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The 5 biggest challenges agents are facing now

Posted by www.psmbrokerage.com Admin on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 09:24 AM

blog pic Selling insurance is important but challenging work. In a competitive industry that’s changing rapidly, the obstacles are many. But knowledge is power, as they say, so in Retirement Advisor’s recent Advisor Survey we asked your peers to name these obstacles directly. The answers ran the gamut from specific product concerns to looming legislation worries to straightforward sales hurdles that would resonate equally with those who sell houses or medical equipment or tax planning advice.

Following are the five obstacles that independent insurance agents say are the most significant they’ll face this year, along with suggestions for how to meet them head-on.

  1. Lead generation (50.59%)
  2. The economy (44.71%)
  3. Health care reform (35.29%)
  4. Industry legislation (20.0%)
  5. Cap rates on indexed annuities (20.0%)

 


http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2015/02/25/the-5-biggest-challenges-agents-are-facing...

 

Source: lifehealthpro.com

Additional Updates:

Tags: health care reform, Sales Leads, sales advice

Confusion lingers over Medicare benefits and the health care law

Posted by Guadalupe Cantu on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 @ 02:33 PM

Medicare Supplements With looming deadlines of October 15, for Medicare’s traditional open enrollment date, and the overlap of the first enrollment period for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act set to start on October 1 – December 7, has caused a lot of confusion among seniors over their coverage.

Adding to the confusion is the increased media frenzy reporting of the state exchanges for individuals 65 and under, and insurance companies offering coverage to both the new exchanges and to Medicare recipients.

Federal health officials have stepped up the efforts to let seniors know they have nothing to worry about and that the Medicare benefits are not changing under the Affordable Care Act. They want Medicare recipients to know that the enrollment period of Oct 15th – Dec. 7th, will be business as usual and seniors will be able to sign up to new plans by continuing to go to Medicare.gov.

Federal health officials have ramped up their call centers, training for Medicare counselors and website. This is in preparation to the influx of calls they will be receiving in October, in anticipation of the 50 million Medicare beneficiaries who will be mailed a handbook with a prominent Q&A, stressing their benefits aren't changing. Calls are already being rerouted to Medicare call center from the state exchanges call centers, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Worries still linger within the senior community despite federal efforts to stem down the confusion. Under the Affordable Care Act, seniors will not be able to purchase Medicare supplemental insurance or Part D drug plans through the state exchanges. This is what worries seniors such as, 72 year old Bob Roza who actively attended meetings in order to find out what ACA was and how it would affect him and his 69 year old wife with diabetes.

Roza, who underwent hip replacement this year, now worries how the ACA will affect his $614 monthly fee and his Medicare supplemental insurance, in spite of his Medicare coverage.

Advocacy groups have also taken an interest on the matter. They feel the federal health officials have put most of its efforts on those who already are on Medicare and have not done enough outreach to inform seniors without Medicare, said Jodi Reid, executive director of the California Alliance for Retired Americans. She feels that advocacy groups have picked up the tab and are using the majority of their advertising dollars to inform seniors affected by the exchange. Her group has put together a one-page fact sheet to educate nearly 1 million California seniors.

Officials of the AARP said they are organizing several events around the country, hosting 21 telephone town halls to clarify questions to seniors who are either Medicare or Non Medicare recipients.

As the Affordable Care Act inches closer, advocates are warning seniors not to give any personal information. To watch out for scams that may surface alongside legitimate Affordable Care Act outreach.


Please give us your feedback!
Do you feel there is still a tough job ahead to inform seniors about what the Affordable Care Act is and how it impacts Medicare? Do you believe all the outreach efforts from advocates and federal health officials will help millions of uninsured people to sign up for coverage by the end of March or will just stir more confusion?

 

Source: LifeHealthPro

Additional Updates:
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Tags: Medicare open enrollment, Medicare benefits, health care law, Health Insurance, health insurance news, Medicare Part D, Affordable Care Act, health care reform

Impact of Healthcare Reform on the Medicare Market

Posted by Guadalupe Cantu on Fri, Sep 06, 2013 @ 11:15 AM

Medicare SupplementsAs the Affordability and Accountability Act inches closer to the October 1st launch date, many insurers are anticipating major changes in the regulatory and funding under the new health care reform law. With all this anticipation going around, how will the Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage programs be affected by the changes?

For Medicare Supplement program, health care is hardly unaffected by the ACA. Under the new changes (Section 3210 of ACA), the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) was required to add a minimal cost to the C and F plans. In December 2012, in a letter to Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius, the NAIC recommended a no cost sharing to the plans, stressing that that the additional cost would decrease usage. In May 28, 2013, the no cost sharing to plans C and F was accepted in a letter response by HHS Director Kathleen Sebelius.

The Medicare Advantage program has been affected the most by the changes. The ACA holds the Med Advantage program to an 85% minimum loss ratio. It further requires the funding levels to the plans to be restructured, removing 14% overpayment to Medicare Advantage, aligning it closer to the traditional Medicare program. This in spite of the 2012 demonstration program by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which expended payments to the Medicare Advantage program and regulates the funding and cuts of program.

With the regulations that the ACA has put in place for the health care reform, it has had a two-pronged road affect. The traditional plan seems to have gone unscathed, while the Med Advantage has an uphill battle adjusting it rates to the market, as well as, and being a hot topic for future political health battle grounds to come.


Please give us your feedback!
Does the health care reform hurt the Medicare insurance industry or will it make it more competitive and affordable?

 

Source: CSG Actuarial

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Tags: Senior insurance, Health Insurance, Medicare Supplement, Medicare News, health insurance industry, health care reform

The HHS Agrees with the NAIC on Cost Sharing

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 @ 09:09 AM

Medicare Supplements The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)'s advice not to impose a nominal cost sharing in Medicare Supplement insurance Parts C and F. Kathlee Sebelius, a former NAIC president herself, wrote in a letter to current NAIC President Jim Donelon "I value the NAIC's expertise on Medigap and other health insurance issues and the strong partnership between NAIC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This partnership has been instrumental in the effective implementation of numerous provisions of the Affordable Care Act."

The HHS had requested under PPACA that the NAIC revise the NAIC Medicare supplement insurance model to include a nominal cost sharing in Medigap Plans C and F to encourage the use of appropriate physician's services under Medicare Part B.

However, last December, the NAIC recommended against this nominal cost sharing and did not revise the standard benefit packages for these model plans. Besides studying the issue, the NAIC communicated caution with proceeding with nominal Medigap cost sharing because it could delay treatments that people really need. This would make the more vulnerable populations worse off in the long run with costly hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Also, when referencing the changes to Medigap's plan offerings that started in 2010, the NAIC stated "We are still learning the impact of these new offerings on both the Medigap market and to the Medicare program."

Despite the HHS agreeing to not go forward with these changes, the Medicare Trustee report has projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare's hospital insurance coverage will stay solvent until 2026, which is two years longer than it was projected last year. Additionally, Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D are both projected to remain funded into the foreseeable future because current law automatically provides financing each year to meet the next year's expected costs.


Please give us your feedback!
Are you glad the HHS has taken the NAIC's advice not the impose nomial cost sharing? Are you surprised by the decision or were you expecting it?

 

Source: LifeHealthPro

Additional Updates:

Tags: Medicare News, senior insurance market news, health care reform, Stonebridge Medicare Supplement

2013 Medicare Changes

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Dec 07, 2012 @ 08:41 AM

Medicare Supplements The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that Medicare Parts A and B will face modest increases for 2013 deductible and premium rates. The Part A premium for those voluntarily enrolled, uninsured individuals even decreased for next year. Also, while creating a contingency margin for the 2013 Part B premium, the CMS determined that Congress would not allow the impeding physician fee schedule increase or the scheduled sequestration of benefits payment cap to take effect.

Medicare Part A Changes:

This estimates that most hospitals would submit quality data and receive the full market basket payment update and the multifactor productivity adjustment.

  1. 2013 impatient hospital deductible is $1,184
  2. Daily coinsurance amount for days 61 through 90 of hospital stays will be $296
  3. Daily coinsurance amount for lifetime reserve days will be $592
  4. Daily coinsurance amount for beneficiaries receiving extended care services at a skilled nursing facility for days 21 through 100 will be $148.

Medicare Part B Changes:

CMS announced that the standard monthly premium rate for 2013 is $104.90. However, they also noted that those who file individual tax returns with income over $85,000 and those who file joint tax returns with an income greater than $170,000 will pay 35, 50, 65, or even 80 percent more. Premium rates will increase by 5 percent. The annual Part B Deductible for 2013 is $147.

Although, typically Plan F is the more popular plan in the industry, with the 2013 increases Plan G is becoming an even more attractive option. The only difference between a Plan F and a Plan G is that your client will have to pay the Part B Deductible. This means, if the premiums for a Plan F exceed $147 or more than the premiums for a Plan G, the Plan G is the more cost efficient option for your client – especially your healthy clients.

Other things to consider about Plan G:

  • Plan "G" is not exposed to Guarantee Issue. This drastically reduces the potential risk associated with Plans A, C and F.
  • Plan "G" has statistically fewer rate increases. As a result of less bad business, the rate increases are more modest and happen less often than with a Plan "F".>
  • Plan "G" is tougher to replace. Once a client has a Plan "G" and has seen the benefit of paying less over the year they are less likely to be swayed to a Plan "F". Thus, you will have an easier time retaining those clients, resulting in stronger persistency and higher renewals.

Several of our agents have success selling the Forethought Life Medicare Supplement, which has the most competitive Plan G to Plan F ratio. Other products with a Plan G option include Woodmen of the World/Assured Life, Gerber Life, Heartland National, The Manhattan Life, Stonebridge Life, and the Mutual of Omaha Companies.

With AEP ending today and the holidays closing in, now is a great time to take the time to look over your portfolio and decide what products and plans will best suite your clients going into the New Year. If you have any question or would like suggestions on your business plan for next year, please contact your marketer at 1-800-998-7715.


Please give us your feedback!
How do you feel about the impending changes? Do you think you will start selling more Plan G in order to keep costs down for your senior clients?

 

Source: Wolters Kluwer

Tags: senior market news, Medicare, Senior Market, Medicare News, health care reform

Medicare Encouraging Seniors in Low Rated Plans to Switch

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Nov 09, 2012 @ 10:37 AM

Medicare Supplements Medicare officials have begun sending letters trying to nudge seniors out of the 26 medical and private drug plans that have performed with either a "poor" or "below average" rating from CMS in the last three years. The letter reads, "We encourage you to compare this plan to other options in your area and decide if it is still the right choice for you." Approximately 375,000 Medicare Advantage and 150,000 drug plan members have received this notice.

This is the first time Medicare officials have made an effort to warn beneficiaries about their medical and private drug plans while still allowing the companies to remain operational. They are, however, encouraging people to sign up with different companies other than the 26 plans falling "below average." On Medicare’s finder website those plans are not only marked with a warning sign but are not available to sign up electronically and force the senior to contact the insurance company directly in order to sign up for the plan. Also, in the future, some of these plans may be canceled if their company continues to perform below standards.

Isabella Leung, a Medicare spokeswoman said "We want to make it easy for beneficiaries to find and select the highest quality plans, and discourage people from staying in chronically low-performing plans." However, Robert Zirkelback, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, argues that the letter to beneficiaries is premature because the rating system is flawed. He sites that the rating does not take into account plans serving a disproportionate number of seniors who have chronic illness or special needs or who live in otherwise medically underserved areas. He urges, "It’s important to make sure we get the measures right before we move on to these other steps."

Medicare officials understand that some seniors will simply ignore the warning, especially if they are satisfied with their plan, or if the price aligns with their income and their network of doctors. Leslie Fried, director for policy and programs at the National Council on Aging sums up, "If people are satisfied with their plan and it is currently contracted with CMS, isn’t that a decision they should be allowed to make?"


Please give us your feedback!
Do you think it’s the government’s responsibility to let your clients know about the low ratings? Do you feel it will negatively or positively impact your business?

 

Source: Kaiser Health News

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Tags: health insurance industry, Medicare Advantage News, health care reform, Forethought Medicare Supplement, insurance companies

Upholding the Health Care Law and its Effect on Medicare

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 @ 10:54 AM

Medicare SupplementsThursday the Supreme Court upheld the entire proposed health care law, concluding that Congress was acting within its powers under the Constitution to require most Americans carry a health insurance policy. This ruling is considered a victory for President Obama and the Democratic Party, passing the biggest reworking of the health care system since Medicare was introduced in the 1960s. This ruling also eliminates disruptions for hospitals, doctors, and employers who have spent the last two years preparing for the law to be put into place.

How has the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act affected the senior market since its inception in 2010 and how does Health Care Reform impact the future of Medicare Supplements?

  1. Modernized Medicare Supplement plans, including new Plans M and N, created new opportunities for agents to sell more economical options for coverage.

  2. New carriers entering the market are providing more choice for consumers. The added competition is healthy and promotes new innovations to the market, including telephone and electronic applications, which can help reduce pending requirements and speed up issue time.

  3. Many employers are reconsidering if, or for how long, they should offer group coverage for their retired workers due to Taxation of the Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS) effective January 1, 2013. This tax can affect large company’s bottom line by tens and hundreds of millions and many have already started transitioning from group to individual coverage using a Medicare Coordinator model.

  4. Deficit reduction talks have the politicians from both parties talking about ways to save money with Medicare. One suggestion is to add copayments to all Medicare Supplement plans, not just Plans M & N. Another proposal suggests charging up to a 20% tax on seniors choosing plans with First Dollar Coverage.

Other important things to note pertaining to the senior market is that from now until 2020 the “donut hole” is still in effect, with seniors receiving a 50% discount on covered brand name drugs; and, Medicare Advantage will continue with payment system reforms laid out in the ACA.

However, the debate is far from over. With the January 1, 2014 date of implementation and a Presidential election looming, there is certain to be several repeals and proposals before the final version of the health care law is agreed upon and actually goes into effect.

As an agent in the Medicare Supplement market, don’t worry. Medigap plans are the least impacted by health care reform so no big changes are on the horizon. Reduction in Medicare Advantage payment rates and the impact this will have on plan benefits appears to be the biggest unknown. For clients looking to avoid any unforeseen surprises, Medicare Supplements still appear to be the best solution for many of your clients.


Please give us your feedback!
What is your take on the health care law being upheld? How do you think it will affect senior market insurance and Medicare Supplements?

Source: Red Pen Edition, Wall Street Journal, Healthcare.gov

Additional Updates:
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Tags: senior insurance market news, health insurance news, Combined Insurance Medicare Supplement, health care reform, industry news, Omaha Insurance Company

Health Care Costs a Top Retirement Fear

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 10:27 AM

Medicare SupplementsAs the Boomer generation reaches retirement and Medicare eligibility a survey done by Nationwide Financial shows not only is health care costs their top fear but they have underestimated what they will have to pay. John Carter, president of Nationwide Financial Distributors adds, "Americans — even those who have diligently saved for their golden years — are not prepared for the reality of health care costs in retirement and don't really understand how Medicare works."

Half of those who have at least $250,000 in household assets fear rising health care costs will deplete their retirement savings. The survey showed that those that fear health care costs estimate their annual payments will be $5,621, a drastic underestimate. A 2011 study done by Nationwide shows that those out-of-pocket expenses will be more like $10,750 a year. One major cost most pre-retirees assume Medicare covers is long term care. Also, they do not realize eye care, dental, and hearing are not covered under traditional Medicare.

Issued last month, a government trustee report showed that Medicare as it is now will be exhausted by 2024 and Social Security by 2033. This has more people planning on working longer, in order to save enough to retire with enough to cover all of their expenses.

It is important to educate your aging 65 clients to prepare for their future health care costs. Especially in this election year, fear runs high as statistics are cited between candidates and plans are proposed. By suggesting Medicare Supplements that help your clients to budget their health care costs in easy to manage monthly payments you will help them ease into their retirement years knowing they are secure in their health care.


Please give us your feedback!
What questions do your turning 65 prospects ask? Do they seem worried about saving enough to cover their health care during retirement?

Source: USAToday

Additional Updates:
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  • Plan "G" - Increasing Sales for many PSM Agents - Learn More

Tags: senior market news, Medicare Supplement, health insurance industry, Senior News, health care reform, Customer Service, Gerber Life Medicare Supplement

GAO Calls for End of Medicare Advantage Bonus Program

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Apr 27, 2012 @ 09:43 AM

Medicare SupplementsThis week government auditors called for a cancellation of an $8.3 billion dollar Medicare program that some congressional Republicans think is a political ploy by the Obama administration. The money is going toward a three-year project intended to make quality improvements to Medicare Advantage plans and financially reward those plans that are scoring well by the Department of Health and Human Services. However the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative agency of Congress, uncovered that the plan’s spending "dwarfs" all other Medicare pilots undertaken in the last 20 years. Plus, they found the majority of the money is going to plans earning only three to three-and-half stars, an "average" score.

Available through 2014, these quality bonuses to Medicare Advantage plans will postpone the drastic cuts Medicare Advantage plans will be faced with under the new health care law. However, the GAO questions whether the bonus program will actually be an incentive to promote quality in insurance providers. Defending the bonuses, the Health and Human Services Department issued a statement saying, "the demonstration supports our national strategy to improve the delivery of health care services, patient health outcomes, and population health."

Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate panel which oversees Medicare, questioned if the administration had the legal authority to create the program. Hatch stated, "The White House does not have the authority to green-light spending on whatever program it wants. This report is just the beginning — I will be demanding answers."

Hatch also questioned the Obama administration’s use of a technicality in order to sidestep Congress and "write itself a blank check to spend more money for political purposes leading into this year’s elections." He and other congressional Republicans see the spending as a way to appease seniors, a key constituency of swing voters during this election year.

The Medicare Advantage bonus program is the costliest in Medicare history, with money coming from the Medicare trust fund. Next week the Medicare trustees will be releasing their annual report on the status of the program, which is already facing a long-term financial crunch.


Please give us your feedback!
Do you think President Obama is misusing the $8.3 billion for his own agenda of being re-elected this year? Or do you think the bonus plan is a good incentive to make Medicare Advantage companies to take better care of their policyholders?

Source: CNN, Herald-Tribune

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Tags: senior market news, Medicare Advantage, health insurance news, Leads, Medicare Advantage News, health care reform

The Upswing of Medicare Supplements

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Jul 22, 2011 @ 09:16 AM

Medicare SupplementsIn the past few years, the senior insurance market has seen tremendous growth. Curious if this would continue to be the case, Bryan R. Neary and his associates launched a study to find out if Med Advantage would trump Med Supp in the next ten years. They found the process more complex than they originally thought, but in the end they saw the Med Supp enrollment increasing in the 10 year time frame. Due to the proposed new health care laws, Neary and his team made conservative assumptions based on what is already known. They took the current Medicare enrollment, a reliable Medicare enrollment projection, the historical changes in the Medicare market, and a realistic Medicare Supplement projection into consideration when compiling their data. The assumptions they used were that the demographics of current Medicare beneficiaries are accurate, there will not be a dramatic shift in the future, lapse and replacement rates will not experience a dramatic change, and annual rate increases will not have a dramatic change.

Neary explained that signs of growth in the Med Supp market include:

  1. Baby Boomers – with this generation comes an influx of 15.4 million over the next 10 years, providing multiple opportunities for Med Supp sales.

  2. Medicare Advantage Reductions –the health care law includes Medicare provisions that will gradually reduce subsidies paid to Medicare Advantage starting in 2012.

  3. Decrease in Retiree Health Benefits – due to the economic times less companies will be able to offer retiree health benefits, by 25% over the past 20 years.

  4. New Medicare Supplement Plans – new plans should be introduced in 2014, eliminating first-dollar coverage. Like with the introduction of Plans M and N in 2010, this will likely create a buzz in the market and generate more sales. He also suggests more lower-cost plans become available, which would open the market to those who previously couldn’t afford it.

Their conclusion is that the Medicare Supplement offers a long-term sustainability. With the opportunities available like Baby Boomers, Medicare Advantage reductions, decrease in retiree health benefits, and the insertions of new Med Supp plans into the market there will be an increase in selling opportunities and, therefore, enrollment.

To review the list of Medicare Supplement companies that we offer, please see our Medicare Supplement carriers.

Please give us your feedback!
Do you agree with Neary's findings? Have you already begun to see an upswing with the influx of Baby Boomers?

Source: InsuranceNewsNet

Additional Updates:
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Tags: senior market news, Medicare News, health care reform, Sentinel Life Medicare Supplement, industry news, Baby Boomers

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