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:

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

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/policyadvantage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/policyadvantage

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/policyadvantage

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/policyadvantage

Word Press (you are here): http://www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com

Welcome back to another edition of “Benefits Chalk Talk.” Our biggest goal in this blog series is to help you understand all of the different tools (and planning strategies) that fund healthcare. By providing you with valuable, up-to-date, and relevant information… we’ll give you the power to put things in place that make the most sense for yourself or your business. Knowledge is power; you’ll be able to put a comprehensive program in place for yourself or your company, while saving money.

Today we’re going to be talking about “defined contribution” health plans again. In case you’ve missed past blog posts, we’ve talked about these concepts a little bit already. If you’d like to read up about the concept a little bit more before moving on with this post, you can find further information about it here.

One of the biggest buzz phrases in health benefits planning today is “defined contribution.” It’s a red hot concept. There are a number of different reasons as to why it’s becoming so popular. Here are a few of them:

  1. Smart Benefits: In most situations, it is a “smarter” way for businesses and individuals to fund healthcare (especially financially). It just makes better sense.
  2. Healthcare Reform: Depending on your defined contribution planning strategy, healthcare reform (ACA/Obamacare) has made current conditions more favorable towards defined contribution benefits planning. 
  3. Technology: New computer programs and software are allowing businesses and companies to administer defined contribution health plans with ease. In most cases, these are what are called TPAs (or Third Party Administrators).
  4. Innovation & Creative Benefits Planning: Businesses and companies have been dealing with rising healthcare costs for quite some time (especially with standard group health insurance plans). It has been tiresome and burdensome to find the right coverage, and contain costs. Defined contribution planning can address both of these issues.

The above listed are a few of the reasons why defined contribution health planning is becoming more popular. Now that you have a better understanding, the remainder of this blog post will concentrate on the different strategies using defined contribution concepts and components.

handing-over-cash_100177776_s1

First off, we’re going to take a second to briefly define the concept. Here it is, in simple layman’s terms:

Defined contribution health plans are an allowance given to employees by an employer. An employer decides each month (or year) how much money they’d like to give to each employee to spend on healthcare benefits.

That’s all it is. As you can see, it’s very simple and budgetable. Once an employer gives each employee an allowance, the employee then decides how they would like to spend their money. It really is that simple.

There are a number of different strategies that can be utilized when setting up a defined contribution health plan. In this blog post, we’re going to describe those defined contribution strategies in their most basic form. We’ll get into further details about each strategy in later blog posts.

Here are currently some of the more popular defined contribution health plan strategies:

  1. Group Health Insurance Plans with an HRA: This is what is called an “integrated” HRA (it is integrated with a group health insurance plan). A group health insurance plan (typically a high deductible plan) is offered to employees. The employer then decides on a monthly allowance (the defined contribution) to give to each employee through the HRA. The employee utilizes the HRA funds towards qualified medical expenses (ie: the deductible, etc). Essentially an employer is partially self-funding with the HRA, and retaining funds that would normally go to insurance companies. 
  2. Group Health Insurance Plans with HSAs: Certain TPAs or Third Party Administrators (who are usually also technology companies), partner with insurance carriers to set up a pre-determined arrangement of group health insurance plans. Then, a TPA (like www.liazon.com) allows clients to select which products fit them best. The employer still decides the amount of money they would like to give to each employee each month, and employees chose the plan they want (still the defined contribution concept). In this strategy, HSAs are usually used instead of HRAs.
  3. After Tax Stipends: You “define a contribution” (ie: $300) per month, and employees then purchase their own individual health insurance plans. Employees can pick from insurance policies that are both on or off the public health insurance marketplaces (where they may receive substantial subsidies, based on income). This strategy is budgetable, and gets business owners out of the business of making insurance decisions. Employees make their own decisions and purchase their own plan. Effectively, all it is is an after-tax stipend. A raise.

As described above, there are a number of different strategies where an employer can utilize the “defined contribution” planning model. Those listed are only a few of them, and there are further details regarding all three. If you have questions, we encourage you to contact us. We work with the TPAs (Third Party Administrators) that can make defined contribution health benefits planning work for your company.

Defined contribution health benefits planning strategies will also continue to evolve and change, as further guidance is rolled out from the Department of Labor, and HHS. We stay on the front end of all of that, and will continue to keep you up-to-date.

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

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/policyadvantage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/policyadvantage

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/policyadvantage

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/policyadvantage

Word Press (you are here): http://www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com

D is for:

“Deductible”

Letter-D-blue-icon

Deductible: is the initial amount of medical expenses an individual must pay before he or she will receive benefits under a medical expense plan.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Example:

Plan Type: PPO

Co-Payment: $30 primary care, $50 specialist

Deductible: $3000

Coinsurance: 70%/30%

Annual out of Pocket Maximum: $5000

In the PPO listed above, the deductible is $3000. The $3000 deductible must be met before any other benefits are payable.

However, sometimes primary and specialty care office visits are excluded from having to meet the deductible. Other additional services may also sometimes be excluded (ie: things like lab work and x-rays, etc). It’s important to understand what is covered before the deductible has to be met. In addition, it’s also important to understand whether or not the deducible counts towards the plan’s annual out of pocket maximum.  

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Important note about deductibles: The deductible is one of the major components in a health plan that regulates premium prices. The higher your deductible is (ie: the more you pay out of pocket), the lower your premium is. The lower your deductible is (ie: the less you pay out of pocket), the higher your premium is. The reason this is important to note, is because Consumer Directed Healthcare typically uses higher deductible plans in order to lower premiums. With these higher deductibles, you’ll want to look into additional security with money-smart concepts with things like HRAs, HSAs, etc. They can help you retain premium dollars. For additional information about Consumer Directed Healthcare click here.

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

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/policyadvantage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/policyadvantage

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/policyadvantage

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/policyadvantage

Word Press (you are here): http://www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com

DisabilityIconThe topic of this blog post is Short Term Disability Insurance. Think of this type of insurance policy as a “paycheck protector.” It literally insures a portion of your paycheck in the event that you find yourself disabled and unable to work.

You insure your house, you insure your car… but do you insure your paycheck and income? That’s a very important question to ask yourself, because in the event of a disability, you’ll want to maintain your standard of living as best you can.

There are two types of disability plans:

  1. Short Term Disability Insurance
  2. Long Term Disability Insurance

There are specific differences between the two. Short Term Disability Insurance is our area of concentration in this blog post. Short Term Disability Insurance means just that: it insures your income/paycheck for the short term.

Typically a short term plan will have a benefit period of between 3 and 18 months. The benefit period is the period of time that your insurance plan will pay you in the event that you become disabled and are unable to work. If you’re more concerned about a situation where you’ll be off of work for a year or more, you may want to look into a long term disability plan.

The benefit amount (the amount of money you receive from your plan) is dependent upon income. The benefit typically replaces a percentage (or portion) of your wages. In most cases, that amount is between 50%-70% of what you would normally earn. You will not typically find a plan that will cover 100% or more of your income, because there needs to be incentive to go back to work.

Disability plans also have what is called an elimination period. The elimination period is the amount of time that you must wait in order to begin receiving your benefit. For example, if you have a 0/7 (accident/sickness) elimination period, your plan will begin paying you right away (0 days) for an accident, and on the 7th day for a sickness. Typical elimination periods in a short term plan are: 0/7, 0/14, 7/7, 7/14, 14/14 and so on. The elimination period will adjust your premium payment (up or down), based on the amount of time you are willing to wait to receive your benefit.

Another important thing to consider is if you have off-the-job coverage only, or if you are also covered on the job. Most plans are off-the-job coverage only (because worker’s compensation typically pays for on the job disabilities). Make sure that you understand where you are covered under your short term disability plan.

A final thing to consider are state disability programs. If your state has a disability program, in most cases, you’ll need to factor in the amount of benefit you’d be eligible for from the state if you were to file a disability claim. In California, it’s up to ~56% of income. Beyond that, a person is on their own. If a person wants more income protection than what the state is providing, he/she can find a private plan that will help bridge that gap up to ~70% of income. The following states and territories have state disability income programs:

  • California
  • Rhode Island
  • New York
  • Hawaii
  • New Jersey
  • Puerto Rico

That’s all for now on Short Term Disability Insurance. This can be a very important concept for many people because it insures your income and your livelihood (paying for rent, mortgages, car payments, child care, groceries, utilities, etc). Make sure to contact us if you have questions.

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

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/PolicyAdvantage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PolicyAdvantage

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/PolicyAdvantage

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/PolicyAdvantage

Word Press (you are here): http://www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com

WrenchToday’s blog post is a general overview about all of the “tools” that are available to people to fund their healthcare. We’re also going to talk about the sources of these tools.

One of our biggest goals is to help you understand the programs that are available, and where the access and funding of these programs comes from.

Keeping it simple, there are three major sources that fund benefits programs:

  1. Your employer.
  2. Your contributions (You).
  3. The government.

Below are summaries of the programs that are available to people through the above listed benefits sources. Keep in mind that only healthcare, disability, and life benefits are discussed (retirement benefits are not included):

Government Programs:

  • OASDI (Social Security): Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance. This is a government program that provides benefits for the elderly, survivors/dependents of deceased family members, and the disabled. 
  • Medicare: This is a government program that provides health benefits for the elderly.
  • Medicaid: This is a government program that provides health benefits for the poor.
  • State Disability Income: Five states have state disability programs (California, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Rhode Island). Puerto Rico also has a disability program. These programs help the citizens of these states with income protection in the event of disability.
  • State Health Insurance Exchanges (set to begin January 1st, 2014): The new “Health Insurance Marketplaces” of healthcare reform (ACA 2010) will provide a place where people with incomes between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) may receive subsides to purchase individual health insurance policies.
  • Guaranteed Issue Mandate: A provision of ACA 2010 (healthcare reform) that will require insurance companies to accept all applicants who apply for health insurance.

Employer Programs: 

  • Group Health Insurance Plan: Some employers may offer their employees an opportunity to enroll in a group health insurance plan. The employer may pay all (or a portion) of premiums. 
  • Group Dental Insurance Plan: Some employers may offer a group dental plan that is similar in concept to a group health insurance plan.
  • Employer-Paid Vision, Supplemental Health Insurance, and Life: Employers may decide to add additional benefits that are paid for.
  • Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs): These are arrangements that are set up by an employer to reimburse employees tax-free for “qualified medical expenses.”
  • Employer Self Funding: This is an arrangement where an employer pays for the medical expenses of their employees through the general revenue of the company. Typically there is a third party administrator and stop-loss coverage involved.

Individual Programs (programs you pay for individually):

  • Individual Health Insurance Plans: These are insurance plans that people participate in outside of an employer. Starting on January 1st, 2014 all applicants who apply for individual health insurance must be accepted.
  • Voluntary Benefits: These are benefits that are typically offered to the employees of a group at a “group rate” that is usually discounted. Employees typically pay for these benefits through payroll deduction, and premiums can also be paid for tax-free through section 125. Examples of voluntary benefits include supplemental health insurance, vision & dental plans, disability insurance, life insurance, etc.
  • Individual Life, Dental, Vision: There are many individual life insurance, dental, and vision programs available outside of group plans.
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): Health Savings Accounts allow people to save money for medical expenses, and then pay for them tax free.
  • Union, Association, MEWA, etc: Individuals may have accessibility to benefits through these types of organizations. Benefits may be paid for out of pocket, and could be offered at a reduced rate.

The above listed gives you the general overview of the benefits that are available through the government, employers, and individual purchases. This does not include all benefits (as it is a general overview)… but it should give you a broad-based idea about the tools that are available, and where they come from.

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

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/policyadvantage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/policyadvantage

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/policyadvantage

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/policyadvantage

Word Press (you are here): http://www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com

This is another post in our series called “Phrases Made Easy.” The purpose of this series is to help our clients and potential clients understand insurance jargon that has a tendency to be complicated.

Consumer directed healthcare is an important concept that sounds difficult… but it really is very simple! We’ve selected this phrase for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a concept that gives the consumer power to make their own health benefits decisions.
  2. It is an important concept in the post-healthcare reform environment.
  3. It is a phrase you will see a lot in our content at Policy Advantage Insurance Services (in fact, it was already in another one of our series’ called Benefits Chalk Talk: Consumer Directed Healthcare).

Easy

Here it is… this is the Policy Advantage Insurance Services definition of consumer directed healthcare:

Consumer directed healthcare is the idea that patients will behave as medical consumers. Patients will be the ones deciding how their healthcare dollars will be spent. Not doctors, employers, insurance companies, or the government.

That’s it… that’s all it is. You (the consumer) make your own decisions about your own health benefits.

As a consumer, you’ll need to know about all of the different “tools” that are available to you. You’ll also need to know whether-or-not you’re getting help from an employer, the government… or if you’re doing it on your own (there are also combinations of the three).

That’s where Policy Advantage Insurance Services comes in. We share valuable, up-to-date, relevant information that helps businesses and individuals finance (pay for) healthcare. In other words, we help you put all the pieces together. These are the kinds of questions we can help you with:

  1. What kind of health insurance plan should I be looking at?
  2. What do I need to know about healthcare reform, and what kinds of new options are available?
  3. How can my employer or the government help me?
  4. Are there any tax incentives when it comes to health insurance/benefits?
  5. Where does dental insurance and supplemental health insurance fit in?
  6. What is a health savings account, and a health reimbursement arrangement?
  7. …plus others.

There you have it… consumer directed healthcare, made easy. 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: www.PolicyAdvantage.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/PolicyAdvantage

Facebook: www.facebook.com/PolicyAdvantage

YouTube: www.youtube.com/PolicyAdvantage

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/PolicyAdvantage

Word Press: www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com

C is for:

“COINSURANCE”

LetterCGrey

Coinsurance (or co-insurance): is the percentage of covered expenses under a major medical plan that will be paid once the deductible is satisfied.

Said another way, it’s the portion of the bill that the policyholder is responsible for, once the deductible has been met. 

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Example:

Plan Type: PPO

Co-Payment: $30 primary care, $50 specialist

Deductible: $3000

Coinsurance: 70%/30%

Annual out of Pocket Maximum: $5000

Based on the example above, once the $3000 deductible has been paid, the policyholder is then responsible for 30% of covered expenses (the coinsurance) up to $5000 (the out of pocket maximum)The insurance company pays the remaining covered expenses.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

In many cases, the use of coinsurance is most common with a hospital stay. However, in some cases (depending on the structure of the insurance contract you have in place), there may be coinsurance for outpatient surgeries, basic physician services, primary care, etc.

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

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/policyadvantage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/policyadvantage

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/policyadvantage

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/policyadvantage

Word Press (you are here): http://www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com

Welcome back to another edition of Phrases Made Easy.  This series at our blog takes all of those long, drawn-out insurance phrases and turns them into concepts that are easy for people to understand.

Today we’re going to be talking about the “FPL” or “Federal Poverty Level.” The reason that we want to discuss this phrase, is because it’s an important component in the new state health insurance exchanges which are set to get going by 2014. As you know, these exchanges are a large part of healthcare reform.

As mentioned in the previous blog article “Benefits Chalk Talk: State Health Insurance Exchanges,” a business or individual may or may not utilize these exchanges (depending on preference and planning strategy). However it’s a good idea to have an understanding of them. So here we go… this phrase is easy: Federal Poverty Level or FPL.

It'sEasy

Here’s the first simple question:

Q: What exactly is the Federal Poverty Level or FPL?

A: In the United States, the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is a measure used by the federal government to define who is poor.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

With that question answered about as simply as possible, here are some important notes about the Federal Poverty Level (FPL):

  • It’s origin was from Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” 
  • From this “War on Poverty” came many of today’s programs such as food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid
  • The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is calculated based on current “federal poverty guidelines”
  • These guidelines are issued and updated yearly by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is used to determine who is eligible for federal subsides or aid
  • In 2012, 100% percent of the Federal Poverty Level was $23,050 for a family of four (4 people), and $11,170 for an individual (1 person)

———————————————————————————————————————————–

Which brings us back to a few more important questions:

Q: Who is eligible for federal subsides (or aid) in a state health insurance exchange?

A: State health insurance exchanges will provide subsidies for individuals and families who fall within 100% to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (most Americans).

Q: What is 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and how is it calculated? 

A: In 2012, 100% of the federal poverty level was yearly income of $23,050 for a family of four. Add (+) $3,960 per person for families that are larger than four, and subtract (-) $3,960 per person for families with less than four.

Q: What is 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and how is it calculated?

A: Sometimes the Federal Poverty Level is used to determine subsidies for those who earn more than the poverty level (up to 400% of FPL in this case). State health insurance exchanges will provide subsidies for individuals and families earning up to 400% of the FPL. 400% of the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four in 2012 is $92,200 ($23,050 x 4). 

Q: What are the ranges of income that are eligible for subsidies in a state health insurance exchange?

A: Families of four (4 persons) with yearly incomes between $23,050 (100%) and $92,200 (400%) may be eligible for subsidies.

A2: An individual (1 person) with a yearly income between $11,170 (100%) and $44,680 (400%) may be eligible for subsidies. 

We hope this blog post helped you understand the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) better. It’s an important concept when determining eligibility for subsides in the new state health insurance exchanges. Contact us for further information if you may be interested in enrolling in a state health insurance exchange. 

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

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/policyadvantage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/policyadvantage

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/policyadvantage

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/policyadvantage

Word Press (you are here): http://www.policyadvantage.wordpress.com