Tag Archives: Health Insurance

Marital Bliss and an Insurance Review

 

Bride and groom running along beach

Whether you are tying the knot this summer, or have recently exchanged wedding vows, the Reno Agency has some tips for the newlyweds.

 

Marriage is a great time to re-evaluate your insurance coverage to make sure you are appropriately covered, and to take advantage of all the discounts you are now eligible for. Here are a few areas to look at once you have tied the knot:

 

Auto Insurance – If both you and your spouse have vehicles, talk to your agent to combine your insurance policies and take advantage of the multi-car discount. Marital status may also help reduce your premium, so make sure to add your spouse’s information to your policy.

 

 

Home or Renter’s Insurance – Now that you are married, it is important to protect your new home together. Have your agent review your policy to make sure your homeowners or renter’s policy protects both of you in terms of personal possessions and liability coverage.

 

If you and your spouse purchased a home, insure your home and autos with the same company to receive the multi-policy discount. If you and your spouse are renting, get a renter’s insurance policy to qualify for this discount. Renter’s insurance is more affordable than many might think. Read, “4 Lessons to School Millennials on Renter’s Insurance,” for more information.

 

 

Life Insurance – Marriage means having someone you can depend on for life. Knowing you depend upon each other means you should consider a life insurance policy. Life insurance is important to have if you have debt (credit cards, medical bills, etc), own a home with a mortgage, are planning on having children, or if you want to plan ahead while you are in good health.

 

There are different types of life insurance policies (Term, Whole, Universal), so make sure to consult your agent on which type(s) are best for you.

 

 

Health Insurance – Save money and consolidate your health insurance into one plan! Marriage is oftentimes a qualifying life event that allows you to make changes to your insurance policy. If both of your employers offer health insurance, choose the better plan.

 

 

Planning a wedding can be stressful enough. Don’t let insurance stress you out further. Update your insurance policies early and enjoy marital bliss.

 

If you need assistance with your insurance policies, call the Reno Agency at 269.792.2232 or toll-free at 877.774.7366.

Healthcare Changes Ahead: Helpful Information

Are you wondering how the health care reform law (the Affordable Care Act) will impact you or your business? I have compiled a few resources to help you learn what to expect.

 

For Individuals:

HealthCare.gov

is an excellent source to learn about what will be changing and when you can expect those changes to occur. Here is a breakdown of the changes ahead for 2013 and beyond, as listed on http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/full.html.

2013

IMPROVING QUALITY AND LOWERING COSTS

  • Improving Preventive Health Coverage. To expand the number of Americans receiving preventive care, the law provides new funding to state Medicaid programs that choose to cover preventive services for patients at little or no cost. Effective January 1, 2013.Learn more about the law and preventive care.
  • Expanding Authority to Bundle Payments. The law establishes a national pilot program to encourage hospitals, doctors, and other providers to work together to improve the coordination and quality of patient care.  Under payment “bundling,” hospitals, doctors, and providers are paid a flat rate for an episode of care rather than the current fragmented system where each service or test or bundles of items or services are billed separately to Medicare.  For example, instead of a surgical procedure generating multiple claims from multiple providers, the entire team is compensated with a “bundled” payment that provides incentives to deliver health care services more efficiently while maintaining or improving quality of care.  It aligns the incentives of those delivering care, and savings are shared between providers and the Medicare program. Effective no later than January 1, 2013.

 

INCREASING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE CARE

  • Increasing Medicaid Payments for Primary Care Doctors. As Medicaid programs and providers prepare to cover more patients in 2014, the Act requires states to pay primary care physicians no less than 100% of Medicare payment rates in 2013 and 2014 for primary care services. The increase is fully funded by the federal government. Effective January 1, 2013.Learn how the law supports and strengthens primary care providers.
  • Providing Additional Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Under the law, states will receive two more years of funding to continue coverage for children not eligible for Medicaid. Effective October 1, 2013.Learn more about CHIP.

2014

NEW CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

A chain of blue paper dolls forms a circle with one orange paper doll
  • Prohibiting Discrimination Due to Pre-Existing Conditions or Gender. The law implements strong reforms that prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing conditions. Also, in the individual and small group market, the law eliminates the ability of insurance companies to charge higher rates due to gender or health status. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions.
  • Eliminating Annual Limits on Insurance Coverage. The law prohibits new plans and existing group plans from imposing annual dollar limits on the amount of coverage an individual may receive. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn how the law will phase out annual limits by 2014.
  • Ensuring Coverage for Individuals Participating in Clinical Trials. Insurers will be prohibited from dropping or limiting coverage because an individual chooses to participate in a clinical trial.  Applies to all clinical trials that treat cancer or other life-threatening diseases. Effective January 1, 2014. 

 

IMPROVING QUALITY AND LOWERING COSTS

  • Making Care More Affordable. Tax credits to make it easier for the middle class to afford insurance will become available for people with income between 100% and 400% of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage. (In 2010, 400% of the poverty line comes out to about $43,000 for an individual or $88,000 for a family of four.) The tax credit is advanceable, so it can lower your premium payments each month, rather than making you wait for tax time. It’s also refundable, so even moderate-income families can receive the full benefit of the credit. These individuals may also qualify for reduced cost-sharing (copayments, co-insurance, and deductibles). Effective January 1, 2014. Learn how the law will make care more affordable in 2014.
  • Establishingthe Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting in 2014 if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, you will be able to buy it directly in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Individuals and small businesses can buy affordable and qualified health benefit plans in this new transparent and competitive insurance marketplace. The Marketplace will offer you a choice of health plans that meet certain benefits and cost standards. Starting in 2014, Members of Congress will be getting their health care insurance through the Marketplace, and you will be able buy your insurance through Marketplace too. Learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • Simple comparison of two coverage options
  • Increasing the Small Business Tax Credit. The law implements the second phase of the small business tax credit for qualified small businesses and small non-profit organizations. In this phase, the credit is up to 50% of the employer’s contribution to provide health insurance for employees.  There is also up to a 35% credit for small non-profit organizations.  Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about the small business tax credit.

 

INCREASING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE CARE

  • Increasing Access to Medicaid. Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. States will receive 100% federal funding for the first three years to support this expanded coverage, phasing to 90% federal funding in subsequent years. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about Medicaid.
  • Promoting Individual Responsibility. Under the law, most individuals who can afford it will be required to obtain basic health insurance coverage or pay a fee to help offset the costs of caring for uninsured Americans.  If affordable coverage is not available to an individual, he or she will be eligible for an exemption. Effective January 1, 2014.Learn more about individual responsibility and the law.

2015

IMPROVING QUALITY AND LOWERING COSTS

  • Paying Physicians Based on Value Not Volume. A new provision will tie physician payments to the quality of care they provide. Physicians will see their payments modified so that those who provide higher value care will receive higher payments than those who provide lower quality care. Effective January 1, 2015.

 

For Businesses:

The U.S. Small Business Administration is launching a new series to explain the basics of the law, what you need to do to comply, and how your business can benefit from new incentives. The first article in the series, written by Meredith Olafson, highlights three big things every small business owner should know about the Affordable Care Act.

About the Author

Meredith Olafson is Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Small Business Administration where she oversees the agency’s education and outreach efforts around health care and the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act will help small businesses by lowering premium cost growth and increasing access to quality, affordable health insurance.   Depending on whether you’re a small employer or a larger employer, different provisions of the Affordable Care Act may apply to you as described below.

1.  Businesses with Fewer than 25 Employees- Small Business Tax Credits

The Affordable Care Act does not require that businesses provide health insurance, but it offers tax credits for eligible small businesses that choose to provide insurance to their employees.  To qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35% (up to 25% for non-profits), you must have:

  • Fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees
  • Pay average annual wages below $50,000
  • Contribute 50% or more toward employee health insurance premiums

Beginning in 2014, this tax credit goes up to 50% (35% for non-profits) and is available to qualified small businesses who participate in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges.

2.   Businesses with 50 or Fewer Employees- Affordable Insurance Marketplaces

The Affordable Care Act does not require that businesses provide health insurance, but beginning in 2014, small businesses with generally 50 or fewer employees will be able to purchase coverage through SHOP , competitive marketplaces where small employers can go to find health coverage from a selection of providers.  The SHOP Marketplaces and Individual Marketplaces for those who are self-employed open on January 1, 2014. Open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013.  SHOP will offer small businesses increased purchasing power similar to that of large businesses.

3.  Businesses with 50 or More Employees- Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Federal government, State governments, insurers, employers, and individuals share the responsibility to reform and improve the availability, quality, and affordability of health insurance coverage in the United States. Employers are not required to provide coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.   However, beginning in 2014, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees (or full-time equivalents) that do not offer affordable health insurance that provides a minimum level of coverage to substantially all of their full-time employees (and their dependents) may be subject to an employer shared responsibility payment if at least one of their full-time employees receives a premium tax credit to purchase coverage in an insurance Marketplace.  A full-time employee is generally one who is employed an average of 30 or more hours per week.

If you meet or are close to this threshold level of full-time employees, it’s important to understand how these rules may apply to you and how the employer shared responsibility payments could be triggered.   For more guidance on the employer shared responsibility payments, refer to this FAQ from the IRS.

Check back with the Reno Agency blog for more updates about the Affordable Health Care Act as they become available.

Why Your Business Should Implement a Health & Wellness Program for Employees

It’s the beginning of a new year, and with that brings the numerous resolutions that will be made (and broken) before the end of January. The number one resolution always seems to be, ‘get healthy’. And why wouldn’t you want to? There are many benefits to good health including taking less medications, less doctor/hospital visits, and oh yeah, lower insurance costs.

If you are a small business owner, answer this question: Does your company offer your employees a health and wellness Program? If no, why not? Health insurance premiums are always increasing it seems, and if you could offer a way to help maintain those premiums, or even lower those premiums, wouldn’t you consider a program such as this?

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides the why and how to implement a health and wellness program in your small business. Read an excerpt from the article, “Why and How to Implement a Health and Wellness Program in Your Small Business” below. For the full article, visit http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-cents/why-and-how-implement-health-and-wellness-progr

Tips for Implementing Health and Wellness Programs in Your Small Business

So how can you go about planning and implementing a program that makes sense for your business, with the limited resources available to you? Health and wellness plans don’t have to break the bank. With a bit of creativity there are many things you can do to keep employees health and happy.

Here are a few tips:

Talk to your employees. Find out what aspects of an employer-sponsored health and wellness plan they would value most. It could be discounted gym memberships, quarterly sponsored walks/runs, or employee-led healthy cooking workshops. maybe it’s just more awareness of free or low-cost preventative care options covered by your healthcare insurance plan.

Get ideas for your wellness program. This blog from former SBA guest blogger, Dawn Rivers Baker, offers some creative and engaging ideas for a low-cost or no-cost employee wellness program.

Get help structuring specific programs. The Centers for Disease Control provides some great online tools to help you design and structure your wellness programs. For example, CDC LEAN Works is a free web-based resource that can help employers design effective worksite obesity prevention and control programs, including an obesity cost calculator to estimate how much obesity is costing your company and how much in savings your company could reap with different sorts of workplace interventions.

Consult your healthcare insurance provider. Many now offer tools and resources to help employers develop programs. Familiarize yourself with the types of programs that make sense for your business.

Get help from small business assistance groups. Check in with your local Small Business Development Center or Chamber of Commerce. They may have resources or seminars that can help you build the right program for your business.

 

Another great read from the U.S. Small Business Administration on how to reduce the cost of health insurance can be found here.

Let’s start off 2013 with a commitment to live healthy! Make small changes, take small steps, and soon enough you will see big results.

President Obama’s Health Care Overhaul is in a Sprint to the Finish Line

Whether you are for or against President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the main question now is not “Will it happen,” but “How will they make it happen.” There are 11 months left before millions of uninsured Americans are able to get health care coverage, but there are still many questions about how the President will execute those plans. Here is an article from InsuranceNewsNet.com that provides an update to where we are now, and what has to be done over the next several months to implement a successful transition.

http://insurancenewsnet.com/article.aspx?id=363551&type=LifeHealth&inl=1#.UKEV_JITXVQ

Medicare Open Enrollment is Now Through December 7

Are you turning 65 soon and need help finding a Medicare plan? Are you 65+ and want to see if you can save money by switching Medicare plans? Or do you have a disability that qualifies you for Medicare? Open enrollment for Medicare is now through December 7, and if you have questions, the Reno Agency is here to assist. Call us today at 269.792.2232 to schedule your appointment.

In the meantime, www.medicare.gov is an excellent place to start if you have questions.

In Michigan, both Blue Cross Blue Shield and Priority Health have expanded their Medicare products. Read the full articles here to find out more information.

http://news.bcbsm.com/news/2012/news_2012-10-18-11174.shtml

http://www.priorityhealth.com/about-us/press-room/releases/2012/medicare-2013-expansion

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan may be one step closer to an overhaul of its corporate structure

The state Senate approved an overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield-MI’s corporate structure in efforts to modernize the company and level the playing field between the non-profit and its competitors. Read the full story here.

http://www.freep.com/article/20121018/NEWS15/310180372/State-Senate-approves-overhaul-Blue-Cross