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Coming out on the other side of Obamacare…

Well, we are officially through the inaugural open enrollment for the new Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Starting on October 1st, 2013 and ending on March 31st, 2014, individuals were allowed to enroll in guaranteed issue, ACA-mandated health insurance plans and some were able to receive premium assistance on these plans, based on income. For those that already had health insurance, the whole situation was largely anti-climactic, as many people kept their existing policies and nothing changed. In the majority of cases, the ACA plans were priced higher than the existing plans, so the decision for many was an easy one. For some though, the ACA plan rates were lower than their existing policies or they qualified for premium assistance, so a move to an ACA plan made sense.

The term I would associate most with the six-month long, ACA open enrollment period is “delay”. Many of the mandates and deadlines were delayed as they approached, and in many ways, the whole process played out in a way that didn’t really resemble the original blueprint of the law. President Obama created a difficult situation for himself with his narrative during his presidential campaign in 2012, repeatedly stating “if you like your plan, you can keep it”. These comments created political pressure that he succumbed to and the decision was made to delay the mandate that would have forced people off of their existing plan…until after the next presidential election (quite a coincidence). For many with lower rates on their existing plan, this is a positive development.

So what does this mean going forward? If you have a non-ACA compliant plan, you will still be able to keep that plan until 2017 (originally, the law required everyone move to an ACA plan in 2014). It’s unclear what rate increases will look like in the coming years, but so far in 2014, the rate increases on the non-ACA group plans have been averaging 10-15%. Again, this is only an average and we have no real indication of what to expect in the individual market. But the good news is that for everyone still on an older plan, you will at least be the option of continuing coverage on that plan. The next open enrollment is scheduled for November 15th, 2014 though February 15th, 2015 so we will go through this process all over again.  The only thing that remains unclear is who the players will be in the individual market, as carriers will have to decide if they are going sell individual health insurance and also whether or not they will make their plans available on the Marketplace (healthcare.gov). The picture will become much more clear by Septemer or thereabouts, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out our website at www.canopykc.com, and “Like” our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/canopykc.

Five Tips for Fighting Fraud: How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

Posted by MADELEINE LOVETTE (From the Blue Cross Blue Shield Blog http://www.bcbs.com/blog/#.UxernvmwJcQ) 

Historic changes to our nation’s health insurance system have broadened access to care for millions of Americans.  Unfortunately, it also has created an opportunity for criminals and scammers to prey on consumers who are new to purchasing health insurance.

These scammers hope to steal personal health and financial information from unwitting shoppers, but you can prevent them from succeeding. 

The Blues want you to have the knowledge and tools to protect yourself and your family against potential health insurance scammers.  Follow these five simple tips to ensure that you don’t become a victim of fraud.

  1. Medicare coverage doesn’t change. No one currently on Medicare needs to sign up for a new Plan or do anything else related to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare.”) If someone contacts you and claims to be from the government or Medicare and asks you to pay for a new “Obamacare” ID card, it is a scam.
  2. New health insurance policies are not required for everyone. While the law says that nearly everyone must have health insurance or pay a penalty, the majority of Americans already receive coverage through an employer. Those with employer-based health coverage generally do not need to do anything.
  3. Never give your personal information to unsolicited visitors or callers. Do not give your personal information to anyone who calls or visits you to talk about insurance under the Affordable Care Act, unless it is in response to an inquiry you have made.
  4. Be a smart shopper. If you want to buy coverage directly from an insurance company, make sure the company is legitimate. If you are unsure about the company or an agent that you are dealing with, call your state health insurance department and confirm that the company or agent is legitimate and licensed in your state before giving them any information.
  5. Protect your insurance card. Scammers can also steal your medical identity, which can put you in harm’s way. Protect yourself by guarding your health insurance ID card, which you will receive in the mail upon selecting the health insurance plan of your choice. Treat this card as you would a credit card or your driver’s license. Don’t lend your insurance ID card to others and beware of “shoulder surfers” when you are using your card at a pharmacy, doctor’s office or other public place.

If you think you may have been scammed or you’ve come in contact with someone who has attempted to obtain your personal information, there are several ways to report these incidents.

  • If you suspect that someone has attempted to obtain your personal health or financial information report it to your state’s Attorney General’s office.
  • If you think your financial information has been stolen by a health insurance scammer, contact your local police department and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through FTCcomplaintassistant.gov.
  • If your health insurance ID card has been lost or stolen, be sure to contact your health insurance company immediately and report the incident to your local police department.

If you have additional questions about fraud, contact us at 1-877-327-BLUE(2583) or STOPFRAUD@bcbsa.com.

Get help when selecting a health insurance plan

Author: Justin Fallein, Vice President of Operations – Canopy

I recently read a story about a man in California that was experiencing difficulties getting approved for a surgery with his new ACA (Obamacare) compliant health insurance plan (Read story here).  The story paints a picture of providers denying him the surgery because he had an ACA plan and went on to paint a misguided picture of how provider networks work on health insurance plans.  It is very much a victim based story that took jabs at everyone – the insurance company, the providers and the ACA law in general.  The ACA has become an easy target for criticism and a punching bag for its flaws, but in this situation, the law isn’t the problem.

What I took away from this story is a problem that’s been in place since healthcare.gov opened for use on October 1st and that is people navigating the site and purchasing health insurance coverage on their own.  Part of it can be attributed to the government marketing campaign that actually urges people to sign up on their own while making it sound “oh so simple”.  At one point, President Obama even compared buying health insurance to buying airplane tickets. The problem with this analogy is that a health insurance policy is much more complicated and much more expensive than a plane ticket and too often, people end up buying health insurance plans they don’t understand.

Under the new ACA law, many carriers do offer plans with limited networks as a way of trying to keep options in place for consumers, with lower premiums.  Unfortunately, the Marketplace plan summaries and even the carrier websites, often don’t explicitly state this fact and unless someone takes the time to search the provider directories, they won’t know and they’ll likely think they’re just buying the plan with the lowest premium.  In the story it mentions the doctor the gentleman had selected to do his surgery was in the BCBS network but wouldn’t accept the gentleman’s plan….that’s because the doctor wasn’t in the specific BCBS network that gentleman’s plan utilized.

The situation referenced in the story seems like a fairly obvious situation.  The gentleman unknowingly purchased a plan with a smaller, limited network of providers.  While the plan might be through Blue Cross Blue Shield, the plan he purchased doesn’t utilize the larger Blue Cross network.  However, when he bought the plan, he obviously didn’t realize this was the case, and how would he know if no one advised him or told him? Fact is, unless you are very well-versed in health insurance and more specifically, in ACA compliant health plans, you should really think twice about buying health insurance on your own without consulting a broker or an agent that can advise you properly on which plan is most appropriate.

A vast majority of health insurance agents and brokers don’t charge a fee to sign someone up for a health plan – it’s free consultation.  So why wouldn’t you use an expert in the field to help you select and enroll in a plan?  Our agency’s brokers have signed up over 3000 individuals since October 1st and have helped many more finalize their plan on the Marketplace because people got to the point where they needed to pick a plan and were unsure which plan was the best option for them. They best thing they did was make a call to one of our brokers to help them finish the process.  Otherwise they may have found themselves in the same situation as the gentleman from California still searching for a provider in his network to do his surgery.  While the ACA law is far from perfect, it’s what we have to work with right now.  If you do need to sign up for a Marketplace plan or a plan off the Marketplace (direct through a carrier), do yourself a favor and get help!  Even if it’s just to ask a few questions and verify you are making the right plan choice.

Financial Associates Midwest Announces Company Name Change to Canopy.

New Branding Reflects Commitment to the Customer Experience and Products Offered

Kansas City—February 12, 2014—Financial Associates Midwest this week announced it is changing its name to Canopy. The name and brand change better reflects the products and services provided by the insurance agency. The change is effective immediately.

“As our company has grown to focus on the personalized needs of our customers, we evolved into a name that reflected the experience we provide,” said Canopy CEO, Bob Zeller. “The word Canopy illustrates that we are more comprehensive and have the ability to cover a wide range of needs for our clients giving them a sense of security and comfort while working with our brokers and our trusted brand.”

Current customers of Canopy are unaffected by this change. Canopy, a health insurance brokerage that provides health insurance for both individual and group customers, also provides additional products and services including Dental, Life, Disability, Supplemental, Long-Term Care, Medicare, Annuities and Home Auto Insurance. Financial Associates Midwest will change its corporate website from finassoc.com to canopykc.com.

With the launch of Healthcare.gov, agencies like Canopy are there to assist customers in the process of enrolling in a variety of healthcare plans and help with the confusion in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

“Trying to enroll in a healthcare plan on your own can be an overwhelming task and you may not get the results you want. At Canopy, we will help each individual find the plan that works best for them at an affordable rate,” stated Zeller. “We strongly discourage anyone to go through this process alone.”

About Canopy
Beginning in 1976 with two employees, Canopy now has a staff of 24 insurance professionals boasting over 350 years of combined experience and knowledge. We understand the environment of an industry with continually changing regulations and opportunities for our customers. And our long history of success allows us to work with the best providers in the area.

Most importantly, our agents understand the unique challenges that face both businesses seeking coverage for their employees and individuals wanting to insure their families. No matter what, our staff has the ability to solve the problem. For more information, visit www.canopykc.com

Canopy Brand Launch

After performing extensive consumer and market research, Financial Associates has made the decision to undergo a name and brand change to better reflect the products and services we provide as an insurance agency. The new name we will operate under going forward is Canopy. As our company has grown to focus on the personalized needs of our customers, we evolved into a name that reflected the experience we provide. The word Canopy illustrates that we are more comprehensive and have the ability to cover a wide range of needs for our clients giving them a sense of security and comfort while working with our brokers and our trusted brand.

We proudly offer a unique service that is unmatched in this city. As a part of this team, it is our responsibility to deliver on the promise of taking good care of our customers and cultivating long-term relationships. With Canopy, our customers are covered.

Simply put, why are we changing our name?

Our previous name gave the wrong connotation.  We don’t offer or sell financial services and our name often created confusion in the marketplace.

What does this mean to me as a client?

It’s a name change only.  You will receive the same service and assistance you’ve come to expect from your agent and support staff. The only thing you’ll have to do is update your email contacts.

Where can I get more information on Canopy?

Our website www.canopykc.com, our Facebook page www.facebook.com/canopykc and subscribe to our blog https://canopykc.wordpress.com/ for news and updated information on Canopy and the insurance industry in general.

What other products and services can Canopy provide me?

In addition to being a specialist in small group and individual health insurance and employee benefits, Canopy can also provide you with Dental Insurance, Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, Supplemental Health Insurance, Medicare products, Annuities, Long-Term Care Insurance, Payroll Services and we even have a partner for Property & Casualty Insurance and Workers Comp coverage.  Most recently, we’ve added Employer HR Consulting to the long list of services we can provide to our clients!

 [+] Learn more here

We look forward to further strengthening our relationship with you!  Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

ABOUT CANOPY.

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Beginning in 1976 with two employees, Canopy now has a staff of 24 insurance professionals boasting over 350 years of combined experience and knowledge. We understand the environment of an industry with continually changing regulations and opportunities for our customers. And our long history of success allows us to work with the best providers in the area.

Most importantly, our agents understand the unique challenges that face both businesses seeking coverage for their employees and individuals wanting to insure their families. No matter what, our staff has the ability to solve the problem.

HOW DO I WORK WITH CANOPY?

Understanding the ins and outs of insurance can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here. If you choose to work with Canopy, there is no out-of-pocket cost to you. We get paid through the insurance company. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to shove you into any ol’ plan just to get paid. We’ll make sure we understand your needs and get you the right coverage.

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