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Wednesday, 29 March 2017
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So, I messed my shoulder up skiing and after two months decided it's not getting better. Went to the orthopedist and he agree, I most have torn something. We need an MRI Post Arthrogram. Ok, that sounds expensive wonder what it will cost and where I should get that done since I have a HDHP and Health Savings Account and will be paying that toward my deductible. The nurse talked to the Imaging Center and got an estimate of $1,200, she agreed it's a lot of money. 

Since I tell our clients all the time to shop around to make sure you are paying a "fair" price I decided I needed to shop around. We use BCBST for our medical coverage here so I started on their website with the new Cost Estimate tool. This knows the plan I have, where I am on my deductible and the discounts. I was pretty excited to use it until I did. I searched for an MRI upper joint with contrast and they did not have enough cost information in the database to help me, bummer. 

Next I let my fingers do the walking with the help of Google. I searched for the MRI providers in my area, very few came up. I called those who did and though most were trying to help me, most could not give me even an estimate. I did have two who took my insurance information and called me back but could not ensure me it was the same test my doctor had ordered (Arthrogram is pretty specialized). 

Heath Care BlueBook - This brought me to a new kind of pricing tool, not perfect but the best I have seen so far. Again, I put in my location and could choose the exact treatment I was looking for. Now I can see a low, medium an high cost and what the "fair" price is for my area. Turns out, $1,150 is a fair price and that is what I paid. Take a look for yourself at www.healthcarebluebook.com 

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Posted on 03/29/2017 10:13 AM by David More
Monday, 20 February 2017
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There is so much talk about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the fear this kind of broad sweeping statement makes. Yes, there are major problems and coverage is now unaffordable unless you get substantial subsidies from the Government. It’s important to note that there are some good parts of the ACA, there are many that are not so good, let’s work on those.

I am a longtime member of the National Association of Health Underwriters www.nahu.org and these ideas/statements are coming from their March, 2017 magazine. The article featured many different recommendations of changes to make immediately and others to implement them over time. These are a few of what I think are the best ideas.

  • Open enrollment – The first thing is to only have one primary open enrollment period rather than an open enrollment every year. There would also credible life events like marriage, divorce, birth, adoption and job changes to create an open enrollment event. If you do not sign up at open enrolment and later sign up as a “late enrollee” you will now be subject to late enrollment penalties, pre-existing conditions and waiting periods. This creates a real incentive to maintain coverage and preserves guarantee issue. This eliminates an easy way to abuse the system with today’s flexible and unenforced open enrollment rules.
  • Create hybrid high-risk pools – These pools would not issue coverage but insure risks for carriers who are insuring those who have not maintained continuous coverage. Late enrollment penalties would be paid to the pool for ceding risk from the carriers. The advantage is late enrollees would not be turned down for pre-existing conditions with this risk being passed to the pool. Because there is a mandatory waiting period before claims will be covered there is additional stabilization to the market.
  • Allow states to increase competition by offering coverage from carriers domiciled in other states. Coverage offered must reflect the same essential benefits and mandates where the coverage is being offered.
  • Allow states to increase competition by allowing association health plans. Coverage offered must reflect the same essential benefits and mandates where the coverage is being offered.
  • Increase flexibility for HSAs by allowing a limited number of office visits to be covered by co-pays before the deductible each year. This will encourage more people to try an HSA qualified plan letting them see the advantages of an HSA combined with a HDHP as the underlying plan.
  • Remove the metallic limitations of plan designs allowing carriers to offer plans they can better control and that make more sense in their specific market.

These are just a few of the ideas and recommendations to stabilize and improve the individual and small group health insurance market. One thing is for sure, we will see many ideas and proposals coming in the next couple of weeks. Hang on, it will be a bumpy ride but in the end we will all be ok.

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Posted on 02/20/2017 11:41 AM by David Moore
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
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Humana just announced they will not offer individual health insurance in 2018. "There isn't enough money in the ACA as it's structured, even with its fees and taxes, to support the population that needs to be served" say Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. 

This changes hits Tennesseans especially hard with Humana being the only insurer in thee of the states largest communities. In the Knoxville area alone there would be 40,000 Tennesseans losing coverage says Julie McPeak the TN insurance commissioner. 

Read More

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Posted on 02/15/2017 3:51 PM by David Moore
Tuesday, 31 January 2017
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While the specific details of what the replacement program for the ACA will look like, there are several ideas you will find very interesting. This is a detailed white paper from Milliman that looks at several important issues that will affect healthcare going forward. These include;

  • continuous coverage provisions
  • the role of high risk health pools
  • open enrollment
  • premium and cost sharing subsidies
  • tax treatment of individual and group premiums, and
  • coverage restrictions

We all know there is much room for improvement with the current ACA plans and regulations. The questions is, what's going to change and how will it effect each of our insurance options and the premiums charged for them. Time will tell but this report gives you a better understanding of what may be coming in the near future. 

Read the Milliman report here

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Posted on 01/31/2017 11:06 AM by David Moore
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
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On November 18, 2016, the IRS released Notice 2016-70 to extend the due date for employers to furnish Form 1095-C or 1095-B under the Affordable Care Act's employer reporting requirement. Employers will have an extra 30 days to prepare and distribute the 2016 form to individuals. The due dates for filing forms with the IRS are not extended.

Background

Applicable large employers (ALEs), who generally are entities that employed 50 or more full-time and full-time-equivalent employees in 2015, are required to report information about the health coverage they offered or did not offer to certain employees in 2016. To meet this reporting requirement, the ALE will furnish Form 1095-C to the employee or former employee and file copies, along with transmittal Form 1094-C, with the IRS.

Employers, regardless of size, that sponsored a self-funded (self-insured) health plan providing minimum essential coverage in 2016 are required to report coverage information about enrollees. To meet this reporting requirement, the employer will furnish Form 1095-B to the primary enrollee and file copies, along with transmittal Form 1094-B, with the IRS. Self-funded employers who also are ALEs may use Forms 1095-C and 1094-C in lieu of Forms 1095-B and 1094-B.

Extended Due Dates

Specifically, Notice 2016-70 extends the following due dates:

  • The deadline for furnishing 2016 Form 1095-C, or Form 1095-B, if applicable, to employees and individuals is March 2, 2017 (extended from January 31, 2017).
  • The deadline for filing copies of the 2016 Forms 1095-C, along with transmittal Form 1094-C (or copies of Forms 1095-B with transmittal Form 1094-B), if applicable, with the IRS is:
    • If filing by paper, February 28, 2017.
    • If filing electronically, March 31, 2017.

Prior to the IRS announcement, a process existed for employers to file Form 8809 to request a 30-day extension of the due date to furnish forms to individuals. Notice 2016-70 explains that the new extended due date applies automatically so individual requests are not needed. Employers that had already submitted extension requests will not receive a reply.

More Information

Notice 2016-70 also provides guidance to taxpayers who do not receive a Form 1095-B or 1095-C by the time they file their 2016 individual tax return.

Lastly, the IRS encourages employers, insurers, and other reporting entities to furnish forms to individuals and file reports with the IRS as soon as they are ready.

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Posted on 11/22/2016 2:16 PM by David Moore
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
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We have been getting a LOT of calls about help with individual policies. Unfortunately, the carriers no longer want brokers and consultants helping individuals find and manage their health insurance policies. Just for grins I decided to run a quote for my family with what I consider the best individual option available in Nashville, Farm Bureau. 

My family had a TRH policy several years ago and while very basic coverage, it was affordable and would cover claims if something happened. I just ran quotes for the same policy I used to have and a similar ACA compliant policy. This is not stellar, Platinum coverage, it's a basic $3,000 deductible plan with a $6,000 out of pocket, not bells and whistles. 

My family consists of me (age 55) my wife (age 54) and two sons age 19 and 22. All are healthy non smokers. 

The cost for my old Non Compliant policy $447 per month. This policy requires underwriting and is subject to pre-existing conditions. The cost for a new ObamaCare ACA compliant plan, $2,276.62. Yes, that is not a typo and it's not quarterly that is a monthly number. You can run your own quotes at www.fbhealthplans.com 

What do I get for the extra $22,000 per year? Guarantee issue with no pre-existing conditions. That is not important to me because we are all healthy. So what if I buy the non-compliant plan? I get to pay the penalty of 2.5% of our adjusted gross income with non deductible dollars. Fortunately we have a small group plan where I pay $1,317 per month for a similar policy. 

Broken? You decide

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Posted on 11/22/2016 2:15 PM by David Moore
Friday, 07 October 2016
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Great news! After years of trying to find a compromise on out of network Emergency Room charges BlueCross and BlueShield of Tennessee and TriStar Health have come to terms. It's important to know that this is only for true emergency claims. 

The agreement states "Any emergency services provided from January 1, 2015 until now (October 1, 2016) will be subject to the patient's normal in-network co-pay or co-insurance and deductible amounts". If your visit is deemed to be non-emergent visit your charged will be limited to $1,500 for any ER visit and $4,500 for an inpatient admission resulting from an emergency room visit. 

This has been a big time challenge for many of our clients and the new agreement should eliminate many fears from our members. 

See the Press Release here

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Posted on 10/07/2016 10:06 AM by David Moore
Tuesday, 27 September 2016
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Beginning on January 1, 2017 BlueCross BlueShield of TN will stop selling individual health insurance policies in the three major cities of Tennessee. Nearly 120,000 residents of the Memphis, Nashville and Tennessee regions will have to find other policies from the very few carriers left to sell them. Citing large and continuing losses BCBST is not willing to risk another bad year and will transfer that risk to their competitors.

The challenge for most will be finding coverage suitable for their needs and budget. For those who qualify for subsidies affordable coverage will be there but most may find the networks inadequate. For those who earn too much to qualify for ObamaCare assistance, not only will the networks be very limited the cost will be unbearable. 

What are the options? If you need coverage without pre-existing conditions you will be limited to the exchange and ACA compliant plans. If you are relatively healthy there are some options to consider. Many religious organizations offer comprehensive plans that are NOT subject to the ACA penalties. These policies come with exclusions, limitations and pre-existing conditions but may be an affordable option. If your income is too high for a subsidy but you would not consider yourself "rich", a non compliant TRH policy can be a very affordable option. The thing to know is you will have to pay an ACA penalty of $695 per adult or 2.5% of  your AGI whichever is greater. 

My recommendation is to start looking as early as possible. January 1 rates should be available by mid October. 

Modern Healthcare Article

Tennessean Article

 

 

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Posted on 09/27/2016 7:44 AM by David Moore
Tuesday, 23 August 2016
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Tennessee's insurance regulator approved hefty rate increases for the three carriers on the Obamacare exchange in an attempt to stabilize the already-limited number of insurers in the state.

The rate approvals, while a tough decision, were necessary to ensure that consumers around the state had options when open enrollment begins in November, said Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the only insurer to sell statewide and there was the possibility that Cigna and Humana would reduce their footprints or leave the market altogether.

"I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse ... and that all of our efforts are really focused on making sure we have as many writers in the areas as possible, knowing that might be one. I'm doing everything I can to prevent a situation where that turns to zero," McPeak said to The Tennessean.

BCBST, the only insurer that's sold statewide in first three years of the federal exchange, agrees with McPeak. The Chattanooga-based insurer is estimating that by the end of 2016 it will have lost close to $500 million on the exchange in three years, which is unsustainable, said Roy Vaughn, chief communications officer of BCBST.

The insurer, which has previously underscored its support for the individual market, is still weighing what its presence in 2017 will look like.

"We agree with the assessment of the ACA marketplace in Tennessee. We appreciate the support of our request to close the gap between our rates and medical expenses for ACA marketplace plans. Beyond rates as we've discussed with the (TDCI) we continue to have concerns about uncertainty with the ACA at the federal level," Vaughn said to The Tennessean. "Due to these concerns we are keeping all of our options open at this point about participating in the 2017 marketplace. We anticipate making a final decision in mid-September."

Cigna and Humana both refiled their requests earlier this month after telling the TDCI that the first requests were likely too low.

McPeak said insurers asked for the opportunity to refile rates last year but she said no. This year, however, was different because many of areas of the state will only have one or two choices. UnitedHealthcare, which sold statewide, dropped off the exchange earlier this year

"I felt like I didn't have any choice but to allow them to refile their rates," said McPeak, who is concerned about the limited number of insurers.

Cigna asked for and received an average 46.3 percent increase.

Humana asked for and received an average 44.3 percent increase.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which did not refile its request, asked for and received a 62 percent increase.

United HealthCare is pulling out of Tennessee.

The insurers will now go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for approval as federally qualified health plans, which is expected toward the end of September.

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Posted on 08/23/2016 2:41 PM by Holly Fletcher
Thursday, 18 August 2016
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I just read the story about EpiPen pricing going up again. It seems the major competitor has had to recall their pens giving Mylan brand dominance in a necessary market. 

Doctors and patients say the Mylan pharmaceutical company has jacked up the prices for an EpiPen - the portable device that can stop a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction - from around $100 in 2008 to $500 and up today.

That's a hike of over 400 percent. When I look on www.goodrx.com for my local stores, I see the lowest cost at Kroger's for $614 with a coupon. I helped a client get one of these several years ago for $300. My advice to him, buy it in Canada. 

Does that sound crazy to  you? Listen to this, I just looked at www.pharmacyrxworld.com a Canadian pharmacy and guess how much it costs across the boarder? $79 American. 

Do you think healthcare in America is broken? How can this be? I am not an expert but it could be that much those superpac election funds are coming from the drug companies that don't want America and Medicare to negotiate prescription prices. I suspect they have our elected officals ears. 

Health insurance rates going up again? Do you watch the nightly news and see all those drug commercials telling you to ask your doctor about this new, awesome drug. Check out the cost on www.goodrx.com and you will quickly understand why they are spending all this money on advertising. Now check the cost in Canada, Europe, Australia or any other country and be prepared to get upset. 

No, I don't know the answer but we have a serious problem. 

Thanks for reading. 

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Posted on 08/18/2016 8:08 PM by David Moore
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