Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yoga For Healthier Aging

By Coleen Elkins

As we age we lose our flexibility and our balance. Yoga may be a solution for some of us to maintain flexibility and stability. Always talk to your doctor before beginning something new.

Yoga is adaptable for the very young and the aging population and for those with specific needs and abilities. Just because you are nearing retirement or are retired doesn't mean you need to become sedentary. Yoga classes are now available in senior centers, community centers and even store fronts.

Yoga has helped people with arthritis with muscle tone and flexibility. There are many types of Yoga to consider including water Yoga and chair Yoga. There are many ways to learn besides attending class. There are books on Yoga, videos on Yoga, and internet classes.

Yoga can help improve your mood, balance, strength and possibly even sleep better. It may take a while for you to feel comfortable learning Yoga so after speaking to your doctor and deciding to give it a try remember to go slowly but be consistent in practicing.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back To The Future - Doctors Home Visits On The Rise

                                                                 By Coleen Elkins

In the 1960's doctors making house calls was not all that uncommon. It appears those visits are on the rise and could save millions of dollars in ER visits. Sometimes for seniors just getting to a doctors office is more than they can endure. Now with portable technology doctors, physicians assistance, nurse practitioners can preform portable EKG's, echocardiograms right in the patients home. Same day urgent visits can be arranged as well.

Medicare paid for 2.8 million house calls in 2012 a number that nearly doubled in a decade. The house call visits on a study of two groups revealed a 17 percent cost decrease in those receiving home healthcare.

The idea of bringing peace of mind to seniors and caregivers and saving money is very appealing and welcomed at a time when we see medical costs rising.

You can read more here 

Friday, August 22, 2014

How Much More Will You Pay For Health Insurance Next Year?

By Coleen Elkins

Whether you have health benefits from an individual plan through a private insurance company, employer benefits from your job, or you have purchase insurance through an exchange your rates are going to increase for 2015. The question is how much more will you be paying?

There are many variables considered to find the answer. Health plans are still filing for rate increase through their state department of insurance. According to data research from PricewaterhouseCoopers the national average to date for increases is 8.2 percent. In Arizona the average is 11.2 and said to be one of the lower premium increases reported with an average of $331 matching Michigan as the lowest currently reported. Other variables are network size, benefit options chosen plan level selected.

Open enrollment for 2015 begins on November 15th 2014 and ends February 15, 2015. 

Read more here

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Therapy Dogs Healing Powers

By Coleen Elkins

Have you ever been in the hospital as a patient or visiting someone and notice dogs walking down the halls and into rooms with there owners?  The look of joy and surprise on a patients face when the dog and owner are standing in the doorway will warm your heart. At one hospital in Waco Texas the dogs are even dressed in cheerful attire. In this particular hospital they also visit the ICU surgery unit.

The visits are short and the dogs have been trained how to behave when visiting patients. You will see them in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers.  They have been found very therapeutic for those with autism.  

Does your dog have the "Midas touch"? There are many training courses both in person and on the web for owners and their dogs. The dogs are expected to be non-aggressive, obedient and not bark or jump on anyone. Volunteering your dog can be very rewarding for both of you. Spending a few moments petting a dog is known to lowers ones blood pressure. If you are spending a couple days a week volunteering you are getting some exercise yourself. The feeling of putting joy in another person's heart will leaving you feeling in a good mood for the rest of the day and beyond. The training courses will cost you, but the return is well worth the money spent.

If you have a little time you can commit each week here are some websites that offer training.

Therapy Dogs International 

American Kennel Club - Therapy Dogs

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is A Copper Plan On The Way?

By Coleen Elkins

It is anticipated that in some regions health plans will experience double digit rate increases for 2015. So how will the Affordable Care Act react to the increases? Will people drop their benefits because they have become unaffordable?

One health insurance carrier announced of the 700,000 they enrolled during the enrollment period they have lost nearly 200,000. Once the increases are announced in September how many more will just quit paying? Having an alternative to switch them to would be a solution but it would have to be implemented by Congress. There is not enough time to get that accomplished for 2015.

If a Copper plan is put in place it would have a 50 percent cost sharing. It would reduce premiums and lower the governments cost by about 18 percent. It would also reduce revenue which might hurt the Affordable Care Act's financial stability.

The Copper plan would look very much like a current catastrophic plan for those under age 30. Will that be attractive to consumers or will they only be enrolling because they are left with no alternative other than to pay the "penalty"?

Look for the Copper plan to arrive in 2016 pending a vote.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hosptials Revisit Charity Programs Under ACA Regulations

By Coleen Elkins

Hospitals are revisiting their charity programs under ACA. Most hospitals offer discounts for those that are on a cash basis.

There are charitable organizations and foundations that offer assistance to those that can not afford to pay for their hospital stay. Applications for assistance must be submitted for consideration. The income qualification guidelines varied greatly from less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Now under ACA it is mandated that hospitals make these programs public. The hospitals are now changing the applications requirements. If someone would qualify for a subsidy under ACA and they did not apply during open enrollment or at the time they became qualified they are disqualified for  financial assistance through the benevolence programs. The hospitals are hoping this will spark enrollments for the 2015 plan year. Some hospitals are considering eliminating the charity programs completely.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Large Employers Reducing Benefits And Raising Employees Contributions Toward Health Insurance

                    By Coleen Elkins

Employees are beginning to take notice to the changes in their benefits especially those working for large employers. Employers such as hotels and restaurants are taking steps to reduce costs for themselves and shifting more cost to the employees. The only way they can manage this is is to reduce benefits by offering plans that raise deductibles and out of pocket expenses. The employers are offering two-tiered benefit levels. One very expensive benefit rich plan much like they have always offered in the past and an alternative lower benefit "skinny plan".   

Four years from now an employer that offers a plan to employees that costs more than $10,200 per employee will be accessed a forty percent tax. Knowing that is coming employers are preparing for a shift in benefits now. This tax is driving a big change for both employers and employees. 

Employers offering a plan that is ACA-compliant plan avoids tax penalties and disqualify the employees from getting subsidized benefits from a state or federal exchange. The Affordable Care says a plan offered by an employer is "affordable" if it costs the employee 9.5 percent or less of their income. 

The shift toward consumer directed health plans allows employees to build their own benefit package to meet their personal needs. These plans will be high deductible plans with variations of benefit structure. 

Read more here

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tax Forms Expected To Become More Complicated Because Of The Affordable Care Act

By Coleen Elkins

Making it through the healthcare system last year was not a pleasant task for most. It is time to prepare yourself for the next big challenge which is the IRS required forms and documentation related to enrollment in your new healthcare plan.

The papers you will be shuffling before April 15th 2015 are uncharted and unfamiliar. The level of complexity has been raised a good bit. The drafts of the forms have been released recently and some have called them "daunting".  Most middle and low income folks don't normally deal with complicated taxes forms. Even though these forms will come with practical instructions it may not be enough help for some taxpayers.

Some people applying for exemptions from the law will also have to complete forms related to their request. If questions are ignored by taxpayers on the tax forms that opens up pandora's box. How that will handled by the IRS and what their response to tax filers will be in not known at this time.

Before you can even file your taxes you will have to receive the necessary forms from your state or federal exchange or employer about your current plan and level of subsidy you received if any.

Remember to avoid any unforeseen problems you are to report changes that would impact your health  plan to or your state exchange throughout the year. These changes would things like income changes, marital status, birth of child just to name a few.

Read more: 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Walmart - Shop For Your Groceries, See The Doctor And Fill Your Prescriptions

By Coleen Elkins

Walmart and some groceries stores already have "walk in" medical clinics in there retail businesses. 

Walmart is gearing up to expand this concept to treat chronic medical conditions. The doctors in the clinics will more than likely be "on staff" which means you will see whomever is on duty. You will pay cash as they will only be accepting insurance from their own health plan offered to employees and Medicare. An office visit at the clinics is currently set at $40.00.  This will make the system more efficient by eliminating processing claims to insurance companies. 

With medical technology on the forefront of many in the IT business today you won't necessarily have to have medical file in that clinic. They will be able to access your records electronically. 
This model could change how we look at having a relationship with a "primary care physician".  

Things are changing so stay tuned and visit us often so you can change with it. 

Read more here

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Are You Asking How Much Your Medical Care Is Costing?

By Coleen Elkins

Would you go into one of those big box stores and tell them you want to take home this big screen without knowing the price?

Probably not you would not only know the exact price you would have decided how you are going to pay for it. You would know the dimensions and if it has high definition, is it an LED? You would know if it was going to fit in your car or if you will have to borrow a friends truck to get it home.

Why do we shop with such detail when we are taking home our "goodies and toys", but we don't do the same when we are taking care of our health?

Folks be savvy!

Let's say your physician is recommending a CT scan. Do you know how much they cost? They can cost upwards of $6,000.00. Who is ultimately paying for that? YOU! You will pay both directly and indirectly with  deductibles, co-insurance and higher premiums over all.

What would happen if you said to your doctor how much is this going to cost and is it medically necessary? What would happen if you asked for a list of facilities offering CT scans and started shopping price? One shopper discovered this when he started asking questions an abdominal CT would cost $4,423 the insurance carriers negotiated rate is about $2,400.00 and that its cash price would be $250.00. Which would you rather pay?

Legislation to force medical cost transpariency never makes it to a vote. Why? Lobbyists!

Be savvy! Start asking questions and become part of the driving force to bring medical costs down! Push for transparency of medical cost every time you visit a doctor or medical facility!

Read more here

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Medicare's Financial Situation Reported To Be Improving

By Coleen Elkins

Like social security the financial stability of Medicare has been an unknown factor for many years. As baby boomers age they worry if the benefits will be there for them. It seems of late reports are showing Medicare's situation may be improving. The confusing part is no one can explain why. The latest data shows that Medicare has enough reserves in it's trust fund to last through 2030. That is four years longer than was projected last year.

In 2009 reports reflected Medicare's trust fund would expire in 2018.  The idea that Medicare would ever run out of funds is still frightening to most, and since the reason for the improvement can't be explained no one is breathing a sigh of relief yet.

A host of experts are setting on ready to rework the entire system, but is now the time to start altering a path with so many unknown factors?

Read more here

Monday, August 4, 2014

More Options In The 2015 Insurance Exchanges Is A Good Thing

By Coleen Elkins

Competition in any industry is a very good thing. In 2015 more insurance carriers will be participating in the federal and state exchanges. The creative juices will flow with benefit designs and supplemental benefit offerings to entice you to insure with "them". It will also help pricing be a little more competitive. Don't expect too much variance on the pricing though as the government has strict margins set for the medical loss ratio. 

Hopefully another improvement you will see is access to customer service. Because there was little competition this year for the carriers participating they were overwhelmed for the most part. Customers calling in experienced extremely long hold times and disconnected calls and some short tempers. Issues took weeks and even months to resolve. Some are still waiting. 

Last year insurance carriers were fighting a headwind of unknown factors. We expect 2015 to be calmer. 

The marketplace can be confusing especially if you are participating in the subsidy program. The best thing you can do is seek the services of a licensed agent certified to assist you with the insurance exchange. Agents will know who the new players are and their strength and offerings for 2015. You can find an agent in your area by visiting The National Association of Health Underwriters website here

Friday, August 1, 2014

Average Cost Of Medicare Part D Drug Plans To Rise In 2015


By Coleen Elkins

Part D Prescription Drug Plan premiums will rise slightly in 2015. The average cost of Medicare Part D Plans has remained stable for the last 3 years at between $30 to $31. In 2015 it will be $32.00.

One of the attributing factors is the rising cost of medications. One medication mentioned is the drug that cures Hepatitis C Sovladi it rings up at $1,000 per pill. Low enrollment in Medicare Part D Plans has also been cited as a cause.

It is very important that seniors and those under 65 with disabilities on Medicare check their Part D Plans renewal packet when it arrives sometime around October 1st. Don't throw it in the stack of pending mail and ignore it!

At the very beginning of your renewal packet you will see your plans changes for 2015. It will tell you what the cost will be and just as importantly if your drugs will remain in the same tier it was in for 2014. Will the drug copays remain the same? Get your prescriptions out and make comparison notes.  Then you can make an informed decision about keeping your current plan or shopping for another.

Those on Medicare benefit greatly from the Medicare prescription drug plans also known as Part D. If you have never enrolled in a plan learn more and see how it may benefit you! Become "Medicare Savvy"!

If you need help seek the services of a licensed health insurance agent specializing in Medicare. If you do not have an agent a list of agents can be found for your area on the website
National Association of Health Underwriters look under find an agent click here.