by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


Covered California

17 April 2013

Obamacare: Small Businesses Benefit from Healthcare Reform

Posted in Covered California

Obamacare: Small Businesses Benefit from Healthcare Reform

    It all started in the 1800s when American factory workers protested their 10-hour shifts and ordered employers set the standard 8-hour work period between clocking in and clocking out. Ah, the good ole days when the little guy had more power than big corporations. Most American businesses adhered to this 8-hour work day up to the present. Today, with the onset of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), employers are trimming workers’ time cards even more.  

    Obamacare mandates employers who have 50 or more “full time-equivalent” employees offer at the minimum, quality health insurance or pay a penalty of $2,000 per employee. What exactly is “full time-equivalent” employee? In the context of healthcare reform, the IRS provided a simple equation to check how many employees each business may consider “full-time equivalent”.

    A full-time employee is considered to work 2080 hours a year (52 weeks times 40 hours per week). Part-time employee hours are considered as a fraction of 2080 and are added together to get a total number of full-time equivalents. You can check in the past 3 to 12 months of an employee’s schedule to determine if he or she has enough hours to be considered “full-time equivalent”.

    Many small business owners have already done the math and expect to follow through by proving health insurance to their workers. This benefits not only everyone at work, but the company itself.  For wise business owners, purchasing health care is a return on investment, as workers will stay at the job if benefits are generous, call into work less - which saves the company money and keeps productivity from dropping, and generally have an improved quality of life that reflects positively on the business.    

    But wait, there’s more! Obamacare offers subsidies to small businesses that provide coverage to their workers. Data shows up to 83% of business owners qualify for subsidies if they offer health insurance to workers through government-run Exchanges known as SHOP. You can check if you qualify by calling us at 818.251.5000.

    But wait again, there's even more where that came from! Critics of Obamacare's mandate that argue the regulations drain profit from small businesses have yet to read the following independent study. Since Obamacare's announcement, healthcare inflation has been shrinking. If more small businesses cover employees, healthcare costs will continue to stay low for everyone. That's the entire vision of Obamacare: the more Americans covered by health insurance, the cheaper health insurance will be for more Americans.

    On the other end of the moral/financial spectrum, many large business owners see the penalty of $2000 per employee who isn’t offered insurance as a smaller cost than covering each employee. Many owners prefer to pay the penalty next year and slash employee hours to below 30 per week in order to avoid offering workers coverage.

    Applebees, Dunkin Donuts, Red Lobster, Papa Johns, Regal Theaters, and Home Depot are just a few offenders feeling negative publicity from cutting employee hours. Now they admit Obamacare won't cost them nearly as much as they assumed. Wah wah.

16 April 2013

Obamacare 101: Navigators Vs Assisters

Posted in Covered California

Obamacare 101: Navigators Vs Assisters

       Not all health insurance brokers in Los Angeles can buy a tour bus and embark on journeys into uninsured waters educating and enrolling consumers in affordable, quality health insurance plans. Covered California, the state's Exchange has plans to do just that. And before you ask, the bus will be neither magical nor driven by Miss Frizzle.

   While formulating plans for 2013, Covered California courted Hollywood to unleash the "Groove Mobile", a modern message machine which comes in the form of a tour bus packed with bubbly, energized, educated Navigators and Assisters. Who are Navigators and Assisters and why are they so excitable? Before you ask, let’s make sure we know what Exchanges are.

    Exchanges are programs set up in each state which will educate and reach out to all consumers, specifically uninsured and small business owners, so they may enroll in high-quality, affordable health insurance plans. Each state must operate an Exchange for the public by October 1st. While open enrollment begins then, Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) changes that affect most Americans won’t take place until January 1st, 2014.

   Navigators are trained by Exchange to inform and "navigate" uninsured Americans on healthcare reform. Essentially they plot out territories to infiltrate and bombard neighborhoods with flyers, applications, and handouts in order to rally up and find the best health insurance plans for everyone in sight.

   Assisters in California are pretty much exactly the same as Navigators, except for how they're paid. Assisters are paid per enrollment. If they complete an application, enrolling a consumer in a state-run Exchange, the Assister makes $58. Navigators are compensated based off "performance-based block funding". Basically they're given goals to reach and compensated based off how many applications are completed in their outreach territories. More details will be released by Covered California in coming months.

Click here to enroll as an interested Navigator or Assister.

    Interested in becoming a Navigator or Assister? The only requirements are that you complete a background check, complete a 6 hour course in healthcare reform, and work under a non-profit entity. Insurance brokers are not eligible, most likely because they’ll already know the ins and outs of healthcare reform by the time Assister and Navigator training begins August and November, respectively.

04 April 2013

Obamacare 101: What are Navigators?

Posted in Covered California

Obamacare 101: What are Navigators?

    Looking for work? Live in California? Know anything about Obamacare (Affordable Care Act)? There just may be a job for YOU! Best of all, the exchange, Covered California, has over 21,000 openings and the hourly wage may start at $20 and be as high as $48! Okay, there’s still one better part to it: your job title won’t be something lengthy and lame-sounding like “Customer Service Representative”. Instead you’ll be known as the“Navigator”! Sounds sort of like you’re a pioneer, doesn’t it? But rather than chart dangerous waters or explore the vastness of space, you’ll be “navigating” others toward affordable, quality healthcare. Still want the job?

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined regulations for Navigators today, 24 hours after announcing they would postpone another key aspect of Obamacare, SHOP. What better way to deter the public from bad news by immediately exciting them with good news: $48/hr hiring positions, anyone? Come one, come 21,000!

    According to HHS, Exchanges will train Navigators for 2-3 days on the complexities of over 3000 pages of Obamacare in order to answer questions from confused consumers who want affordable, quality healthcare. Note: Everyone must buy health insurance by 2014 or receive a fine, so many of us will be dealing with Navigators next year. No one’s sure if Navigators will be wandering the streets of Los Angeles like bums or Greenpeace canvassers, but these details will be released soon enough.

    What the HHS has mentioned is Navigators will work on behalf of each state’s Exchange but not the government itself. The Exchange is each state’s operational health insurance market, which insurance companies will provide with affordable, quality plans for each consumer to choose from, based off of a metal tier: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Each tier represents the quality and cost. You can guess which plan is best.

    Navigators cannot sway your decision to sign up for one insurance plan over another. Likewise, they cannot tell you if you qualify for subsidies (tax credits) to help pay for health insurance next year. They will simply act as guides or line cooks of information – not entirely understanding what they’re talking about, but just enough to regurgitate information they learned over a 72 hour training course.  

    Navigators are to Obamacare what outsourced Customer Service Representatives are to major companies. If you want someone to “fake it till they make it” explain by reading a script, find a Navigator. Want someone with expertise, experience, and motivation to simplify complex healthcare plans? Ask an insurance broker. Like us!

   Call 818.251.5000 or click here for a free, easy quote!

02 April 2013

Obamacare Delays SHOP: Small Business Owners Left Hanging

Posted in Covered California

Obamacare Delays SHOP: Small Business Owners Left Hanging

   Valley Girls across Los Angeles sobbed their hearts out at the announcement today. The opening of their favorite SHOP was postponed.  SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) is a key provision of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) which offers business owners with 50 or less full-time employees multiple health insurance options in order to provide better care at lower costs. Today the Department of Health and Human Services announced SHOP will only offer one option.

    Why not change their name from S.H.O.P. to C.L.O.S.E. (Certainly Limiting Options. Sincerely, the Exchanges) while they’re at it? The Exchanges are the Obamacare backbone, stretching nationwide from the topmost vertebra, Maine to the bottom most coccyx, California. State-run insurance marketplaces (Exchanges) are described as “virtual shopping malls” where individuals and small business can compare health insurance plans to purchase online starting this fall.

    Last year, around the time of the "Apocalypse" all states announced whether they’d conduct their own state-run Exchange or ask the federal government to oversee the marketplace for them. Covered California is our state’s Exchange and it seems to be one of a handful of state-run programs that doesn’t disappoint today. They’re on track, unlike 33 other states which asked for federal assistance and are now experiencing delays.

    Due to "unforeseen administrative delays" SHOP is postponed only in states which asked for federal assistance in overseeing Exchanges and only for the first year Exchanges are implemented. States such as California may conduct business as usual since Covered California is conducting its own health Exchange. Once 2014 hits, all Exchanges should be up and running. SHOULD is the key word.

    I have a feeling “OBAMACARE SHOULD” will be the most searched keywords until 2014. “Obamacare SHOULD be repealed” maybe? Or “Obamacare SHOULD lower costs” is another. Obamacare is changing daily from the looks of it. Maybe it just needs a day at the mall to unwind.

08 February 2013

Obamacare Changes “Exchange” to “Marketplace”

Posted in Covered California

Obamacare Changes “Exchange” to “Marketplace”

     The year is 2014 and Tom Cruise is premiering his Hispanic remake of “Jerry McGuire” retiled, “Geraldo Martinez” to appeal to the new majority in California – you guessed it - Hispanics. Its new catchphrase: “Show me the dinero!”.  Also attending is Bill Schooling, chief of demographic research at the state Department of Finance, who predicted in 2013 that Hispanics will become the largest ethnic group in the country’s most populous state – again, you’re a good guesser – California.

    What does this have to do with Obamacare in 2013? For the past year, “Exchanges”, or organized marketplaces for the purchase of health insurance set up by the government, have been uttered by nearly every language news-provider in the country, save one. Apparently “Exchange”, in the context of Obamacare, has no direct Spanish translation. This has caused confusion for Hispanics, who Covered California (the state’s Exchange) considers a “critical target” in education and enrollment of healthcare next year. Hispanics are targeted due to the fact that they make up the majority (47%) of California’s uninsured.  12 million of those eligible to shop for insurance in Exchanges speak Spanish.

    From this moment on, HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) has changed its terminology (as will I) from “Exchange” to “Marketplace” avoiding this language hurdle. Again, “Exchange” is now called “Marketplace”.  Like irresponsible parents letting their newborn exist for a few months only to change its name from “Angel” to “Bill”, this switch will take time to sink in for everyone. The name change doesn’t only affect Hispanics, either.  In fact, the HHS has already replaced “Exchange” with “Marketplace” on its website.  However, the actual Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) bill has kept “Exchange” intact. But who’ll read it anyway?

    The name change has some people crying conspiracy. They assume it’s an attempt to rebrand Obamacare, which is fair, given the fact that the administration has done a poor job of educating the public of “Marketplaces” in the first place. Apparently there’s just as much confusion for English-speakers too. According to a Wall Street Journal study, when consumers hear “Exchange” it "raises some suspicions of loopholes and fine print" and "implies current coverage may need to be traded for something else." One says "exchange" and the first thing to come to mind is either the New York Stock Exchange or military base exchanges, the latter of which I still had to look up to define. Apparently military base exchanges were once like trading posts where one exchanged goods, but now resemble retail stores in strip malls. Learn something new every day.

    With less than 8 months away, the HHS needs to get their act - their “Affordable Care Act" - together and make some impact in the public consciousness. My suggestion to win me over: show videos explaining how the law works in the first place. Like the first state-run “marketplace” in the country, Massachusetts’ Health Connector has educational videos on their website. And if Schoolhouse Rock taught me anything, it’s that a cartoon song explains how legislation works better than the Library of Congress. Sorry, Congressional Librarians.