Archive for October, 2017

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Healthcare Executive Order signed by President Trump

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday, October 12, 2017 promoting healthcare choice and competition.

What Is in the Executive Order?

The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) reports that the executive order signed by President Trump directs the secretary of Labor, R. Alexander Acosta, to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance to expand Association Health Plans. The intent of this directive is to allow employers in the same line of business anywhere in the country to join to offer healthcare coverage to their employees. It could potentially allow employers to form Association Health Plans through existing organizations, or create new ones for the express purpose of offering group insurance. This could lead to the sale of insurance across state lines through Association Health Plans; however, more action will need to be taken by the Department of Labor before this option can be available, and NAHU has urged the Administration to work closely with state insurance commissioners across the country to ensure that the rules that are enacted to allow such plans are able to address concerns by state policymakers regarding Association Health Plans crossing into the markets within their borders.

The executive order signed by President Donald Trump directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Eric D. Hargan, Secretary of Treasury, Steven Terner Mnuchin, and Secretary of Labor to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance to expand short-term health insurance – limited duration insurance. This directive would allow the agencies to revisit the rule enacted by President Obama’s Administration that limited the length of short-term health insurance plans to three months. The three-month duration limit on short-term health insurance was implemented on April 1, 2017. Prior to April 1st, short-term health insurance plans could be enforced anywhere from 30 days up to twelve months.

The executive order signed by President Trump directs the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance to expand Health Reimbursement Arrangements. The intent of this directive is to allow employers to contribute more to their employees’ Health Reimbursement Accounts. Health Reimbursement Arrangements are employer-funded accounts that reimburse employees for healthcare expenses, including deductibles and copayments. The Internal Revenue Service does not count funds contributed to an Health Reimbursement Account as taxable income. The intent of this directive is to expand Health Reimbursement Accounts, which could provide employees with more flexibility in how their healthcare is financed.

What Happens Next?

The executive order signed by President Trump directs the secretary of Labor to act within 60 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance on Associated Health Plans. It also directs the secretaries of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services to act within 60 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance on Short term – limited duration plans, and for the agencies to act within 120 days to consider changes to Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

Within 180 days, the secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the secretaries of Treasury, Labor and the Federal Trade Commission, must report to the president on state and federal laws, regulations and policies that limit healthcare competition and choice, as well as on actions that federal and state governments could take to increase competition and choice and reduce consolidation in healthcare markets.

The executive order signed by President Trump for healthcare does not direct the agencies to adopt specific regulations; therefore, for any policies to change, the agencies will have to go through the traditional rulemaking procedures of providing a proposed rule for public comment before being able to enact any final rules.

What about Open Enrollment for 2018?

At this time, nothing in the executive order sign by President Trump for healthcare will affect open enrollment for 2018 unless regulatory action is taken by the agencies. Until any such regulations are enacted, the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” and all of its regulations, penalties and enforcement remain the law of the land.

MUST READ NAHU’s Statement on Today’s Executive Order, National Association of Underwriters, 12 October 2017, Accessed 12 October 2017.

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Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) 2018 Health Insurance Benefits

TRS health insurance benefits are changing for 2018 and our new alternative health insurance options could be a better option. Teachers are accustomed to changes from a school’s curriculum to testing standards, students, and most recently their retiree benefits. What most former educators may not know is that there could be better insurance options available to them besides TRS.

At the beginning of this year’s regular legislative session, TRS-Care came to the Legislature with a $1.1 billion shortfall, asking for supplemental funding to help maintain benefits for retirees. (1).

When TRS launched in 1985, it was expected to remain solvent for a decade with additional funding as needed. But its funding formula has not changed since 2005, a legislative joint interim committee reported last year.

Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, testified before the committee in March 2016 that without the additional allocations, retirees’ TRS health insurance premiums could have tripled by Sept. 1. The office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts said rising costs, a growing retiree population and an outdated contribution system led to the funding shortfall. (2).

Lawmakers knew they needed to act differently and made drastic updates to TRS-Care. They cut the plans offered for those age 65 and younger from three options—one of which was free to retirees each month —to one option that would cost an enrollee $200 in monthly premiums.

The biggest changes for retirees over age 65, those eligible for Medicare, is that the cost to insure dependents has risen drastically. The cost to insure a spouse is rising several hundreds of dollars in some instances (1).

For Medicare eligible retirees and their Medicare eligible dependents TRS supplements their Medicare with a TRS-Care Medicare Advantage plan. Replacing the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage with a Medicare Supplement plan is now a better option for more Medicare eligible retirees. A Medicare Supplement plan can offer better coverage at lower monthly premiums. Texas Medical Plans is contracted with all the major Medicare Supplement insurance carriers in Texas meaning we find you the best coverage for the lowest rate. We do a complete overview to compare your TRS health insurance benefits with all the health insurance alternatives to ensure you and your family have the best coverage.

Premium costs went up for everyone, but for retirees under the age of 65 and not eligible for Medicare, their deductible is increasing as well.

As part of House Bill 3976, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law June 12, TRS-Care is no longer required to offer a $0 monthly premium health plan to retirees under 65 years old. The bill also said the state would contribute 1.25 percent of active employees’ salaries, up from the previous 1 percent contribution.

Katy ISD’s district contribution to TRS-Care also increased from 0.55 percent of payroll to 0.75 percent. KISD staffers are not contributing more per paycheck to TRS-Care, but HB 3976 cost the district $980,000, KISD Chief Financial Officer Chris Smith said. “So it took away $980,000 of what we could be doing for kids in Katy ISD,” Smith said. “It’s going to a good cause—it’s going to our retirees—but it’s not helping educate kids that are looking at us every day.”

Smith said he saw no immediate evidence KISD employees will delay retirement in order to avoid paying more for health insurance. Meanwhile, the district has about 250 retired employees who came back to do part-time work in KISD.

Young blamed the state and said retirees with fixed incomes are especially susceptible to the change in plan contributions. “[That is] a big problem—oversight and not anticipating the future,” Young said. (2).

On Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, TRS’ Board of Trustees passed a motion to apply additional funding from the special legislative session to reduce deductibles from $3,000 to $1,500 for TRS-Care non-Medicare participants and decrease premiums for TRS-Care Medicare-eligible participants. In addition, premiums for retirees with disabled children were reduced by $200. The Teacher Retirement System of Texas was allocated an additional $212 million after its leadership initially requested $1.35 billion to resolve a budget shortfall for its medical offering, TRS-Care.

Plan participants will receive additional information including an invitation to an in-person information session in their area and new plan guides by mid-November with details about the 2018 plans.

What does this all mean? Retired teachers 65 years and over and their dependents and retired teachers 64 and under and their dependents have new and more affordable health insurance options besides TRS. Do not miss out in getting the best insurance for you and your family before it is too late. Call our Licensed Texas Health advisors now at (512)847-3164. We are ready to review your coverage to get you the best!

2018 TRS-Care health benefits if you are not eligible for Medicare

2018 TRS-Care health benefits if you are eligible for Medicare

  1. Emily Donaldson, “TRS-Care experiences changes that will affect way retired teachers access health care in January”, Community Impact Newspaper, 7 Sept. 2017,  see full article here, Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.
  2. Amelia Brust, “Teacher Retirement System changes keeping agency afloat, but at a cost to younger retirees”, Community Impact Newspaper, Updated 26 Sept. 2017, see full article here, Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.

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