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Your insurance in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy

Americans have been profoundly changed since the tragic events of Sept. 11. If you have felt confronted with uncertainty about the future and have asked the question "What if that were me?" you are not alone.

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Applications for life insurance jumped drastically from September to October 2001.

The MIB Group, which maintains a database used by insurers to help evaluate life insurance policy applications, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of inquiries about its records — a sure sign that more Americans are applying for life insurance.

According to the MIB, inquiries — and thus applications for life insurance — jumped drastically from September to October 2001 and have remained higher ever since. MIB inquiries were up 26 percent in October and are 8 percent higher for October and November of 2001 than they were in 2000.

The silver lining is that the renewed interest in life insurance comes at a time when premium prices for term life insurance are relatively inexpensive.

In September, Insure.com, a comparative quoting Web site and the parent company of Insure.com, polled the 90 life insurance companies that sell policies through its site and concluded that premiums had reached historically low levels.

According to Willard Hemsworth, senior vice president of marketing for Insure.com, premiums have been decreasing since at least 1997. "I wouldn't call it a 'price war,' but it is a very competitive market," he says.

"If you don't have adequate life insurance, the fact that it is less expensive today than ever before should be the last incentive you need."

Jack Dolan, a spokesperson for the American Council of Life Insurers, says, "If you don't have adequate life insurance, the fact that it is less expensive today than ever before should be the last incentive you need."

Read 10 ways to save money on life insurance and use the Insure.com Life Insurance Needs Estimator to help determine how much life insurance you need.

Unemployment and health insurance

In addition to shaking America's psyche, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 accelerated the nation's economic deterioration.

According to a report issued by the consumer health organization Families USA, from September 2001 to October 2001, the national unemployment rate jumped from 4.9 percent to 5.4 percent, the largest one-month increase since February 1986. The week ending Sept. 29, 2001, also saw 528,000 new unemployment claims across the country, the highest number of new weekly claims since July 1992.

If you've lost your job as a result of the economic downturn, or are afraid you might, don't let worries about losing your health coverage ruin your health. You could be eligible for the continuation of your benefits.

A federal law known as COBRA (short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) can cover the gap between group health plans for qualified workers, their spouses, and their dependent children.

From September 2001 to October 2001, the national unemployment rate jumped from 4.9 percent to 5.4 percent.

While COBRA coverage can be expensive — an average of $7,194 per year, or $600 per month for a family, according to Families USA — you'll want to think twice about passing on the protection it offers. Read Know your COBRA rights for more COBRA information.

Additionally, HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guarantees that people who have had continuous health coverage — meaning without a gap of more than 63 days — can't be denied group health insurance even if they have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes. But if you forgo COBRA and wind up with a three-month gap in your coverage, you would lose your HIPAA protection when you later decide to buy insurance. Read more about The HIPAA law.

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