Extend Health gets a nice mention in an article by Glenn Ruffenach in today’s Wall Street Journal Smart Money magazine. Mr. Ruffenach provides plenty of sound advice on how to navigate the Medicare maze for those of you who are just becoming eligible. To help explain just how difficult it can be without some professional help, he talked to Michigan retiree Barry Wood. Mr. Wood tried to create a chart on his own to compare his options and says, “It was the most confusing thing I’ve seen in my entire life.”

What Ruffenach doesn’t say is that Mr. Wood then turned to Extend Health for help finding the right plan. In a conversation with Extend Health, he told us that, “You have to realize when you turn 65 that your health benefits are going to change. I think people have to take better care of themselves and what they’re doing, and be prepared for the changes that are going to occur in their lives. You can’t just sit there and let the time come and go ‘oh my gosh’ what am I going to do, I didn’t know this was going to happen.’ I think people have to be proactive and they have to understand what is going to happen in their lives. Working with Extend Health was excellent because without the advice and counsel of the advisor, I would not have made the proper decision about my healthcare.”

Good advice from both the Wall Street Journal and Barry Wood, a retiree who’s been there.

After reviewing public comments, HHS has issued an amendment to the grandfathered plan rules in the PPACA. Companies can now change insurance companies and retain grandfathered status, as long as they keep employee costs and benefits “substantially” the same. Previously, the only change allowed was to third-party administrator, but after review the government concluded that not allowing employers to change insurance companies gave too much power to the carriers to increase rates on their corporate customers. This welcome change gives employers a little more breathing room to find the best value for their employee benefits without losing grandfathered status.

EBN has a pretty good summary of the new ruling.  You can find the actual ruling here; scroll down until you see this section, where you can dowload a .pdf of the ruling.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

RULES

Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Coverage:

Status as a Grandfathered Health Plan Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Just two weeks from this first day of the 2010 Annual Enrollment Period, the first of the Baby Boomers will become eligible to register for Medicare. That date signals the start of a  wave of 77 million Americans who’ll reach 65 in the next 18 years – one every 8 seconds – the largest single generation in our country’s history.  USA Today just published a long piece on what the aging of the Boomers willmean for the country. The article looks to be the start of a longer series called Senior Moment: Boomers Turn 65.  Interesting reading and worth keeping an eye on to see what comes next.

For information on this topic please read our new post, “Health plans “score” with Medicare’s 5-star rating system.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have released updated star ratings for Medicare Advantage plans, just in time for the Annual Enrollment Period. You can see the new ratings on the Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov.

The ratings are significant for at least two reasons: most importantly, they’re an indicator of the quality of  the service provided by each plan and can serve as a guide for individuals as they evaluate their coverage options.

The Star ratings are also important to the plan’s insurance carrier – because these ratings will be used by CMS to determine if the plan qualifies for a quality bonus payment in  2012. These bonus payments,  part of the health care reform bill, provide an incentive for plans to improve their performance.  MA plans that earn the highest rating of 5 stars are eligible to receive the largest bonus, equal to 5 percent, but all MA plans that have a score of three stars and higher will qualify for a bonus payment in 2012. (Plans with a rating lower than 3 stars for the past three years not only won’t qualify for bonuses, they also have a “low performer” icon placed next to their name.)

Wondering how CMS determines the star ratings? Read on… Read the rest of this entry »

Results of a new survey by consulting firm Mercer say no. According to survey reponses, only 6% of employers with more than 500 workers, and just 3% of very large employers with 10,000 or more workers, say they are likely to terminate their health plans and send employees to the state insurance exchanges to seek individual insurance plans.

Click on the link above for more information about how small employers will react, and what all employers expect the cost impact of healthcare reform to be. The full survey will be released later this month.

A very interesting chart just posted on the Kaiser Health News site shows that the percent of large employers offering retiree health benefits is at its lowest point ever in 2010. You can also view a whole lot of other interesting data from this page, if you’re interested in knowing more about the state of retiree health care benefits.

We’ve just fielded our quarterly Medicare confidence survey, the third in the series. We sent out the first one right before the passage of the PPACA, a second in June, and this one, conducted on the eve of the November 2nd midterm elections.  This independent survey of 431 retirees covered by Medicare revealed that 63% of retirees are not confident that Medicare will be there for the rest of their children’s lives. Yet, 60% are “very” or “somewhat” confident Medicare will be available for the rest of their own lives.

This survey was fielded October 20-31, 2010, and showed that retiree confidence levels in Medicare have remained steady throughout the year. Read on for the full results from all three surveys.

Read the rest of this entry »

With new Medicare regulations taking effect in 2011, we’ve identified four changes to Medicare Part C, D and Medigap plans that retirees should know about because they could affect their healthcare coverage. They  are: 

  1. Some Medicare Advantage (Part C) Private Fee for Service (PFFS) plans are ending
  2. Medicare Part D plans are being consolidated
  3. Four Medigap plans will no longer be sold and two new ones will be offered (Parts M and N)
  4. While average premiums for Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans will decline slightly, some plans’ premiums will rise

Information about the changes and what retirees can do in response follow.

Read the rest of this entry »