Monday, March 30, 2020

CV-19 vs P&C: Grace Period Update

A few days ago, we mentioned that (at least) one of our carriers was offering to "adjust the customer’s current bill and to waive any late fees for any premium payments due between March 16 and April 30."

Well that was then, and this is now, and it's no longer just a nice gesture on the carriers' part. Our friends at the Ohio Insurance Agents association just tipped us:
"This bulletin pertains to all insurers (“Insurers”) providing property and casualty, life, and long term care insurance policies (“policies”) in the State of Ohio. The purpose of this bulletin is to notify Insurers that they must provide their insureds with at least a 60-day grace period to pay insurance premiums or submit information."

As with the similar decree about group insurance (and from the Feds on ObamaPlans), it's critical to keep in mind that this is a deferral, not a waiver: at some point the bill will come due. So think long and hard about your financial status now vs early summer.

OSHA vs HIPAA

Got this from our primary P&C carrier:

"Employers must report COVID-19 illness in workplace."

Which makes sense, but (as I pointed out at that post) seems to contradict HIPAA/privacy requirements, as well as guidance we noted the other day:
"Applicable law limits Anthem’s ability to share an individual’s protected health information with an employer absent an authorization or certain extenuating circumstances. As a result, Anthem is limited by law in its ability to disclose individual’s protected health information to an employer."

So how to square that circle?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Business Interruption vs CV-19: Revisited

This is what I love (and hate) about the insurance biz: to paraphrase a former POTUS, it depends on what the meaning of "covered loss" is.

Hunh?

Well, last week we posted what we thought was the definitive answer to the question of whether one's Business Interruption coverage would be triggered by the current Pandemic:

"In the event of my absence, if anyone for commercial lines calls and asks if there is any business income coverage due to their business shutting down during the Coronavirus outbreak, the answer is "No"."

And that, it seemed (at the time, at least) was that.

But maybe not:

"By way of example, some policies require “direct physical loss of or damage to” property. “Loss” and “damage” are not synonymous and may require separate analysis. Such wording could arguably trigger coverage where there is a loss of the premise’s use (even if the property is not physically damaged)."

That is, maybe BI cover does extend, even absent a "direct, physical loss."

The article notes, for example that if "a property has been contaminated by an infected person, or because COVID-19 is in the airspace or on surfaces, this will likely constitute direct physical damage." I would argue that this alone doesn't seem to reach the threshold, but then, I'm not the judge or the claims adjustor.

And, of course, that particular cite pertained to a New Jersey Appellate Court decision, so its relevance in other jurisdictions is up for grabs.

And there's this:

"Depending on the circumstances, the governing law, and the applicable policy’s language, they may very well be wrong. By way of example, some policies require “direct physical loss of or damage to” property. “Loss” and “damage” are not synonymous and may require separate analysis."

Will be interesting to see how this shakes out.


As always, consult with your own agent about how your policy may (or may not) handle this.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

And now for something completely different (and cute!)

Because we could all use a smile 'bout now:

Breaking: CV-19 & ObamaPlans

That is, premium deferment options similar to what we're seeing in the group market:

The key is that the Feds seem to be allowing such flexibility, not requiring it. And, as we've noted with the group extended grace period offer, these premiums are deferred, not waived; that is, the piper will eventually have to be paid.

Be careful...


Full text of notice here.

Updates as appropriate.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

LTCi: When to make a claim

Courtesy of co-blogger Mike:

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, "How do you determine whether or not an older person is ready to make a Long Term Care claim for Assisted Living?"

"Well," he said, "we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the person to empty the bathtub."

"Oh, I understand," I said. "A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup."

"No" he said. "A normal person would pull the plug. Here’s your claim form."


😃

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Retiring Age 65 With Younger Spouse - Medicare COBRA Trap

Planning to retire? You are Medicare age but your spouse is not. What are your options?

Age 65 Younger Spouse

You MAY continue to work if that is available.


You can enroll with Medicare, your spouse opts for an #Obamacare plan.


Or you take Medicare and spouse chooses COBRA.


Just don't pick COBRA for BOTH of you. That triggers the Medicare COBRA trap.





#Medicare #YoungerSpouse #COBRA

From the P&C Files: More CV-19 News

I think we've had more P&C-related posts the past week or so than the past year combined. But it is Insureblog, so...

■ From one of our carriers (and, I'm sure, we'll see others following suit):
"Billing

Policyholders are understandably concerned about their ability to pay premiums as government mandated closures continue to increase. To help, we’re suspending all property casualty cancellations due to nonpayment from March 16 to April 30 – or later if required by an individual state.

While we hope that most policyholders can stick with their current payment arrangements, if you have a standard lines commercial, personal or life policyholder asking about alternative payment arrangements our billing associates are authorized to adjust the customer’s current bill and to waive any late fees for any premium payments due between March 16 and April 30. This is not a waiver of payments during the suspension period, but an extension or grace period for those directly impacted by this pandemic. Please have them contact our billing departments"

■ We've discussed Special Event coverage before:

"World Furniture Mall "promised that if the Bears shut out the Packers in the season opener at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Labor Day weekend shoppers would get their furniture free."

And of course there's so-called 'Hole-in-one' cover and the like, as well.

Typically, these cover unforeseen issues like weather or the like, but what about the current situation? Well, our friends at the Ohio Insurance Agents association offer this heads' up:

"Read the policy language. Every policy is different. Prepare yourself by reading the policy language and specific exclusions on the Special Event Policies that you have issued. In addition, contact your underwriters for clarification on the exclusions to ensure you have a thorough understanding and will be able to communicate it back to your clients."

Always good advice.

What could go wrong?

Let's say that you deliberately skipped Open Enrollment (because, hey, why not?). And let's say that you now regret that decision.

No problem, mi amigo:

"Eleven States Now Letting Uninsured Sign Up for Obamacare"

Never let a crisis go to waste.

#Medicaid4All

[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]

Monday, March 23, 2020

Anthem Update

Just off conference call with Anthem execs, lots of interesting info, and will try to put together a more complete post, but some highlights:

Extraordinary focus on "Virtual Care" - what we've been calling 'telehealth' or 'telemedicine' and which has been mostly under the radar, until now. This is as much about capacity as it is social distancing, and the government is requiring carriers (like Anthem) to offer these services with no cost-sharing.

Relaxed rules on early refills for maintenance meds - this makes sense, again to minimize travel and maximize social distancing.

Group Plan Special Enrollment - This was a surprise to me: employees who initially waived group coverage can actually enroll between now and April 3rd, with full coverage.

There's more, and I'll try to update as quickly as possible. Stay tuned.

And speaking of Group Insurance

Last Friday, we posted a breaking news item pertaining to group health insurance plans and grace periods:

"Employers can defer their premium payments for health insurance for up to 2 months."

Now, we have more details:

"Insurers must permit employers to continue covering employees under group policies even if the employee would become ineligible due to a decrease in hours worked ... Employees who lose coverage are eligible for a special enrollment period to enroll in new [individual] coverage."

More at this link.

One presumes other states will also roll out similar decrees.


Oh!

We also got some interesting info from Anthem, courtesy of FoIB Beth D:

Q: Can Anthem provide my company with information regarding COVID-19 cases within our member population?

A: Applicable law limits Anthem’s ability to share an individual’s protected health information with an employer absent an authorization or certain extenuating circumstances. As a result, Anthem is limited by law in its ability to disclose individual’s protected health information to an employer.


Q: Can an employer receive information on the number of claims — but not specific names — for COVID-19 tests and related services?
 

A: No. Currently, it may be possible to identify someone specifically even if, for example, their name is not shared. We recommend checking in with local health authorities to understand the total number of cases in any given area.


Hadn't even considered the HIPAA/Privacy angles here. Thanks, Anthem (and Beth)!

And one more thing (because I'd been wondering about how this will affect self-insured plans, as well):


Self-insured plans no longer have the option not to waive out-of-pocket member expenses for the diagnostic test and the visit associated with the test, as laid out in the federal mandate.

So there ya go.
 

Underwriting, Selling, and CV-19 [UPDATED]

We've been discussing some of the insurance issues which agents, companies and clients are facing while the Pandemic continues. Obviously, people still need insurance, and of course a lot of policies are negotiated at the proverbial kitchen table. But what happens when the kitchen table meets 'social distancing?'

Well, our friends at Mutual of Omaha have some suggestions:

"We encourage you to also do your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus. You're likely rethinking how you can keep yourself and others safe in a business that's built on relationships with people and, most often, face-to-face interactions ... We strongly encourage you not to conduct in-person client meetings and we should all be prudent to exercise an abundance of caution."

And they go on to list some reasonable alternatives:

o Opt for video meetings or phone calls when possible.
o Avoid in-person meetings if either you or another participant is at risk.

They also suggest contacting folks in advance, and avoid meetings where any of the participants aren't feeling well. And they also suggest - and I think this is particularly helpful - that if one does "proceed with an in-person meeting, please document the client's agreement to meet ... This will be key if there are any questions later regarding meetings or participants."

Or, as our friends at Issue Insurance call it, 'Professional Distancing.'

I like it.


All of these strictures apply, of course, to any insurance sales opportunity, from a simple auto policy renewal to complex Long Term Care insurance reviews.

And remember Sgt Esterhaus' admonition.


 Of course, Professional Distancing just got a lot easier for us folks in the Buckeye State.

UPDATE: We've also just learned that we're actually considered an Essential Service:

In this order, the business of insurance falls under EssentialBusinesses and Operations. This means that you can continue to operate but mustdo so under the Director of Health’s operating requirements.

How nice for us.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Breaking (Group Health Insurance) News: Buckeye State edition

Co-blogger Patrick just sent me this:



This is relevant to our post the other day wondering about the short term future of group health plans, and is welcome news indeed.

More from P&C World: CV-19 update

While we've been focused primarily on the health insurance aspect of the pandemic, we've also blogged petty extensively about Business Interruption coverage in commercial lines packages, and even noted how the P&C side of the biz is likely sheltered from catastrophic losses.

But something I hadn't seen addressed, at least until now, is the Worker's Comp issue:



That is, as more workers succumb to the Chinese Coronavirus while on the job. I can see this; for example:

Had to meet a relative at the ER yesterday, and while she was squadded in, I had to walk to the ER from the parking lot. I was immediately stopped by a very polite yong nurse tech(?) who took and reported my temp and asked a few health questions. Her PPE consisted of a blanket (it was a bit chilly, and the door was propped open) and a pair of latex gloves. And yet, here I waltz in, breathing (and maybe coughing?) and I'm thinking that that blanket and those gloves are no match for CV-19.

#Food4Thought

Good news, bad news: CV-19 style

The good news is that, through government action and insurance company efforts, (initial) CV-19 testing is "free" (scare quotes because, well, we all know why).

The bad news, as FoIB Sheron Sidbury notes, is less obvious:


And it gets worse: pretty much all individual plans, and not a few group ones, are built on an HMO-chassis, which means that if the only (or closest) treatment facility is out-of-network, you're outta luck.

Ouch.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Disability Insurance and CV-19

As we continue to monitor carriers' response to the pandemic, here's some helpful info from our friends at Companion Life (full discourage: CompLife is our go-to carrier for ancillary non-medical group coverage, including short- and long-term disability plans):

"If you have, or have been exposed to, COVID-19 and have been diagnosed by a certified medical professional, you can file a short-term disability claim."

Subject to waiting periods and the like.

Now, we've also been following the Business Interruption coverage issue:

"In the event of my absence, if anyone for commercial lines calls and asks if there is any business income coverage due to their business shutting down during the Coronavirus outbreak, the answer is "No"."

Okay, but what about disability coverage?

Well:

"We understand that some of our groups maybe faced with temporarily closing their doors dure to COVID-19. As an employer, if you choose to deem your employees still "actively employed" and "benefits-eligible" during that temporary closure, Companion Life will recognize those statuses."

This is similar to the Medical Mutual of Ohio stance on group plans.

It's important to note, of course,  that as with the BI issue, absent an actual "physical loss" these folks aren't 'disabled,' so aren't eligible for benefits.

On the other hand, and in keeping with current sentiments currently coming out of DC, the company is "extending the grace period for remitting premium payments."

Kudos.

Speaking of #SurpriseBilling

Out-of-network balance billing has long been a bugaboo of ours; it's part of the whole "transparency in health care" issue we've long since supported. Here, for example:

"Briefly, the issue is that there is essentially a class of providers who, although they may ply their trade inside a network-approved facility, are nonetheless not contracted with a given (or any) network."

This has became a burgeoning problem, especially since so many ObamaPlans are now on an HMO chassis (that is, very skinny networks coupled with virtually no out-of-network coverage).

But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Our friend tsrblke has been pushing this for at least the past year, and graciously sent us this link: :

"MemorialCare instituted a policy for physicians’ groups that provide doctors to treat patients in its hospitals: make sure those doctors are in the same insurance networks as the hospitals."

#GreatStart

[Hat Tip: FoIB tsrblke]

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Anthem & CV-19

As noted yesterday, Medical Mutual of Oho seems to be the first (and thus far only) carrier to address the question of group plans and continued eligibility:

"If one person remains employed by the company and covered by the plan, e.g. the owner or a management employee, the company can continue to cover laid-off employees as long as premium is paid."

We did receive an email from UHC announcing a conference cll on the current situation, but thus far have received no written guidelines.

And Anthem just sent this:

"As our communities work through these challenging and uncertain times, our commitment to our customers and the health and safety of our communities remains our focus."

They went on to identify all the processes they've put in place regarding social distancing and the like, but nary a word on what employees (and employees) mare supposed to be doing if their company is (temporarily) shuttered.

It seems to me that these carriers have had sufficient time to craft and disseminate a policy on this, and I'm keenly disappointed that only one has seen fit to do so.

Again, we'll keep updating as appropriate.

Skype calls vs Housecalls

As more folks (and providers) turn to telemedicine as an alternative health care delivery option, especially now due to CV-19, the issue of patient privacy comes up:

I reached out to co-blogger Kelley for conformation and she responded:

"The tweet is correct, here is the information."

She also graciously attached an email from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), which says (in part):

"Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance on Secretary Azar’s waiver authority that broadens access to Medicare telehealth services ... CMS will:

• Waive geographic restrictions, meaning patients can receive telehealth services in non-rural areas;

• Waive originating site restrictions, meaning patients can receive telehealth services in their home;

• Allow use of telephones that have audio and video capabilities
"

And more. Click here for the full report.

And wash your hands:

Now what? CV-19 vs Group Health Insurance

Co-blogger Patrick has, perhaps, the quintessential COVID-19 tweet, at least as it applies to group health insurance:


That is, if companies are (temporarily?) shuttered, what happens to their group plans?

And, of course, there's the question of folks with individual policies, as well, but that's a bigger can of worms.

As it is, there are a number of issues here, and answers will also depend on whether a given plan is fully or self-insured.

One of my small groups provides vending and games machines to bars, so our Governor's order closing all of those has left his company shuttered. He called to ask if he laid off all his employees (including himself), could he keep the group plan in place, and even pay the premiums for his employees?

For now, the only carrier that has given me specific, actionable guidance has been Medical Mutual of Ohio, but I'm certain that other carriers will offer the same options. For example:

"Q. My plan is fully insured. If I have to lay off my entire workforce in response to the COVID-19 crisis, can the company continue to cover those employees?

A. If one person remains employed by the company and covered by the plan, e.g. the owner or a management employee, the company can continue to cover laid-off employees as long as premium is paid. Please note that you must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis. In other words, you may not choose only certain people for whom you continue to pay premium
."

Typically, carriers require a minimum group size (usually at least one or two, sometimes three, employees); this seems to indicate that this requirement may be waived for the nonce. That would certainly make sense.

He also asked me what his options were if he just canceled the group for now, and we discussed some of those (generally about Short Term Medical plans, for now).

I'm going to update this post as more carriers weigh in.


[Special Thanks to FoIB Beth D]

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Safety Uber Alles

Depending on the carrier, one's age and the face amount at (potential) risk, many life insurance applicants must undergo a paramedical exam (or more). This usually entails a service obtaining blood and urine specimens, taking a blood pressure reading, and the like. Given the current CV-19 situation, I wasn't surprised to receive this notice form our primary carrier:

"With the coronavirus, ExamOne has been taking precautions when performing exams for your clients.  Below is a link to their site for updates on how they are responding and implementing safeguards.  Due to the declared state of emergency requiring all non-essential businesses to close, examiners are no longer performing exams in Pennsylvania (entire state) and the San Francisco Bay area (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and the surrounding counties). This is effective immediately."

And of course, that moratorium may soon extend to other states, as well.

This means that at least a few folks will gave to wait on their new policies to be underwritten.

Now, there's an interesting twist here: when one initially makes application, if one also includes a check for the first premium with that app, one is issued a "conditional binding receipt." This obligates the company during the underwriting phase, but only so far: "It provides that the applicant is covered immediately from the date of application as long as he or she passes the insurer's underwriting requirements." [emphasis in original]

One can imagine the role this little tidbit may end up playing here...

[Hat Tip: FoIB Major B]

Medicare 101 - Math Is Hard

In 2013 Mayor Rahmbo Emanuel instituted a cost cutting measure that saved Chicago "tens of millions of dollars". And retired city workers paid the price.
How to qualify for Medicare when you did not pay Medicare taxes

Among the perks promised to older city workers — affordable health insurance in retirement.

But in 2013, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he was ending the benefit to save cash.

Retirees who started working before 1986 were hit the hardest.

They never contributed to Medicare during their employment — the city’s choice, not theirs.

As a result, many now don’t qualify for government health insurance, even at age 65.

For a single retiree, the annual cost is now more than $33,000, whereas before it cost a few thousand dollars. - WGNTV News

More than $33,000 per year . . .

Missing the Mark

One is not required to pay into the Social Security system via payroll (FICA + MEDICARE) taxes to be ELIGIBLE for Medicare.

If you or your spouse are US citizens with 5 years residency you may BUY IN to Medicare.

Buy In To Medicare


Medicare Part A premium $458 (2020) - Current premium for those who do not have 40 quarters of Medicare wages.

Medicare Part B premium $145 (2020)

$458 + $145 = $503 x 12 = $6,036

$33,000 - $6,036 = $26,964

Math is hard . . .

Never let a serious crisis go to waste.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Hunh: CV-19 testing - Covered?

So-called "excepted benefit" plans, which include Short Term and Travel Medical policies, have gotten short-shrift in the CV-19 discussion, but that may be changing (for the good). These policies, which are not ACA-compliant (NTTAWWT), may also include Coronavirus testing.

Here's why:

These plans, while exempt from federal oversight, are still generally subject to rules and reg's put forth by the individual states in which they're sold:

"In Washington state, for example, Mike Kreidler, the insurance commissioner, is requiring all health insurers in the state to cover testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes Covid-19 pneumonia, without imposing preauthorization requirements, co-payment requirements or deductibles, at least until May ."

In other words: "free."

GeoBlue, for instance, which offers ravel medical plans, "has announced that it will cover medically necessary, prescribed SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing at no cost to  the enrollee."

As has National General on their Short Term Medical plans.

And other carriers are also stepping up.

Kudos!

Now we just have to wait for the tests to be (more?) widely available.

Also: Wash your hands!

From the P&C Files: CV-19 Exclusions

The other day, we learned that Business Interruption coverage is unlikely to extend to business that (temporarily) close their doors while the pandemic plays out. Turns out, there's likely a few more lines of coverage that will likely exclude CV-1-related claims.

Our good friend (and P&C guru) Bill M tips us to this item:

"U.S. P&C insurers face 'limited exposures' from coronavirus"

"While the virus will undoubtedly impact the health and life insurance markets, the U.S. property & casualty (P&C) sector may emerge relatively unscathed once the pandemic subsides."

Okay, I'll bite: why is that?

Well, it comes back to something we've seen before:

"Bill taught me a new phrase, and suggested I use it whenever I'm looking at these kinds of (potential) claims: "cause of loss." That is, which circumstances are specifically covered, and which are specifically excluded."

And here's where that phrase comes into play, CV-19-wise:

"However, if a factory closes because of fears that an infected worker contaminated equipment, BI coverage could be triggered. “But even in this case,” Fitch says, “claim exposures would likely be limited by policy sub-limits.”

This is different from the situation we discussed this past Friday: in this case, there seems to be an actual physical cause; but again, even that claim will probably be limited in scope.

This would also apply, for example, to supply chain disruptions and even travel interruption plans.

We  discussed this a couple of weeks ago:

"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."

One can imagine there's been a substantial uptick in interest in those kinds of plans, but as the article notes, "the adverse impact insurers will likely face will be from a decrease in demand" as folks decide to maybe trade in a staycation for that cruise (at least for the nonce). And it doesn't have to be international travel, either:

A colleague told me the other day about a friend of his who had tickets for the A-10 (?) basketball tourney in New York. He cabbed from the airport to his hotel, checked in, and learned that the event ha been canceled. Okay, disappointing, but we'll just take in a show, right?

Ummm:

"Broadway Shuts Down: Performances Canceled Through April 12 Due to COVID-19 Pandemic"

/sigh

Now, one area where carriers may see specific exposure is event cancellation (see above). When basketball and now even golf tournaments are canceled (or postponed), there may well be valid claims, depending on what type of coverage the organizers bought (if any). For example, "if the Olympics were to be canceled, Moody’s asserts that “losses could become material for some insurers,” with industry experts estimating insurance coverage for the games to be around $2 billion."

That's a lot of gold.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Business: Interrupted (COVID-19 edition) [Updated]

[Scroll to bottom for update]

We've blogged on the subject of Business Interruption coverage before, most recently here:

"[W]hen a business must temporarily close its doors due to damage to or destruction of business property, Business Interruption insurance coverage pays for business income lost while the property is rebuilt. This coverage is intended to help keep the company in business while recovery is underway."

In that case, it was a burned up food truck, but we've also addressed weather and even civil unrest-related cases. But what about health-related ones, specifically as they may arise from businesses deciding to (temporarily?) close their doors "out of an abundance of caution?"

Well, got this from one of my P&C gurus:

"In the event of my absence, if anyone for commercial lines calls and asks if there is any business income coverage due to their business shutting down during the Coronavirus outbreak, the answer is "No"."

And why is this?

"No direct physical loss."

Which makes sense, since the physical premises haven't actually been affected.

But what if the government mandates that your business close up (at least temporarily)?

Still outta luck.

Why?

Same reason.

The key is that the coverage is tied to the physical premises, not the business itself.

Caveat: This is true at least in Ohio; as always, consult with your own agent about your specific coverage.

UPDATE: I asked my two gurus "if BI coverage doesn’t extend because no physical loss, is there some kind of policy/coverage an owner can but that would?"

Both told me no.

I did point out to a Twitter follower that perhaps such coverage might be available through a Lloyd's syndicate, but that it would likely be prohibitively expensive (especially now, in the middle of the pandemic).

[Hat Tip: FoIB Teresa S and Bill M]

Thursday, March 12, 2020

COVID-19 vs Nonna & Nanno

HSA vs COVID-19

This is big:

Here's why:

HSA-compliant health insurance plans must include certain features (and are proscribed from including others). In general, so-called first-dollar benefits are strictly prohibited. Waiving co-pays and deductibles for CV-19 testing would seem to fall into this category, so the IRS has pro-actively gone on record waiving the potential fines:


Sweet.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Promises Broken: TomTom edition

On the one hand, we had a pretty good experience with the TomTom folks a few years back:

"Over the next few days, I called tech support a number of times, and they could not have been more helpful, professional or courteous."

But that was then, and this is now; via email from "Dave @ TomTom" (likely not his real name):

"Hi there,

We have been trying to contact you [ED: NO, THEY HAVEN'T] about the end of product support for your TomTom XL IQR.

The last compatible map update for your TomTom XL IQR was released around 09/01/2018, which means your current map might be 26 months old, missing 9 map updates. Therefore, me and my colleagues here highly recommend to no longer use your beloved TomTom XL IQRand consider replacing your device
."

[ed: 'me and my colleagues.' Ever heard of Grammarly®, Dave?]

I replied:

"So the contractual obligation that comes with Lifetime Map Updates (see attached) is meaningless?"

 

Why the heck would I ever consider buying another product from you?

Wow
."

Naturally, that email bounced:

"Thank you for contacting TomTom Customer Care. Unfortunately we are unable to respond to any messages sent to this email address."

Because of course it did.

So, I've taken this public, in the hopes of helping others avoid my fate by purchasing a product with explicit features and promises that the company can arbitrarily decide to cease providing.

#CaveatEmptor

#CheatinTomTom

Truth in Advertising

Got a LinkedIn invite recently from a gentleman (whose identity I've redacted) asking to be added to my network:

"Hi Henry,

I’m looking to grow my community with leaders that are interested in giving their members a better healthcare experience. If you think your members deserve more while paying less, then we should connect and chat. (Don’t worry, I’m not selling health insurance!)

Thanks,
[Redacted]
"

It's that last bit that caught my eye:

"Don’t worry, I’m not selling health insurance!"

Why?

Well, because he's a regional poobah for Sedera Health.

And what is Sedera health, you ask?

Well, it's a "cost sharing community" ('community' now being the more politically correct version of 'ministry,' one supposes) to which one may subscribe. As we've noted in the past, these sharing ministries/communities/whatever are ACA-compliant, and generally much less expensive than ObamaPlans (particularly for folks who don't qualify for a subsidy or cost-sharing).

What they are not, however, and as my would-be associate notes, is insurance. That's because "Members agree to share one-another’s medical expenses through an act of voluntary giving." That's very different from a government-regulated (and enforced) insurance contract.

Which is not to absolve the carriers of their various and sundry shenanigans, oft-reported here at IB. But in those cases, there are avenues of redress: arbitration, litigation, and even criminal prosecution.

Not so with these plans.

Does that make them evil (or carcinogenic, or fattening)?

Of course not!

But certainly food for thought if one is considering signing up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

About your LTCi plan and the Stock Market

As the stock market continues its roller coaster ride, this seems like a good time to remind folks about the folly of self-insuring Long Term Care expenses:




That is, regardless of how the market does (or doesn't do), once you're on-claim, you're on-claim for the duration of your policy's benefit period.
 
On the other hand, if you've chosen to self-insure, that certainty becomes a lot less ... certain.

Just sayin'.

Laundry time (Again)

So, another two years has rolled by, and it's time to re-certify for Anti-Money Laundering. This entails a brief, but silly, online course about the perils and pitfalls, Red Flags and Due Diligence as a result of the USA Patriot Act and our government's concern about money laundering and identity theft.

Or, as a good friend puts it, a very helpful "How To" guide on the subject.

Last time out, I remarked on the apparent xenophobia suffered by the good folks who wrote the course.

This time, it's a different (but oh so timely!) political cynicism:"

"Enhanced Due Diligence

A client’s location, affiliation, or type of business may raise red flags that indicate a need for increased scrutiny. For example, regulators have identified senior political figures as individuals that require greater due diligence. This enhanced due diligence will be conducted by the carrier
."

Heh.

[Emphasis added]

Monday, March 09, 2020

CMMS vs COVID-19

Via email from CMMS:
"[This past Friday], the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) took additional actions to ensure America’s patients, healthcare facilities and clinical laboratories are prepared to respond to the 2019-Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

CMS has developed a second Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code that can be used by laboratories to bill for certain COVID-19 diagnostic tests to help increase testing and track new cases. In addition, CMS released new fact sheets that explain Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Individual and Small Group Market Private Insurance coverage for services to help patients prepare as well."

This seems especially crucial given the increased risk favors faced by those on Medicare (seasoned citizens).

The agency also released 3 helpful publications:

Medicare Fact Sheet Highlights

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Fact Sheet Highlights

Individual and Small Group Market Insurance Coverage

#Kudos!

[The entire press release is also available here]

Friday, March 06, 2020

Chilling, but #TruthWillOut

We generally don't do partisan politics here at IB, but this particular example of (inadvertent?) truth-telling is important:

"[W]e’ll make sure it’s not quality, but only affordable

And that, in a nutshell, is the whole premise of a "Public Option" (or any "universal care" scheme, really).

But what, exactly, is the problem with a Public Option?

"The "Public Option" is a euphemism for Single Payer, the obvious end-game for the ObamaTax from the get-go. And how do we know this?"The [Obama] administration still intends to control medical costs by ... a single payer mechanism"

And there you have it: full circle.

#Medicaid4All

[Hat Tip: Mr Jones]

One step forward?

On the one hand:

"As the Board of Directors for America’s Health Insurance Plans, we are fully committed to help America’s powerful health care system meet the challenges posed by the Coronavirus strain COVID-19 ... We are taking decisive action to help prevent the spread of this disease, to ensure that people have coverage for and access to needed testing, and to help patients who are infected receive the care and treatment they need."

They go on to say that this includes coverage for diagnostic testing, as well as easing up on network issues (ie no "surprise billing"), and sharing information among different health care stakeholders (such as hospitals and physicians). It's pretty comprehensive.

But (and you knew there'd be a 'but' here, right?):

First, this is a promise from a trade group, not a specific contract waiver from any given carrier. In fact, I received an email the other day from Anthem saying that their "clinical team is actively monitoring external queries and reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help us determine what, if any, action is necessary on our part."

And, of course, given AHIP's history, skepticism is absolutely warranted here.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Life or Death: A Healthy Bet?

If nothing else, one has to admire the creativity of this idea:

"Life Settlement Players Root for Health Account Bill"

So let's unpack this, shall we?

First: what, pray tell, are "Life Settlement Players?"

Long time readers know that this refers to the viatical market:

"Since life insurance is property, it can generally be sold. In this case, the client saved the annual premium and picked up an easy $5,000."

That is, one can sell one's life insurance policy to another person for a quick buck or three (depending on one's health and life expectancy). This is generally perfectly legal (there are, of course, other considerations, biut that's another post). And, thanks to a little known piece of HIPAA, there are some great tax advantages, as well:

"A viatical settlement made to an individual considered terminally ill (under HIPAA, one who has a life expectancy of 24 months or less) is entirely tax free."

We'll circle back to that "terminally ill" qualifier in a moment.

Okay, Henry, but what's that got to do with the price of tea in China, or some pending health insurance-related legislation?

Well, let's see what H.R. 5958's all about, shall we?

A clue may be found in the name: "Senior Health Planning Account Act."

Basically, it "could help people use the proceeds from the sale of life insurance policies to pay health care expenses."

So what's the big deal?

Well, let's circle back to HIPAA, viaticals, and taxes:

Remember, one can only receive viatication funds tax-free if one is either terminally ill or using the the proceeds to fund one's (uninsured) long term are needs. But if you're not in one of those categories, there are some taxes to be paid. What this bill does is to obliterate that distinction for tax purposes:

"Under the provisions of H.R. 5958, a consumer who sold an in-force policy and put the money in a senior health planning account could spend the money on “qualified health care expenses” without paying federal income taxes on the proceeds from the life insurance policy sale."

Sweet!

Of course, we then have to define "qualified health care expenses," but that should be relatively easy under existing regs (specifically, Section 213d, also used for HSAs/HRAs/FSAs).

So one can see why this would be an attractive marketing tool for folks in the viatical settlement industry: it basically opens up a (potentially vast) new market.

Of course, still has to pass...


[Hat Tip: FoIB Allison Bell]