How retirees can make a smooth health insurance transition

Finally retiring?  Congratulations!  Have you thought about where your healthcare coverage is going to come from until you hit that magical age of 65 when you are Medicare eligible? Healthcare, for many, is one of the most important factors in determining when to retire.  Make sure to do some homework and work with someone with a fiduciary standard to help you make sense of the sometimes confusing health insurance environment we live in today. If you are already 65, your employer may offer a retiree Medicare insurance benefit.  If they do, in many cases it is offered at no cost or reduced cost to you.  If your employer doesn’t offer a retiree benefit, there are multiple options available to you in the Medicare world.  We can explain each option to you in simple terms so that you can make an educated decision on what option is best for you. If you are under 65, the first thing you should do if you are retiring and currently have group benefits is ask your HR department what the continuation options for health insurance are.  Sometimes, as a retiree benefit, your employer will still continue to offer coverage at no cost or a lower cost to you.  If your employer doesn’t allow you to continue your current coverage as a retiree benefit, he or she must give you the option of COBRA continuation coverage.  This is a mandated benefit and it allows you to keep your current coverage from your employer for 18 months.  The main difference from COBRA to retiree benefit health insurance is that with COBRA, you will be responsible for the entire cost of insurance.  This in many cases is the simplest and most affordable option available to someone looking to retire.  With that being said, it is always in your best interest to do your due diligence and compare with the individual market. The individual market for major medical… | Read More »

Prefunding your funeral brings peace of mind

While it is common to set aside funds in advance of major life expenses like adoptions, educations and weddings, it is far less likely that healthy individuals will pre-fund their funeral expenses. This lack of attention may make sense in the short-run, as people work hard to raise their families with the requisite mortgage payments, retirement planning, and daily living expenses this entails. The truth is, funerals are expensive and very few people have the resources to pay for them outright. Lack of planning can cause you to be a burden to the very family you worked your whole life to protect. Without advance planning and funding, some survivors find themselves dipping into savings accounts, using credit cards, taking out loans or even selling personal assets to pay for funeral expenses. Even if you have the money to pay for your own funeral, it may be tied up in probate at the time your grieving family is trying to access it. Obviously, no one wants to be a financial burden to their families, but very few people have access to extra disposable income to pay for a funeral up front. So, where do you get the money to prefund your funeral? Odds are you already have it.  It could be in the bank, money market, or even in another insurance policy.  Different payment plans are available from single pay to multi-year pay.  We can help tailor your policy to meet your specific needs and goals. Examples of vehicles used by many include savings accounts, certificates of deposits (CD), annuities, money market accounts, or mutual funds.  All of these can hold money for the purpose of paying ones funeral expenses, but not all are protected from creditors. Purchasing an insurance policy on yourself to cover the anticipated costs of your funeral and then assigning that policy to an irrevocable funeral trust allows you to enjoy the following advantages: At time of… | Read More »

Old life insurance policies can cost you money

Insurance policies, like other components of a well-designed retirement plan, require diligence both prior to their purchase and after their activation. The dangerous, though common, practice of purchasing Variable Universal Life and Universal Life Policies and then ignoring them through the years, can result in a significant loss of money. If you are not careful these policies can actually eat themselves from the inside, when the cost of insurance rises above the planned premium payments.  It is best to catch this as early as possible.  A telltale sign of this happening is when your cash value on the most recent annual statement is lower than the cash value on the previous year’s annual statement. This means that the planned premiums going in are not enough to cover the cost of insurance and the difference is being pulled from the cash value. We help people in this exact situation come up with the best solution to their insurance requirements all of the time.  Because we are an independent firm and not tied to a single insurance company, we can work with you and your insurance company to adjust premiums to carry your policy to a desired age, or we can look at alternatives with other insurance companies. Not all permanent policies get into trouble like this.  Sometimes Variable Universal Life and Universal Life policies are performing well and still growing cash value.  In general Whole Life Insurance will not run out of cash value.  Whole Life is designed to be more expensive up front with premium dollars, and they can return some of the unused premiums in the form of dividend payments.  This is a more expensive way to purchase permanent coverage. If you have a permanent policy (either Whole Life, Variable Universal Life, or Universal Life with cash value in it) you need to ask yourself one question: What is the purpose for this coverage?  If your goal is strictly… | Read More »

Stopgap options available for canceled healthcare insurance policies

On Dec. 19 President Obama offered stopgap options to those people whose health insurance plans were canceled for not meeting the robust Affordable Care Act guidelines of coverage.  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she will use authorities in the law to issue an exemption from tax penalties to those who received cancellations and are not able to find new coverage. In addition to the penalty exemption, the administration is allowing anyone, regardless of age, to sign up for catastrophic (bare bones) plans originally designed for people under the age of 30.  This will allow people to save on premiums if they are willing to assume more potential risk for cost of care.  Lastly the Department of Health and Human Services is setting up a dedicated hotline for those who got cancellations at 1-866-837-0677. These moves are not being well received by the insurance industry.  Many are worried that this will increase the instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption.  On Dec. 18 the insurance industry had announced its own accommodation to ensure people get effective coverage by offering a 10-day extension of the final date to receive premium,  pushing the deadline back to Jan. 10 for plans starting January 1.   If a significant number of people, especially the young, choose not to sign up or use an exemption, many are worried that not enough healthy people will be paying in and premiums will have to be aggressively adjusted for the 2015 calendar year. We are living in a very interesting time for healthcare in this country.  If you can afford coverage we strongly advise you find coverage that will protect you and your loved ones against the real risk of shattering health care expenses.  The federal marketplace is improving in performance and functionality.  We are always available to assist you in making sense of the multitude of coverage options available to you either in… | Read More »

Wisconsin’s high risk insurance program, HIRSP, will end

Wisconsin’s high risk insurance program known as HIRSP  is ending on December 31, 2013.  This is due to one of the main provisions in the Affordable Health Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare), which states that insurance companies are no longer able to decline or rate individuals based on pre-existing conditions. Any policy purchased with an effective date of 1/1/2014 or later is guaranteed issue, which means no one can be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. This covers all policies purchased on the Federal Marketplace at or off the marketplace. The only difference between policies on or off the marketplace is that on the marketplace you can get federal tax credits/subsidies to lower your insurance premiums if your adjusted gross income falls in certain ranges. If you do not qualify for subsidies based on your income level, you can still purchase insurance on the marketplace, but the incentive to do so doesn’t exist for you and you may even find a better deal off the marketplace. Anyone currently on HIRSP must complete an application for individual insurance on or off the marketplace by 12/15/2013 to have coverage by 1/1/2014.  This can be a confusing issue and we’re glad to help clear things up for you. If you or anyone you know is currently on HIRSP, feel free to call to schedule an appointment today to review insurance options available to you.