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Welcome back to another edition of “Phrases Made Easy.” This series at our blog aims to help make all of those long, drawn-out insurance phrases easier to understand. One thing we notice when talking about health insurance (and health benefits in general) is that the concepts can be “wordy” and boring. We emphasize fixing that here.

Today we’re going to talk about “Advanced Premium Tax Credits” (or APTCs). And we’ve got great news for you: this one is really easy.

If you’ve enrolled in a health insurance plan at the new health insurance exchanges, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve already put “Advanced Premium Tax Credits” to work. We’re going to give you the long version of the definition first. This one comes directly from www.healthcare.gov (*note: skip below the “Easy St” sign if you want to make this easier):

The Affordable Care Act provides a new tax credit to help you afford health coverage purchased through the Marketplace. Advance payments of the tax credit can be used right away to lower your monthly premium costs. If you qualify, you may choose how much advance credit payments to apply to your premiums each month, up to a maximum amount. If the amount of advance credit payments you get for the year is less than the tax credit you’re due, you’ll get the difference as a refundable credit when you file your federal income tax return. If your advance payments for the year are more than the amount of your credit, you must repay the excess advance payments with your tax return. Also called premium tax credit.

Easy

OK. That was pretty wordy. Now let’s make this easy. Here’s what you need to know about “Advanced Premium Tax Credits” (or APTCs):

  • APTCs are the health insurance “subsidies” that you hear so much about.
  • They are credits that make your premiums more affordable if you purchase insurance through the new exchange.
  • The APTCs that you may qualify for are based on FPL or “Federal Poverty Level” (we made that phrase easy one time before, go check it out).
  • The more money that you make, the less of a monthly APTC you will get.
  • The less money that you make, the more of a monthly APTC you will get.
  • If you get too much credit for the year (because you under-stated your income), you’ll have to pay it back at tax time.
  • And (you guessed it), if you don’t get enough credit for the year (because you over-stated your income), you’ll get a credit at tax time.

The moral of the story: APTCs are really what makes individual health insurance “affordable” in the Affordable Care Act. They’re government tax credits that are designed to make health insurance premiums less expensive.

In certain exchanges (like Covered California), when you shop and compare plans (using their “Shop & Compare Tool“), they will apply the APTCs you may eligible for, and give you your total monthly premium estimate. This estimate is based on four factors:

  1. Number of People in the Household
  2. Ages of People in the Household
  3. Yearly Household Income
  4. and Zip Code

Once again, if you want to see an example, look at Covered California’s “Shop & Compare Tool.” Once you input the factors listed above, you’ll be able to see what kind of APTC you may qualify for.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

Home Page: http://www.PolicyAdvantage.com

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Covered California” is the new public health insurance exchange in the state of California. If you live California, you’ve probably heard quite a bit about it over the past 6 months. These exchanges are a new way to buy health insurance and are a major part of healthcare reform.

The California exchange opened back in October of 2013. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Californians have enrolled in individual insurance plans there. Many of these plans have been subsidized by Advance Premium Tax Credits (or APTCs). These APTCs can substantially reduce the monthly cost of health insurance.

If you’ve taken a look at Covered California, you’ll know that there are various ways in which to enroll. Some of them include:

  • Online. You can set up an online account and enroll via the internet. You can also assign a Certified Insurance Agent to your case through your online portal.
  • Over the phone. You can call Covered California’s phone number and enroll with a service agent.
  • In person. You can enroll in person with A) Certified Enrollment Entities, B) Certified Enrollment Counselors, or C) Certified Insurance Agents. 

The purpose of this blog post is to explain some of the advantages of enrolling with a Certified Insurance Agent

Advantage

Here are some really good reasons to work with a Covered California “Certified Insurance Agent”:

  • Certified Agents are Licensed Professionals: Any insurance agent that is certified with Covered California is also licensed with the state department of insurance. Many of these agents also have years of experience and know the industry well.
  • A Single Point of Contact: This is one of the biggest advantages. You’ll have a single point of contact if you enroll with a certified agent. You can pick up the phone or send an email to that person anytime. If you need to make changes or have questions in the future, you’ll have someone familiar to work with.  However, if you enroll with a Covered California customer service rep over the phone, or a Certified Enrollment Counselor, you may speak with different people each time.
  • Certified Agents are Appointed Directly with the Insurance Companies: Insurance agents are appointed and have a direct relationship with the insurance companies. This can help with quick, effective, and efficient customer service.
  • Certified Agents Have Passed Rigorous Certification Requirements: These are people that have gone through extensive training and testing to obtain their certified status.
  • No Cost. You can work with a Covered California “Certified Agent” at no cost to you. Compensation is built into every insurance plan, regardless of whether-or-not you decide to work with an agent.

As you can see, there are a number of good reasons to work with a Covered California “Certified Insurance Agent.” Look for this badge when searching for assistance from an agent or agency:

CCCertified

Policy Advantage Insurance Services is certified. Please contact us if you have questions, or need ongoing help at Covered California.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

Home Page: http://www.PolicyAdvantage.com

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Welcome back to another edition of “Benefits Chalk Talk.” In this series at our blog, we provide you with valuable, up-to-date, relevant information about health benefits planning so that you can put the things in place that make the most sense for yourself or your company. At Policy Advantage Insurance Services, we feel that informed consumers can make a really big difference in our industry.

The topic today is about the “10 essential health benefits” that must be included in all insurance plans starting on January 1st, 2014. The Affordable Care Act (or ACA/Obamacare), required that certain new “essential benefits” be included in all health insurance plans.

Additionally, you may have heard recently in the news that many people across the country are going to be unable to continue their current health insurance plans. The “10 Essential Health Benefits” provision is one of the reasons why. Many of today’s plans on the individual market do not conform to these minimum standards set forth in the law.

As such, any plans that were not “grandfathered in” (ie: in place before March 23rd, 2010, with certain exceptions) can no longer be offered. As a result, people in these plans will need to find a new one starting on January 1st. In many cases, because of the additional added benefits, premiums will also be more expensive.

Here is an overview of the “10 Essential Health Benefits (source: www.healthcare.gov):

  1. Ambulatory Patient Services: “Outpatient care” – the kind you get without being admitted to a hospital
  2. Emergency Care: Trips to the emergency room
  3. Hospitalization: Treatment in the hospital for inpatient care
  4. Maternity & Newborn Care: Care before and after your baby is born
  5. Mental Health Services: Mental health and substance use disorder services: This includes behavioral health treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy
  6. Prescription Drugs: Your prescription drugs
  7. Rehabilitative & Habilitative Services: Services and devices to help you recover if you are injured or have a disability or chronic condition. This includes physical and occupational therapy, speech language pathology, psychiatric rehabilitation, and more
  8. Laboratory Services: Your lab tests
  9. Preventive & Wellness Services: Preventive services including counseling, screening, and vaccines to keep you healthy and care for managing a chronic disease
  10. Pediatric Care: Pediatric services – this includes dental care and vision care for kids

The above listed are the “10 Essential Health Benefits” that must be included in all insurance plans starting on January 1st, 2014. Keep in mind that there may be minor benefits differences between states, but for the most part, all of the above must be included in new insurance policies.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

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F is for:

“Full Time Equivalent Employee”

Full Time Equivalent Employees (FTE): are employees who do not work full-time (defined as 30 or more hours per week) in your business or organization, but do count towards the full-time equivalent employee count. In other words, YES… part-time employees do count towards your overall employee grand total.

“Full Time Equivalent Employees” is extremely important because it is the sole factor in healthcare reform that determines which employers are mandated to provide health insurance coverage, and which employers are not mandated to provide health insurance coverage. Starting on January 1st, 2015, employers with 50 or more “full time equivalent employees” must provide adequate health insurance coverage to their employees, or face a tax penalty.

For additional detailed information about Full Time Equivalent Employees, please read this blog post.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

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Today’s blog post is about the insurance exchange notices that need to go out to employees of nearly all employer groups in the United States. The Department of Labor is calling this correspondence the “model notice.” It contains information about the upcoming health insurance marketplaces.

There are provisions in the healthcare reform bill that were designed to expand coverage and access beginning in 2014. Some of these provisions included the establishment of what are called state health insurance exchanges (or marketplaces). With these exchanges, premium tax-credits may assist qualified individuals or families in the payment of their health insurance premiums. As such, employers need to distribute notices to their employees about the coverage options available through the new marketplaces.

On January 1st, 2014 individuals and employees of small businesses will have access to a new individual private competitive health insurance market – the Health Insurance Marketplace. This marketplace will provide a “one stop shop” to find and compare private health insurance options. Open enrollment for the new health insurance exchanges begins on October 1st, 2013.

Section 1512 of the Affordable Care Act creates a new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) section 18B requiring a notice to employees of coverage options available through the Marketplace. You can find copies of the approved “model notices” here:

  1. Department of Labor “model notice” for employers that are currently offering health insurance coverage.
  2. Department of Labor “model notice” for employers that are not currently offering health insurance coverage.

Which employers must provide notice?

The FLSA section 18B requirement to provide a notice to employees of coverage options applies to employers to which the FLSA applies. In general, the FLSA applies to employers that employ one or more employees who are engaged in, or produce goods for, interstate commerce. For most firms, a test of not less than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business applies. The FLSA also specifically covers the following entities: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and federal, state and local government agencies.

Which employees do I provide notice to?

Employers must provide a notice of coverage options to each employee, regardless of plan enrollment status (if applicable) or of part-time or full-time status. Employers are not required to provide a separate notice to dependents or other individuals who are or may become eligible for coverage under the plan but who are not employees.

When does the notice need to go out to employees?

With respect to employees who are current employees before October 1, 2013, employers are required to provide the notice no later than October 1, 2013. The notice is required to be provided automatically, free of charge. Employers are required to provide the notice to each new employee at the time of hiring beginning October 1, 2013. For 2014, the Department of Labor will consider a notice to be provided at the time of hiring, if the notice is provided within 14 days of an employee’s start date.

Again, you can find copies of the approved “model notices” here. There are two of them. One is for employers that are currently offering health insurance coverage, and one is for employers that are not currently providing health insurance coverage:

  1. Department of Labor “model notice” for employers that are currently offering health insurance coverage.
  2. Department of Labor “model notice” for employers that are not currently offering health insurance coverage.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

Home Page: http://www.PolicyAdvantage.com

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Welcome back to another edition of “Phrases Made Easy.” This series at our blog aims to help make all of those long, drawn-out insurance phrases easier to understand. One thing we notice when talking about health insurance (and health benefits in general) is that the concepts can be “wordy” and boring. We emphasize fixing that here!

Our biggest goal is to help you tune in, understand, and put this knowledge to work for yourself or your company. We’re firm believers that informed consumers can make a really, really big difference in our industry.

The phrase that we’re talking about today is minimum essential coverage. This one sounds difficult, but it’s really not too bad. We’ve selected this phrase for one primary reason:

  1. Under the healthcare reform law (Obamacare, ACA)… minimum essential coverage is: the type of health insurance coverage that is required to be held by most Americans (per the individual mandate), in order to avoid individual tax penalties

In other words… you need to find a place where you can find minimum essential coverage (or pay a tax penalty). It doesn’t matter how rich you are or poor you are, where you live, or what kind of job you have… the law states that nearly every single American citizen will need to find minimum essential coverage by January 1st, 2014. It’s just that simple.

There are a number of different places where you can find minimum essential coverage. Here are the majority of options available for most people:

  • Coverage under an “eligible employer-sponsored plan,” which the proposed Treasury rule defines generally to mean coverage under a group health plan, whether insured or self-insured, including coverage under a federal or non-federal governmental plan (keeping it simple: coverage through your employer).
  • Coverage under an employer-sponsored retiree health plan.
  • Coverage under certain government programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and TRICARE.
  • Coverage in the individual insurance market, including a plan offered by an Exchange** (if you’re in California, you’ll want to look at Covered California).
  • Other coverage recognized by HHS, including self-funded student health coverage and coverage under Medicare Advantage plans.

**Very important new concept to understand

Please note that coverage listed as “excepted benefits” (as defined by HIPAA) will not qualify as minimum essential coverage. IE: dental benefits, vision benefits, and FSAs will not qualify on their own.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

Home Page: http://www.PolicyAdvantage.com

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Today’s blog post is about a change/delay in the healthcare reform law (Obamacare, ACA, the Affordable Care Act, or whatever you would like to call it). Last week, the White House announced that the “employer mandate” (ie: employers with 50 or more full time equivalent employees having to provide coverage) would be delayed until 2015.

The reason that this happened, is because many businesses had informed the Obama administration that they were greatly unprepared for this change to be implemented (citing administrative burdens, difficulties with technology, additional expenses, etc). As a result, the White House rolled-out a decision that the “employer mandate” would be delayed until 2015.

What does this mean?

  • Employers with +50 Full Time Equivalent Employees: You will not have to provide minimum essential coverage to employees by January 1st, 2014. This decision allows you to postpone your decision making (ie: pay or play) until January 1st, 2015 (one full year). If you are not currently providing health insurance coverage, you may have faced additional tax penalties. With this decision, you will have additional time to make your decisions about employee health benefits.
  • Employers with Less Than +50 Full Time Equivalent Employees: This recent determination has not changed your health benefits planning in any way. If you are currently providing health insurance to your employees, you can continue to do-so. If you are not currently providing health insurance to your employees, keep in mind that (as of now) the individual mandate is still in place, and your employees will need to find a way to find affordable health coverage (or face a tax penalty).

The Fallout:

  • Democrat/Liberal Interpretation: many employers with +50 FTE across the county are already currently offering health insurance coverage. Because the overwhelming majority of employers with 50 or more FTE are already offering health insurance, this is not much of a change, and will not affect the broad scope of healthcare reform overall. This is simply a means to allow those employers with 50 or more FTE to continue to make their necessary adjustments, with an extra year of time.
  • Republican/Conservative Interpretation: this is the beginning of many of the major “issues” for the healthcare reform bill (Obamacare). Many will argue that there is much potential for this bill to begin to “unravel,” and that the “train wreck” is yet to arrive. Additionally, be prepared to anticipate major changes as this bill is implemented (ie: will the individual mandate still hold up?).
  • Policy Advantage Insurance Services Interpretation: This decision gives employers with +50 FTE’s more time to make their decisions about whether-or-not to offer health insurance coverage. The healthcare reform bill was large and far-reaching legislation, and changes were anticipated. Be prepared for additional delays and changes along the way. There is no-doubt that this bill will continue to take shape as implementation moves forward. We will continue to stay up-to-date with changes… stay tuned, and keep informed.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

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E is for:

“Exchange”

GreyE

Exchange: When used as a noun, an exchange is a place where goods or services are bought or sold. In this blog post, we’re specifically referring to exchanges that sell major-medical health insurance policies. These are otherwise known as health insurance exchanges.

The reason that we’ve selected this topic is because you’re going to hear a lot about “exchanges” over the next few years (and into the future in general), when it comes to health insurance. There are two types of health insurance exchanges:

  1. Public Health Insurance Exchanges
  2. Private Health Insurance Exchanges

—————————————————————————————————————

A Public Health Insurance Exchange is an exchange that is set up, funded, and administered by the government. There are a combination of ways that this takes place:

  • A) State-only administered exchanges.
  • B) Joint state/federally administered exchanges.
  • and C) Exchanges administered by the federal government only.

Public Health Insurance Exchanges were a large part of healthcare reform (ACA/Obamacare). These are the new exchanges that are mandated by the law. The purpose of these exchanges is to help expand affordable coverage to the uninsured. The state exchange in California is called “Covered California.”

—————————————————————————————————————

A Private Health Insurance Exchange is an exchange that is set up, funded, and administered by private parties. In other words, the government is not involved (examples of private parties: employers and their employees).

There are a number of different strategies when setting up a Private Health Insurance Exchange. Most of these strategies revolve around the “defined contribution” health planning concept that we’ve discussed in past blog posts. This concept (defined contribution) is gaining importance as we move forward in health benefits planning. Third party administrators (or TPAs) facilitate the administration of Private Health Insurance Exchanges.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

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Welcome back to another edition of our blog series “Phrases Made Easy.” Generally speaking… insurance phrases, words, and concepts can sometimes be difficult to understand. Our goal is to make all of those long, drawn-out phrases easier to understand. We feel that informed consumers can make a really big difference in our industry.

Today we picked the phrase “Guaranteed Issue.” The reason that we picked this phrase is because starting on January 1st, 2014 all health insurance policies must be written as “guaranteed issue” policies. When we refer to health insurance, we’re talking about major medical (ie: HMO/PPO) policies. Products like supplemental health insurance, dental, vision, long term care, etc are not required to be “guaranteed issue.”

Easy

The first thing we’ll do is give you the longer definition of “guaranteed issue.” That way, the shorter and easier version will be really simple. Here’s the long definition of “guaranteed issue”:

Guaranteed issue is a term used in health insurance to describe a situation where a policy is offered to any eligible applicant without regard to health status. Often this is the result of guaranteed issue statutes regarding how health insurance may be sold, typically to provide a means for people with pre-existing conditions the ability to obtain health insurance of some kind.

Now that you know the longer definition of “guaranteed issue,” here is the simple version: if you apply for health insurance coverage, you must be accepted. It’s very simple, that’s all it is.

Here are some additional notes on guaranteed issue coverage:

  • All plans from all carriers must be “guaranteed issue” nationwide starting on January 1st, 2014
  • The “guaranteed issue” mandate applies to plans both inside and outside of state health insurance exchanges

“Guaranteed Issue” will take some “getting-use-to” by the public. When this concept is mentioned to our clients and potential clients, they still have a difficult time comprehending it. However, this is correct: regardless of your health status (any pre-existing conditions), you must be accepted for health insurance coverage if you apply for coverage starting on January 1st, 2014.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

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As you know, state health insurance exchanges were a large part of healthcare reform (PPACA). Each individual state was required by the law to set up these new exchanges, and have them ready for enrollment by October 1st, 2013. Some states have elected not to set up an exchange (deferring administration to the federal government). Other states have set up a joint state/federal partnership to operate their exchange.

California has continued along the path to setting up a state-only administered exchange (ie: no help from the federal government, except for funding). The state has taken a more aggressive approach to setting up their exchange, and further information is continuing to roll out. The California state health insurance exchange is called “Covered California.”

coveredcaliflogo

Covered California is anticipated to be the largest insurance exchange in the country. Here are some general questions and answers about the exchange:

Question: How can Covered California help me find affordable insurance?

Answer: Covered California is an online marketplace where you will able to shop for and compare health insurance coverages. If you can’t afford health insurance, and are unable to obtain it through employer, individual or other government programs, the exchange will be something you may want to look at.

Question: How can I participate in the Covered California exchange?

Answer: Eligible individuals will be able to enroll in the exchange plans online, over the phone, or in person.

Question: Can Policy Advantage Insurance Services help me enroll in the exchange?

Answer: Yes. Policy Advantage Insurance Services, and any other “exchange certified” agents/brokers can help you with your questions and enrollment in the Covered California exchange. The exchange has not rolled-out further information about “exchange certification” yet, but we (Policy Advantage Insurance Services) will be getting certified.

Question: How much will my premiums cost at Covered California? 

Answer: Depending on your income bracket (400% of FPL or less), you may received a subsidy from the exchange. Covered California has provided a premium estimation calculator here.

Question: Who will receive subsidies from the Covered California exchange?

Answer: California was one of the states that expanded Medicaid eligibility to 138% of FPL. So, individuals who make between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) should be eligible for subsidies. If you make less that 138% of FPL, you will be eligible for Medicaid in California.

Question: When can I enroll in the Covered California exchange?

Answer: Enrollment is set to begin on October 1st, 2013, and coverage begins on January 1st, 2014.

Question: What types of plans will be available in the Covered California exchange?

Answer: Plans inside of the exchange must contain the same benefits as those outside of the exchange (plans that are being offered within the exchange are private plans that are funded by the federal government). They are essentially identical to those that will be found outside of the exchange. Here are the levels of coverage:

  • Platinum (90% paid by health plan, 10% paid by plan member)
  • Gold (80% paid by health plan, 20% paid by plan member)
  • Silver (70% paid by health plan, 30% paid by plan member)
  • Bronze (60% paid by health plan, 40% paid by plan member)

That’s all for now about the Covered California state health insurance exchange. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us at anytime. As soon as further information is available, we’ll be getting “exchange certified” and helping our clients and potential clients enroll starting on October 1st, 2013. The Covered California website is: www.coveredca.com.

Thanks for stopping by, we hope you found our information to be valuable. Check back at our blog to get further information about funding healthcare. Also, please share with your friends, clients, colleagues, and family. Here are a few of our other information outlets:

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