Health Policy

2020 Medicare Part B Monthly Premium and Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts

On Friday Medicare announced the Part B rates that most Medicare enrollees will be responsible for paying in 2020.  Effective January 1, 2020 the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $144.60.  This represents an increase of $9.10 from the $135.50 enrollees paid in 2019.

Starting in 2007, a beneficiary’s Part B monthly premium has been based on income. Income-related monthly adjustment amounts (IRMAA) affect approximately 7 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries. The 2020 Part B premium levels adjusted for income as well as the Part D (Prescription Drug Plan) are shown in the following tables:

2020 Medicare Part B Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts

 

Part D (Prescription Drug Plans) IRMAA in 2020

And, If your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount, you may also pay a Part D income-related monthly adjustment amount (Part D IRMAA).  Those amounts for 2020 are listed below.

Open Enrollment

How to Prepare for Group Health Open Enrollment

‘Tis the season for open enrollment in the world of health insurance! Open enrollment for Medicare 2020 has already begun (October 15th – December 7th, 2019). Additionally, individual open enrollment is underway (November 1st – December 15, 2019). Lastly and most important to this article is the fact that many employers are in the midst of their group health plan open enrollment. Many group plans renew January 1st so it’s a busy time of year for employers, brokers, and insurance carriers.

This article is designed to assist employers in knowing what to focus on during this busy season.

Renewals

The most important thing we need to focus on is the premiums that you pay to the insurance carriers. We know this is a huge expense and we work with you to keep this competitive to what’s available in the marketplace.

Most of the January 1st group health insurance renewals are out. Perhaps your increase is palatable enough to forgo shopping and just renew as is. However, that is more the outlier than the norm. Typically, it’s best to assist us with the necessary data needed in order to shop your policy with the competing carriers in the marketplace. By now, your account managers at BBG have been working hard to gather the necessary data for shopping. These items include:

  • Current Census
  • Average Total Number of Employees (ATNE). This is based on how many total employees you employed each month and dividing by 12. Estimates are used for the remaining months of the year.
  • Names of your employees who are eligible but waive off the plan
    • The reason they are waiving
  • If you are a 51+ group we’ll need what is called an Employer Risk Assessment Form (ERAF)

The above will allow us to obtain street rates in the small group market place and potentially underwritten rates in the 51+ marketplace. Street rates are off the shelf rates that are based on your group’s census alone. They are still subject to underwriting but give us a good benchmark to know if we should pursue underwritten rates

Medical Health Questionnaires (MHQs)

The dreaded MHQs need not be so dreaded anymore! Most insurance carriers prefer to receive electronic MHQs via programs like FormFire. Some carriers now require FormFire MHQs. BBG has dedicated team members who can assist your employees in completing this process. We’ve worked hard this year to streamline the process to allow us to help a larger number of you in a shorter amount of time.

So when are MHQs needed? This answer is different depending upon what market segment you are in…

1-50 Small Groups

If you have 50 and under total employees, FormFire MHQs will be needed to obtain underwritten rates from any competing carriers. However, BBG is all about efficiency so we first obtain street rates to determine if this is even worthy of your time. If we determine that it is then we highly suggest proceeding with FormFire.

The only exception here is when we obtain community rates. Community rates are different from underwritten rates and are typically more expensive than their underwritten counterparts.  We’ve been finding that mostly micro groups and other groups with certain characteristics that may adversely impact underwriting are served best by community rates.

51-99 Mid-Size Groups

If you have between 51-99 total employees some carriers require MHQs to release any underwritten rates. However, there are a few carriers who will release underwritten rates if your renewal is <25% and you’ve completed an ERAF.

100+ Large Groups

Typically MHQs are not needed in the 100+ market segment; although, there are exceptions where MHQs can be helpful. Your account manager will assist to know when this applies to you.

When Not to Shop the Market

There are only two instances when it makes sense to not shop the market. 1.) If you are in the 51-99 market and your incumbent carrier asks for your “no shop” number. A no shop number is an increase you are willing to accept in agreement for not shopping.

In our experience, if a carrier is asking for your “no shop” number, they are willing to play ball and negotiate. If you are not sure what a reasonable no shop number is, talk to your account manager and they can assist you with this. However, you can always be aggressive and ask for a flat increase. What’s the worst they can say? No? If the carrier cannot meet it, we can always shop your policy.

2.) Or if you are in the 1-50 market your incumbent carrier may be able to provide some rate relief in an agreement to not shop your policy. The amount of rate relief available in the small group market is much smaller but if you received a favorable renewal a few points of rate relief may be enough for you to decide to stay put. Your account manager and BBG will let you know if this is a feasible option for your specific group.

Closing Thoughts

At BBG, we are fully aware that the most important work we do is to assist the employers we work for in keeping healthcare costs and the coverage your employees receive competitive to what’s in the marketplace. The most important benchmark number we look at is your average cost per employee per year. This number is found by taking your total costs and dividing by your total employees enrolled in the health plan. We realize your enrollment can fluctuate and by looking at this number we are looking at a comparable number year over year.

Open enrollment is always a busy time of the year but the exercise of shopping, completing FormFire, and allowing BBG to negotiate with the carriers on your behalf is the important work. This work allows you to maintain strong benefits year after year.

 

 

Déjà Vu, Again – Small Group Transitional Relief Plans (pre-ACA) Extended Through 2020

Buried far below the most recent headlines related to eliminating the ACA, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) once again announced that employers in the small group market still enrolled in Transitional Relief Plans (pre-ACA) may keep their existing policies and plans for another year. CMS stipulates that ultimately the discretion for granting an extension again rests with state regulators and the respective participating insurance carriers who continue to make those plans available.  As we learned last year a few insurance carriers (e.g. Aetna) elected not to extend the Transitional Relief Plans beyond 2018. They instead chose to eliminate the option of renewing the old plans thus requiring impacted employers to move to ACA plans or one of the market compliant alternatives (e.g. level funding, MEWA, etc).

For more info click on the link below:

Extended Non-Enforcement of Affordable Care Act-Compliance With Respect to Certain Policies

Three Notable Employer Health Coverage Factoids In The News This Week……

…… that may be of interest only to me.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase Finally Has a Name

It only took eight months. The new nonprofit healthcare company founded by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase finally has a name. It will officially be known as “Haven”. (Maybe it’s just me, but with all the introductory splash and all the money being thrown at this thing, but ”Haven”? Conjures up visions more of a retirement home or maybe an RV resort somewhere just of I-95 rather than healthcare innovator.)

Not much is known about Haven. Data, technology, improving employer healthcare, and not-for-profit is about all we know at this point and that’s according to Haven head guy Atul Gawande.

Two unrelated but interesting things to note about Haven:

  1. The nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealthCare, views Haven as a competitor. And,
  2. It wasn’t that long ago (last summer) that billionaire leader of Berkshire Hathaway and Haven co-founder, Warren Buffett, indicated that a single payor healthcare system may be the most effective system for cutting healthcare costs.

Not sure what to make of it or how it will ultimately affect the group health market but it’s still interesting.

Is Health Market Fragmentation the Culprit? The Main Driver of High Costs?

Following up on Buffett’s take, I read this week that the fragmented nature of the U.S. healthcare system (from employer-sponsored group coverage to the individual market to Medicare, and Medicaid, and the V.A., and coverage for Native Americans – is primarily responsible for today’s high cost of healthcare coverage? Could that be an over simplification? How would simply merging those lead to lower costs?

We’ll leave that for others to figure out.

In the meantime, we’ll just keep working hard on finding new and meaningful ways to mitigate the high cost of coverage for our employer groups and their employees.

Buying and Selling Health Insurance Across State Lines

The Interstate sale of health insurance is back in the news this week with the government’s release of a fifteen-page document requesting commentary. Some see this as surefire way to increase competition and ultimately lower the high cost of health coverage. Others see it as simply adding more chaos without much gain. My sense is maybe both. Some short term gain as well as adding to the chaos. Overall, seems like at best it may temporarily treat a symptom but doesn’t won’t move the needle much toward a cure.

We’ll see if it gets traction.

If it does get traction it will be interesting to track the unintended consequences as, sure as shootin’, there will be some.

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