Health Plan Enrollment Deadlines

This is a friendly reminder of several deadlines that are approaching.

Deadlines for INDIVIDUAL & FAMILY HEALTH PLANS (Either On-Exchange Covered CA plans or Off-Exchange plans)

(1) Deadline to enroll or change plans for a Jan. 1st effective date is Monday, Dec. 15th

(2) Open enrollment runs from 11/15/14 to 2/15/15. The deadlines corresponding to each effective date are:

Deadlines for each Effective Date

12/15/14 for 1/1/15

1/15/15 for 2/1/15

2/15/15 for 3/1/15

(3) If you are currently receiving a subsidy, then you must Renew by logging into Covered CA with your User ID and Password in order to re-certify to continue receiving the subsidy. (4) If you are uninsured, you may enroll by Dec. 15th to avoid a penalty in 2015.


(1) Groups on Grandfathered or Grandmothered plans will already have renewed on Dec. 1st.

(2) All groups, whether Grandfathered or Grandmothered will have a chance to change to new ACA plans with another insurance carrier on Jan. 1st.

(3) If you are dissolving an Employer Group plan and allowing employees to buy individual plans, they need to enroll by Dec. 15th for a Jan. 1st start. (Note that Individual health plans have significantly smaller Provider Networks than Group plans, and smaller Drug Formulary lists. Each of your employee will need to research their providers and formularies carefully before making a switch. Not all employees will qualify for subsidies. Employers are not allowed to use pre-tax dollars to pay for employees’ Individual plan premiums.)


(1) The deadline to change from a Medicare Advantage MA-PD plan (HMO or PPO) to another is Dec. 7th.

(2) The deadline to change from a Medicare Prescription Drug PDP Plan to another is Dec. 7th.

(3) For Medicare Supplement (or Medicare Gap) Plans there is no deadline and no renewal is necessary. These plans will continue as long as you continue paying the premium.

(4) For those of you who received termination notices from Scan Health and Health Net Medicare Advantage plans, you must enroll before Dec. 31st for a Jan. 1st effective date. Since some carriers will be closed during the holidays, you should submit these applications 2 weeks before Dec. 31.

(5) If you are on a Medicare Advantage MAPD plan and wish to switch to a Supplement plan and a PDP plan, you may do so, guarantee issue, only under 13 specific conditions. Otherwise, underwriting approval may be required and the timing of the switch can be tricky. The ideal time to make a change is between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7th, and as early as possible during this window. This should not be done without the assistance of a knowledgeable agent.

Please contact us, Lee Health Insurance Services, at 925-284-2000 if we can be of assistance.

Phil Lee

Clarifying Confusing Names For Obamacare Plans

We have been preparing for the next Open Enrollment period for purchasing individual and family medical insurance plans, which begins on November 15, 2014 and ends on February 15, 2015.

One thing I’ve discovered is that the insurance companies, California State government and the Federal government all have different names for insurance plans offered through Covered CA, the state-run exchange for buying health insurance.

Here’s a list of all the different names I’ve come across in CA that essentially all refer to the same plans, the Covered CA plans.

  • Covered CA plans
  • Obamacare plans
  • Exchange plans
  • CA State Exchange plans
  • Marketplace plans
  • HBEX (Health Benefit Exchange) plans
  • HIX (Health Insurance Exchange) plans
  • Health Care Reform plans
  • PPACA (Patient Protection & Affordability Act) plans
  • ACA (Affordable Care Act) plans
  • Federal plans
  • On-Exchange plans

These names are confusing and misleading, as many of you discovered last year.  The solution is to simply remember that there are 2 markets: On-Exchange and Off-Exchange.

1) If you do not qualify for a subsidy you do not have to buy from the Covered CA website.  You can buy Off-Exchange plans with no Govt. subsidy.  You can avoid the technical problems and onerous information requirements of the Covered CA website by applying for a plan through our website, or calling us at 925-284-2000.  There are no fees for our services and the premium for your plan is the same whether or not you use an agent.

2)  If you qualify for a subsidy due to your income, you can use our expertise as your certified agent to apply to Covered CA, and to receive ongoing assistance from us.  These are called On-Exchange Plans.   In fact, it is advisable to use a certified agent to apply to Covered California plans because they have up-to-date information on changing plan designs, provider networks, drug formularies, and a dedicated broker support team at Covered California for support.  Certified insurance agents enrolled between 40% and 80% of individuals, inside and outside of Covered California.

Applying for a subsidy (also known as the Advance Premium Tax Credit APTC) by applying to Covered CA may require you to submit documentation to verify information such as income, immigration status and employment. The information you provide is subject to verification by the IRS, Dept. of Homeland Security, Dept. of Labor, etc. either at the time of application or at a later date.

Here’s a simple chart to help you figure out which type of medical insurance plan you may qualify for in 2015:

The 2 Markets for Individual Health Plans
 ON Exchange
 OFF Exchange
Possible Tax Subsidy based on income
No Tax Subsidy
Marketplace OFF-Marketplace
Covered CA NON-Covered CA
Government Exchange NON-Government Exchange
Limited number of insurance plans Broader number of insurance plans


Please keep these terms handy when reading about or shopping for health insurance. When in doubt, call us at 925-284-2000.

The 2 markets for Individual Health Plans:

(1) On Exchange: Tax Subsidy based on income, Marketplace, Govt. Exchange, Limited insurance plans.

(2) Off-Exchange: NO Tax Subsidy, NON-Covered CA, NON-Government Exchange, Broader number of insurance plans.

As always, for our assistance, please call 925-284-2000 or go to

Phil Lee

Lee Health Insurance Services

Covered California Health Benefit Exchanges Open for Business

Today, Tuesday Oct. 1st, Covered California, the State Individual Exchange, and SHOP, the State’s Small Business Exchange, will open for business.
Although they will open for business, the Exchange plans and rates may or may not be available for comparison on Tuesday. We will have to wait and see. As of Monday, none of the carriers have released their rates online on the quote engines. Even if Covered CA does have rates on their website tomorrow, many of the carriers may not have their non-Exchange plans available. We may not be able to see a complete picture of the marketplace until all plans are released and available online through the quote engines.
Once all the rates are available, then your certified insurance agent will be able to help you by running comparison reports of all the available options. We will be able to provide one-stop shopping of all plans available in the marketplace, inside or outside of the Exchange.
Just to recap. The two Exchanges account for only one portion of the total marketplace. There will also be individual health plans and group health plans available outside of these 2 State exchanges. Carriers that offer standardized (or metallic level) health plans within the Exchanges, also have to offer these same identical plans outside of the exchanges, and at the same prices. However, outside, carriers may also offer a broader selection of plans, in addition to the metallic plans.
Consumers and businesses are free to choose health plans either within the exchanges, or outside. But if you want to apply for a tax credit or subsidy, either as an individual or as a business, then you have to apply for a plan within one of the exchanges.
Comparing Health Plans
One thing to remember when comparing standardized metallic plans across different insurance carriers and when compared against non-standardized plans. Since benefit levels and coverage are regulated and standardized, there will not be much difference when comparing metallic plans across carriers. However, insurance carriers are still allowed to vary premiums and provider networks. These two will be the two most important features to pay attention to when comparing carriers.

Decision Time For Small Employer Groups (50 or fewer employees)
If you have an existing Small Group Plan, the following are some possible options that you may need to decide:
• Do nothing. Allow your plan to renew at the regularly scheduled renewal date in 2014. At that time, all ACA regulations and prices will be imposed. (An exception would be grandfathered plans prior to 3/23/2010).
• Renew early on Dec. 1st. Take advantage of carriers’ promotional RAF’s. Lock in rates and plans for 12 months. Delay impact of most of ACA-imposed regulations.
• Use Dec. 1st Early Renewal to change plans and lock in rates for 12 months.
• Use Dec.1st carrier RAF promotions to change to a more favorable rate or plan at another carrier.
• Renew on Jan. 1st to change to an ACA-compliant plan, and accept new rules on probation and family ratings.
• Change to another carrier on Jan. 1st or later (even after you have early renewed on Dec. 1st).
• Ask your Tax Advisor to help you calculate if your company may qualify for a Tax Credit. If so, you may want to consider buying an Exchange and ACA-compliant plan on Jan. 1st.

These decisions are complicated. Circumstances vary and every company’s options are different. You should consult with a certified insurance agent before making a decision.
Decision Time For Individuals and Families
If you already have an existing individual health plan. You may have to decide on one of these possible options. The following example is based on someone on an Anthem Blue Cross plan:
5. Do nothing. Allow Anthem to map your current plan to a comparable 2014 ACA-compliant plan on Jan. 1st. You will still have the opportunity, until March 31, to change to any other plan, inside or outside the Exchange.
6. If you have a grandfathered plan (prior to March 23, 2010), you may keep your plan and remain unchanged, except for the rate.
7. Use Anthem’s calculator tools online to compare plans and decide whether to change plans or not, and if so, whether to move to an Exchange or Non-Exchange plan.
8. Use the Covered CA Exchange’s online subsidy calculator to estimate if you and your family may qualify for a subsidy. If so, you may want to consider applying for an Exchange plan for Jan. 1. (Please keep in mind that if you apply for a subsidy, you will be required to disclose financial, personal and tax return info, which will be verified by different Govt. entities.)

These decisions are complicated. Circumstances vary and every individual’s options are different. You should consult with a certified insurance agent before making a decision.

• Anthem will be providing online decision tools:,
• The Exchange’s Covered California website will provide calculator tools for estimating if you might be eligible for a subsidy.
• Your certified insurance agent will have powerful online Quote Engine tools to help you compare all plans in the marketplace, both inside and outside the Covered CA Exchange.
• Please remember that everyone’s personal situation is different. What may be the right move for a friend or family member may not be the right move for you. You have to tailor the decision to your own circumstances.

Key dates to remember:
• 10/1/2013 — Carriers release their 2014 Rates and Plans, for plans inside as well as outside the Covered California Exchange.
• 1/1/2014 — Implementation of the ACA (or Obamacare). All plans sold with this effective date or later must be ACA-compliant.
• 10/1/2013 – 3/31/2014 — Open Enrollment Period for all Individual and Family plans.
• 3/31/2014 — Last effective date to enroll into an Individual/Family plan without a special qualifying event.
• 10/15/2014 – 12/6/2014 — Open Enrollment Period for 1/1/2015 plans.

Phil Lee

Health Care Reform (ACA) Implementation Jan. 1st, 2014 – California Updates

Latest Updates

Individuals and Families
• Insurance Carriers are expected to release their health plan offerings for 2014 on Oct. 1st.
• The major carriers offering Individual/Family plans in the Bay Area will be Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Health Net and Kaiser.
• Individual & Family purchase mandates and penalties will go into effect on Jan. 1st. Large Employer Group (50+ Employees) mandates and penalties, however, have been postponed to 1/1/2015.

Small Employer Groups (50 or fewer employees)
• Model Notices — All Employers are required to give “Model Notices” to all their employees by Oct. 1st, and to new hires within 14 days of hire. This is a Dept. of Labor mandated notice, that talks about employees’ and dependents’ options, under ACA, to employer and individual health coverage, Exchanges, subsidies and tax credits.
• Previously, this Model Notice law carried a penalty to Employers of $1,000 per employee for non-compliance. Last week, the Dept. of Labor announced a waiver of the penalty for non-compliance. But they still want employers to send out those notices.
• Anthem Blue Cross will not be offering any Small Group health plans within the Covered California Exchange. But they will be offering a wide selection of non-standardized plans outside of the Exchange.

Large Employer Groups (50+ employees)
• Model Notices — Penalties waived, see above.

Medicare Individuals
If you are on Medicare, you are mostly unaffected by the implementation of ACA on Jan. 1st.

Phil Lee

Group or Individual Plan After the Implementation of ACA 1/1/2014?

These are tough decisions for Consumers, Employees and Small Business Owners
1. Small Business Employers
Should Small Business Employers (<50 employees) Disband their Group plans, and allow employees to buy their own private Individual Health plans either inside Covered California (the State's Healthcare Exchange), or outside in the private marketplace? 2. Employees of Small or Large Businesses
Should Employees of Small Businesses enroll in their Employer’s Group Health plan, or try to apply for a subsidized plan from Covered California (the State’s Healthcare Exchange), or outside in the private marketplace?
Should Dependents (Spouses and children) of Employees who work for Small Businesses enroll them in their Employer’s Group Health plan, or try to apply for a subsidized plan from Covered California (the State’s Healthcare Exchange), or outside in the private marketplace?
3. Consumers who do not work for an Employer (Self Employed, Unemployed, Retired, etc.)
Should you continue your current plan, buy an Individual plan from the Exchange or buy one from the outside marketplace?

To help you in your decision-making, I have outlined some Pro’s and Con’s of Group plans vs. Individual plans.
Group Plans
• Premiums tax-deductible to business
• Employee share of premiums tax deductible to employees.
• Possible Tax Credit available to Businesses with low income employees.
• A good health benefit plan makes an Employer more attractive when competing for competent employees.
• Employers may choose plans either within or outside of the Exchange. (To qualify for a tax credit, they are limited to just the Exchange plans.)

• Employer’s time required to administer group plans.
• Employees cannot qualify for a tax subsidy if they are on an employer group plan.
• These plans are not portable for the employees if they terminate employment.

Individual Plans
• Employees may apply for a tax subsidy if they are eligible.
• Employees may choose plans either from inside or outside of the Exchange.
• These plans are fully portable.
• Premiums paid by the employees, are not tax deductible to the employees.
• If an employer reimburses the cost of individual premiums to employees, those contributions may not be deducted as a business expense.

Phil Lee
Phil Lee

Implementation of ACA (Health Care Reform)

California Health Care Insurance Exchange Updates
Many developments have occurred since my last update. I will give a brief recap of the most important items that may impact your personal health care insurance situation.
Due to the large number of regulations and sheer volume of information related to health care reform. I will give you brief summaries of the most important items, in bullet point fashion. I have divided the items into 4 categories so that you only need to read the category that’s relevant to you.
You may choose to buy health plans either inside the California Exchange (Covered California) or outside. The only difference is that if you want either a subsidy or a tax credit, you have to choose an Exchange plan.

Your objective should be to:
1. Be insured.
2. Find the most affordable plan for your needs.
3. Qualify for a subsidy or tax credit, if you are eligible.

Individuals and Families
1. Major carriers participating in the Individual Exchange will be Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Health Net and Kaiser.
2. The guarantee-issue rule for individual health plans will go forward as planned on Jan. 1st. Individuals and Families may enroll between Oct. 1st 2013 and March 1st 2014. Enrollment effective dates will be Jan. 1st or later.
3. Starting on Oct. 1st, Individuals and Families may start choosing and applying for Individuals health plans within Covered California (the State Individual Exchange) or from plans available outside the Exchange. Plan choices within the Exchange are likely to be more limited than plan offerings outside of the Exchange. However, if one needs a federal subsidy based on their income, they may only apply for plans within the Exchange.
4. Agents who are certified by the Exchange may offer health plans both inside and outside of the Exchange, and may assist consumers in applying for subsidies.
5. Federal and Cal Cobra will continue to be offered to terminated employees.

Small Groups (under 50 employees)
1. Major carriers participating in the Group Exchange, aka SHOP, will be Blue Shield, Health Net and Kaiser.
2. Tax credit will be available to employer groups with low salaried employees.
3. Most insurance carriers allow existing groups to renew early in Nov. or Dec. of 2013 so that they will not be subject to the new Jan. 1st ACA-compliant plans and rates for another 12 months.
4. 2 employee groups consisting of only the owner and spouse will no longer be allowed.
5. 1099 employees will not be considered employees for group eligibility.
6. Employer groups in CA must have 51% or more of its employees in CA in order to qualify. Out of State employees may enroll in an Individual/Family plan in their own state.
7. Agents who are certified by the Exchange may offer health plans both inside and outside of the Small Group Exchange, known as SHOP.
8. Flex Spending Account Salary Deferral limit of $2500 for 2014.
9. Employer Model Notices requirement – On Oct. 1st or within 14 days of hire.

Large Groups (50+ employees)
• The employer mandate to provide a minimum level of health insurance to employees, along with the associated penalties; have been delayed to Jan. 2015.

• ACA and the Exchanges are not expected to affect Medicare.

For More Information:
Please go to the official website for the California Exchange, aka Covered California, at You will find:
• Summaries of Exchange plans that will be available.
• Sample rates for Exchange plans for your age in your zip code.
• A calculator to help give you some idea if you might qualify for a subsidy.

Phil Lee

Health Care Reform Employer Mandate or “Play or Pay” Delayed until 2015

The White House announced yesterday that enforcement of the Health Care Reform mandate, aka Play or Pay, will be delayed until 2015. This mandate requires large employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to offer minimum essential coverage to full-time employees (and dependents) or incur a penalty tax of between $2,000 and $3,000 per employee should any full-time employee obtain coverage through a “marketplace” with the assistance of a federal subsidy. The delay of this (large employer) Pay or Play mandate does not affect employees’ access to premium tax credits, nor does it affect any other provision such as the Individual mandate. This delay is intended to allow the Treasury Department (IRS) time to consider ways of simplifying the new reporting requirements consistent with the mandate and also time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while employers are taking steps toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees. Formal guidance describing this transition is expected within the next week. Following is a link to one of many articles reporting on this story:

Small Business Health Care Plan Tax Credits

Did you receive a small  postcard in the mail from the IRS notifying you of the existence of the Small Business Tax Credit for Health Care provided for by the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care  Act or Health Care Reform Act?   The links below give you the official Dept. of Treasury, IRS, definitions and guidelines for qualifying for these tax credits.

IRS Overview:,,id=223666,00.html

Frequently Asked Questions:,,id=220839,00.html

In particular, the following 3 Simple Steps Chart helps you to determine if your company may qualify for these credits.

For more information on Group Health Insurance, please go to or call 800-286-7445.

© Philip W Lee,,


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Lee Health Insurance Services | Healthcare Insurance Agency, Individual Health Insurance, Family Health Plans, Group Medical Insurance, Small Business Health Insurance, Whole & Term Life Insurance, Dental Insurance, Health Care Reform Assistance, Covered California Insurance Exchange Plans, Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medicare Advantage, Medigap Plans, Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield of CA, Health Net, Cigna, Aetna, Contra Costa County CA, Pleasant Hill, Danville, Concord, Berkeley, Martinez, Albany, Oakland, San Ramon, Alameda, Santa Clara, Campbell, Milpitas, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Fremont, Palo Alto, Newark | 935 Moraga Road, Suite 240, Lafayette CA 94549 (925) 284-2000 or Toll-Free, (800) 286-7445