Category Archives: Uncategorized

Marketplace Members at Risk of Losing Tax Credits

iStock_000058231982_Large Do you have your health insurance through the Federal Marketplace? We were made aware you could be at risk of losing your advance premium tax credit (APTC) for 2016 if you did not file Form 1040 income tax return for 2014, or include Form 8962, which covers tax credits.

The IRS has reported that many recipients of this credit did not follow tax reporting requirements. If you fail to do so, the IRS says you will not be eligible for the tax credit or cost-sharing reductions next year.

We advise you to address this matter as soon as possible to help prevent you from losing their credits and possibly, your health insurance coverage altogether.

If you have not filed, we recommend you to do so immediately, filling out form 8962. For more information, visit www.IRS.gov or contact your tax professional.

Carrie Abraham Joins Hanson Benefits as Account Manager

Hanson 408A8637-2v2Benefits (HBI) welcomes Carrie Abraham as our account manager. As a licensed agent, Carrie comes to HBI with over 20 years of experience providing account and sales support in the benefits field. Her ability to provide great service is proven in her work and life philosophies: living by the Golden rule, being compassionate, staying positive and taking care of the details. Carrie will be the first contact for many clients, responding to enrollment and billing questions. She will also assist in quoting, renewal comparisons and enrollment tracking. Carrie looks forward to providing the Hanson Benefits “Hi-touch” service and says, “Benefits can be complicated, so no matter is too small to respond to. Clients should feel comfortable contacting our team for any question that comes up.”

Carrie met Chris Hanson over fifteen years ago when they worked together at a local benefits consulting practice. When the opportunity came up to join Hanson Benefits, Carrie reflected on the trusted advisor reputation Chris and her team have earned since growing the business from the ground up. She says, “I like working for a smaller organization. You can make a greater difference and feel valued. I feel at Hanson Benefits, I will be able to be in charge of the details while Chris and her team drive the business.”

When asked about what she enjoys most outside of work, Carrie enthusiastically says “shopping”. She creates an analogy of the benefits industry and her passion to shop. “I’m a bargain hunter, always finding opportunities to get the best value for something I purchase for myself or my family. This mindset transfers over to my work, where if I will do what it takes if I can get a better offer for clients.”

On a personal note, Carrie and her husband, a private pilot, enjoy volunteering for the Young Eagles program at EAA. You just may see them at the rallies in April and September, helping children experience their first flights!

Who Wants a Visit from the Department of Labor? No one!

Who Needs an ERISA Wrap Document?  According to the Department of Labor, every small business!

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)  is a federal law that requires ALL employers to regularly  provide participants with a written document containing information regarding how their welfare benefits plan  work, as well as their plan rights and obligations.  This document is called a Summary Plan Description (SPD) and is required for all employee welfare benefits plans (medical, dental, vison, Life, disability, EAP, etc) as defined by ERISA.

The Dept of Labor (DOL) audits employer welfare benefit plans for compliance with ERISA. With ERISA compliance audits is on the rise, expect an audit within the next 5 years. Having the proper SPD will allow an employer to better prepare for an audit and will go a long way in showing good faith compliance with the law.

There may be penalties for employers who do not have a written SPD or who do not distribute one to participants.

We know of vendors who can help prepare the necessary ERISA wrap documents for your business.  Please contact us for additional information.

Don’t Delay in Knowing How Obamacare Impacts Your 2014 Taxes

Time:Tax preparation and filing is not on the top list of enjoyable experiences for most people. It requires tedious effort and documentation. This year, we will all have the added excitement of figuring out how the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) figures into our 2014 tax filing.

For most of you, the good news is that the only change to your normal tax filing routine will be to “check” the box (line 61) on your 1040 tax form that indicates that you’ve had health insurance for the entire year of 2014.  If you have GROUP health insurance coverage (employer-based) or Medicare, then that’s all you have to do!  The law requires you to have “minimum essential coverage” which all group plans and individual health plans are considered. The only caveat to that is short-term health insurance, defined as less than twelve months, is NOT considered minimum essential coverage.

If you had have the “minimum essential coverage” for only part of 2014, it becomes more complicated.  That’s where a tax advisor comes into play. I share with clients that I spend a lot of money on accounting services each month, so I’m in no position to give tax advice. What I can recommend is to allow yourself time to do your own research and select a tax advisor sooner than later, since their busy season has already begun.

I feel the area of greatest confusion is for those who received a “premium tax credit” or Federal subsidy and purchased through coverage through www.healthcare.gov  because there is a reconciliation process between your estimated and actual 2014 household income.  In addition, those individuals will receive a Form 1095-A from the Federal Marketplace.  This document will be used to complete Form 8962 and then attached to the 1040.

The first year of tax filing will probably be bumpy for many people, particularly for those with complex family situations (i.e. divorce, dependent children, job loss, income change, covering young adults who file their own taxes, etc.).

We encourage clients to use the guide created by the IRS to help you navigate through the process. Here is a link to the IRS Guide on ACA Mandate 2014.

The SHOP Exchange Comes to Wisconsin…What is it Anyway?

SHOPphotoSmallSHOP stands for “Small Business Health Options Program”, which is an on-line Marketplace for small business owners. Unfortunately, is not operational, just like the individual health insurance Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov).

With the Federal Government focusing its efforts this past year on the individual Marketplace, they made the decision to keep the SHOP Exchange off-line, through paper applications and limit the options to one carrier, per small employer.

With that said, there probably won’t be much traction in this offering for 2014, as there are only two carriers in the Fox Valley region even on the SHOP Exchange: Arise Health Plan and Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative (so much for more choices). And neither of these carriers offers the Affinity providers as “in-plan” providers.

With Network Health Plan’s dominance in the small group market through the local Chambers of Commerce, I am seeing most small businesses take advantage of the “early renewal” option and sitting on the sidelines of the ACA for the next year, as the dust settles.

The tax credits for small business (promised through the SHOP) are also proving to be more fluff than meat, as there are prerequisites in order to actually receive the tax credits. These include having to purchase health insurance through the SHOP and having less than 25 FTE’s who make less than $50,000/year.

By the time the calculations to qualify are completed by yourself or your accountant, you’ve either spent an exorbitant amount of time, or spent a lot of accounting time/money for maybe $1,000 of tax credit. My accountant friend said that she had only two clients even be eligible last year, and her entire book of business is employers with less than 50 employees. So, maybe the whole SHOP exchange for small businesses in Wisconsin is “much ado about nothing”?

The “Expedia.com” of Healthcare is not Delivering

2012/04/12TraceyWe have been gearing up for over three years for October 1, 2013, with continuing education, on-line training modules, testing and certification, and broker summits/trainings in order to be prepared and ready to sell on the online Healthcare Exchange (www.healthcare.gov). With all the preparation and anticipation, here we sit today with no ability to sell on the Exchange, let alone quote or even view any plans!  Many of our individual clients in Wisconsin have been calling us, sharing their frustration, and we are no less frustrated as well.  Individuals in other states are penning articles about their experiences, just like Maggie Thurber for Ohio Watchdog.

We are taking healthcare reform one day and many times, one hour at a time, as we all continue to “navigate” through a new world of health insurance purchasing.  Our HIRSP clients have now received letters stating that their policies will be terminating December 31, and yet, here we are not able to help them fully.

Under these circumstances, here is my advice for health insurance seekers. If you (or your employees) are not eligible for the Federal subsidy (premium reduction) because of your household income, then there is no reason to remain frustrated with www.healthcare.gov. We can assist with quoting and enrollment directly with the insurance carriers, who are operating off of the Exchange.  And there are more options off the Exchange than on!  How’s that for more competition?

One Health Insurance Plan? The First of Many ObamaCare Myths

My main purpose as a health insurance agent is to help individuals and business owners navigate through the complexities of health care plans. That’s why it is so concerning to me to hear how much confusion there is surrounding “ObamaCare”.

Several individuals I have met with, who are concerned about their individual rates going up, look at ObamaCare as a singular option for them (i.e. if I don’t take my current coverage, my second choice is ObamaCare). Their understanding is ObamaCare is a health plan choice. What they don’t realize is that there are regulations and mandates that all health plans will have to include as of January 1, 2014. There will be options both in the Exchange (Marketplace), as well as the private marketplace for the same cost.

Now that we have the first myth debunked (ObamaCare is one plan), let’s move forward in explaining which insurance companies in Northeast Wisconsin have selected to offer their health care plans in the (Federally Facilitated) Exchange.

The health care insurance companies in Northeast Wisconsin are:

  • Compcare Health Services Insurance Corporation (a division of Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield)

  • Prevea 360 (a division of Dean Health Plan, Inc.)

  • Arise Health Plan (parent company WPS Health Plan, Inc.)

Note: The State of Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner‘s office did not release rate information or coverage area details.

Do you know which of these three plans on the ObamaCare exchange are right for you? That’s where a licensed insurance agent (something I’m proud to be) will help you navigate through the complexities. Now how has ObamaCare made health insurance any easier for individuals?

Health Insurance With Several Northeast Wisconsin Chambers Comes to an End

After nearly two decades working with area Chambers, Network Health has decided not to renew their partnership.  As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there are two items that directly affected NHP’s decision. One is the requirement for community rating of small group health insurance and the other is the medical loss ratio requirement (MLR).

If you were covered under a Chamber health plan, your plan or rates will not change. It’s important for businesses to know they are no longer required to renew a Chamber membership in order to maintain current Network Health insurance coverage and rates.  However, as a long-term Chamber member ourselves, we believe in the value the area Chambers bring to our community and we encourage business owners to maintain their memberships.

At Hanson Benefits, we remain heavily involved with Healthcare Reform through various committees and working groups in Madison. We will keep you informed as vital information continues to be released.

Affordable Care Act: What’s Delayed and What’s Not

The Obama Administration announced yesterday a “one-year” delay in the Affordable Care Act requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide coverage to their workers or pay a penaltyMost of the employers impacted by the delay already offer health insurance to their employees.

I have been asked by clients if any other parts of ACA (ObamaCare) will be impacted. The on-line Exchange (open enrollment) will not be delayed and will go in to effect October 1. In Wisconsin, the Exchange will be an option for individuals with low to middle income (some who may qualify for subsidies).  The elimination of pre-existing conditions (no medical underwriting), community rating and a host of other changes to healthcare reform will still remain on the same timeline for implementation.

Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan (HIRSP) is still on target to “sunset” shortly after the Exchange is fully operational (January 1, 2014). Our agency and others in our State continue to place individuals into the HIRSP high risk pool who are unable to obtain coverage elsewhere.

In all the hype to lower the uninsured population, it is yet to be seen if those individuals will actually spend the money to purchase health insurance. It’s estimated 500,000 Wisconsinites will be health insurance eligible. This includes people already enrolled in the HIRSP high risk pool, those covered today under BadgerCare (Medicaid) and the uninsured. It’s important for consumers to know that insurance companies who are selling in the Exchange will need to offer individual health insurance for the same rate in or out of the exchange. It’s for these reasons I still hold on to the belief that indeed there may NOT be anything affordable about the Affordable Care Act.

Will Early Group Health Insurance Renewals Blunt the Health Care Law?

I represent eight health care group plans to serve the needs of individuals and employers in Northeast Wisconsin. All of these group carriers are now offering short renewals for 2013, with basically a “reset” to their year long renewals beginning December 1, 2013. The health plan wouldn’t then renew again until December 1, 2014, thereby circumventing eleven months of the new Healthcare Reform Law.

For some employers offering group coverage, this will prove to be a wise decision, especially if they have a younger and healthier workforce. For employers who have an older workforce with some higher increases in recent years, they may find that the community and unisex rating will not negatively impact them.

We are now waiting for the carriers to provide us with the December 1, 2013 renewal rates, so once again, it’s hurry up and wait until we have more specifics. Stay tuned for additional updates on our Hanson Benefits blog, as we continue to help individuals and employers navigate through their options and select a benefit plan that best fits their needs.