Friday, February 14, 2020

Attention Old Line Staters: ACA News (Really!)

Our friend Sheron Sidbury alerts us to this helpful info:

Who knew?

Food Pyramid Update 2020.1

Well, it's been a while since we noted the health-improving properties of certain comestibles and potables:

"A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on the health effects of resveratrol – a compound found in red wine, dark chocolate and some fruits and vegetables – has generated a lot of sensational headlines"

Resveratrol is thought to help protect one's body from "damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease."

And now, thanks to co-blogger Bob V, we learn that one of my favorite vegetables is also pretty nifty:

"Using Eggplant to Lower Your Blood Pressure"

Turns out, eggplant "contains an agent that inhibits angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). As a result, eggplant is working ... through the same mechanism as blood pressure medicines like lisinopril."

I'll have mine grilled, thank you!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Another AHP Success Story

As I was explaining the other day to an acquaintance, one of the biggest challenges regarding the ACA viz insurance is the lack of a risk-assessment mechanism. In both the individual and group markets, this means that there are no health-related questions allowed, rates are based solely on age, sex and location (and, in the individual market, on tobacco use as well).

Which is equivalent to an auto insurer having to charge the same rate for a guy with 3 DUI's and 4 speeding tickets, and the soccer mom with a clean sheet.

But that's all theory and concept; how does this apply in "the real world?"

Readers may recall my recent post about my client who had just lost another valued employee to a competitor who offered health insurance ("benefits"), and who was for the first time considering taking the plunge himself. He turned to me for help, and I explained that there were two "paths" to consider: the simple (but expensive) ACA one, and the potentially cost-savings one (AHP):

Rates for ACA plans require merely a list of employees, their ages, sex and marital status, and the nature and location of the business. No medical info is necessary. So groups with 3 employees on chemo and 4 on dialysis pay the exact same rate as those with relatively healthy employees.

On the other hand, AHP plans require medical histories, current meds and the like, and thus the process requires more effort (by the agent and by the employer and employees). But healthier groups can benefit greatly (one can argue the "fairness" of this, but that's another post). And sometimes, they can benefit 'bigly.'

In this case,the benchmark ACA plan we looked at would have a total monthly premium of about $3,700 (keep in mind, this is a 3-employee group, two singles and a family plan).

By contrast, the AHP quote came in at less than half of that: $1,550 per month.

And all it really took was maybe an hour's extra work, total.

Sweet, no?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Ahoy there, Mate! Travel Insurance Alert

Last time we took a detailed look at Travel (Interruption) Coverage was almost a decade ago:

"More commonly known as "trip interruption insurance," this type of coverage falls under the Property/Casualty rubric."

By now
, we're pretty much all aware of the havoc that the Coronavirus is having on folks' travel plans:

"A Holland America cruise ship with more than 2,200 people aboard was denied entry to Thailand on Tuesday over fears that passengers may be carrying the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of ports from which it has been turned away to at least five."

And of course that list is expected to grow unless/until we get a handle on the disease.

But then, a number of travel insurance-related questions arise:

What if you're stuck on such a ship?

What if you're scheduled to embark on that honeymoon cruise next week?

What if you're in the middle of a trip around Southeast Asia and need to cut that short?

Well, for these and more we turned to our good friends at Global Underwriters where head honcho Peter S provided some helpful insights (courtesy of Travelex, a carrier specializing in travel insurance):

"This outbreak is now a known event and Travelex Insurance plans underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance would need to be purchased prior to 1.21.2020 for trip cancellation or interruption coverage to apply.

It is important to note that fear of travel, travel advisories and destination being inaccessible due to this illness are not covered risks under the Travelex Insurance policies. In order to cancel or interrupt a trip due to quarantine, the traveler or traveling companion would need to be physically quarantined themselves

Keep in mind, this is for Travel/Trip Cancellation coverage, which is generally separate from Travel Medical insurance (although it may be available as a rider, as well).

To continue:

"Plans where the Cancel for Any Reason upgrade has been purchased allows travelers to decide for themselves whether to travel or cancel their trip according to the terms of the plan."

This is an important reminder; I recently quoted such a plan, and noticed that absent this clause, there were only very specific instances where cancelled trip costs could be eligible for reimbursement. Of course, it also included a hefty difference in premium, but one can understand why.

Peter also included some related info from the CDC, including:
■ CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the People’s Republic of China (this does not include the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, or the island of Taiwan).

■ CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. In response to an outbreak of respiratory illness, Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport.  Additional restrictions and cancellations of events may occur.

And more.

If you're scheduled to travel abroad any time soon, it's probably a good idea to check with your carrier (both transportation and insurance) to see what coverage is available.

Safe travels, and Thanks Peter!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Well isn't *that* special?

Special needs, that is.

Got an interesting email the other day from MassMutual about a topic that we've only tangentially touched upon previously (and, perhaps ironically also involved MassMutual):

"MassMutual and Easter Seals are once again teaming up to increase awareness of the important decisions and financial challenges facing families with special needs members."

In that instance, it was a wonderful fund-raising effort that resulted in a lot of money going to help out Special Needs Families.

The latest message was a bit more personal:

"Henry, have your clients thought about what would happen if they, or other caregivers, were no longer around to make sure that their family member with special needs was able to maintain their quality of life?"

A most cromulent question. I do, in fact, have a client in that situation (well, her husband is, long story). And I'm aware of other folks in my circle of friends and acquaintances that have or are caring for a special needs dependent. And although the "normal" worry is "how are we going to make it through this day," there's at least a sense of the dilemma that will come about if (and for a parent, more likely a when) the caregiver predeceases his or her charge.

I've long know about this risk, just never had the opportunity (or need) to do anything about it. But as we live longer, and as medical science continues to evolve such that these folks live longer, I fear  that this is a burgeoning problem (and/or market, one supposes).

And that's where MassMutual's latest email come in:

"Higher survival rates, greater life expectancies, and more extensive [ed: and expensive] therapies can mean more costs for a longer period of time."


So what to do about that?

Well, MassMutual (and to be fair, there may well be other carriers doing this, as well) offers a Survivorship Whole Life Legacy policy that seems custom-built for this niche:

"The proceeds from a Survivor Legacy life insurance policy owned inside of a special needs trust can help provide for the continued needs of a person with special needs after their caregiver is gone."


They sent along a handy Agent's Guide, but one supposes they have one for 'normal' folks, too.

Kudos, MassMutual!

[Hat Tip: FoIB Mara F]

Monday, February 10, 2020

Frozen out by the MVNHS©

That's COLD, even by Britain's Much Vaunted National Health Service© "standards:"

Sure, sure, but hey: Free!

Sure, sure, but hey: Free!


Friday, February 07, 2020

Pitch Perfect Take on ACA/Trump

FoIB (and noted actuary) Greg Fann offers an extraordinarily wise insight into the "Trump vs ACA" discussion:

 [click to embiggen]

Size Matters


"[A]s officially published by the Government Printing Office, PPACA is **906** pages long ." [emphasis added]"

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Maybe Free Health Care Isn't Such a Good Thing

Who hasn't heard of coronavirus? But how many people know the story of the folks who live in Wuhan (Hubei Province), China where health care is free . . . but overwhelmed?

China’s Hubei province, the landlocked region of 60 million people where the new coronavirus dubbed 2019-nCoV was first identified in December

Hubei -- known for its car factories and bustling capital Wuhan -- is paying the price, with the mortality rate for coronavirus patients there 3.1%, versus 0.16% for the rest of China.

If the province was not sealed off, some people would have gone all around the country to try to get medical help, and would have turned the whole nation into an epidemic-stricken area - Bloomberg

Free isn't always a good thing.


Who did *not* see *this* coming?

"Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes:"
 NB: They're  not signing anyone up for health care.

Coverage ≠ Care.