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A Switch To Medicaid Managed Care Worries Some Illinois Foster Families

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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.

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By: Christine Herman, Side Effects Public Media
Title: A Switch To Medicaid Managed Care Worries Some Illinois Foster Families
Sourced From: khn.org/news/a-switch-to-medicaid-managed-care-worries-some-illinois-foster-families/
Published Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2020 09:01:11 +0000

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Retirement Planning

At Least 1.7M Americans Use Health Sharing Arrangements, Despite Lack of Protections

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A new report has provided the first national count of Americans who rely on health care sharing plans — arrangements through which people agree to pay one another’s medical bills — and the number is higher than previously realized.

The report from the Colorado Division of Insurance found that more than 1.7 million Americans rely on sharing plans and that many of the plans require members to ask for charity care before submitting their bills.

The total membership numbers are likely even higher. The state agency collected data from 16 sharing plans across the U.S. but identified five other plans that did not report their data.

“These plans cover more people than we had previously known,” said JoAnn Volk, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.

Under the arrangements, members, who usually share some religious beliefs, agree to send money each month to cover other members’ health care bills. At least 11 of the sharing plans that reported data operated in or advertised plans in all 50 states in 2021.

Sharing plans do not guarantee payment for health services and are not held to the same standards and consumer protections as health insurance plans. Sharing plans are not required to cover preexisting conditions or provide the minimum health benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act. And unlike health insurance, sharing plans can place annual or lifetime caps on payments. A single catastrophic health event can easily exceed a sharing plan’s limits.

In Colorado, at least 67,000 people were members of sharing plans in 2021, representing about 1 in 4 Coloradans purchasing health care coverage on their own. That rate concerns Kate Harris, a chief deputy commissioner of the Colorado Division of Insurance, which she said regularly receives complaints from sharing plan enrollees.

“What we hear from consumers is that when they purchase one of these, they do think there is some guarantee of coverage, for the most part, despite the disclaimers on many of the organizations’ websites,” Harris said.

The Colorado report found that health sharing arrangements often require their members to seek charity care or assistance from providers, governments, or consumer support organizations before submitting sharing requests. Those costs are then shifted to other public or private health plans.

Katy Talento, executive director of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, which represents five of the largest and longest-operating sharing plans in the country, said sharing ministries encourage members to act like the uninsured people they are. Such requirements to seek charity care reflect a desire to be good stewards of their members’ money, Talento said.

“Think about it like a soup kitchen,” she said.

Fourteen sharing plans reported that Colorado members submitted a cumulative $362 million in health bills in 2021, and nearly $132 million of those requests were approved. The remainder, sharing plan executives told the division, reflected duplicative bills, ineligible charges, negotiated discounts, and the members’ agreed-upon portion of medical bills.

“It’s not like every claim line on a health care sharing request is going to be eligible for sharing,” Talento said. “They have to submit the whole bill. They can’t just pull out a piece of it.”

But consumer complaints to the Division of Insurance and to consumer assistance programs, such as the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, show that members do not always realize what sharing plans will cover.

“We have seen firsthand the risks that people face when they sign up for these arrangements without recognizing the magnitude of the risk that they’re assuming for their health care costs,” said Isabel Cruz, the initiative’s policy director.

Talento disputed the notion that members don’t know the parameters of their sharing plans.

“That’s just suggesting that our members are dumb,” she said. “Is it likely that somehow our people are going to be willy-nilly jumping blindly into something?”

Theresa Brilli, a small-business owner in Longmont, Colorado, said she and her partner signed up for a direct primary care plan in 2017 that covered primary care visits for $179 a month. Direct primary care plans are payment arrangements between patients and providers for receiving health services without billing insurance. The plan had an arrangement with Liberty HealthShare, a Canton, Ohio-based sharing plan with more than 131,000 members nationwide, to cover additional services like preventive screenings, emergency room care, and hospitalizations for $349 a month with a $1,000 deductible. The rates increased to $499 a month, with a $1,750 deductible, in 2020, Brilli said.

But Brilli said getting payments was a major hassle.

“It took about four to eight months to get reimbursed,” she said. “It was a fight, every bill.”

When she heard about enhanced subsidies for ACA marketplace plans in 2022, she decided the hassle was no longer worth it and switched to a Kaiser Permanente plan for $397 a month.

“I will never go back to Liberty Health or a health care sharing plan,” she said. “I didn’t agree with the whole ministry thing. They made you sign off saying you believed in God, which was like, ‘Whoa, I guess that’s what I have to do to get my health insurance.’”

Laura Murray, 49, of Aurora, Colorado, said she signed up for a Liberty HealthShare plan in 2017 as a more affordable alternative to her husband’s employer-based plan.

“We kind of felt we were cutting out the middleman in a way, and it was a helping-out-your-neighbor sort of deal,” she said.

But when she became pregnant unexpectedly, she had trouble getting her health bills paid. Initially, Liberty paid only a portion of the tab, and her bills got sent to a collection agency. It was only through multiple calls that she learned she needed to send the bills to a third party that would negotiate with the providers.

“It took years to get it cleared up,” she said.

Timothy Bryan, Liberty’s vice president of marketing and communication, disputed many of the details of Brilli’s account and attributed some of the delay in payment to her “failure to submit the required supporting documentation.” Murray’s payments, he said, were delayed more than 10 months because she had failed to provide the required pre-notification.

Mike Quinlan, 42, of Denver, turned to a health sharing ministry in 2014 after the birth of his first child cost him more than $17,000 out-of-pocket, on top of nearly $24,000 in premiums that year, under an employer-sponsored health plan. He said the births of his three youngest children were covered in full by Samaritan Ministries International, a Peoria, Illinois-based sharing plan with 359,000 members, to which he contributes $600 a month. When he incurs large health expenses, he receives a slew of $600 checks from other members, he said.

Every year, Quinlan attests that he is a Christian and identifies the church he attends.

“This is a group of like-minded people who have said voluntarily we’re going to trust each other to cover each other’s health costs,” he said.

The rules differ from plan to plan. Some sharing plans require members to pledge to abide by Christian principles, and some exclude payment for out-of-wedlock births or health issues that arise from drug use. Many sharing plans exclude coverage of contraception, mental health services, and abortion, often with no exceptions for rape or safety of the mother.

Regulators in Colorado and other states have also expressed concerns that health sharing arrangements are paying brokers much higher commissions for signing up members than health plans do. That could create financial incentives to push sharing plans over health insurance without adequately educating consumers about the differences.

In 2019, Covered California, the Golden State’s ACA marketplace, instituted a requirement that its certified agents who sell both sharing plans and health insurance provide consumers with a list of disclosures about sharing plans and show them the subsidies they could receive for buying traditional health insurance coverage.

“It’s really important that consumers understand what these arrangements are, and what they are not,” said Jessica Altman, executive director of Covered California.

Harris said the Colorado Division of Insurance is investigating multiple health sharing arrangements based on consumer complaints but declined to name them.

Colorado officials are also concerned that health sharing arrangements might appeal primarily to people who don’t expect to use many health services. That could increase the proportion of sicker and more expensive patients among enrollees in traditional health insurance plans, driving up premiums.

Harris said many consumers can get a health plan for less than the cost of a sharing plan, particularly with increased federal and state subsidies put in place in recent years. State officials are also working to inform consumers of the financial risks associated with health sharing arrangements, some of which have gone bankrupt in recent years.

“It might look cheaper on its face, month to month,” Harris said. “But if they do really actually need their costs covered, there’s a real risk that they may not be.”

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.

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By: Markian Hawryluk
Title: At Least 1.7M Americans Use Health Sharing Arrangements, Despite Lack of Protections
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/health-sharing-arrangements-ministries-protections-risks/
Published Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2023 09:00:00 +0000

 

 

 

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Retirement Planning

Give Yourself the Perfect Retirement Gift

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Give Yourself the Perfect Retirement Gift

From day one, everyone looks forward to retirement, that day where they can finally let go of the stresses of the daily grind and spend their leisurely days traveling, reading and basically having fun. As compared to previous generations, we have longer life spans so we all expect our golden years to be fulfilling and rewarding.

Instead of waiting for people to help you plan your retirement, you should do it yourself. Although retirement planning is probably one of the most draining activities where one spends loads of time perusing over financial and brokerage statements, benefits brochures and insurance policies. One does this in terms of the benefits of long term planning: if one retires earlier, he/she will think and anticipate less on government-funded plans which only gives a pittance of a pension and focus more on the beauty of life.

Why Retirement Planning is Necessary

Obviously, retirement planning isn’t all about numerous hours of stress by chugging down numbers and analyzing mutual funds: it’s about fixing and deciding how you will live the final years of your life. If one can balance financially and plan fully on a retirement plan, rest assured that your future is secure.

But remember that retirement planning isn’t a singular activity. It is something that stretches forth to decades, spanning your 30s, 40s and 50s. In every decade, one must rethink their strategies since you are inching closer and closer to retirement, thus one must forgo risky investments and go to bonds and reliable mutual funds as the years pass by.

Build the Right Retirement Plan

A retirement plan must be suited to your risk tolerance and apparent need for cash when retirement comes. If you prefer a general 401(k) that has a good balance of everything, you may go for equal amounts of low-risk bonds and riskier stocks or you may also opt for an assortment of mutual funds that both have high-risk and low-risk funds.

Generally, risk tolerance is congruent to one’s age. If you are on your 20s or early 30s, you may opt for a more stock-saturated mutual fund in the hope of getting a good return because of the added risk stocks give. If ever the worst comes and you face some declines in the stock market, you still have a good 20 to 30 years to compensate for the losses.

On the other hand, if one is teetering on the 40s or 50s, it is necessary that one must go low-risk in his/her investments. One’s mutual funds must now be concentrated more on low-risk government bonds, which virtually assure no losses and minimum gain, if there will be no huge political crisis, of course.

If one follows this general age/risk rule, then one has better chance that one has an ample amount of cash to spend on the pleasures of life when retirement age finally comes.

Conclusion

One has always dreamt of traveling the world, playing golf all day and enjoying the best life can give. But one cannot do all that while working away in the office. Therefore one must give importance to the rising necessity of building a retirement plan.

It is probably as stressful as work itself, but if you can carry all that heap of information and mix it into the delicacy that is a finely tailored retirement plan, then rest assured that your dream of tasting and relishing the best of life is definitely reachable by 65.

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Retirement Planning

Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970

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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,
Ashby


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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.

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By: Ashby Daniels, CFP®
Title: Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970
Sourced From: retirementfieldguide.com/ends-of-the-world-every-year-since-1970/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ends-of-the-world-every-year-since-1970
Published Date: Tue, 04 Aug 2020 13:26:19 +0000

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