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IPS / Lighthouse Insurance Group Blog: michigan health insurance

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image of happy employeesProviding your employees with the benefits they want and need is good for your company. It can your company to retain top talent. It also might help you to keep your employees longer, reducing training costs and hiring fees. Importantly, it helps you to show your concern for the people who make your company possible. 

When it comes to employee benefits health insurance is one of the most valuable. Are you offering it?

Knowing Your Legal Requirements

The Affordable Care Act requires some businesses to provide employees with health insurance. This is often the case for businesses with a certain number of full-time employees or a large staff.

Requirements aside, consider what providing health insurance to your employees would mean to them.

  • With this type of employee benefit, your team can afford to have regular medical care. This allows your team to remain healthy and reduces the amount of missed time at work they have for illness.
  • Your employees appreciate being able to take their children to the doctor. Some employees say that having insurance for their children’s needs is important to them. This also reduces risks of employees missing work because of a child's illness.
  • Companies that offer health insurance can receive more applications and better applicants for positions. This is especially true for higher level positions and harder to fill positions.
  • Employees with health insurance can get necessary health screenings early on. This can help employees to fight off disease sooner. It can also help them tackle risks such as weight concerns, smoking, and mental health matters, sooner.
  • Providing employee benefits may help you qualify for federal tax breaks.

Most companies will find that offering health insurance is a key employee benefit. Benefits can help both you and your team. It may not be as expensive as you think. Benefits can also be exactly what your team expects and needs to keep them working harder for you. Take the time to learn more about the employee benefits that really impact your team. Learn what you can do to ensure your employees have the coverage they need.

Do you have questions about the right type of Michigan health coverage to offer your employees? Call Insurance Planning Service today at (800) 220-5582.

Michigan Health InsuranceWith so many germs being shared in workplaces, schools and other public areas, it’s important to know how to maintain your health during cold and flu season. Falling ill not only feels terrible, but it can affect your education or paycheck if you have to stay home. The most important thing you can do to preserve your health is to frequently wash your hands. But more than that, you must learn proper washing techniques. Scrub the entirety of your hands and fingers with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, rinse well, and dry with a clean towel. When possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open public restroom doors.

How often should you wash your hands? To answer that, you must think about the spread of germs, which are most commonly caught through hand contact. Think of areas that are frequently touched—door knobs, fridge handles, mice and keyboards, pens, etc. Viruses can live on such surfaces for up to eight hours. When you come into contact with these public areas, avoid touching your face and wash your hands as soon as possible. Fortunately, you cannot catch the flu just by touching an infected area with your hand; those germs must pass from your hand to your nose, eyes or mouth for the virus to take hold inside of your body. Washing the germs away before you scratch your nose or rest your chin on your hand can prevent illness.

You can also boost your immune system internally. Eating a variety of colorful fruits and veggies provides your body with an assortment of vitamins and antioxidants that keep your immune system, along with others, running smoothly. Dark, leafy greens and berries are especially helpful in this area; and strawberries, contrary to popular belief, have more vitamin C than oranges. Along with diet, exercise is great for your body and is also required for smooth internal function. Living a healthier lifestyle is good for all aspects of your health, including warding off illness.

Even your best efforts may not be enough if you come in contact with sick individuals. If you do get sick, you should take steps to avoid spreading the illness. Never cough into your hands, which then touch objects that can go on to infect others. Instead, cough into your sleeve or a tissue, which should then be thrown out. Wash your hands after blowing your nose. Staying home from school or work and avoiding people in general is the best way to keep your germs to yourself. And people will thank you for it!

Your good health is important to us. Call Insurance Planning Service at (734) 421-9900 for more information on Michigan health insurance.

Last Friday marked the deadline for states to declare whether they will establish and run their own health insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). In all, 18 states and the District of Columbia declared their intentions to operate their own state exchanges and submitted the required applications to federal officials. 

Health insurance exchanges are seen by many observers as the centerpiece of the PPACA. These are the online marketplaces for individuals and employers to purchase coverage through preapproved qualified health plans with specific levels of covered benefits. In addition, the exchanges will be used to determine eligibility for new subsidies for taxpayers with incomes of up to 400% of the poverty level, as well as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

The Department of Health and Human Services must now approve, conditionally approve or deny applications submitted by the 19 jurisdictions:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

These decisions must be made no later than Jan. 1, 2013. Each exchange must be ready for open enrollment on Oct. 1, 2013, and fully operational on Jan. 1, 2014.

HHS has already granted conditional approval for Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington to run their own exchanges. The other states seeking approval to operate their own exchanges have made varying levels of progress in enacting necessary legislation and satisfying the requirements imposed on exchanges by the PPACA.

It is possible that the applications of at least some states will be denied.  

Most states have chosen not to pursue the establishment of a state-based exchange, so the federal government will establish an exchange in these remaining states and in any jurisdiction whose application is denied by HHS.

The states that have elected not to create exchanges cite a variety of reasons for their decision, such as a lack of clear guidance from the federal government and the prohibitive cost associated with running an exchange. For many states, the bigger issue was the political liability of appearing to comply with an unpopular law. 

These states may establish their own exchanges at a later date. However, there is a one-year waiting period before one will be permitted to be operational.

States with federally operated exchanges have the option of performing plan management and/or consumer assistance functions for the exchanges, under the “partnership exchange” model. Or, they may allow the federal government to operate the exchange without any significant state involvement through the “federally-facilitated exchange” model. 

States that intend to cooperate with HHS on the operation of a partnership exchange must submit an application for approval by Feb. 15, 2013.

Several states—including Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and West Virginia—appear likely to seek such approval to operate one or both of the areas of responsibility available to states under the partnership model. 

Source:  Independent Agent Magazine

ChoicesThe economy is improving, but many of today's grads will likely struggle to find good jobs with employer-based medical benefits. Additionally, the looming Supreme Court decision and the 2012 presidential election may create more uncertainty about consumer health insurance options and the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In order to help young adults and their parents navigate their health insurance alternatives and find the best coverage options in the current environment, we have found the following tips specifically for 2012 college grads:

1. Consider all your options. The three most common forms of coverage for college grads include employer-based plans, individually purchased plans, and coverage under a parent's policy. Each comes with special considerations:

Employer-based health insurance - These plans often provide rich benefits, and monthly premiums are split between employee and employer. No one can be turned down for employer-based coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions. However, not all employer plans are created equal. Weigh your employer's coverage options carefully and make sure you know how much will be taken from your wages and applied to your monthly premiums.

Individually-purchased health insurance - Young and relatively healthy grads should be able to find individual coverage at relatively affordable prices. Health care reform improved key aspects of these plans by doing away with lifetime coverage limits and improving access to many preventive medical services. A licensed agent like Insurance Planning Service can provide you with free quotes and help you compare plans. Keep in mind that you may be declined if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions.

Health insurance coverage through a parent - Health care reform made it possible for children to stay on a parent's health insurance plan until age 26. However, if you live in different state than your parents, your benefit levels may be severely reduced. Parents may also need to actively re-enroll adult children every year. If you're offered coverage from your own employer, you could be dropped from your parent's plan.

2. Watch out for changes to the health care reform law. If you hadn't heard, the Supreme Court will be ruling on the constitutionality of the law this summer. This fall's presidential election could impact the law's prospects too. If it's struck down or radically altered, the provision of the law allowing young adults under age 26 to retain coverage under a parent's plan could be invalidated too. Be prepared and make sure you understand your other health insurance options in case things change in 2012.

3. Go Mobile. If you're like most young people, you spend many of your waking hours staring at a smart phone. There are some great apps out there that can help you find coverage, track your health, and manage your health care spending.

4. Fill in the gaps with supplemental insurance. If you buy a high deductible health insurance plan, consider accident and/or critical illness insurance too. These plans can help you cover out-of-pocket costs if unexpected medical costs arise, and they're relatively affordable. In case of a qualifying event, they pay you directly, not the doctor. A bit of extra cash might come in handy if you're in the hospital facing steep medical bills, a high deductible, or other personal expenses.

5. Think about why you need coverage -- and for how long. Many young adults only want a health insurance plan that will provide back-up coverage in case of a serious injury or illness. Others may only need something to cover them for a few months until employer-based coverage kicks in. Either way, short-term health insurance may be a good option. Short-term coverage typically lasts up to six months at a time and does not cover preventive care, prescription drugs, or pre-existing medical conditions. Even so, it can still provide meaningful protection in case of unexpected hospitalization.

6. Don't be afraid of high deductibles. Some health insurance plans with lower monthly premiums tend to come with higher annual deductibles. High deductibles shouldn't necessarily scare you away from these plans, however. If you're relatively healthy and don't visit the doctor often, a high-deductible plan may be right for you. Just be sure that you could afford to pay the full annual deductible in case of an unexpected injury or serious illness. Take a look at the annual "out-of-pocket limit" too: that's the true maximum amount you could be required to pay for covered services in any given year -- including copayments and coinsurance as well as your deductible.

7. Think about FSAs and HSAs, and know the difference. An FSA (Flexible Spending Account) is set up by your employer. Money from your wages can be deposited into an FSA on a pre-tax basis and used tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses, including copayments, deductibles, and things like glasses or contacts. Any money left in the account at the end of the year reverts to your employer. An HSA (Health Savings Account) is similar but differs in important ways. HSAs are used in conjunction with qualifying high-deductible health insurance plans. Money can be deposited into the account on a pre-tax or tax-deductible basis to pay for the same kinds of medical expenses. But the account itself and the money in it belong to you and can accrue and earn interest year to year. Many employers offer HSA-eligible health insurance plans and some may even contribute to your account.

8. Don't go without health insurance. Healthy young people who almost never get sick often imagine they don't need health insurance. But you do need it. When you're fresh out of college your financial future is less than assured. An unexpected illness or injury could put you in a huge financial hole if you're uninsured. Don't hamstring your financial future before it even starts by going without coverage.

We can assist you in wading through the options!  Contact Insurance Planning Service today at 800-220-5582 or via the web using our convenient Contact Us form!

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Image Source: Microsoft clip art

PerscriptionGenerics account for 75 percent of meds prescribed in America. Do you know the real costs?

Are generic drugs cheaper?

Not always, and not by as much as you might think. 

"If you check, the difference is huge—say, $30 for generic versus $200 for brand name," says Dr. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist for RTI International, an independent research institute. "But if you have insurance, the difference may not be so big—maybe $3 versus $12." 

With some drug plans, brand-name meds may actually cost less than their generic equivalents. This happens, for example, when major drugmakers negotiate deals (often after losing their patent) to offer meds at a discount, Kamerow says.

Your move: Use a prescription drug calculator, available through your insurance provider, to easily compare prices for your plan. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offers a Top 100 Generic Drugs Calculator.

Are generic and brand-name drugs the same quality?

Usually. However, "most of our generic drugs come from large overseas manufacturers in India or China," says Kamerow. "There may be questions about the integrity of the product—whether it is what they say it is." 

For example, in 2009, the FDA took action against the generic-drug company Ranbaxy Laboratories for lying about test results at a facility in India. It's largely an issue of logistics: The FDA would need 9 years to inspect eligible foreign facilities once (at the 2009 rate of inspection), according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. In a 2009 survey of pharmacists, 95 percent said they feel a generic drug's country of origin affects its safety.

Your move: You can check the FDA's MedWatch ( to see if any quality issues have been reported for your medications. If you're concerned, Dr. Kamerow also suggests inquiring about "branded generics," or generic drugs produced by brand-name drug companies; these make up about 25 percent of the global pharmaceutical market.

Do generic and brand-name drugs use the same formulas?

No. They have the same active ingredient but sometimes contain different inactive ingredients. "It's uncommon, but a patient may have an allergic reaction to the inactive ingredients in one and not the other," Kamerow says.

"Or, more likely, the active ingredients will be absorbed in your body slightly differently." For drugs that require precise blood levels—such as certain antifungals, antibiotics, and blood thinners—even a small difference in absorption might alter their effect, he says.

Your move: Ask your doctor if your drug has a "narrow therapeutic window." If it does, Kamerow suggests that you avoid switching from a brand name to a generic and vice versa—or even from one generic to another—unless you have blood work done to establish a new dosage.

Your doctor is always the first person to talk to when discussing medication.  However, the health insurance experts at Insurance Planning Service can help you determine if your health insurance policy covers certain medications, both name-brand and generic.  Call us at 800-220-5582 or use our online contact form today!

Read more: Fox News Health

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Lighthouse Group Main Office in Grand Rapids, MI
Mailing Address | P.O. Box 530009, Livonia, MI 48153

Phone: 734.421.9900 | Toll Free: 800.220.5582 | Fax: 734.421.9911

Also serving these Detroit area communities in Michigan: Livonia, Farmington Hills, Ann Arbor, Southfield, Plymouth, Canton, Westland, Northville, Novi, Dearborn, South Lyon & Walled Lake