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New Tool Compares Medicare-for-All Proposals

One of the problems in DC is that, instead of working together to develop a plan to fix our broken health care system, nearly everyone develops their own plan so that they can take credit for it. That certainly seems to be the case among the nearly two dozen Democrats running for President. Most, but not all, support some version of Medicare expansion, but those who do support the idea are far from being on the same page.

Whether you personally agree with the idea of a single-payer healthcare system, an optional buy-in to Medicare, or some public health insurance program, you’re probably interested in the proposals that are being discussed. And even if you’re not, your clients are certainly interested, so it’s a good idea to figure out what’s going on.

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In an August 15, 2019 news release, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that, beginning with the 2020 Open Enrollment Period, CMS “will require the display of the five-star Quality Rating System (or star ratings) available nationwide for health plans offered on the Health Insurance Exchanges.”

Similar to the star ratings CMS currently uses on the Medicare.gov website and the Nursing Home Compare website, “consumers will be able to compare health coverage choices using a five-star quality rating of each plan on Exchange websites, including HealthCare.gov.”

CMS Administrator Seem Verma explains that this new feature is “part of the Trump Administration’s broader quality initiative” and says that the increased transparency will benefit consumers by providing them with the tools they need to make better healthcare decisions:

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How to Determine When Medicare is Primary

About a year ago, we posted an article about Medicare Premium Reimbursement Arrangements, which allow small employers to pay for the Medicare Part B, Part D, and supplement premiums for their active employees. As explained in the article, the employer cannot force older employees off of the group plan (they have the same enrollment rights as all other full-time employees), but it can often be a win-win solution for both the employer and the employee.

The one caveat mentioned in the article is that this strategy only works when Medicare is primary. The Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) rules kick in when a group has 20 or more employees (full- and part-time), and the MSP rules prohibit an employer from incentivizing an employee to drop off the group plan and sign up for Medicare.

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A Quick Update on All the Health Insurance Lawsuits

This is a weird time in the United States. Republicans and Democrats are at an impasse on healthcare; they can’t seem to agree on anything. But it’s worse than that. Each side seems to hate anything the other side proposes, and with a divided Congress, it’s pretty clear that we aren’t going to see any major bills to fix the current system anytime soon. None that have a chance at passing, anyway.

With their hopes of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act put on hold, Republicans are utilizing the other two branches of government—the executive and judicial branches—to dismantle the law.

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Health Care for Busy People

Everyone’s busy these days. And sometimes, the busy lifestyles we lead can have a negative effect on our health.  Busy people often fail to get enough sleep, skip breakfast, get stressed out while sitting in traffic, eat junk food during the day because it’s quicker and easier than eating healthy, don’t drink enough water while at work, skip the gym because they’re too tired or don’t have time, and, yes, fail to go to the doctor on a regular basis. Instead of taking care of themselves like they should, they wait until they get sick, and then they want a quick fix so they can get back to their busy lives.

The fact that people should probably slow down, take a breath, smell the roses, and relax more is a topic for another day. In this article, we’ll share some ideas that you can pass on to your busy clients so they can get the most out of their health plan and fit much-needed health care into their busy schedules. If you have difficulty scheduling a meeting with some of your clients because they never have any time, they might benefit from these ideas.

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What’s in Store for the ACA?

A presidential election year can seem like a time of uncertainty. The current President is trying to hang on to his job while other candidates—in this case, a couple dozen other candidates—are busy explaining all the things that they will change if they are able to unseat him. Other elected officials are up for re-election as well, so there are plenty of proposals and promises and criticisms and sound bites. With all of the noise, it’s easy to understand why people are unsure about what will happen in the months and years ahead.

Interestingly, though, the period we’re in right now, about 15 months before the 2020 election, is actually a time of stability in the health insurance industry. Why? Because very few major changes are likely to happen between now and the election. Everyone is talking about what they want to do, but in the meantime they’re not doing much of anything at all. We have a divided Congress that can’t agree on most issues and certainly not on health care, so there’s almost no chance that a bill expanding or repealing the ACA will make it to the President’s desk.

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The Internal Revenue Service has announced the 2020 deductible, out-of-pocket, and contribution limits for Health Savings Accounts.

Compared with 2019, the minimum deductible for people with single coverage increased by $50 from $1,350 to $1,400 while the minimum deductible for people with family coverage increased by $100 from $2,700 to $2,800. The out-of-pocket limit increased more significantly, from $6,750 to $6,900 for people with single coverage and from $13,500 to $13,800 for people with family coverage. That is still far less than the out-of-pocket limit for non-HSA plans in 2020.

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Do Visual Learners Buy Insurance Over the Phone?

In May, The Hill reported that “A crowd broke out into chants of ‘PowerPoint, PowerPoint, PowerPoint,’ at Democratic presidential hopeful and entrepreneur Andrew Yang’s” rally in Seattle after the candidate announced that he would use PowerPoint in his State of the Union address if he wins the election. Yang has admitted that his is “the nerdiest presidential campaign in history,” but clearly his idea has resonated with some voters.

Perhaps the reason people like the promise of a visual aid during a presidential speech is because, according to Forbes, “Humans are visual creatures” and “65 percent of us are visual learners.” That’s why infographics are so popular: because people understand pictures better than they do the written or spoken word. These sorts of visuals are useful tools when trying to explain difficult and abstract concepts, like those presented during a political campaign.

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Expanded Short Term Plans Get Green Light from Federal Judge

On Friday, July 19, a federal district court judge in DC sided with the Trump administration in its defense of a rule expanding short-term, limited duration health insurance plans to twelve months with the option to renew the coverage for up to three years. The plans had been limited to three months under the Obama administration, which thought they could weaken the individual markets, but, as Modern Healthcare explains, Judge Richard J. Leon believed the potential benefits outweighed the potential harm. He writes in his decision that “Not only is any potential negative impact from the 2018 rule minimal, but its benefits are undeniable.”

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Don’t Be Fooled by Non-Network Providers

As provider networks continue to shrink and more non-network facilities like free-standing emergency rooms pop up, it’s crucial that brokers explain the importance of staying in network to their clients.

Most brokers do, of course. As we present options to clients and prospects, we discuss the difference between more flexible but more costly PPO plans and less costly but more restrictive HMO plans. It’s a tradeoff; some clients choose a PPO for the larger provider pool while others are willing to go through the referral process in order to get a more competitive rate. In either case, most advisors stress that the in-network benefits are far better than any out-of-network benefits that are included in the plan.

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