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More than 6.65 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the last week alone – a bleak result of the Coronavirus pandemic. But those impacted aren’t just losing their jobs: They’re often losing their health insurance benefits too. And now is the time, especially, when health insurance may be extra crucial to you as you work to maintain good health or need coverage if you do get sick. Before weighing your options, take these steps: Know your budget and what you can afford each month. Make a list of your current health conditions and medications. List any doctors any healthcare providers you want to keep. Determine if you need dental or vision coverage. If you’ve lost your job and job-based insurance coverage, here are six options for you: 1. Join your spouse’s plan You may be able to obtain coverage through your spouse’s job-based health insurance plan, as long as your spouse or partner is already covered, which can be a cost-effective option. Ask your spouse to talk to his or her HR or benefits team to see if this is an option and what the associated healthcare costs may be for you. 2. COBRA You’ll likely receive a COBRA enrollment notice that includes information to continue your health insurance through your employer. Pros: You can keep your current health plan and continue to use your doctors and pharmacists under a policy you’re already familiar with. Your copays and deductibles will remain the same. Your spouses and children are eligible. Cons: You will likely face a higher premium because your employer will not subsidize the cost, and you’ll be charged a 2% administrative fee for continuing the plan. You can stay on COBRA for a limited time – typically up to 18 months. Some employers don’t offer this option, so be proactive and ask about it if you’re interested. 3. ACA (Obamacare) Plans Though the 2020 open enrollment period has ended, losing your job may qualify you for a special enrolment period exception. You can see if you can get coverage for an ACA plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Pros: Offers comprehensive major medical coverage for the 10 essential health benefits. You can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions. Tax credits are available if you meet the qualifications. Cons: You may not qualify to enroll in a plan at this time.* Can be costly if you don’t qualify for a subsidy. Plans can have narrow networks, so it’s wise to check if your doctors and providers are in-network. *Note: U.S. officials are also considering a special enrollment period to help uninsured Americans during the COVID-19 crisis. 4. Short-Term Health Insurance This type of temporary health insurance is designed to be a cost-effective and flexible insurance option if you’ve lost your job and have a gap in health insurance coverage. Pros: Flexible plan duration: Your coverage period can range from 30 to 364 days, with policy renewal of up to three years, depending on your state’s rules. Cancel anytime: You can choose how long you want to be covered (anywhere from 30 to 364 days). Plus, you can cancel your plan anytime. Enroll anytime: You can apply for and enroll in a temporary health insurance plan any time of year. And you can get coverage as soon as the day after you apply. Cons: There’s no coverage for pre-existing conditions. There are limits on prescription drug coverage: Most short-term health plans do not cover prescription drugs, but a few do offer add-on benefits and include prescription drug coverage after a deductible is met. There are limits on the number of covered doctor visits. Does not cover all of the 10 essential health benefits. You can be denied coverage. 5. Medicaid Medicaid is based on your income, family size and asset level. Though each state can set its own requirements, the limit is typically 133% of the Federal Poverty Level. If you do qualify for Medicaid, you’ll receive low-cost health insurance through your state which may cover you for: Inpatient care (hospital-type visits) Outpatient care (doctor’s office visits) Home health care Nursing care Dental, vision and hearing (in many cases) Again, benefits vary by state. And Medicaid should not be confused with Medicare (here’s how to know the differences between the two). 6. Telemedicine (not health insurance – but a way to get care) Though telemedicine isn’t a form of insurance, it’s a helpful service that people are turning to during a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. With telemedicine, you pay a monthly membership fee and, when you use the service, you may also pay a charge for the ‘televisit.’ Telemedicine connects you with virtual doctors who can diagnose and treat your non-emergency medical conditions, including: Allergies Asthma Behavioral and mental health services Common cold Fever Flu Men’s health issues Nausea and vomiting Pink eye Sore throat Skin conditions Sinus infections Women’s health issues Telemedicine doctors can also prescribe medications for certain conditions and submit the order to your pharmacy of choice. You can get a telemedicine quote with no obligation to you. We will continue to provide educational resources to you throughout the Coronavirus pandemic: Follow us on Facebook for news about COVID-19, telemedicine, health insurance and more. Visit our feed to get frequent updates on COVID-19 news.
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Did you know that 66% of people who file for bankruptcy cite medical issues as a key contributor to their financial downfall? It's no wonder why rising healthcare costs continue to be a hot topic of conversation. So finding creative ways to save on healthcare costs should be top of mind for you. Whether you have Medicare, coverage through your employer, or insurance through the marketplaces, here are 9 ways to save on medical costs. 1. Incorporate Healthy Habits Finding ways to improve your general health and wellness can lower your out-of-pocket health care costs. After all, fewer trips to the doctor means fewer copays and less money spent on healthcare. Here are 4 simple actions you can take to live a healthier lifestyle. Less sugar, more water. Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water: Think cucumbers, watermelon and celery. Sit less, more movement. Stand up throughout the day, stretch, take the stairs, and park further away: These are just a few ways to move more. Get rest. When thinking of healthy habits, sleep often falls low on the list. But chronic sleep deprivation can increase heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and many other illnesses. Wash your hands. The coronavirus pandemic serves as a major reminder to wash our hands frequently and correctly. Wash your palms, fingernails, and the backs of your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. 2. Reduce Stress Stress often increases with age, leading to a host of health problems. Finding ways to lower your stress can go a long way. There are many simple ways to reduce stress in your daily life. Try things like working out or moving daily, spending more time with friends and family, and reducing your caffeine intake. And don't forget to laugh more. 3. Save Money on Medications The cost of prescription drugs can really take a lot out of your wallet. So if you're used to getting brand-name medications, consider asking your doctor for a generic alternative. It could save you money in the long run. For seniors especially, the cost of medications continues to rise at an alarming rate. One of the simplest ways for seniors to save is to find and compare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D). Start by comparing quotes, or talking to an insurance agent who is willing to research the medications you take. The right agent will have knowledge of all the pharmacies close to your home and plans available in your area. He or she can also help you identify ways to save on your prescriptions. 4. Use a Health Savings Account (HSA) You may have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA) through your employer (or previous employer). Using an HSA can save you money because your contributions are pre-tax dollars and can accrue interest. And unlike a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), the HSA is owned by you, so it can carry over into your retirement. And there is no deadline on when you can spend the funds. 5. Know The Difference Between Emergency Care and Urgent Care Some people don't know the difference between emergency care and urgent care. But knowing which option to use in a given situation can save you money: Emergency room visits can cost far more than urgent care center visits. Your initial reaction might be to go to the ER when you need medical treatment but can't see your primary care doctor. But in many cases, an urgent care facility will serve you just as well at a lower cost. Start by keeping a list of nearby ERs and urgent care centers handy. An urgent care visit is good for a minor illness or injury, but if your condition is life-threatening, always go to the ER. You might also consider going the telemedicine route, which entails talking to a doctor online, rather than going to an in-person appointment. Telemedicine usage also gained momentumduring the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, turning to telehealth may not only reduce your healthcare costs - it could save you time and keep you out of the waiting room. 6. Ask If All Tests Are Necessary You may think that doctor-ordered tests are standard protocol, but those tests could get expensive fast. Be sure to ask your doctor if all diagnostic tests are necessary for your health. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor if all diagnostic tests are necessary for your health. Here are some questions to get the conversation started. Why is the test being done? What steps does the test involve? How long will it take to get the results? What will the test cost? 7. Request Outpatient Services When Possible Did you know that some inpatient procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis? Often, doctors choose to have a procedure performed on an inpatient basis, simply for the convenience of the patient and the medical staff. Many procedures do require a medically supervised period of recovery, but not all of them. There's nothing wrong with asking your doctor if a procedure can be performed in an outpatient clinic rather than at the hospital. If so, the savings can be significant. 8. Choose Your Doctors Wisely Just because a physician or facility accepts your health insurance or Medicare plan doesn't mean that your costs will be controlled. If you're on Medicare, consider these two steps: First, check if the provider accepts assignment. This means that the provider has agreed to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for services. If your provider doesn't accept assignment, then your out-of-pocket costs may be higher. Second, choose the right doctor for you. The ideal provider has specialized experience with those age 65 and over, which can save you repeated visits to the doctor. One way to shop around for doctors and specialists is through the physician compare feature on Medicare.gov. You can use this tool to compare providers in your area, or you may opt to discuss the topic with a licensed insurance agent. In general, researching and shopping around for the right healthcare provider could save you money over time. 9. Use Your Medicare Benefits It may sound contradictory, but going to the doctor can ultimately lower your healthcare costs. Most insurance plans, including Medicare Advantage, come with certain wellness benefits. Getting regular physicals and patient-specific tests can uncover minor health problems before they become major ones. Let's say a man gets a routine PSA blood test done, which reveals the possibility of low-grade prostate cancer. Early intervention makes the treatment cost far less early on, resulting in fewer trips to the doctor and fewer copays. In other words: lower cost. You Can Save On Healthcare Costs Bottom line: Don't be afraid to do your research, ask the right questions, and incorporate healthy habits to decrease healthcare costs. You can also find more tips to avoid medical debt in this article.
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Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that includes certain forms of the common cold. The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is the latest variation of the virus. COVID-19 is extremely contagious, causing severe respiratory disease that was not previously seen in humans. Coronavirus disease was named based on its crown-like shape under a microscope (“corona” means “crown” in Latin). Now that we’ve answered, “what is Coronavirus?”, let’s walk through some COVID-19 frequently asked questions. How Did Coronavirus Start? The outbreak of the Coronavirus disease began in Wuhan, China in December 2019, where people developed viral pneumonia after visiting a seafood market there. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that an office worker also contracted the disease but had no link to the seafood market. The investigation into the origins of the Coronavirus disease remains ongoing. Was COVID-19 man-made? No. Scientists have studied the genetic sequence of the virus and concluded that it was not man-made or engineered. How Many Types of Coronavirus Are There? Scientists define coronavirus as a family of viruses that are named for their crown-like appearance. There are currently seven different strains of the virus, with COVID-19 being the latest strain. How Does Coronavirus Spread? There are 3 things to know about the spread of Coronavirus: Coronavirus is spread just like the common flu: Person to person between people who are within 6 feet of each other. The virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These respiratory droplets can then be inhaled into the lungs or land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. The virus can possibly spread before people show symptoms. But this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Is Coronavirus Contagious? Yes, COVID-19 is a highly contagious illness. And people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Is Coronavirus Airborne? Yes. The CDC says Coronavirus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets from an infected person. How Long Does the Coronavirus Last On Surfaces? The CDC indicates that Coronaviruses on surfaces and objects naturally die within hours to days. Warmer temperatures and sunlight exposure may reduce the time that Coronavirus survives on surfaces and objects. Other common questions about Coronavirus living on surfaces include: Can Coronavirus Live On Food? According to the FDA, there is no evidence of food, food containers or food packaging being the source of COVID-19 transmission. But if you’re still concerned about Coronavirus contamination on food, wash your hands after handling food packaging, after removing food from packaging, and before you prepare or eat food. Can Coronavirus Live On Clothes? Though we still have a lot to learn about COVID-19, experts believe it’s unlikely that the viral particles will survive on porous surfaces like clothing. COVID-19 spreads mostly through aerosol droplets, which means it is much more likely to get the virus person-to-person rather than surfaces. In addition, WHO reports that the likelihood of COVID-19 being spread through your shoes is extremely low. What Are The Coronavirus Symptoms? Common signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may include: Fever or chills Loss of taste or smell Cough Fatigue Brain fog Nausea or vomiting Gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea Sore throat Headache For certain people, COVID-19 can create more severe issues that can require hospitalization. Some more severe Coronavirus symptoms may include: Pain or pressure on the chest Confusion Difficulty breathing Inability to arouse or stay awake Bluish lips or face In these severe cases, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even become fatal. So if you’re experiencing severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. How To Know If You Have Coronavirus There are several ways that coronavirus symptoms can appear. Some people experience all symptoms of COVID-19, while others have some symptoms or none at all. That said, knowing whether you have Coronavirus can be tricky on your own. Your best bet is to get tested for COVID-19. How Quickly Do Coronavirus Symptoms Appear? COVID-19 symptoms appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure. What Should I Do If I Think I Have Coronavirus? If you have mild symptoms like a low fever, cough, or sore throat, you should stay at home and self-isolate. This means: Don't go to work, school, or public areas, and avoid using public transportation or ride-sharing services. Separate yourself from other people as much as possible: Stay in a specific room, and use a separate bathroom, if one is available. What Does Coronavirus Feel Like? Coronavirus feels different for everyone. Some experience severe shortness of breath, while others don’t realize they have the virus at all. However, about 80% of people who contract COVID-19 will have mild symptoms such as: Fever or chills Recent loss of smell or taste Cough Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing Gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea Headache Fatigue Runny nose Muscle aches Sore throat Can You Have Coronavirus Without A Fever? Yes, it’s possible to have Coronavirus without a fever. But the virus affects everyone differently, so there are a number of ways that symptoms can present themselves. For some, coronavirus symptoms start with a cough or loss of smell and/or taste. In these cases, a fever only appears after the first few days. Coronavirus vs. Flu: What’s The Difference? Coronavirus and influenza (commonly called the flu) may share similar symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, while the flu is caused by influenza A and B viruses. Here are the 3 other key differences of Coronavirus vs. the flu: Symptoms: Since COVID-19 and the flu are separate viruses, there’s a difference in how the viruses present themselves in the body. For example, a loss of taste or smell is rare with the flu but common with COVID-19. Reaction: Coronavirus can cause a more severe reaction than the flu. In some instances, COVID-19 causes complications like blood clots. Treatment: The flu can be treated by antiviral drugs. Only one antiviral drug, remdesivir, is approved to treat COVID-19. Researchers are still evaluating COVID-19 drugs and treatment. Note: It’s difficult to diagnose COVID-19 vs. the flu based on symptoms alone, so be sure to get tested to determine which illness you have. What’s The Difference Between Coronavirus and a Cold? The common cold is typically mild and doesn’t often require intervention for recovery. COVID-19, on the other hand, is a far more serious virus with many symptoms and complications. It typically takes three to 10 days to recover from the cold, but it can take individuals much longer to recover from COVID. While symptoms of the common cold typically appear anywhere from one to three days after being exposed to the virus, COVID can take as long as 14 days to present symptoms. The key difference of Coronavirus symptoms vs. common cold is the way symptoms are presented. For example: COVID-19 has an array of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, while the common cold does not. A common symptom of a cold is a stuffy or runny nose. But many COVID-19 patients experience loss of smell or taste without a runny or stuffy nose Fever, muscle aches and fatigue may be common symptoms of Coronavirus, but these aren’t typically symptoms of the common cold. Can You Get Coronavirus Twice? At this time, cases of Coronavirus reinfection are very rare. But research is still ongoing. How Long Are You Contagious With Coronavirus? The duration of Coronavirus infection can vary depending on your immune system. According to the CDC, adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms remain contagious no longer than 10 days after the onset of symptoms. But it may take up to 20 days for those who are immunocompromised or experiencing severe symptoms of the virus. How Long Does It Take To Recover From Coronavirus? COVID-19 recovery is a very individual process, but most people recover within a few days to a few weeks. Is Coronavirus Deadly? Yes, unfortunately Coronavirus can be fatal. Visit worldometer’s Coronavirus statistics for up-to-date information, including statistics about Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. What Kills Coronavirus? A household cleaner that contains bleach or at least 70% isopropyl alcohol should kill the virus. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a database of safe disinfectants against COVID-19 Does Hand Sanitizer Kill Coronavirus? Hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol are strong enough to kill the COVID-19 virus. But if you’ve used enough hand sanitizer to build residue on your hands, it’s time to wash them. The film traps viruses and germs rather than killing them. Hand sanitizers work well when a sink isn’t available. So remember: The top Coronavirus prevention tip is to wash your hands. How Much Does It Cost To Get Tested For Coronavirus? Thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, COVID-19 testing is available to everyone in the U.S. Community-based testing sites also offer COVID-19 testing free of charge as a part of the national response to the pandemic. Where Can I Get Tested For Coronavirus? There are 3 ways to get tested for COVID-19: Contact your doctor: He or she can evaluate your symptoms and order you a test if they feel the situation warrants it. Visit the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) website: To look up community-based COVID-19 testing locations near you. Visit the HRSA lookup tool: To find a health center that may offer free testing to those who qualify. Pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart may offer testing. You can also check with local independent pharmacies to see if they offer tests. What Medicine Should I Take For Coronavirus? There is currently no cure for COVID-19. But some over-the-counter medication can help reduce symptoms and make you more comfortable, though. For fevers, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) can help lower your temperature. But cough medicine and over-the-counter medication for nausea and vomiting are largely ineffective against COVID-19. Treating Coronavirus comes also down to several factors like your age and underlying medical conditions. If you’re under 65 and relatively healthy, the best solution is to stay home and treat it like you would any other cold or flu: Hydrate. Fevers and coughing will deplete your body of water much faster than normal so you need to balance that with water and drinks with electrolytes like Pedialyte. Rest. Your body needs all the strength it can to fight off the virus, so avoid physical exertion. Try over-the-counter meds. As stated above, OTC meds won’t cure you, but they may bring relief so you can feel more comfortable. Do Antibiotics Treat Coronavirus? No. Antibiotics do not prevent or treat COVID-19 because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not bacteria. Antibiotics only work against bacteria. Is There A Cure For COVID-19? There's currently no cure for COVID-19. However, there are 2 treatments available in the hospital for severe cases: Remdesivir (Veklury): An antiviral medication approved by FDA to treat COVID-19. Dexamethasone: A steroid medication recommended for patients who need supplemental oxygen. Is There A Coronavirus Vaccine? As of March 2021, there are three coronavirus vaccines to guard against the Coronavirus: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Moderna vaccine Johnson & Johnson vaccine Your eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine depends on your state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan and prioritization. COVID-19 vaccines may also be available at local pharmacies across the country including CVS, Publix, RiteAid, Walgreens, and Walmart. The above information does not constitute medical advice. Always consult with a medical professional regarding your health needs. If you’re experiencing a health emergency, contact your local emergency health services immediately, or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care.
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You might remember when the price tag of the EpiPen made headlines in 2016. The cost of this life-saving medication, used to treat severe allergic reactions, went from $93.88 to $608.61 in a seven-year timeframe - a 500% price increase by drug manufacturer Mylan Pharmaceuticals. While the EpiPen story was an extreme case, it's not uncommon for prescription drugs to increase in price and become unaffordable. In 2019, prescription drug costs totaled $360 billion in the United States. The average American consumer spends $1,220 each year just filling prescriptions. In comparison, Canadians spend about $882 per year while France comes in at just $653 annually. That's why you inevitably want to make sure you're paying the best price for your prescriptions. Here are some ways to be a savvy shopper and save money on your prescription drugs. Buy generic brands This may be a no-brainer for some, but it's a cost-saving tip worth remembering. Generic drugs can be significantly cheaper than brand-name versions. While everyone benefits from generic drug prices, people over age 65, especially, saved $75 billion in 2016 by choosing generic drugs. It's important to know that you're not compromising the quality of the drug if you choose a generic brand: The FDA says that generic drugs have the same active ingredients and effectiveness of brand-name drugs - a part of the FDA's approval process. So if your doctor prescribes a brand-name drug, ask if there's a generic equivalent. The savings are worth the effort. Shop around If the price of your prescription seems high, know that you don't have to "just accept" your pharmacy's costs. One pharmacy may charge $7 for amoxicillin, while the other charges $12 for the same thing. And big-box stores may have bigger discounts than smaller pharmacies. Be sure to compare prescription drug costs at different pharmacies. Drug manufacturers or insurers may also offer discounts for certain medications, so be on the lookout for special prices. Reward programs Certain stores or pharmacies may offer coupons or reward programs. Every rewards program is different, but in general: You can join a store's program (sometimes for free or for a small monthly payment) and earn points based on purchases. You can then use those points towards in-store purchases. You might also receive other perks like free 1 – 2 day shipping for prescriptions, 24/7 pharmacy consultations, or points for reporting wellness activities like walking or running. There are many reward programs to choose from - CVS ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards, Meijer mPerks, and Rite Aid wellness+ rewards are three examples. Buy in bulk You might think of paper towels or tissues when buying in bulk. But you can also be a bulk shopper with certain prescriptions - the more you buy, the less they cost. The bulk buying principle might make sense for maintenance drugs that treat chronic conditions. Let's say you have a prescription to treat your chronic heartburn: If you buy 14 tablets of Prilosec, each tablet is $1.43 - a total of $19.98. But if you buy 40 tablets, each one is $0.79 - a total of $33.04. That's 44.75% saved. Anyone can benefit from buying in bulk: Just be sure to consult with your doctor before you buy a 90-day supply of your prescriptions. Prescription savings cards Prescription savings cards provide discounts or coupons for medications at thousands of retailers nationwide. Many companies such as GoodRx and WellRx now offer them. Some even allow you to use them for pet prescriptions. Prescription savings cards typically show you where a drug is available and what the prices are at certain pharmacies. Simvastatin is a popular drug used to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. The average retail price of Simvastatin is around $66.39, but it can be about $3.64 with a prescription savings card. Prescription savings cards are suitable for almost everyone, including Medicare recipients who want to receive further discounts, those experiencing gaps in medical coverage or students on a tight budget. However, it's important to check out the fine print to see what's covered. Apply for assistance You may qualify for prescription drug assistance programs (PAPs) if you're an early retiree, in between jobs, a senior on a fixed income, or a college student. PAPs offer low-cost or free medication to those who don't have health insurance, are underinsured or can’t afford their medications. Assistance may be available through the drug manufacturer or through independent non-profits offering financial aid, such as NeedyMeds and National Council on Aging (NCOA). The cost-benefit varies by drug and PAP. Prescription home delivery You might save cash if you get your prescription drugs shipped directly to your home. In some cases, you can order a 60- to 90-day supply for a better price than buying the drug in person at your local pharmacy. Prescription home delivery makes sense for anyone who wants the convenience of not having to travel to the pharmacy to pick up medications. College students living away from home or those without a car might especially benefit from this option. But first: Check with both your doctor and your insurance company to make sure the home delivery option is available for your specific prescription drug. If you need to ask questions about your medication, picking it up in person at the pharmacy might be a better option for you. Free trial programs Some pharmaceutical companies offer free trial programs for those in between jobs or facing gaps in insurance. Think of being a first-time subscriber to Hulu, for example. Hulu might offer you a free week or month before you officially sign up. After all, the goal is to make you a long-term customer. This same concept applies to free trial programs through certain drug companies. Free trial programs might help you get the medication you need until you enroll in an ACA insurance plan or find a short-term health insurance plan with prescription coverage that works for you. Medicare recipients If you have Medicare, you may not have prescription drug coverage. Medicare has four different parts: A, B, C and D. When you enroll in Medicare, you can choose to enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and B) or Medicare Advantage Insurance (Part C). However, you can't enroll in both. If you choose Original Medicare and want prescription coverage, you must purchase a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) from a private company for a monthly fee. A Medicare Advantage plan is all-in-one insurance and most plans include prescription drug benefits. But not all have this benefit, so it's essential to check the fine print. The good news is that when you're ready to shop for Medicare, you have a few different options. Medicare recipients can also use "preferred pharmacies" to shop for their prescriptions. Preferred pharmacies are in-network pharmacies that offer lower out-of-pocket costs on medications. If you leave the network, your prescription drugs might not be covered, costing you more money. Preferred pharmacies may offer other benefits like a home delivery for a 90-day supply of your prescription drug. Final thoughts You don't want to be in a situation where you have to skip taking your medications or put your health in jeopardy. Know that there are ways to save on prescription drugs. And not all health insurance plans include a prescription drug benefit, so review each option closely.
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From Obamacare to the opioid epidemic, healthcare-related issues have made headlines over the past decade. And it’s inevitable that they’ll only continue to evolve and impact the decade ahead. With the 2020s underway, let’s take a look back at five key milestones and issues that marked the evolution of healthcare over the past decade. 1. The Affordable Care Act became the law. Just months into 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into law. The Affordable Care Act, often referred to the ACA or Obamacare, changed the nation’s health insurance landscape as we knew it. The healthcare reform law brought about numerous changes to help make health insurance more affordable and accessible to as many Americans as possible. Some key provisions include: The creation of a health insurance marketplace in every state to provide consumers with a place to purchase health insurance. Income-based subsidies, including premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, for those who purchase individual coverage through the health insurance marketplace (i.e., the state-based and federal exchanges). A requirement that insurance plans cover young adults on their parents’ policies to age 26. Guaranteed issue and renewal of policies. Premium rating rules that limited pricing to five things: location, age, tobacco use, individual or family enrollment, and plan category (i.e., bronze, silver, gold, platinum, catastrophic). An individual mandate requiring most Americans to have health insurance that qualified as minimum essential coverage or pay a tax penalty, unless they qualified for an exemption. (As of Jan. 1, 2019, the tax penalty has been rescinded). Medicaid expansion to those with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level, in participating states. Ten years later, uninsured rates have declined. In 2010, nearly 16% of Americans were uninsured. But in 2016, the uninsured rate hovered just above 8% -- its lowest point in the decade. It started to increase again slightly in 2017. But premiums increased 105% from 2013 to 2017 while the market adjusted to enrollment numbers and the resulting risk pool. Premiums have begun to stabilize over the past two years. 2. Short-term health insurance kept its stride. Short-term health insurance is temporary insurance that provides coverage in certain medical situations like an unexpected accident or illness. However, it doesn't include the same essential health benefits that ACA plans do, making them a more affordable insurance option for many. Short-term health insurance remained a relevant health insurance option throughout the decade, despite renewed scrutiny. Short-term medical plan sales increased sharply after the ACA took full effect in 2014. And these plans became an attractive option for people who were exempt from the individual mandate or opted to pay a penalty for not having an ACA-compliant health plan. Obama limits short-term policies Concerned that short-term health insurance was impacting ACA enrollment, the Obama administration created regulations that limited their availability. In 2016, short-term policies were capped at three months. Trump expands short-term policies In 2018, the Trump administration lifted Obama-era limits. Policies can now last up to 12 months and can be renewed for up to 36 months, depending on state laws. Arizona, for example, has adopted the Trump administration’s regulation. Some states, such as Oregon, still limit short-term plans to less than 90 days. 3. High-deductible health plans grew in popularity. High-deductible health plans were introduced in the early 2000s, but they were considered "mainstream plans" by 2012. In fact, HDHP enrollment jumped from 10 million people to 11.4 million people in one year (from January 2010 to January 2011). People can obtain HDHP plans through their employer/group based plan (if offered), the healthcare exchange, or private insurers. By 2015, HDHPs accounted for 60% to 80% of plans offered in the individual health insurance marketplace. In 2019, the IRS high-deductible health plan as any plan with a deductible of at least $1,350 for an individual and $2,700 for a family. The average annual deductible for individual coverage through a group plan was $1,655 in 2019. But while consumers can appreciate the lower monthly premium of a high-deductible insurance plan, they also tend to delay or skip medical care because of the high out-of-pocket costs associated with HDHPs. The popularity of HDHP may be slowing - at least in the group market. The percentage of employers offering a high-deductible health plan as the only option is projected to decrease in 2020, with more and more employers beginning to offer additional coverage options once again. 4. Healthcare spending continues to climb. If it seems like your healthcare costs increased throughout the past decade, it probably did. In 2018, the average American household spent $5,000 on healthcare, with nearly 70% of the $5,000 going towards health insurance. The more staggering fact? Medical bills are reported to be the number one cause of bankruptcies nationwide. And today, medical costs are considered America’s "real healthcare crisis". And while politicians continue to debate issues including health insurance reform and prescription drug pricing, they have not agreed upon a clear solution. Until things change, consumers must continue to find ways to save on their own, from finding flexible and affordable health insurance options and taking advantage of preventive care, to comparing provider rates before seeking services and seeking alternative healthcare through things like telemedicine. 5. An Opioid epidemic devastates our nation. The opioid epidemic might be the most daunting and complex public health crisis of our time. Heroin-related overdoses increased 286% from 2002 to 2013, with a significant spike around 2010. Another wave of opioid-related deaths hit around 2013 - this time, synthetic opioids like fentanyl were behind the surge. The crisis continued to escalate from there, with prescription drugs playing a significant role. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths and increased to 47,600 people in 2017. By 2019, more than 90 Americans per day were dying from opioid overdose. And prescription opioid abuse was costing the nation $78.5 billion per year. The epidemic impacted people in both rural and urban environments. But overdose deaths in rural communities surpass deaths in urban settings. So what’s being done about it? In early 2019, the Trump administration launched a $353 million initiative to cut opioid overdoses by 40% over the next three years. The federal government is also working to hold drug companies accountable. For example, top executives at Insys Therapeutics were found guilty of racketeering conspiracy— a charge typically assigned to drug dealers and mob bosses. In 2018, the CDC reported that drug overdose deaths decreased for the first time since 1990. The healthcare debate continues Discussions about healthcare reform and our healthcare landscape did not stop when the ACA was passed. Conversations about legal challenges continue to this day. And, there has been proposed legislation to repeal and replace the ACA under the Trump administration. While no legislation has passed so far, new tax legislation did pass in December 2017, changing one key aspect of the ACA. Previously, you could be penalized for not having health insurance, but the Congress and President eliminated the mandate rule for all coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The 5th Circuit also recently ruled in Texas vs. United States that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. A Texas Judge will be deciding what, if any, of the ACA still stands. And it’s unclear if the case will head to the Supreme Court. With 2020 being an election year, the future of healthcare in America stands at a crossroads: Democrats remain divided on the best course of action moving forward. Their focus is on the expansion of health insurance coverage with tactics like Medicare for all, building on the ACA’s foundation, and rethinking the entire system. Republicans do not have a healthcare plan in place. Should Trump be reelected, his administration would likely continue its efforts to dismantle the ACA and pass new legislation in its place. What happens in November 2020 will no doubt influence how healthcare plays out over the next decade. We’ll continue to follow the trends and changes as well as their impacts on our nation.
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Stethoscope on top of a medical bill
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was originally implemented to protect people from the skyrocketing costs of health care. But the bankruptcy rate across America remains high - despite how the ACA has contributed to fewer bankruptcies across the country. Roughly 700,000 people declare bankruptcy each year, with 66.67% of this amount coming from costly hospital bills. Take Susan, a young mother, as an example: Susan had to have a Cesarean section when giving birth to her second child. During the procedure, she and the baby suffered an amniotic fluid embolism, which caused her to need multiple plasma and platelet transfusions and a full hysterectomy. While both mother and child survived, the family finances did not. Under the unforeseen circumstances, Susan had to stay longer than expected. And the final hospital bill caused Susan and her husband to file bankruptcy. Their experience is all too common. People enter the hospital for "routine" procedures and sometimes leave under crushing debt. And while hospitals give lifesaving care to patients, you may find many items on your bill that'll drive up the total cost. In most cases, the final statements are so extensive that patients don’t even question their accuracy. So how can people protect themselves against high — often inflated — hospital costs? How hospital charges add up quickly Hospitals are a business. Patients are charged for everything including incidental expenses. As examples, the average rate hospitals charge is $15 for a single Tylenol pill. Hospitals can also charge $10 per plastic medication cup, so the cost of each dose of Tylenol is even higher. And every time the hospital staff cleans a patient with an alcohol swab, the cost of the swab is $23. And those tiny alcohol swabs can add up fast. Other ways patients may see higher costs on their hospital bills: Mistakes in billing. A medical billing company discovered that 80% of hospital bills they reviewed had errors. As with any other service, mistakes happen. But it seems that billing errors at hospitals are commonplace. Network nuances. The hospital you chose might be in-network, but some of the providers and associated procedures like radiology techs, lab services, and specialists such as anesthesiologists may not be. If these are used during your stay, you may have to pay for these services out of pocket. Unnecessary tests. Doctors often ask for tests which are not deemed necessary by the insurance company. How a hospital indemnity plan can offset certain costs Many people are finding that hospital indemnity plans can offset certain costs associated with their hospital stays that major medical health insurance does not cover. The truth is few insurance policies cover 100% of hospital costs. Most contain some form of patient share as a coinsurance percentage or a copay amount. And there are deductibles and items which fall outside of the in-network coverage. In other words, having a single health insurance policy is sometimes not enough to protect you from the high costs of a hospital stay. What is a hospital indemnity plan? A hospital indemnity plan is a form of insurance developed that helps you cover additional costs not included in a major medical plan. Unlike major medical, which pays the provider, hospital indemnity plans will pay the person covered. The way it works is an insurance company can pay cash directly to you (or you can have the hospital submit a claim), so you can use it toward out-of-pocket expenses your health insurance might not cover. This allows you to use the funds as you see fit, whether it's for deductibles, travel, or lost income while you're in the hospital. Simply put: The owner of a hospital indemnity policy is in control of the funds — not the provider. But it’s important to know this type of plan is a supplement to - not a replacement for - major medical plans. There are many other terms often used for hospital indemnity plans, which include: Supplemental hospitalization Hospital insurance Hospital cash plans Healthcare indemnity Medical indemnity Health benefit indemnity Fixed indemnity health insurance Indemnity medical plan Health benefit indemnity insurance How does an indemnity plan work? When you buy a hospital indemnity plan, your insurance company will pay you a fixed amount to pay for your medical bills or use the money to supplement income, child care, or any expenses you faced while hurt or sick. If you’re admitted to the hospital for a covered service or condition, you'll notify your insurance company. Your insurer will then pay you a set amount based on a predetermined rate listed in your policy. You'll still want to review your hospital bill to make sure you're not being overcharged - even with a hospital indemnity plan. Doing this will put more money in your pocket for other costs related to the hospital stay. Is a hospital indemnity plan right for you? A hospital indemnity plan can work for most people. Hospital expenses average nearly $4,000 a day, with a typical hospital stay costing more than $15,000 total. So let’s say you have a $6,500 deductible on your health insurance plan and are responsible for 30% coinsurance. This means you would owe a total of $8,200 out of pocket for a $15,000 hospital bill. And this doesn’t even account for lost time at work for you, or travel, food, and parking expenses for your family if they come to visit. And the reality is: Not many Americans can afford that expense. So hospital indemnity plans can go a long way toward protecting your finances. 6 tips to reduce costly hospital bills Although a hospital indemnity plan can help you cover many of the direct and indirect costs of a hospital stay, most people would still prefer to avoid needless charges. To help, here are some tips to reduce costly hospital bills. Watch for billing errors. Ask your provider for the medical billing codes of the procedures you receive so you can make a note of them. Then, request an itemized bill and compare the billing costs after you've been treated. You'll bill probably isn't correct if you see a procedure performed on Thursday, but you checked out on Wednesday. Don't be afraid to challenge any charge that might be an error. Request only in-network providers. Be sure to let hospital staff know that you only want in-network providers. Most will honor this, if they can. Some states even have laws requiring them to honor your request. Watch for unnecessary tests. Ask if each test is necessary and covered. If it’s not necessary, you can let the doctor know you don’t want the test. Your doctor may have a good reason for requesting the test, but it's up to you to make an informed choice. Shop around. Call hospitals in your area and ask for their rates if you have a planned procedure. Choose the right facility. Consider an urgent care or clinic before going to the hospital. If it's an emergency situation, your best bet is to always call 911. But if not, choosing the right facility might lower your out-of-pocket costs. Don’t stay any longer than necessary. Extending your hospital stay even one day longer can add hundreds or even thousands to your bill. While it's at the doctor's discretion, it's OK to ask if another night is needed. The bottom line is that billing mistakes happen: Don't be afraid to question charges on your hospital bill. Be sure to request an itemized billing statement so you can review all charges. And if you're calling the hospital or a customer service line, be sure to get reference numbers and names of the people you speak with. That way, the call can be tracked and the issue can be potentially corrected. More on hospital indemnity plans A good hospital indemnity plan can provide you with protection from the high - often hidden - costs of hospitalization. And there are many hospital indemnity plans on the market today, so knowing which is right for you can be difficult. Our licensed insurance agents are here to talk through your needs and help you find the best hospital indemnity plan to ensure you understand how each will work for you. Save time and money by finding and comparing hospital indemnity plans in your area. You can also click here to get more tips on how to reduce healthcare costs
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red heart and stethoscope earpiece arranged to look like the year 2020
It’s no secret that health insurance is getting more and more complex each year with many changes and proposed rules. So you inevitably might be wondering what changes to expect and what they mean to you, especially when it comes to your health insurance costs and benefits in 2020. Our experts have weighed in to give us their best predictions of what to expect next year. Let’s break them down. Can we expect to see Obamacare rate changes in 2020? In the early years of the Affordable Care Act, enrollees often saw a 10% annual increase in their policy rates nationwide. That’s because many insurance company actuaries originally had to make educated guesses on how plan enrollees would use their benefits. Insurance companies, in turn, took a financial hit because they underestimated the usage of benefits. Obamacare marketplaces have since settled because insurance companies now have a large dataset to finally understand and predict how plan enrollees use their benefits. With this in mind, insurance companies can better predict member costs and adjust premiums to reflect these predictions. In 2019, the premium increases for Obamacare were relatively modest for the second straight year, with the lowest overall increase since the marketplaces came into effect in 2014. The premiums for the second lowest cost silver tiered plan, which is used as a benchmark to establish the subsidies for lower income individuals, also dropped by 1.5% in 39 states relying on HealthCare.gov for the first time since the marketplaces were established in 2014. Enrollment also largely held steady, dropping by only 2.6% nationwide, despite widespread concerns about the Trump administration’s cuts to outreach and marketing efforts and an overall increase in the number of people who were uninsured. It’s predicted that medical costs will be the main driver of rates in 2020, with an increase ranging from 4 to 8%. Average premium increases for 2020 Alabama: 3.9% Alaska: -0.1% Arizona: -2.4% Arkansas: -2.1% California: 0.8% Colorado: -18.2% Connecticut: 7.8% Delaware: -19.5% DC: 9.0% Florida: 0.0% Georgia: 2.4% Hawaii: -1.0% Idaho: 7.0% Illinois: 1.4% Indiana: 9.0% Iowa: -3.3% Kansas: -3.1% Kentucky: 5.0% Louisiana: 11.7% Maine: -1.6% Maryland: -2.9% Massachusetts: 4.5% Michigan: -2.5% Minnesota: 1.6% Mississippi: 2.7% Missouri: -1.8% Montana: -13.1% Nebraska: -5.3% Nevada: 1.0% New Hampshire: 1.1% New Jersey: 8.6% New Mexico: 0.9% New York: 6.8% North Carolina: -5.3% North Dakota: -7.9% Ohio: -7.7% Oklahoma: 1.4% Oregon: 2.3% Pennsylvania: 4.6% Rhode Island: 0.8% South Carolina: -1.9% South Dakota: 6.5% Tennessee: -1.1% Texas: 0.8% Utah: -5.9% Vermont: 11.5% Virginia: -3.6% Washington: 1.0% West Virginia: 6.7% Wisconsin: -3.2% Wyoming: 1.6% Will there be changes to healthcare laws? While rate changes play a major role for consumers when choosing a health insurance plan, healthcare law changes are becoming a vital factor. Since 2014, there has been a constant stream of attempts to alter the Affordable Care Act by Members of Congress who believe that it’s not the right solution for affordable health insurance. Parties on both sides of the aisle are now aiming to change the ACA, whether it’s “Medicare for All” from the left, or repeal and replace from the right. Medicare for All With the 2020 presidential election campaign in full swing, many democratic candidates are suggesting the implementation of a Medicare for All law - proposal specifics will vary depending on which proposal you read. The main idea is that all Americans would be able to enroll in Medicare and would receive a set of benefits provided through the Federal Government. If at all similar to current Medicare, which serves those 65 and older or permanently disabled, enrollees would be allowed to purchase supplemental plans to offset additional costs and provide greater benefits. Although Medicare For All has a lot of support in the House, there is a significant uphill battle to fight it in the Senate. And as long as President Trump is in office, it likely won’t be signed. Repeal and replace Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, the Republicans have been pushing for an option to replace the Affordable Care Act for the better part of a decade. They’ve had some political victories, like the defunding of the risk corridor and setting a $0 penalty for being uninsured, but they’ve yet to completely repeal the ACA. The general public who support the ACA have shown that fully repealing Obamacare could be politically disastrous. Plus, a replacement would need to be developed to get the votes needed. The President has tasked Senators Cassidy and Scott to create a replacement bill that will be able to pass. Given the history of ACA replacement bills, this has yet to be seen. Supreme Court ruling A pending case in front of the Supreme Court, brought by the Attorney Generals from certain conservative states, may affect the Affordable Care Act in the near future. The case claims that Congress doesn’t have the authority to enforce the ACA without a penalty for the individual mandate. A Texas Federal Judge has initially ruled that the law is unconstitutional, but the decision was halted while the Supreme Court decides on how to rule. What are my options? For now, the Supreme Court has not deemed the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional, so you should shop around and compare ACA plans for 2020 as usual. However, even if Congress passes a repeal and replace bill in the next year, it’s unlikely that those changes would go into effect until the following year. Either way, we’re here to help you through any scenario.
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