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We have been in the trenches with the healthcare reform roll out also known as Obamacare. We have seen and experienced all sides of the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) law and the impact it has had on Hoosiers.

The Affordable Care Act has had a huge impact in the area, along with the rest of the country.

There has been a lot of good things about the new law. Many Hoosiers and their families have had huge benefits.

The Good

1. Guaranteed Issue. No one can be turned away for health insurance because of ongoing health conditions. This is one of the biggest positive aspects of the law. Many Hoosiers were able to obtain new health insurance who were originally denied coverage. I can’t begin tell you how many people were able to benefit from this aspect of the law. We had cases where people had been diagnosed with major conditions that were able to get a policy that would cover that condition. This happen both on and off the exchange.

2. Tax Credits on the Exchange. This was one of the primary selling points of the ACA. If your household income fell under the 400% of federal poverty level you had premium joy. There were many early retirees that went from $1,400 a month down to $2oo a month in premium cost. This was huge for many Hoosiers. That kind of savings creates large amounts of disposable income and makes the health policy more than affordable. Large families were able to get significant tax credits. We had families of 5 that were used to paying $1,200 a month and now pay as low as $400 a month. We also saw a lot of individuals get a policy for under $100 a month.

3. Cost Sharing Reductions. This benefit is where the out of pocket max is reduced because household income is under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. We had families that elected to go with $200 deductible plans with $600 out of pocket costs for very little monthly premium. With the cost sharing reduction we also saw how a Health Savings Account through Anthem had huge incentives. A good example is with a lot of business owners or contract worker. They were able to elect a $1,100 Health Saving Account with 100% co insurance. In this situation they insured would only have $1,100 out of pocket expense for the entire year. Then they are able to write off their medical claims. This option created a tax benefit. Then there were others who had high claims, where this plan was a great choice. Here is an example; if you are incurring $100k a year medical claims and now all you have to pay out is $1,100 this was a huge win especially for Hoosiers that were used to paying large out of pocket fees. This kind of option really can only be explained by a broker like myself that has experience in health insurance and claims.

The Bad

1. Enrollment Process through the Federal Facilitated Exchange. The launch of the website was an absolute disaster. The customer services at the healthcare.gov was very poor. The government brought people right off the street that really had no clue about health insurance or customer service. Then when you add in difficult questions, it was a mess. They would then pass you on to management that fell into the same category.

2. Preparation. The insurance community was not prepared for the volume of calls they received. They underestimated what kind of services were needed. This is partly the fault of the government. The insurance industry estimated that they would receive 300,000 calls a day at an average of 12 minutes per call. The actual volume was around 1,000,000 a day with the average time of 29 minutes. The insurance carrier that had resources then shifted everyone they had to assist with open enrollment. This created a lack of customer service representatives for the other areas in the insurance companies like groups.

3. Lack of Information. The market place and insurance companies were unable to provide a summary of benefits of the plans that were being offered. The insurance industry did not have SBC until the middle of February. Hoosiers were buying plans where they had no idea what the benefits where. To make matters worse, the navigators were really unprepared to answer any questions. Even from a broker standpoint we had to do a lot of research to find out what was in the plan designs. I have over 16 years of experience and it took me some time. So there is no way a navigator that has zero experience could help someone understand.

4. Narrow Network. Many Hoosiers were confused about network access. Anthem created a narrow network for Pathway X for exchange business. The online network search feature was down most of January and February. Even when it was working correctly it did not show all of the participating medical providers. Even the medical providers themselves did not know what networks they were accepting. Many Hoosiers had to make decisions about getting new doctors.

The Ugly

The ACA has had a very negative impact on the Middle Class that do not have access to group health insurance. The middle class is absolutely getting hammered with increased premiums. The ACA has initially increased premiums for anyone that in not eligible for a tax credit. This has devastated many families. You take a family of 4 that is use to paying $600 a month for their health saving account plan, now they are paying $1,100 a month. This may be an extreme case where the premium doubled but we witnessed this with about 30% of our clients that were unable to qualify for a tax credit. The average increase was around 60%. Many people were able to get an early renewal and thus delay the impacts of the ACA but that will come to an end in December of this year. I am telling families right now that they are going to have to start budgeting for higher premiums.

Small group health plans also fall into the ugly category. We are seeing anywhere from 35%-55% increases. This type of increase is unaffordable to the small groups and the employees. These rate increases are a direct result of the ACA. In the 4th quarter of 2014 we have over 80% of the small group health plans coming up for renewal. There is going to a mass exodus of small groups dropping these employer sponsored plans because of cost.

On large group health plans we have seen an increase in fees/taxes on premiums. These fully insured groups are getting hit with 4.9% tax increases. Some people may think that is not a huge percentage but if we are talking about $500,000 in annual premium, that is a $24,500 tax increase which goes to fund the ACA. Is that fair? Many owners and employees would say no.

As we move closer to the 4th quarter, the ugly aspect of the ACA will become more and more known.

 

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now-later320Affordable healthcare is at your fingertips, but time is running out! We are coming to the end of open enrollment on March 31.

March 31 signifies the end of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Whether you’re for or against the law, the deadline for getting covered is about two weeks away, so it’s time to sign up or get penalized. Under the Affordable Care Act, most people must be covered this year or face a penalty of $95 per person or 1% of your income, whichever is higher

After open enrollment ends, insurance carriers will be getting back to “business as usual” and resuming their normal operations. During the initial open enrollment period of the ACA, most carriers shifted all their resources over to assist with the on-exchange business. In turn, this created a lack of resources in the other areas of health insurance companies. The main area that was impacted was small group health plans. Here at Nefouse and Associates, we noticed premium notices and new cards not being sent out and hold times for group services sitting at unacceptable levels. Once April rolls around, we are hoping to see these levels go back to some type of normalcy.

If you have a small group health plan (under 50 employees) and need assistance, your best source is a broker. Your broker should have direct access to the insurance carriers and  be able to use this technology in your favor. Be cautious though, because the end of March will not be a good time to try and get things done. There will be a mad dash of people applying for health coverage through the marketplace which will put a strain on resources with the health carriers that are active in the federal or state marketplace.

After open enrollment ends, every small group should start considering their options. This should start no later than July of 2014 since we have already seen what kind of impact open enrollment has on the insurance industry. When it comes to small group health plans, we are seeing average rates increase at around 57%, so it’s time to start doing your research. Right now, employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees don’t face a penalty for not offering health coverage, but this will not always be the case. Stay tuned to our blog to find out more information on small group health insurance options, or contact us for assistance in finding a plan that’s right for you.

In the meantime, don’t procrastinate any longer, it’s time to sign up for health insurance! If you’re unsure of where to go or what to do, call us at (317) 803-4220!

 

 

 

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HealthCareOct_iStock_000019170348_heroAs the new healthcare laws take firm hold in the state of Indiana, we are starting to see the full impact on small group health plans. Small group health insurance has always been a challenge for many companies over the years due to cost.

Small group health plans are for companies that have less than 50 employees.

Small business owners were supposed to gain more choices and cheaper rates from the new online-health-insurance portals. However, they have been slow to select plans through marketplaces since the rollout started last fall. This can be attributed to several factors including technical problems and the administration’s focus on recruiting individuals and families.

The small business exchanges were meant to offer an online-shopping platform where employers could sort through plans from insurers and offer one or several options to their employees. Employees would then select from the options their employer had chosen, and their rates would reflect any employer contribution. That’s a different process than the one used by the exchanges for individuals, where people can select a single plan to cover themselves and, in some cases, their families.

Most of these healthcare plans are on a fully insured health contract. Under the new law, these plans no longer have medical underwriting. There are also additional mandates that the plans must cover. This creates some serious problems for most small companies. We are seeing an average rate increase of 57% on small group health insurance premiums. 57% is a significant increase not only to the owner but to the employees as well.

You, as a decision maker, do not have to accept this type of rate increase. There are other options for you! These options are going to be “outside the box” of traditional employee benefit thinking. If other consultants want to blame our current administration, that’s fine, but we are working on new solutions.

Employers can apply for coverage through the small-business exchange at any point during the year, and those who are eligible to shop for coverage (firms with fewer than 50 full-time workers) are by definition exempt from rules that will soon penalize companies that do not offer plans to their workers.

Individuals have a limited window, which closes at the end of March, during which to purchase coverage for the coming year. Those who fail to secure a health plan may be subject to a tax penalty under Affordable Care Act rules. If you want a new solution for your group health insurance, contact us.

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affordable_care_actThe Obama administration released 200 pages of Department of Treasury regulations last week. Inside these 200 pages was information about delaying the employer mandate. This is specific to companies with 50 to 99 employees and the delay is until January 1st, 2016.

This is a very big development and is being viewed as political even though they have tried to avoid it. The reality is there are certain industries that are unable to provide health insurance to their employees. These industries usually employ lower wage workers that are unable to afford any portion of the premium or choose to go without it.  This delay will help many of these industries cope with the new law. Businesses with more than 50 employees would have paid a fee of $2,000 per uninsured employee after the first 30 employees, as well as a fee for employees who receive a subsidy through the exchanges. This has been wide spread through many industries.  This new delay may be the beginning of making some changes to the Affordable Care Act law on the employer mandate.  It’s possible that we could see the employer mandate requirements moved from 50 employees to 99 employees.  A small group is defined as under 50 employees but in 2016 that will be moved to 99.

“Much like the individual mandate, the business mandate is bad for middle-class families and will harm economic growth, but the answer to this problem is not random unilateral changes, stoking uncertainty,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. said.

Also included in the 200 pages of explanation is how to calculate the employer mandate requirement for companies over 100 employees. Businesses with more than 100 employees must offer coverage to 70% of their full-time employees in 2015 and 95% of their employees in 2016.

So far we know that companies with fewer than 50 full-time workers are already exempt from the rule. Volunteer firefighters, part-time teachers and adjunct professors who teach less than 15 hours a week will not be counted as full-time employees, according to a rule released Monday. There will be plenty of interpretation in this change of the law in the coming days.  The issue that will have to be addressed is, if these employees are not being offered coverage and they obtain subsidies, is the company penalized $3,000?

It is becoming more and more difficult for companies to make decisions based on this law when it changes daily.

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chi-blue-cross-blue-shield-health-plans-renew--001Welcome to the new world of health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Some people have experienced premium joy. This has come from the Federally Facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace in Indianapolis. Hoosiers have been eligible for subsidized premiums in the marketplace.  The average subsidy we are seeing is about $2,800 a year.  On the high end, we have help many Hoosier in their early 60’s pick up subsidies for over $11,000 a year. The biggest subsidy I have seen so far is $15,900.  This has created a lot of premium joy for Indianapolis residents. They have had to make some difficult decisions on doctors though; the networks on the exchange plans are 40% smaller than what they use to be. In some areas there is no access to primary care doctors. There has been a lot of frustration getting these policies but now the process is getting a lot better.

Guaranteed Issue in the individual market has helped a lot people. When we look at policies off of the exchange, there is no more underwriting. This has increased premiums!  If you don’t qualify for a subsidized plan you may have premium shock.  Many young families in the area have been content with a $700 per month premium. That is no longer the case; these young families now are looking at $1,200 a month for a similar policy. On the plus side, the new policies have more coverage and cover maternity.

One of the key benefits to these new off-the-exchange policies is the traditional PPO network. Not all of the off the exchange policies have it but a few still do. So if you do not want to have to decide between doctors at medical facilities and would rather have the ability to go to almost any doctor, you still have this option.  The interesting thing is these traditional PPO plans cost about the same as narrow network plans.

Remember: there is an open enrollment season right now that ends on March 31 for both on and off the exchange plans. Get signed up now!

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If you to took out an individual policy from Anthem with a 1-1-14 start date, I would recommend making your payment online if you have not.

 

On Anthem On the Exchange Payment Portal  If you mailed in you check you will be better off submitted an online payment. Anthem is having a hard time processing the Paper Checks because they may not have the Anthem Control number on it. Without that control number they don’t know who you are.

 

Anthem Off the Exchange Payment Portal  Same issue with off the exchange business.

 

If you elected a January 1st effective date you have until Jan. 31st to get your payment made.

 

 

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narrownetworksIf you’ve been searching for a new healthy policy, you’ve probably heard by now about the narrow networks that are available. Since the insurance industry is trying to reduce costs, they have formed narrow networks to lower the cost of care. This applies to plans both on and off of the exchange.

In the beginning, this transition will be tough since many people will be forced to find a new doctor or health care provider. But it’s not an evil plan to keep you away from your family doctor. Narrow networks might be the solution that will help keep the cost of health care and health insurance down. Insurers say that limiting the size of the network allows them to steer patients to high-quality facilities and doctors, while the providers might consider price cuts since they will be getting new volumes of clients.

Fortunately, we still have the option for true PPO plans off the exchange. These plans have large national networks with access to health care. These policies are more expensive, but some people will find it worth the extra money to have this option. We still have a free market for health policies. There are not a ton of options, but we have a couple available. If you have the means and you do not want to change doctors, we can help you with that.

The plans designs are traditional co-pay and HSA plans.  There are also really rich plans in the Gold and Platinum categories. Please contact me if you want the rates for these plans; there are no more quotes, only rates!

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healthcare_reform_banner2_rdax_100We are starting to see the impact of Obamacare, both the positive and negative initial outcomes. It depends on every Hoosier’s individual situation to say if they feel joy or if they feel pain.

There is a lot of joy for Hoosiers that suffer from ongoing health conditions. This segment of our community is now able to get access to health insurance, which will lead them to receiving health care, sometimes for the first time in years. If you have ever been denied coverage then you know how frustrating this can be.  Those days are now over. Everyone is guaranteed issue and can not be carry the title of pre-existing condition.

If you have been priced out of the health insurance market, you may experience a lot of joy. With the Federal Facilitated Marketplace, you may be eligible for a subsidy which is going to reduce your monthly premium. We are seeing some estimates that the policy holder may not have a premium at all because the subsidy is more than the monthly premium. To go from not being able to afford a policy to getting a policy for free is extraordinary.

If you are healthy and do not qualify for a subsidy  you might be feeling pain right now. You have gotten a notice from the insurance company on how much your premium is going up in 2014, and these are very ugly increases. If you are a family of four, the new budget for health premiums is around a $1,000 a month.  This is creating a lot of pain for Hoosiers.

Small group health insurance premiums are going to feel a lot of pain also. There have been projections of 30%-60% increases. Most small companies can not absorb that kind of increase. Neither the employer or employee will be able to pay their portion of the premium. This could turn out to be a significant blow to small business. Small business owners are going to have to get really creative on keeping key employees. It’s difficult right now competing with large companies on employees. In 2014, it may be impossible.

One thing is for sure: we are a part of the biggest transformation in health care history. Everything is going to change.

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federal_exchanges_onpageThe new Indianapolis Health Insurance Exchange will go live in only one week!  Here at Nefouse & Associates, we are authorized to sell and service the exchange plans.

There will be four options of coverage: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Under the Affordable Care Act, often referred as Obamacare, no one can be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.  The other huge benefit is the access to subsidies to lower your monthly premium. These subsidies will only be available through the Indianapolis Health Insurance Exchange.

We are predicting that you will enter an authorized quote engine (which we will provide) and that platform will guide you to the subsidy portal. Once at that portal, you will have the option to apply for subsidies. When your eligibility is determined, then you should be assigned some type of identification number and you would place this number on the health insurance policy. The federal government will then send money to the insurance company, bringing your monthly premium down.

So we are looking to major factors that are going to change the way we purchase health insurance. The first one is guaranteed issue, meaning that no one can ever be declined for coverage. The second factor is the access to subsidized premiums, making health insurance affordable to you and your family.

Currently in Indianapolis we have about 800,000 people without health insurance. It is being projected that about 300,000 take advantage of the new health care law.

 

 

 

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