business man sitting at a cafe discussing his health options on his cell phone

I Missed Open Enrollment and Need Health Coverage — What Are My Options?

The next official ACA Open Enrollment period isn’t slated to begin until November 1, 2019. But depending on your circumstances, you may not have to wait that long to obtain coverage.

Qualifying Life Events and Special Enrollment Periods

Sometimes our circumstances change, and if they change due to specific events, you and your dependents may be able to secure health insurance through a Special Enrollment Period. When this occurs, it is called a Qualifying Life Event, otherwise referred to as a QLE.

There are several types of Qualifying Life Events that may grant you a Special Enrollment Period. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Loss of health coverage
    • Losing existing health coverage – including job-based, individual, and student plans
    • Losing eligibility for Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP
    • Turning 26 and losing coverage through a parent’s plan
  • Changes in household size
    • Getting married or divorced
    • Having a baby or adopting a child
    • Death in the family
  • Changes in residence
    • Moving to a different ZIP code or county
    • A student moving to or from the place they attend school
    • A seasonal worker moving to or from the place they both live and work
    • Moving to or from a shelter or other transitional housing
  • Other qualifying events
    • Changes in your income that affect the coverage you qualify for
    • Gaining membership in a federally recognized tribe, or status as an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation shareholder
    • Becoming a U.S. citizen
    • Leaving incarceration (jail or prison)
    • AmeriCorps members starting or ending their service

Non-ACA Health Plans

Haven’t experienced a QLE but still need health coverage? A non-ACA health plan could be the answer. Also referred to as Short Term Medical Plans, recent legislative changes have loosened the restrictions surrounding these plans and have increased their appeal.

Previously, a Short-Term Medical plan could only provide coverage for up to 90 days. But due to recent regulatory changes, these plans can now be continued for up to a year.  Additionally, in some cases applicants may now renew their plan for up to three years.

Because Short-Term Medical Plans are considered non-ACA health plans, it is worth noting that they may not cover all that an ACA health plan would. For example, applicants could be denied coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition, maternity care may not be covered, and there could be an annual dollar limit on coverage. However, these plans are also typically less expensive than ACA plans and could be a good alternative for individuals seeking more affordable options.

Know Your Options

Do you think you may qualify for a Special Enrollment period? Are you interested in hearing more about non-ACA plans and if they may be the right fit for you? Our Benefits Counselors are always on hand to help answer your questions and guide you in the direction that will make the most sense for your unique needs.

Visit your association website to learn more about the Health Insurance offerings that may be available to you, or schedule an appointment with one of our licensed Benefits Counselors today.

parents watching and smiling at little girl putting coins in a piggy bank

6 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your 401(k) in 2019

The start of a new year is universally acknowledged as a time for new beginnings and inevitably, reflection. Whether your new beginning involves cutting calories, making a daily trek to the gym, or working on a bad habit, this is also a good time for setting goals aimed at self-improvement.

It’s a time for thinking about your future. What will your life be like in twenty years? Ten Years? Next year? How far are you from retirement? Do you feel comfortable with your existing retirement planning strategy? Do you have a 401(k)? When was the last time you looked at it?

These are all important questions but, for many, are often overlooked. We tend to see retirement as something far off in the future, something that there’s plenty of time to prepare for — not at all like those pair of pants in the back of the closet that have always been just a little too snug.

This year, why not make room on your resolutions list for your 401(k) plan as well?

Maximizing Your Maximum 401(k) Contributions

Like any goal you set out to achieve, getting the most out of your 401(k) plan requires a strategy. So how can you make your savings strategy work for you in 2019?

  1. Tax Breaks

With the new maximum contribution amount increasing to $19,000 from last year’s max of $18,500, there’s an extra $500 you can put to good use for your future. By managing to put this extra money away (an extra $41.60 a month), someone in the 24 percent tax bracket could potentially reduce their annual tax bill by approximately $4,560.

Those who earn less than $32,000 a year on their own (and couples who make less than $64,000) may be able to qualify for a saver’s credit worth between 10 and 50 percent of their contribution amount.

  1. Catching Up

Are you behind on your contributions? While things might seem scary, you do have options. For workers aged 50 and over, you are eligible to put away an additional $6,000 a year, bringing your annual maximum to $25,000. For an individual in the 24 percent tax bracket, doing this could reduce their tax bill by $6,000.

  1. Avoid Costly Penalties

This one may seem obvious but it’s still important to note.

For example, withdrawing money from your 401(k) early could result in a 10 percent penalty. However, withdrawing your contribution money too late could trigger a 50 percent penalty if you choose to not take out the minimum distribution amount six months after your 70th birthday.

  1. Get a 401(k) Match

For workers under the age of 50, you’ll need to be able to contribute $1,583 a month to max out your yearly contribution limit (or $2,083 per month for those over the age of 50). While that may be possible for some, it’s certainly not the case for everyone.

If contributing the maximum annual limit to your 401(k) isn’t possible, ask your employer if they offer a match amount. If they do, not taking full advantage of it would be the same as turning down free money.

  1. Consider a Roth 401(k) Option

While traditional 401(k) plans allow you to defer paying taxes on your retirement savings, many employers offer a Roth 401(k) option as well – which would enable you to pay taxes on your contributions now and avoid paying them when you withdraw the money.

  1. Direct Deposit Is Your Friend

The easiest way to not spend money is to not have it. Keep this in mind when you sign up for a 401(k) and choose the amount that should be deducted from your paycheck and deposited into the plan. You should also factor in potential bonuses or raises when determining your contribution amount.

Getting Your Practice Started

Are you the owner of a small firm wanting to add retirement planning to your list of benefits offered to your employees? As an association member, you may have access to a variety of plan types and strategies designed to help you meet your financial objectives – such as defined benefit, profit sharing, cash balance, and 401(k).

Need help deciding which plan type or strategy may best fit your practice? Our specially qualified team is on hand to help. Visit your association page today to learn more or to request additional information today.

The Washington State Bar Association WSBA Member Benefits Association page img

Member Benefits Launches Private Health Insurance Exchange to Assist Members of the Washington State Bar Association

Jacksonville, FL – Member Benefits, a national leader in association benefits and private health exchanges, announced that it has been selected as the provider of a private health insurance exchange for members of the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA).

Member Benefits, a national leader in association member benefits and private health exchanges, announced that it has been selected as the exclusive administrator a private health insurance exchange for members of the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA). The offering is a unique online marketplace that offers customized benefit plans for individual WSBA members and group health options for law firm groups of all sizes. With a full line of health insurance plans and other benefits, the exchange also provides an integrated and efficient shopping experience that utilizes decision support technology to help members choose the plans that best suits their needs.

The Washington State Bar Association joins several other state bar associations such as the State Bar of Texas, The Florida Bar, State Bar of Georgia, and The Missouri Bar currently taking advantage of leading association health insurance platform offered by Member Benefits.

“With healthcare on the minds of many of our members, the Washington State Bar Association is proud to partner with Member Benefits to offer an insurance exchange,” said Bill Pickett, president of the WSBA. “We’re delighted to offer an option that fits the needs of solo and small firm practitioners, as well as law firms alike.”

Initial offerings being introduced to WSBA members include:

  • Group Health Insurance (fully insured, self, and level-funded options)
  • Individual Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Long-Term Disability Insurance
  • Term Life Insurance

Products and services are available to WSBA members, their spouses, eligible dependents, and employees through Member Benefits proprietary insurance marketplace exchange technology.

The new WSBA Private Health Insurance Exchange marketplace helps address a clear need by members – assistance in finding affordable insurance for themselves, their families and their staffs. WSBA members may now access the information and services provided. 2019 ACA individual health insurance plans and rates will be ready to view when the open enrollment period begins on November 1, 2018.

“We find that when we launch new exchanges, the members are often pleased with the service model behind the exchange. Members find that there is much more that the exchange offers than just products. Our team of in-house Benefits Counselors have extensive experience working with lawyer’s insurance needs and provide an enhanced customer experience to the member” said Chip Trefry, President of Member Benefits. “As participation in the program grows, our goal is to have the numbers that allow us to add an exclusive group option such as an Association Health Plan (AHP) to include on the exchange” Trefry added.

About Member Benefits

Member Benefits is a technology-driven insurance brokerage and third-party administrator that focuses on benefit programs and insurance exchanges for associations and member-based organizations. Member Benefits specializes in the design, marketing, and administration of programs for employer groups, associations, affinity groups and franchises. Member Benefits operates in most states with locations in Jacksonville, FL and Austin, TX. For more information, visit www.memberbenefits.com/.

About the Washington State Bar Association

The Washington State Bar Association operates under the delegated authority of the Washington Supreme Court to license the state’s nearly 40,000 lawyers and other legal professionals. In furtherance of its obligation to protect and serve the public, the WSBA both regulates lawyers and other legal professionals and serves its members as a professional association – all without public funding. The WSBA’s mission is to serve the public and the members of the Bar, to ensure the integrity of the legal profession, and to champion justice.

Female coworker with invisible disability

Invisible Disabilities And The Battles Within

Throughout the history of civilization, there have always been things that we did not understand— things that we believed to be real but couldn’t see. Faith, love— even germs all spring to mind though we may not have always had a scientific name for them.

While the human race has come a long way from our earliest beginnings, the simple truth is that science is ever-evolving and new things are discovered every day. Just as today we may laugh at some of the ancestral medical practices of the middle ages, our descendants may one day do the same to us.

The same could also be said for the discovery and further understanding and treatment of ailments previously attributed to an imbalance of the four humors or even demons.

The New Science On Invisible Disabilities

Most recently there has been a renewed focus on debilitating illnesses and diseases that may not always visible to the naked eye or even some advanced diagnostic testing techniques available to doctors and hospitals throughout the world. These ailments have been given the term invisible disabilities.

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, in simple terms, an invisible disability is considered to be a physical, mental, or neurological condition that limits one’s mobility or senses to the point where the severely impact the individual’s everyday life and activities. Unlike other disabilities, invisible disabilities are imperceptible to onlookers and therefore can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgment.

For example, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has come a long way since the 1980s when it was widely dismissed as ‘yuppie flu’ and was suspected by many health care providers of being a psychological rather than a physiological condition.” To date, there is no definitive test for CFS and it is instead considered to be diagnosed but exclusion.

Another well-known illness for which there is no definitive test to confirm its existence is fibromyalgia. The reigning Queen of Pop (disagree, if you dare) Lady Gaga, has recently (and very publicly) brought the topic of fibromyalgia front and center in the media. Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has struggled with the illness for years, and though invisible— she has chosen to bravely document her struggle with its debilitating effects in the recent Netflix documentary Five Foot Two and has even been forced to cancel a number of shows on her most recent Joanne tour due to the incredible debilitating pain associated with the illness.

Mental illnesses such as individuals who struggle with Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar Disorder, and more are also considered to have an invisible disability (if the symptoms they experience are severe enough); however, in these cases there are often more definitive ways of testing and diagnosing cases.

In addition to those previously listed, below are a number of other known invisible disabilities. Please note that though extensive, this is in no way to be considered a complete list of possible invisible disabilities.

  • Allergies
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Brain injuries
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
  • Food allergies
  • Fructose malabsorption
  • Hereditary Fructose Intolerance
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Narcolepsy
  • Personality disorders
  • Primary immunodeficiency
  • Psychiatric disabilities
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schnitzler’s Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Spinal Disorders
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Transverse Myelitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Female smiling engaging in self-care but battling invisible disabilityTesting The Odds

According to Disabled World, it is estimated that approximately ten percent of Americans have been diagnosed with a medical condition that could be labeled as an invisible disability. “Ninety-six percent of people with chronic medical conditions live with a condition that is invisible. These people do not use a cane or any assistive device and act as if they didn’t have a medical condition. About twenty-five percent of them have some type of activity limitation, ranging from mild to severe; the remaining seventy-five percent are not disabled by their chronic conditions.”

It has been estimated by the National Council on Disability that one out of every four Americans will be diagnosed with a long-term disability within their working careers. Could your family afford for you to be out of work for an extended period of time while you recover?

If you wish to receive more information about how you can safeguard your financial future in the event you are diagnosed with a long-term disability, please visit your association page or www.memberbenefits.com/ltd/ to receive an instant quote, to view our complete Long-Term Disability Insurance brochure, download an application, or schedule an appointment with one of our licensed Benefits Counselors.

young female experiencing work-related stress

Could Workplace Stress Become A Workers’ Compensation Claim?

According to a CBS News article, it has been estimated that roughly 8.3 million Americans suffer from some form of psychological distress such as a general hopeless or nervous disposition or even clinically diagnosable depression and anxiety-related disorders such as PTSD. While the cause for the sudden uptick in depression, anxiety, addiction, and general stress has been linked to everything from overzealous doctors, supervisors, and hostile work environments, to politics and the economy, and the concern over the ever-increasing amount of “screen time” Americans spend per day, the truth is that no one is able to one-hundred-percent identify the source.

While psychology experts and the media keep digging into just what is causing the rise in stress-related disorders and situations, many of those suffering are plagued with the maybe more important question of what are we going to do about it?

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elderly man wearing eyeglasses and magnifying glass sitting at work bench tinkering with tools

What Medicare Supplemental Insurance Can Do That Medicare Can Not

Getting older is never any fun passed the age of 21. But oftentimes with age comes maturity, experience, and perspective. And by the time you find yourself approaching the golden age of 65, you’re probably able to look back at your earlier years and note a few things you wish you had done differently—drink less alcohol, quit smoking earlier, save more money and spend it wiser; invest more time with the people you love, and in taking care of yourself.

Don’t put taking good care of yourself on the backburner anymore.

elderly man surrounded by happy family blowing out birthday candlesMaking Sure Your “Golden Years” Are Golden

Throughout our lives, there are a number of birthday milestones that stand out— one, 13, 16, 18, 21, 40, 65, and if you’re lucky, many more beyond that. Each of these years has their own reasons for being special, but few birthdays carry the same significance that turning 65 does.

Beginning three months prior to your 65th birthday, you become eligible for a seven-month open enrollment period where you can enroll in Medicare benefits. If you miss your initial open enrollment period, you will still become eligible again during the general open enrollment period which begins January 1st and ends March 31st, with coverage beginning July 1st.

According to a Money Crashers article written by Michael Lewis, “There is a direct correlation between healthcare costs and age: The older you are, the more likely it is that you will need medical care. The elderly are more apt to suffer chronic conditions that require treatment for years, and accidents are more common, often requiring complicated treatment. As a consequence of the high healthcare costs for older Americans, private insurers prior to 1965 either did not offer health insurance to the elderly, or charged such high premiums that insurance was not affordable. Medicare was created to solve a human welfare crisis that threatened to unravel the social and economic fabric of the nation.”

The truth is, that while highly beneficial, Medicare Part A and Part B may not necessarily cover everything you may need as you get older. A prime example of this is the often-cited fact that Medicare does not cover basic eye health, most forms of dental care, and hearing aids. And while many may be under the impression that they won’t need something like a Long-Term Care Insurance policy because Medicare will cover the costs, unfortunately, it won’t because while Medicare Part A will cover care in a nursing home, it will not cover custodial care meaning, the activities of daily living such as getting dressed, bathing, eating, etc).

Investing In Your Health With Medicare Supplemental Insurance

A Medicare Supplemental Insurance policy can help you fill in the gaps left behind between the services and care that you need and the services and care that Medicare is willing to pay for.

If you or a loved one is approaching the age of 65, it may be wise to discuss with your doctor if all of your medical needs will be covered by Medicare. Oftentimes, people assume that Medicare will cover them no matter what and ultimately find out otherwise. In order to avoid any surprises, it is always wise to consult with your primary care physician about your individual health needs now and any that you may be at risk of developing in the future.

For more information regarding Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) and what it can do for you or someone you love, please visit your association page.

young biracial father with daughter on his back smiling with arms outspread

When To Reassess Your Life Insurance Needs

When it comes to Life Insurance, there is no one-size-fits-all. Like Health Insurance, your desired coverage amount can change depending on your unique circumstances. What works for you now, may not work for you five to 10 years from now, and as your life changes, so do your needs.

No One Can Predict The Future

While Life Insurance may be the furthest thing from the minds of most 20-year-olds, those in their 30’s and 40’s may be beginning to take a closer look at the benefits of Life Insurance and just how it could help them.

So when is the right time to start thinking about Life Insurance, if it’s right for you, or if you have enough coverage?

The truth? There is no right answer. There is no single answer that can be applied to everyone because everyone is different, has different needs, and go through different life stages at different times. So, at what point in their lives do the majority of people tend to start considering, or re-considering, their Life Insurance coverage options?

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