Where Do We End Up If Obamacare Is Repealed?

December 29th, 2016


President Elect Donald Trump has back-pedaled a bit on his campaign promise to repeal Obamacare (what the Affordable Care Act is widely-known as), but Republicans are already making plans to change how the individual health insurance market works. Many players must come together to affect meaningful change, including the insurance industry, the federal government, and the insurance regulators in all 50 states. It’s looking like a monumental task, and while I’m not certain that every proposal is a good one, I’m confident that something has to be done to improve the current situation. Read the rest of this entry »

Why We Offer Faith-Based Plans

November 22nd, 2016

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I’ve seen a lot in my 30 years in the health insurance industry. There’s no doubt that Obamacare (originally called the “Affordable Care Act”) has made it possible for people who previously couldn’t get coverage, either because they couldn’t afford it or because they didn’t qualify based on medical problems, to obtain health insurance coverage. But the implementation of that program has become a disaster of epic proportions, and a growing section of the population suffers more every year.

Costs have gone up across the board, but those covered by large employers still do OK. And those who qualify for a government subsidy to pay their monthly health insurance premiums – a key provision of Obamacare – usually do alright as well. It’s the self-employed, the individuals who aren’t covered at work, and those who make a little too much to qualify for a subsidy, who are getting clobbered.

When Obamacare was implemented, healthcare-sharing plans were “grandfathered,” and allowed to remain, even though they did not meet the minimum requirements set forth by the law. These groups were typically religious in nature, and were allowed to exist because their members had moral objections to some of the provisions of Obamacare. Now, because so many Americans are being priced out of the health insurance market, these plans are becoming interesting to a wider audience, and we are selling a select few.

I want to be clear: these faith-based plans are not insurance. You must qualify based on your health for membership. They do not accept smokers. And because these groups are religious in nature, you’ll have to attest that you agree to certain beliefs in order to be included in the group. The medical expenses of group members are paid out of the pool of monthly membership charges that each member pays. In short: these plans aren’t for everyone, but for those people who want this type of solution, there can be substantial savings over Obamacare plans.

I believe that the market would be healthier if people were allowed to make more choices about what type of health coverage they wanted – not subject to some government mandate, and forced to buy coverage that protects them against things that they may never need, such as pregnancy. I think if there was more choice, and the market was allowed to adjust more naturally, we’d see more insurers returning to the market, and offering more plans, instead of the situation we’re in now, where markets increasingly offer fewer and fewer choices.

So we’re offering faith-based plans because they give our clients a choice about how they meet their healthcare needs. They’re completely legal, and allow people to make their own decisions about whether they want an Obamacare plan or not, when before their only choice was Obamacare or violation of the law.

We’re still experts in health insurance, and health savings accounts, and we’re still helping thousands of clients cover their families in this manner. But since our mission is to help our clients get enrolled in the manner that works best for them, I’m proud to offer these plans to our clients who are interested in them.

I think that if we increase competition and price transparency, along with the number of choices people have, everyone wins.

2 Great Alternatives to Obamacare

October 28th, 2016

2 Great Alternatives to Obamacare

You don’t have to read too far through this blog to realize that I’m no fan of Obamacare. With every passing year I find it more difficult to help my clients get into an affordable plan that ensures that their family will be protected against rising medical costs.

This year is no exception. I’m seeing 40-50% monthly premium increases in some markets. That’s bad enough, but the competitive nature of the market, which is what has always allowed me to help clients when their premiums increase or coverage changes, is evaporating. Carriers are abandoning this business in droves in order to focus on more profitable lines. And who loses? You do.

So I’m kind of tickled this year to be able to help my clients and prospects two ways to save money.

Faith-based Health Care Sharing Plans

This isn’t anything new, but back about 20 years ago religious organizations started quietly putting together groups of people who were interested in a non-traditional approach to paying medical bills. When the ACA was passed, these groups were allowed to remain. Many of them have thrived, mainly because they accept only people in essentially good health, so the assets of the larger group haven’t dwindled from paying out claims.

But they do pay – the members just agree to share medical costs of members when they arise. And guess what? They’re doing it for about half the monthly cost of an Obamacare plan. And membership in one of these groups allows you to legally forego Obamacare and its yearly penalty.

Click here to read about Altrua Healthshare.

Minimum Essential Coverage

We all know by now that Obamacare has a bunch of specific requirements for what a health insurance plan has to cover. That’s just one of the many reasons why these plans cost so much. So Aliera HealthCare has created the HealthPass and HealthPass Premium plans, which provide only the coverage that’s mandated by the ACA. You’ll still need to carry a hospitalization plan, as well as a plan to pay for accidents and serious illnesses, but even with those additional plans you’ll cut your monthly premium costs in half over what an Obamacare plan would cost you.

Want specifics? An Aliera plan for a family of four will run you $329 per month – regardless of where you live, or your health status. Add on hospitalization and critical illness coverage, and it will cost you $270.39 per month. All three together will run you less than $600 per month, and for most people that’s substantially less than what they’re paying right now for Obamacare

Call or email us today for more information about how MEC can save you big!

2017 Open Enrollment for Smarties

September 19th, 2016

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposed to make healthcare more affordable for ALL Americans. And while it seems to have helped lower income people pay their monthly premiums by giving them subsidies, the people who don’t qualify for those subsidies are now suffering more than ever before. Why?

Premiums are going up, up, up – just like President Obama said they wouldn’t – and competition in the marketplace is lessening, as health insurance companies are bailing from the market in droves, like rats from a sinking ship. So if you’re not getting that government handout in the form of a federal insurance subsidy, you’re getting priced out of the market. Sometimes it seems to me that those who must buy individual health insurance at full price are on a road to nowhere.

So how do you survive 2017 Open Enrollment? Here are 3 great tips to surviving and thriving in the Obamacare market.

Tip 1: Keep an eye on the mailbox

Make sure you watch both your “real” mailbox as well as your electronic one. Many companies are going to be leaving the individual health insurance market, or at the very least pulling certain plans. Many hundreds of thousands of people will have to find a new company or a new plan, or both. You should be notified by “snail” mail and/or email by your company.

Many times when a company decides to stop selling a specific plan in your area, they’ll automatically switch you to another plan. Don’t let them make the call for you. Do your homework, use our instant quote engine, and find the best plan at the best price. You can also count on our team of Personal Benefits Consultants for help with this as well, at no additional charge.

Tip 2: Snooze you lose

We’re anticipating a lot of people  in the individual insurance market will be looking to change plans this year. And because options will be limited, many people will be scrambling. Get started as soon as possible. Soon all carriers will have their rates and plans approved, and we’ll be able to tell you what your options are, and guide your through the process. But we’re going to be extremely busy, so get in touch with us now, so that we can start looking as possibilities for you.

Tip 3: Expand your thinking

It turns out that your healthcare coverage options may include something new, that’s not even insurance. Faith-based health sharing plans have been around for 20 years or more, and they survived the Obamacare regulations that have caused so many insurance companies to say, “Sayonaura!” to the individual health insurance market.

Faith-based plans aren’t insurance, but they are a legal way for you to opt-out of expensive Obamacare plans. And we’re finding that people are cutting the monthly expenditures by half or more.

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And you don’t even have to wait for the OEP to start on November 1 – you can sign up for these plans any day of the year!

How to Beat Obama at His Own Game with Faith-Based Plans

August 22nd, 2016

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Faith-based plans set to provide viable alternative to the outrageous premiums of ACA plans

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has brought us skyrocketing premiums along with an individual health insurance marketplace that losers player (and subsequently, competition) with each passing day. Those of us who don’t qualify for a subsidy to help with monthly premiums suffer the most, with premiums that typically top $1,000 per month for a family of 4.

But a little-known loophole in the ACA (or Obamacare as it is affectionately called) has for years allowed those who object to the principles of the legislation on religious grounds to opt-out of the requirement to carry coverage that is ACA-compliant. Faith-based sharing plans have been around for many years, and they are proving to be an extremely attractive alternative to ACA plans.

Normally, you can’t get health insurance coverage, or switch to different coverage until the Open Enrollment Period, which starts November 1 and runs through January, unless you qualify for a  special enrollment period. Just like last year, I was expecting that we’d be scrambling to get our clients into new coverage because their existing ACA plans had become unaffordable, or because their carrier had pulled out of the market in their area. But I’m excited that we’re representing Altrua Healthshare now, and folks have an alternative to Obamacare.

You can sign up for a faith-based plan at any time of the year – not just during the OEP. You do have to be relatively healthy to qualify for coverage, and you have to agree to certain religious principles, since these plans are sponsored by religious organizations. But you don’t have to have an Obamacare plan, and you’ll likely cut your monthly cost in half.

But don’t just take my word for it. Read what the Washington Post says about faith-based plans, and how they’re giving people a way to finally say “No!” to Obamacare.

HSA-Qualified Expenses: A Refresher Course

July 18th, 2016

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Hopefully, you’ve been enjoying good health for several years now, and your family members have as well. If you’ve enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan that’s HSA-qualified, I hope you’ve been taking advantage of the tremendous tax benefits afforded by these plans and socking away the maximum amount allowable – $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family – and watching as the money grows tax-free.

But sooner or later we’ll all have some medical expenses, no matter how healthy we stay. And depending on how significant the costs are, you might start thinking about withdrawing some of those HSA funds to use to pay your “qualified” expenses.

If you’ve never used your HSA funds, and even if you have, you might have questions about just how that money can be spent. And you want to be sure that you use them correctly, because if you don’t, and you get audited, the IRS can surely penalize you.

So let’s review HSA-qualified expenses. HSA funds can be used to pay for a variety of health-related expenses that might not be covered by your regular insurance plan, including ambulance transportation, artificial limbs, acupuncture, chiropractic care, hearing aids, lead paint removal, optometry (eye exams and glasses), orthodontia (currently, I’m using HSA funds to pay for my son’s braces), smoking cessation programs, and weight loss counseling.

There’s a complete list here, for your reference.

But before you decide to go ahead and “roll the dice” and just HSA funds for an expense that isn’t on the list, remember that we’re talking about the federal government here, so of course there is also a corresponding list of things that you can’t use HSA funds for, including athletic club membership, bottled water, cosmetic surgery, diaper service, premiums for health insurance (other than COBRA plans), and special foods or beverages to treat a health condition.

Check out the list of non-qualified expenses here.

Health Insurance Changes That Limit Our Choices

June 20th, 2016

By changing the rules governing short term plans, the federal government succeeds in limiting individual choices for health insurance coverage

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At HSA for America, we’ve long been proponents for individual choice in health care decisions. We believe you should have multiple options when it comes to the type of policy you can purchase, and that you should be able to choose doctors and hospitals based on public price and quality data.

That’s why I’m especially distressed to see the latest news out of Washington regarding the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) proposed health insurance changes to the law. If HHS gets its way, an individual will no longer be able to purchase short term plans, which provide an affordable coverage option for those who are healthy, for periods longer than 3 months.

Short term plans were designed to fill in the gap before you get a permanent plan, providing people with coverage that protected them in the event of hospitalization for illness or injury. But because premiums have skyrocketed under Obamacare, many Americans – especially those who don’t qualify for help in the form of government subsidies – find it more affordable to keep short term coverage in force instead of buying permanent coverage.

Because of the loss of these relatively younger, healthier individuals in the pool of insureds on the exchange, these groups are brimming with sick people who are filing more claims and driving the overall cost of coverage up. But with the changes proposed by HHS, the government is forcing individuals into the exchanges in an attempt to spread the cost of insuring the sicker individuals around.

These changes just serve to highlight one of the most prominent, inherent design flaws in Obamacare. The system gambled heavily that younger, healthier people would buy coverage, and their presence in the pool would offset the costs of insuring older and/or sicker individuals. But despite continually trying to increase enrollment of young people in exchange plans, they account for less than 25% of the exchange population. Young healthy people simply don’t want to purchase overpriced health insurance, in order to subsidize everyone else.

I think individuals should be allowed to choose what type of plan they feel makes the most sense for their individual needs. I also feel that no one should be forced into purchasing health insurance, if they’re willing to assume the responsibility for their actions. What do you think?

More Government Will Never Fix Our Broken Healthcare System

May 19th, 2016

broken-healthcare-systemThe Affordable Care Act, or the ACA as it is commonly abbreviated, was supposed to be the balm to all of our broken healthcare system wounds. Implemented in 2014, “Obamacare” was going to increase the number of people with health insurance, lower premiums by fostering competition between insurance companies, and increase coverage for benefits aimed at preventing illness.

It turns out that while more people are in fact covered, many of them are covered because they now qualify for Medicaid, the government’s health insurance system for the indigent. Also, because the ACA mandates it, a laundry list of preventive services are covered at no charge. But what about premiums? They’re definitely up, and have continued to increase every year since 2014.

What’s even more disturbing is that the competition in the market, which was supposed to guarantee that premiums stayed affordable, is quickly evaporating before our very eyes. The number of insurance companies that plan to sell coverage on the state’s health insurance exchanges during the 2017 enrollment period is dwindling – so much so that in some areas, people only have one or two carriers to choose from.

Even those who can now afford coverage because they receive government subsidies to help pay for their monthly premiums find that they don’t benefit from having coverage, because the deductibles are so high. With deductibles reaching as high as $11,000 per year for a family with some policies, many are left paying significant out-of-pocket costs before their coverage kicks in.

The group that’s probably the most underserved in today’s health insurance landscape are those who earn just enough to keep them from qualifying from a subsidy, and have to pay exceptionally high premiums with no help. Unfortunately for those people, there’s no relief in sight. Often for these people, it would cost less for them to pay the government’s penalty for not carrying health insurance than to pay monthly premiums.

Some would suggest that more government intervention, and more control over the marketplace is the answer. But since when has more government involvement in anything resulted in lower prices or a better functioning system? I certainly can’t give you any examples.

What do you think? Do we need more or less government involvement in the system to make health insurance more affordable?

Is Obama Trying to Kill HSAs?

April 14th, 2016

kill-hsasNearly 6 years after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (AKA the ”unAffordable Care Act,” AKA “the ACA”, AKA “Obamacare”), it appears that this administration is trying to get HSA-qualified plans off the state health insurance exchanges. New regulations published on March 8, whether intentionally or not, will effectively kill HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) on the state exchanges.

It’s already a tough landscape for HSA-­qualified plans on the exchanges. Currently, there are no regulations in place that require labeling “HSA-­qualified” plans as such, making it difficult for the consumer to identify those policies. And there’s also no requirement to provide information to consumers about how to open an HSA, or how to contribute to it once it’s open.

Two new rules, set for implementation in 2017, most likely represent the “nail in the coffin” for HSAs on the exchanges. The first changes deductibles and out­-of-­pocket limits for the standard bronze, silver, and gold plans offered on the exchanges, and these are outside the limits for HSA-­qualified plans.

The second is a change to what policies must cover prior to the deductible being met. HSA plans, by definition, only cover wellness visits as “first­-dollar” (before the deductible is satisfied)benefits. With the new regulations, exchange policies must cover a limited number of primary-care visits, specialist visits, mental health and substance abuse visits, urgent care visits, and certain prescription drugs. Since HSA ­qualified plans only cover these items once the deductible is met, you won’t see these plans being offered on the exchanges.

Who does this affect? It affects all of the people who qualify for a subsidy to pay their health insurance premiums, since in order to use their subsidy, they must shop for coverage on their state’s exchange. This effectively prevents these people from purchasing an HSA-­qualified plan, and reaping the tax and savings benefits associated with it.

You Can Thank President Obama for Your Higher Insurance Rates

March 16th, 2016

higher­insurance­ratesDid you hear that the federal government’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP) for health insurance ended on January 31? If you did, you heard wrong, because the government recently extended the period of time you can sign up for health insurance, but only for a select few who haven’t yet filed their 2014 tax return.

Wait, why are we rewarding people who don’t file their tax returns???

It’s a great question. The only people who qualify for this extended enrollment period (which closes at the end of March) are those who have yet to file their 2014 taxes. What do taxes and health insurance have to do with each other, you might ask?

If your income is below a certain threshold, you qualify for premium tax credits to subsidize the monthly amount you pay for health insurance. However, the government requires you to reconcile that payout on your taxes in the following year, so that if you overestimated your income, you’ll owe money back to the government. If you never file your taxes, that reconciliation never happens, and the government’s rule is that you can’t get premium tax credit subsidies if you haven’t filed.

This stipulation of the law isn’t new ­ but the 2016 enrollment period is the first time that the rule has been enforced. So, in order to help the people who haven’t filed their 2014 taxes, resulting in them being unable to afford their health insurance anymore, President Obama has given them a reprieve, and will allow them to sign up for health insurance until March 31, as long as they file their 2014 taxes as well.

So, tell me why I should care?

The reason this is important is because extending the enrollment period increases the cost on insurers. How? The reason is that the people who sign up during these special enrollment periods tend to be the sickest, and subsequently the most expensive to insure. And guess how they make up these losses? By imposing higher insurance rates on the rest of us, that’s how.

So while this new enrollment period gives some Americans an extra chance to get health insurance ­ and estimates are that it’s a pretty small group, likely less than 100,000 people ­ it’s policy like this that increases the burden on the rest of us. And that’s something I’m not in favor of ­ are you?