Rabu, 26 September 2012

Using a Broker for Your Company's Group Health Insurance

When you buy health insurance for a company, you have two choices: you can use a broker, or you can try to navigate the rough waters of dealing directly with the insurance provider and trying to negotiate the best deal. Using an insurance broker makes getting insurance for your company easier for you and ensures that you and your team get the best deals and best coverage possible.
Why Not Do It Yourself?
As the owner or executive of a business, your time has an inherent, measurable value. When you spend work hours doing tasks that aren't essential in directing your company toward increased productivity, coordinating with clients, etc., you are in effect missing out on potential earnings. The long hours you could waste attempting to learn a field with so many complex aspects and considerations would be much more expensive than the cost of hiring an individual who knows the system. This is why many executives find it an invaluable time saver to work through a reliable broker.
What Does the Broker Do?
A broker is different than an insurance company's agent. Brokers sell for multiple competing insurance companies. They offer a variety of options and are typically paid either on commission by insurance companies or they may charge you a flat fee. This is a wonderful direction to go if you are interested in having someone help you shop around and see what types of deals are out there.
When you speak to a broker, he or she will be trained to sift through the variables such as your employees' needs efficiently, and may even have access to deals and policies that you were not able to access as someone outside the insurance field. Many will be able to guide you toward amenities your company may need, such as nontraditional work hours or different language on service help lines.
You may have either an individual broker, or a dedicated account manager focused only on your company. This will make things smoother, as they do not have to be reminded of key information. They will give you information on things like how renewals are handled with the insurance company, so that you aren't surprised with that next bill. The broker will most likely sit down with you and make sure that the current plan still fits the needs of your employees and your budget.
If you wish to find out more about the individual broker you're about to hire, you can check his or her record by calling your state's insurance commissioner's consumer hotline. Contact an insurance broker to take care of your company's group health insurance today!

Jumat, 10 Agustus 2012

Finding A Healthcare Provider In-Network

In your search for a healthcare provider, many will tell you that they accept your insurance plan. Unfortunately, most of these providers will also conveniently neglect to mention the fact that though they do accept your insurance, they are not in your insurance company's network. Though it may take a little extra work, finding a provider that is in-network is important. In-network means that they have a special relationship with your insurance defined by different types of contracts, which for your purposes will generally translate into lower costs.

The Problem

Choosing an out of network doctor is not necessarily a problem, but it means you are probably paying a lot more than you need to. Providers that are in-network almost always have special contracts with your insurance company that give you lower co-pays that will get your full money's worth for the cost of insurance. Sometimes, it can be frustrating enough just finding a healthcare provider that is convenient for you and that accepts your health insurance. Once you find one that seems OK, it may be tempting to immediately end your search and choose them. However, the real problem is that while many healthcare providers will tell you that they accept your health insurance, many will not be in-network.

The Solution

If you are searching for a doctor of any kind, you are probably already be aware of how long it can take to get a simple answer on the phone to questions about your insurance, so the solution to this problem is better handled on your insurance company's end. Luckily, depending on your company this can be a pretty simple fix. Simply go to their website and search around until you can find a list of in network healthcare providers. This is also great because it narrows down your list of choices, though hopefully not too much, giving you a shorter list of calls to make and a more manageable selection.

Why It's Worth It

Ultimately, you invest in health insurance to save money on medical treatment, and to be sure you are covered in the event of a particularly costly medical problem. Your insurance company creates in-network contracts with healthcare providers to offer you the best possible prices. To not take advantage of these contracts is simply paying much more than you need to. So, as long as your insurance company offers enough choices, putting in the time to find care that is in-network is truly worth it.

Selasa, 24 Juli 2012

Make the Right Choices With Q4 Open Enrollment

The health care scene is changing wildly in recent times. When considering the health insurance broker you will choose for your employee group plans, and in the conversations that will ensue, if may be helpful to have a basic knowledge of some of these changes in mind. Here are a few facts and tips to help to guide you on your way.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or PPACA, but colloquially known as "Obamacare") will begin with an open enrollment period in October of 2013, and an implementation date of January 1, 2013. The changes will mean that government-sponsored health insurance exchanges will offer both individuals and small businesses new ways to compare and purchase health insurance coverage, with the overall goal of increased coverage for everyone. What this likely means for your health insurance broker is a more competitive climate. What it may mean for you is a heavy penalty for not providing insurance to any full-time workers if you qualify as a large or medium sized business (this includes anyone with 50 or more employees).

Think Small

Unless you are running a huge business, you should seek out a group health insurance provider that specializes in companies on the smallish size. For an endeavor like this you are going to want top quality customer service and special attention paid to your individual needs. If you go for a provider that serves many businesses that are much larger than yours, this may mean that you are a somewhat lower priority customer. Fortunately, there are many smaller brokers out there who make it their business to dominate the smaller business market. They will be able to offer you the very best selection and service because you represent the corner of the market that they, in these changing times, would like to win over.

Think Simple

One of the biggest problems people run into with managing their healthcare, and understandably so, is how complicated coverage can get. Make sure that the coverage that your employees and their families are given is not only inclusive enough to keep them well (which ideally should include medical, dental, life and disability insurance), but user friendly enough so that when they are sick they can manage their plans relatively easily. Employees that are healthy and satisfied will be happier to contribute to the company that keeps them that way, and a big part of this satisfaction will be a user friendly interface and a simplicity of language in the coverage that they receive.

Selasa, 12 Juni 2012

How Stop Loss Insurance Protects Employees

New innovations in health care industry are creating various new opportunities not only for treatments, but also for specific insurance protection plans. Stop loss insurance is a great and affordable alternative as compared to the traditional indemnity options.
Nowadays companies have the option of 'self-insurance.' Companies take on the liabilities to insure the medical expenses of their employees as well as their families. There is another option available to insure the medical expense as it occurs through business cash flow.
When a company decides to get self-indemnity plan, they are likely to pay a specific intended amount to the insurance company. Subsequently, the indemnity company that the employer has opted to provide the stop expiration insurance agrees to pay the employees' medical bills.
There are several special indemnity policies designed to protect the company to pay all the claims that are made by employees or their family members. As soon as the company agrees to pay the amount to the insurance company, the indemnity company is liable to take care of the subsequent claims against the policy's coverage limit.
Some policies also protect the company when an employee claims an unanticipated huge amount. Although there is a predetermined coverage limit on the policies that apply, the limit and the policies are set by the employer and the indemnity company. Stop expiration insurance offers great financial security.
What kind of stop expiration insurance a company should opt depends mainly on the degree of risk. If the degree of risk is low and most of the employees are healthy and young, company can opt for the options like 'self-insurance-without-stop-expiration insurance' security plan. If the anticipated claims that the company and the insurance firm have calculated to pay the premium to the employees is high, then it is beneficial for the company to opt for group-insurance-plan-with-stop-expiration-insurance that covers the employees as well as their families 
Basically it depends on the company's estimated and expected insurance related requirements. They need to recognize and spend in an insurance firm that makes the stop-expiration insurance accessible along with the specialized products.

There are two types of stop loss insurance available that a company can opt for:
Specific Stop Loss
Specific stop loss provides tragic protection to the self-paid plan. This type of stop loss occurs when the claims reach to the guidelines selected by the company or the employer. Stop expiration policy pays the claims to the lifetime limit on per-employee basis for the self-insurance plan.
Aggregate Stop Loss
Aggregate stop expiration is an insurance policy that offers coverage on all expenses, when another insurance policy is above the projected cost. An aggregate stop loss insurance policy decreases the company's risk to provide employee benefits.

Kamis, 24 Mei 2012

How Term Life Insurance Quotes Are The Low-Cost Insurance Option

There is no doubt that insuring oneself against death is one of the biggest concerns that people have. The reason is simply that, for many people, it is a way to ensure some financial security for loved ones. Amongst the most popular options is term life insurance, quotes for which are considered the most cost-effective available.

There are many different types of insurance policies to choose from, but the structure of term policies ensure low cost insurance premiums that can fit practically any budget. Also, the temporary nature of these policies means the insured party is never tied down to a 30-year contract with the insurance company, as is the case with alternative policies.

But as with all financial contracts, there are aspects to this kind of life insurance that should be considered before deciding if it really suits your lifestyle and coverage requirements.

Term Life Insurance Explained

With so many insurance policies to choose from, there can be some confusion over just how low-cost term life insurance quotes are compared to the alternative. In fact, this is the original kind of life insurance policy and is, therefore, quite straightforward.

For a start, payments are made at a fixed rate over what is known as the relevant period of time. What this means is that for an agreed period, the policy will cover the payer, but once that period ends, the coverage ends. And because the risk of a payout within that period is less than with a universal life policy, a low cost insurance premium is charged.

The life insurance term can range from a single year to 10 years to 20 years, and if the insured party dies within that period, the beneficiaries receive payment. At the end of the term, the insured party can opt to extend the coverage. So, the policyholder effectively has maximum control.

Keeping Costs Low

When seeking term life insurance quotes, there is a variety of questions that must be answered that directly affect the premium that the insurance company will set. For the most part, they relate to health and lifestyle, since these are aspects that can directly influence the life expectancy of a person.

For example, smokers and heavy drinkers are considered bigger risks by an insurance company, so the premium is going to be higher for these people. But low cost insurance premiums are available to sports enthusiasts, non-smokers, tea-drinkers, and those who have an active lifestyle.

Other aspects that will affect the size of the premium charged on the life insurance is age, occupation, medical history and even place of residence. Older applicants will be seen as more likely to pass away within the period, while those who have hazardous occupations or who have recently undergone major surgery (like heart surgery), are also seen as high risk.

Disadvantages of Term Insurance Policies

A key attractions term life insurance quotes highlight are that payment and terms can fit into almost any budget, and that the substantial nature of a payout compared to monthly contributions makes it the most rewarding insurance option.

But there are some disadvantages to this kind of insurance policy too. For example, even with low cost insurance premiums, the onus is on the insured party to renew the policy when the term of relevance comes to an end. Should they forget to renew, then they are left with no coverage.

In contrast, a permanent life insurance policy runs through until death, so the coverage is constant. Also, this kind of insurance may end with no payout, meaning the contributions are never returned.

Jumat, 20 April 2012

Take Advantage of the Medicare Open Enrollment Period

If you aged in to Medicare this year, you had some important options available to you. Now, with the Open Enrollment Period, from October 15th to December 7th , if you have Part A and Part B Medicare, you have even more choices.
When you aged into Medicare, you had the option to choose a Medicare Advantage Plan, keep your Original Medicare plan and choose both a Medicare Supplement and a Prescription Part D Plan or keep your Original Medicare plan and choose a Part D Prescription plan. To be clear, Medicare has a Part A, Part B, and Part C. The Prescription Drug Plan is Part D.
During this Open Enrollment Period, you have multiple opportunities until December 7th to make whatever changes you want to make sure you have the Plan that best meet your health care needs.
Here are some areas of consideration when it comes to making the best choice for yourself. Your Original Medicare Plan has several deductibles and co-insurance elements that can hit you hard in the bank account if you experience a serious illness and have to be hospitalized. This is where a Medicare Supplement Plan can save you from this dire economic circumstance. Keep in mind that if you choose a Medicare Supplement Plan, each provider must, by law, offer you the same exact Plan. Don't get hung up on the name of the company, just consider the cost of the plan and both the letter designations (Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, and K) and the coverage associated with the letter.
If you are fine with choosing a doctor from within a Network, and don't want to shop around for a Part D Prescription plan, the Medicare Advantage Plan may be your best bet. The primary negative in a Medicare Advantage Plan for most Medicare recipients is that if you currently have a doctor that you're satisfied with and your doctor is not within the Network, you will have to change. However, if you are concerned by keeping your cost of health care low, than it might be better to choose a doctor from within a Network.
If you choose a Medicare Advantage Plan, depending upon your income and the benefits you choose, you may have a small monthly premium. Nevertheless, it would be small in comparison to the monthly Medicare Supplement Plan's premium. Also you can choose a Medicare Advantage Plan without the Part D Plan if you already have a Part D Plan and just choose a stand-alone Part D Plan. Take the time to consider your options carefully.
Finally, after December 7th you have an opportunity prior to February 15th to go back to Original Medicare and a stand-alone Part D plan.
This Open Enrollment Period is a significant time for you as a Medicare recipient to carefully consider your choices. Remember that except for certain circumstances, once you make a choice you are locked in until the next Open Enrollment Period.

Senin, 09 April 2012

Why Term Life Insurance Quotes Are Better to Get Online

The is no denying that insurance has become an important part of modern living, helping to protect us in a variety of possible situations. Arguably, the most important to have is protection in the case of accident or death, ensuring loved ones have financial security. But the need for cost effective insurance has seen term life insurance quotes become the most widely sought after.
Not everyone is aware that universal insurance policies are not the only option. For those seeking low cost insurance, online brokers provide some of the best term insurance policies available, which do not require a lifetime of commitment and fits snuggly into practically any budget.
Of course, coverage is the most important factor, and as a life insurance option, term policies offer excellent coverage. However, there are pros and cons to the choice too.
How Term Life Insurance Works
So, what is important to know when seeking term life insurance quotes? Well, what sets this kind of insurance policy apart is that it is offers only temporary coverage. So, after the agreed term is over - be it for one year, five years or 20 years - the coverage ends and the contributions are lost.
Because of the temporary nature of the coverage, brokers market the policy as low cost insurance. Online brokers will charge competitive rates, but are prepared to pay out adequately should the insured party die within the coverage period.
And of course, should the insured party not die, he or she gets nothing. But while the monthly life insurance contributions may be higher in sum, much more is paid to a universal life insurance policy over the 30 or 40 years of its term. So, on balance, there term option is a better one.
How To Find a Quote
The website brings practically every kind of term life insurance quote within reach very quickly and very efficiently. Thankfully, the process involved in finding the best quote is pretty simple too, with comparison sites bringing all the leading offers to the forefront.
To get the right one, however, a little bit of probing is necessary. For example, once making a shortlist of premium options for the low cost insurance online brokers are offering, send a quote request directly to them. Simply fill out their online form detailing your basic information, like age, health status and income, and then click on the submit button.
Responses from brokers can be received in a matter of minutes, so that after only a half an hour, quotes from the top five or six brokers can be examined. Simply read the small print and find out whether the deals are really as good as they seem. But make sure to understand the extent of coverage before choosing the life insurance policy.
Pros and Cons to Consider
There are a lot of positive aspects to consider when seeking term life insurance quotes. One of them is that, with fixed rates set, they are suitable for even the strictest budgets. Another is that the size of a payout versus the monthly contributions, makes it highly cost effective.
But there are some negatives to consider too. When getting low cost insurance online, much of the responsibility is left in the hands of the insured party. It is up to them to renew the policy when it ends. Also, because the chances are the insured party will not die during the term of relevance, the policy can be seen as a waste of money.
Still, the importance of a life insurance policy in today's world cannot be overestimated, and being without coverage for even a few months can prove extremely costly.

Kamis, 16 Februari 2012

The Wellness Imperative: How Health Plans Can Better Serve Employers

Wellness has moved past the tipping point, from a nice-to-have extra, to a strategic lever that helps employers address health risks, lower costs and improve productivity. Met Life claims that 73% of companies with 500 or more employees now offer a wellness program.

And PwC reports that nearly 80% of large employers rated wellness services nearly as high in importance as the basic functions of accurate claims processing and provider discounts.

These data give health plans a wide berth from which to operate to partner with their customers and provide meaningful value-added services to deepen their relationships and help bend the cost curve.

Unfortunately though, according to Towers Watson, employers are generally disappointed in what their health plan partners can deliver- 67% rate their plans' effectiveness as unfavorable relative to improving member health behavior and lifestyle. Only 7% gave their health plan a favorable rating.

With so much market demand, health plans are working hard to crack the code on developing wellness approaches that sell well to customers and effectively engage member populations.

We see a few key principles that can help guide the way:

1. Programs that fit populations

Too many "plug and play" platforms from vendors are rigid and unable to meet the needs of diverse populations. Each employer group is different and there needs to be flexibility and a degree of customization to be effective across demographics.

Some components can be static, but others need to fit the culture and style of the organization and its strategic aims.

2. Resources and budget to deliver results

Employers need to be realistic about what they ask health plans to provide. Some want "turn-key" packages that don't require any of their own involvement. That approach is unfair and destined to fail.

Employers need to partner with their health plan. Each needs to be clear about their roles and responsibilities, and share the workload.

3. Strong execution and effective communications

Here's a case where the devil really is in the details. The overarching aim for programs is to change human behavior, disrupt bad habits, and alter unhealthy perceptions. With 75% of health costs being attributed to lifestyle-related risks, the opportunity is big, but so is the challenge.

Being appropriately aggressive and paying attention to minutiae - as well as the big picture - will help tremendously.

4. Accountability across the board

We're hearing a lot about ROI now. Only about 19% of companies measure it today, but this is bound to increase. There needs to be greater emphasis on ensuring that all players involved in delivering the program are accountable - as well as the employees to whom the initiatives are targeted.

Make sure actions are trackable and reportable, and that will go a long way to ensuring program longevity.

5. Reporting that tells the story

Unfortunately, reporting in this entire area is generally deplorable. It usually comes too late to act upon and is often inaccurate. There are plenty of ways to improve on this, and it will become increasingly important to do so.

Bigger budgets will be needed to accomplish the promise of wellness, and those that hold the purse strings will need to have proof of impact.

Wellness is a here and now opportunity. Employers are looking for solutions. Use these concepts to refine your approach and build a long-term strategy and plan.

We hope these views are beneficial to your efforts in the wellness arena. The bottom line key is to be able to achieve effective participant engagement. There's much to be done to get better at this.

Rabu, 11 Januari 2012

They Call It Healthcare Reform

They call it healthcare reform, but under the new law some Medicare beneficiaries and providers will cover more of the costs. So, it's not really cost reform; it's cost reallocation? Well maybe it's a little of both.

Medicare has been around since 1965, about 46 years, providing access to healthcare for seniors age 65 and older. If you thought the program had been around longer-it hasn't. It's a fairly modern answer to one of society's big challenges, how to provide quality healthcare for everyone. And the U.S. is a little late coming to the table when it comes to establishing broad health benefits for its citizens.

Today, Medicare covers about 47 million Americans, making it the nation's largest health insurance program. So, the way Medicare operates has a significant impact on the country's healthcare. And on our pocketbooks. In fact, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one in every five dollars spent on health services in 2008 were spent through Medicare.

Since its enactment, spending on Medicare has grown to be a larger and larger share of the U.S. federal budget and gross domestic product (GDP). And a larger share of consumer spending. The trend is expected to continue as prices for health services continue to rise, the number and complexity of services increases, and the number of enrollees goes way up as the population ages.

That's why there's a big push for continuing retirement healthcare reform. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) implemented in 2010 is expected to reduce overall spending on Medicare. But where will those savings come from and who will pay?

Under the new law, Medicare savings are expected to come from reduced annual fee-for-service payments to providers, changes to payments for Medicare Advantage plans, reduced payments for preventable hospital readmissions and home health services.

Beginning in 2015, there will be a 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) charged with recommending Medicare program changes if spending growth exceeds specific limits. To give that group some clout, a supermajority vote will be required by Congress to override the Board's recommendations. We know-there is a lot of concern about this panel setting policy without public input. But as it stands, this group could very well find ways to reduce Medicare spending by continuing to push more costs to enrollees and providers.

And under the new law there will be more enrollees who fit the high-earner income levels requiring them to pay higher premiums for Medicare Part B (physician service). That's because the law temporarily eliminates the annual inflation adjustment for income levels, freezing them at 2010 levels until 2019. So, the income thresholds for higher Part B and Part D premiums are now fixed at $85,000 for an individual and $170,000 for couples through 2019.

Then there are incentive plans intended to improve the quality and coordination of care, produce efficiencies and, ultimately, program savings. And if you've been to a hospital lately, you know firsthand the need for improvement. What we wouldn't do for better communication among providers, and between providers and patients. And whether you were the patient or a visitor, you can't help but long for better quality care. Let's face it, if you end up in the hospital today, you had better have an advocate to help oversee your stay, or it's very possible you will end up with an infection, won't make a full recovery or could even become a statistic.

When it comes to possible efficiencies, just think about the hospital billing process. After a hospital stay, you get separate bills for doctor and hospital services. You may even get bills from doctors you didn't even know treated you or what they treated you for. That bill may arrive months later. And there is really no way to verify that you received the service. Nor is there a way to challenge the amounts you're being charged. Come on! Is it really $10 for an aspirin? Really? Can you say "simple fraud prevention?" Clearly, reforms are needed. The reality of a hospital stay doesn't look anything like what you see on TV. And every business can find ways to implement best practices and become more efficient. It's just a question of what should be changed and how it will be paid for until the associated savings are realized. Implementing efficiencies is one of the few areas where true cost savings are possible. But watch out for the tendency to cut costs by simply shifting them to the patient, doctor or back to Medicare.

There are also provisions in the law that will increase Medicare spending, offsetting some of the planned program savings. For instance, the law phases in coverage that closes the Part D prescription drug gap ("doughnut hole") by 2020. And there is an annual wellness visit and other improvements in coverage for preventative services. Providing those additional services may be important and may provide cost relief for recipients, but the coverage will certainly add costs to the Medicare program. So, here again the costs haven't been eliminated; they've merely been shifted.

The law even includes provisions that produce revenue for Medicare, including an increase in the Medicare payroll tax for high earners, those with incomes of $200,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a couple. And, there are new fees directed at drug and equipment manufacturers. Here again, no real cost elimination. The revenue inflow to Medicare will come from some beneficiaries, or vendors. It is certainly possible that both targets of cost increases can well afford to pay. But, more than likely when it comes to vendors, they'll simply increase the prices they charge, and the costs will end up right back with Medicare. Lots of energy expended to end up right back in the same place.

In addition to monthly premiums, Medicare enrollees contribute to the cost of care through deductibles and coinsurance. And, some healthcare services like vision, dental, hearing and long-term care aren't covered by Medicare, so you must either purchase separate insurance, pay for the services yourself or forego having that test or procedure. Here again, beneficiaries continue to shoulder the costs.

So, while overall the new law should save the Medicare program money, the impact on beneficiaries and vendors will vary. Those who use fewer health services will carry less of the financial burden. And, those with higher incomes will pay a bigger share for their benefits and a bigger share of their own and others' expenses.

Because Medicare is such a large part of the federal budget, the program will undoubtedly be central to the deficit reduction conversation. And that may mean more change is coming.

Some proposals for additional reforms expand caps on Medicare spending growth, increase beneficiary contributions even further, delay the age of Medicare eligibility and expand the scope of the advisory Board. We can either, bite the bullet and pay more, find new sources of revenue to fund the program or overhaul these benefits completely. It's a challenge with wide-reaching implications for the government, providers and beneficiaries.