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Happy New Year! 2014 has officially closed and a new chapter has opened called 2015. Many of us feel an excitement and rejuvenation this time of year. Whether 2014 was full of struggle or triumph, we look at the new year as a clean slate that is full of potential. It is traditional to make resolutions during this time of year aimed toward improving ourselves or our community. Personal health improvement goals are among the most common resolutions set for the new year. In this week’s blog, we’ll outline a few resolutions that are easy to keep and sure to improve your health by 2016.
Creative Commons Image Courtesy of Koshyk on Flickr
Get More Sleep
Studies continue to pile on evidence that sleep is an essential aspect of overall well-being. And still, we stay up too late on our computers, or reading, or whatever other activity it is that keeps you from getting the recommending 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Without enough sleep, our bodies don’t function properly, making all of our goals much more difficult to achieve. Metabolism, which is an important aspect of digestion and weight control, is also affected by sleep. Start allowing yourself a wind-down period to begin relaxation before heading to bed.
Drink More Water
Just like sleep, the human body needs a steady supply each day in order to function optimally. Drinking more water is an easy change you can make at whatever pace you can manage. Try replacing non-water beverage with water every day, or even every other day if every day is too much to start off with. It is important to set realistic goals and slowly improve over time.
For those of us who already love water, try drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before each meal. Doing so will aid digestion and keep you hydrated. Drinking water before eating a meal can also help prevent over-eating, by helping you feel full earlier.
Enroll in Health Insurance
Open Enrollment for 2015 health insurance coverage is going on now through 02/15/2015. Health insurance is increasingly important for access to quality, affordable medical care. This coverage provides peach of mind in knowing you and your family are financially secure in case of hospitalization or other high-cost medical need.
Modern health insurance plans also cover all preventative and routine exams at no cost to you, which is of great help in staying on top of one’s physical health during the new year.The landscape of health insurance in the United States is much different than it used to be. You may have more affordable coverage options available than you think. Give Louis Barnett & Associates a call to find out more about health insurance coverage for you and your family during 2015.
Open enrollment began November 15, 2014. During the first 30 days of this year’s open enrollment period, more than 592,000 applications were submitted seeking health insurance and were deemed eligible for private coverage or eligible or likely eligible for Medi-Cal.
Creative Commons image courtesy of MedicareMall.com on Flickr
“We saw tremendous momentum during the first month of open enrollment, with more than 25,000 people completing enrollment on Monday [Dec. 15, 2014] alone,” Executive Director of Covered California Peter V. Lee said. “This is further proof of the great demand that Californians have for quality, affordable health care coverage. With only two months to sign up, all Californians should be considering their options now so they can get covered in 2015.”
Remember that due to the Individual Mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act, most Californians are required to sign up for health insurance. Failure to comply with this mandate results in an annual fine at the time of your tax filing. The fine for not having health insurance for more than 3 months in 2014 is the greater amount of 1% of the annual income (up to $285) or $95/adult and $47.50/child.
The fine will increase each year for the next few years. Certain individuals are exempt from the mandate due to reasons like financial hardship. However, these individuals are typically also eligible for health insurance coverage through Medi-Cal.
“Even though Medi-Cal enrolls throughout the year, it’s important for those without insurance to apply as soon as possible, so they can start enjoying the security of health care coverage,” said Toby Douglas, Department of Health Care Services Director. “We’re encouraged that more and more Californians are taking advantage of these coverage opportunities through Medi-Cal and Covered California.”
Covered California is working hard to make sure enrollments that were started are completed in a timely manner. However, more than 150,000 applications were submitted without a plan selected. “Many consumers are new to health insurance, and they may need assistance to get across the finish line,” Lee explained. “We encourage those consumers to get help — from our Service Center or from tens of thousands of insurance agents, Certified Enrollment Counselors or county eligibility workers in the communities — so they can obtain health coverage as soon as possible.”
Lee added, “The evidence is clear that Covered California’s effort to encourage people to get help in their communities or with Covered California is working.” Louis Barnett & Associates are your local resource for Covered California or any insurance-related needs!
2015 is almost here. With the new year, come more changes for the health insurance industry. Many of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for Health Care Reform have already been put into place. However, over the next few years, we can expect the landscape of the health insurance industry to keep shifting as adjustments are made to improve the system. From the Individual Mandate, to Essential Health Benefits, there are a lot of aspects of the ACA to keep track of. One of the lesser known changes enforced by the Affordable Care Act was limiting new-hire waiting periods.
Creative Commons Image Courtesy of Robert S. Donovan on Flickr
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, employers could enforce a waiting period of up to six months for new-hires, meaning that they were not eligible for health insurance until the first of the month after 60 days following the hire date. In an effort to get as many people enrolled on health insurance as quickly as possible, the Affordable Care Act limited the new-hire waiting period to a maximum of 90 days following a 30-day orientation period. This meant that employers who offer health insurance must give their employees an opportunity to enroll on the policy no longer that 120 days after their hire date.
However, the governor of California signed the law SB 1083, which is currently in effect for 2014. This law limits new-hire waiting periods in California to no longer than 60 days after the date of hire. All small groups that renewed their health insurance in 2014 were required to change their waiting period to meet the new state law limits. Back in September, the governor signed a new law SB 1034, effectively revoking the waiting period requirements established by SB 1083. SB 1034 enforces the federal waiting period requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act.
SB 1034 goes into effect January 1, 2015. All small groups renewing in 2015 will have the opportunity to change their new-hire waiting period again up to 90 days following a 30-day orientation period. Groups should check with their health insurance carrier to determine if they can extend their waiting period as of January 1, 2015, or if they have to wait until their renewal period.
For more health insurance news, keep up with our blog! Have questions or comments? Let us know in the comments section below!
The annual open enrollment period for individual and family health insurance is here! Beginning Nov. 15, 2014 through Feb. 15, 2015, Louis Barnett and Associates can help ensure you and your loved ones are covered and compliant with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Our agency is licensed to help you find the best coverage available on Covered California’s exchange or directly with an insurance carrier off-exchange.
Creative Commons image courtesy of agrilifetoday on Flickr
During open enrollment, we can help you find out if you qualify for Medi-Cal or a tax subsidy through Covered California to help lower your monthly health insurance premium. Annual household income and disability status generally determine who can qualify for free or low-cost health coverage. We can help you compare your options and determine the best plan for your budget and medical expenses.
Because Covered California is so new and controversial, many consumers are weary to sign up whether or not they qualify for a subsidy. A major concern being the shrinking provider networks contracted with plans on the exchange. Others prefer to avoid involving the IRS with their health insurance for as long as possible. The good news is there are still individual and family plans available off the Covered California exchange. We can show you options on and off the exchange.
It’s always important to have health insurance to help maintain and protect your health and your wallet in case of large medical expenses. Another more recent reason to sign up for health insurance in the United States is something called the Individual Mandate of the Affordable Care Act. In order to help pay for insurance coverage for people who can’t afford it on their own, the health care reform law mandates that every eligible person be enrolled in health insurance as of 2014.
If you didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2014, at the end of the year you will have to pay a penalty of the higher of the following two amounts: $95 per adult and $47.50 per child under 18 up to $285, or 1% of the annual household income (above $10K for an individual) up to the national average premium for a bronze plan.
If you didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2015, at the end of the year you will have to pay a penalty of the higher of the following two amounts: $325 per adult and $162.50 per child under 18 up to $975, or 2% of the annual household income (above $10K for an individual) up to the national average premium for a bronze plan.
The deadline is fast approaching to enroll on an individual or family health insurance plan with a January 1, 2015 effective date. Are you and your loved ones covered? We can help! Give our office a call for a quote.
One of the best and well-known times to enroll in health insurance coverage is called the open enrollment period. Open enrollment for 2014 coverage has already ended. Soon, open enrollment will begin for 2015. Starting Nov. 15, 2014 through Feb. 15, 2015, everyone will be eligible to sign up for health insurance. However, there are some circumstances when people can qualify to sign up for health coverage outside of open enrollment. In this week’s article, we will explain the different qualifying events that allow people to enroll in health insurance outside of open enrollment.
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A very common type of qualifying event is loss of coverage. This can happen when someone loses their job and loses access to the group health insurance plan offered by the employer. Loss of coverage can also happen when the person’s eligibility for the policy they have (such as Medi-Cal), is no longer valid. A subscriber has 60 days from their loss of coverage date to apply for new insurance.
Major life changes may also qualify you or your family for health insurance coverage. Getting married and entering into a domestic partnership are qualifying events. Having or adopting a child would qualify that child for health insurance coverage. Even a permanent change in address can sometimes count as a qualifying event. For example, moving to California from another state grants new access to Covered California plans. People being released from prison are also considered qualified for health insurance coverage.
Did you recently lose coverage or have a major life event? Are you wondering if you qualify for health insurance coverage? Give Louis Barnett & Associates a call for more information! We are always happy to help.
October is here again, and among the orange, red, and yellow colors of fall we see another familiar color: pink. Pink ribbons signal breast cancer awareness. October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the U.S.. We’ve dedicated this week’s blog to help spread awareness of this deadly disease. The most important message to take away from this article is to get your recommended yearly examinations. The better you stay on top of your health, the better the changes doctors and specialists will be able to treat and cure whatever may ail you.
Creative Commons image courtesy of williami5 on Flickr
Although there are many different types of cancer, none get as much attention as breast cancer. One could argue that the body part naturally draws attention, but the fact is it is one of the most common types of cancers. Statistics have estimated that a stunning one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in women, and it’s the second leading cause of death for women. Every year, around 220,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States and over 40,000 of them will not survive.
A pink ribbon is a very common symbol for breast cancer awareness. Pink is typically associated with girls and women, as is breast cancer. It’s easy to imagine why breast cancer is often associated with women. Women have breasts. However, breast cancer affects both men and women. Although it is fairly rare, an estimated 2,150 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Around 410 men reportedly die from breast cancer every year.
Early detection is essential in effectively treating breast cancer. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventative care services are a required benefit on health insurance policies. You have the coverage, so use it! Annual breast exams, along with regular self-exams, are vital to early detection. Malignant tumors can sometimes be felt in the breasts or under the arms as small, hard balls of tissue. The earlier problems are detected, the better the prognosis.
In this week’s blog, we will explain some of the most common types of health insurance plans available. Let’s face it. Health insurance can be confusing. There are a lot of acronyms floating around the health insurance industry. There are HMOs, PPOs, HSAs, and more to try to keep track of. Our job as health insurance brokers is to help make your insurance choices as easy to understand as possible.
Creative Commons image courtesy of Consumerist Dot Com on flickr
What is an HMO?
HMO stands for Health Maintenance Organization. HMOs are one of the most common types of health insurance plans. The network of doctors a patient can choose from on an HMO plan is limited to an approved medical group within the insurance carrier’s network. The patient must select a Primary Care Physician (PCP) from the medical group. If specialty care is needed, such as a gastroenterologist or a dermatologist, the patient must get a referral from the PCP to an approved specialist within the medical group. A referral from the PCP is also required before having any lab or other tests done. If the patient sees a doctor outside of the medical group or without a referral, there is no coverage.
Although the networks are limited under an HMO plan, these plans are very popular because their premiums tend to be less expensive than other types of plans. Typically, HMOs do not have a deductible. If there is a deductible, it is usually low. HMOs also tend to have set dollar amounts for copayments for doctor visits (e.g., $15/visit) rather than a percentage of coverage (e.g. 20%), like with other types of plans.
What is a PPO?
PPO stands for Preferred Provider Organization. PPOs are the other most common type of health insurance policies. PPO plans allow much more flexibility in choosing a doctor or hospital. There is still a network of doctors and hospitals to choose from, but out-of-network benefits are also available. Staying within the preferred network is highly recommended, however, because the coverage is much better. For instance, an in-network hospital visit might be covered 80%, while an out-of-network hospital visit would be only covered at 50%. A patient can go to any doctor or specialist without having to get a referral by the PCP.
Premiums tend to be a bit higher for PPO plans, but they are still very popular because of richer benefits and more options when choosing doctors. PPO plans do typically have a deductible, and benefits are often covered based on a percentage from 90% to 60% for in-network services. The more coverage and the lower the deductible, the higher the monthly premium tends to be.
Do you have any other questions about HMOs vs. PPOs? Do you have questions about other types of plans or about insurance in general? Leave a comment or contact our office for answers! Louis Barnett & Associates are always happy to help. Don’t forget to keep an eye on our blog for lots of helpful information.
As cold and flu season approaches, it is important to take precautions to protect your health. Every year, as summer ends and fall begins, we should all take extra care to avoid catching and spreading germs. Students are especially vulnerable to contagious illnesses, because they are exposed to many other children who might not be as careful about their germs as they should be. In this week’s article, we will share some of our best tips to keep you and your family cold and flu free!
CC image courtesy of USACE Europe District on flickr
1. Make time to get your flu shot. There has been a lot of controversy around vaccines over the last few years. People are afraid that being vaccinated is actually more dangerous than risking getting the illness. There is plenty of research available online to quell those fears. The risks of vaccination are very low, especially compared to the risks of illness and infections. It is particularly important for children and the elderly to get their flu shot every year. People in these populations are especially vulnerable to the flu, which can become life-threatening.
2. Wash your hands. Our parents and teachers have tried to drill this habit into us throughout our formative years. It is easy to get busy and forget to wash your hands before a meal, but it is very important to minimize the amount of outside germs we let enter our bodies. We touch door knobs, faucets, keyboards, and all kinds of shared surfaces that carry bacteria from everyone who touched it before we did. If we rub our eyes or pick up a sandwich with those hands before washing them, we are welcoming all kinds of unknown germs into our system.
3. Limit close contact with sick people. Now, this one sounds a little cold (no pun intended), but limiting your exposure to people who are infected with a cold or flu is essential to avoiding getting sick yourself. We all want to help our friends and family when they’re sick. You can still bring them soup and tissues, but keep the visit short and try to avoid hugs and kisses.
4. Take care of your immune system all year round. WIth health insurance, it is a lot easier to stay on top of your overall health. Get annual physical check-ups to make sure that you stay health and strong. This way, if you are exposed to a flu or cold virus, your body will be in top shape to fight it off. If you do catch the flu, see a doctor and follow their instructions. If they prescribe andiviral drugs, make sure to take them as prescribed.
What are your best tips to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season? Share them with us in the comments section below!
Can you believe it’s September already? September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. In this week’s blog article, we’re doing our part to help spread awareness about steps you can take to be better prepared for a disaster scenario. The fact is, there is no telling when and where a disaster will strike. We go about our daily business, assuming that our homes, offices and vehicles will all be relatively safe from harm. Disaster preparation is often a very low priority for most people, but this month, we’d like to stress the importance of taking a little time to organize and make sure you and your family will be okay should an emergency happen.
Creative Commons Image Courtesty of Fox News Insider on Flickr
Living in California has so many benefits. The weather is great, and we have beaches, mountains and deserts within a few-hours drive. However, in California, we are susceptible to many different kinds of disasters. The two most common types of emergencies Californians need to worry about are earthquakes and wildfires. However, any kind of national disaster could strike, including flooding from storms, bombs, gas leaks or anything else. We’d like to think we don’t need to worry about events like this, but it truly is better to be safe than sorry.
If you went to school in California, you probably recall earthquake drills and having to bring in an earthquake kit with food and water. What we’re suggesting is not very different. Every home should have an disaster kit ready in case of an emergency. You should be stocked with plenty of water and nonperishable foods. Every family should also have a first aid kit and plenty of trash bags and ties for personal sanitation, flashlights and extra batteries.
“Copies of insurance, titles, bank accounts, medical providers – and store all of those things in a waterproof of fireproof box as well, because if you have some insurance needs, you need to contact your agent after a disaster,” explained Sam Wilson, state director of AARP-Wisconsin. “Maybe you have some health concerns that need to be addressed, you want to be able to access those documents and you want them to be in a presentable shape.”
Making sure your home and business are properly insured for national disasters is also very important. Do you know if you’re properly prepared for a disaster? Call Louis Barnett & Associates today for information about covering your home and/or business in case of an emergency.