Group Health Insurance
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05-03-2010by Colleen King
I saw this article title and had to look at it a couple of times. Deductible on a life insurance policy? That brought up all sorts of morbid concepts for me so I decided to read it.
Thomas Jurek, an agent in the Midwest, had an interesting article published in the Agent Sales Journal on this last December, and what he was pointing out was a different way to assess your life insurance needs and planning. His definition was that it was the difference between what a family needs and the amount they will receive at the time of the breadwinner’s death.
Most agents recommend an annual or biannual review of insurance in place. That way you can make sure there’s enough, or equally as important, do you still need all that you have? When kids have left the nest and are financially independent, a couple nearing retirement might not need as much life insurance.
Basically, the way I read this, is rather than the deductible being what you pay before insurance kicks in, this is more like what are you going to be stuck paying for, or going without, based on how much life insurance there is when the primary earner dies. For younger families with kids you have to allow for college and weddings. What assets do you have that you need to protect? Rental property? what if you lose the tenant? What do you have in savings and are you willing to deplete that if someone dies and the life insurance isn’t enough to meet your mutual obligations?
Lots of questions, and multiple answers for most scenarios. Bottom line, call an agent you trust and see where you stand. It could keep your family from having to make some really tough decisions at a difficult time.
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04-20-2010by Colleen King
Even though the big, massive health care reform bill has passed, not much will be changing for the next couple of years. So if you’re on your own and needing to buy an individual plan for you and/or your family, how should you do it? Call an independent agent, call an insurance company, or just go online and not deal with any of those pesky people?
Well you know what I’m probably going to suggest, but here’s why. If you go directly to a carrier, they can only tell you about their products. You can go to one of the big online ‘anonymous’ type sites, but do you really know what you are looking at? If you are versed in health insurance, of course you can do this on your own, no sweat. But I find most people are still confused and if they do it on their own, they are surprised with what they end up with.
Here’s another reason to go with an agent. I had a client approved this week, and she had a couple of relatively minor issues, but instead of getting approved at a standard rate, she was rated up 50%! I called her, clarified what the circumstances were for the two reasons given for the increased rate and then emailed my account executive at the carrier. I explained the circumstances, and was hoping he could get the rate from a 50% increase to maybe just a 25%. Imagine my surprise when he came back with a STANDARD rate. I was thrilled, my client ecstatic, the world was a happy place.
Does this happen all of the time? No, not even most of the time. To me, in looking at the situations these issues were borderline. And my account guy being the gem that he is, he agreed. There’s a strong probability that if I had just called underwriting, I wouldn’t have gotten the standard rate back. But maybe I would have.
Point is in all this, most individuals wouldn’t have known where to go with this, would have just said oh well, and either kept the plan at the higher rate or dropped it all together. One of the big reasons for health care reform was for the states where there was little or not competition. And there are some states with only 1-2 carriers. But in California we have 6-7 major carriers and some smaller ones, so there is plenty to chose from. That’s another reason to use an independent agent, so they can help you find what you want and with a carrier that’s best suited for your situation....read more
04-17-2010by Colleen King
On April 15th, Tax Day ironically, Congress voted to extend the 65% COBRA subsidy eligibility period through May 31. Meaning, if you are ‘involuntarily terminated’ from your job and not for ’cause’ (’cause’ meaning you did something wrong) you will be eligible for this extension. Eligible folks can have the subsidy of 65% up to 15 months under the current program. Depending on how much that brings down your cost, you might also consider looking at an individual plan but I know that subsidy is tempting.
Since the news came out today that California’s unemployment in March is the highest ever, 12.6%, up from 12.5% in February, that’s probably a good thing. And most likely California’s CalCOBRA program will follow suit as it has before. From the article above, it sounds like Republicans were balking at this bill which also included increasing unemployment benefits and a few other things (click here to see what all) because it supposedly will add $9 billion to the budget deficit.
After health care reform, what’s another $9 billion?
Be well!...read more
04-06-2010by Colleen King
In the recently passed health care reform bill (yes, THAT again) one of the things that was addressed was eliminating co-pays or cost sharing for preventive services. I haven’t heard how that exactly is going to work, but if it’s like other things I’ve seen, not all things labeled ‘preventive’ will be covered. This link is from another state, but the types of services recommended are pretty standard.
Some carriers on their plans already have low or no co-pays for mammograms, Pap smears and PSA blood tests. Colon cancer screening, usually just a smear but sometimes colonoscopy, is included. Check your plan documents or call your carrier to know for sure. But more expensive things, like most ultrasounds, scans, etc., are not considered regular preventive care. Those are considered more diagnostic in nature, meaning someone is probably looking for a problem, so it’s going to be subject to your deductible.
I’ve come across something in the newspaper and television lately that I’m going to check out and you might want to also. And organization called HealthFair.com offers screening packages of tests. You can get a cardiac screening which includes an EKG, ultrasound and arterial stiffness exam, a vascular/stroke screening which includes a carotid artery ultrasound, abdominal aorta ultrasound checking for an aortic aneurysm, and another test that checks for peripheral artery disease. Or you can do both for $199.
These mobile fairs are all over Southern California and I believe across the country. I’m not endorsing yet them as I’ve not used them before but I’m going to check this out. I had a carotid ultrasound earlier this year that WITH the insurance company discount was over $400. I think it’s something to look into though, if you are in your late 40s and up. They offer different series of blood tests, there’s all kinds of things. Cost for these screenings may vary by locations, so don’t hold me to this, check it out for yourself.
This sounds like a cost effective way to at least get a baseline, but is not intended to replace an exam by your doctor. I’m signing up, you might want to check out their site. Got to save where you can!
<a href=" https://www.healthfair.com/" target="_Blank" >HealthFair.com</a>
Be well!...read more
03-24-2010by Colleen King
Okay, health care reform–woo hoo! now what? Today’s Los Angeles Times has a good brief overview of some major points of change and I’ve included some of them here. Along with some questions that I feel still need to be answered.
WITHIN A YEAR
* Provides a $250 rebate to Medicare prescription drug plan beneficiaries whose initial benefits run out. This is good because that whole ‘donut hole’ thing doesn’t make a lot of sense, particularly for people on limited incomes.
AFTER 90 DAYS
* Provides immediate access to high-risk insurance pools for people who have no insurance because of preexisting conditions. Well, we already have a high risk pool in California, referred to as MRMIP. Problem is, it’s really expensive and half the time, you can’t get anyone on it due to a lack of funding.
AFTER SIX MONTHS
* Bars insurers from denying people coverage when they get sick. What does this really mean–ANY coverage, or high cost services, or things that weren’t going to be covered to begin with?
* Prevents insurers from denying coverage to children who have preexisting conditions. Children, not adults yet. And what about rates? Anything about cost containment included in here?
* Bars insurers from imposing lifetime caps on coverage. There are some low end plans that have ridiculously low limits, either lifetime or per year. Most though, at least in the California individual market, have limits of $3-7 million lifetime. Most of us won’t ever come close to that, so this isn’t always as big as it may initially sound. Once again, for me, this means you really need to look at what you are buying and have a good agent you can talk to about what you are buying.
* Requires insurers to allow young people to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26. Well, most plans they could already stay on until 22 or 23 if they were full time students. If they have health issues, this is good. Depending on the family, if they don’t, it could be more cost effective to put them on their own plan.
* Requires individual and small group insurance plans to spend at least 80% of premium dollars on medical services. Large group plans would have to spend at least 85%. With most carriers, that is almost happening now the majority of the time. Problem is, don’t you still want to look at cost containment? If you HAVE to spend it, it will be spent, but what about waiting for a rainy day and keeping something in reserves?
* Increases the Medicare payroll tax and expands it to dividend, interest and other unearned income for singles earning more than $200,000 a year and joint filers making more than $250,000. Really makes you want to go out and achieve, doesn’t it? This moves the tax up to 3.8%
* Provides subsidies for families earning up to 400% of the poverty level to purchase health insurance.
* Requires most employers to provide coverage or face penalties.
* Requires most people to obtain coverage or face penalties.
On all three of these for 2014, let’s hope the economy has turned around otherwise there will be a ton of people on that subsidy level.
Be well!...read more