Category Archives: Health Insurance

2015 IIAW Employee Benefits Agent of the Year

Chris Hanson, president of Hanson Benefits Inc., was named Employee Benefits Agent for the 2015 year, by the Independent Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (IIAW).

The IIAW is one of the largest trade association’s in the state with over 5,000 independent insurance agents selling property, casualty, life and health insurance.

Matt Banaszynski, IIAW Executive Vice President says, “Chris consistently demonstrates an exemplary commitment to our Association, her business, and most importantly, her community. This award recognizes her work to serve in the public’s best interest by holding herself to the highest ethical standards while working to insure the American Dream.”

Chris Hanson & Matt

Network Health Plan and ThedaCare to Work Together Through 2016

Network Health Plan and ThedaCare have agreed to work together for some clients until December 31, 2016

As might be expected, the world of health insurance changes monthly and daily! I, for one, was glad to find out today that NHP and ThedaCare have come to an agreement to continue their contract until the end of this calendar year!

This will be good for you, if you currently have a “pre-ACA” group health plan with Network Health, have a pre-ACA individual health plan or are covered under Network’s Medicare Advantage Plan.

Click here to view the official press release.

We will continue to keep you informed as this year progresses!  For updates, always stay tuned!

More ACA Changes: Start the New Year Informed

iStock_000058231982_LargePresident Obama has signed an agreement on two major legislative packages regarding the budget and tax agreements that were previously approved by Congress.

These bills included changes that affect several health care related provisions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA provisions included in the agreement would:

  • Delay implementation of the ACA Excise Tax (“Cadillac” tax) for two years, making it effective in 2020, instead of 2018
  • Implement a moratorium on the ACA 2.3 percent Medical Device Tax, which has already taken effect. This tax would not apply to sales for calendar year 2016 and 2017
  • Suspend the ACA Health Insurance Tax for one year (2017)
  • Extend a measure that prevents the federal government from shifting funds to pay for the ACA’s risk corridors program

Important Announcement for Clients with Network Health

If you have Network Health Plan, please read this update.

You may have already read information about Network Health Plan and ThedaCare terming their relationship next July 2016. Our advice is to not worry yet.

  • If you a small group and have Network Health Plan, nothing will change before July 2016

  • If you have a Network Health’s Medicare Advantage Plan, nothing changes before July 2016

  • If you have a pre-ACA individual health plan with Network Health, again, no changes before July 2016

It’s too early to tell what will happen with the negotiations.  Until it’s a firm deal, anything can change in our world of the new Affordable Care Act.  Stay tuned, but relax and know nothing is changing yet.

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To view the announcement from Network Health, click here

Healthcare Updates for January 2015: Renewals, Changes, Enrollments

HiResHappy New Year, and what a year it’s been!  Two open enrollments, lots of special enrollments, and a whole lot of “early renewals” to be done within about a 30-day window! I can’t believe that we actually were able to renew every single client from October 15 (open enrollment for our Medicare clients), to December 31.  A special thank you to all of our clients, for your patience during that time! It’s a new world in the health insurance industry. Gone is efficiency. We were overwhelmed with only 30-days to renew all of our individual clients, and now the insurance companies are in the midst of trying to enter (or renew) all of the business!  Please be patient with the carriers as they revise the billings and enrollment changes!

Last week, the Department of Health & Human Services released a report stating that 87% of those who enrolled (or re-enrolled) through www.healthcare.gov were qualified to be eligible for Federal subsidies.  Truth be told the only persons who should be enrolling through the federal website are those who are eligible for the tax credits. Otherwise, it’s a very cumbersome way to buy individual health insurance.  If a client is deemed to be over the 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, we help them enroll directly with the insurance carrier. No need to provide the Federal Government all of your income and household information unless necessary. Overall, there needs to be more consumer awareness of the Federal Poverty guidelines.

Considering the cumbersome tax forms that will now need to be filed (starting this month) if you do receive the Federal tax credits, what was thought of earlier this year as “free money” to help subsidize health insurance premiums, may cost more, because of the required tax filing. I consult with many clients who have been unaware that the tax credits actually are tax refund dollars that you can use today to “buy down” or lower the cost of your monthly health insurance premiums.

I think that this winter will prove a most interesting time, not only in our industry, but also in the tax world.  Remember, the Affordable Care Act was designed as “insurance” and “tax reform”.

Special Enrollment Periods…Just the Tip of the Iceberg!

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile__fla'>_fla / 123RF Stock Photo</a>The “open enrollment” period to purchase health insurance in Wisconsin, both on and off the exchange, for 2014 ended April 1, 2014. Under the new Federal Law, the only time an individual can purchase health insurance now is with a special enrollment period (SEP). That’s because medical underwriting no longer exists in the commercial market or on the Federal Marketplace/Exchange.

There are several life events that can trigger a special enrollment: a relocation, marriage, divorce, birth, death, adoption of a child (or foster care), loss of minimum essential coverage, or a change in income. These special enrollments are not easy.  I describe the process as confusing, convoluted and complex (the three C’s).

Each special enrollment for health insurance is “special” because every situation is different. There isn’t a standard SEP. Just like human beings and their DNA, I’m finding out that every SEP has its own set of complexities that the Federal Government is not yet equipped to handle. The Marketplace/Exchange website continues to have glitches, especially in cases of income changes and dependent coverage. Many questions do not make sense to the consumer about current and past coverage. In most instances, the system will automatically override your own desires and move dependents (children) from the health plan directly onto BadgerCare, even if you want to cover them privately.

I forewarn my clients that a special enrollment on the Federal Marketplace/Exchange can take anywhere from one to three hours (or longer). Remember, you aren’t considered covered until you pay your premium. You may also owe a fee (penalty) for the months you did not have coverage in 2014.  In addition, you want to try to be as accurate on your income for the Federal subsidies, because when your taxes are reconciled in 2015 (for the 2014 tax year), you may owe money back.

The next open enrollment period for individual health insurance begins on November 15, 2014 (for a January 1, 2015 effective date). If you want to avoid crashing into an “iceberg”, give us a call (920-955-1040)!   We are Federal Marketplace/Exchange certified and licensed agents with over 40 years of combined health insurance experience.

Hanson Selected to Serve on State Board of the Independent Insurance Agents of Wisconsin

iiawWhen the Wisconsin Employee Benefits Advisors (WEBA)  voted unanimously last month to merge into the Independent Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (IIAW), they added extensive experience and leadership regarding employee benefits and health insurance.

Among those changes was selecting Chris Hanson, an Appleton-based health insurance consultant and agent, to the Board of Directors for the IIAW. She has over 25 years of experience in health care and health care insurance. Her business, Hanson Benefits, helps individuals find health insurance on and off the Health Care Exchange. Her past leadership roles include terms as Current Vice-President of the Wisconsin Employee Benefits Advisors, Health Insurance Risk Sharing Plan (HIRSP) Board, and Past President of the Fox Valley Chapter of Wisconsin Association of Health Underwriters.

“The IIAW’s strong membership base of over 6,000 licensed agents in Wisconsin and our expertise in the employee benefits/health insurance helps not only small business owners, but all Wisconsin residents in purchasing health insurance for themselves and their families in 2014.  IIAW has earned the reputation as the trusted choice based on their knowledge and expertise, which is especially important with the volatility and unknowns in health insurance today,” states Chris Hanson of Hanson Benefits.

Model Notices for Health Care Reform: “Much Ado About Nothing?”

Shakespeare with computer.It’s another good day to “take a breath” in the world of Health Care reform, as we can now relax, knowing that employers are not going to be penalized for NOT distributing the Model Notices provided by the Department of Labor. Here is the proof of what I just shared, right on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) website.

The Department of Labor was quick to relay a few months ago that employers would be penalized if they did not adhere to the ACA guidelines of informing all employees (FT, PT and even seasonal) of the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (aka Exchange) here in Wisconsin by October 1, 2013! Business owners were scrambling for find the right information to comply.

I wrote a blog update on August 16, relaying that although the notices were due October 1, I wasn’t in any big hurry to get clients too excited about complying, that there would indeed be plenty of time in late September to get these notices to their employees. My impetus for this was because of the other delays that we had already witnessed, namely the one year delay in the 50+ employee mandate of “play or pay”.

Interestingly enough, this update on the DOL website has very quietly been released with no fanfare no media frenzy or anything.  Do you wonder why?  I do, and I have a theory about it. However, at this point, I may keep the theory to myself and just watch this all unfold, as we count down the days to October 1st.  Does it ever feel like this is a case of deja vu?  Sounds like “Y2K” to me. No, the sky won’t fall, but I have to wonder what else may happen between now and October that we all might be thinking that it was “much ado about nothing.”

Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Office Reviews Rates from Insurers in the Exchange

DollarsignupThe Wisconsin insurance commissioner’s office has reviewed the rates submitted to them by the 13 insurance companies participating in the Health Care Exchange. The analysis looked at the percent increase from pre to post January 1, 2014. Their published findings reviewed individual rates for a 21-year-old, 40-year-old and 63-year old, with a $2,000 deductible and prescription drug coverage. Eight major markets were reviewed for individuals of those ages, including Appleton.

Commissioner Ted Nickel said, “From our analysis, it appears premiums will increase for most consumers. And, while there is no question that some consumers will have subsidies and may not pay these higher rates, someone will pay for the increased premiums whether it is the consumer or the federal government.”

As we have stated to our clients, insurance companies are required to provide the same rate for individuals obtaining health insurance in or out of the Health Care Exchange. If you are concerned what a rate may be for you or someone you know, they can come to us for an individual insurance cost comparison. We do this every day to help people navigate through the maze of insurance decisions.

When Should A Business Send Employee Notices for ObamaCare?

With the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), businesses will be required to give all employees notification (no later than October 1, 2013), explaining their option to purchase health insurance (if they choose) through the Health Insurance Marketplace (aka Exchange) here in Wisconsin.

This notice provides employees basic information about the new Health Insurance Marketplace. We do have some clients here in Northeast Wisconsin working on these notices as I write this blog post. However, my personal opinion and concern with being efficient now and getting these notices out is this: What if the Federal Government delays the Exchanges at the eleventh hour?  What we have been witnessing over the past few months is any part of the Affordable Care Act can change and in many instances has changed.

My advice for business owners is to create a template for the notice to employees and wait to distribute them until we are sure that the Exchanges will be operational on October 1. For a small fee, we can help create those documents for clients who are interested.

Whatever we know about health insurance today is sure to change within the next three months. We all need to remain informed and try out best to stay calm while we prepare for the upcoming change!