Personal Finance

Don't be duped by these insurance myths. It can be costly

Key Points
  • Many Americans falsely believe the individual mandate for health insurance is no longer in effect.
  • They also don't realize what kind of insurance covers certain items.
  • These mistakes can be costly.

What you don't know about insurance policies can cost you. That's the new finding from a national survey by comparison website insuranceQuotes.

"Reading your insurance policy can be kind of boring, but you need to be well informed," said Jason Hargraves, the company's managing editor.

For example, you might think you're covered when you're not, or you might not fully realize all the benefits to which you're entitled.

Here are some insurance myths that need debunking.

Health insurance

Around 60 percent of Americans don't realize that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate requirement is still in effect for 2018, the report found. This misunderstanding probably stems from the fact that the massive tax overhaul passed toward the end of 2017 did repeal enforcement of the mandate, which required most Americans to buy health insurance or else face a penalty.

However, the important part to remember is that the mandate's enforcement remains in place until 2019. And even then, it's not exactly clear how the change will play out, Hargraves said.

If you've decided to forgo coverage, you could find an unpleasant bill waiting for you at tax season. (In 2017, adults who didn't have health insurance typically had to pay around $700, Hargraves said).

Another 40 percent of Americans didn't know that being a smoker would push up their premium costs. Hargraves said to never lie about whether you smoke or not. "It's easy to click the box that you're not a smoker, but that can come back to haunt you," he said, adding that some people lose all coverage for doing so.

Homeowner's insurance

The median price of a home in Boston is more than 70 percent higher than the national figure. Here, the Beaconsfield Terrace town houses in Brookline, Massachusetts.
David L. Ryan | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Almost half of people don't realize that the standard homeowner policy doesn't cover damage done by pests, such as termites and rodents, the insuranceQuotes survey found.

"If you discover you have termites, that's a bad deal," he said.

Also, Hargraves said many people don't know that if someone comes over to their house and gets injured, their homeowner's insurance generally will pay some of the person's medical costs.

However, "if you fall and break your leg, you're on your own," he said.

Auto insurance

Source: Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Many Americans also don't realize that items stolen from a vehicle is covered by standard homeowner's insurance — not auto insurance, Hargraves said. Some renter's insurance policies will also cover such losses.

He said some people go without renter's insurance, because they don't understand how much it comes into play. "And it can be as little as $15 a month," he said.

Another misconception: if your friend gets into an accident while driving your vehicle, your policy is repsonsible.

Most Americans also do not know that women pay less on average for auto insurance. That's because some states allow insurers to base their rates, in part, on gender, and, Hargraves said, "There tends to be a belief that women are less likely to speed."

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