Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How to Compare Medicare Plans

Medicare plan premiums are only PART of the story. If you don't look at out of pocket cost you made a big mistake. No premium or low premium plans are attractive but they are also a TRAP!

Compare Medicare plans. Premiums are PART of the story. If you don't look at out of pocket cost you made a big mistake. No premium or low premium plans are attractive but they are also a TRAP!

Get more Medicare tips here

Monday, September 14, 2020

More on Our Dear Friend Henry G. (Hank) Stern

In reviewing comments in last weeks "tribute" post to Hank I noticed one with a link. Often "link" comments are suspect as spam, but this one definitely is not.

Following the excerpt you will see a link to Greg Fann's original post. I suggest you read the post, along with the comments. Hank touched the lives of so many people in different ways. It seems impossible there was enough of him to go around, but apparently there was just barely enough.

The Loss of an ACA Voice: A Tribute to Henry Stern

“Your cold, hard facts frighten and confuse me”, he would often respond. I always took those words as an approving “job well done” complement, and presumed they were a recognition of objective truth being transparently communicated in a sea of contrary opinion narratives intended to confuse the masses; just as he liked it. Most of our correspondence was about improving the dynamics in the individual health insurance market. We shared a passion of making insurance markets work and advocating for transparency and optimal options for consumers. We encouraged each other and made each other better. We exchanged a few emails and introduced some business connections, but most of our relationship was over Twitter. We never met or spoke on the phone, but Henry was a friend.

Read more here . . .

I leave you with one of Hank's recent FB posts. A good illustration of his sometimes off-the-wall sense of humor.

If you don't get it, use ASL to ask someone to explain it to you.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Medicare Open Enrollment - Understanding the Claim Process

If you are looking at Medicare Advantage plans you really need to consider the way they pay claims.

More Medicare tips on my YouTube channel

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Tribute to Henry G. Stern

Henry G. Stern, Hank, was my friend, mentor and an all around good guy. We have known each other for a dozen years, perhaps longer. Our connection was a consumer forum run by a local (Atlanta) radio personality. We quickly discovered many things in common and some areas where we were opposites.

A Bit of History

My home is in Atlanta, his in Dayton. He is Jewish, I am Christian. Our insurance careers have spanned 35+ years (mine a little longer). Both of us are "students" of the industry and share a strong desire to help others navigate the insurance maze.

He referred to me as a mensch.

I had to look it up. 

That in itself is not unusual. Many of his posts included words known only to a handful of people in the world. I would often chide him for salting his blogposts with 25 cent words, Yiddish and acronyms that would confound a cryptologist. He just laughed.

I failed to appreciate the humor.

In some ways we were the odd couple, but that's OK.

He was Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison.

We only met physically once, perhaps half a dozen years ago, when Hank, Gail and Hannah (or Sara, but I think it was Hannah) traveled through Atlanta on their way back home from Florida. We met on "neutral ground", a restaurant favorite that my wife Rachel and I enjoy.

Good food. Good wine. Good company.


InsureBlog was Hank's "baby". He fancied himself as a journo and the blog was his hobby, helping him fulfill a passion for writing.

Hank invited me to join him initially as an occasional contributor and eventually promoted to co-editor.

However the pay remained the same.


Going forward, InsureBlog will change but the commitment to providing insurance related information will remain. The focus may shift away from individual and group health insurance and toward Medicare, which is my focus. It just depends on how many of the other contributors choose to stay connected.

Some weeks may only see one or two new posts. Other weeks perhaps more. And a few weeks could be barren.

My wife once asked "Does anyone other than you and Hank read that thing?". I guess we will find out.

The reading audience will decide how long this blog survives.

Hank left us unexpectedly on Thursday, September 3, 2020. He left behind Gail, his wife of 38 years, and two daughters, Hannah and Sara.

Hank adored Gail, Hannah and Sara. What better tribute than to say he loved his family? He will be missed by all.

Life has challenges but God gives us the ability to move forward, even when we stumble.

Hank has slipped the surly bonds of earth, and put out his hand to touch the face of God.

Rest in peace, Hank. Rest in peace. L'chaim.

Accept my apology if my Yiddish was used inappropriately. I learned it from the movies.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

A Beneficial Conundrum

Well, actually a Beneficiary poser: Long time life insurance client needs to change/update his beneficiaries, which is normally the most mundane thing we do (other than maybe address changes). But, there a twist: he has four (4!) primaries listed, including a trust for one of his adult children.

Of note: my client named zero (0) contingent beneficiaries. Typically, these are folks "second in line" in case the primary predeceases the insured. Not required, or even typically critical, but kinda comes into play here.

Okay, so far not really a big deal, but then he throws me a curve-ball:

"Question, in the unfortunate event that [spouse] and I should pass away together, would her portion automatically go to [son]? How does that work and how do I make sure there is some sort of waterfall to protect my money and those beneficiaries I have listed?"


So, I had a thought, but really not very certain of its validity. So I reached out to our carrier rep, who also had an opinion, but wasn' very confient oin that, either. ZSo, he bumpled it up to the Vice President of Claims, who (very) helpfully replied:

"The rules vary by state and are usually called the Simultaneous Death Act (or similar).

In Ohio, the statute says this:

Except as provided in section 2105.36 of the Revised Code, an individual who is not established by clear and convincing evidence to have survived an event by one hundred twenty hours is deemed to have predeceased the event for purposes of a provision of a governing instrument that relates to the individual surviving an event, including the death of another individual.

So, what that means is that, if the husband and wife die in the same accident, then it would be assumed that the insured died first, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the beneficiary survived for 120 hours after the accident.   The contingent beneficiary would receive the proceeds.  If no contingent, then it would go to the policyowner’s estate.

If the spouses die two days apart, then it would still be the same scenario, since the beneficiary did not survive for 120 hours.  If it is six days apart, and we have clear and convincing evidence of such, then the proceeds would go to the Estate of the beneficiary, because they survived the insured by more than 120 hours."


So the bottom line is that, if they're both hit by a bus and die simultabeously, the wife's portion of the policy would be paid into my client's estate. Which is I think what he was trying to ascertain.

Regarldess, I was told that the carrier would even be using this as part of a training module. Cool beans!

Also, #LearnedSomethingNew.

[Hat Tip: FoIB Brian D]

Monday, August 31, 2020

Re-thinking transparency

We first blogged on transparency in health care pricing and consumer-centric health care in 2005:

"One of these tools is the pilot transparency program."

So yes, we've long been advocates of what I called the McDonald's Model:

[click to pic to embiggen]

But FoIB Bob Graboyes of the Mercatus Institute offers a contrarian's take:


Friday, August 28, 2020

Teacher's Pet?

This isn't necessarily huge, but it was kinda heartwarming:

Earlier this week, got a call from a nice lady, referred to me by another client (always a nice warm fuzzy), who had a dilemna:

She had just retired from teaching, and was trying to decide between taking the State Teacher's Retirement (STRS) health insurance plan, which was quite extensive, and quite expensive or opting for a short term plan (she wasn't interested in even discussing an ACA-compliant plan). Better still, she had to decide literally that day, because she had to let the STRS folks know by the following morning.

And yeah, I wondered why she'd let such a potentially financially impactful decision go 'til the last last minute, but I could sense the distress in her voice, so I simply said:

"Look, if you can swing the STRS premium for a month or two, then pull that trigger. Doesn't mean you're married to it, just gives us space to find other alternatives."

I could literally hear the sigh of relief as she took that in. She thanked me profusely, and said she'd be in touch.

I really like my job, and sometimes I really love it.