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.

Fall Internship Available at Hanson Benefits

iStock_000036735692MediumWe are looking an intern to help assist with essential functions of our growing agency! The skills we seek from an intern include: ability to quickly learn to how to create insurance quotes, accuracy in recording valuable client data, respect and adherence to client confidentiality, effective and accurate writing, verbal communication with empathy, and the ability to take initiative with minimal supervision.

Job responsibilities are focused on establishing and maintaining superb client relationships. They include, but not limited to: on-line carrier (insurance) quoting, documenting incoming and outgoing client communication in the GBS database, assisting with incoming prospect information preparation, answering incoming calls and executing associated tasks.

Please send a resume, cover letter and two letters of reference by September 30, 2015 to hbinfo@hansonbenefitsinc.com. Include “Hanson Benefits Intern Application” in the subject line.

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.

February 2015: The Good, Bad and Ugly of ObamaCare

GoodBadUglyHealthcareAs mentioned in previous blogs, the profession of providing health insurance for individuals changes monthly, sometimes weekly, and even daily! As of February 2015, here are the latest developments in ObamaCare and how it will impact people who have enrolled or are looking to enroll for coverage on the Federal Marketplace, healthcare.gov.

The “Good”
Anyone who hasn’t had health insurance coverage in 2014 and was assessed a tax penalty will have an opportunity to enroll between March 15 and April 30, as a “special enrollment” according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), the Federal agency that oversees the Federal Marketplace. Eligibility rules will apply, so please log on to www.healthcare.gov for more information.

The “Bad”
Last Friday, the Federal Government announced they sent out “incorrect” tax information to 800,000 people enrolled through the Federal Marketplace, namely the tax Form 1095-A.  In an effort to stave off incorrect tax filings, the Administration is contacting affected people by phone and email.  They are also advising consumers to log into their accounts on  to see if they were affected.  All corrected forms should be available by early March, officials said.

The “Ugly” 
According to the Associated Press, perhaps at least 50,000 of those affected have already filed their taxes!  The Government is promising to now work with those affected to correct the problem.

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks as these issues start to unfold.

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.

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”.

PCORI Fees Go Up Again

The IRS will raise PCORI fees for plans Ending October 1, 2014

The Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee has gone up from $2.00 for each enrolled individual to $2.08 for plans ending on or after October 1, 2014 and before October 1, 2015.

To view the report of increase from the IRS, click here

As in previous years, our local health insurance carriers will pay the PCORI fee on behalf of fully-insured group health plans. Some of our clients see the additional fees on their own statements, which means the additional fees are being passed on to them.

According to IRS notice 2014-56, sponsors of self-insured group health plans, including some HRAs and health FSAs, must complete the filing process themselves using IRS Form 720.

The PCORI fees are set to continue until 2019. For more information, visit the FAQ section of the IRS website.

If you have any questions about this fee notice or know of someone in need of Health Insurance, call us at 955-1040. We are here to help you navigate through the maze of health insurance complexities.

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.

Rules and Regulations More Complex Than ACA Law

ACA and regulations“If you like your plan, you can keep it”…..well sort of!  Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, there is one constant to be sure.  Anything can and will probably change, so stay tuned!

The initial law included 2,700 pages of language. Since it’s implementation, the rules and guidelines are at 35,000 pages and growing by the day.

Recent guidelines and mandates that have hit Wisconsin, through the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), has been the interpretation of “keep your plan” option. Since March 2014, OCI has issued guidance to the insurance carriers in our region on “how to” actually abide this latest ruling.

Most group clients (and individual clients) chose to “renew” early (last December 2013) to keep their current plan(s) and bypass many of the new 2014 ACA-compliant mandates. There was speculation on what 2014 will bring for renewal options, and although many carriers were still working on the idea that not only could you renew early again 2014, but that you “might” have alternate plan design options (just like the old days) all still outside the ACA mandates. Not so, with the newest information coming out of HHS.  You will be able to renew your plan(s) as is, but not make any adjustments to what you have in place, without rolling into the new ACA-compliant plans.

My personal opinion is that we have to deal with what we know today, and it’s anyone’s best guess what the guidelines will be by this fall. This is a moving target folks. Don’t get worried until you have to (next renewal date).  We will always have options for you to consider. We have close relationships with all the carriers, their representatives, and the OCI.

So, on that note, relax this summer and enjoy all the other aspects of your business and life. The headaches with the ACA (and cold weather) will be here soon enough!