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Medicare Changes for 2019

Each year, Medicare makes changes to the Part A and B out-of-pocket expenses, monthly premium for Part B, and premium adjustment thresholds for Part B and Part D. Here are the figures for 2019.

Cost Sharing

Medicare Part A requires beneficiaries to pay a portion of the cost of hospital and skilled nursing stays.

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Are you teaching your kids the business?

Most of us didn’t grow up wanting to be insurance agents. Instead, the majority of insurance professionals found their way into the business by accident. There are a million stories, but what we’ve heard again and again from brokers across the country is that 1) they sort of stumbled into the industry, 2) now that they’re here, they really like it and don’t want to leave, and 3) they wish they had started when they were younger.

That brings up an interesting question: are you teaching your kids the business? And if not, why not?

There are all sorts of things that make health insurance an excellent career choice.

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Don’t Give Clients Options, Give Them Guidance

There’s been a trend in the insurance industry over the past few years. Brokers across the country have invested in technology that allows them to quickly and easily provide quotes to clients in an “apples to apples” format so that the client can make a buying decision, often without any additional input from the agent. Many agents even have quote engines on their website that allow clients to run the quotes and apply for coverage on their own without ever talking with the broker. With today’s tools, brokers can literally sell insurance in their sleep.

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On January 5 of last year, we published an article about the proposed merger between CVS Health and Aetna. One year later, the acquisition of Aetna by CVS has been finalized and the two companies are now one.

Clearly, this deal was different than the big Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna mergers that ended up falling through a couple years ago. In both of those proposed deals, two insurance giants would have joined forces, which is part of the reason the Department of Justice intervened. Federal officials were worried about reducing competition and limiting consumer choice.

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A Creative Way to get Individual Clients

One thing we learned from the 2019 open enrollment period is that the government’s outreach efforts are coming up short. Marketplace enrollment was down this year, and that corresponds with a huge 90 percent reduction in the marketing budget for Healthcare.gov.

For agents, that’s actually a good thing. If it were as simple as taking orders, the government and the insurance companies wouldn’t need us. In our current system, though, many people will go without coverage unless an agent shows them their options and explains the importance of having health insurance.

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Understanding Facility Copayments

Most of us understand what a copayment is, right? It’s a fixed dollar amount that the insured pays for certain covered services on a health plan before benefits are paid by the plan. Usually, but not always, benefits that apply these copayments, or copays for short, are paid before the calendar-year deductible has been met and after the copay has been paid by the insured. Some HSA-qualified plans, though, do have copayments for prescriptions that kick in after the deductible has been met.

When discussing how their health plan works with our clients, the conversation might go something like this.

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Surprise Medical Bills

Not everyone likes surprises. And not all surprises are good. Take surprise medical bills, for instance—it seems that nobody is happy to receive one of those in the mail. Unfortunately, they’re more and more common these days, and that means you should prepare your clients in case they receive a surprise bill following a medical procedure.

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A different way to think about HSAs

From our conversations with agents and brokers across the country, we’ve found that most insurance professionals are big fans of Health Savings Accounts. They understand that an HSA is a great way for people to take control of their healthcare and ensure that they have the funds available for any medical needs that may arise in the future. They also believe that overpaying for insurance is often a mistake and it can be a better solution for some individuals to purchase less coverage and deposit the premium savings into a tax-advantaged account like an HSA.

Those same agents and brokers, though, report that many of their clients don’t understand Health Savings Accounts and would prefer a plan with up-front copayments for doctor visits and prescriptions. It’s strange, isn’t it, that agents sometimes have trouble selling their clients on a solution that they’ve chosen for their own families?

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Medicare Plan F is Being Eliminated

If you sell Medicare supplements, you may have heard that Medigap plans C and F are being eliminated in 2020. Since that’s just over a year away, and because Medigap Plan F is the most popular Medicare supplement plan, you’ll probably start getting some questions from your Medicare-eligible (and near-eligible) clients. Here are a few short-and-sweet answers to some of the more common questions.

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What the Mid-Terms Mean for the Health Insurance Debate

The 2018 mid-term election is over, and, as many expected, Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives. The incumbent party normally loses seats in the mid-terms, making the last two years of a President’s four-year term a bit more challenging than the first two. For the first time in the Trump presidency, there will be a divided congress. This means one of two things: 1) the two sides will work together and pass legislation on a bi-partisan basis, or 2) very little will get done from a legislative standpoint. Most are putting their money on the second option—there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for compromise inside the Beltway right now.

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