Are You An Unknowing Beneficiary of a Life Insurance Policy?

Shockingly, there is nearly $1 billion in unclaimed life insurance benefits out there, pexels-photo-187107according to Consumer Reports.  That means that millions of people who were supposed to receive a life insurance benefit didn’t know they were supposed to receive it and did not pursue a claim.  Thankfully, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) are doing something about it.

NAIC recently launched a new online tool called the Life Insurance Policy Locator.  This tool will help consumers search for possible life insurance policy or annuity proceeds anywhere in the nation.  One of the problems consumers had in the past is that they may have suspected they or a family member was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or annuity, but didn’t have key information like the policy number or the name of the insurance company. With the Life Insurance Policy Locator you can simply start with the person’s name.  Obviously, the more information you can provide is better, but not necessary to submit a request.

This is how it works:

  • Submit a request
    • NAIC will then ask participating companies to search their records to determine whether they have a life insurance policy or annuity contract in the name of the deceased.
    • If you are a beneficiary or authorized to receive information, companies that have policy information for you will respond directly to you.
    • It may take up to 90 business days to be contacted. The insurance company may require additional information from you like a notarized death certificate and documentation of your legal authority to request or obtain information about the deceased.
    • This service is completely free.

If you think that you might be a life insurance beneficiary, it doesn’t hurt to submit a request and see if part of that $1 billion could be yours.

2017 Raise for Social Security & SSI

Triage Cancer Blog SSA Disability Insurance

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced that the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2017 will be a 0.3 percent increase for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

That means that the SSI federal benefit rate in 2017 will increase by $2 to $735 per month for an individual, and by $3 to $1,103 per month for an eligible couple.

The estimated average monthly Social Security benefit payment will increase by $5 to $1,360 for retired workers, and by $4 to $1,300 for surviving spouses.

This marks the first COLA in two years, as there was no adjustment in 2016.

We will have to wait until next month to learn what the Medicare premiums for 2017 will be.

For more information on the other benefit changes for 2017, visit https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2017.pdf

Do You Need a Special Policy for Cancer?

Some employers offer supplemental health insurance policies to cover the costs that your Triage Cancer Blog Cancer Policytypical health insurance policy doesn’t. These policies could cover things related to a “critical illness” or a specific medical condition, like cancer.

These are policies that your employer pays for as part of an employee benefits package, or that you can buy directly from the insurance company through your employer.  AFLAC would be an example of a company that offers these policies.  If you aren’t sure if this type of policy is available to you at work, you’re your human resources representative, or whomever handles the employee benefits at work.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to buy a supplemental cancer insurance plan directly from an insurance company.

Be aware

Before you considering buying a supplemental plan, here are some things that you should consider.

  • The two types of policies
    • There are two different types of cancer insurance plans. The first is very similar to a typical health insurance plan in that it pays for a certain portion of your medical expenses. The second pays a predetermined lump-sum for various expenses, such as transportation and lodging when you need to travel to receive treatment. It may also pay cash payments when you have surgery or receive other types of medical care. The lump sum payments can be used for anything, including your daily living expenses.
  • Different plan = different coverage
    • Depending on the cancer insurance plan, a policy can cover a lot of medical and nonmedical expenses, including co-pays, hospital stays, treatments, fertility preservation and dietary assistance. However, there are very few plans that will cover this range of expenses. Additionally, they won’t pay for costs that are already covered by another health insurance plan.
  • Critical illness insurance is a reasonable option
    • Some insurance providers offer critical illness insurance along with a cancer plan. This kind of insurance provides coverage for strokes, heart attacks, and other critical illnesses.
  • You may not be able to purchase cancer insurance if you had cancer in the past
    • If you have been diagnosed with or treated for certain kinds of cancers or other medical conditions in the last three or five years, some companies will deny you coverage The protections against pre-existing condition denials that are available for regular health insurance coverage, do not apply to these supplemental plans.
  • Know your history
    • A family history of cancer may be a good indication to purchase cancer insurance for yourself of your family members.
  • Cancer insurance is not a stand-alone product
    • Cancer insurance is meant to cover the gaps in your regular health insurance plan, not serve as a stand-alone product to cover your medical expenses.
  • Read the fine print
    • Read everything before you buy a policy because many have gaps in the terms. For instance, some policies’ coverage kicks in months after purchasing while others stop paying out after a certain time.

Triage Life Insurance

Many people ask us if they are able to buy life insurance after being diagnosed with cancer.

And the answer is . . . it depends.

The reason we buy insurance, is to protect us in the event that something happens.

Car insurance protects our cars; home owners insurance protects our homes; life insurance provides for the people we care about when we pass away.Triage Cancer Life Insurance

The insurance industry argues that if we wait to buy life insurance until we have a serious medical condition, then that’s like buying car insurance after we have been in a car accident.

Life insurance companies are still allowed to refuse to sell policies to people with a pre-existing medical condition. Because the life insurance industry does not have the same protections that are now available in the health insurance arena, it is left up to each insurance company to decide the parameters for if or when they would be willing to insure someone after a cancer diagnosis.

For example, some companies have a policy that they will insure someone 10 years out from a diagnosis of cancer, some companies have a policy that they will insure someone 1-5 years out from the completion of active treatment depending on the type and stage of diagnosis, and some have a policy to not provide coverage at all. Each company is different.

So, that means the only way to know which companies sell policies to people who have been diagnosed with cancer, is to contact the insurance companies that offer policies in your state and ask them.

To find out which companies sell policies in your state, you can contact the insurance agency in your state, and look for the section on life insurance. You can find your state’s agency here: http://triagecancer.org/resources/stateresources. For example, the Texas Department of Insurance lists these companies as selling life insurance policies in Texas.

It can be valuable to shop around, because policy costs can vary a great deal among companies.

Sometimes, there are other options available for getting a life insurance policy, such as getting a group policy through an employer or a professional association, where they may not ask medical questions and do not impose pre-existing condition exclusions.

Here is an article on some other tips for buying life insurance after a cancer diagnosis.

CALL TO ACTION! Support Pending Fertility Preservation Legislation in New York

by Joyce Reinecke, JD,Executive Director, Alliance for Fertility Preservation 

The primary barrier for cancer patients seeking to preserve their fertility is cost.

Sperm banking, embryo freezing and egg freezing cost thousands of dollars. Because

New York State Capitol Building, Albany

New York State Capitol Building, Albany

these services are rarely covered by insurance, patients are typically left paying out of pocket in order to access these services. For many, especially while in the midst of a life-threatening health emergency, these costs are prohibitive, and future fertility is left to chance.

Legislation, however, is currently being considered in New York State that could change this situation. SB7219, authored by State Senator Diane Savino, would alter the current infertility mandate in New York to include coverage for standard fertility preservation services needed by those facing possible iatrogenic (medically-induced) infertility due to treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

The Alliance for Fertility Preservation applauds RESOLVE for its leadership on this legislation. Along with RESOLVE, we have joined forces with a coalition of groups to support this legislation.

We are asking that if you are a resident of New York, please contact your state representative to let them know how important this is for you! By bringing together voices of patients, professionals and families we can help make this change.

How You Can Get Involved:

If you are a cancer patient, survivor or family member who has been touched by this issue, please submit your email here:

Coalition to Help Families Struggling with Infertility – Link for Individuals

If you are a healthcare provider serving patients in New York who would be positively impacted by this coverage, please submit your email here:

Coalition to Help Families Struggling with Infertility – Link for Family Building Professionals

If your institution or nonprofit organization is interested in joining the Coalition to Help Families Struggling with Infertility, email advocacy@helpfamilieswithinfertility.net.

Time is of the essence! All communications should be submitted by June 2nd if possible; the last day of the NY legislative session is June 16th.

References:

  1. To read the entire Bill: http://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2015/S7219
  2. To learn more about the Bill or the Coalition: Coalition to Help Families Struggling with Infertility Website

This blog was originally published on May 18, 2016, on The Alliance Blog

Triage Taxes: How Health Coverage Affects Your Taxes

When you file your taxes for 2015, you’ll need to include certain information about your health coverage, depending on the type of coverage you had.

You had Marketplace coverage in 2015:

If you enrolled in a health plan through HealthCare.gov or your state’s Health Insurance taxes-806396_640Marketplace, watch your mail for an important tax document called Form 1095-A—it’ll help you when you file your 2015 federal taxes. You also can download and print a copy from your Marketplace account on www.HealthCare.gov. Wait until you download or receive your 1095-A before you file your income tax return.

Double-check your Form 1095-A for things like the start and end date of your coverage and the number of people in your household, to make sure the information is correct. If you think anything is incorrect, visit www.HealthCare.gov/taxes to find out how to get a corrected Form 1095-A. Use information on your Form 1095-A to reconcile the difference between the amount of financial help you received with the actual amount you should have received based on your 2015 earnings. If you don’t file a tax return and reconcile your financial help, you won’t be eligible to receive it in the future.

You had coverage for all of 2015 through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or coverage from another qualifying source:

If you and everyone in your household had coverage for the entire year through your employer, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP or other qualifying coverage from another source, you’ll check a box on your federal income tax form that says you had coverage for all of 2015. You might get a tax document called a Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C from your employer, your insurance company, or from the government program that provides your coverage, like Medicare or Medicaid. You don’t need to attach it to your tax return or wait to get it before you fill out your tax return, but keep it in a safe place with your other tax records.

You didn’t have health coverage in 2015:

If you didn’t have health coverage for all or part of 2015, you may qualify for a health coverage exemption. Visit www.HealthCare.gov/exemptions-tool to see if you’re eligible for an exemption because you couldn’t afford coverage or if you met certain other conditions. If you get an exemption, you won’t have to pay the fee for not having coverage.

If affordable health insurance options were available but you chose not to enroll in coverage for 2015, and if you didn’t qualify for an exemption, you may have to pay a fee when you file your 2015 federal income taxes. The fee for not having health coverage in 2015 is $325 per person or 2% of your annual household income, whichever is higher. The fee for not having coverage in 2016 will be even higher—you’ll have to pay $695 per person or 2.5% of your income, whichever is higher.

Help is available:

  • For more information about how your Marketplace coverage will affect your taxes, visit HealthCare.gov/taxes or call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325.
  • Many people who signed up for Marketplace coverage can get free help with filling out their taxes. This may include free access to tax software programs, or free in-person assistance. For more information, visit IRS.gov/freefile or www.IRS.gov/VITA.

If you have questions about your taxes, visit www.IRS.gov.

West Coast Conference on Work & Cancer

Triage Cancer is excited to partner with Cancer and Careers for the first-ever West Coast Conference on Work & Cancer, next Friday, November 13th!

This free, daylong event explores the challenges of balancing treatment and recovery withWest Coast Conference Flyer 2015 employment and is open to patients, survivors, healthcare professionals* and anyone else touched by cancer.

Our CEO, Joanna Morales, and Rebecca Nellis, chief mission officer of Cancer and Careers will present on topics including:

  • Disclosure
  • Working through treatment
  • Health insurance options
  • Legal issues
  • Job-search
  • …and more!

Below are more details about the event. Space is filling up, so be sure to register today!

Date: Friday, November 13, 2015
Time: 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (breakfast & lunch provided)
Location: The Center at Cathedral Plaza, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles (Free parking)

Website for more information: www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/events/westcoast-conference

*Free CEUs are available for oncology nurses and social workers.

If you’re in the Midwest, save the date for our Midwest Conference on Work & Cancer on Friday, April 8th in Chicago!

Make the Most of Health Insurance Open Enrollment!

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace is now open!

Having a good health insurance plan can be a real life and wallet saver and as you may know it is also a requirement! The Open Enrollment period for 2016 health care coverage runs from November 1, 2015, to January 31, 2016. If you want your coverage to begin by January 1, 2016, you have to enroll or change your plan by December 15, 2015.

Triage Cancer - 4 Ways to Get Covered

The requirement to have health insurance coverage is often referred to as the Individual Mandate Penalty. This penalty almost doubles in 2016, for those who don’t have health insurance, to $695 per person or 2.5% of your household income, whichever amount is more.

Triage Cancer - Obamacare Open Enrollment Facts

Source: Obama Care Facts, 2015.

Even if you already have a health care plan that works for you, it is always good to compare different plans. Shopping around can’t hurt, even if you have health insurance coverage through your employer. Plans and pricing can change every year, so you may be able to find new coverage that is more affordable or better fits your needs.

Triage Cancer offers a free tool to you find health insurance options as well as information about other benefits you may be eligible for at the federal, state, and local levels.

By taking the time to compare your current plan with new options, you may find a cheaper plan or find out that you’re entitled to other benefits, like financial assistance. Based on where you live and your household income you may qualify for your state’s Medicaid program or a premium tax credit that lowers your out-of-pocket costs when you chose a health insurance plan from a private health insurance company.

5 key things to look for when choosing a health insurance plan:

  1. Monthly premium cost
  2. Deductible cost
  3. Out-of-pocket maximum cost
  4. Are my health care providers covered by the plan
  5. Are my prescription drugs covered by the plan

We know that these terms and choosing the right health insurance policy can be confusing, so to answer any questions you may have watch our latest FREE webinar recording that covers tips on how to choose a plan that works for you.

Progress has been made on increasing the number of people with health insurance. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2009, before the ACA was passed, about 15.7% of the population was uninsured. Recently, a study done by the CDC using 2015 Census data showed that the total uninsured rate has dropped to 9.2%. In California alone, 4.5 million new people enrolled in health care plans between 2013 and 2015. Even though these numbers are cause for excitement, there is still work to be done. If enrollment rates continue to increase, insured patients can look forward to their health needs being met, and less problems paying for health services than when they were uninsured.

There are so many benefits to selecting the perfect health care plan for you and your family, be sure to make the most of this year’s Open Enrollment and discover the plan that will best suit your needs. Triage Cancer will be posting valuable information about health insurance coverage throughout Open Enrollment.

Here are some other helpful tools:

References:

  1. ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers. http://obamacarefacts.com/sign-ups/obamacare-enrollment-numbers/. Accessed October 28, 2015.
  2. Insure the Uninsured Project Blog Post. Open Enrollment: Lessons from the Field; October 20, 2015. http://itup.org/blog/2015/10/20/open-enrollment-lessons-from-the-field/. Accessed: October 28, 2015.
  3. Insure the Uninsured Project Blog Post. Summary of the Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of California’s Uninsured; August 11, 2015. http://itup.org/blog/2015/08/11/summary-of-the-kaiser-family-foundation-survey-of-californias-uninsured/

Accidents Happen – There is insurance for that

“Hey! Watch your….head” Ouch!Cynthia Bengtson Headshot

“Careful…the floor is ….wet…” Oops!

Accidents happen all the time even when we are in the best of health and on top of our game. Nationally, accidents account for 45 million emergency room visits per year.

Hopefully most of us have a health insurance policy that covers at least a portion of our emergency room, doctor, and hospital bills. Yet there are still costs you will have to pay out of pocket: deductibles, co-pays, and out of network expenses. Even a minor accident like a sprained ankle or pulled back muscle can require transportation help, child care, meals ordered in, parking fees at for doctors’ appointments, lost time from work and pay and other unexpected out of pocket non-medical expenses!

Supplemental accident plans are the most used of all the voluntary benefit plans offered today.

What are supplemental accident plans? They are supplemental plans that pay policyholders cash benefits when an accident requires a trip to the ER, chiropractor, dentist, doctor, physical therapist or any other health care provider. And larger benefits are often paid if one has to actually be admitted to the hospital.

Supplemental plans are designed to address specific medical issues. There are accident plans, cancer plans, critical illness plans, hospitalization plans, sickness plans, and short term disability plans. Often an insurance company will also offer a variety of plan options with relatively easy application procedures.  Supplemental plans are offered by a number of insurance companies and are generally very affordable — $3 to 10 per week for an individual will purchase most plans offered today for persons of any age.

Accident plans offered by various insurance plans can differ widely, so be sure to carefully read the list of benefits before picking a policy. Some plans only pay benefits if you seek care in an ER or a hospital. Others may pay for chiropractor, urgent care, doctor, and dentist services. Also, many accident plans offer wellness plans so check into that as the net cost of the plan is reduced when you use wellness benefits!

These plans will not pay for a first class trip to Europe but the cash payments can keep you financially afloat while you focus on treatment and recovery.

After a 30 year career as an employee benefits leader at ARCO/BP, Cynthia Bengtson now helps small and mid-size companies and non-profits provide a financial safety net for their employees at no cost to the organization by offering voluntary supplemental plans to their employees. Cynthia also works with plans available to individuals and their families to help them financially plan for medical events. For more information, contact Cynthia at Cynthia.Bengtson@Combined.com or 818.606.5809.

Supplemental Insurance Policies: They are for more than just health care

Only insure what you cannot afford to lose…Cynthia Bengtson Headshot

The best insurance is one you never have to use…

Both of these statements are very true but unfortunately some people misunderstand concept of insurance and feel that if they do not get paid back more than they paid for the coverage, they made a bad purchase! The tricky thing about insurance is you have to have it in place before you need it. You can’t buy homeowner’s insurance after your house has burned down and file a claim. Or auto insurance after the car crash. So that means you may pay for an insurance policy for years and never file a claim. Does that make insurance a bad “investment?”  Probably not, especially if you get sick or hurt and are unable to work for a period of time!

Over the past decade a new kind of insurance plan has been gaining attention: supplemental insurance. These are insurance policies are designed to protect your cash flow in the event that you get sick or hurt. The purpose of these plans is to help the policyholder pay the out-of-pocket expenses (medical and non-medical) that suddenly arise and to help pay the ongoing living expenses that do not go away just because someone is sick or hurt (e.g., rent/mortgage, credit cards, auto insurance, groceries, etc.). Unlike health insurance policies, supplemental plans do not pay doctors or hospitals but rather pay the policyholder directly. Thus the name—they “supplement” a person’s employee benefits or other types of insurance coverages. These voluntary insurance plans can be offered through an employer but many are also available for individuals to purchase on their own.

Supplemental plans are designed to address specific medical issues. There are accident plans, cancer plans, critical illness plans, hospitalization plans, sickness plans, and short term disability plans. Often an insurance company will also offer a variety of plan options with relatively easy application procedures.  Supplemental plans are offered by a number of insurance companies and are generally very affordable — $3 to 10 per week for an individual will purchase most plans offered today for persons of any age.

You can start the process by comparing plans and the insurance companies online. Do your due diligence. Ask questions about requirements to enroll; how easy (or not!) it is to file a claim; how fast claims are paid; are the plans portable at the same price if you leave your employer; are any coverages “paid up” after paying premiums for a number of years and provided free for the rest of your life; do benefits reduce at age 65; can you continue the plans into Medicare years for your lifetime; and more.

Although supplemental plans are a great investment for many, they may not be for you. For example, if you have substantial personal or family wealth and easily have 6 to 9 months of savings to cover your medical care and daily living expenses, you may not need supplemental plan coverage. However, these plans could be an inexpensive way to preserve those savings! But for the rest of us, supplemental plans can be a strategic part of a comprehensive financial protection program for you or your family and may be worth a look!

After a 30 year career as an employee benefits leader at ARCO/BP, Cynthia Bengtson now helps small and mid-size companies and non-profits provide a financial safety net for their employees at no cost to the organization by offering voluntary supplemental plans to their employees. Cynthia also works with plans available to individuals and their families to help them financially plan for medical events. For more information, contact Cynthia at Cynthia.Bengtson@Combined.com or 818.606.5809.