by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


Individual Health Insurance

02 May 2013

What Was Cut From Obamacare's Application?

Posted in Individual Health Insurance

What Was Cut From Obamacare's Application?

    Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) shocked the pants off Americans in March. And that wasn't cool. In some regions it was still snowing. Americans didn't appreciate the fact that the Obamacare application first revealed was 21 pages either, not including a 61 page questionnaire. At least yesterday the Department of Health and Human Services announced a shorter draft would be used instead. This led me to dig through HHS' trash to answer the following: What was cut from the Obamacare application?

    The sugar-coated news of a shortened draft lifted spirits as well as stocks today for some big healthcare carriers like Aetna AET +1.41% (AET) and Humana HUM +4.66% (HUM), companies who are preparing plans to offer through Exchanges. By October 1st, 2013, each state must operate a health insurance market called an "Exchange" where consumers can purchase affordable plans offered by major carriers with a catch - a good catch - if the applicant qualifies for subsidies (tax credits) the IRS lowers the price of healthcare even more.

    To scrape off the sugar coating, the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services turned one Obamacare application - where up to 6 different individuals could provide information - into separate applications. It's that simple. Applicants can now add one only dependant on a 3 page application. Families must fill in a separate 7 page application. The remaining pages are indexes and appendixes which aren't counted in the application page total. In the case they were, the final page count for today's Obamacare draft for an individual would be 5.

    Now everyone should be less intimidated by healthcare reform and start applying!

    For more questions on Obamcare, call 818.251.5000 or click below for a free quote!

01 April 2013

Understanding Obamacare: How to Avoid Penalties

Posted in Individual Health Insurance

Understanding Obamacare: How to Avoid Penalties

    "Obamacare is driving me crazy. Do I even need it? I don’t want penalties. Help!"

   This summarizes what most of our clients in Los Angeles ask when signing up for health insurance for the first time. In a nutshell, we tell them, "If you don’t want penalties, you do need to get health insurance. But there’s more to it. There’s always more to it…." So essentially the nutshell euphemism was a lie. Sorry.

    To avoid penalties from Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), first understand that Obamacare isn’t a health insurance plan to enroll in, but a law which mandates all Americans sign up for health insurance by January 1st, 2014 or pay a tax (penalty).

    For those who skip having health insurance through 2014, the IRS will issue each adult a $95 fine on 2014 tax returns or 1% of each adult's gross annual income, whichever is greater. For each child, a $47.50 fine will incur. 

     In 2015, the fine increases to $325 per adult ($162.50 per child) up to a maximum of $975 or 2% of family income, whichever is greater. In 2016, the fine increases to $695 per adult ($347.50 per child) or a maximum of $2,085 or 2.5% of family income. If one has a lapse in coverage that’s less than 3 months, one won’t be taxed. Any amount of time over 3 months in which someone lacks coverage, he or she will receive a fine.

Many feel that the initial penalty for the first year is so low compared to monthly insurance premiums that a better option is to skip enrolling for health insurance altogether. While this might be true for some, the reality is that Obamacare gives subsidies (tax credits) to qualifying Americans (with incomes between 100 and 400% of Federal Poverty Level) to pay for monthly premiums. This essentially lowers the cost for health insurance so it’s affordable or in some cases free.

    If enrolled in any combination of the following: Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Veteran’s Health Program, a plan offered by your employer, a grandfathered plan which existed before Obamacare was enacted, one won’t be penalized with the aforementioned fines.

    The main point of Obamacare is to get as many Americans enrolled to keep health insurance rates low. Have any other questions about Obamacare? Call us at 818.251.5000 or click below for a free quote!

20 February 2013

What's an HRA?

Posted in Individual Health Insurance

What's an HRA?

As a kid I was never given lunch money. I never enjoyed the freedom of receiving cold, hard cash from a parent, lying that I'd spend it on a hot meal, and buying candy like my friends did. In my adult years I discovered a health insurance equivalent to free lunch money known as an HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement/Account). Before you choke on your pb & j or think I’m writing as Matthew Lesko, I’m serious when I say free money!
    An HRA is similar to an HSA (Health Saving Account) in the case that most begin when you sign up for a high-deductible insurance plan. Instead of being funded by money deducted from your paycheck (like HSAs), HRAs are funded from your employer directly. Let’s say you did choke on your sandwich earlier in this article and fell down a flight of stairs. Why you’re eating lunch on a stairwell is not important; what is that you survived but not without a few bumps and bruises. Next thing you know, you’re in a hospital, the doctor billed you $200 for treatment, and you’re still reading this article to see where I’m going with this. You tell the doctor your HRA has a balance of $500. Don’t be shocked when I say next that you pay the doctor the $200 out of pocket. It gets better.

    Your employer who fronted the $500 to your HRA reimburses you the $200. Why in the name of profit would your employer do such a thing?! Well, to start, the money saved on premiums by opening a high-deductible insurance plan is more than enough for most employers to fund each employee’s HRA. Secondly, the employer can deduct 100% of the funds reimbursed to you from his taxes. And most importantly (if you’re the individual employee reading this) you too enjoy tax-free exemption for every dollar reimbursed to you.

    There are key differences in HRAs vs HSAs. HRAs are more flexible for employers. It’s their money and they won't let you buy candy with it. They choose which services can and can’t be refunded; example: vision and pharmacy, but not dental and chiropractic services. Your employer can’t tell you how to spend your HSA money. Remember when I said HSAs are individual savings accounts? They move with you, whether you stay with the employer or not. HRAs are funded entirely by your employer, so if you quit your job, not only do you miss out on this year’s Christmas party, you lose whatever money was attached to your HRA. You can’t spend it. You can’t get reimbursed. And if your employer is Willy Wonka, he’ll assure you get nothing.

    For more questions about HRAs vs HSAs or to sign up for group health insurance, contact us at 818.251.5000 today or visit our site for an instant quote today!

11 February 2013

Under Obamacare: Can I get insurance if I have a preexisting condition?

Posted in Individual Health Insurance

    If you and a complete stranger stood side by side, how many differences would you have? Did you know that 1 in 2 Americans receive government assistance? How about every other American whose marriage ends in divorce? And that over half of Americans believe medical marijuana should be legalized?

    Another shocking statistic brought to you by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):  50 percent of non-elderly Americans have some type of preexisting health condition.  Up to 1 in 5 non-elderly Americans with a preexisting condition — 25 million individuals — is uninsured.

    If you’ve ever felt a lump, seen a mole, or had an ache that sent you to WebMD to search through paranoia-induced symptoms or deviant behaviors, you’re not alone. Beginning in 2010, children with preexisting conditions are protected from such discriminatory actions by Affordable Care Act (ACA, “Obamacare”). And by 2014, insurers will no longer be allowed to limit coverage, charge higher premiums, or deny coverage altogether for American adults who have preexisting conditions.

    Also beginning in 2014 will be state-run insurance marketplaces (“Exchanges). Not only will the marketplace encourage competitive (lower) prices from insurers, but the government will provide subsidies (tax credits) to qualifying individuals and families in order to help pay for their premiums.  

    If you think you may qualify, please check out this subsidy calculator. For next year, don’t let naïveté be a preexisting condition!