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Changes Coming to Health Insurance in 2018

Posted by on 5:40 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Changes Coming to Health Insurance in 2018

 

Throughout most of 2017 we all watched anxiously as Congress and President Trump debated different methods of repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act. Now October has arrived, a repeal plan never passed, there is no replacement, and Open Enrollment looms next month. The Affordable Care Act stands for now.

But that doesn’t mean a lack of changes to the industry. The following events were already scheduled to occur, and so far it looks like everything will proceed as expected.

Rates for children will change. Currently, a family plan covers you, your spouse, and all of your children (up to age 26). The premiums were the same no matter if your child was a newborn or 20 years old.

In 2018, premiums will be based upon a family with children age 0 to 14. If you have children age 15 and up, premiums will be rated based on their ages, and might rise between 20 and 40 percent.

A new tax hits insurance carriers. The Health Insurance Tax (HIT) was included in the Affordable Care Act as a form of “sales tax” on premiums, but Congress opted to delay it until 2018. Now, with 2018 rapidly approaching, health insurance providers will have to decide how to account for the tax. A 4-6% HIT on insurance plans sold.

Many experts have estimated that the cost will be passed along to consumers, with the average cost of a family insurance plan increasing by 5,000 to 7,000 dollars over the next decade. Premiums for individuals may increase by over 2,000 dollars per year.

New Medicare ID cards will be distributed. These cards will no longer display your Social Security number, due to concerns over theft and fraud related to widespread use of these numbers. You will now be issued a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) number. Your new card will be mailed to you automatically, so be very wary of anyone who calls and offers to “help” process your card. Fraudsters are sure to take advantage of the change, and attempt to gain access to your Social Security number via fraudulent calls or emails.

We will continue to keep you updated on changes to the insurance industry. Remember that you can always call us with any questions or concerns, and we will help you determine which (and how) changes might affect you.

Employers: You Must Do This by October 15

Posted by on 5:48 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Employers: You Must Do This by October 15

Are you an employer, providing group health benefits that offers prescription drug coverage? Are any of your employees aged 65 or older, or are any of their dependents disabled? Do you provide group healthcare benefits to retired employees, aged 65 or older? Are any former employees disabled, or on COBRA coverage?

Okay, you need to pay very close attention to this notice.

According to the Medicare Modernization Act, you must notify your Medicare-eligible employees, by October 15, as to whether their prescription drug coverage is “creditable coverage”. This rule applies to both employees who are eligible for Medicare, as well as their dependents, if any.

So, who is “Medicare eligible”? We all become eligible for Medicare when we turn 65, so this notice applies to any of your employees who are currently age 65 or older.

What is “creditable coverage”? It means that a particular healthcare plan is expected to pay (on average) at least as much as standard Medicare Part D coverage. This allows your Medicare-eligible employee to make a decision as to whether enrolling in a Part D plan might benefit them.

If your employee has a lapse in “creditable” prescription drug coverage after turning 65, that lasts for more 63 days or longer, he or she could be penalized. They will also have to wait until the following October (the Annual Election Period) to join a Part D plan. So, your employees who are eligible for Part D really need to know whether their current coverage is creditable or not. This way they can make a decision regarding Part D coverage, without incurring a late enrollment penalty.

You also must notify CMS. You must also notify the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Coverage (CMS) that you have sent these Part D notices to your employees. This notice is due within 60 days of the start of the plan year… So you don’t have to send it now, but it might be better to get it out of the way quickly, before end-of-year business distracts you.

So, on that note, give us a call if you have questions about this Part D notice. We can help you understand what you need to do, so that you can comply adequately with the law. Remember, you must send this notice by October 15.

Streamline Your Human Resources Services

Posted by on 6:11 am in Blog | 0 comments

Streamline Your Human Resources Services

Business managers must navigate a myriad of legal and personnel hurdles, ranging from health insurance regulations to sick leave to various employee relations quandaries. It’s en enormous job for one person, or even several people, to handle efficiently. Missteps can have disastrous consequences, but legal jargon can be confusing and time-consuming to interpret. What if you could outsource that work to a team of experts, who already specialize in these topics?

As part of our continued dedication to helping your business succeed, we offer unlimited HR services. Are you taking full advantage of this opportunity? Or would you like to learn more about it? Read on to discover how our HR professionals can help streamline your own services.

Consulting. Have a human resources question? You can access expert help right away, either online or over the phone. You can even use our Ticket Tracker feature to learn when your questions will be answered.

Free training sessions. Each quarter, you can opt in to a free interactive webinar that will teach you appropriate prevention strategies and legal practices for dealing with sexual harassment cases, as well as racial and ability-based discrimination.

Customizable documents. Our team can create and update your employee handbooks, employee descriptions, form letters, and more.

Compliance. One-on-one consultations with our HR Pros help to ensure that your business is legally compliant and protected.

Live Chat. Not sure what you need? Just live chat with our HR Concierge, to identify the HR tools you need. Then the Concierge will connect you with the appropriate member of our service team.

We’re proud of our HR Pros team for a reason: 98 percent of our clients said they would recommend our services to others! To learn more about how the service works, and the numerous different ways we could help you, give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

It’s Almost Time to Renew Your Health Insurance Plan

Posted by on 1:04 am in Blog | 0 comments

It’s Almost Time to Renew Your Health Insurance Plan

As summer comes to a close, things are firing on all cylinders in the health insurance world. We’re getting ready to serve you during this year’s enrollment periods. Health insurance enrollment is one of the most important aspects of your financial life, but we know it’s also a bit stressful. This brief guide should help you determine your next steps.

 

Health Insurance Open Enrollment…

 

Open Enrollment for all health insurance plans (except for Medicare) begins November 1 and lasts until January 31, 2018. It’s important to note this year’s more brief enrollment period. Make any necessary changes by January 31st.

From now until November 1, gather your medical bills and evaluate the past year’s spending. Would it make sense to switch to a lower-deductible, higher-premium plan – or vice versa?

Also watch for notices from your health insurance company. They will tell you if, and more importantly how, your current plan is changing. You might even wish to speak to your primary care physician about your coverage limits, so that you can decide whether a new healthcare plan might be a better fit for your needs. Then give us a call so we can help you compare policies.
If you’re enrolled in a Covered California plan…

Even if you want to keep your current plan, you still need to log into the system and update your household and financial information. You need to do this so that your subsidy, if you receive one, can be calculated correctly.

 

If you’re on Medicare…

 

Your Annual Election Period runs from October 15 to December 7. During this time you can drop a plan, add a plan, or switch from one plan into another. Changes take effect on January 1.

You can make some changes between January 1 and February 14. If you change your mind about a Medicare Advantage plan, you can drop it and go back to Original Medicare during this time. If you do go back to Original Medicare, you can add a Part D plan during this period.

Late enrollment starts January 1 and lasts until March 31. If you forgot to sign up for Medicare during your original eligibility period when you turned 65, you can do that now. Keep in mind that you might be charged a late penalty, and coverage won’t start until July 1.

If you decide to keep your current Medicare plan(s), you don’t have to do anything at all. They will automatically renew, although your premiums or coverage might change. Watch your mail for notices from Medicare, detailing these changes.

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