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A Switch To Medicaid Managed Care Worries Some Illinois Foster Families



Rebecca and Bruce Austin in central Illinois have six kids — ranging in age from 4 to 22.

Five kids still live at home, and all of them came to the Austins through the foster care system. All told, they see 14 doctors.

Many states promise to provide health care to help foster and adoptive families keep kids healthy, but recently in Illinois, thousands of children temporarily lost coverage when the state switched their health plans. Some of Rebecca and Bruce’s children got caught in the coverage gap, which has the Austins wondering whether the state will fulfill its end of the bargain.

Three of the Austins’ children see psychiatrists. One has regular visits with specialists for epilepsy and other health conditions. Another has therapy four times a week for movement and speech delays.

“A typical day is pretty crazy,” Rebecca Austin said in an interview before the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders were issued. “I say I’m a stay-at-home mom, but with all the doctors’ appointments and therapies and appointments and stuff, I’m on the go all the time.”

Their lives are full and busy already, and Austin is concerned Illinois’ health plan change will make juggling health care even more of a challenge.

The Austins live in Windsor, a rural town about 25 miles from the nearest hospital in Charleston, Illinois.

Since February, the state has been moving all current and former foster children covered by Medicaid into health plans provided by private insurers that contract with the state.

It’s a change to what’s known as Medicaid managed care. The shift has many families like the Austins concerned, because the initial phase of the rollout was rocky and because it’s not clear whether familiar, nearby health care providers will be designated as in-network.

More States Move To Managed Care 

Most states already use managed-care companies to run their Medicaid health plans, which means state agencies pay insurance companies to provide health care to people in the Medicaid program.

Proponents of the managed-care model say it can lower costs while increasing access to care.

States that switch to managed care often find their budgets become more predictable, because they no longer pay providers for each service. Instead, they pay insurers a set amount per enrollee for all health care needs.

But Michael Sparer, a health policy professor at Columbia University in New York City, said evidence is both limited and mixed as to whether managed care lowers costs and increases access to care. Success depends on whether states hold insurers to their promises to maintain an adequate provider network, he said.

Network adequacy refers to a health plan’s ability to deliver the benefits promised by providing reasonable access to enough in-network primary care and specialty physicians, and all health care services included under the terms of the contract,” according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Sparer said success with Medicaid managed care also hinges on whether states “have the ability and have the oversight that’s required to make sure that the program works effectively.”

In recent years, Illinois switched most of the state’s Medicaid enrollees into managed care. Former foster children moved onto those plans on Feb. 1, and current foster children are set to eventually join them. The switch was initially planned for April 1, but the state has postponed the move for at least 30 days, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some child advocates question whether the move is in the children’s best interests.

Many foster children have serious physical and mental health needs, and the switch could disrupt long-standing relationships with therapists and other providers, critics of managed care argue.

For thousands of families like the Austins, this means figuring out whether their children’s providers will still be in-network or whether they’ll have to use new doctors, who might be farther from home.

Austin said her family found a managed-care plan that allowed them to keep most of their children’s providers. But when the February switch was finalized, the Austin children were among the 2,500 former foster kids whose health coverage was interrupted.

Camdyn and Caydance Austin play in Camdyn’s bedroom at home in Windsor, Illinois.(Christine Herman/Illinois Public Media)

The “end date” for her kids’ coverage had been incorrectly listed in the computer system as Jan. 31 — one day prior to the coverage start date, Feb. 1, Rebecca said. This effectively left them without insurance. State officials blamed a glitch in the system for the error.

John Hoffman, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said in a statement that the agency worked with managed-care organizations “immediately to correct the error, resolving it within days.”

For the Austins, the error meant they had to cancel appointments and had problems getting prescriptions filled.

“My daughter who has epilepsy, her medicine was … a little over $1,000,” Austin said. “I didn’t have $1,045 to pay her for the medicine and, so, we were in a panic as to what to do because she had to have the medicine.”

Phone calls to pharmacies and insurers were onerous, she said, but she ultimately resolved the issue. Still, the Austins’ youngest, 4-year-old Camdyn, missed two weeks of therapy sessions, while they waited for the new insurer to approve them. Austin worries these delays will slow his progress.

Making Medicaid Managed Care Work

Heidi Dalenberg is an attorney with the ACLU of Illinois, which serves as a watchdog for the state’s child welfare agency. She said managed care can be beneficial, helping ensure all kids get regular well-checks and prevent doctors from overtreating or overmedicating children.

But those benefits will be realized only if the state has prepared for the transition and holds insurance companies to their contract requirements, she said. That includes ensuring managed-care organizations, or MCOs, have appropriate provider networks so children have access to doctors close to home.

“When it doesn’t work is when you have an MCO that is more worried about cutting costs and denying approvals for care than they are in making sure that kids get what they need,” Dalenberg said.

A retired federal judge is monitoring Illinois’ efforts to ensure foster children don’t lose access to care in the switch to Medicaid managed care, Dalenberg said.

Hoffman, the state DHS spokesman, said the switch to managed care, provided by the insurer YouthCare Illinois, will help improve health care for current and former foster children by coordinating and providing services.

“Right now, when a family needs a provider for their child, they’re left to navigate a complex system alone,” Hoffman said in a statement. “With YouthCare, families have a personal care coordinator who helps manage their overall care, researches providers and schedules appointments.”

He said the problems caused by February’s glitch have been resolved and will not resurface when 17,000 current foster children eventually get switched into managed-care plans as well.

The Austins’ foster daughter will be among them. And Austin worries her daughter will be forced to switch to a therapist an hour’s drive away, since the one she sees nearby is not in the managed-care network.

“She has established a relationship with that counselor. She’s been going there for almost two years and now we have to start all over again,” Austin said. “And that’s trauma. That’s a huge trauma.”

Illinois said even providers that are not in-network when the switch goes into effect can be paid for services during a six-month “continuity of care” period, and insurers will try to expand their networks during that time.

The Austins are trying to be optimistic, but the state’s track record doesn’t give them much assurance.

This story is part of a partnership that includes Side Effects Public Media, Illinois Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News.


By: Christine Herman, Side Effects Public Media
Title: A Switch To Medicaid Managed Care Worries Some Illinois Foster Families
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2020 09:01:11 +0000

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Retirement Planning

Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970



There always has been and always will be a reason not to invest or not to stay invested. This is all the mainstream media reports to us. Below you will find a list of some of the worst global events each year since 1970. I have some commentary to follow.

1970: War: US troops invade Cambodia.
1971: Civil Unrest: Anti-war militants march on Washington.
1972: Political: Start of Watergate Scandal.
1973: Economic: OPEC raises oil prices in response to US involvement abroad.
1974: Political: Nixon resigns as President of the United States.
1975: Political: Multiple assassination attempts on President Ford.
1976: World: Ebola virus.
1977: Political: Government shutdowns.
1978: Market: U.S. Dollar plunges to record low against many European currencies.
1979: World: Iranian militants seize the U.S. embassy in Teheran and hold hostages.
1980: Economic: Inflation spiked to a high of 14.76%.
1981: Political: President Reagan assassination attempt.
1982: Economic: Recession continues in the U.S. with nationwide unemployment of 10.8%.
1983: Economic: Unemployment in the U.S. reaches 12 million.
1984: Economic: 70 U.S. banks fail during the year.
1985: World: Multiple airplane hijackings around the world.
1986: World: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station explodes.
1987: Market: DOW drops by 22.6% on October 22.
1988: Environment: Awareness of global warming and the greenhouse effect grows.
1989: Environment: Exxon Valdez dumps 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
1990: World: Persian Gulf War starts.
1991: World: Mass shooting in Killeen, TX.
1992: Human Rights: Los Angeles riots following the death of Rodney King.
1993: Terrorism: World Trade Center bombing.
1994: World: Mass genocide in Rwanda.
1995: Terrorism: Oklahoma City bombing.
1996: Terrorism: Olympic Park bombing.
1997: World: Bird flu.
1998: World: Multiple U.S. embassy bombings.
1999: World: Columbine shooting.
2000: Economic: Start of the Dotcom Market Crash.
2001: Terrorism: Terrorist Attacks in NYC, DC & PA.
2002: Economic: Nasdaq bottomed after a 76.81% drop.
2003: World: The U.S. invades Iraq.
2004: World: The U.S. launches an attack on Falluja.
2005: World: Hurricane Katrina
2006: World: Bird flu.
2007: Economic: Start of the Great Recession.
2008: Economic: Great Recession continues.
2009: Economic: S&P bottomed after a 56.8% drop.
2010: Market: Flash crash.
2011: Market: Occupy Wall Street and S&P downgrades U.S. Debt.
2012: Political: Fiscal cliff.
2013: Political: Taper tantrum.
2014: World: Ebola virus.
2015: World: Multiple mass shootings.
2016: Political: Divided U.S. Presidential election.
2017: World: North Korea testing nuclear weapons.
2018: Economic: U.S. & China trade war.
2019: Economic: Student loan debt reaches an all-time high of $1.4 trillion.
2020: World: COVID-19.

While many of these events were undoubtedly terrible (and there are certainly others not named here that were worse), most of these were broadcast as end-of-the-world events for the stock market. Despite that attention, it is worth noting that these were, for the most part, one-time events. In other words, most faded into the newspapers of history. We moved on.

Obviously, some caused monumental shifts in the way the world works. Just think about how much air travel continues to be impacted by the events of 9/11. But, outside of the resulting inconveniences (if we want to call safety protocols inconveniences) associated with air travel, flying is safer than ever before.

Take a look at just about any of the events and you will find there are many that people will hardly remember. My point here isn’t that these events are to be ignored or that they were easy to stomach at the time, but that they have become a distant memory.

I want to also make the point that we should expect these types of negative events. As investors, we know these types of crises, economic catastrophes, and global phenomena are going to happen.

But in almost all cases, here is what we can say in the next breath – this too shall pass.

Will there be legal, humanitarian, economic, or some other aid required as a result of these events? Almost certainly the answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it they won’t eventually fade into history.

Lastly, what’s worth noting is how the market has performed over these last 50 years despite the continual advertisements of the world crashing down around us. On January 2, 1970, the Dow Jones stood at 809 and the S&P at 90 -> those are not typos. These same indexes have grown (not including dividends) to 26,387 and 3,232 respectively. Amazing, no?

Perhaps what gets overlooked more than anything else is what separates the above one-time negative events from the positive stories that go largely ignored over our lifetimes. And that is a story worth telling. See the companion post below:

Unheralded Positive Events Every Year Since 1970

Stay the Course,

Retirement Field Guide Mission:

“To help 10 million people make better retirement decisions.”

If you would like to join us in achieving our mission, I hope you will consider sharing our site if you have found it helpful in your own retirement planning.

This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.

The post Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970 appeared first on Retirement Field Guide.


By: Ashby Daniels, CFP®
Title: Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 04 Aug 2020 13:26:19 +0000

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Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing



The post Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing appeared first on Live Insurance News.

The bill is expected to be heard in upcoming weeks as opposing sites prepare for major battle.

A new California bill, the outcomes of which will have a lot to say about coverage for wildfire prone property in the state, will soon be headed for hearing. The hearing is expected to be a heated one as strong opposing opinions have the opportunity to be voiced.

Opponents of this bill are calling it a direct attack on consumer protections in insurance.

That said, proponents of the bill claim it is the best method for making coverage available to wildfire prone property in California. The bill in question is Assembly Bill 2167. It was written by Assemblyperson Tom Daly (D-Anaheim). If it passes,it will create the Insurance Market Action Plan (IMAP) program. The IMAP program is meant to protect residential properties.

So far, AB 2167 has progressed quickly, when taking into consideration that a chunk of the legislature has been considerably restricted by pandemic crisis precautions. It was first presented in early June and backers have been saying that it was brought forward in good timing and that it has all the momentum it needs to be passed.

That said, AB 2167 has not been without opposition. In fact, it has faced considerable opposition, having been called an attack on Proposition 103, insurance consumer protection law. California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara lobbed that argument at it, calling it an “insurance industry wish list, with nothing to help consumers,” and Consumer Watchdog, whose founder, Harvey Rosenfeld, was the original author of Proposition 103.

The insurance industry strongly supports the bill, saying it will help wildfire prone property coverage.

Insurance organizations such as the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the Personal Insurance Federation both support AB 2167. The bill also has the support of the California Association of Counties (CSAC), as well as Fire Safe Councils of California, and the CalFIRE union.

The Consumer Federation of America, another watchdog organization, has predicted that if AB 2167 passes, it will cause 40 percent increases in insurance rates. On the other hand, insurance groups claim that the bill offers owners of wildfire prone property a greater opportunity for choice and competition among insurance companies based on coverage and premiums while avoiding the limitations and high costs associated with FAIR Plan coverage.

The post Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing appeared first on Live Insurance News.


By: Marc
Title: Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2020 09:00:14 +0000

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Is this the last hurrah for bonds?



Recently, I have written quite a bit about the long-term return expectations for investing in bonds. See here, here, here and here.

Spoiler alert: I don’t think it’s good.

But long-term bonds this year have been quite an amazing story as the COVID pandemic has caused the Fed to take historically monumental actions. As a result, we’ve watched long-term Treasuries tear the roof off the market. For instance, a 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (name withheld for compliance purposes) is up more than 31% YTD as of July 31st.

That is insane!

But there is a good reason for this increase shown below.

The red circle shows a decrease in the 30-year Treasury rate of almost 40% over a span of six months. That’s practically unprecedented with only two periods (2008 and 1981-1982) having similar declines over such short periods.

But this begs the question: Is this the last hurrah for bonds as a driver of any meaningful return? Below is the 30-Year Treasury rate over the last 40+ years.

For what it’s worth, people have been forecasting the end of the bond bull market since 2012 (maybe even earlier) and yet it has continued despite those predictions. But at some point, the bond party will come to an end.

The Fed has been clear that they are going to keep rates stable until at least 2022 which means this may not change for a little while longer. Or in the near term, I could even see the high returns continuing if we experience pandemic economic shutdown round two.

But, I can’t see a world where this is the case for much longer than that – most importantly over the span of a 30-year retirement.

The official end of the bond bull market depends on a recovery from the pandemic economy as well as a few other factors causing rates to rise. But when they do, it seems likely to me that this may be the last great hurrah for bonds for quite some time.

The question is when to get off that train and that undoubtedly requires a personal answer.

Stay the Course,

Retirement Field Guide Mission:

“To help 10 million people make better retirement decisions.”

If you would like to join us in achieving our mission, I hope you will consider sharing our site if you have found it helpful in your own retirement planning.

This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.

The post Is this the last hurrah for bonds? appeared first on Retirement Field Guide.


By: Ashby Daniels, CFP®
Title: Is this the last hurrah for bonds?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2020 13:47:16 +0000

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