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Transitional Plans Extended One More Year

On Monday, April 9, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that the transitional plans in the individual and small group markets, also known as “grandmothered” plans, will be extended one more year through the end of 2019. This is welcome news for clients who currently have a transitional policy, but it does feel a bit like the government is crying wolf. Every year, clients worry that they will need to search for another solution since they are likely to see their rates increase if they are forced to move to an ACA-compliant metallic plan, and every year they learn that they can hang on to their current coverage a little longer. This year is no different.

4 Great Reasons to Help People (even if you won’t receive commission)

We all work for a paycheck, and most of us can’t afford to do a lot of pro-bono work. That said, there can be some real benefits to helping people even when you won’t be paid for the sale. Below are just a few examples, and all point to the fact that when you focus on taking care of the client, the money will take care of itself.

Short Term Plans May Soon Be Longer

On February 20, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services issued proposed regulations that would extend the maximum coverage period for short-term plans from three months to twelve months. The rule change comes at the request of President Trump, whose October 12 executive order encouraged the Secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law, to expand the availability of STLDI” (short-term, limited-duration insurance).

Overcoming Consumer Apathy when Selling Health Insurance

Here’s a question: How much time should agents spend trying to convince people that they need health insurance?

As an insurance professional, you no doubt recognize the importance of having health coverage for yourself and your family. The primary reason to purchase insurance, of course, is to protect against potentially catastrophic claims in the event of a serious and unexpected injury or illness. While a fortunate few are able to pay tens of thousands of dollars for medical care, a big hospital bill would create financial hardship for the majority of Americans.

New Medicare Cards are Coming Soon!

Have you heard the news? Medicare beneficiaries will soon be receiving new Medicare cards with a new Medicare number. A 2015 law requires CMS to remove Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019 and replace them with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The new cards will be sent out over a 12-month period beginning this April.

CHIP FINALLY Gets Reauthorized

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, has been in the news recently as lawmakers debate the future of this popular safety net program for children of lower-income families. The program, which has been around since 1997, has enjoyed nearly universal bipartisan support from the beginning, but that support has come into question recently as Congress allowed funding for CHIP to expire four months ago and seemed to be in no hurry to reauthorize it. As worried parents waited to see what our lawmakers would do, CHIP reauthorization took a back seat to tax reform.

CHIP is a federally funded program with state oversight and administration. While eligibility and benefits vary by state, families with incomes up to 200% and in some states 400% of the federal poverty level may qualify, and a single low monthly premium usually covers all children in the household.

Medicare Premiums Vary By Income

If you sell Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage plans, or Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, you’ve probably been asked on multiple occasions how much Medicare Part B costs. If you’re like a lot of agents, you may have answered with the standard Part B premium amount, which is $134 per month in 2018. This can be dangerous.

It turns out that the amount people pay for both Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D can vary wildly by income, so before giving a generic answer with the cost that applies to most Medicare recipients, you should ask a couple questions. Better yet, you can simply provide your clients with the information about how Part B and Part D premiums are determined and then let them answer the question themselves.

Congress Postpones Three ACA Taxes

For the past several years, the insurance industry has been urging Congress to eliminate three unpopular taxes that were designed to help pay for the Affordable Care Act. They finally listened… sort of. While the taxes have not been eliminated, the House and Senate did vote to postpone the Health Insurance Tax (HIT), the tax on High Cost Health Plans, better known as the Cadillac Tax, and the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Tax. This was part of the January 22 deal to keep the government open for three weeks. The same bill also reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) for six years.

Medicare Part D Notification Requirements for Your Group Clients

If you sell group health insurance, there are a couple Medicare notification requirements your clients need to be aware of. The law requires that companies whose group health plans include prescription drug coverage to notify Medicare-eligible policyholders whether their prescription drug benefit is “creditable,” which means that the coverage is expected to pay on average as much as the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage.

For these employers, there are two annual disclosure requirements, explained in the next two sections.

Dependent Rates Soar in 2018

As you probably noticed during this year’s open enrollment period, the rates for children under age 21 have increased significantly, forcing many clients to ask if there’s another option. This is true for both individual and small group plans, and its cause dates back to some regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in December of 2016.

Each year, HHS publishes its Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters, and the 2018 version of this notice was released about thirteen months ago. In it, HHS changed the federal age curve for the first time since the Affordable Care Act became law. Specifically, the age curve changed for people age 20 and under who have coverage in the individual and small group markets.

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