Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday Afternews

■ The Revenooer's have published the 2017 guidelines for deducting LTCi premiums. What, you didn't know that you could deduct some of your Long Term Care insurance premiums on your taxes?

Yup, and the "Internal Revenue Service is increasing the maximum long-term care insurance premium deduction for 2017 faster than the 2016 inflation rate."


At the same time, they're also increasing how much one can set (temporarily) aside in a Flexible Spending Account (for certain health and child care expenses).

■ With the World Series now officially a nail-biter, it may be interesting to note how much the life insurance industry has changed in the 100+ years since the Cubs last won one. For example:
- Group life insurance came into being in 1911

- In 1914, just over a decade since Dayton's Wright Brothers made the first powered flight (no TSA, either), Northwestern Mutual paid "its first death claim caused by an airplane accident" when some unfortunate passenger exited before the actual landing. Hundreds of feet in the air before

- One I first heard many years ago when I entered this business is that during the Depression, James C Penney (yes, that JC Penney) used his life insurance cash values to help keep his company afloat and employees paid.

Lots more at the link.

More ObamaTax Rate Decreases


[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]

Self-Awareness: How does it work‽

I just don't get "journalists." It seems to me that, if one is going to write about something, then one should exhibit more intellectual curiosity than, say, the average broccoli floret (no offense to Cruciferous-Americans). Reason I ask is this blaring headline:

"Millions buying insurance outside exchanges amid ObamaCare woes"

Underneath this attention grabber, we find this gem:

"While premiums are set to rise by double digits on the ObamaCare exchanges, millions of Americans already have made the decision to abandon the markets altogether and shop for health care on their own"

Um, Jennifer?

This is nothing new: people have been buying "direct" (off-Exchange) all along, and trust me, their premiums haven't been decreasing 3000%, either (see here, for example).

So why buy off-Exchange?

Well, as Jenny notes, the "big downside to shopping off the exchanges is that customers would not receive insurance subsidies." And this is true. But most people don't actually qualify for subsidies (and really, what does it say about the "roaring" economy when so many folks do?). And if you're not subsidy-eligible, then the dangerously unsecure Exchange is the very last place you want to be.

Yes, insurance carriers are also vulnerable, but as private sector entities they can be held accountable. Good look trying that with a government agency.

Ms Jenny is also under the mistaken impression that there are more plan choices off-Exchange. As we're seeing, this is not necessarily true.

In all, Ms Jenny spoke with: "a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute ... Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation ... [and] Katherine Hempstead, a senior adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation"

Notice anyone missing?

Here's a hint.

Next time, how 'bout reaching out to someone who actually works in the marketplace?

Friday, October 28, 2016

We Have Ways: An Update

Back in March of Aught 10 (just after the ObamaTax was enacted), Bob pointed out that "[a]n adult who does not have health insurance by 2014 would be penalized $95 or 1 percent of income," and went on to ridicule it.

His point then was that, compared to projected premiums, this didn't even get to "paltry" levels.

And of course he was right, and of course we still have over 27 million folks uninsured, despite [ed: because of?] the joke that is the ObamaTax.

And, evidently, other folks have finally gotten around to noticing what most have us have known for years:

"In my experience, the penalty has not been large enough to motivate people to sign up for insurance,” said Christine Speidel, a tax lawyer"

Well, she'd know, right?

And then there's rocket surgeon director of tax history Joseph J. Thorndike, who brilliantly deduces that the "penalty for violating the individual mandate has not been very effective ... If it were effective, we would have higher enrollment, and the population buying policies in the insurance exchange would be healthier and younger.”


But it would be interesting to know what these folks mean when they say "more effective;" after all, if they raise it too much, then folks might start to notice that it's completely unenforceable as written.


I think I see the problem there.

[Hat Tip: Co-Blogger Bob V]

Putting Lipstick on the Pig

Almost 7 years after passing the largest tax increase in history, the Complainer-in-Chief is still begging for shills to promote his signature legislation.

Obama is asking volunteers to promote Obamacare to everyone they know. He admits it will be hard, given all the negative publicity about the takeover of the health care and health insurance system, but he wants your support anyway.

Ignore the fact that many Americans LOST coverage, can no longer see the doctor of their choice and many cannot afford the premiums.

Don't pay attention to carriers that are leaving the health insurance market in droves.

That's not important.

What IS important is protecting HIS legacy.

The folks at Yahoo are preventing the curation of their post about this, but you can read it all here.


Gleaner Life Scholarships

Once again, the fine folks at Gleaner Life demonstrate how to give back in meaningful ways. Via email:

"Since 1980, The Gleaner Life Insurance Society Scholarship Foundation has awarded more than $2.6 million in scholarships on a competitive basis to Gleaner members and their families. In 2016, the foundation awarded $225,000 in scholarships."

Mutual insurance companies reward long-time clients with (non-guaranteed) dividends, which can help reduce the net cost of a policy, or add to the cash value, or even increase the death benefit. But dividends are based on how the company performs financially (investments, real estate rentals, whatever). Gleaner goes above and beyond that by putting net corporate dollars where its metaphorical mouth is:

"Eligible Gleaner members who are students can apply for a one-time $3,000 competitive scholarship. Gleaner family members are eligible to apply for one-time $1,500 awards. Both scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis."

I like that last: it rewards performance.

Interested Gleaner policyholders can click here for details.

Not a Gleaner policyholder? You know what to do.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

DOL vs Small Group

Via email from our friends at Cornerstone:

"The Department of Labor, Health & Human Services and Treasury recently issued proposed regulations that would eliminate the "small plan" exemption currently in place for small employers sponsoring a group health plan with fewer than 100 participants.

If adopted, small employers would be required to furnish the same Form 5500 information to the Department of Labor as large employers
." [emphasis in original]

Now why would this be a big deal?

Well, the estimated cost "will add 2.2 million work hours and $241.6 million in reporting costs for small employers (both self-insured and fully-insured)."

Think this won't affect you?

Well remember, all of these additional costs will be passed on to consumers. Not to mention, employers, particularly small employers, have limited funds, so this could very well cost someone(s) their job, or potential job.

What can you do about it?

Well, the DOL is taking comments about it through December 5th, and the folks at Cornerstone have helpfully provided us with an example:

"I am requesting that the Department of Labor reconsider the proposed Annual Reporting and Disclosure rules relating to Form 5500 and Schedule J.

The proposed rules that would eliminate the small group exemption on Form 5500 filings plus the additional data collection requirements on Schedule J will add 2.2 million work hours and would cost small employers $241.6 million.

Small employers are already challenged to stay current and compliant with excessive federal, state and local rules and regulations. The proposed changes place yet another unnecessary burden on small employers.

I urge the Department of Labor to reconsider this proposal

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Blame the Agents

After almost 7 years of having the admini-screwup blame everyone for what is "wrong" we now have another fall guy.

The economy was (and presumably still is) rotten because of Bush. Global warming caused ISIS. The Republicans at the state level are why Obamacare did not cover more people.

And in the face of rising health insurance premiums there is one more patsy.

The agents and insurance carriers are responsible for higher health insurance premiums.
HHS said earlier this month that about 2.5 million people eligible for tax credits to lower the cost of their premiums are missing out, because they are buying their insurance through insurers or brokers instead of the state and federal exchanges. - USA Today
Yes, the agents are to blame for higher premiums.

Now that most agents have left the health insurance business who will they blame next?

I guess that problem is left to the next president.

Whoever he may be.

And then there is this gem.
Even those who weren't eligible for tax credits in the past should apply again, because they may qualify now that many rates are much higher,
Agents (and possibly global warming) led to higher premiums but now you can thank the agents for making premiums lower.

You are welcome.


With Six You Get Genworth

Not sure what to make of this, but:

"China Oceanwide agrees to pay $2.7 billion for Genworth"

Oceanwide already owns a securities brokerage and a P&C insurer, so one supposed this makes sense in terms of "fit."

The deal still needs Delaware regulators' seal-of-approval.

I reached out to Randy G, one of my favorite LCi gurus to see what he thought of this development, and he replied that it was "kind of a surprise for sure. It’s almost like AT&T buying Time Warner for $86Billion….another surprise this morning! Don’t know much about this merger other than it provides Genworth with about $1.0 Billion dollars immediately."

Which may be badly needed; back in February, we reported that the company seemed to be in some serious financial straits.

So, wait-and-see, for now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Another 1,000 Words on #ObamaCare

 [click graph to embiggen ]

(Full story here)

And to add insult to injury, FoIB Jeff M alerts us that:

"Obamacare Rates to Skyrocket 50-75 Percent in Arizona"

Funny way of spelling "3000% rate decrease," no?

North Star State vs ObamaCare

A few weeks ago, we reported on Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's explicit acknowledgement that the ObamaTax wasn't working as advertised:

"Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday said that the increase in health insurance costs in Minnesota highlights “some serious blemishes right now and serious deficiencies” in the federal health care law known as Obamacare."

Now, we learn that there's more here than meets the eye:

"What’s not widely known is that taxpayers are also being gouged for millions of dollars a year on their property tax bills because of ongoing problems with MNsure, the state’s health insurance."

Turns out - #Surprise - that because the state's Exchange has never actually worked as planned, they've been shoveling in major bucks to keep it going:

"The Minnesota Association of Counties estimates taxpayers spend an additional $27 million annually to work around the flawed online METS technology."

And that's just this year. how's that saying go again?

Oh, yeah:

"That which can't go on, won't."

[Hat Tip: Powerline]

Monday, October 24, 2016

Un(?)Intended Consequences: Deathwatch edition

Last spring, we noted a new Golden State law essentially legalizing assisted suicide. At the time, we remarked only that it served as a convenience for those so inclined to save the airfare to Switzerland.

But of course, slippery slopes are, well, slippery, and now we have an insurance carrier who took the new law to its logical (if macabre) conclusion:

"[O]ne young mother says her insurance company denied her coverage for chemotherapy treatment after originally agreeing to provide the fiscal support for it, but indicated it would be willing to pay for assisted suicide instead."

This really shouldn't come as any great surprise: after all, it's simply the logical outcome of the ObamaTax's IPAB provision. How's that, you ask?

Well, as we've noted before, that feature is really just our version of the MVNHS
©'s Liverpool Pathway. Admittedly, that's actually the heavy hand of government implementing the law as written, but is it demonstrably different in this case? After all, the insurer is simply following the guidelines set forth by the state as to whom is worthy of life-extending treatment.

O Brave New World, indeed.

[Hat Tip: Ace of Spades]

Exit, Stage Right

So after (literally!) losing sleep for several weeks, I finally came to a decision about Open Enrollment v4, and sent this to my ACA insureds:

"To my valued clients:

As we enter the 4th annual Open Enrollment season, I've had to make some difficult decisions. Due to the significant changes carriers have made to their compensation schedules (aka commissions), I don’t believe that I can continue to offer the kind of comprehensive service to which I, and you, have become accustomed.

On the other hand, I'm loathe to just leave folks, many of whom I've had the pleasure to serve for many years, just "twisting in the wind."

The good news is that one of my valued partners, Cornerstone Brokerage, has a terrific program to which I can refer most clients. They're equipped and staffed to offer the same kind of help and support that I've provided, and I've worked with them long enough (20+ years) to trust their judgment and integrity. And the best part is that I'll still be able to help with any service or claims issues that you might have.

And now, the logistics: as your renewals come in, I'll forward your contact information (email and phone number) to the folks at Cornerstone. Please let me know as soon as possible if you'd prefer that I not do that, and of course I’m happy to answer any of your questions about this new process.

Thank you all so very much for the opportunity to have been of service

Thus far, the response has been positive, with clients expressing their disappointment but appreciating that I'm not just walking away from them. As to next year's season, well, we'll see.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Can we believe anything the Administration tells us about health care?

You'd have to be Rip van Winkle not to know medical insurance premiums rise sharply for 2017.  As they have each year ever since full implementation of Obamacare in 2014.

"President Obama calls this a “transition” because insurers aggressively priced too low to get healthy people to sign up."

Oh, rilly?

This must be why Obama's healthcare advisor Ezekiel Emanuel accused insurers back in 2013 of aggressively increasing their prices before Obamacare went fully into effect.

"Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Rahm Emanuel and President Obama's health care advisor during the Obamacare debate, conceded last month [February, 2013] that medical insurance premiums are rising.  But, he suggests, the reason is a sinister insurance industry money grab because, don't forget, ACA will make them lower their medical insurance premiums next year."

So which is it?  Did insurers increase their prices before Obamacare as Emanuel claimed?  Or reduce them, as Obama claimed?  

You just can't believe a thing Obama or his administration says.

Not a damn thing.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Misspelling "3000% rate decrease" Part #8392


[click pic to embiggen]

[Hat Tip: FoIB Jeff M]

MediShare: Epilogue

So, the other day I asked about folks' experiences with Health Care Sharing Ministries and, as usual, our readers came through in a big way.

Thank you!

One thing missing, though, was an agent's perspective; that is, from someone who'd actually sold such a plan. Fortunately, I received an email from one such, who's graciously agreed to let me share her story:

"I'm a financial advisor and licensed insurance agent (since ’97). I moved my family to Samaritans two years ago when that insurance we were promised we could keep was no longer available. It took me some time to get comfortable with the idea of believers sharing burdens like this. In part my skepticism was a result of my training in the industry; insure risk, insure risk, insure risk.

Also, my skepticism was partially anchored in knowing human nature. This year we had a small need, $1,800. The plan worked as explained, and receiving notes of encouragement from all those folks was encouraging. It's a privilege to pray for and encourage those to whom we send our monthly contributions, so to receive it in return warmed my soul.

We have found that generally telling doctors that we are cash pay affords better treatment, better pricing, easier appointment times and we've become much more aware of cost [ed: which tracks with what other commenters have noted] as we don't wish to burden the group any more than is absolutely necessary. It's been eye opening to see just how badly and invasive the insurance industry has injected itself between the doctor/patient relationship. Now, even if the ACA is repealed, I don't think I'll go back to regular insurance

Thank you, this is exactly the kind of input I was seeking.

So, I think at this point that I need to "move on" from my skepticism of this model, at least insofar as this new product is concerned.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Goodbye Snoopy

Long time representative of a large financial institution was given his walking
papers. Easily recognized and loved by all, Snoopy is out of a job.

Metropolitan Life has fired Snoopy.
The largest U.S. life insurer announced Thursday that it will phase out the use of Snoopy and Peanuts characters in its marketing. It also unveiled a new tagline, “MetLife. Navigating life together,” in what the New York-based company called the most significant change to its brand in three decades. - Bloomberg

What is the world coming to?

Next thing you know, AFLAC will say goodbye to Yogi and the duck.

You've misspelled "3000% rate decrease"


From FoIB Jeff M:

"Arizona’s Obamacare marketplace rates are set to skyrocket as the state’s two remaining insurers in the marketplace raise their rates 50-75 percent."


Health Wonk Review: Mom's always right edition

Peggy Salvatore hosts this week's terrific compendium of health care wonkery, from political prognostications to Big Tobacco.

Not to be missed.

Blast from the Past: Penn Treaty in the News

Co-Blogger Bob just sent me this:

"Penn Treaty and its affiliates are so broke that their unpaid obligations for Pennsylvania are expected to top $500 million, "close to or at the 2 percent cap" for annual surcharges on Pennsylvania health-insurance policy premiums"

So says Sean McKenna, spokesctitter for the national life and health guaranty group [ed: basically FDIC for insurance]. And what does this mean?


"[Pennsylvania] braces for largest health insurance failure in U.S. history"

Sounds ominous, no?

We first wrote of PT's woes almost exactly 7 years ago, when this whole mess began to unravel for them. This news, though, is much bigger: some $4 billion in the hole, perhaps things would have "passed quietly to reinsurance - a sort of insurer underworld of risk-swapping - if Penn Treaty had been liquidated when it was first taken over."

Oh well, hindsight's always 20/20, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Spectacular O'Care Fail

Along with halting the ocean's rise, we were promised that everyone would have health insurance. Hey, they even made it illegal not to have it. And of course this has been a rousing success, and there are no longer any uninsured folks roaming the streets.

Wait, what?

"Why 27 Million Are Still Uninsured Under Obamacare"

I would of course counter: what does it matter? That is, the "why" is irrelevant, only the fact that, 6+ years in, over half of that baseline number (the thoroughly debunked 47 million) still have no health insurance.

But hey, #Winning.

[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Health Sharing Ministries: Information Bleg

I recently wrote about a product, newly available to me, that relies "on the kindness of strangers" to help pay medical bills. Today, I learned about another new (to me) product that also relies (but only in part) on this Health Care Sharing Ministry concept.

One of the sticking points is that all of them do require a "statement of faith;" I'm not sure how well that might go over, but that's not really my biggest objection.

Here's the thing: I get that there's a certain amount of risk one takes going this route, but I also look and see these horrendous premiums and out-of-pocket expenses before ObamaPlans actually pay anything. And men especially draw the short stick: we get to pay for maternity and female birth control and the like, but can never benefit from this coverage.

So we pay out thousands, often tens of thousands of dollars with no real discernible benefit (other than - maybe - avoiding the ObamaTax).

So the sharing ministry's shortcomings have begun to look less and less onerous to me.

What I'd really like, and here's my bleg, is to know what experience my readers have had with them, either as customers or agents. Please feel free to leave a comment, or send me an email. And of course your privacy will be respected if that's a concern.


From the "Not Ready for Prime Time" files

Today, class, we learn that the ObamaStration continues its long streak of making ... um ... stuff ... up:

"[M]any consumers will have a new option for the law’s fourth open-enrollment period: standardized health plans that cover basic services without a deductible."

Seems that the folks in DC have (finally!) noticed that ObamaPlans cost a lot, but also offer very little value. These new plans purport to change all this, although if they'd actually bothered to look, they'd notice that every other such plan already covers a host of freebies.

Where these plans differ seems to be in how they handle co-pays; that is, many current offerings require one to satisfy the annual deductible before co-pays (for doc visits, for example) kick in. These essentially waive the deductible and go straight to the co-pays.

Something about lipstick and pigs.

The good news is that they've really thought this through, well in advance of the actual Open Enrollment Period.



"[T]he new plans could still be costly ...  officials did not say how many such plans will be available, in which states they will be offered or how much they will cost."


[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]

Monday, October 17, 2016

Off the Menu

Regular readers may recall that North Carolina's Blue Cross franchise recently announced that it wouldn't pay commissions on most new plans. No big deal, right? After all, there are plenty of fish in the sea, and carriers in the market.

Not so fast there, grasshoppa:

"[A]lmost all of the state, from the Blue Ridge to the Outer Banks, will have just one insurer selling ACA policies when the exchanges open again for business in November"

Care to guess which carrier that might be?

I'll wait...

If you guessed Blue Cross, give yourself a (Cuban?) cigar; the carrier "agonized over whether to leave, too. Instead, it is raising its rates by nearly 25 percent."

Nice consolation prize.

But Tar Heel State citizens share a common fate with other ACA victims Americans:

"For the coming year, Oklahoma and Alaska will join Wyoming in having just one insurer selling ACA plans."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but:

Is Health Insurance Rationing on the Table?

■ Data Point 1: Health insurance ≠ health care

■ Data Point 2: We already know that health care is being rationed

Question: Is health insurance rationing "the next big thing?"

Reason I ask is this tidbit from The North Star State's Pioneer Press:

"Insurance companies on the individual market will increase their premiums between 50 percent and 67 percent ... and almost all the plans will put caps on the number of total customers they accept." [emphasis added]

About the massive premium hikes we already knew, but that highlighted section is bone-chilling. With one very unusual exception, I have never heard of a carrier putting a limit on how many plans it would sell. Think about it: have you ever heard a car dealer say "hey, we've already sold too many cars this month, let's take a break?"

On the other hand, the government isn't telling car dealers to lose money every month, either.

Exit question: How long until it's in your state?

[Hat Tip: HotAir]

Friday, October 14, 2016

More Lies from the Shameless Media: O'Care edition

First, hateful right-wing politicians repeat the terrible canard that "[i]t doesn't make any sense. The insurance model doesn't work here."

Now, the press itself is promulgating obvious disinformation:

"More Than 1 Million in Obamacare to Lose Plans as Insurers Quit"

This has been debunked again and again. Here, for example:

The ObamaTax vs Your Salary

FoIB, and clinical psychologist, Dana Beezley-Smith has written a rather interesting take on how the ACA has impacted employees' wages:
My question concerned promises that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would increase the incomes of American employees. “How would that work?” I wondered.

And she successfully fuses economic theory with real-world, real life experience, and even brings in our old "friend" Jonathan Gruber.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sad (Potential) Vendor Trick

So a few weeks ago, got an email from an outfit called "Agent Pipeline" touting a new (to me, anyway) product called "Minimum Essential Coverage Plans." These are stripped down plans that meet the strict ACA guidelines enough that policyholders avoid the ObamaTax,  but because they're pretty bare-bones supposedly save money.

I'm currently working on an interesting case where there are a sizable number of employees who don't qualify for the group health plan (hours worked) but manage to make too much to qualify for Medicaid. So I thought that perhaps this might be something to look into for those folks.

The plan covers the general Minimum Essential benefits (preventive care, x-rays, etc), and is quite affordable: about $150 a month for a single person. It also covers quite a range of telemedicine services, and because it's not an ObamaPlan, one can enroll outside Open Enrollment without a qualifying event.

So, pretty sweet-looking, but I had a few questions:
1 – Is this available for groups/employer-based only, or for individuals, as well? Also, what about associations?

2 – If group, what’s minimum size, and are there participation requirements (either number of people and/or employer premium contributions)?

3 – Pretty sure I know the answer to this, but what about catastrophic claims (cancer, etc)?

4 – The brochure says you’ll accept $$ from HSA accounts, but these plans aren’t on the 213d list of approved expenses. How does that work here?
These seem pretty obvious, simple things to me, and so I expected a prompt reply.

That was two weeks ago, with a helpful nagmail in-between, and still none.

'Tis a shame, no?

Late Week LinkFest

From the "Stopped Clock Twice-a-Day Department:" Sarah Kliff's post on "The Obamacare problem that Democrats don’t want to talk about" touches on some common themes we've written about for many years. And she puts a decidedly human face on the problem:
"Pieknik is a 37-year-old PhD student ... She earns $42,000, which is just slightly too much to qualify for tax credits where she lives ... So right now she’s facing a choice: Pay a lot more money, or scale back her level of coverage."
I'll note in passing that, at age 37, the "free" maternity care that makes up a substantial part of that premium is likely not a big selling point for her.

And from the "In Case You Missed it Department," we learn that North Star State governor Mark Dayton agrees with both Ms Kliff and noted right-winger Bill Clinton:

"Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday said that the increase in health insurance costs in Minnesota highlights “some serious blemishes right now and serious deficiencies” in the federal health care law known as Obamacare."
No kidding.

I still don't understand why these people keep telling obvious lies.

Finally, FoIB Allison Bell has at least a partial answer to a question we've been asking for a while now:

"About 94.5 percent of tax filers who owed mandate penalties paid them by December 2015"

She also noted that the IRS was giving some late-payers a break by writing off over a quarter of all late payments.

To be sure:

"The IRS wrote off some of those late payments because the people who owed the payments were dead"

Doesn't necessarily keep them from voting, of course.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Deathwatch: Belgian child edition

CanuckCare & Medical Tourism, Revisited

We've been blogging about the propensity for many of our Neighbors to the North to come south of the border to receive actual health care, such as in this post from over 6 years ago:

"Canadian Premier Danny Williams has chosen to circumvent the obviously superior (and free!) Canadian health care system, by flying to the United States for heart surgery, which is widely and freely available in his home country."

Previously, other powerful Canadians, such as MP Belinda Stronach had also chosen to have care rendered here.

Now FoIB Holly R helpfully alerts us to this factoid:

"An estimated 52,000 Canadians left the country to receive non-emergency health care in 2014"

Reason I bring this up is that recently, one of the two major party Presidential candidates averred that many Canadians come here for care that is supposedly widely and quickly available in their own country. Now, it's true that there have been recent attempts to privatize at least some sectors of the Canadian boondoggle health care system, with mixed results. But the fact remains that such care is unavailable to the majority of Canadians, and the sad truth is that the implosion of our own system impacts them, as well.

Just an observation.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Captain Obvious Speaks

"[I]t’s pretty clear that premiums for health insurance plans sold on the marketplace will increase more in 2017 than they did in 2016."

You don't say.

[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

I am raising money with my team, Love, Hope and Faith, who will walk on Saturday, October 15th in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Dayton,Ohio.

Will you help out by making a donation - any amount helps.

Thank you!!

MVNHS© Infighting: "Vultures" vs Rats

First up, the scavengers:

"Vulture lawyers bleed the NHS for £418m: Their sickening fees in one year are enough to hire 19,000 nurses"

As here, British barristers often append outsized fees to relatively modest awards. In some cases, they've been willing to (dramatically) reduce their "take," but only after being "forced to accept" the lower amount.

Meantime, those who actually provide the care that's under scrutiny are abandoning ship in droves:

"More than four out of 10 doctors are planning to practise medicine overseas and levels of workplace stress have risen across the profession"

Of course they are: under nationalized health care schemes such as the Much Vaunted National Health Service©, doc's are limited as to how much they can earn, and often forced to work longer hours. Why wouldn't they start looking elsewhere?

And of course, if they're going to end up being sued for the care they do provide, where exactly is the incentive to tough it out?

[Hat Tip: FoIB Hilly R]

Again: Where's the money?

Aetna has just announced that it doesn't want to write any more individual health insurance plans in over a dozen states:

"We will not offer commissions for 2017 individual plans in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming"

Notice that this isn't about on- or off-Exchange, it's all-inclusive (or exclusive, one supposes).

They join a non-exclusive club; co-blogger Bob tells us that Cigna won't be paying commissions on 2017 business (plans written beginning of next month for January 1 effective dates) in Illinois, California and North Carolina.

And FoIB Jeff M, reporting from North Carolina, tells us that Blue Cross won't pay commissions on business migrating to them from UHC, Aetna, or Coventry. He sagely observes that "the only way for an agent to make anything at all is to write business on someone who is currently uninsured."

That'll work out well.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Long Term Care: It's only money, right?

John Hancock, one of the largest Long Term Care insurance (LTCi) carriers, recently released its findings on which areas cost the most (and least) for actual care. The report's based on a survey of some 16,000 providers across the US of A to come up with community averages.

Here's a sampling of what they found:

1. Nursing home: Private room

Cheapest: Jefferson City, Missouri ($142 per day)

Most expensive: Juneau, Alaska ($600 per day)

4. Home health aide

Cheapest: Fort Lauderdale, Florida ($15 per hour)

Most expensive: Minneapolis ($31 per hour)

5. Adult day care

Cheapest: Montgomery, Alabama ($22 per day)

Most expensive: New York ($203 per day)
Be sure to click through to see the other key data points, including assisted living and shared room costs.

The lesson? Long term care's expensive, no matter how you slice it. Might be a good idea to shift some of that risk off to an insurance company.

Health Wonk Review is up...

Joe Paduda presents this week's star-studded, jam-packed Health Wonk Review, with a focus on the upcoming election.

Believe me, you don't want to miss it.


Evergreen Health, one of six remaining Obamacare not-for-profit co-ops, announced this week that it is being acquired by a group of private equity investors. This move will make the insurer a FOR-PROFIT entity.

Under Obamacare, co-ops were given the opportunity to receive low interest loans. Evergreen received $65,000,000 to start up. In signing their contract it explicitly stated that all co-ops were prohibited from either being acquired by or converting to for-profit entities. That all changed in May when CMS issued new regulations allowing acquisitions and conversions to for-profit status.

In order for the acquisition to take effect the Maryland Insurance Administration and CMS must approve the deal. Which puts the Obama administration in a tough spot. Even if the loan repayment continues, how does CMS approve a deal where taxpayer funds with ultra low interest were used to start up the venture? On the other hand, if they don't approve the deal 38,000 people will lose their insurance.

One last thing that should be most important to CMS and members: who is the buyer and what was the purchase price? Neither of which were disclosed.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Hurricane Matthew News

Courtesy of the Insurance Information Institute:

[click embiggen pic]

Thursday Morning LinkFest

■ First up, co-blogger Bob tips us to this helpful state-by-state look at O'Care's individual marketplaces. Of note:

"[O]ne-third of all U.S. counties will only have one insurer offering plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges in 2017, leaving an estimated 2.3 million ACA marketplace enrollees in uncompetitive markets"

If you like your plan...

■ FoIB Holly R has a pair of North Star State items:

"Minnesota Hiking Obamacare Premiums At Least 50% To Avoid ‘Collapse’"

Methinks they've misspelled "3000% rate decrease." On the other hand:

"Minnesota health insurance market in 'emergency situation'"

So they've got that going for them.

Which is (Minnesota) nice.

■ Finally, FoIB Jeff M tips us to this article on how "[s]elf-funding employee health care pays off for some small businesses." We've touted these plans for a while (here, for instance): for some smaller groups there are tremendous savings available.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Yahoo, Data Breaches, and You

This seems significant:

"The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers"

Did that include your private info? And if it did, what can you do about it?

Well, if you have LifeLock, you can rest a lot easier at night knowing that they're helping to protect your information, backed up by their $1 Million Total Service Guarantee.

And through an exclusive arrangement, we can offer LifeLock services at a 10% discount (just **click here** for details).

Is Pella in Financial Straits?

Here's why I ask:

A dozen or so years ago, we replaced most of the windows in our home with Pella units, and we've been happy with them. Recently, we finally got around to replacing the last two sets, and again, pretty happy (once we got past the sticker shock. Probably shouldn't have waited so long).

Anyway, the way the process worked is that we went to the local showroom with our rough measurements, picked out the design and color we wanted, and got a preliminary estimate. A few days later, the Pella rep came out to our home to do a more thorough, official measurement, gave us a quote, and took a deposit for about half.

The rest would be due when the windows arrived and were installed a few weeks later.

Installation day came, and the two gentleman who did the actual work could not have been more professional: they removed the old windows and carted away the trash, and when they began to install the new ones asked me about how we would prefer the new trim to look.

When they were done, they handed me a form to sign that the work was complete, took my credit card info for the balance due, and off they went.

A few days later, I was effusive in my praise when we were called to see if we were satisfied with the job.

Nice, good feelings, lots of goodwill.

Which was then squandered last week when a Mr Charles Robinson called from Pella, claiming that we'd underpaid by $40. When I pointed out that I'd had nothing to do with any of the calculations and had merely signed the forms, he demanded that I provide him with a copy of the initial quote and other paperwork.

That's not how this works.

It seems to me that the only time a company would be willing to blow through all that goodwill for $40 (out of a job that included a comma), particularly when they did all the calculations is if that company is itself facing severe financial problems. Perhaps there's another explanation, but I've reached out to corporate - twice - offering them the opportunity to weigh in, and they've yet to respond.


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Noted right-winger disses O'Care

It's a shame when politicians attack President Obama's signature achievement in such a vicious way:

"It doesn't make any sense. The insurance model doesn't work here"

Really, such partisan assaults have no place in civil discourse, and I call upon  this naysayer to offer a suitable apology.

Wait, what?

"Bill Clinton calls ObamaCare 'crazy system' while campaigning in Michigan"


Sunday, October 02, 2016

L'Shannah Tova 5777

This evening marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, starting with "Jewish New Year's" (Rosh HaShannah) and culminating in the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This year, I thought I'd let Dr Amy Farrah Fowler Mayim Bialik and her friends do the honors of explaining some of the symbols and rituals.

May you and yours enjoy a happy, healthy New Year.