insurance has a different insurance marketplace than anywhere else in the country. That’s why the health insurance experts at Big Valley Insurance, based out of Tracy, CA and Lodi, CA, have put together the comprehensive answer to all of your health insurance exchange questions as they apply to making sure you have the right policy for yourself and your family within the state of California. These explanations are below, so you are equipped with all of the correct information before you sign up. 

Health Care Reforms already in Effect in California pre-2014

– Policies cannot be canceled or rescinded if you become sick

– There will no longer be lifetime limits on essential health benefits

– Annual limits on essential benefits have also ended, capped at $750,000 in 2012, $1.25 million in 2013 and no limit cap in 2014.

– Preventive care like mammograms, vaccinations, well-child care, contraception and other health screenings will now be free, though there are some exceptions to this in regards to health insurance plans which have been grandfathered over before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

– There is no need for a referral for pregnancy or gynecological care as long as a provider is in your particular network.

– Children are also allowed to stay on their parent’s policy until the age of 26, as long as their insurance policy offers dependent coverage.

– Rates may also not be based on gender

Important New Health Care Reforms to Know About in 2014

– Health insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny coverage based upon a person’s health status, like pre-existing medical conditions. They are also not allowed to delay coverage due to these pre-existing conditions.

– No Annual limits may be set on the basic and important—in other words essential—health benefits.

– Medi-Cal coverage now expands to more Californians, including those who are under 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

 – Health care premiums can now only be based upon where you live in California, the age of the applicant with certain limitations, and the number of people on a particular policy.

– Millions of residents in California will now be eligible for premium subsidies from the federal government which will help pay for their new health insurance coverage. Tax credits will also be available for small businesses as well.

Enrollment information

Enrollment for Obamacare ceased in April. Anyone wanting coverage must now wait until open enrollment later in 2014. Applications can be submitted in October with effective date being January 1, 2015.

There are exceptions that will trigger an “opn enrollment” prior to January 1. For example, if you lose your health insurance through your employer, that would trigger an immediate open enrollment. Thre are other exceptions to the rule, contact our office for more detail.


We do have access to a couple of companies offering “Short Term” health polices for up to 6 months. While these policies will provide valuable coverage for clients who are currently uninsured, they do not qualify as “Credible” coverage under Obamacare and you can still be “penalized” for not having credible coverage for 2014. Call our office if you need information on these short term plans.

Sources: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0100-consumers/0020-health-related/0025-reform/

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Big Valley Insurance Discounts

Here at Big Valley Insurance, you can get everything from car insurance to renters insurance to boat insurance from the same company.  And better yet, you can receive discounted coverage plans. Let’s take a quick look at the different discounts you can receive. 

ImageAuto Insurance Discounts

When you sign up for auto insurance with Big Valley Insurance, you can rest assured there will be multiple discounts available for you to qualify for.  For starters, we offer the multivehicle discount, meaning if you have more than one vehicle insured through us, you automatically get a discount.  Other popular auto discounts include:

  • New! 4-year college graduate discount
  • New! Business owner discount
  • New vehicle discount
  • Good student discount
  • Multipolicy discount (meaning you have another form of insurance through us, such as a homeowners coverage plan)
  • Accident-free discount
  • Farm Bureau member discount
  • Automatic pay discount
  • Prior carrier discount

Home Insurance Discounts

At Big Valley Insurance, we offer a wide range of home insurance discounts, including:

  • Home purchase discount
  • Multipolicy discount
  • Home renovation discount
  • Claims-free discount
  • Gated community discount
  • Protective device discount

Motorcycle Insurance Discounts

Do you own a motorcycle?  If so, it’s probably one of your most prized possessions, and to properly protect it, you need to make sure you have insurance on it.  And when you buy a policy through us, you’ll get the added benefit of being able to qualify for one or more of the following motorcycle insurance discounts:

  • Multivehicle discount
  • Anti-lock brake discount
  • Homeowner discount
  • Paid-in-full discount
  • Multipolicy discount
  • Safety course discount
  • Riding association discount
  • Theft-recovery discount

Renters Insurance Discounts

Renting is a great way to avoid having to pay property taxes, but what about the belongings in the place you are renting?  Unlike with a home where you can purchase homeowners insurance to cover your belongings, renting a property doesn’t come with this luxury. Or does it? Yes, it does. With renters insurance, you can purchase coverage for your valuable belongings in your home, including electronic devices, furniture and more.  Best of all, you can possibly qualify for several types of renters insurance discounts, which include:

  • Gated community discount
  • Claims-free discount
  • Protective device discount
  • Multipolicy discount

RV Insurance Discounts

When you own an RV, there are many RV insurance discounts that you will likely qualify for, including:

  • RV association discount
  • Safety accessories discount
  • Paid-in-full discount
  • Multipolicy discount
  • Safety course discount
  • Good driver discount
  • Multivehicle discount

Boat Insurance Discounts

Owning a boat can be a lot of fun.  From water skiing to fishing to just cruising around on the lake or ocean, a boat brings about a lot of enjoyable activities.  When you insure your boat, make sure you take advantage of many boat insurance discounts that we offer, which are:

  • Package discounts
  • Multiboat discounts
  • Multipolicy discounts
  • Paid-in-full discount
  • Boater safety course discount
  • Vanishing deductible
  • Diesel fuel discount
  • Prior carrier discount

Snowmobile Insurance Discounts

Another valuable asset that you might own is a snowmobile.  When you insure your snowmobile, take comfort in knowing there are many snowmobile insurance discounts available for this type of asset, including:

  • Theft-recovery device discount
  • Paid-in-full discount
  • Safety course discount
  • Riding association discount
  • Multipolicy discount
  • Homeowner discount
  • Multivehicle discount
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