MEDICARE FOR ALL? (AND “THE TOOTH FAIRY PROMISES A 2 YEAR TREASURY NOTE PAYING 10.7% UNDER YOUR PILLOW IN 2020)

OpEd by D. Kenton Henry                                                                                           01 October 2019  HealthandMedicare.com

       VS.                 

I listened to the recent Democrat Presidential Primary Debates, as I listen to the daily sound bites in the media, as candidates try unabashedly to outdo each other. They do this in terms of the massive give-aways they promise us if elected in 2020. They promise these things not just to citizens, but everyone within the border of the United States. My incredulity, upon hearing such, exceeds even those bounds.

Their original promise is “free healthcare for all”. Healthcare free of premiums, deductibles, and copays. Medicare is the vehicle. To which I must ask myself, “Do these people even know the costs involved in Medicare?” “Do they really believe Medicare pays everything?” They would have you believe as much. They are counting on your naivety and lack of familiarity with the subject.

What makes Medicare a convenient and acceptable form of medical coverage for millions of people 65 and older (or disabled for 24 months or more) is it working in conjunction with private insurance plans. That, and thousands of licensed and “Certified” agents and brokers, helping to deliver comprehensive medical coverage at an affordable price. It is a hybrid package that provides as complete protection as available. The insurance plans would not exist without Medicare and, by itself, Medicare leaves the recipient/member exposed to significant liabilities.

Do these candidates, and the average voter know that in 2019:

A hospital admission requires the Medicare member to pay a $1,364 deductible each time they are admitted to the hospital as an inpatient for a separate medical condition, or the same medical condition separated by more than 60 days.

For days beyond 60, they pay $335 per day

Beyond day 90, they pay $682 per day

Eventually― say in the event of a stroke, paralysis, or being severely burned―they will pay all costs.

Part B Co-Insurance, Deductible and Premium

Relative to out-patient medical care, the Medicare member pays 20%, plus can be liable for excess charges above and beyond what Medicare deems “reasonable and customary”.

In addition, Medicare recipients pay an annual deductible of $185 for Medicare Part B (out-patient) medical care and a premium generally beginning at $135.50 per month and increasing to as high as $460.50. The latter depending on one’s adjusted gross income.

Perhaps most important, to take note of, in considering whether “Medicare For All” is even feasible, much less cost effective, is this. Medicare recipients have paid into the Medicare program their entire working careers via Medicare care taxes and payroll deductions. To qualify for Part A, (inpatient) coverage, they must have worked a minimum of 40 quarters or “buy in “with a premium as high as $422 per month.

So, you can see, Medicare is hardly free. And yet these candidates would have you believe it will be provided free of premiums, deductibles, and copays. (Now this is where even The Tooth Fairy raises her eyebrows!) It will be GIVEN, not to just those over 65, but to every man, woman, child, legal, and non-legal citizen or resident of the United States―whether they have paid a dime into the system or not.

Factor all that in and process this. Medicare now spends an average of about $13,600 a year per beneficiary, and in five years, the annual cost is expected to average more than $17,000, the report said.

According to CMS.gov (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ― refer to featured article 1 below*) The Medicare Board of Trustees predicts Medicare’s two trust funds, for Part A and Part B and D, respectively ― will go broke in 2026!

To put things in perspective, in 1960 there were about five workers for every Social Security beneficiary. The ratio of workers to beneficiaries fell to 3.3 in 2005 and then to 2.8 in 2016. It will decline further to about 2.2 by 2035, when most baby boomers will have retired, officials said.

The aging of the population is another factor in the growth of the two entitlement programs. The number of Medicare beneficiaries is expected to surge to 87 million in 2040, from 60 million this year, according to Medicare actuaries. And the number of people on Social Security is expected to climb to 90 million, from 62 million, in the same period.

The United States Treasury: U.S. Debt And Deficit Grow As Some See Government As The “BeAll and EndAll”.

All this and the candidates would have you believe our government can provide free health care to everyone? When it can’t even provide it to our current citizens who have paid into the system their entire working lives! And who exactly is the government? “We The People”. We the tax payers. You and I. Even some of the candidates, admit the proposal will call for more taxes from the middle class. More? Really! One projected cost for Medicare For All is 39 trillion dollars over the first ten year period. The national debt is currently $22 trillion and took since the end of President Andrew Jackson’s administration (1837 and the last time the national debt was fully paid-off) to accumulate that! The combined wealth of all American households is less than $99 trillion. One can only conclude that “Medicare For All” would be a “Welfare System For All”. It would push our country into a socialist economic system to a depth from which it would be impossible to extricate itself.

As a new Medicare recipient, myself, I find the combination of the government program and private insurance working very well for myself and clients, from an insured standpoint. The program’s, and our nation’s, fiscal concerns are a more substantial matter and a topic for another time. With Medicare “Open Enrollment” a mere 15 days away, I can only say, “I hope whoever is President, and controls Congress, in future administrations―while providing a safety net for all American citizens―first and foremost, provides the capable, responsible, American taxpayer quality medical coverage―free of rationing of treatment and access to providers. At an affordable cost.”

D. Kenton Henry, editor HealthandMedicareInsurance.com, Agent, Broker

Email: Allplanhealthinsurance.com@gmail.com https://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com https://Allplanhealthinsurance.com https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com 

 

************************************************************************************Featured article:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Press release

Medicare Trustees Report shows Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will deplete in 7 years

Apr 22, 2019 

Medicare Trustees Report shows Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will deplete           in 7 years

Today, the Medicare Board of Trustees released their annual report for Medicare’s two separate trust funds — the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, which funds Medicare Part A, and the Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund, which funds Medicare Part B and D.

The report found that the HI Trust Fund will be able to pay full benefits until 2026, the same as last year’s report.For the 75-year projection period, the HI actuarial deficit has increased to 0.91 percent of taxable payroll from 0.82 percent in last year’s report. The change in the actuarial deficit is due to several factors, most notably lower assumed productivity growth, as well as effects from slower projected growth in the utilization of skilled nursing facility services, higher costs and lower income in 2018 than expected, lower real discount rates, and a shift in the valuation period.

The Trustees project that total Medicare costs (including both HI and SMI expenditures) will grow from approximately 3.7 percent of GDP in 2018 to 5.9 percent of GDP by 2038, and then increase gradually thereafter to about 6.5 percent of GDP by 2093. The faster rate of growth in Medicare spending as compared to growth in GDP is attributable to faster Medicare population growth and increases in the volume and intensity of healthcare services.

The SMI Trust Fund, which covers Medicare Part B and D, had $104 billion in assets at the end of 2018. Part B helps pay for physician, outpatient hospital, home health, and other services for the aged and disabled who voluntarily enroll. It is expected to be adequately financed in all years because premium income and general revenue income are reset annually to cover expected costs and ensure a reserve for Part B costs. However, the aging population and rising health care costs are causing SMI projected costs to grow steadily from 2.1 percent of GDP in 2018 to approximately 3.7 percent of GDP in 2038. Part D provides subsidized access to drug insurance coverage on a voluntary basis for all beneficiaries, as well as premium and cost-sharing subsidies for low-income enrollees.  Findings revealed that Part D drug spending projections are lower than in last year’s report because of slower price growth and a continuing trend of higher manufacturer rebates.

President Donald J. Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, if enacted, would continue to strengthen the fiscal integrity of the Medicare program and extend its solvency.  Under President Trump’s leadership, CMS has already introduced a number of initiatives to strengthen and protect Medicare and proposed and finalized a number of rules that advance CMS’ priority of creating a patient-driven healthcare system through competition.  In particular, CMS is strengthening Medicare through increasing choice in Medicare Advantage and adding supplemental benefits to the program; offering more care options for people with diabetes; providing new telehealth services; and lowering prescription drug costs for seniors.  CMS is also continuing work to advance policies to increase price transparency and help beneficiaries compare costs across different providers.

The Medicare Trustees are: Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex M. Azar; Treasury Secretary and Managing Trustee, Steven Mnuchin; Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta; and Acting Social Security Commissioner, Nancy A. Berryhill. CMS Administrator Seema Verma is the secretary of the board.

The report is available at https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/index.html.

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*Featured Article #2

Politics

Health insurers ramp up lobbying battle against Medicare-for-all

By Ana Radelat

The CT Mirror |

Aug 12, 2019 | 6:00 AM

Health insurers have joined forces with their longtime foe, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as partnering with the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, to form a coalition to fight Medicare-for-all proposals and other Democratic plans to alter the nation’s health care.

As Democratic presidential candidates embrace changes to the nation’s health care system that could threaten Connecticut’s health insurers, the industry is hitting back.

Health insurers have joined forces with their longtime foe, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as partnering with the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, to form a coalition to fight Medicare-for-all proposals and other Democratic plans to alter the nation’s health care.

The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, funded by the insurance industry and its allies, is running digital and television ads aimed at undermining support for Medicare-for-all proposals and plans for a “public option,” a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurance plans.

The partnership was formed a little more than a year ago to protect the nation’s current health care programs, mainly the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.

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The organization’s executive director, Lauren Crawford Shaver, said diverse groups in the coalition found a common cause in 2017 — opposing an attempt by congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We came together to protect the law of the land,” she said.

That battle was won. Coalition members determined they should continue to band together to ward off other political dangers.

“There’s a lot of things we might fight about, but there’s a lot we can agree on,” Crawford Shaver said.

Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have called for a Medicare-for-all through a single-payer system, in which all Americans would be enrolled automatically in a government plan.

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Warren was among several candidates during the most recent Democratic debates who took aim at health insurers.

“These insurance companies do not have a God-given right to make $23 billion in profits and suck it out of our health care system,” she said.

Other candidates prefer a more modest approach, offering a “public option” or Medicare buy-in plan that would allow Americans to purchase government-run coverage, but unlike Medicare-for-all would not eliminate the role of private insurers.

That split among Democrats also runs through Connecticut’s congressional delegation, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, endorsing Medicare-for-all plans and the other lawmakers supporting Medicare buy-in or public option plans.

The nation’s health insurers oppose all of the Democratic proposals discussed during the two nights of debates.

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The insurers’ message is simple: The Affordable Care Act is working reasonably well and should be improved, not repealed by Republicans or replaced by Democrats with a big new public program. Further, they say, more than 155 million Americans have employer-sponsored health coverage and should be allowed to keep it.

Insurers also say that public option and Medicare buy-in plans would lead the nation down the path of a one-size-fits-all health care system run by bureaucrats in Washington D.C.

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They say offering a public option or a Medicare buy-in would prompt employers to drop coverage for their workers and starve hospitals, especially those in rural areas, since government-run health plans usually reimburse doctors and hospitals less for medical services than private insurers. They also say Medicare-for-all and other Democratic proposals will lead to huge tax increases to pay for the plans.

“Whether it’s called Medicare for all, Medicare buy-in or the public option, the results will be the same: Americans will be forced to pay more and wait longer for worse care,” said Crawford Shaver.

The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future ran its first television ad on CNN just before and after the cable channel ran last week’s debates.

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The commercial showed several “ordinary Americans” at home and work decrying “one-size fits-all” health plans and “bureaucrats and politicians” determining care.

“We need to fix what’s broken, not start over,” the final speaker says.

Members of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future have a lot of money and influence to wield on Capitol Hill. They spent a combined $143 million lobbying in 2018 alone, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

And coalition members appear eager to spend even more lobbying money this year.

In the first six months of this year, America’s Health Insurance Plan, a health insurer industry group and member of the partnership, spent more than $5 million on lobbying expenses, and is on the way to surpassing the $6.7 million it spent in lobbying last year.

To underscore the health insurance industries’ importance to local economies, AHIP releases a state-by-state data book each year that details coverage, employment and taxes paid.

In Connecticut, the industry employs 12,296 workers directly and generates another 13,586 jobs indirectly, AHIP says. The payroll for both these groups of workers totals over $3.8 billion a year, AHIP says, and the average annual salary in the business is $112,770. The Connecticut Association of Health Plans puts the number higher, saying Connecticut has 25,000 direct jobs related to the health insurance industry, and another 24,000 indirect jobs.

AHIP also estimates that Connecticut collects nearly $200 million a year in premium taxes on health care policies sold in the state.

Connecticut’s reliance on health insurers – and their continuing influence – was on full display during the last legislative session when the insurance companies, led by Bloomfield-based Cigna, derailed

DENTAL INSURANCE: WORTH THE PREMIUM YOU PAY … OR SIMPLY A “TIME PAYMENT PLAN”?

 

 

 

Op-ed by D. Kenton Henry

“Is dental insurance really worth the premium I pay?” is one question I am asked frequently. It is often followed, almost instantly, by―”Or am I simply paying for my dental work on a time a payment plan?”

My answer to both questions is a definitive, “Maybe.”

If you, as the majority do, have dental insurance through your employer, that employer is subsidizing all or part of your premium. This convenience makes for a solution to the equation, more favorable to you. In contrast―if you are self-employed, retired, or otherwise personally have to pay the full amount of a dental insurance premium―the opposite may be true. That is unless you take some straightforward advice, I am about to provide. If you do not, you most likely will only be spreading your cost for dental work over time. Even worse, dental insurance could prove to be a “loss item” in that you will have paid more in premiums than you will ever receive in benefits.

Short of taking a long drive and crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico to obtain your dental work, what can you do to offset the cost of say, a dental implant, which, on this side of the border, is going to run from $3,500 to $7,000?

Let me preface this by with a premise or three:

#1) With no insurance company is “the sky the limit”. I’m referring to the fee they are going to pay a dentist for a particular dental procedure. For example, no insurance company is going to accept a fee of $10,000 for a single porcelain crown. Not even their share of that cost, which is typically 50%. So what is the limit of a fee the insurance company will cover? That limit must be contractually defined, and the limit most insurance companies abide by is, “reasonable and customary” or “reasonable, usual, and customary”. These are empirical standards an insurance company uses to determine whether to pay a fee. Or how much of a fee to pay. If the dentist charges the general prevailing rate in your geographical area, they are going to pay the portion for which they are contractually obligated. Basically, it’s the average charged in your neighborhood. You will be charged more in Beverly Hills, California and less in Brenham, Texas “where the cows think it’s heaven”. Additionally, if “usual” is part of the definition, the fee has to be in line with what this particular dentist charges for a particular procedure. If fee is disproportionate either, or, both, ways―the maximum amount paid by the insurance company will be the limit set in their fee schedule.

#2) A dental insurance plan is either a provider network plan or a non-network plan. If it is a network plan, it is usually either a Dental Preferred Provider Organization (DPPO) Plan or a Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) Plan. If it is the first, you may go outside the network of dentists with which the insurance company has contracted but will most likely pay a higher cost for doing so. With the latter, you must remain within the network of dentists or, you have no insurance coverage whatsoever. For either of these options, you pay a lower premium than if you purchase a non-network or “any dentist” plan. The reason is that you agree to utilize or, at least, consider utilizing a dentist with whom the insurance company has contracted to charge you a lower fee than they would without the contract. This limits the insurance companies losses and brings increased traffic to the dentist.

#3) This is perhaps the most important part. If you purchase a non-network dental insurance plan, you can, almost, be assured you will be charged more than the insurance company deems acceptable. Additionally, you will be responsible for any dollar amount above their “reasonable and customary” rate. However, if you purchase a network plan, and go within the network of dentists, you will not be held responsible for any “excess” charges. Any charges above the reasonable and customary rate, the dentist will be forced to “write off”. In this situation, you will never have to worry about a surprise bill or claim. If a policy says your share of the bill is 20% or 50%, it will be that and not 20% or 50% plus any excess charges.

Assuming you accept you must acquire a network plan, in order to limit you own losses and surprise dental bills, the challenge becomes, “How do you find a quality dentist willing to accept a lower fee for treating you?” The typical HMO dental provider is typically someone straight out of dental school or who otherwise needs to build their patient base. In return for sending patients their way, the dentist is willing to accept a meaningfully lower fee. If the dentist is a PPO provider, they may have been in business longer, have more experience, and perhaps a reputation for having better skills. But they are willing to accept a somewhat lower fee in return from the many employees a large company may send their way. The dentist who isn’t willing to participate in any network apparently feels they have all the clients they need. That or their reputation is so great it will draw all the traffic they require.

The problem is, unlike a large oil company, as an individual, or family, you don’t bring enough “volume” to the table to bargain for a lower dental fee. At least not by yourself. Therefore, you have to identify and purchase your dental insurance from an insurance company which has the reputation of insuring a large number of employees of that oil company. As well as having a reputation for paying their claims in a timely and efficient manner. A manner such that the dentist wants to be contracted with them. From your standpoint, you want that insurance company to have a reputation for the same when it comes to you and not have to worry about claim disputes.

Another challenge is, at $6,000 for a dental implant, your dental benefit may not go too far. Secondly, does your insurance plan cover implants in the first place? Again, the sky is not the limit. The average dental plan covers a maximum of $1,000 of dental treatment per year. You can pay a higher premium for incremental benefits up to a maximum of $5,000. But a policy which pays that much in year one would cost a fortune and there is typically a twelve-month wait for major dental work to be covered. As such, you may want to find a plan which increases to that limit with each passing year and is available at what you consider a reasonable cost.

How do you find a dental policy which does not subject you to “excess” costs; allows you to see a highly skilled dentist, utilizing the latest technology and performing the most advanced form of treatment; all at a competitive premium? And this from a company which pays the claims they are contractually obligated to pay while doing so in a timely fashion?

This is where I, and my thirty-three years experience in the medical and dental insurance business, come in. My experience as a patient and consumer is even longer. After being in braces for eight years, I had all my front teeth knocked out in an auto accident when they impacted the steering wheel. I was wearing a seat belt, which saved my life, but not a shoulder strap. I’ve had to have the dental work replaced on three occasions since that senior year of high school. This year, I proceeded with what will be one double crown and, ultimately, two implants. (Ouch, is right!) I was not willing to accept this type of work from a mediocre dentist―and certainly did not care to pay cash for it! So I found a policy, issued by a large, financially sound insurance company, with a reputation for excellent customer and claim service. Then I found a policy which ultimately pays the maximum $5,000 annual benefit. In order for it to be affordable to me, it started, December 1 of 2018, at a calendar year benefit of $1,500―immediately went to $2,500 January 1, of this year―and will go to a $5,000 benefit this coming January. So I only paid for a $1,500 benefit for one month before it jumped to a $2,500 benefit! During this year I acquired the double porcelain crown and the bone graft and post for one dental implant. In 2020, I will have the crown for the implant post attached, when my calendar year benefit is $5,000. The second implant is optional, and I will probably have that work done in 2021 when my benefit remains $5K.

Once I knew what company to go with, the final step in selecting my dental insurance policy required finding the right dentist. I reviewed the insurance company’s list of network providers and researched the dentist’s reputation via credentials and reviews. I won’t belabor that but, suffice it to say, I found a dentist who met my requirements. He is very conveniently located relative to any resident of The Woodlands or Spring and, in my opinion, is well worth going to if you reside anywhere in Montgomery County or Northwest Harris County. He utilizes the latest technology, has a great and skilled staff, and a decent, very professional, if not overly effusive, chairside manner.*

 

In summation, in order to make dental insurance worth your while, you need to:

1) accept you need to acquire a “network provider” dental plan

2) find a policy which pays a reasonable benefit based on your foreseeable need, at an affordable premium and

3) allows you to go to a skilled dentist convenient to you

I have done all the homework for you. For over three decades, I have specialized in medical, Medicare-related, and dental insurance. I provide objective quotes from established “A” rated companies and quality customer service. Among the companies I represent are Aetna, Ameritas, Anthem, BlueCross BlueShield, Cigna, Delta Dental, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare. I am located in the heart of The Woodlands and am accessible from my websites Allplanhealthinsurance.com and TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com. You may also feel free to contact me at my numbers below.

I look forward to working with and assisting you in acquiring any of the above referenced products.

D. “Kenton” Henry                                                                                                               Editor, Agent, Broker Office: 281-367-6565                                                           Text my cell @ 713-907-7984                          http://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com                              http://Allplanhealthinsurance.com                                   http://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com https://linkedin.com/in/kentonhenryinsuranceconsultant

*(Neither I nor my agency and websites are affiliated in any way with a particular dentist or dental office. Neither do we receive compensation from the same for any recommendation we may make.)

MEDIA WARNS CONSUMERS THEY WILL HAVE LESS HELP SHOPPING FOR 2019 HEALTH INSURANCE

(BUT THEY DIDN’T ASK ALL PLAN MED QUOTE OF THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS)

Navigators in a boiler room

By D. Kenton Henry Editor, Agent, Broker
29 October 2018

The media is proffering all manner of good news when it comes to the Open Enrollment Period for purchasing 2019 individual and family health insurance, just three days away. The doors open this Thursday, November 1st and will remain so through December 15th. During this time you, the consumer, will be able to review your options and make a decision to renew your existing policy or select a new one to become effective January 1. Whichever, that policy will cover you the coming calendar year.

The feature article appearing below, states there will be ” . . . fewer sources of unbiased advice and assistance to guide them through the labyrinth of health insurance.” To wit, it cites, the budget for insurance counselors, known as navigators, has been cut by 80%, leaving over one-third of navigators in 2,400 counties served by Healthcare.gov, unfunded. Thank you very much, New York Times. Somehow, they neglected to consult with me and my agency, ALL PLAN MED QUOTE. Reading the article in full, one can infer they feel the only meaningful assistance can come from the government (at taxpayers’ expense) and fail to credit the private industry, which has provided counsel and enrollment assistance within the domestic insurance industry some two hundred years plus. One token sentence in the article acknowledges the private industry’s presence to assist the consumer with procuring health insurance. In my estimation, this reflects the media’s general opinion and thesis that the government is the end-all solution to every conceivable personal financial issue. Which, again, in the mind of this editor, is precisely the philosophy, the perpetuation of which got us into this fix in the first place. Moreover, what exactly is that fix?

Current pre-midterm election media coverage informs us premiums have stabilized and are, in many cases, going down in 2019. While that may be true in some localities, the recently released premiums in southeast Texas reflect increases of 20% or more. If you obtain a subsidy, wherein you get a tax credit for a portion of your premium, the subsidy itself may be larger, but the balance may be as well. Also, for those not obtaining a subsidy (the vast majority of us) the increase will be born entirely by ourselves. The situation has made healthcare the number one concern of Americans heading into next week’s midterm elections according to a Fox News Poll.

For the record, ALL PLAN MED QUOTE and I have never been subsidized by taxpayer dollars. As an independent, self-employed broker/agent I am compensated when I successfully enroll someone in health insurance. I am not compensated when I fail at such. That is fine by me. In spite of continual cuts in agent compensation. I prefer autonomy to bureaucracy. My advice and guidance are objective. My goal is to succeed it getting you enrolled in a policy which makes sure you have access to the care and treatment you need, when you need it and are not financially devastated in the process. All this for the lowest possible premium. I do not care which insurance company you contract with, as long as you are satisfied you have obtained the best coverage for your given situation and needs. Ideally, it would also provide you access to all the doctors and medical providers you choose to utilize. Regrettably, that latter objective has become my biggest challenge and is one every insurance agent and counselor faces. To say it can be overcome in every instance would be misleading but I do my best. All 2019 individual and family options are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) policies, and this has been so since 2016. The HMO networks are narrow in comparison to what one may typically have experienced with employer-based HMO coverage. However, there are a very few plans (3 in my primary region) which operate very similar to a traditional Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) policy in that they do cover treatment at a provider outside the network. Benefits are paid up to a limited percentage, and there is no cap on your maximum annual out-of-pocket but―for someone who wants to be assured they can obtain coverage from the provider of their choice―it is better than no coverage whatsoever. If you feel you must learn more about this option, please contact me.

To assist me in these ends, I am appointed with every company providing Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-compliant health insurance company doing business in Montgomery, Harris, Fort Bend, and Galveston counties. BlueCross BlueShield of Texas (to my knowledge) does business in every corner of Texas, and I have been appointed with them twenty-seven years. In addition to Texas, I am licensed in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

I offer short-term health insurance for those who do not get a subsidy and those who, whether they do or not, cannot afford credible health insurance. However, I do not represent it as covering pre-existing health conditions, as it does not. Nor do I represent it as a substitute for credible, compliant coverage. It is a short-term bridge to a long-term solution.

As always, the Open Enrollment Period will be a very busy and hectic time for anyone in my profession. To make things proceed more smoothly, I would appreciate you visit my quoting site to obtain spreadsheet comparison of your options from all the health insurance companies offering coverage in your county. Attempt to narrow your selection down to those plans you feel most closely approximate the coverage you need. You can search for in-network providers from the search button directly next to the premium quoted. If you are so confident a plan is right for you, please feel free to apply straight from the quote. However, many of you will have questions or appreciate my insight and experience with the plan details and application process. Those in need of a subsidy will find my assistance especially helpful. If this is you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Again, for quotes and applications, you may go to my website at Http://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com and click on “Health” in the top menu.

Alternatively, you may go directly to my spreadsheet quotes and an application by clicking on this link:
https://allplanhealthinsurance.insxcloud.com
*(it is not necessary to log in or register to obtain quotes or apply)

If you already know your interest is a policy from BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, you may go directly to their quoting and application page by clicking here:
https://retailweb.hcsc.net/retailshoppingcart/TX/census?ExpressLinkedAgentId=2V0boERIKNxDSESKunpc/w==

**(if these links do not function from this text, please copy and paste or type in your browser and hit enter)

If you apply for coverage through these links, I will be your agent and available to assist and commit to providing the best of service throughout the year. I bring my entire thirty-two years in medical insurance to bear for this purpose. I look forward to hearing from you and assisting you. Regardless, I hope you succeed in obtaining health insurance which suffices until Congress puts their heads together and provides us with more reasonable options.

D. Kenton Henry                                                                                                              All Plan Med Quote                                                                                                    Office: 281.367.6565                                                                                                     Text my cell @ 713.907.7984                                                                                   Email: Allplanhealthinsurance.com
For the latest in health and Medicare-related insurance, news go to Https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com

COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS:

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FEATURED ARTICLE 

The New York Times
By Robert Pear
Oct. 27, 2018

Shopping for Insurance? Don’t Expect Much Help Navigating Plans

Affordable Care Act navigators helping patients during an enrollment event in 2016 at Southwest General Hospital in San Antonio.CreditCreditEric Gay/Associated Press
WASHINGTON — When the annual open enrollment period begins in a few days, consumers across the country will have more choices under the Affordable Care Act, but fewer sources of unbiased advice and assistance to guide them through the labyrinth of health insurance.
The Trump administration has opened the door to aggressive marketing of short-term insurance plans, which are not required to cover pre-existing medical conditions. Insurers are entering or returning to the Affordable Care Act marketplace, expanding their service areas and offering new products. But the budget for the insurance counselors known as navigators has been cut more than 80 percent, and in nearly one-third of the 2,400 counties served by HealthCare.gov, no navigators have been funded by the federal government.
“There is likely to be a lot of consumer confusion about the various plan options that may be available this year,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “It will be a bit of a Wild West — buyer beware!”
“Obamacare health plans,” short-term plans and “Christian health sharing plans” are all displayed on the same page of some shopping sites like Affordable-Health-Insurance-Plans.org, which describes itself as a free referral service for insurance shoppers.
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Consumers may have difficulty sorting through their options after the administration sliced the budget last summer for insurance navigators to $10 million this year, from $36 million in 2017 and nearly $63 million in 2016.
“Navigators play a vital role in helping consumers prepare applications to establish eligibility and enroll in coverage through the marketplaces,” the Department of Health and Human Services says on its website.
But 797 counties served by HealthCare.gov will not have any navigators this year, according to a tabulation of federal data by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That is a sharp increase from 2016, when 127 counties lacked such assistance.
“If you are confused and you want somebody’s help to try to figure out what’s right for you — what’s junk and what is legitimate — there will be fewer people to help you in most states,” Ms. Corlette said.
Federal officials said they were not providing funds for navigators in Iowa, Montana or New Hampshire because no organizations had applied for the money in those states.
Cleveland, Dallas and large areas of Michigan and other states will also be without navigators.
Texas will be hit hard. The state has the largest number and the highest percentage of people who are uninsured, with 4.8 million people, or 17 percent of residents, lacking coverage, according to the Census Bureau.
“North Texas remains one of the most uninsured areas in the country,” said the chief executive of Dallas County, Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins. “The administration’s decision to defund all navigators across North Texas will hurt our ability to enroll individuals in health insurance and result in some working families losing coverage. Only 45 of Texas’ 254 counties have any navigator coverage.”
Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, defended the cuts.
After five years, she said, “the public is more aware of the options for private coverage” available through the marketplace, so “it is appropriate to scale down the navigator program.” In addition, she said, information and assistance are available from other sources, including insurance agents and brokers.
Consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act starting Thursday. Last year, 8.7 million people enrolled at HealthCare.gov, and three million more selected plans on insurance exchanges run by states.
Consumers can go without insurance next year without fear of a penalty, as Congress repealed the unpopular tax surcharge imposed on people who lack coverage.
Many health policy experts say that federal financial assistance is more important than the individual mandate in inducing people to buy insurance. Those subsidies will still be available to low- and moderate-income people for insurance that complies with the Affordable Care Act and is purchased through the public marketplace. The subsidies cannot be used for short-term policies.
The vast majority of the people we serve, over 90 percent, are motivated to have insurance because they want coverage for their family and themselves,” said Matthew Slonaker, the executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, a nonprofit. “It’s not because they otherwise would have to pay a penalty.”
Average premiums for the most popular types of insurance purchased by individuals and families will be relatively stable next year and, in some states, will actually decline, the administration says.
Under new standards issued by the administration, navigators this year are encouraged to inform consumers of the full range of coverage options, including short-term plans that do not provide all of the benefits and consumer protections required by the Affordable Care Act.
President Trump has promoted the short-term policies as an inexpensive alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and he said those plans would be “much more widely available” as a result of an executive order he signed last year to overturn restrictions imposed by President Barack Obama.
Democrats have made health care a major theme in midterm election campaigns, and they say the short-term policies show how the Trump administration threatens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Short-term policies, which can extend up to 364 days and then be renewed for two additional years, often provide no coverage for pre-existing conditions, prescription drugs, pregnancy, maternity care or the treatment of mental disorders and drug abuse.
Indeed, Mr. Trump said, the short-term plans are cheaper because they are “not subject to any very expansive and expensive Obamacare coverage mandates and rules.”
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But, said Kirsten A. Sloan, a vice president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network: “People may be attracted to short-term plans without understanding that the lower premiums come with less coverage. These plans may not cover the doctors and hospitals and drugs you need if you get sick.”
In another challenge this year, consumers may be deluged with robocalls offering cheap insurance.
Alex Quilici, the chief executive of YouMail, a company that offers software to combat robocalls, said he was seeing a huge increase in health insurance scams.
“Callers say ‘it’s open enrollment’ or ‘we can get you a better deal by looking at all the health insurance plans,’” Mr. Quilici said. “Callers ask for lots of personal information, and the unwitting consumer often gives their birth date, Social Security number and information for everybody in the family, in order to get a great deal. In reality, it’s identity theft or payment theft or both.”
Mr. Quilici’s company has recorded hundreds of robocalls. A typical call says that, with enrollment just “around the corner,” Mr. Trump has created short-term coverage options lasting up to three years, “so you and your family can get a great insurance plan at the price you can afford.”
It is difficult to identify the source of the robocalls, Mr. Quilici said, because callers often falsify information displayed on caller ID.
(A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 27, 2018, on Page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Shopping for Health Insurance: Many Options but Little Guidance. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe)

Medicare Part D Prescription Plans: What you Need to know

 

Greetings! To those of you who are current clients, thank you so much for your continued business. It’s that time of year again! Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period runs through December 7th. Most of you know, during this time, a Medicare recipient may analyze how their prescription drug usage or their current Part D Prescription Drug plan may have or will be changing for the coming calendar year.

2018 DEDUCTIBLE – INITIAL COVERAGE – GAP – CATASTROPHIC THRESHOLDS

Each year, virtually every drug plan changes something material about their coverage. It may be the premium, deductible, drug tiers, copays, or the drugs they cover or don’t cover. It could be all these things. If you don’t read your ANNUAL NOTICE OF CHANGE from your current Part D plan carrier (which you are due by September 30th each year) you could be in for some surprises with your coverage in the coming calendar year!

COMMONLY OVERLOOKED DETAILS:

a) Many people get fixated on the premium and go with the lowest. It’s easy to do. They do this without factoring in applicable deductibles and copays. My lowest premium Part D plan in 2018 is $16.70 per month. Most often, the plan with the lower premium has a higher deductible and copays, so―especially if you are using expensive brand name drugs―you end up paying more for your coverage, and drugs, overall. The same applies to the plans with no deductible.

b) While an annual deductible as high as $405 may apply before your Rx drugs are available for their copays, very often, the deductible does not apply to Tier 1 Preferred Generics and Tier 2, Non-Preferred Generics. That makes a big difference for most people. This is an example of where it pays to carefully review the plan’s SUMMARY OF BENEFITS.

c) When tempted to go with a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, keep in mind you will have to accept whatever drug coverage is tied to your Medical plan. If you are using expensive drugs, that means you may not necessarily end up with your lowest cost for your drugs. As you would when you let me identify that in the “stand-alone” Part D market.

d) As I explained in a previous post―especially when it comes to brand name drugs―it pays to always ask the pharmacist “what is this pharmacy’s lowest cost for this drug?”. Often that cash price is actually lower than your plan’s copay. In which case ― just pay cash!

Part of the service I provide my clients is running their prescription drug regimen through my a program to identify whether a superior Part D Drug plan exists for them for the coming year. My goal is to have you on a plan which results in all your prescription drugs being covered at your lowest total “out-of-pocket” (TOOP) expense. TOOP is the sum of your premium, any applicable deductible, and the copays you pay for your drugs at the pharmacy counter or through the mail. If we are fortunate enough that your current drug plan still results in meeting these objectives, you simply stay the course and let your plan roll right into 2017! If it no longer results in your lowest TOOP, I will identify the plan that is and (with your instruction) enroll you in it.

Some of you have already seen a version of this (and some of you have been preemptive) and provided me your regimen. For you, I have been working most nights and weekends since October 15th providing you 2018 plan recommendations. If you received one, you need read no further unless you are yet to request that I apply on your behalf. In which case – request the application be emailed to you or – in the case of Aetna and Humana applications – simply request I apply on your behalf with your information I have on record. Please do not apply without my involvement. Mine is a volume business, and I don’t stay in business without it going through me. Even Kenton has to eat! So your business is greatly appreciated!

To accomplish this, I need each of you (who have not already done so) to respond to this email with a list of current drugs and dosages. I am quoting each person’s plan in the order received. Remember, we have until December 7th but applying early is always better than later. So, please, forward your drug regimen, and I will quote you as soon as possible.

As to those of you with Medicare Advantage Plan, who like your coverage, you need do nothing. Just keep paying the premium and let your coverage roll right into the new year. Most of my clients have Medicare Supplement. For those whose policies are no more than two years old, you can be fairly certain it remains competitively priced, and there is little to regain in changing plans. For those of you whose policy is older than two or three years, I am volunteering to re-shop* your plan, beginning in mid-January when all my client’s Part D plans and Under Age 65 health insurance is put to bed. It is simply too much to address during the Open Enrollment Period for both Medicare and Obamacare! The government puts me in the untenable role of having to process 12 months worth of business in 8 weeks. There is no point in hiring additional help. By the time I got them trained, I would have to lay them off!

As my phones will be very busy, you may want to text me during this period if it is important you speak with me right away. My cell phone number appears below. I look forward to keeping you as a client and working to limit your medical and Medicare-related insurance expenses!

Thanks so much!
Kenton Henry
Office: 281.367.6565
Text my cell @ 713.907.7984
Http://Allplanhealthinsurance.com
Http://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com

For the latest in health and Medicare relative news, follow my blog @ Https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com

*Remember – because all of you are six months past your enrollment in Medicare’s Part B – it will be necessary for you to answer a series of health questions and qualify (based on your health) for a new, replacement, Medicare Supplement policy. When the time comes, I can email you sample applications so you may review those questions.

 

2018 Health Insurance Open Enrollment: Game On

Today is November 1, the first day of OPEN ENROLLMENT for Individual & Family 2018 health insurance coverage. This is not going to be my usual Op-Ed or commentary. Things are what they are for now, and I will let the numbers and the available benefits speak for themselves. We can go back to the dialogue once everyone has decided what is in their best interest for the coming year and elected a plan.

Because my phone ― and that of every agent and broker ― specializing in this market ― is going to be ringing off the hook the first few weeks, I am going to provide you some guidance to make this as easy as possible, on all of us.

Please go my quoting and application site. It has just been loaded with all your available plan options. Whether you receive a subsidy and have gone through Healthcare.gov and think you need to – or not ― you should begin here. You can get the quotes; estimate your applicable subsidy; and, seamlessly, enter into Healthcare.gov. Or, if you don’t qualify for or desire a subsidy, you may apply. If you need my assistance, you may save your work. I will see it and can pick up where you left off, to help you finish. You may email me and, if preferring to speak immediately and you cannot reach me on my desk phone, text me on my cell and I will get in touch with you, as soon as possible. If you need me immediately and cannot reach me on my desk phone, text me on my cell and I will get in touch with you, as soon as possible. My cell number is 713-907-7984. I will answer your questions and assist you in completing the process. (The voice-mail on the office line will be checked but, on the cell phone, will remain full.) It will help us both immensely if you review your options before contacting me.

CLICK HERE FOR 2018 HEALTH INSURANCE QUOTES AND PLAN OPTIONS:

https://allplanhealthinsurance.insxcloud.com/my-quote/individual-info

Here are the options I have to assist you from my quoting site:

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Good luck and don’t hesitate to let me assist you with this year’s Open Enrollment!

D. Kenton Henry

Email: Allplanhealthinsurance.com@gmail.com

Office: 281-367-6565

Cell: 713-907-7984

https://allplanhealthinsurance.insxcloud.com/my-quote/individual-info

http://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com

https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com

Obamacare: Are All Bets Off For 2018 Open Enrollment?

By D. Kenton Henry, Editor, Broker, Agent

Last evening I began to receive texts and messages inquiring how President Trump’s executive order (EO) on Thursday, October 12th, would impact both the near and long-term future of Obamacare. Before retiring for the evening, I responded – “In the long run, dramatically. But in the short run, not so much because it will take quite awhile for the insurance industry to respond appropriately.” At that time, all I had learned was, the President ordered regulators to allow consumers to shop across state lines for health insurance along with the ability individuals of like professions, careers, and risk profiles, to band together in associations for the purpose of acquiring individual and family health insurance. Theoretically, the first would allow the consumer to shop for their best value among a far greater number of companies and plans, thus restoring competition to the market. The second would allow pooling a large number of people, and the resulting volume would lower risk to the insurance companies, thus allowing them to charge lower premiums to the members. The same principle and effect currently available to employer groups. And that was all I was aware of regarding the EO. Additionally, the EO loosens the restrictions on “Short-Term” health insurance, allowing it to serve as a viable alternative to long-term coverage for the young and/or healthy.

Today, I awakened to learn the Department of Health and Human Services announced late last night that the EO includes the cessation of federal payments for Cost-Sharing Reductions (CSRs) to insurance companies. “Immediately.” This, according to Secretary Eric Hargan and Medicare administrator, Seema Verma. And―with that―all bets are off! The Administration claims this can be done because Congress never appropriated funds for the CSRs. These funds were used to reimburse insurers for the CSRs which result in reductions in deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums for eligible individuals. However, while the insurers will lose these subsidies (amounting to $7 billion this year), they remain obligated to continue offering them to eligible customers! Eligible customers mostly include those qualifying for subsidies and electing “Silver” plans through the Marketplace, Healthcare.gov. At the very least, halting the payments could trigger a spike in premiums, at some point, for the coming year, unless Congress authorizes the money. The next payments are due around October 20th. The Congressional Budget Office estimates, without the subsidies, premiums could go up by as much as 20%. That is on top of the 15-20% average increase anticipated with the subsidies in place! Nearly 3 in 5 Healthcare.gov customers qualify for help. If you qualify for a premium subsidy, the increase will simply be paid for by your fellow taxpayers as it has the last four years. The person or family who does not qualify will have to pay for it entirely out of their own pocket. As always, it is the hard working middle class who could be hurt the most. Those who make just enough to get by, but a little too much to qualify for government assistance.

Will this break Obamacare altogether and, if so, when? What impact will it have on 2018 individual and family health insurance premiums? Rates had to be (and were) submitted to state health insurance commissioners, as required, on September 30th. Can insurance companies pull out of the market at this point? Will they? Apparently, Premium Subsidies (separate from CSRs), designed to lower premiums, per se, for qualified individuals – as well as though qualifying for tax credits upon filing – will not be affected. However, here is what the Washington Post (article below) had to say about the cessation of CSR subsidies, alone: “Ending the payments is grounds for any insurer to back out of its federal contract to sell health plans for 2018. Some state’ regulators directed ACA insurers to add a surcharge in case the payments were not made, but insurers elsewhere could be left in a position in which they still must give consumers the discounts but will not be reimbursed.” In my opinion, it is too late to submit new rates for approval in time for Open Enrollment, just around the corner. But it is not too late for an insurance company to pull out of the market altogether. What options will that leave the consumer, including my clients, for coverage in 2018 and beyond?

I agree with the administration; this is their move to force the hand of Congress to reverse the policies of Obamacare, restore competition and consumer choice, to the market. It will allow elements of a free market to regulate the variables, most important of which are, benefits, choice of provider, and premium. How long it will take for this action on the part of the Trump to accomplish this, I can’t say. The Executive Order is almost certain to be challenged by state Attorney Generals and litigated in federal courts. This could take months, or more, to play out, and probably will.

I apologize that, at this point, I have more questions than answers. In the meantime, I, and, my clients have yet to learn what our 2018 health options and premiums would be (or would have been) without the ramifications of the Executive Order. Rest assured, I will be watching in earnest for the details as this situation evolves.

As always, please feel free to phone me at 281.367.6565; text me at 713.907.7984 or email me at allplanhealthinsurance.com@gmail.com. The closer we get to November 1, the more I will know. And whatever is available to you, I will have. Along with your best option. Bear in mind, “best” is a relative term.

http://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com

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Featured article:

WASHINGTON POST
By Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin By Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin
Health & Science
October 13 at 9:42 AM

President Trump is throwing a bomb into the insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act, choosing to end critical payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. The decision coincides with an executive order on Thursday to allow alternative health plans that skirt the law’s requirements.
The White House confirmed late Thursday that it would halt federal payments for cost-sharing reductions, although a statement did not specify when. Another statement a short time later by top officials at the Health and Human Services Department said the cutoff would be immediate. The subsidies total about $7 billion this year.
Trump has threatened for months to stop the payments, which go to insurers that are required by the law to help eligible consumers afford their deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. But he held off while other administration officials warned him such a move would cause an implosion of the ACA marketplaces that could be blamed on Republicans, according to two individuals briefed on the decision.
Health insurers and state regulators have been in a state of high anxiety over the prospect of the marketplaces cratering because of such White House action. The fifth year’s open-enrollment season for consumers to buy coverage through ACA exchanges will start in less than three weeks, and insurers have said that stopping the cost-sharing payments would be the single greatest step the Trump administration could take to damage the marketplaces — and the law.
Ending the payments is grounds for any insurer to back out of its federal contract to sell health plans for 2018. Some states’ regulators directed ACA insurers to add a surcharge in case the payments were not made, but insurers elsewhere could be left in a position in which they still must give consumers the discounts but will not be reimbursed.
A spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group that has been warning for months of adverse effects if the payments ended, immediately denounced the president’s decision. “Millions of Americans rely on these benefits to afford their coverage and care,” Kristine Grow said.
And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who has been trying to preserve the payments through litigation, said the president’s action “would be sabotage.” Becerra said late Thursday that he was prepared to fight the White House. “We’ve taken the Trump Administration to court before and won, and we’re ready to do it again if necessary,” he said in a statement.
Trump’s move comes even as bipartisan negotiations continue on one Senate committee over ways to prop up the ACA marketplaces. Both Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have publicly said the payments should not end immediately, though they differ over how long these subsidies should be guaranteed.
The cost-sharing reductions — or CSRs, as they are known — have long been the subject of a political and legal seesaw. Congressional Republicans argued that the sprawling 2010 health-care law that established them does not include specific language providing appropriations to cover the government’s cost. House Republicans sued HHS over the payments during President Barack Obama’s second term. A federal court agreed that they were illegal, and the case has been pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
President Trump signed an executive order on the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 12. With the order, he directed federal agencies to rewrite regulations on selling a certain type of health insurance across state lines. President Trump signed an executive order on the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 12. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
President Trump signed an executive order on the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 12. With the order, he directed federal agencies to rewrite regulations on selling a certain type of health insurance across state lines. (The Washington Post)
“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” a statement from the White House said. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”
In a filing Friday morning, the administration informed the court that HHS had “directed that cost-sharing reduction payments be stopped because it has determined that those payments are not funded by the permanent appropriation.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement that the administration was dropping its appeal of the lawsuit — something the White House did not mention in its announcement. Ryan called the move to end to the court case “a monumental affirmation of Congress’s authority and the separation of powers.”
Meanwhile, the top two congressional Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), excoriated the president’s decision. “It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” they said in a joint statement. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”
For months, administration officials have debated privately about what to do. The president has consistently pushed to stop the payments, according to officials and advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Some top health officials within the administration, including former HHS secretary Tom Price, cautioned that this could exacerbate already escalating ACA plan premiums, these Republicans said. But some government lawyers argued that the payments were not authorized under the existing law, according to one administration official, and would be difficult to keep defending in court.
Acting HHS secretary Eric Hargan and Seema Verma, administrator of the department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said they were stopping the payments based on a legal opinion by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “It has been clear for many years that Obamacare is bad policy. It is also bad law,” their statement says. “The Obama Administration unfortunately went ahead and made CSR payments to insurance companies after requesting — but never ultimately receiving — an appropriation from Congress as required by law.”
While the administration will now argue that Congress should appropriate the funds if it wants them to continue, such a proposal will face a serious hurdle on Capitol Hill. In a recent interview, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing HHS, said it would be difficult to muster support for such a move among House conservatives.
One person familiar with the president’s decision said HHS officials and Trump’s domestic policy advisers had urged him to continue the payments at least through the end of the year.
The cost-sharing payments are separate from a different subsidy that provides federal assistance with premiums to more than four-fifths of the 10 million Americans with ACA coverage.
Word of the president’s decision came just hours after he signed the executive order intended to circumvent the ACA by making it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy alternative types of health insurance with lower prices, fewer benefits and weaker government protections.
The White House and allies portrayed the president’s move as wielding administrative powers to accomplish what congressional Republicans have failed to achieve: fostering more coverage choices while tearing down the law’s insurance marketplaces. Until the White House’s announcement late Thursday, the executive order represented Trump’s biggest step to date to reverse the health-care policies of the Obama administration, a central promise since last year’s presidential campaign.
Critics, who include state insurance commissioners, most of the health-insurance industry and mainstream policy specialists, predict that a proliferation of these other kinds of coverage will have damaging ripple effects, driving up costs for consumers with serious medical conditions and prompting more insurers to flee the law’s marketplaces. Part of Trump’s action, they say, will spark court challenges over its legality.
The most far-reaching element of the order instructs a trio of Cabinet departments to rewrite federal rules for “association health plans” — a form of insurance in which small businesses of a similar type band together through an association to negotiate health benefits. These plans have had to meet coverage requirements and consumer protections under the 2010 health-care law, but the administration is likely to exempt them from those rules and let such plans be sold from state to state without insurance licenses in each one.
In addition, the order is designed to expand the availability of short-term insurance policies, which offer limited benefits as a bridge for people between jobs or young adults no longer eligible for their parents’ health plans. The Obama administration ruled that short-term insurance may not last for more than three months; Trump wants to extend that to nearly a year.
Trump’s action also is intended to widen employers’ ability to use pretax dollars in “health re-imbursement arrangements” to help workers pay for any medical expenses, not just for health policies that meet ACA rules — another reversal of Obama policy.
In a late-morning signing ceremony in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, surrounded by supportive small-business owners, Cabinet members and a few Republicans from Capitol Hill, the president spoke in his characteristic superlatives about the effects of his action and what he called “the Obamacare nightmare.”
Trump said that Thursday’s move, which will trigger months of regulatory work by federal agencies, “is only the beginning.” He promised “even more relief and more freedom” from ACA rules. And although leading GOP lawmakers are eager to move on from their unsuccessful attempts this year to abolish central facets of the 2010 law, Trump said that “we are going to pressure Congress very strongly to finish the repeal and replace of Obamacare.”
But in an early morning tweet Friday, Trump reached out to Democrats with an appeal to somehow work together on a health-care “fix.”
“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding,” Trump wrote. “Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”
The executive order will fulfill a quest by conservative Republican lawmakers, especially in the House, who have tried for more than two decades to expand the availability of association health plans by allowing them to be sold, unregulated, across state lines. On the other hand, Trump’s approach conflicts with what he and GOP leaders in Congress have held out as a main health-policy goal — giving each state more discretion over matters of insurance.
Health policy experts in think tanks, academia and the health-care industry pointed out that the order’s language is fairly broad, so the ensuing fine print in agencies’ rules will determine whether the impact will be as sweeping or quick as Trump boasted — his directive will provide “millions of people with Obamacare relief,” he said.
Significant questions that remain include whether individuals will be able to join associations, a point that could raise legal issues; whether the administration will start to let association health plans count toward the ACA’s requirement that most Americans carry insurance; and whether such plans can charge higher prices to small businesses with sicker workers — or refuse to insure them.
A senior administration official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity shortly before Trump signed the order, said that the policy changes it sets in motion will require agencies to follow customary procedures to write new rules and solicit public comment. That means new insurance options will not be available in time for coverage beginning in January, he said.
Among policy experts, critics warned that young and healthy people who use relatively little insurance will gravitate to association health plans because of their lower price tags. That would concentrate older and sicker customers in ACA marketplaces with spiking rates.

Selling health plans from state to state without separate licenses — the idea underlying much of the president’s order — has long been a Republican mantra. It has gained little traction in practice, however.
Half a dozen states — before the ACA was passed in 2010 as well as since then — have passed laws permitting insurers to sell health policies approved by other states. And since last year, the ACA has allowed “compacts” in which groups of states can agree that health plans licensed in any of them could be sold in the others. Under such compacts, federal health officials must make sure the plans offer at least the same benefits and are as affordable as those sold in the ACA marketplaces.
As of this summer, “no state was known to actually offer or sell such policies,” according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. A main reason, experts say, is insurers’ difficulty in arranging networks of doctors and other providers of care far from their home states.

BITTER CHILL IN THE FALL AIR FOR OBAMACARE

by D. Kenton Henry, Editor, Agent, Broker

The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) when individuals and families can select and enroll in health insurance plans for the calendar year 2018 is, just around the corner, beginning, as usual, November 1. What is different this year is, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS), which oversees Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ― ACA), has proposed ending it December 15th ― a period half as long as in all previous years. OEP historically ends January 31st. If this proposed change is effected, consumers, and agents and brokers on their behalf, will be under considerably more pressure to bind coverage during a period which has always been fraught with confusion and frustration. Expected to heighten the latter, are increasing premiums and less participation by insurance companies and providers. Increasing premiums (which have only accelerated during Obamacare) speak for themselves. Less participation by insurance companies means less competition and fewer plans from which consumers may choose. Less participation by providers means it will be even harder to find your doctor or hospital in the Health Maintenance Network (HMO) plans we Texans are forced to choose from since January 2016. Do not expect Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans to return for 2018. The reason behind this deliberate trend is the unstated agenda of the industry to accustom each of us to have our providers―and thereby our treatment―rationed. The stated agenda is an attempt to mitigate financial losses by the insurance companies. Those in office who would replace Obamacare, and our current insurance system, with a “Single-Payer” system have no problem, whatsoever, with this trend. This, because restrictions on providers and treatment will be inherent in any single-payer program.There are many in Washington who believe the solution to healthcare insurance is to add all of us to Medicare.Those who share in the belief the single-payer system is the solution should consider the reality that Medicare is 50 trillion is debt and predicted to be insolvent 12 years from now. (That is according to the Trump administration. Obama’s predicted it to be insolvent one year earlier, the Congressional Budget Office three years earlier) http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20170713/NEWS/170719951

And this is the reality with current members having paid into it their entire working careers. How do you think that is going to work when you add every other American, a great many of which are not contributing to Medicare and never have? In my mind, that will expedite the path to insolvency exponentially. Consider a true single-payer program which serves as an example: Veteran’s Administration Health Care. A beacon of mismanagement resulting in waiting lines, provider rationing, and, in many parts of the country, long travel distances for care.

To exacerbate the difficulty in predicting premiums, and budgeting accordingly, President Trump has stated he is considering withholding federal subsidies to insurance companies. Historically, these have bought down the retail premiums the consumer must pay. Here we are halfway through September, and we still do not know if Trump will do so. Now―here is the real wrench in the grist mill ― the insurance companies must submit their 2018 premiums to the State Insurance Regulators by September 30th!

“If there’s no deal on the subsidies within the next five weeks, states will have no choice but to approve rate increases that include surcharges and go with those rates for the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1. On average that would mean consumers would see an extra 20 percent price hike next year.” ― 20 August 2017, CNBC.COM

“In many ways, the die has already been cast… if nothing changes before the end of September, we’re pretty much looking at those rates being locked in for 2018,” said Wisconsin insurance commissioner Ted Nickel, who is also president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. ― 20 August 2017, CNBC.COM

That is 20 percent on top of general premium increases predicted to be in the 12 to 15% range.

Once again, whether you feel you need assistance in coping with these issues in electing your 2018 coverage and protecting yourself and family from the sky-rocketing cost of health care, please call me at 281.367.6565. I have been specializing in health insurance for 26 of my 31 years in insurance. I have assisted my clients in coping with Obamacare since its passage in March of 2010.

For those of you enrolled in Medicare ― Open Enrollment for election of your 2018 Part D Drug Plan begins, as usual, October 15th. Current clients should email me a list of your current drug regimen at allplanhealthinsurance.com@gmail.com. Upon receipt, I will provide you my recommendation your lowest out of pocket cost Part D plan in 2018. Those of you not currently my clients are encouraged to do the same.

http://thewoodlandstxhealthinsurance.com

https://healthandmedicareinsurance.com

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Featured articles:

Governors Tell Congress to Stabilize Individual Health Insurance Market

Michael Collins, USA TODAYPublished 1:25 p.m. ET Sept. 7, 2017 | Updated 5:45 p.m. ET Sept. 7, 2017

WASHINGTON — Governors from five states called Thursday on Congress to move quickly to stabilize the individual health insurance market and then embark on a serious effort to deal with skyrocketing health care costs.

“All of us — Republicans, Democrats and independents — should agree that our current path is not a sustainable one,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told a Senate panel.

The governors — three Republicans and two Democrats — testified during the second of four bipartisan hearings before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The panel is looking for a short-term fix to stabilize the individual market after the collapse of GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he hopes senators can forge a bipartisan agreement by the end of next week and pass limited legislation by the end of the month to keep prices down and make it possible for everyone in the individual market to be able to afford insurance.

Congress must act quickly. New insurance rates for 2018 must be posted on the government’s website, healthcare.gov., by Sept. 27.

At Thursday’s hearing, the committee heard from Republican Govs. Haslam, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Gary Herbert of Utah and Democratic Govs. Steve Bullock of Montana and John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

A key issue is the future of federal cost-sharing payments to insurers that help them provide affordable coverage for low- and moderate-income families.

President Trump has threatened to end the payments, worth about $7 billion this year.

Read more:

With Obamacare in limbo, senators look for fix to stabilize health insurance market

Trump says GOP senators ‘look like fools’ on health care, warns of ‘imploding ObamaCare’

Congress has a crucial to-do list in September: Here’s what lawmakers must accomplish

All five governors testifying Thursday urged Congress to continue the payments, echoing the pleas of state insurance commissioners who appeared before the panel a day earlier.

The governors also called for creation of a reinsurance program that would limit losses to carriers that provide coverage in the marketplace and for the federal government to give states more flexibility to design and regulate insurance plans more suited to their own needs.

“It’s time for the federal government to work with us, not against us,” said Hickenlooper, arguing that state efforts to bring down premiums have been frequently undermined.

Without the federal government’s help, trying to keep insurance affordable is “like climbing one of Colorado’s famous 14,000-foot mountains in winter without crampons,” Hickenloopper said. “It can’t be done.”

Alexander said one option for giving states flexibility would be to allow the governor or state insurance commissioner to apply for a waiver from Obamacare’s rules, instead of waiting for the state legislature to act. He also suggested a “copycat” provision so that when one state wins federal approval for a program or initiative, other states could quickly follow suit.

Senators most likely will fashion a short-term stabilization plan that includes continuing cost-sharing for a limited period of time and gives states significantly more flexibility through Obamacare’s waiver process, Alexander said.

Once a short-term fix is enacted to stabilize the individual market, lawmakers can then move quickly to focus on how to make the market vibrant in the long run, Alexander said.

“I hope we can begin to spend most of our time on the larger issue of health care costs,” he said.

Two more hearings are planned next week. The committee will hear Tuesday from various health policy experts. Health care providers and other stakeholders will appear before the panel next Thursday.

Health Insurance

If Congress doesn’t fund Obamacare subsidies next month it could get pretty complicated

  • Insurers can’t wait past a Sept. 30 deadline to set key insurance rates for next year.
  • However, the fate of key subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act is still unknown.
  • State health insurance regulators expect that subsidies could remain in limbo past key deadlines, and are making plans for that possibility.

Bertha Coombs | @BerthaCoombs

Published 8:01 AM ET Sun, 20 Aug 2017  | Updated 4 Hours Ago CNBC.com

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/19/if-congress-doesnt-fund-obamacare-subsidies-it-could-get-complicated.html

State health insurance regulators have been hoping for the best when it comes to 2018 exchange enrollment, but are now bracing for the worst-case scenario — that the fate of key health insurance subsidies will remain in limbo past key deadlines next month.

“We have a way to protect consumers, but it is complicated and will cause unnecessary confusion and anxiety,” said Diana Dooley, chair of Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, in a statement Friday.

California officials say they will wait until the end of September to decide whether to let insurers impose a 12.8 percent surcharge on 2018 exchange premiums to account for the potential loss of cost-reduction subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income enrollees.

“We are extending our deadline to give Congress time to act when they return in September,” Dooley explained. “We are heartened by the bipartisan discussion that put consumers first, but we can’t wait past Sept. 30.”

Some Republican lawmakers have proposed passing a short-term funding bill next month to authorize 2018 reimbursements for cost-reduction subsidies insurers are required to make under the Affordable Care Act.

However, if there’s no deal on the subsidies within the next five weeks, states will have no choice but to approve rate increases that include surcharges and go with those rates for the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1. On average that would mean consumers would see an extra 20 percent price hike next year.

 

“In many ways the die has already been cast… if nothing changes before the end of September, we’re pretty much looking at those rates being locked in for 2018,” said Wisconsin insurance commissioner Ted Nickel, who is also president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Pressure to act fast

State insurance commissioners, insurers and most of the major health industry groups have been urging Congressional leaders to fund the so-called cost-reduction subsidies for months, but politically it puts Republicans in a difficult spot after their failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

A federal judge ruled in favor of House Republicans last year, after they sued the Obama administration arguing that funding for the subsidies was never authorized by Congress. That lawsuit has been put on hold three times since last fall, and is due back in court this week.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull the plug on the insurer reimbursements citing the ruling, though the administration has continued to make the payments on a month-to-month basis, and will make them for August.

“What’s likely to happen is that Congress will pass some kind of interim funding, which negates the lawsuit,” said Julius Hobson, senior policy advisor at the Polsinelli law firm, adding that barring congressional authorization “it’s difficult to get a remedy that forces the government to spend the money.”

One thing that could help tip the balance for reaching a deal is the Congressional Budget Office’s report, which estimated that cutting the subsidies would increase the deficit by $194 billion over 10 years, in part because higher premium rates would result in more people qualifying for tax credits.

But Congress also has a number of key deals it has to reach next month, including raising the deficit and reaching an agreement to fund the government in order to avoid a shutdown.

What if the payments get funded after the rate hikes?

If funding for cost-reduction subsidies were approved after rates are locked in for open enrollment, consumers would not likely get relief from the price hikes right away.

“The Medical Loss Ratio that was instituted by the ACA will still be in place, meaning that consumers will be reimbursed [if] insures are not spending an 80% minimum on [health] care costs,” said Christina Cousart, senior policy associate at National Academy for State Health Policy, but she added those rebates would happen retroactively.

Some consumers might not be made whole for the premium surcharges. The higher rates would likely result in even fewer healthy unsubsidized consumers signing up for coverage. While the rate increases should be high enough to shield insurers from losses on sicker enrollees, they would not necessarily result in big rebates for consumers.

“There’s no way we can back out these higher rates that the companies put in… We’re going to have more expensive health insurance plans, we’re going to have fewer people enrolled,” said insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy associates.

What’s also unclear is whether consumers who receive larger tax credits would have to pay them back at tax time, if insurers do provide premium surcharge rebates.

“This is really hard to say at this point, without knowing how it will all play out — which is why we believe that the best solution is for Congress and the administration to resolve this issue now,” said Covered California spokesman James Scullary. “A resolution now eliminates the need for all of these workarounds to protect consumers.”

If Congress manages to come up with a funding deal to keep the subsidies in place, Wisconsin’s insurance commissioner says they should not stop there. He says the current problems underscore the need to give states more flexibility to stabilize their exchange markets than they have under current Obamacare rules.

“We have so little control now, so much of it is coming from the federal government through more of a central planning function rather than letting states engage in ways that best needs of their consumers,” said Nickel. “We do find ourselves in very difficult straights.”

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Changes Coming for Next Year’s Obamacare Open Enrollment Period

The Trump administration is working to make changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

With the confirmation of Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Trump administration is already working to make changes to President Obama’s health reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

No, the promised “repeal and replace” of the ACA (also known as Obamacare) hasn’t happened yet, but Mr Price’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) has issued proposed guidelines that would affect consumers during 2018’s Obamacare open enrollment period.

The 2018 open enrollment period is not scheduled to begin until the fall of 2017. If the ACA is repealed, this next open enrollment period may be Obamacare’s last.

Let’s take a look at some of the proposed changes:

  • Shorter open enrollment period for 2018 – The 2018 Obamacare open enrollment period is currently scheduled to run from November 1, 2017 through January 31, 2018. DHS’s proposed change cut the duration of the the open enrollment period by half so that it runs from November 1 through December 15, 2017.
  • Some loosening of benefit requirements – The Obamacare law sets strict guidelines for “minimum essential coverage” that all major medical health insurance plans must provide. Though details are not yet available, DHS is proposing to loosen these rules somewhat, allowing insurers to offer plans with a broader range of coverage options.
  • More supporting documentation required for special enrollment periods – Outside of the nationwide open enrollment period, consumers can only purchase coverage on their own when they experience a major life change, such as marriage or divorce, or the birth or adoption of a baby, etc. A proposed revision of rules would tighten the requirements for applicants to provide documentation proving their eligibility for a special enrollment period.
  • Changes to doctor network rules – Under Obamacare, the federal government sets standards for what constitutes an adequate network of participating doctors and medical facilities for major medical plans. A proposed change from DHS would allow states to set these limits for themselves instead.
  • Collection of overdue premiums – In a move designed to discourage applicants from neglecting to pay their monthly premiums near year’s end and simply re-enrolling with the same plan for January, a proposed DHS rule would allow insurers to collect overdue premiums before extending coverage to such applicants in the next year.

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Trustees’ report says Medicare will be insolvent by 2029

Modern Healthcare

By Virgil Dickson  | July 13, 2017

The Medicare trust fund will be insolvent by 2029, the program’s trustees reported today.

 

The prediction is a year later than the 2028 date the Obama administration outlined in last year’s report. The Congressional Budget Office in January 2016 estimated the program would be solvent only until 2026.

 

Based on the new findings, the feared Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was designated by the Affordable Care Act to rein in Medicare costs if they grew faster than a set rate, will not be activated.

 

That’s likely good news as the board, called a death panel by ACA opponents, has never had to be formed. There hasn’t been the need, and some say, the willingness to expend the political capital. With midterm elections coming and possible fallout likely if Republicans repeal the ACA, this is one less possible political headache to worry about. Also of note, 2029 is 12 years longer than projected estimates before the Affordable Care Act become law.

 

However, trustees are worried doctors will exit the program anyway. The report contained new concerns about access to physicians in the coming years due to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act.

 

MACRA replaced the physician payment updates under the sustainable growth rate formula, which clinicians were paid under for years.

 

Under MACRA the annual physician payment update for 2017 through 2019 will be 0.5%. For 2020 through 2025, there will be no payment update, which alarmed the trustees.

 

“These amounts do not vary based on underlying economic conditions, nor are they expected to keep pace with the average rate of physician cost increases,” the report said. “Absent a change in the delivery system or level of update by subsequent legislation, access to Medicare-participating physicians may become a significant issue in the long term under current law.”

 

The new insolvency date does incorporate modest savings from the agency’s move to value-based care, including accountable care organizations. However, exact figures were not broken out.

 

“The innovations being tested under the ACA, such as bundled payments or accountable care organizations, could reduce incentives to adopt new cost-increasing technologies and could contribute to greater efforts to avoid services of limited or no value within the service bundle,” the report says.

 

Medicare Part D expenditures per enrollee are estimated to increase by an average of 6.4% annually over the next five years; that’s higher than the projected average annual rate of growth for the U.S. economy, which is 5.2 % during that period.

 

The report found that these costs are trending higher than previously predicted, particularly for specialty drugs.

 

In 2016, Medicare covered 56.8 million people and expenditures were $678.7 billion up from $647.6 billion and 55.3 million beneficiaries in 2015.

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