Dodge distracted driving habits

When you’re driving down a highway, can you think of any circumstance where it is safe to close your eyes for five seconds? Of course not. But it takes about five seconds to read or send a text. At 55 miles per hour, you can travel the length of a football field in just those few seconds. And in that instant, over that distance, a life can be taken—maybe even your own.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017. Just one car accident, even a minor one, can have a profound impact on your life and the lives of others.

It’s important to stay focused on the road at all times. Avoiding texting or talking on the phone is obvious. But you can also be distracted by fiddling with the radio or A/C, eating and drinking, pets, and other people in the car.

Minimizing your chance of an accident avoids the stress of dealing with repairs, keeps your insurance costs down, and helps keep you, your family, and others safe.

Recommit yourself to safe driving by not giving in to distraction and by focusing solely on the road.

Sources:, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The surprising co$t of car safety

If you’re thinking that it’s more expensive today than in the past to own a car, you’re right. In fact, the cost of an average auto insurance claim in just the past few years is trending upward and far exceeding inflation. And it doesn’t look like this trend is going away anytime soon.

As safety features become more common, more vehicles will come with higher costs. For example, by 2022, nearly every vehicle sold in the U.S. will come standard with automatic emergency braking. But the price for this improvement also means even a small accident could require thousands of dollars to repair.

So it’s more important than ever to understand the new costs that come with your car and do what you can to keep your costs down.

Minor car damage can be a major expense

As auto manufacturers move toward increased safety and autonomous driving capabilities, more safety and navigation sensors have been added to our cars. Most of the sensors are located near the outer surface of cars in order to work. Unfortunately, this is also the most vulnerable spot in an accident—even in a seemingly minor fender bender. And sometimes, even if the sensors are not damaged, the presence of sensors elsewhere in the car can be costly.

For example, front collision sensors may be mounted on the car’s rearview mirror stand just inside the windshield. These sensors look through the windshield and for them to work properly, the windshield glass has to meet very specific requirements for clarity and lack of distortion. Because of this, even if your windshield has minor damage, it often means you’ll need to replace it with an original equipment manufacturer windshield, not the less expensive aftermarket glass. This can more than double the average cost of windshield replacement. Adding to the cost is the technician who must recalibrate the front collision sensors for the new glass, potentially adding hundreds to the repair bill.

Backup cameras, touch screen controls, and blind-spot monitoring are other examples that may make us feel safer but come at a price. Sensors on bumpers and side mirrors in particular are easily hit—and with the added technology, are more expensive to repair and replace.

It’s estimated that the complexity of new vehicle electronics is ten times what it was just seven years ago, making it more akin to computer repair. Further, each car manufacturer has its own proprietary system of software, hardware, and processes to determine potential problems with the sensors, which can take more time and involve more steps than ever before. Computerized scans need to continue until everything is working per the manufacturer’s specifications. In addition, car dealers or third-party consultants often have to be involved to interpret the codes the scanners produce. And it’s extremely important to get it right—the system is very exact and if not calibrated correctly, it could literally mean a matter of life or death for the occupants of the vehicle.

Rising claims costs

These safety features that were once uncommon are quickly becoming standard on many vehicles. The increased costs for repair, manufacturer-approved parts, and labor costs also mean more expensive insurance claims.

Other factors contributing to higher insurance claims include:

Practice prevention

The importance of defensive driving can’t be stressed enough. While you can’t avoid every mishap, you can lower your chances of one—which may help keep your costs down.

Make the most of your insurance

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of living rose 2.4 percent in 2018, but the cost of motor vehicle insurance and hospital services rose faster (7.4 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively). So it’s more important than ever to go with the right insurance coverage for your needs so you don’t risk leaving yourself (and your family) exposed to financial loss or purchasing coverages you don’t need.

People tend to think about risks they have experience with or can conceive of—like the fender bender. The risk of catastrophic events is often dismissed because they happen less frequently, yet they can be far more financially devastating. Member Benefits recommends a minimum of $250,000/$500,000 (per person limit/per accident limit) for bodily injury and $100,000 for property damage.

Unfortunately, the costs you may owe in an at-fault accident can far exceed these limits. Because typical auto and home policies can still leave you financially vulnerable, we recommend you also have personal liability insurance (umbrella insurance) for additional protection. Umbrella insurance provides you with significant additional coverage at a very low cost.

Some ways you may be able to lower your insurance costs include:

Get the right protection for your circumstances. Contact us to review your current insurance policy and answer your questions about auto insurance by calling 1-800-279-4030.

Sources: Property & Liability Resource Bureau, MARKETPLACE®, Insurance Information Institute, Edmunds.

Have you planned for this financial risk?

The duration of paid care varies widely. However, according to, about 69% of those who turned 65 in 2017 will need an average of three years of some kind of LTC during their lifetime. And that can be costly. For example, in Wisconsin, the median cost for a semiprivate room in a nursing home for just one month is $8,334 (Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2018).

Unfortunately, most people haven’t planned for this financial risk—only about 7.2 million Americans have LTC insurance (AARP). For many, this means losing their wealth in a short period of time, even for a relatively brief nursing home stay.

Because neither health insurance nor Medicare was designed to pay for LTC services, individuals who require these services as a result of an accident or illness may need to dip into their personal savings or use other assets to cover the costs…unless they have LTC insurance.

LTC insurance can be more affordable than you think. If you meet requirements, plans may include rate caps, limited-time pay options, or the ability to insure two people for a discounted premium.

To learn more, call 1-888-247-5905 or visit to register for a webinar. This program is available to all Wisconsin public school employees, retirees, and many family members.

Protect yourself from uninsured drivers

Despite a mandatory minimum car insurance requirement that includes uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, over 14% of drivers in Wisconsin do not have auto insurance (Uninsured Motorists, 2017 Edition, Insurance Research Council). Nationally, one out of every eight drivers does not carry auto insurance coverage.

Injuries to you or your family from an auto accident can create considerable financial hardship if the at-fault driver has insufficient insurance and/or has no other financial means to compensate you for your losses. However, if you find yourself in this situation, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries and other costs from your own UM/UIM coverage.

It’s not only important that you have UM/UIM coverage, but that you have the appropriate amount of coverage to avoid a potential financial catastrophe.

What is UM/UIM coverage?

UM coverage protects you and your family if you are injured by another driver in a hit-and-run accident or if the other driver has no auto insurance.

UIM coverage is triggered when you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver who has insufficient limits of liability insurance to cover your damages.

What does it cover?

UM/UIM coverage covers situations including:

UM/UIM coverage also covers:

How much coverage should I have?

While all Wisconsin drivers are required by law to have UM and UIM coverage on their auto policies, the amount of coverage you choose is an important consideration.

Having an adequate amount of UM/UIM coverage can help protect your finances. The Wisconsin state minimum for UM coverage is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. UIM coverage can be rejected, but if taken the minimum is $50,000/$100,000. However, Member Benefits typically recommends much higher minimum coverages.

When considering how much coverage you need, think about the real costs associated with injury, lost wages, and more if you’re in an accident with a UM or UIM motorist. However, every situation is different. Let one of our personal insurance consultants help determine the right amount of coverage for you.

The bottom line

Don’t risk your financial security if you’re in a situation where someone else is not covered. Make sure you’re properly insured—we can help you get the coverage that is best for you.

Questions about UM/UIM insurance coverage? We’ll help you become a more knowledgeable insurance consumer. Call 1-800-279-4030 or sign up for a phone consultation.

Under water

August in Wisconsin was wet. Severe storms with flash flooding, strong winds, and multiple tornadoes battered the state in the waning days of the month. The southwest, south central, and eastern areas of the state were especially hard hit—receiving between 10 and 15 inches of rain over a two-week period. Property damage exceeded $250 million. Bridges and roads washed out and thousands of Wisconsinites had property damage to homes and businesses from flooding.

It’s a common misunderstanding that standard home insurance policies will cover the damage from flooding, but in fact it never does. Flood coverage can only be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP—but the policy must be in place for 30 days before coverage begins.

However, water damage due to drain and sewer backup or sump pump overflow may be covered if you’ve added an endorsement to your home policy.

Members Amy and Eric Brehm live in Endeavor just 10 miles north of Portage in the heart of the affected area. They were among the roles of homeowners who had property loss due to water damage and flooding.

The Brehms were more fortunate than most. The seven inches of water in their basement was due to a failed sump pump for which they had coverage on their home insurance policy with Member Benefits.

“When there is as much precipitation as we had during the last two weeks of August, the ground becomes saturated and the water table rises. Water comes up through the floor drains. Our sump pump had been taking care of it,” Amy says. But on August 28 a large storm system passed through, producing high winds, tornadoes, and more rain. It also knocked out the power.

“The power outage caused our back up system to fail,” she explains. “If the power hadn’t gone out, we would’ve been fine. Once the power came back on and the sump pump started, it took care of all the water. But the damage had already been done.”

The ten-year flood?

This is the second time in ten years the Brehm’s basement flooded. “So much for the 100-year flood,” Amy says.

The first time they had a flood issue was in 2008, just after the Brehms moved into their current home. Heavy and extended rains, similar to what we experienced in August, caused their basement drain to backup. “At the time, we only carried $1,500 worth of coverage for drain and sewer backup—not nearly enough to cover the damages. Thankfully, I guess, the county was declared a federal disaster area and we applied for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and received some help.”

The Brehms spent the summer of 2008 dealing with the clean up and took steps to prevent future problems, like putting in drain tile, a sump pit, and a sump pump system with back up generators.

“We never thought it would happen again, but as an added precaution we decided to max out the coverage for water backup ($20,000),” explains Amy. “Boy, are we glad we did, because despite all that we had done to safeguard against future flooding, we got hit again this year. And it was worse this time.”

Not their first rodeo

Because of their previous experience, Eric and Amy knew what to do. They immediately started moving things out of the basement. “This wasn’t our first rodeo,” she says.

Then at 8:00 a.m. sharp the next morning, with policy in hand, Amy called Member Benefits and talked to Beth Gold, Claims Representative. “Everything was put into motion. Beth gave us the green light to do what we needed to do and told us to document everything. We called the remediation company right away to put in dehumidifiers and fans to dry it out. The adjustor, John, arrived at the house by 1:00 p.m. It went great from start to finish. John became our day-to-day contact and we didn’t need to talk with Beth for another week.”

The cost was just shy of $18,000, so Amy and Eric were happy they had decided on $20,000 worth of coverage.

Repair costs included flooring, paneling, and wallboard, and they hired a mitigation company to remove the sub-floor, carpeting, and wall trim, as well as dry out the basement with fans and dehumidifiers. They also lost personal property including a treadmill, furniture, a refrigerator and its contents, several collectible typewriters, and lots of small items.

“It took about five weeks to get everything resolved. That was fast but we were highly motivated, and having the coverage allowed us to push through. Without the sump pump backup insurance coverage, I would’ve been dealing with FEMA like many of my neighbors had to do,” Amy acknowledges.

Don’t bet on FEMA

In October, FEMA announced that federal disaster assistance would be made available to Wisconsin. It was welcome news for many.

But FEMA isn’t a sure thing, Amy adds. She knows from her previous experience and discussions with neighbors that the amounts distributed vary greatly and often depend on who comes in to inspect. “What you get isn’t commensurate with the cost of damage,” she says.

Amy and Eric feel empathy for neighbors, especially their elderly neighbors, who haven’t had to deal with this kind of damage before and the difficulty of navigating FEMA processes. “We’ve tried to help them as much as we can since we’ve been through it. Eric and I have both said many times how blessed we were and how good we had it compared to others. The amount we paid for the water backup coverage over ten years is a drop in the bucket compared to what we received in benefits.”

The Brehms are keeping the coverage but hope it won’t be needed again. “We have a new generator and a new battery back up system, so it should work even if the power goes out,” she says hopefully.

She and Eric have been members since 2005 when they opened 403(b) retirement savings accounts and switched their auto, home, and liability insurance over to Member Benefits.

“We can’t recommend it enough. Whenever you call, there is someone available. And you work with local people. You feel a connection.”

Affordable peace of mind

Industrywide, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover damage due to flooding. However, water damage due to drain and sewer backup or sump pump overflow may be covered if you’ve added an endorsement to your policy. This coverage is economical.

CoverageAnnual Premium

But timing can be everything. If the coverage is included at the inception date of the policy, the coverage begins on that date. However, if it’s added to or increased on an existing policy, there is generally a 30-day waiting period.

So if you are considering adding this coverage, give us a call at 1-800-279-4030 before the snow starts to melt and spring rains begin.


Amy was an art teacher for many years but currently serves as a K–12 Instruction Coach in the Montello School District. As such, she partners with teachers to identify student learning targets and plan curriculum to meet their needs in the classroom.
This is her 19th year in education.

Eric teaches high school social studies in Wisconsin Dells. He is a fiction writer and typewriter collector. “Together we enjoy finding antiques and collectibles and selling them on eBay (think American Pickers), walking our dog, and being outdoors (in the summer!). We are both avid readers, and I’m very active in my local book club,” adds Amy.

Don’t let frozen water put you on thin ice

Ice dams

To help reduce the risk to your home:

Sidewalk safety

To help reduce the risk of falls:

As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to keep your property safe. Removing snow and ice from your property as soon as possible will help prevent visitors from injuring themselves on slippery walkways, stairs, or entryways.

If someone is injured, you may be held liable for their medical expenses, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. Your home insurance offers protection against financial loss for claims, but preventing a claim in the first place is to your advantage. Many companies will raise rates or cancel policies depending on the situation.

Bursting pipes

To help reduce the risk to your home:

If you have any questions about your home insurance with Member Benefits, please contact us at 1-800-279-4030.

Boat or RV in your future?

Based on the type of item you purchase and the way you intend to use it, we can help you understand the best way to insure it. Many of these “toys” have unique needs, and your policy should be written accordingly.

Examples of recreational toys we cover include:

At risk: Are you taking a financial gamble with your current insurance coverage?

Risk and responsibility are part of our daily lives. We take a chance every time we get behind the wheel. Accidents happen in our homes. Sometimes people are sued for what they say or write.

And sometimes you are the one responsible. Are you confident your finances will be secure if the worst happens? You may be surprised at what your insurance actually covers—and doesn’t cover.

In the car

Auto liability insurance is required by law in most states. The two parts that are required are bodily injury and property damage liability coverage.

If you cause an accident that injures someone else, bodily injury liability protects you against claims up to the stated amounts for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

If you are at fault for damage to another person’s property, such as a car, its contents, or other property you damage in an accident, property damage liability coverage helps pay for their repairs.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, both the severity and the frequency of bodily injury as well as property damage claims have grown significantly in recent years. The increasing costs involved are affecting the price of auto insurance across the industry. In the two years ending in March 2016, for example, insurance claim costs rose 13%—more than 10 times the inflation rate.

Why so expensive? Several factors are at play. The cost of auto body work has risen nearly 40% more than prices overall since 2005. Repairs on newer cars are more complex and costly. People are driving more miles as unemployment rates are down. Medical costs continue to rise. While weather is variable, data shows there are rising claims in regions with more severe weather conditions. And finally—and what many consider to be a top danger on the road—the rise in distracted driving accidents, especially with cell phones, adds to the number of accidents and their seriousness.

Member Benefits recommends a minimum of $250,000/$500,000 (per person limit/per accident limit) for bodily injury and $100,000 for property damage. However, the costs you may owe in an at-fault accident can far exceed these limits.

At home

If someone falls down the stairs in your home and is injured, you could be sued for damages. Personal liability coverage is part of your home or renters insurance policy. It can include coverage for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, legal fees, and even death benefits if a guest has a fatal accident on your property. It also provides coverage for accidental damage you may cause on someone else’s property.

If you have a pool or backyard trampoline, you could be at risk. Even if someone comes over and uses them without your knowledge, you may be liable for any potential injury they may suffer—and your home insurance may not cover it.

Keep in mind that your home or renters policy will only pay up to the policy limit, so if you are found responsible for paying any negotiated or court determined damages, that amount could easily exceed your policy limits—putting your future earnings at risk. In recent court cases, certain plaintiffs have been awarded damages of several million dollars.

Get proper protection

Because typical auto and home policies can still leave you financially vulnerable, we recommend you also have personal liability insurance (umbrella insurance) for additional protection.

Umbrella insurance provides you with significant additional coverage at a very low cost. It can also provide protection for certain acts not covered by your home policy, such as false arrest or imprisonment, libel or slander, defamation of character, invasion of privacy, or wrongful eviction.

No one expects to be responsible for catastrophic loss, but it does happen. And the risks are very real, even if you carry the highest liability limits on your auto and home insurance.

Protect yourself. Contact us to review your current insurance and answer your questions about umbrella insurance by calling 1-800-279-4030. Or sign up for a personal consultation at

Clearing up claims confusion

We offer some clarity on the most common questions we receive—and where our coverage differs from other companies. Some of the answers may surprise you!

Auto Insurance

My car is a total loss. But I’ll get a brand new car, right?

The amount of coverage for your automobile is based on depreciation of the vehicle. So for example, if your 2005 Ford Escape is involved in a total loss accident, you will receive a settlement based on the value of a 2005 Ford Escape, not a brand new Ford Escape.

However, if you’re with Member Benefits and have a total loss of a new vehicle that is less than 180 days (6 months) old, are the original owner, and carry both collision and comprehensive coverages, we will pay the original purchase price of the vehicle.

Secondly, unless related to safety, auto parts are depreciable items. So, if your 2010 Honda Accord (or any car older than three model years) needs a bumper replaced due to an accident, insurance companies will typically pay for an aftermarket or reconditioned bumper, not a brand new one.

My friend borrowed my car and got in an at-fault accident. Why did my rates go up?

When you loan your car, you loan your insurance—so your rates could go up if someone has an accident with your car.

However, if you have been insured with Member Benefits five or more years with no accidents or tickets in the household, we will waive the accident surcharge even if someone borrowed your car with your permission.

I have Emergency Road Service, why can’t you help me?

Member Benefits’ Emergency Road Service is a reimbursement program, not an on-call program. While our program costs less, members are required to make their own towing arrangements.

If you become stranded on the road and have Emergency Road Service (towing and labor reimbursement coverage) on your Member Benefits auto policy, contact any local towing company and we will reimburse you for the cost up to the limit of your policy. The costs of parts or materials such as gas or tires are not included in the coverage.

I slid during a storm and hit a tree. Why is that my fault?

The difference between an at-fault and not-at-fault accident isn’t always clear cut. Sometimes even when a certain type of accident is considered not-at-fault, a surcharge may still apply. Contact us when you have questions about these situations. We’re happy to talk with you and give you answers.

Here are some examples of situations considered at-fault and not-at-fault.



Home Insurance

I have water in the basement. Is it covered by my home policy?

A sewer or drain backup is considered flooding. Flood insurance is a separate policy issued from the government. It is not part of your home insurance policy.

However, water damage due to drain and sewer backup or sump pump overflow may be covered if you’ve added a Water Damage (Sewers and Drains) endorsement to your Member Benefits’ policy.

In addition, water coming in through the foundation is considered flooding. Many people think of flooding as “surface” flooding, such as what occurs near rivers and lakes. But ground water coming in is flooding. This is the case with ALL home policies in the United States.

Member Benefits consultants can help you evaluate your need for flood coverage and explain how an endorsement works.

The sewer line between my house and the street broke. Now what?

Sewer/water lines that break outside of the home are not covered by home insurance, and municipalities consider this the responsibility of the homeowner. However, you may be able to purchase “service line” coverage through your municipality. Check to see if it’s available in your area.

I have bats in my house and it’s not even Halloween! Am I covered?

If you have bats in your attic or some other type of animal, we know it’s upsetting. But home policies exclude “infestations” like squirrels, bats, or even termites.

However, if the infestation causes a sudden and accidental event—for example, squirrels or mice chew on wires causing a fire, or termites cause a wall to collapse—those types of situations are covered.

My couch is ruined. Why won’t you pay for it?

Covered events that happen to your house are different than covered events that happen to your personal property. Coverage on your house is not restricted to specific events (although it is subject to possible exclusions). Coverage on your personal property is restricted to 18 specific “named perils.” If you have our home policy, please see pages 8 and 9, “Risks Insured Against.” For example:

There goes our old tree. Will you help pay to remove it?

Tree removal coverage is for the removal of trees following a windstorm event. If a tree just falls down with no accompanying storm, there is no coverage.

Generally speaking, if a tree in your yard is downed by a windstorm and causes damage to your home or other insured outbuildings, your home insurance will pay for damages up to your policy limit, as long as it fell because of a covered loss. (If it falls on your car, it’s typically covered by your auto insurance policy’s comprehensive coverage.)

If a tree is downed in your yard but doesn’t damage your home, car, or other building, Member Benefits will cover the cost of removing the tree—up to $1,500—subject to your deductible. Most insurers provide only $250 to $500 in coverage in this situation.

Deciphering deductibles

Some people think that once they pay their deductible, they don’t have to pay it again if they have another accident in the same policy period. However, an auto or home insurance deductible is not like a health insurance deductible—it is charged per occurrence, not annually.

Our auto insurance benefits

If you are found at-fault for an auto accident, most companies remove your accident-free discount and add an accident surcharge for three years. With Member Benefits, the accident surcharge lasts for only two years.

We also appreciate your loyalty. If you are in an at-fault accident and you have been insured with us for five or more years with no accidents or tickets in the household, we will waive the accident surcharge.

Member Benefits does not surcharge for not-at-fault accidents or for a comprehensive claim such as hitting a moving animal.

How will I pay for long-term care?

“Three years ago my wife required long-term care. I am very grateful we have this insurance because it has enabled my wife to receive the quality care she needs. If you don’t have long-term care insurance protection, you owe it to yourself and your family to at least learn what your options are from Member Benefits.” —Don Holmen, Retired Librarian, Waunakee School District

Member Benefits’ long-term care (LTC) insurance program has been helping Wisconsin public school employees and retirees figure out how to pay for LTC since 1998. No matter what your circumstances, we have a variety of solutions from different insurers to meet your needs.

There are some new options available this year:

We are hosting weekly webinars so you can learn about our new program from the comfort of your own home. Visit our seminars page for schedules and registration information.

Or if you prefer, one-hour individual consultations are available. Sign up here for a consultation. Spouses are also welcome to participate.