Medicare Announces 2017 Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles

Posted: 11 Nov 2016 06:52 AM PST

This year’s Social Security cost-of-living adjustment will increase Medicare costs for beneficiaries.

Part B

About 70% of Medicare beneficiaries will pay $109 for their 2017 Part B monthly premiums, a 3.9% increase compared to the past four years.

The remaining 30% not “held harmless” will have a monthly premium of $134 in 2017, up 10% from 2016.

As in years past, the Department of Health and Human Services mitigated extreme increases for those not “held harmless,” those people who do not receive Social Security benefits, those who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2017, those who are directly billed for their Part B premium, those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and have their premium paid by state Medicaid agencies, and those who pay an income-related premium.

The Part B deductible also increased 13% to $183 in 2017.

Part A

The 2017 Part A deductible of $1,316 is a $28 increase from last year.

According to CMS, beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $329 per day for the 61st through 90th day of hospitalization ($322 in 2016) in a benefit period and $658 per day for lifetime reserve days ($644 in in 2016). For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $164.50 in 2017 ($161 in 2016).

Those that haven’t acquired premium-free Part A from 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment will pay $227 monthly for Part A coverage, a $1 increase from 2016.

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“Tomb” it may concern…

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Protected: Generic SOA (Approved by CMS in 2016)

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Celebrate National Dental Hygiene Month with BEST Life and Health Group Dental

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Posted in Insurance

A Rant about the Pronunciation of a Single Term in Govt-Sponsored Healthcare

Americans have a reputation in some parts of the world for being lazy with their speech habits, although we like to consider ourselves coolly efficient and unwilling to put up with hoity-toity speech.  This cool efficiency means that we feel fine when we use the same pronunciation for different ideas; for example, the pronunciations of the words vane, vein, and vain. I do not feel too bad about those similar pronunciations since, at least, the American rules of spelling and pronunciation support their sounding the same. But there are two words that should not sound the same since they are spelled so differently:

Credible and Creditable

The spelling of the second word, creditable, the term that is important to government-sponsored healthcare regulation like Medicare, should not be pronounced as kre-duh-buhl, as if it were credible. Creditable‘s spelling indicates that it should have 4 syllables during pronunciation, not 3. I offer you this easy-to-say alternative pronunciation:  kruh-DIT-uh-buhl, the stress being on the second syllable. Saying it this way, your tongue does not trip; your lips do not suffer irreparable damage. Plus, such pronunciation involves an acceptable amount of cool American efficiency, an amount that we can be proud of.  You can tell that just the cool amount of efficiency is there from all the “uh’s” in the pronunciation. Best of all, such a pronunciation easily distinguishes it from credible.

Promote this pronunciation among your friends! I will be grateful that you did.

What do you think? Could we build a social movement around improving the pronunciation of a single word? (Everyone else in the country is building a social movement around a bunch of other trivial ideas, so why not us!)

By the way, this trivial opinion is just mine, not Stone Hill's.—Doug
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Best Life and Health New Broker Cash Program and Mid-Month Effective Dates

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Make sure your social media outreach complies with Medicare’s Marketing Guidelines

September 10, 2015 | by Justin Bever

[small revisions done on the original article]

Since I last wrote about making sure your custom Medicare marketing website is compliant, CMS and individual carriers have drastically increased their oversight for agents’ websites and use of social media. Many carriers now require agents to submit all of their website content for approval and ask questions about how we as agents are using social media to communicate with our clients.

CMS launched an official Facebook page for Medicare recently, which might be what spurred several carriers to send mandatory surveys to agents (You can view it by clicking here). Agents are required to complete these surveys, which go over what kind of communications we use to generate new business, if at all. They cover use of social media as well as online Lead generation services.

This scope of the Medicare Marketing Guidelines extends to all electronic communications, including websites, email and social media. As agents we need to be diligent about how we use social media and other online media to generate new opportunities. After all, we always need to be in compliance with the Medicare Marketing Guidelines if we want to continue selling.

Here are three easy tips to follow for using social media compliantly.

Do not engage in unsolicited contact. The Medicare Marketing Guidelines prevent agents from making unsolicited contact to a Medicare beneficiary for the purposes of enrolling them into a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan. This extends to social media and should be considered prior to reaching out to beneficiaries on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other social media website. Unless you were contacted first, do not send private messages or leave comments for beneficiaries advertising your service — CMS can consider these actions to be unsolicited contact. Don’t let a Facebook private message be your downfall!

Don’t make false statements or claims. While this tip seems pretty common sense, social media is often full of exaggeration and partisan information. Your opinions are important, but remember as a senior insurance advisor, anything you post could be reviewed by CMS for compliance if it ultimately led you to a sale.

Make sure your profiles are set to private. Social media is the ultimate public forum. Agents may sometimes get requests from beneficiaries through a public forum like Twitter or a from Facebook comment asking for help. Always direct beneficiaries to a private form of communication prior to discussing their unique situation, even if they have already shared part of their story on the public page.

Here’s the reason why: As covered entities under HIPPA, agents are required to make every effort to protect a member or prospective member’s Personal or Protected Health Information.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these three rules can help you remain compliant when using social media or other digital media to communicate with your clients or prospects.

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How To: Online Enrollments for Regence BCBS (aka Cambria)

Subject: 2017 Online MA/PDP Enrollment Links

Dear Valued Medicare Producer,

For the Regence Medicare Advantage online enrollments, agents will have a separate Personal URL link (PURL) to use for the 2017 plans.  This gives agents the control to send their client an enrollment link specific to their personal needs based on when they want coverage to begin.  This also eliminates the need for clients to indicate a requested effective date prior to seeing the plan information.

**You simply need to change ONE number in your existing 2016 PURL to quote 2017 rates and benefit**

 See below.

If you have a client who is new to Medicare or qualifies for an SEP and is looking for coverage to begin November or December 1st, you will continue to send them your 2016 PURL. Beginning on October 1st, you will start using your new 2017 PURL to send to clients who are shopping for coverage to begin on or afterJanuary 1, 2017.  Please note that you will no longer use your 2016 PURL after November 30th.

The new 2017 enrollment links will have the same look and work the same as the 2016 enrollment links, but will have the 2017 plan information and rates.

NOTE:

  • The 2017 Agent Portal and 2017 PURL links will not work until Oct 1, 2016.
  • When quoting 2017 benefits, the “Apply” button will not be activated until Oct 15, 2016.

Below are instructions on how to access your 2017 link, based on your situation:

I ALREADY HAVE A 2016 PURL

Your PURL will be very similar, the only change being the year2016 will be replaced with 2017.  You can either:

  1. Manually change the year in your PURL by replacing 2016 with 2017.  Examples:

OR

  1. Log into the 2017 Agent Portal at https://regence.isf.io/2017/agent (and/or https://asuris.isf.io/2017/agent) and click “View Enrollments”.
  • NOTE: The username (email address) and password are the same login credentials used to log into the 2016 Agent Portal. If you cannot remember your password, go to https://arm.ascendproject.com and click “Forgot Your Password?”. You will enter your email address and Ascend will send you instructions on how to reset your password.

I DO NOT HAVE A 2016 PURL

 There is a 2 step process to set-up your online enrollment link

  1. STEP ONE – CREATE ASCEND AGENT PORTAL LOGIN CREDENTIALS
  • Go to arm.ascendproject.com
  • Enter your email address as your username (the one your received this notice at)
  • Enter Regence1 as the temporary password
  • You will be prompted to create a new password. It must be a minimum of 8 characters, with at least one capital letter, one lower case letter, and one number.
  • Log out
  1. STEP TWO – LOG INTO AGENT PORTAL USING ASCEND LOGIN CREDENTIALS
  • Go to:

o   Regence Agent Portal: https://regence.isf.io/2017/agent.

o   Asuris Agent Portal: https://asuris.isf.io/2017/agent (username and password is the same for both Regence/Asuris)

  • Enter your username and password created in the prior step
  • Click on the “View Enrollments” link on the top right-hand part of the screen (in the black header) – you will be presented with aRegence/Asuris link (Personal Enrollment URL) that you can copy to email or use with a client online, or as an application link on your website.

 Here are a few important tips about your online enrollment links:

  • Please copy the link and store it in an easily accessible place or bookmark it. This link ensures the app will be tied to you for commissioning purposes.
  • If you lose or misplace the link, you can log back into the Ascend Agent Portal anytime to get the quoting/app link.
  • If you do not see the “View Enrollment”, please log off and log back in
  • IMPORTANT: Please do NOT begin an app in the Agent Portal. Be sure to log out of the Agent Portal and then use your Personal URL to quote and enter online application information.

COMING SOON – Regence/Asuris online Medigap applications will be moved to the same platform soon!  With the switch, agents will have one URL link to send to clients instead of two, and clients will be able to shop and compare all Regence Medicare plans in their area using the same link!  We will send additional information about this change when we get closer to the launch date.

 If you have any questions, please contact your Medicare Sales Executive or call Medicare Producer Support at 1-800-557-0555.

–          Your Medicare Sales Team

Ensure a sustainable future – only print when necessary.

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Individual Exchange Health Plans to Go Up Average of 30 Percent

Christian Delbert, Shutterstock

SALT LAKE CITY — Rates for health insurance plans on the individual marketplace are likely to rise by an average of 30 percent next year, the Utah Department of Insurance said Thursday.

The second-lowest silver plan — the benchmark plan used to calculate tax subsidies for enrollees on the marketplace — is a SelectHealth plan with premiums of a little over $200 a month, according to insurance department officials.

Nov. 1 marks the beginning of the fourth open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, which has struggled to win over skeptics as states face another year of rising premiums and insurers pulling out of the individual marketplace.

Jaakob Sundberg, a health actuary with the Utah Department of Insurance, acknowledged the increases are substantial but said it was the first year he has seen rates appropriately priced.

“Yes, the individual rate increase is significant,” Sundberg told lawmakers on the health reform task force at the state Capitol. “But when you consider the rate level relative to the benefits, it was definitely underpriced prior to this.”

He said the individual marketplace should see more stability in future years, despite some lawmakers expressing skepticism.

Health reform advocates reminded people to shop around if they want to avoid price hikes.

Jason Stevenson of the Utah Health Policy Project pointed out that 87 percent of Utahns on the marketplace get subsidies that lower the cost of their monthly premium by an average of 69 percent.

Those who shop around can expect their premiums go up slightly by about 8 to 10 percent, he estimated.

“Most people are not going to see a 30 percent increase,” Stevenson said.

Utahns who do not qualify for subsidies are likely to bear more of the brunt from the rate increases.

Small group plans will also see rate hikes of about 10 percent on average, according to insurance officials.

Stevenson said he believes rate hikes will continue for the next few years and said the success of the president’s health care law depends on factors like Medicaid expansion and competition.

The Utah Legislature has debated Medicaid expansion for years.

A small-scale Medicaid extension proposal passed last year is still under review by the federal government.

State Medicaid officials said on Thursday that the proposal — which is aimed at helping the poorest of the poor — will likely miss its hoped-for January deadline.

Nate Checketts, who oversees the state’s Medicaid and CHIP programs, said Utah officials were “hoping to get a sign” from federal officials by September that they were likely to approve Utah’s proposal. That “sign” hasn’t come.

“I think Jan. 1 would be a really hard thing to hit right now,” he said.

Lawmakers also heard updates on the cost of full Medicaid expansion based on a new report from the Legislature’s fiscal analysts.

Previous estimates put the cost of expanding Medicaid through the governor’s Healthy Utah plan at $78 million in return for hundreds of millions in federal funds.

The new analysis predicts that higher-than-expected enrollment and premium costs may push that figure closer to $92 million.

Utah would save $10 million in payments to the federal government if it expanded Medicaid and would receive roughly $100 million in return, according to the report.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said the new analysis was “very helpful,” although he later clarified that he “is not saying (Medicaid expansion) will be brought up this session.”

But he pointed out that the state is already receiving more funds from the federal government — mostly due to individuals on the exchange receiving premium subsidies and cost-sharing benefits — than the state is sending back in taxes, fees and penalties.

“For people to say we need to expand to get our dollars back — we already have our dollars back,” Dunnigan said. “There might be other reasons to expand, but we’re not leaving other money to the feds.”

The analysis, which relied on rough estimates of how many Utahns would enroll in health insurance if the state were to fully expand Medicaid, will be updated further.

Utahns shopping for health insurance on the individual exchange next year can also expect to see fewer options, with the total number of plans dropping from 120 to 52 next year.

The marketplace in Utah lost one insurer after Humana pulled out earlier this year.

However, two other carriers are expanding their territory. Molina is expanding into Box Elder County, and University of Utah Health Plans will offer plans in Cache, Duchesne, Grand, Iron, Rich, Uinta and Washington counties, according to the insurance department.

Email: dchen@deseretnews.com Twitter: DaphneChen_

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