The Deadline Has Passed….So Now What?

Posted ago by chad

We have received a lot of calls from people that have questions about what will happen in regards to obtaining health insurance now that the Open Enrollment period for Affordable Care Act has ended…even from other health insurance agents…so I thought it would be a good idea to remind you what options there are after open enrollment.

The best part to remember…..There is life AFTER open enrollment.

If you are seeking an individual health policy, you have several Special Enrollment Period (SEP) triggers, or qualifying events, that would qualify you for enrolling. Keep in mind that if you already started the application process on Healthcare.gov prior on or prior to the March 31st deadline then you have until mid-April to complete that process. Here are a few triggers, or qualifying events, that can still get you an individual policy throughout 2014:

1. Loss of minimum essential coverage.
2. Gaining dependent status through marriage, birth, adoption, or placement for adoption.
3. Gaining US citizenship (national or law).
4. Change in income that would either qualify you for a premium tax credit or which will make you unable to afford your employer- sponsored plan.
5. A permanent move.
6. Ability to show that the plan you are currently enrolled into substantially violated a material provision of its contract.
7. If you are of Native Indian decent, you are allowed to change your coverage once per month.
8. Ability to show your enrollment or lack of enrollment into a qualified health plan is inadvertent, unintentional, or erroneous and is a result of the error, misrepresentation, or inaction of the Exchange or HHS.
9. Ability to demonstrate you meet other exceptional circumstances (as defined by the Exchange).

If you are granted a SEP you will have 60 days to enroll into a plan. Most of the triggers will rely on the 15th of the month rule (some do not, but that is for another day and another blog). What is the 15th of the month rule you might ask? Answer- if you enroll in a plan between the 1st and 15th of the month you will be granted an effective date as the 1st of the next month. If you enroll in a plan between the 16th and 31st of the month you will be granted an effective date as the 1st of the following month. For example, a person who enrolls on 4/5 would receive a 5/1 effective date, while a person enrolling on 4/17 would receive a 6/1 effective date. So if you are eligible don’t delay, you could risk going without coverage for a month.

If you own a business, and you meet the requirements for Employer-sponsored health plans, you have a little more flexibility which will allow you to obtain a group health plan. There are advantages to having a group plan, such as:
1) tax credit / deduction for the premiums paid,
2) some group market plans tend to still have more comprehensive benefits and/or provider
networks than their individual market counterparts (especially in the HMO market),
3) you can still get a group plan throughout the year without needing a SEP,
4) they have increased the criteria for valid waivers (can be helpful for small employers with specific needs), and
5) the pricing gap has been narrowed between the group and individual health market through
Healthcare Reform so the cost difference is not that different anymore.

So there is no need to panic. Find a local insurance agent (wink, wink) to find out what your possibilities are. Remember, this is a new path that our country is heading down and we will need to navigate the roads ahead together. Keep in mind…there is life AFTER open enrollment! If you have a question, please call and let us answer it for you!

IRS Announces 2014 HSA and HDHP Limits

Posted ago by chad

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the 2014 contribution limits, deductible minimums and out-of-pocket maximums for health savings accounts (HSAs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs).

  • An HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,250 for individual coverage and at least $2,500 for family coverage (including a minimum $2,500 embedded individual deductible under family coverage) to qualify an individual to contribute to an HSA. These minimum deductibles are unchanged from 2013.
  • Out-of-pocket maximums for an HSA-qualifying HDHP in 2014 are $6,350 for individual coverage and $12,700 for family coverage. These are increased from $6,250 for individual coverage and $12,500 for family coverage in 2013.
  • Contribution limits for HSAs will be $3,300 for individual coverage and $6,550 for family coverage in 2014. These are increased from 2013’s limits of $3,250 for individual coverage and $6,450 for family coverage. The annual “catch-up” contribution amount for individuals age 55 or older will remain $1,000.

 

Tip 101- Use Other People’s Money

Posted ago by chad

You’ve probably heard it many times from a financial advisor, or someone else, talking about building wealth by ‘using someone else’s money whenever possible’.   This is a true statement if you are looking to maximize your time, effort, and return on investment.  The question is, how often do you understand what they mean by that phrase.

I prefer to say ‘use someone else’s time’ (just as big of an asset as money but often overlooked because we are too busy).  Time is a valuable resource that we can never get back, so why do people use so much of it trying to figure things out that they can simply pick up a phone and call about?  For example, let’s look at how you can save time when dealing with insurance?  The answer to this is very simple- you let an Independent Agent use their time and resources to get you the results you were looking for.  They take all the burden of finding the right insurance benefits for you and you benefit by freeing up all that time to do more important things.  The only time investment you now have for insurance is to ensure that you are getting what you asked for at a price that is affordable to you. 

Think about it this way- if you are shopping for a health insurance plan for your family, or company, would it benefit you more to spend countless hours trying to decipher the plan benefits offered by each carrier in your area, talk to a friend who about what plan they are on and just sign up for that one, or would you rather talk to a healthcare expert and have them do it all for you.  Most people would choose to use the expert; however, they might be afraid to ask how much it will cost them so they go with another option before even asking.   

What if I told you that you can use the expert and it won’t cost you a single penny?  Yes, you read it correctly, take a second if you need to before proceeding.  Independent Agents can get the same pricing for you, sometimes better pricing, as you can obtain yourself directly through the carriers.  Now you’re probably asking how they do it for no cost to you?  The answer is simple- the commission is already built into the policy; it comes down to who earns it- the carrier or the Agent.   An Independent Agent traditionally has access to quote several carriers and many products for you.  BEWARE- even though they can, not all do.  The biggest thing you have to build with your Independent Agent is TRUST.  Make sure your Agent is focused on getting you the best plan for your needs, and not the best plan for his/her paycheck.  Let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons of using and Independent Agent:

Disadvantages to using an Independent Agent-

1.  They may not represent every carrier (some agents just form favorites and don’t quote others; others don’t have access to certain carriers for a variety of reasons).  There are some carriers that do not allow any Independent Agents to market their products or limit the number of Agents they allow to market their products- nothing and Independent Agent can do about that if they have your best interest in mind.

2.  Trust- it just takes time- this is true with anything you do.  You have to trust they have your best interest in mind at all times.  You should be able to tell right away if they do; if not, you should definitely know by the time you get your quotes if they do or not.  (quick tip—if they don’t show you at least two carriers ask to see the quotes.  If they start going all salesman-like on you then you know more than likely they don’t have the other quotes; why would they keep them from you?).  There are some Agents who don’t show our client all of the quotes, because honestly part of our job is to narrow the list of products down for you (if asked they would eagerly provide them for you).   

3.  They may not be up-to-date on all the options available to you, such as: Defined Contributions plans, Health Savings Accounts, Voluntary Benefits, etc.

Advantages to using an Independent Agent-

1.  They don’t cost you anything additional—why not use them?  How does the saying go- ‘if it’s free it’s
for me’.

2.  They can obtain quotes from approximately 95% of the relevant carriers.  We are familiar with the carriers and their processes so we can narrow down the list of suitors from the start based on your needs.

3.  They don’t cost you anything additional—how much time could you have spent with your loved ones instead?

4.  They assist not only with the quoting, but the application, underwriting, and servicing thereafter.  It’s like having a healthcare advocate on retainer for no cost at all times.

5.  They have resources that the general public usually does not; for example-most Agents can pick up the phone, or send an email, and speak directly to an Underwriter on your behalf to settle anything that pops up during the underwriting process.

6.  The relationships that they form with carriers throughout their years of doing business can often become the difference between an application being accepted or not.  (tip- If your Agent does not have good relations with carriers then you need to think of a new Agent)

7.  They don’t cost you anything additional—have we said that yet?

If you have any questions on health insurance give your local Independent Agent a call (hint- preferably us). 

Need a complimentary quote give us a call today

Updates for 4th Quarter 2011

Posted ago by chad

Last week was a busy one for some of the health insurance carriers:

1-  United Healthcare announced a 5.3% reduction in their PPO rates effective Nov. 1st for 2-50 sized groups. 

2- Humana announced a 5% reduction in their NPOS rates and a 13% reduction in the HMO rates effective Nov. 1st for 2-50 sized groups.  

3- Humana also announced that their family multiplier is at 2x the individual deductible for their 2011 Copay plans (This means if you have a $1,000 individual deductible the family deductible is now $2,000). 

What does this mean for you? 

For starters, if you are looking for new rates then November 1st is a good time to cash in with 2 of the top 4 carriers both discounting their rates.  Whether you just renewed a policy, you have a renewal in a few months, or you don’t have a policy at all and want to know the cost it’s never a bad idea to shop the policy when a price decrease comes out.

But it’s not time for our renewal yet? 

You can shop your group health coverage at anytime.  You are not locked into a contract, so why not look to see if you can save some money now?

For more information on how to obtain a complementary quote please give us a call.

 

Emergency Room or Urgent Care Center?

Posted ago by chad

Far to often when I am talking to someone about the benefits of their health insurance, and we get to the Emergency coverage options, I’m surprised they don’t know the differences between an Emergency Room and Urgent Care Center.  Reality is that Urgent Care Centers have been a hidden gem in the medical world and not everyone knows about them—Why?  Simply because no one has informed them that they exist.

Emergency Rooms serve a purpose, but they are way to over utilized today.  Part of it can be attributed to the economy and designs of health insurance plans, but the majority of it is simply the way we were brought up.  I remember the only options growing up were the doctor’s office  or Emergency Room.  While Emergency Rooms are great, they are usually not the most convenient, most economical, or most comfortable of places these days.  Most Emergency Rooms tend to be overcrowded, have high out of pocket costs (even with insurance), and the combination of those to lead to uncomfortable surroundings when you are not feeling well.  

In come Urgent Care Centers.  I sometimes refer to them as the fast food version of the Emergency Room.  Why?  Because they can handle just about anything an Emergency Room can handle, but they can do it in a more timely manner due to several factors.  Mainly, they are not overcrowded with non-insured individuals, and they are not set-up to deal with the life threatening issues which understandably take up the Emergency Room’s resources (doctors, nurses, beds).   


So, you’re asking when is the best time to use an Emergency Room?

  • Anything life threatening, such as: heart attack, stroke, major trauma, head injury, or severe bleeding.
  • Other critical conditions, such as: chest pain, difficulty breathing, or sudden loss of vision or blurred vision.
  • major bone fractures.

Then, you ask when is an Urgent Care Center a better alternative?

  • Flu shots
  • Sports physicals
  • Allergic reactions that are non life-threatening
  • Rash or skin irritations
  • Flu-like symptoms or Fever
  • Ear infections
  • Animal bites
  • Minor broken bones, Sprains, and strains
  • Coughs, colds, and sore throats
  • Minor burns or injuries
  • Mild asthma

All in all, Urgent Care centers are designed for the less serious injuries that still require immediate medical attention.  They serve as a convenient alternative between to your local doctor’s office and Emergency Room; they are also very convenient for after-hour doctor care.  They are also beneficial from a cost standpoint, quality of care perspective, and easily accessible at most hours of the day.

If you ever have a doubt of where to go, call ahead, they will advise you if you should go directly to the Emergency Room or not.  Do your homework and know your local Urgent Care Center’s hours of operation.  Don’t waste your two top resources, time and money, by not being educated on the benefits of an Urgent Care Center.       

Protecting Your Child’s Personal Information at School

Posted ago by chad

From an FTC Consumer Alert-

Back to school – an annual ritual that includes buying new notebooks, packing lunches, coordinating transportation, and filling out forms: registration forms, health forms, permission slips, and emergency contact forms, to name a few. Many school forms require personal and, sometimes, sensitive information. In the wrong hands, this information can be used to commit fraud in your child’s name.  For example, a child’s Social Security number can be used by identity thieves and other criminals to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, cautions that when children are victims of identity theft, the crime may go undetected for years – or at least until they apply for a job, a student loan or a car loan, or want to rent an apartment.

Limiting the Risks of Identity Theft

There are laws that help safeguard your child’s and your family’s personal information. For example, the federal Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, protects the privacy of student records. It also gives parents of school-age kids the right to opt-out of sharing contact information with third parties, including other families.

If you’re a parent with a child who’s enrolled in school, the FTC suggests that you:

  • find out who has access to your child’s personal information, and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.
  • pay attention to materials sent home with your child, through the mail or by email, that ask for personal information. Look for terms like “personally identifiable information,” “directory information,” and “opt-out.” Before you reveal any personal information about your child, find out how it will be used, whether it will be shared, and with whom.
  • read the notice schools must distribute that explains your rights under the federal Family Educational Rights Privacy Act.  FERPA protects the privacy of student education records, and gives you the right to:
    • inspect and review your child’s education records;
    • consent to the disclosure of information in the records; and
    • correct errors in the records.
  • ask your child’s school about its directory information policy.  Student directory information can include your child’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, email address, and photo.  FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy, and give you the right to opt-out of the release of directory information to third parties. It’s best to put your request in writing and keep a copy for your files. If you don’t opt-out, directory information may be available not only to the people in your child’s class and school, but also to the general public.
  • ask for a copy of your school’s policy on surveys. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) gives you the right to see surveys and instructional materials before they are distributed to students.
  • consider programs that take place at the school but aren’t sponsored by the school. Your child may participate in programs, like sports and music activities, that aren’t formally sponsored by the school. These programs may have web sites where children are named and pictured. Read the privacy policies of these organizations, and make sure you understand how your child’s information will be used and shared.
  • take action if your child’s school experiences a data breach.  If you believe there’s been a data breach and your child’s
    information has been compromised, contact the school to learn more. Talk with teachers, staff, or administrators about the incident and their practices. Keep a written record of your conversations. Write a letter to the appropriate administrator, and to the school board, if necessary. The U.S. Department of Education takes complaints about these incidents. Contact the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20202-5920, and keep a copy for your records.

 

 

Norgard Insurance Group named as Official Employee Benefits Provider for NATDA

Posted ago by chad

We are excited to announce that NATDA has partnered with Norgard Insurance Group, Inc., to service our members for all of your employee benefit needs. Norgard Insurance Group has a history of providing excellent service and consulting to companies of all sizes all over the country. Norgard works with every major carrier in the nation and have cutting edge ideas for creating customized employee benefit packages.

Norgard Insurance Group, Inc., has been in business since 2006. They handle all aspects of the Employee Benefits arena: health, life, dental, disability, voluntary benefits, and identity theft. They have four members on staff with a combined 57 years in the Employee Benefits industry. They have a passion for working with small businesses and putting together cost effective benefit plans that meet their needs. They represent all of the major A rated carriers in the United States, and have the ability to service accounts all across the country.

Gone are the days of wondering when you will get your quotes or when your call will be returned. Gone are the days of hoping that your employees are taken care of or that your request was processed. If you have a question, need a quote, or need to make a change just pick up the phone and call Norgard Insurance Group at any time. They will not only handle it timely, they will let you know what is going on every step of the way.

“We have worked with Norgard Insurance Group for the past four years, and found that they have been very attentive to our needs. Trailer dealers have often found it difficult just getting an agent that would handle their account as most dealers have very small groups. Chad and his team understand the needs of our dealers and most importantly are accessible to our members. Making the purchase of health insurance doesn’t need to be difficult, and Norgard Insurance Group makes the process very easy,” said Andy Ackerman, NATDA President.

Chad and members of his team will be on hand in Dallas at the 2011 NATDA Tradeshow & Convention to speak with members that have questions about employee benefits. Norgard will also be providing insurance quotes for NATDA members on-site. Make sure you stop by their booth and get a health insurance quote while you are at the show.
‘We are excited to partner with such a great team and Association like NATDA. I know that NATDA has been working hard to find the best employee benefit options for the members of their Association, and we are excited to be a part of it. We look forward to working with the NATDA and all the Associations members. I can’t wait to see everyone in Dallas!’ said Chad Norgard, Vice President at Norgard Insurance Group, Inc.

2012 HSA Contribution Limits Announced

Posted ago by chad

The IRS has published that the HSA contributions amount for individuals will increase by $50 from $3,050 to $3,100.  Family contribution limits will increase by $100 from $6,150 to $6,250.

In addition, the maximum annual out-of-pocket will increase also.  The individual out-of-pocket maximum will go from $5,950 to $6,050, and the family out-of-pocket maximum will go from $11,900 to $12,100.

The minimum deductible on an HSA qualifed plan remained at $1,200 for an individual and $2,400 for families.

10 Ways to protect your self from ID theft

Posted ago by admin

Identity theft can be as simple as losing your Facebook account to a phisher, or as serious as having someone assume your entire identity. It is a real and serious problem. According to the Javelin Strategy & Research, this problem affected over 11 million Americans in 2009. This means you have a better chance of getting your identity stolen than winning a lottery jackpot.

If you’re lucky, it won’t cause you anything more than a few phone calls to fix the problems. But more likely, it would ruin your credit score and finances, and cause you time and money. The simplest way to shield you against identity theft is to just enroll in a credit monitoring service or an identity protection service to—but they cost money. Fortunately, there are many simple things that you can do to reduce your chance of becoming a victim.

Mind your purse and wallet

I know some people like to carry everything they could in their purse or wallet. It might be convenient, but this can easily turns into a nightmare if you lose your purse or wallet with your “entire life” in it. Don’t carry more than you need to in your purse or wallet. For example, don’t carry around your Social Security card or your social security number, don’t carry more than one or two credit cards at a time, and don’t carry around PIN numbers for your ATM and credit cards.

Avoid questionable stores and online merchants

I often see super good deals from stores or websites I have never heard of before. But before you jump on the deal, check them out on sites such as the Better Business Bureau. You should also search for the store name and add the word “complaints”, “problems”, or “scam.”

Protect key information

Your Social Security Number and birth date can unlock a lot of information and give thieves a great deal of access to your personal and financial lives. To help you protect these information, never give them out without understanding why it is necessary to do so, never use them as part of your username or password, and avoid using your real birth date on various social websites.

Regularly review your credit report and scores

You can get one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also easily get your free credit scores from many websites. The things to look out for in your credit reports include suspicious accounts, activities, and addresses that you do not recognize.

Review your credit card statements and bank statements

Reviewing your statements won’t protect you from identity theft pros who open brand new accounts and have the statements mailed elsewhere. However, it is still a good idea to review your credit card statements, because it will help protect you against petty theft — someone using your credit card information to make purchases.

Cross-shred any document that contains sensitive information

One thing I always keep handy in my office is a good cross-shred paper shredder. You should never throw any paper containing sensitive information out along with your normal trash, because someone can dumpster dive and take your information. The best way to get rid of these is to cross-shred them and recycle the confetti. These documents include credit card solicitations, loan applications, tax forms, bills and invoices — anything that contains personal information.

Keep a list of all your account numbers and contact information in a safe place

Invest in a document safe to keep all of your important documents in one place. Also, make a list of your account numbers, e.g., for your credit, debit, and ATM cards, with the phone numbers. If you lose your purse or wallet, you can easily use the list to call all the banks and credit card companies to put your accounts on hold.

Mind your mails

You should remove mails from your mailbox daily. If you are living in a densely populate area, you should consider getting a mailbox that could be locked and only accessible by you. Yes, it’s a federal crime to steal mails, but that won’t stop identity thieves from doing it anyway.

Use strong usernames and passwords

In addition to not using personal information as part of your usernames and passwords, you should also learn how to create strong usernames and passwords. Also, avoid using the same username and password for all your online accounts.

Do not click on links included in email

One of the most popular techniques to extract you from your online identity is called phishing. With this method, phishers send you an official looking email with masked link, asking you to log in to your account. When you click on the link, you’re taken to an official looking website but at a different URL. When you enter your username and password, the thief has the information needed to access your account. Do not click on links included in email, especially when the URL is different from the site you expected. It’s better to visit the site by typing in the URL manually.

Of course, there are more things you can do, but these should save you from 99 percent of the problems. If you have more tips not listed here, please share them in the comment section below.