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Archive for November, 2011

On Monday, the Congressional “Super Committee” failed to reach any agreement on a proposal to trim the Federal Debt by $1.2 trillion over a 10 year period.  The committee was formed as a part of the Debt Ceiling legislation passed several months ago.  Due to this failure, there will be automatic spending cuts which will occur over the next 10 years.  Some of these cuts will happen to Medicare, but what impact does this have for the insurance agent selling Medicare products?

First, it should be noted that the spending cuts will not occur until 2013.  Therefore, it is possible that Congress could take some action in the interim.  It is difficult for me to imagine this happening with a divided Congress in an election year (and a Presidential election).

Assuming no intervening Legislation passes and is signed into law, the cuts to Medicare will amount to 2% in 2013 to providers.  So what is the likelihood that this cut will actually happen and what would it mean if it does occur?

Looking at the likelihood of the cut being allowed to happen, one need look no further than the Sustainable Growth Model (SRG) cuts which are slated to occur to Medicare’s Physician Fee Schedule.  It may surprise you to hear that a 27% cut is already written into current law to happen on January 1st, 2012 (5 short weeks away!)  How Congress and the President deal with the upcoming “Doc Fix” issue will give clues to how a 2% cut in 2013 would likely be treated.

Historically, Congress and the President have intervened EVERY TIME a cut to the Medicare Physician’s Fee Schedule was required by law and they “found the money” every time to maintain or slightly increase Physician’s fees.

Why would we expect the 2% Medicare provider cut to be treated any differently?

Even in a worse case, if the cuts happen, the Medicare cuts will not affect Medicare’s benefits.  The cuts will reduce payments to the providers.  The downside here is that some providers may “opt out” of Medicare.  Obviously, this is a major problem, but keep in mind that we’re not talking about cuts to Medicare beneficiaries benefits.  Any impact would result in decreased choice.

Finally, on the Medicare Advantage side, even assuming the cuts occur, the impact to the MA market would be minimal.  Since the reimbursement rates to providers are based on a percentage of Medicare rates (often higher than Medicare rates) the cut would essentially be passed along to the provider.  Again, this could create a disincentive for providers to participate in the Medicare advantage market, but I don’t see this as impacting benefits or premiums.

In summary, agents should keep an eye on the “Doc Fix” legislation coming late this year as a harbinger of what impact, if any, may result from the automatic cuts to Medicare triggered by the Debt Ceiling legislation and the Super Committee’s failure to come up with a proposal.

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The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) passed a resolution yesterday in support of agents and brokers “vital role” as consumer advocates in the Health Insurance market place.  The vote was 26-20 in support of the resolution which called on Health and Human Services (HHS) and Congress to take action to preserve agent’s role.

Here is a link to the Press Release from NAHU on the Resolution

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Merger and acquisition activity continues.  Following a major acquisition by Cigna of HealthSpring/Bravo, UnitedHealth agreed to acquire privately held XLHealth, the parent company of Care Improvement Plus (CIP).  The terms were not disclosed.  UnitedHealth expects the deal to close in the first half of 2012.  Here is a link to the story from Reuters.

UnitedHealth is already the largest provider of Medicare Advantage products in the United States and the addition of CIP’s 113,000 members will pad their lead.

CIP specializes in Special Needs products, specifically, Chronic Illness.

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Do you need insurance product training? RitterIm.com has an up-to-date posting of all the top carriers’ trainings on our event calendar. Registration is “one click” away at Ritter Insurance’s “Events’ Calendar”! (You must be logged in to register!)
  • Monday, November 21st; Washington National Bizlink Training webinar is open to all agents. Baltimore Life Silver Guard Training webinar is open to all Baltimore Life licensed agents. IBC Sales Training webinar is open to IBC licensed agents.
  • Tuesday, November 22nd; Baltimore Life Tele-sales Training for Silver Guard Products Using INSpeed webinar is open to all Baltimore Life licensed agents.
  • Wednesday, November 23rd; Baltimore Life Silver Guard Training webinar is open to all Baltimore Life licensed agents.
  • Thursday, November 24th; Happy Thanksgiving!
  • Friday, November 25th; Coventry GHP/MHP 2012 GHP-CCP Product Training is being held in St. Louis, MO.
  • Monday, November 28th; Washington National New Group Process & Procedures Training webinar is open to all agents. IBC Sales Training webinar is open to IBC licensed agents.

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Do you need insurance product training? RitterIm.com has an up-to-date posting of all the top carriers’ trainings on our event calendar. Registration is “one click” away at Ritter Insurance’s “Events’ Calendar”! (You must be logged in to register!)
  • Monday, November 14th – Foresters New Producer Training webinar is open to all agents. Washington National EzApp 2.0 Training webinar is open to all agents.
  • Tuesday, November 15th – Baltimore Life Tele-sales Training for Silver Guard Products Using INSpeed webinar is open to all Baltimore licensed agents. Foresters SMART UL Training webinar is open to all agents.
  • Wednesday, November 16th – Coventry GHP/MHP 2012 GHP-CCP Product Training seminar is being held in St. Louis, MO. Medico Monthly Training webinar is open to all agents.
  • Thursday, November 17th – No scheduled trainings at this time.
  • Friday, November 18th – Ritter Insurance Marketing is hosting a ‘New Agent Orientation Training’ webinar and it is open to all agents. Ritter is also hosting a webinar to discuss a new web feature called ‘AgentEnroll.’ All agents are welcome to join.
  • Monday, November 21st - Washington National Bizlink Training webinar is open to all agents.

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Here is a link to a report from a group called “Strengthen Social Security” (not sure who they are).

The recommendations  of the Super Committee  to cut $1.2 Trillion from the deficit over 10 years is due before Thanksgiving (2 weeks away).  The Super Committee was formed as a part of the law which increased the debt ceiling limit.  If they cannot agree on a recommendation, automatic cuts will occur.

One of the major areas which is being looked at for cuts is Medicare and Social Security.  One of the proposals on the table is to increase the qualifying age for Medicare from 65 to 67.

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Republican Presidential nominee hopeful, Mitt Romney, announced some specifics with regards to how he would overhaul the Medicare system.  His proposal looks similar to Paul Ryan’s proposal with a big difference in that Medicare beneficiaries would be allowed to stay on the Original Medicare system, if they so chose.

The Politico covered the story.

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Do you need insurance product training? RitterIm.com has an up-to-date posting of all the top carriers’ trainings on our event calendar. Registration is “one click” away at Ritter Insurance’s “Events’ Calendar”! (You must be logged in to register!)
  • Monday, November 7th; Foresters New Producer Training and Foresters Producer’s Guide to Member Benefits webinars are open to all agents. Washington National EzApp 2.0 Training webinar is open to all agents.
  • Tuesday, November 8th; Baltimore Life Tele-sales Training for Silver Guard Products Using INSpeed webinar is open to all Baltimore Life licensed agents. Foresters Whole Life Training webinar is open to all agents.
  • Wednesday, November 9th; Bravo Health Training Certification is being held in Frisco, TX. Bravo 2012 Certification Training is being held in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Thursday, November 10th; Coventry GHP/MHP 2012 GHP-CCP Product Training is being held in St. Louis, MO. IBC Sales Presentation Overview is being held in Plymouth Meeting, PA.
  • Friday, November 11th; No scheduled trainings at this time.
  • Monday, November 14th; Foresters New Producer Training webinar is open to all agents. Washington National EzApp 2.0 Training webinar is open to all agents.

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Recently, I recorded a webinar which describes our AgentEnroll.com technology which allows you to enroll a client in a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan remotely without need for a paper application or a Scope of Appointment.  Here is a recording of the webinar where you can learn more about electronic enrollment and how our process works.

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