Citing uncertainty, Blue Cross seeks big rate increases in Georgia

In a blow to consumers insured on the state’s Obamacare exchange plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia has proposed to raise rates an average of 40.6 percent in 2018.

Blue Cross said that if policy in Washington weakens the exchange, it may even pull out of the Georgia Obamacare market.

The insurance company is the only one left that insures residents in every county in the state under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Three other insurance companies have signaled they will continue offering plans in parts of the state. But they, too, have proposed rate increases: averaging 12.4 percent for Ambetter, 18.6 percent percent for Alliant and 25 percent for Kaiser. Humana is staying in the small-group market, but it announced earlier this year that it would drop out of the individual market.Read more

Kirk Lyman-Barner recognized as top performing agent

AMERICUS – Americus resident, Kirk Lyman-Barner, was recently recognized as one of the top performing agents and brokers in the country by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This nationwide recognition as a member of the HealthCare.gov Champions Circle goes to agents and brokers for their success during the 2017 Health Insurance Marketplace SM1 Open Enrollment. Agents and brokers, who are certified through a registration process in order to assist people in enrolling in health insurance through the Marketplaces via HealthCare.gov, receive recognition when they exceed 20 consumers making plan selections on HealthCare.gov.

“Agents and brokers, like the ones we have recognized, are there for people in the community,” said Kevin Counihan, Marketplace CEO. “They help people get the coverage they need for their families, when they need it.”
The HealthCare.gov Champions Circle recognizes the hard work of agents and brokers who improve access to health insurance in the community during Open Enrollment. Agents and brokers in the Champions Circle go above and beyond to enhance the community through service to their customers. These exceptional agents and brokers help CMS connect to and meet the needs of these consumers.

To learn more about Marketplace Open Enrollment via HealthCare.gov, you can contact Lyman-Barner at 229-942-9025 or by visiting this website at www.client-first-insurance.com.

Put down the phone and drive!

Want to know how to save a ton of money with your cell phone? Ignore it. Yep, while you’re driving, put the thing away. Georgia has had a particularly bad year for accidents, and the one glaring, major cause is distracted driving. The majority of times, that’s going to mean the use of a cell phone. The state already has a ban on text messaging or “the sending of internet data,” but you’re liable to get stopped if a police officer so much as sees you with a phone in your hand if it’s not up against your ear. Easiest way to save yourself $150 and a point against your license? Turn the phone off, pull over to answer it, or hand it to a passenger.

That said, phones can still be extremely dangerous even when your eyes are still on the road. Mythbusters is a favorite of ours, and they did the dirty work for us to discover that a phone conversation can actually be as detrimental to your driving as having a blood alcohol level high enough to get you put away for DUI. Whether your eyes are on the road or not, if there’s a phone occupying your attention, you’re putting yourself and others at serious risk, even though it’s not illegal (yet) to talk on the phone while driving.

So, think of it this way. Even if the state doesn’t penalize you for talking on the phone, any use of it while driving has the potential to lead to an accident that could have disastrous consequences for your auto insurance premiums, let alone the fact that you could seriously harm or even kill others. Nearly everyone who’s been involved in an accident related to cell phone usage will say that whatever conversation they were having at the time was simply not worth the damage it caused. So please, if the conversation is that urgent, it’s important enough to pull over for.

Get to know your homeowners (HO) insurance options

“HO” insurance coverage – you could certainly use it, and if you’re not already familiar with the term, we promise that’s not an insult. It actually just refers to homeowners insurance, but can also apply to renters’ insurance as well. Whenever possible, it’s extremely important to have your dwelling covered. Your residence is likely one of your biggest, if not actually your biggest financial asset, and getting insurance coverage can mean the difference between a temporary setback and a major disaster if something happens to it. Of course, you never need this kind of coverage until you do, so if it’s something you can budget for, do it.

Fortunately, there are different kinds of coverage, so depending on what your home is at the greatest risk for, you might be able to choose a cheaper option. The following nomenclature is standard everywhere except Texas, so talk to your agent for more info if you’re looking for coverage there.

HO-1, HO-2 and HO-3 policies are all homeowners’ policies from specific perils. HO-1 is the most basic, and usually the most affordable. HO-2 will include coverage against things like damage from falling objects or ice, which isn’t really as big of a risk factor if your home is in, say, Arizona. In most cases, if you’re living in a place like that, you can stick to HO-1 and save yourself some money. HO-3 covers everything that’s covered in an HO-1 or HO-2, as well as anything that isn’t specified with the exceptions of damage from war, a nuclear plant malfunction (read: *kaboom*), an earthquake, or a flood. This option is great if you want absolute protection.

HO-4 is renters’ insurance, and is usually more affordable than you’d think. It protects your personal property from everything an HO-2 would cover except for the building itself – it’s your landlord’s responsibility to insure that. An HO-5 is a bit of an uncommon policy. It’s total coverage against basically everything for both the building and personal property. It’s pricier, as you might imagine, and there aren’t very many situations where an HO-1, HO-2, or HO-3 wouldn’t do the trick just as well. HO-6 is a condominium policy, and carries special protections for such situations. The HO-8 is similar to an HO-1, except that it covers repairs or the actual cash value of an object that gets damaged. It’s useful in situations like an historic building that has greater replacement value than its market cost.

The terminology may differ depending on carriers and other factors, but this should give you a good idea where to start with your agent when you’re ready to get covered. Don’t hesitate to contact Client First if you have any questions!

In Sickness and Health – Merging Insurance Companies

Concerned about all the merging insurance companies? Wondering if your coverage will change now that another company bought your health insurance provider? 

The health insurance marketplace can seem like an uncharted frontier lately. With new health insurance laws always at the forefront of legislative discussion and action, there’s a lot in flux right now, and one thing that everyone can benefit from being in the loop about is the mergers that are occurring as the health insurance field shifts and stirs.

Take Aetna’s purchase of Humana, for example; it’s a 37 billion dollar deal, and the largest in insurance history. A purchase of this size and scope will inevitably impact consumers, and certainly faces antitrust issues. That said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for you and your family. Mergers have some different effects as they concern consumers, but depending on your situation, they might actually be a boon instead of a setback.

A bigger market share for one insurer will tend to mean fewer policy options. Antitrust procedures reduce the likelihood that one big bad insurer could exploit this, but in general, it means that there is less competition, and that usually tips the scales against the little guy. Don’t despair, however – the silver lining is that these acquisitions mean that the number of doctors that are considered “in network” increases substantially. So you may actually have an increased likelihood of having access to the care you need.

The process of merging insurance companies is huge and complex. If your carrier is merging and you’ve got questions about how it could affect your coverage, don’t hesitate to give Kirk a call or stop by the office and chat – health care may be a hot button issue in the political realm, but at Client First, there are no politics. It’s just you, the best possible coverage at the most comfortable price point, and whatever it takes to make a connection between the two.

Key dates for the Health Insurance Marketplace

Open Enrollment is the time when you can apply for a 2015 Marketplace plan, keep your current plan, or pick a new one.

Here are 4 key dates you should know:

November 15, 2014. Open Enrollment begins. Apply for, keep, or change your coverage.

December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by the 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.

December 31, 2014. Coverage ends for 2014 plans. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.

February 15, 2015. This is the last day you can apply for 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.

Of course if you change your job, move or lose your employer’s health coverage you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. 

Please share this with your friends and family and don’t hesitate to give me a call.

Are all insurance agents the same?

To get the best deal on insurance, many people consult an insurance agent or broker. But did you know that there are different kinds of insurance agents and brokers — and the one you choose can make a big difference in the type of service you get and the choices you’re offered? Here’s the difference:

Captive Agents and Brokers — Captive agents work with a specific insurance company, and as part of their business agreement with that company, they can offer only that company’s insurance products. They may also be required to sell other products from that company, such as annuities and investment plans.

Independent Agents and Brokers — Independent agents and brokers can offer products from many insurance companies. This helps them better serve your interests, as they can review multiple options to find a policy and rate that’s right for you. Insurance rates vary from company to company. Independent agents can put together a customized insurance plan.

If you’re ready to contact an independent agent to talk about saving money on car insurance, here are a few things to consider:

•Has your life situation changed recently? Many factors determine auto insurance rates, not just vehicle year, make, model, body type and engine size. If you’ve recently moved, gotten married, had a birthday or experienced a similar life milestone, mention this to an independent agent or broker. You may be eligible to save money on your car insurance.

•Is your car getting older? You don’t always need the same level of physical damage coverage on older cars as on newer ones. If you drive an older car, an independent agent or broker can advise you on what level of coverage makes the most sense. Raising your deductible could save you money each year, too.

•Do you have another type of vehicle that also needs coverage? If you have a motorcycle, boat, RV or other “toy,” you might save money by having it covered by the same company that insures your car. Talk to an independent agent or broker about it.

Another plus to working with an independent agent or broker is their ability to offer guidance for all your insurance needs—auto, home, life, business and more. They can customize a package of policies just for you.

Did You Know?

Unlike captive agents, independent agents and brokers can offer products from many insurance companies. This helps them better serve your interests, as they can review multiple options to find a policy and rate that’s right for you.

Q. What are the triggering events allowing a special enrollment period for Obamacare plans?

Renewal of a grandfathered or non-grandfathered individual major medical plan in 2014
Return from active military duty
Release from incarceration
Gain of immigration status or citizenship
Permanent move to a new state

Involuntary loss of minimum essential coverage due to:

Discontinuation of a current plan that does not meet health care reform requirements
Legal separation
Divorce
Termination of domestic partnership or civil union*
Change in full-time employment status
Loss of employer-sponsored insurance as a result of:
Voluntary or involuntary termination of employment
The employer no longer offering coverage
Death of a parent or spouse
Change in dependent status as a result of turning 26

Gaining or becoming a dependent due to:

Marriage
Domestic partnership*
Birth of child/children
Adoption of child/children
Placement for adoption of child/children
New appointment of guardianship

*in applicable states

If you have questions or have had a recent life changing event, give us a call at (229) 389-5475