Considerations when purchasing health insurance

Close-up view of doctor's lab coat with a stethoscope around the doctor's neck and and collection of pens in the pocketDetermining the right health care plan can be complicated, but help is available for NCRA members. NCRA has established a relationship with Mercer Marketplace, which makes an insurance solution available to members from the insurance agent and broker GetInsured. The open-enrollment deadline for health insurance, as required by federal law, is Dec. 15.

Members don’t have to examine each plan one by one because GetInsured considers all the available ACA-compliant health plans in their area and scores them by what individuals consider important:

  • Overall suitability
  • Monthly cost
  • Estimated out-of-pocket expense (e.g., deductibles and copays)
  • Which services are covered
  • Which doctors participate

Members can even narrow their coverage choices based on what matters most, whether it’s frequency of doctor visits, the number of prescriptions used, or other factors.

Comparing plans takes only minutes, and NCRA members pay nothing to use the online tool. Members are under no obligation to purchase anything, although they can secure coverage during the same online session (depending on where they live) or by calling the licensed GetInsured customer service agents at 866-454-6479.

Health insurance through Mercer is one of the many benefits that NCRA members can take advantage of. If you need insurance, don’t miss the Dec. 15 open-enrollment deadline.

NCRA cosponsors forum and reception focused on preventing hearing loss

Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. David McKinley, and Andy Bopp, HIA, at the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus reception

(From left) Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. David McKinley, and Andy Bopp, HIA

On Oct. 21, NCRA joined more than 150 Congressional staffers, hearing advocates, and guests at a screening reception hosted by the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus. The event, which was held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., included hearing screenings by hearing health professionals and earbud-noise testing sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

About 50 attendees had their hearing screened and ears checked by volunteer audiologists, hearing-aid dispensers, and otolaryngologists. Professionals were also on hand to provide advice about preventing hearing loss and options available to those who have experienced hearing loss.

“NCRA is privileged to be a part of events such as this forum sponsored by the FCHHC. Raising awareness of how consumers can protect their hearing through screenings and understand that there are options available to assist them in improving their quality of life with hearing loss is a vital service this Congressional Hearing Health Caucus provides,” said NCRA’s Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel.

The Congressional caucus aims to broaden support and knowledge of hearing health-care issues within Congress and provide an educational setting for discussion of issues related to hearing health. Honorary co-hosts of the event were Reps. David McKinley (W.Va.) and Mike Thompson (Calif.).

In remarks to attendees, Rep. Thompson noted that hearing health is an important element of overall health care and that it is critical to address hearing loss early to avoid negative impacts on a person’s learning and earning potential.

In addition, Rep. McKinley noted the importance of following up on passage of HR1344, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention bill, which was passed by the House in September and is now being considered by the Senate.

In addition to NCRA, other Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus include: A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Academy of Doctors of Audiology; American Academy of Audiology; American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery; American Cochlear Implant Alliance; American Speech-Language Hearing Association; Hearing Network Alliance; International Hearing Society; National Association of the Deaf; Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf; and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

To learn more about the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Caucus, contact Adam Finkel at afinkel@ncra.org.

Open enrollment deadline for health insurance nears

The Feb. 15 deadline for open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act is approaching fast, and NCRA members seeking health care coverage can take advantage of a free service that is convenient and confidential. The service compares coverage plans based on an individual’s specific health needs.

The service is a benefit of NCRA’s relationship with Mercer Marketplace,* which makes a unique individual insurance solution available through the insurance broker GetInsured. NCRA members can explore ACA-compliant plans in their area with the company that administers public health insurance exchanges. With Mercer Marketplace powered by GetInsured, members specify what they need in health care coverage and receive a list of all plans that are scored for:

  • Overall suitability
  • Monthly cost
  • Estimated out-of-pocket expense (e.g. deductibles and copays)
  • Which services are covered
  • Which doctors participate
  • Potential money-saving tax credit

NCRA members who enroll for health care through Mercer Marketplace and GetInsured also have free access to HealthAdvocate, a 24/7 service that provides help with resolving insurance claims, finding doctors and hospitals, scheduling specialist appointments, and more.

The open enrollment for health insurance coverage, as required by federal law, closes on Feb. 15. For more information, contact a licensed GetInsured broker at 866-454-6479 or visit GetInsured.com/NCRA for more information or to enroll.

 

Please note:
*Provided by Mercer Health & Benefits LLC
These individual health insurance plans are not sponsored by the National Court Reporters Association or Mercer Marketplace.

If you are eligible for affordable minimum value health care through an employer, you will be ineligible for federal tax credits toward the purchase of exchange coverage. Please ask a licensed GetInsured agent if you have questions about your eligibility.

E-seminar review: Court reporters and HIPAA

In regards to HIPAA, it’s important to know where the obligations of court reporters and the profession as a whole fit. Joe Dyleweski, managing director for Health Care Management, and Jon Moretti, vice president of the Moretti Group, present a wealth of information about HIPAA compliance during their recent e-seminar.

Moretti starts the presentation by giving a history of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and how important it is, especially now that a lot of delicate information is saved electronically. Dyleweski and Moretti also make the legislation simpler to understand by providing their version of HIPAA 101 when it comes to court reporters. In fact, the court reporter’s role when doing a patient’s deposition needs to be taken very seriously.

The e-seminar also presents a case study that includes the challenges presented, what was discovered, and how it was remedied. There are always lessons learned, but the bottom line still remains that court reporters need to have safeguards in place. When working with independent consultants, it’s also important to have an agreement so they understand what’s expected, especially when starting a new assignment. Even an IT company or department should understand the delicate nature of working with sensitive information.

Anybody who has access to personal health information has to understand HIPPA and understand the responsibility that comes with it. Moretti adds, “You have a responsibility to protect the patient’s information. You don’t want to ignore it because it is enforced. And you could be liable for violations of these rules.”

This must-see e-seminar is now available in NCRA’S online collection.

Healthcare Act deadlines pushed back

On Feb. 10, the Obama administration postponed the enforcement of some elements of the Affordable Care Act, including the federal requirement for mid-sized employers, defined as those between 50 and 99 employees, to provide health insurance to employees. In addition, the requirement for employers with 100 or more employees would be put into place more gradually. Generally, employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are exempt from the requirements.

Read more.

You, Inc. – Health care law update

In an effort to bring our members the most up-to-date information about changes to this nation’s healthcare policy, we wanted to provide an update on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Healthcare Bill”). The next round of provisions under the Affordable Care Act (the “Healthcare Bill”), will take effect in October, when qualified individuals and small business employers will be able to access information and enroll in subsidized plans through state-established healthcare exchanges and the Small Business Health Options (SHOP) Program. Coverage by the exchanges and the SHOP program are then set to begin Jan. 1, 2014.

FOR INDIVIDUALS

This latest reform to take effect under the new healthcare system is referred to as the shared responsibility requirement. It calls for all individuals not covered by an employer- sponsored health plan, Medicaid, Medicare, or any other public insurance program,* to secure an approved private insurance policy or pay a penalty. The state-based health insurance exchanges being established will provide a marketplace where individuals can compare policies and premiums, and purchase insurance coverage, in some instances with a government subsidy if eligible.

The individual health insurance exchanges will offer a choice of four levels of benefit packages that differ by the percentage of costs the health plan covers. Under the program, individuals and the self-employed may qualify for specific tax credits and subsidies on a sliding scale, based on income. Coverage will be comprehensive and include doctor appointments, medications, and hospital visits. In addition, individuals will be able to compare price, benefits, quality, and other features of healthcare plans. This increased access to quality, affordable healthcare is also expected to make it easier for independent contractors to purchase and afford health insurance.

For more information about the health care law and its reforms, or about the healthcare exchange in your state, visit www.healthcare.gov.

FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

The SHOP portion of the healthcare act is designed to simplify the process of securing healthcare for employees and provide small business owners with more choices and control over the cost of their policies. Through state-established SHOPs, small business owners will be able to compare and choose the level of coverage they want to offer employees, as well as how much they are willing to contribute towards employee coverage. In addition, the program will also provide access to expanded tax credits for small businesses, which in some instances can cover as much as 50 percent of employer contribution toward premium costs if they are eligible and employ low- to moderate-wage workers. Other tax incentives under the program include the opportunity for a business owner and his or her employees to use pre-tax dollars to make premium payments.

Under the new law, small business owners can either use their existing insurance broker to access the SHOP, or they can access information directly by visiting www. healthcare.gov/marketplace/small-business. (Under the new healthcare system, in general a business is considered small if it has up to 50 employees. In some states, the self-employed with no employees are also considered a small business.)

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Below is a list of additional reforms that will take affect on Jan. 1, 2014, under the new healthcare law. For more information about these other coming changes, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/.

  • Starting in 2014, if affordable coverage is not available to an individual, he or she will be eligible for an exemption. Americans who earn less than 133 percent of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. States will receive 100 percent federal funding for the first three years to support this expanded coverage, phasing to 90 percent federal funding in subsequent years.
  • Starting in 2014, tax credits to help the middle class afford insurance will become available for those with income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage. The tax credit is advanceable, so it can lower premium payments each month, rather than making you wait for tax time. It’s also refundable, so even moderate income families can receive the full benefit of the credit. These individuals may also qualify for reduced cost-sharing (co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles).
  • Starting in 2014, strong reforms will be implemented that will prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing conditions.
  • Starting in 2014, the second phase of the small business tax credit for qualified small businesses and small non-profit organizations will begin. In this phase, the credit is up to 50 percent of the employer’s contribution to provide health insurance for employees.

* To be eligible for coverage under the new healthcare system, you must live in the United States and be a U.S. citizen or national. Individuals incarcerated are not eligible to participate in the system.