It sort of feels like it is spring already!
This unseasonably warm weather is very welcome. The mild temperatures left many of us unprepared for when winter finally got in a few days of record cold last week. There will certainly be a few more icy days before the end of March. Hope you all stay warm
We have been hard at work during these last few weeks helping clients obtain health insurance.
Although the hectic Healthcare Open Season is now over, we will always be happy to answer any question you might have about complying with the Affordable Care Act. Brownell Insurance is still your Health Care Headquarters!
Marie Brownell and The Brownell Insurance Team
Remember – we offer free quotes for all of our insurance products. Please don’t hesitate to “Dare to Compare” the insurance coverages you might have elsewhere to see if “bundling” them might save you a few hundred dollars. You just might find the service and savings you have been looking for!
Open enrollment is over; 2016 plans are only available with a qualifying event
Open enrollment for 2016 ended on January 31, although Healthcare.gov and some of the state-run exchanges are assisting people who began their enrollment by the end of the day on January 31 but didn’t complete it by the deadline.
In general, the plans available outside of open enrollment without a qualifying event are not regulated by the ACA, and most are not a good choice to serve as stand-alone coverage.
Nevada is an exception. There, off-exchange carriers are required to offer year-round enrollment, but they can impose a waiting period of up to 90 days before benefits become effective.
But in every other state, ACA-compliant plans, both on and off-exchange, are not available for purchase outside of open enrollment.
That is, unless you have a qualifying event that triggers your own special open enrollment window.
People with employer-sponsored health insurance are used to both open enrollment windows and qualifying events. In the employer group market, plans have annual open enrollment times when members can make changes to their plans and eligible employees can enroll. Outside of that time frame, however, a qualifying event is required in order to enroll or change coverage.
In the individual market, this was never part of the equation prior to 2014 – people could apply for coverage any time they wanted. But policies were not guaranteed issue, so pre-existing conditions meant that some people couldn’t get coverage or had to pay more for their policies.
All of that changed thanks to the ACA. Individual coverage is now quite similar to group coverage. As a result, the individual market now utilizes annual open enrollment windows and allows for special open enrollment triggered by qualifying events.
So even if you didn’t select a plan by January 31, you could still have an opportunity to enroll in ACA-compliant coverage for 2016 if you experience a qualifying event. In that case, you have a special open enrollment period – generally 60 days – during which you can enroll or switch to a different plan.
It’s important to note that HHS is ramping up enforcement of special enrollment period eligibility in 2016, amid concerns that enforcement was too lax in 2014 and 2015. If you’re enrolling as a result of a qualifying event, be prepared to submit proof of the qualifying event to the exchange.
9 Special Open Enrollment Triggers
- Involuntary loss of other coverage that is qualified as minimum essential coverage. (Cancelling the plan or failing to pay the premiums does not count as involuntary loss)
- Individual plan renewing outside of the regular open enrollment. HHS issued a regulation in late May 2014 that included a provision to allow a special open enrollment for people whose health plan is renewing – but not terminating – outside of regular open enrollment.
- Becoming a dependent or gaining a dependent as a result or birth, adoption, or placement in foster care.
- Marriage. If you get married, you have a 60 day open enrollment window that begins on your wedding day.
- Divorce. If you lose your existing health insurance because of a divorce, you qualify for a special open enrollment based on the loss of coverage rule discussed above.
- Becoming a United States citizen (this qualifying event only applies within the exchanges – carriers selling coverage off-exchange are not required to offer a special enrollment period for people who gain citizenship or lawful presence in the US).
- A permanent move to an area where different qualified health plans(QHPs) are available. A permanent move to a new state will always trigger a special open enrollment period, because each state has its own health plans.
- An error or problem with enrollment (or non-enrollment) that was the fault of the exchange, HHS, or an enrollment assister. In this case, the exchange can properly enroll the person (or change plans) outside of open enrollment in order to remedy the problem.
- Employer-sponsored coverage reducing benefits such that it no longer provides minimum value, or becomes unaffordable (defined as requiring the employee to pay more than 9.5 percent of income for just the employee’s portion of the coverage) for the upcoming plan year.
Article written by Louise Norris
Read the Full Article on: healthinsurance.org
Can I Get Home Insurance if I Have a Pit Bull?
The cost of homeowners insurance can be impacted by a myriad of things, from crime rates to flood risk in the area. Many homeowners don’t expect the cost of a policy to depend on the breed of dog they own, but this does factor into the cost. One breed of dog that has received a lot of negative press lately in the pit bull – a breed of dog commonly used in dog fighting, and also a very common breed to see in shelters and rescues.
Homeowners Insurance and Dangerous Dogs
The HSUS estimates that there are over 84 million dog owners in the United States. Roughly 5% of these animals are classified as pit bulls. While homeowners insurance may exclude liability coverage for families that own pit bulls, they also may exclude other dogs believed to be aggressive, such as an Akita, Alaskan, Chow, Doberman Pincher, German Shepherd, Malamute, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or Wolfdog.
How Does a Dog Bite Affect Homeowners Insurance Rates?
A dog bite occurs in the United States every 75 seconds. Over 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites, and half of these are children. 386,000 will require treatment in an emergency room. The fifth most popular reason for a child visiting an emergency room is a dog bite. While a dog bite can be serious, the fatality risk is extremely low, at .000002%; fatalities are estimated at 16 per year. The average insurance payment for a dog-related injury is just over $21,000. Dog bites accounted for more than a third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars in 2011, and insurance companies dole out more than $1 billion in dog bite claims each year.
Every insurance company will have different rules and regulations when it comes to insuring a family that owns a dog classified as an aggressive breed. Some cities, counties, and states are now enacting breed-specific laws banning the aforementioned breeds all together, or holding owners to a higher standards of liability. On the other hand, many insurance agencies still offer affordable homeowners insurance, along with other policy options, that will include coverage for your four-legged family member, no matter what the breed.
How to Get Homeowners Insurance to Cover Your Pit Bull
If you own a dog on the aggressive dog list, here are a few tips to help you obtain insurance to cover any dog-related incidents:
- Check your policy first – Dust off your homeowners or renters insurance policy and make sure that you are currently covered. Check and see if there are any exclusions in the policy or attached by endorsement that are specific to the kind of dog you own. If there are no breed exclusions, check and make sure that dog bites that occur on and off your property are covered. A policy with a personal liability limit of $100,000 or more is a good idea.
- Shop around – Search online for companies that insure dangerous breeds. There are insurance agencies that specialize in insuring higher risk dogs. You may also want to use online forums specifically for dog owners to see what insurance companies they use. If you have friends or family that own pit bulls or other typical “dangerous dogs,” contact them and ask for insurance recommendations. One of the benefits of using an independent agent is that they can do the shopping around for you, saving you time and hassle.
- Train and socialize your pet – The American Kennel Club offers a program called “The Canine Good Citizen Program.” This program teaches basic dog obedience skills, along with responsible pet ownership. This program has been recognized by many insurance companies as a way to get a discount on a homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance policy. Getting this certification may also be the only way some insurance companies will insure a family with an aggressive breed of dog for liability coverage. It’s also important to socialize your pet with other animals and people. Exposing your dog to strangers, along with strange dogs, is an important part of developing a safe family member. You may also consider finding a dog trainer to help you with this process.
- Spay/Neuter Your Pet – This may seem like common sense, but spaying or neutering your pet can decrease your chances of facing a dog bite lawsuit. In 2009, 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs – 94% of which were not neutered.
- Get an umbrella policy – An umbrella policy is extra insurance meant to cover liability for greater amounts and sometimes other things that a general homeowners policy doesn’t. If your homeowner’s policy does not cover dog bites or dogs of specific breeds, look for an insurance policy that will. A typical umbrella policy that covers dog bites will have a limit of $1,000,000. These policies are usually very affordable, at around $100-$300 a year.
- Get canine liability insurance (Pit Bull Insurance) – Canine liability insurance, or pit bull insurance, may be available and could cover any damages your dog does to property, animals, or people. Dog liability insurance can cover the following:
- Bodily injury to animals or people
- Third party property damage
- Vet bills
- Medical bills, including reconstructive surgery
- Attorney’s fees
- Income compensation for the injured parties.
Nobody expects a dog bite to happen. Taking the proper precautions and having adequate insurance can make the difference between financial stability and financial ruin after a dog bite.
Find this article at: TrustedChoice.com
1/2 pound butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).
Mix butter in a mixer until light, add remaining ingredients.
Knead until velvety. Roll one-half of the dough at a time to about 1/4 inch thickness using the smallest amount of flour possible.
Cut out and bake on a lightly greased pan for 12 minutes. Cookies will be almost white when cooked.
Recipe courtesy of: AllRecipes.com