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Preparing for Annual Enrollment-Group, Medicare, Individual Plans

Ed Gussio 2While many people think of fall as the beginning of school, preparation for the upcoming holiday season or even ski season, those of us in the insurance business see this time of the year as the beginning of enrollment season. A large percentage of employers have typically renewed their group benefits in January. This is nothing new. However, when you add in those who are over age 65 and the ACA Marketplace plans, the fourth quarter is quite busy for insurance companies. I hope the following summary will help you and/or your business.

For employer groups whose employee benefit plans renew in December or January, it is now time to begin thinking about your renewal. Some of the insurance carriers will be releasing renewal rates 90 days ahead of the renewal with hopes this will expedite the process. At the end of the day, employers want the best benefits for the lowest cost. Employees, too, want the best cost options for their families, but also want to have their member ID cards in time. This is not impossible. The solution is to start very early and complete the process as efficiently as possible. For groups renewing in January, the ideal process would look like this: September would be the month for your insurance broker to obtain competitive proposals. This would leave October for reviewing options and making final selections, then all of November for open enrollment. While this is usually entails just a few days of meetings, it is nice to give a couple weeks to complete the process thoroughly. Everything can then be submitted to the insurance carriers in late November. Process complete!

For those who are over age 65, Annual Enrollment Period begins Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. This is the time of year to review and enroll in prescription drug / Medicare Advantage plans. Since drug formularies and prices change every year, it is always a good idea to review your current plan and compare it to other options available. Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative to traditional Medicare and supplemental policies.

If you have an individual or family medical insurance plan, you may have been shocked by the recent rate increases. It seems that all of the insurance carriers are filing with the Arizona Department of Insurance for substantial rate increases. If your policy is “grandfathered” or “grandmothered,” you have significant options to consider. For grandfathered plans (policies in force since March 23, 2010), you can keep these policies as long as they are offered. While they may not seem “affordable,” a quick market check by an insurance professional can help you determine if maintaining this policy is still the best strategy for you based on many factors. If your policy is grandmothered (policies in force after March 23, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2011), Blue Cross Blue Shield will be offering you a renewal that you can keep through May 1, 2017. Assuming your family does not qualify for a subsidy or if you simply want to keep a plan that is no longer offered, this could be a very good option.

If you have an ACA plan offered through the Marketplace, annual open enrollment begins Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2016. We are expecting substantial changes in plans, pricing and carriers available on the marketplace. Our office hopes to know more early next month.

As always, it is a great idea to review your insurance options with a knowledgeable health insurance advisor on an annual basis. FBN

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