by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 

 

Latest News

27 February 2013

How Do I Get Health Insurance Subsidies?

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How Do I Get Health Insurance Subsidies?

In 2013 I was elated to use my first W-2 in Los Angeles. I just couldn't wait to see how much money I'd get on H&R Block's website to pay off my parking tickets. Once I finished my tax return, I read the following pop-up: "You may qualify for subsidies in 2014.". If you're an individual who earns between $17,000 and $44,000, you'll probably see a similar message every tax season for the foreseeable future.

Health insurance subsidies are simply amounts of money the government pays toward your health insurance. They're only available to people who buy "on-exchange" health insurance plans, which translates to ones offered by the "exchange" aka "marketplace" known as Covered California.

That doesn't mean you have to buy it directly from the state's health insurance marketplace, located in Sacramento. A much closer certified insurance agent in the San Fernando Valley for example can offer the same marketplace plans with health insurance subsidies.

What confuses the average customer is how Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Health Net, and other major providers are affected by on-exchange versus off-exchange insurance plans.

Most major providers offer Covered California plans (on-exchange) and private plans (off-exchange). Often, the plans are identical, but one comes with financial assistance so a teacher can still buy a rich insurance plan and afford it because she qualifies for health insurance subsidies. On the flip side, the oil tycoon can buy the equivalent plan privately and pay for it without government help.

A Covered California insurance agent can easily start an application through the state marketplace and quote how much financial assistance you might qualify for without any paperwork. Since you must report your income to start the process, eventually you'll need to provide a copy of your tax return or other proof of income.

For families to qualify, the combined income of both spouses must be between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). For example, a family of four who makes up to around $88,000 will qualify for subsidies through Covered California.

If you don't feel like doing the math, just as an insurance agent to do it for you. Enrollment is free, just like the free calculator we give away.

20 February 2013

Obamacare Changes How You Pay for Colonoscopies

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Obamacare Changes How You Pay for Colonoscopies

    It may be a small, very specific regulation adjustment, yet it'll change how we discuss Obamacare and interject with “ifs, ands, or buts” (no pun intended).  Today, the Department of Labor’s FAQ page was updated to stick it to insurers who bill unknowing patients under anesthesia.

    The nature of the question raised was that if a patient attends a colonoscopy screening, it’s considered preventive care and therefore the patient won’t be billed under the law of Obamacare (aka PPACA, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). Commonsense tells us that if no pre-cancerous or cancerous growths are found during the colonoscopy, the insurer pays the entire bill. However, if the doctor undergoing the colonoscopy discovers a polyp and removes it (since this is recommended as part of colonoscopies), will the insurer impost cost-sharing for the procedure, i.e., will the patient now have to pay?

    The answer given by the Department of Labor, based off the expertise of every Gastrointestinal-related College, Society, and Association, e.g,  American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the Society for Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates was no.

    This was a huge win not only for colonoscopy enthusiasts, but Americans who procrastinate visiting the doctor and may otherwise enjoy peace of mind. When asked by a Kaiser Public Opinion poll, 58% of Americans said they delayed or skipped healthcare services in the last year because they feared costs would be too high. Landmark decisions to the colonoscopy question may lead to others asking, “If a mole turns out to be cancerous and requires removal, will I be billed?” Or “If my molar is infected and needs immediate extraction, will I have to pay?” and more squeaky wheels mean more regulation changes for good, not profit. It’s scary not knowing what’s going on in your body but even scarier not knowing how much it’ll cost to fix.

    Sign up for insurance today to enjoy peace of mind once you make that overdue visit to the doctor.  Call us at 818.251.5000 or visit our site for a free instant quote.

11 January 2013

2013 H3N2 Flu Vaccination

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2013 H3N2 Flu Vaccination

    I am sick this week. I was sick 7 days ago as well. It started with what I believe to be food poisoning, which presumably lowered my immune system, leaving it vulnerable to disease. I found out later the disease-carrier lived with me all along, in the form of my roommate.

    Apparently she was sick while away for the holidays. Unbeknownst to me, her body returned bearing gifts… and also the plot to make us one in the same: snot-filled, cough-ridden, and chronically-tired New Englanders. At least for Christmas she bought me a juicer to kick the cold’s butt. But now I’m wondering, did she know she’d get me sick BEFORE or AFTER the purchase? 

    We’re not alone, however.  In the first week of January, the flu is widespread across 47 states! Just check out the flu activity chart (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to see what I mean. Last time I saw so much blue, I was collecting Smurf Happy Meal toys.

2013 flu map
     This just in: Idaho is so ill, it couldn’t even provide the CDC with sufficient data for this chart.

    So what made the flu sneak up on us this year? It just so happens, we slacked in getting vaccinated.  According to Joseph Bresee, chief of CDC's epidemiology and prevention branch, “About 37% of Americans had gotten vaccinated against the flu as of mid-November.” They hope this number reaches 50% this season, since in most recent years at least half of Americans do get flu vaccinations by this time.  

    Not only that, but Americans took vaccines less seriously since cases haven’t been so severe in recent memory. “In an immediate sense; we were a little spoiled last year,” said Dr. William Schaffner, former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “Last year, we had fewer influenza cases than had ever been recorded before.” Now, cities like Boston have declared a public health emergency. Last year, Boston reported up to 70 flu cases. This year, they’re up to 700.

    Here’s another chart, comparing flu activity in 2012 to the left and 2013 to the right.
2013 flu H3N2

    Schaffner continues, “The dominant virus from 2009 through last year was the H1N1 flu strain, nicknamed ‘Swine Flu’. Although many people came down with it in 2009, most of them had been vaccinated against it by last year, resulting in fewer infected people.”

    In 2013, flu season started early start with a different dominant strain: H3N2. If you believe it, this year’s strain is mild compared to the Swine Flu in 2009. Actually, it may not be that hard to believe since we haven’t nicknamed this strain yet. “Honey Boo Boo Flu” anyone?

    The flu vaccination process is an interesting one: each year, virologists at the World Health Organization make predictions on what strain will become dominant in the Western Hemisphere, using last year’s flu virus circulation in the Southern Hemisphere as a map.

    Their educated guess this year included a mix of H3N2, H1N1 and Influenza B. “The H3N2 and H1N1 in the vaccine look a lot like the flu currently in circulation and the Influenza B strain is about a 70% match,” said Michael Jhung, an officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's influenza division.

    What they couldn’t predict was an influenza circulating that causes 10-16% infection which is not included in this year’s vaccination. No one likes bad news, but everyone hates surprises.   

    It’s not too late to become vaccinated! Contact your local pharmacy to make sure vaccinations are available. If you’re worried about getting sick and would like to hear health insurance options, contact us at 818.251.5000.

24 November 2012

Happy Family Health History Day!

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Happy Family Health History Day!

    As families gather around the table to feast and tell stories, it’s a perfect opportunity to ask about family health history. After all, today marks the 9th annual Family Health History Day, which wasn't created by pilgrims but instead the last person you’d see in a belt buckle hat, the Surgeon General. Sure, the holiday he created isn't celebrated with 7-story balloons or a Charlie Brown special like Thanksgiving, but it’s an important opportunity to learn more about your family health history and be thankful for it.

    “An important step in prevention and wellness is learning about health conditions in our families that may put us at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer`s disease, mental illness, and many others," said Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. While not the civil authority credited with starting this nationally-recognized, albeit hardly-known holiday, she makes a good point. It was actually Benjamin’s predecessor, Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, who deserves the title of Founder of Family Health History Day.

    The cornucopia or "centerpiece" of Family Health History Day is its simple web tool, Family Health Portrait  on the Office of the Surgeon General’s website. Free, secure, and easy to complete, this application is designed to teach you about you.

    Begin Family Health History day by answering the Health Portrait questionnaire, because isn't that how every holiday starts? Answer questions like “How many brothers do you have?” and "What are their existing medical conditions?" to essentially build a family health tree with a list of known conditions for each family member. Once completed, you can view and trace consistencies between men who may have heart disease or women with breast cancer in the family, for example. The whole point is you have an easy-to-update history for you and your relatives to study in order to take preventative health measures.

    Most importantly, this information is private. The federal website does not retain your family history or distribute it to other parties. This is just for you and your well being.

    So while recovering from your tryptophan overdose that’s inevitable on each Turkey Day, use your downtime complete a family tree for your future. Even if you have a big family, you can keep it simple by detailing only members with known conditions. Use this knowledge and contact a family physician to discuss where you may fit in this tree and where your health could be headed. Will your new found education lead you along the same path as your grandmother who lived to be 100? You and your doctor may be able to make these predictions with the Family Health Portrait.

    “On this Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you and your family will take a few minutes to create a family health portrait,” Dr. Benjamin said. “Learning your family’s health history is a valuable investment to make in your health and your family’s health.”

    And have a Happy Thanksgiving!