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Anthem Blue Cross Forces Many Californians to Make Difficult Decisions

Posted by on 4:44 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Anthem Blue Cross Forces Many Californians to Make Difficult Decisions

It would be nearly impossible to avoid the news facing the health insurance world right now. As Congress continues to debate the merits and drawbacks of various replacements, the Affordable Care Act stands… But that doesn’t mean that things will continue exactly as they have been.

For one thing, there is no guarantee that the federal government will continue to fund subsidies that help to pay for premiums. That leaves our state lawmakers deciding what to do about the cost of health insurance plans offered through Covered California. Not only are premiums set to rise about 12.5 percent next year; California lawmakers are considering a 12.4 “CSR surcharge” to silver-level plans on top of that, if the federal government fails to fund subsidies next year.

The uncertainty is impacting health insurance providers as well. Anthem Blue Cross has just announced that they will pull out of much of California’s market, remaining only in Santa Clara County, parts of Northern California, and the Central Valley. About 153,000 Anthem customers, or nearly 10 percent of those enrolled in a health care plan through Covered California, will lose their provider. Luckily, for now most will still be able to choose from at least three other providers, depending upon their geographic area.

It’s not just happening in California. All over the nation, insurers are forced to reconsider their participation in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, or issue significant rate hikes.

It’s clear that Covered California and other states’ exchanges are facing some turmoil. In the meantime, remember that you don’t have to purchase your coverage through the exchange. If you’re one of the ten percent who will be affected by Anthem’s exit, or you just want to compare rates for the 2018 coverage year, we can help you decide if purchasing a plan on the private market would be right for you.

What Matters Most to Millennial Workers?

Posted by on 5:49 pm in Blog | 0 comments

What Matters Most to Millennial Workers?

After graduating college, Millennials approach the job market with a keen eye for the positions that best suit them. As an employer, you might be wondering how to attract young, recent graduates to your company. Obviously, that means putting together a comprehensive benefits package that appeals to the younger generations. But what benefits would those be, exactly?

First, it’s important to keep in mind that Americans currently hold 1.3 trillion dollars in student loan debt. With the cost of college skyrocketing, most Millennials are entering the workforce deeply in debt. Therefore, much of their concerns will be financially motivated, with an eye toward ensuring continued financial health.

When presenting benefits for your prospective workers, it might help to know that 35 percent of Millennials say that they have turned down a job due to insufficient insurance offerings (according to Anthem, Inc). Contrast that with 27 percent of Americans overall who have turned down a job for the same reasons, and it’s easy to see that Millennials care an awful lot about insurance! That might be contrary to what you were thinking about younger workers.

According to Anthem, the Millennial generation is actually more likely than the previous generation to engage in long-term financial planning. Not only are they considering issues such as health insurance ; Millennials are attracted to produces such as disability insurance. That might surprise you, but remember that this is a generation that often lives paycheck-to-paycheck, and they know that just one serious accident or illness could devastate them financially. Anthem found that of those Millennials who don’t currently have a disability insurance policy, 53 percent said it was because their company doesn’t offer it. Thirty-two percent said that it’s just too expensive.

Other voluntary insurance products might also be valued by this generation. Again, because they are living on a tight budget while repaying those student loans, most Millennials can’t afford the huge deductibles imposed by many health insurance plans. Voluntary insurance benefits are another idea to carefully consider when attempting to attract young, recent college graduates to your company.

Many employers make the mistake of offering trendy, wellness-focused options such as in-office massage or yoga classes. While there is certainly nothing wrong with these ideas, particularly since they do tend to lower stress and promote wellness, most business owners would be surprised to learn how practical and bottom-line driven the Millenial generation seems to be. As you put together a package of benefits to offer new workers, give us a call and we’ll walk you through the various benefit options that most appeal to younger workers.

Open Enrollment is Coming Sooner than You Might Think!

Posted by on 5:47 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Open Enrollment is Coming Sooner than You Might Think!

Open Enrollment for individual and family health insurance ended on January 31 of this year. So, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to your life circumstances or financial status, you won’t be able to make changes to your plan or enroll in a new health insurance plan until Open Enrollment begins again this fall.

How do you know if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period? Ask yourself whether your situation has changed with regard to the following areas:

  • You have gotten married or divorced
  • You have welcomed a new child into your family, through birth or adoption
  • Your income has changed significantly – especially if you’re now eligible for Medi-Cal
  • Your health insurance plan was canceled for any reason
  • You have moved into the state of California
  • You are a member of an American Indian or Eskimo tribe
  • …. and a few other situations relating to a change in household or income level

Unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you must wait until Open Enrollment in the fall, to switch health insurance plans.

These dates do not apply to group health insurance plans, which are provided through employers. Those plans are not subject to enrollment periods.

Open Enrollment begins November 1 of this year, and runs through January 31, 2018. However, if you want your insurance coverage to begin on January 1 of next year, you need to enroll in the plan of your choice by December 15, 2017. If you wait until January to select a policy, your plan won’t begin until February 1 if you apply by January 15, or March 1 if you apply between January 16 and 31.

It’s important to note that the Open Enrollment period is the same for all plans provided through Covered California, as well as all carriers not providing insurance through the exchange. So for those of you who aren’t sure which direction you want to go, make sure to get in touch with us as early as possible after November 1. We can help you compare policies and select the one that best meets your needs and budget.

How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up? Part Two

Posted by on 2:01 pm in Blog | 0 comments

How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up? Part Two

In California, 45 percent of people are covered by an employer-provided health insurance policy. But of course, having a policy and actually accessing it are two very different things! As with anything else in life, using a tool fully correctly is the key to reaping the most benefit from it. And when you think of health insurance as a tool for good health, it’s easy to see how simply being covered by a policy might not be adequate to actually keep workers healthy.

Last month, we blogged about how workers are actually using those benefits. We focused on one particular subset of workers, separated by income. This month, we’ll be discussing those who earn between $50,000 and $99,999 annually. We’re using stats gathered by Aflac, to understand how workers access their benefits, as well as how those benefits help you with employee recruitment and retention.

Productivity. Fifty percent say that their healthcare benefits are very or extremely important to their overall work productivity.

Retention. Still, though, 45 percent of these workers say they are “at least somewhat likely” to look for a new job in the coming year. How can you make them stay? Forty-one percent say that improving their health benefits package could make them want to stay at their current jobs.

It is possible that, although this demographic does have health insurance, their deductibles or co-pays create an obstacle to fully accessing those benefits.. In fact, 61 percent said that they have less than $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with a serious illness or accident. That might explain why 71 percent of respondents said that they be “at least somewhat likely” to purchase voluntary insurance options, if offered by their employer, to help with these expenses.

Other types of insurance. Since 88 percent of respondents reported that a benefits package is influential in helping them stay with their current employer, Aflac probed further to see which insurance benefits are most commonly offered.

    • 92 percent of these workers were offered a major medical insurance policy
    • 71 percent are offered life insurance
    • 56 percent are offered disability insurance
    • 22 percent are offered voluntary insurance

What can we learn from these stats? We already know that a comprehensive benefits package is one of the most important components of employee retention. But which benefits are most important? In the $50,000-$99,999 earnings range, we can see that many workers are concerned with their out-of-pocket costs. Meanwhile, most employers are not offering voluntary insurance packages to help lower that burden. So, while the vast majority of these workers do have health insurance, they aren’t necessarily fully satisfied with their benefits package.

For more information on health insurance, voluntary insurance, and other important components of a comprehensive benefits package, give us a call. We can identify ways to help your employees better access their healthcare policies, and promote a happier workplace for all.

6 Things to Do When You’re Sick on Vacation

Posted by on 8:58 pm in Blog | 0 comments

6 Things to Do When You’re Sick on Vacation

After you’ve spent weeks or months anticipating your vacation, the last thing you want is to get sick on the trip. Unfortunately, we can’t always control these things, and illness can strike when we least expect it.

As you’re planning for your trip, it’s best to contact your health insurance company and ask about coverage (especially if you’re going overseas). While packing your bags, you hopefully included some general over-the-counter remedies, just in case. But let’s assume you didn’t prepare for this outcome, and now you’re sick, far away from home. Follow these six steps to receive medical treatment and deal with your discomfort in the meantime.

Call your hotel concierge. It’s not widely advertised, but many hotels offer help to guests who become ill during their stay. Your concierge can refer you to a reputable clinic, provide basic first aid supplies, or direct you to the in-house pharmacy for over-the-counter medications.

Call your health insurance company. If you forgot to do this while planning your vacation, take the time to call your health insurance company now. Understanding your coverage limits can help you decide whether to seek treatment now, or attempt the return trip home. Of course, if you’re experiencing an emergency, skip this step and go straight to an urgent-care clinic or emergency room.

Remember your travel documents. Don’t panic and rush off to the clinic without taking your travel papers, health insurance card, and identification. Also, remember to bring any medications that you use on a regular basis. The doctor needs this information so that you can avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.

Drink plenty of water. No matter where we go, illness works about the same. Your body needs to stay hydrated, so keep a bottle of water near you and remember to sip on it.

Call your primary care physician. You still need to seek medical care in your current location. But if you’re worried about complications from a chronic condition, or an interaction with a drug you already take, checking with your regular doctor can put your mind at ease.

Consider a change of plans. If you need to get home immediately, upgrading to first class might make your flight more bearable. But with most common illnesses, it’s not necessary to return home. You might need to change your itinerary slightly, so that you can stay at your current hotel until you feel well enough to continue your travels.

How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up?

Posted by on 7:44 pm in Blog | 0 comments

How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up?

You might have heard that the majority of Americans now have health insurance, with California in particular boasting high numbers. In our state, 45 percent of people are covered by an employer-provided health insurance policy*. But how are your workers actually using their health benefits? We know that simply having a health insurance policy is only one piece to the overall healthcare puzzle.

Over the next few weeks we’ll share some stats with you, broken down by income range, to help you understand how your employees are actually accessing their benefits package. This week, we’ll be talking about workers earning less than $50,000 annually. These stats were gathered by Aflac, to understand how benefits influence factors like health, employee retention, and productivity.

Productivity. Fifty percent of these workers say that their healthcare benefits are very or extremely important to their overall work productivity.

Retention. Still, though, 55 percent of these workers say they are likely to look for a new job in the coming year. How can you make them stay? Thirty-eight percent say that improving their health benefits package could convince them.

It is possible that, although this demographic does have health insurance, their deductibles or co-pays might be creating a strain on their budgets. In fact, 82 percent said that they have less than $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with a serious illness or accident. That might explain why 74 percent of respondents said that they would consider voluntary insurance options, if offered by their employer, to help with these expenses.

Other types of insurance. Since 86 percent of respondents reported that a benefits package is influential in helping them stay with their current employer, Alfac probed further to see which insurance benefits are most commonly offered.

  • 88 percent of these workers were offered a major medical insurance policy
  • 58 percent are offered life insurance
  • 44 percent are offered disability insurance
  • 17 percent are offered voluntary insurance

What can we learn from these stats? We already know that a comprehensive benefits package is one of the most important components of employee retention. But which benefits are most important? In the under-$50,000 earnings range, we can see that many workers are concerned with their out-of-pocket costs, while most employers are not offering voluntary insurance packages to help lower that burden. So, while the vast majority of these workers do have health insurance, they aren’t necessarily fully satisfied with their benefits package.

For more information on health insurance, voluntary insurance, and other important components of a comprehensive benefits package, give us a call. We can identify ways to help your employees better access their healthcare policies, and promote a happier workplace for all.

*http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/total-population/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

6 Things to Know About Disability Insurance

Posted by on 11:04 pm in Blog | 0 comments

6 Things to Know About Disability Insurance

Most of us know that purchasing a life insurance policy is important, because it guarantees some form of income to your family in the event that something happens to you. But what if that “something” isn’t death, but a form of disability? A disability can come from an accident or it can come from an illness. Many people have found themselves unable to work due to disability. The medical bills roll in as well as your day to day living expenses. How do you replace that lost income? A disability insurance policy can protect you against this exact situation.

But of course, much like purchasing life insurance, choosing a disability insurance policy can feel a bit like navigating a maze of options. These six tips can help you sort them out.

Choose a reputable insurance company. If the company is no longer in business when you become disabled, that insurance policy won’t help you.

The definition of “total disability”. Before you can claim your benefits, your disability would need to fulfill your insurance company’s definition of “total disability”. Insurance companies vary in how they define total disability, so be sure to look closely at that part of the policy.

Consider the residual disability benefit rider. Most likely, you don’t want to become disabled and need to claim your benefits. So, like most people, you would probably fight to recover from an accident or serious illness. If you chose a residual disability benefit rider, you can claim a portion of your benefits while continuing to work, if your disability has resulted in a partial (but not total) loss of income.

If you already have a serious condition, your insurance options might be limited. Unfortunately, if you don’t shop for a policy until after you have developed a serious condition, you usually won’t be able to access full protection. It would be like shopping for flood insurance while your area is currently flooded! However, you might be able to enroll in a graded policy, in which your scope of benefits gradually increases the longer you are able to continue working.

Young people should consider the future increase rider. Let’s say you’re young and healthy, but you can’t afford a lot of coverage just yet. If you choose the future increase rider, you can increase your coverage amount later, when you’re making more money – without having to show proof of your health status.

Premiums will vary. As with any other form of insurance, your premiums are based on your level of risk. So your disability insurance premiums will be partially based on things like your age, sex, health history, occupation, and so on.

Choosing a disability insurance policy is a complicated process. The above tips can get you started, but nothing can replace the guidance of an expert. So give us a call, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions, and help you locate the policy that fits your needs and budget.

Healthy Employees are Happy, Productive Employees

Posted by on 9:19 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Healthy Employees are Happy, Productive Employees

As an employer, you know that healthy employees feel more satisfied with their jobs, are more productive, and miss fewer days of work. That’s why you provide them with a quality healthcare plan, and possibly even supplemental policies for dental and vision care.

But those plans don’t exist solely to “fix” health problems. They are designed to provide routine preventive care, so that many problems can be avoided. The problem is, many people never bother to become familiar with their healthcare plans until they’re sick, and therefore aren’t aware of how to best harness the power of these preventive care benefits.

It’s easy to see that taking one day off of work for routine preventive care is far better than a week due to illness or medical treatment! But because most people view healthcare in terms of “fixing” instead of “preventing” it’s important to familiarize your workers with their healthcare benefits, and encourage them to use those perks wisely.

Routine physical. All medical plans offer an annual physical to enrollees, at no charge. Remind your employees to schedule their physicals, so that chronic medical problems can be detected and treated early (or prevented altogether).

Dental exams and cleanings. If you subscribe to a dental health plan, it probably offers free bi-annual exams and cleanings. Not only does routine dental care prevent serious dental problems, an exam can detect other health issues like:

  • diabetes
  • leukemia
  • oral cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • bone loss

Vision care. Obviously, an annual eye exam can detect changes in vision, which might impair workers on the job, increase the likelihood of accidents, and cause frequent headaches. But you might be surprised to know that an eye exam can often the first time that problems such as brain tumors and developing diabetes are detected!

What you should do… In meetings, newsletters, or other forms of communication with employees, regularly remind them of their preventive care benefits. You’re paying for a quality plan, to help them stay healthy, so you might as well reap the maximum benefits! If you’re unsure of your plan’s coverage of preventive care, give us a call and we’ll help you sort it out.

What’s Next for Healthcare Reform?

Posted by on 7:58 pm in Blog | 0 comments

What’s Next for Healthcare Reform?

Last month, Republican efforts to revise parts of the Affordable Care Act seemed to fail, as the American Health Care Act was withdrawn due to lack of sufficient support. Now that President Trump’s long-promised healthcare reform policy has faltered, you might be wondering what is coming next.

The ACA stands for now. Without reform or replacement, all parts of the Affordable Care Act remain law. At the moment your health insurance plan is expected to remain unchanged.

The debate is far from over. Even though the AHCA failed as a whole, Republican lawmakers still express concern over various aspects of the nation’s healthcare. It is likely they will continue to pursue action in some, or all, of the following areas:

  • Regulatory relief – to help stabilize the individual marketplace
  • Regulatory non-enforcement – certain aspects of the ACA, which are heavily criticized (such as the Individual Mandate), might not be enforced by the current Administration
  • Tax Reform – President Trump and other Republican lawmakers have stated that tax reform is their next high-priority issue. It is possible that some of the tax regulations associated with the ACA could be changed or repealed
  • Piecemeal legislation – the AHCA failed primarily because a majority of Congressional representatives could not agree on its various components. But we could see individual reforms pass through the House and Senate one at a time
  • Increased power to the states – the Administration might defer certain reform issues to the states, to be decided individually as they see fit

Also keep an eye on these issues. At this time of year, insurers begin to submit their healthcare plans for review, to determine whether they will participate in the healthcare Marketplace in 2018. With the ACA standing for now, insurers will be required to comply with current regulations, as they have for the past several years.

We’ll keep you updated on any changes to healthcare on a nationwide or statewide level. For now, we anticipate the possibility for small changes throughout the year, but for now your healthcare plan is expected to remain mostly the same for 2018.

Protect Your Employees With a Health Reimbursement Arrangement

Posted by on 1:57 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Protect Your Employees With a Health Reimbursement Arrangement

Perhaps for one reason or another, you can’t provide your employees with a group health insurance plan. Luckily, they can purchase a plan on their own or through the Covered California exchange. But… maybe they have trouble covering the premiums. Maybe they need a prescription medication, device, or service not covered by the insurance plan. Now what?

Whatever the situation, these problems can frustrate your employees. They might also have trouble staying healthy, and that’s a problem that can carry over to the workplace. You want to help your employees, and ensure that they can access benefits they need. But how?

A Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) might be the answer to your quandary. Due to federal regulations passed in December, small businesses can access this provision to help care for their employees, if you meet the following requirements:

  • You employ fewer than 50 full-time workers
  • You do not offer a group health insurance plan
  • You will offer the HRA to all full-time employees, on the same terms

How an QSEHRA works. A Health Reimbursement Arrangement allows you to make contributions to a tax-advantaged account. That money is used to reimburse the worker for eligible healthcare-related expenses, like their premiums.

How an HRA benefits you. You can offer this valuable benefit to employees, without having to pay payroll taxes on your contributions to the account. They don’t pay taxes on the contributions, either. And of course, happy, healthy employees are always a benefit!

An HRA might be subject to limits. Under Small Business HRA rules, you can contribute up to $4,950 for a single employee and $10,000 for those with families. These limits may be adjusted in the future to account for inflation.

Even if you can’t afford to fully fund a group health insurance plan, you can help your employees pay for their own plans (and keep them happy and healthy at the same time). As with any other health insurance related issue, QSEHRAs can be complex and often require some explaining. Give us a call if you have questions, and we can help you decide if this type of benefit is right for your company.