Online Commercial Insurance Shoppers Are Expected to Nearly Double in the Next 3 Years

According to a new survey from Semsee and TrustedChoice.com, independent insurance agents can expect a significant increase in online commercial insurance buyers over the next three years. The survey showed that around 42% of agents have been seeing an increase in commercial opportunities since the start of the pandemic in 2020. With such an increase in online commercial insurance shoppers, you need to know what to expect and what changes you can make, so you can build your customer base and increase your commissions over these next few years of demand.

What To Expect

magnifying glass in a circle
Because of the pandemic, people have been searching for their insurance needs over the internet.

Because the pandemic really changed the way people shop for most things, consumers have begun to rely more and more on finding and purchasing insurance over the internet. And, with such a big demand for commercial insurance coming over the next few years, insurance agents should expect to see an increase in leads and customers researching insurance and contacting their businesses.

So make sure that you are ready for this increase in demand, and can help customers with quotes virtually. That includes knowing how to share your screen with customers, so you can display their options to them without having to meet in person.

Changes Needed

While the survey also showed that more than 60% of agents rated their digital customer-facing capabilities as good or excellent, the reality doesn’t always match up. Many independent agents will need to make some changes to how they attract all of these new leads online. So how can you use the digital world to your advantage?

The best way to increase and find new businesses online is by focusing on search engine optimization, or SEO. And while a lot of agents were confident in their digital customer-facing capabilities, the survey found that only 49% currently use SEO as a means of attracting new customers.

 

SEO is all about moving your website up in Google searches, and the best way to boost your website’s ranking is by doing some research. For example, you’ll need to research keywords and phrases that your specific audience uses when looking for answers online, which means you’ll also have to understand your audience and how they can benefit from your services. When you begin researching, consider:

seo in a circle in front of a keyboard

  • Focusing on local search terms, such as “Florida commercial insurance,” so you can target customers who live where your business is located.
  • Making a list of relevant topics based on the insurance products you offer. Be sure to consider alternate terms that people may search for – for example, “business insurance” and “commercial insurance.”
  • Researching related keywords – for example, the keywords that appear as suggestions in Google when you begin typing in insurance questions or products.
  • Prioritizing keywords with higher volume and lower competition.

Looking For Leads?

Being tech savvy is a crucial part of growing your business, but don’t forget the most important step: building your customer list. And what better way to do this than getting hand-delivered, ready-to-buy leads from Benepath? When you work with Benepath, receiving reliable, exclusive leads is the easy part.

We provide you with real-time leads through a secured process and give you a customized thank-you page so your leads will be ready for your call. This thank-you page assures leads that they won’t be bounced around between agents, and gives them a feeling of connection with you right from the start. We offer the leads, and, while it is up to you to properly nurture your leads, we’ll be behind you every step of the way. You’ll find, though, that our leads don’t need much nurturing because they are ready to speak with you and buy your product! To get more information, fill out the form below or call 866-368-0377.

Inflation & Agents: How To Prevent Inflation From Affecting Your Business

Inflation is on the rise, and the cost of everything from fuel to groceries is skyrocketing, making a lot of people feel overwhelmed. This includes your leads and customers, some of whom might even decide not to buy or renew their insurance, settle for a cheaper policy, or cancel their policy altogether when they see that the rates have gone up. They might feel hopeless, and you might worry about losing business, but remember, as an agent, there are always ways you can help people save money on insurance, and find an affordable plan. There are ways to put them at ease, as well as to keep inflation from dragging your business down.

cell phone with an incoming all on the screen
If you have been receiving calls from customers about their insurance rates going up, there are things you can do to help them save money.

The Dreaded Calls & How You Can Help

If you haven’t been experiencing it already, get ready: customers have been calling insurance agents left and right, asking why insurance rates have gone up. And their concern is understandable: in times like these, everyone is looking for ways to save a little money.

If you’ve already been receiving these calls, don’t panic! First, take a deep breath and sympathize with your customer- hey we’re all going through it, so let them know that you completely understand. Next, assure your customer that you will do your best to make sure they have a plan that works for them and that they can afford it. Once you’ve tried to calm their nerves, follow these steps:

  • Go through their account with a fine-tooth comb– Take a close look at your customer’s account and see exactly why their insurance rate has gone up. There could be a variety of reasons, such as if they have made a claim or if they had a discount at one point that is no longer available. Being able to explain exactly why things change often helps customers become more comfortable with their rates. While they still might not like it, having a reason is better than approaching them with ‘that’s just how it is these days.’
  • Examine every nook & cranny for discounts– Scroll through their account and see if there is any way you can find a discount for them- there might be one for being a loyal customer, making payments on time, or putting in little to no claims. application with a pen on the page
  • Look through their application- If you can’t find any discounts for their current plan, try to go through their application and update it. Things might have changed from when they first filled out the application – maybe for the better. Or their life situation might have changed, making it easier for them to qualify for subsidies or get a new plan. For example, they might have lost their job or had a qualifying life event, allowing you to look through all available options in their area and find a plan that provides them with what they need in their price range.
  • Bundle insurance– One way to help customers save money is by bundling their insurance. Yes, it might sound insane to try to offer them more insurance, but by bundling, they will end up saving money without having to sacrifice coverage. For example, check if you can bundle their health insurance plan with their home insurance or bundle multiple business insurance policies together. By bundling, customers can get discounts of up to 25% less than buying them from multiple companies.

Keeping Your Business Afloat

Your customers are probably not the only ones stressing out. If you’re worried about the fate of your business in these uncertain times, don’t panic. Even in this new normal, there are some things you can do to adjust and make sure your business continues to thrive:

  • Evaluate your loss ratios and carrier rate -The formula for determining your loss ratio is: (insurance claims paid + adjustment expenses) divided by total earned premiums. Evaluating this will help you determine how your business can save money and minimize profit-sharing risks that can hurt your business.
  • Negotiate contracts– If you have contracts with carriers, consider negotiating any fixed contingency deals you have, which can help reduce risk over the long term. Most companies are fairly receptive to negotiation and will consider changes at any point during a contract period if the negotiating agency has a good loss ratio and adequate premium volume.

    illustration of marketing techniques
    Stay on top of your marketing so you can attract new leads and customers so your business can stay afloat during these difficult times.
  • Step up your marketing– When all else fails, market your way to new customers, focusing on how your agency can help customers save money. These are trying times but business growth is still possible, and the best way to keep your business going.

And with every cloud comes a silver lining: the one upside to these tough times is that commission income will be increasing, which could help offset any decrease in income from the insurance company/companies you work with.

Prices continue to rise, leaving many to worry and look for every possible way to save money. And when your customers see their insurance rates shoot up, they will want to know why and what you can do to help them. But you can be ready for them, and find ways to keep their business, so you can continue to grow yours! Remember loyal customers are your best asset, and a free marketing tool. If you are able to help your customers and make them happy they are more likely to refer you to friends and family!

While you are waiting on those referrals, if you’re looking for new leads and want to grow your business, Benepath can help! We offer exclusive leads for clients who are ready to buy. Benepath will provide you with better tools, more guidance, unsurpassed sales training, and techniques from the most successful agents and trainers in the industry to help you stay on top of the latest industry trends. When you grow, we grow, so let us help you fight inflation panic and have the best sales year yet. To get more information, fill out the form above, or call 866-368-0377.

Trouble Connecting? How Your Phone Might Be Sabotaging Your Leads

Have you been having issues reaching leads over the phone? You might be marked as a spam caller by their phone carriers! Many, if not all, phone carriers have a call blocker that identifies whether outside callers are spam calls. You might be the victim of being listed as a “Scam Likely” to the leads and customers you are trying to reach, which can take a toll on your business. Although this can be frightening and frustrating, here are a few things that can help you identify if you are being marked as spam and also how to remove the dreadful “Scam Likely” label.

Why Is This Happening?

illustration of a cell phone with a hand about to press the end call button
Leads might be declining your call because you are being marked as a “Scam Likely” call by their phone provider.

Many cell phone providers offer their customers a feature called ScamID that helps automatically identify scam callers; if it’s likely that the call is a scam, their screen will say something like “Scam Likely.” If you have been tagged as a likely scammer by this automatic feature through their cell provider this could be the reason that many people are not picking up your calls.

These scam blockers are not only frustrating, they can also be damaging to your business. They prevent you from reaching leads, and they make you look bad: if a lead is expecting your phone call, and it has been flagged as a “Scam Likely” so they do not answer they will think you never called them. This most likely means they will move forward with looking for someone else to speak to.

2 Ways To Avoid Being Marked As A Scam Caller

Although it may seem like there’s nothing you can do in the face of these scam blockers, there are some steps you can take to get your calls through to leads. To avoid being marked as a scam call:

  1. Comply with robocall laws– The Federal Communications Commission has laws about robocalls since roughly 3.4 billion robocalls are made every month. Carriers will mark a call as a scam if one phone number makes more than 10 calls a minute, 100 calls a day, or 1000 calls a week, so spend your time wisely. Think quality over quantity.
  2. Ask leads to save your number– After you make contact with leads and customers, ask them to save your number, so you no longer get flagged when you need to speak to them.

How To Test If You Are Marked As A Scam Call

Because you are always calling leads from the same number, your number might get flagged as a scam. If you are having issues reaching leads, then you might want to test if you are marked as a scammer. To test calls, you can try calling numbers of people that you can test with on various carriers to see which carriers mark you as “Scam Likely.” It can be good to test with co-workers that might not have your number saved and you do not call often so you get accurate test results. This is the quickest way to find out if you are marked as a spam call so you can address it and remove your number from the list of different carriers.

What If Your Number Is Already Marked as “Scam Likely”?

If you have tried to call multiple leads, and it seems likely that you have been marked as a scam call, the best thing you can do is change your business’ number. But doing this can cause problems, mainly with your current client base who are already familiar with your number. So if changing your number is not an option, you can:illustration of a computer screen with an envelope on the screen

  • Email or inform your lead or customer that you will be calling them, if they do not answer consider setting up a time for them to call you. Try emailing customers, or reaching out to them via social media or other channels to speak with them.
  • Register with Free Caller Registry, which allows businesses who make a lot of outbound calls to submit data through a centralized process that notifies major phone carriers of your number, and allows you to be unblocked.
  • Add another line to your business that you can specifically use for outbound calling. This will prevent you from having to change your number.
  • Report the mistake to the carrier or blocking service and request a correction: If you think your telephone number is being flagged as Scam Likely on a customer’s caller ID, you can contact the appropriate telecommunications provider for review. Once the provider verifies your number, it can remove the “Scam Likely” tag and fix how your number appears on caller ID.
  • Call from a different number– If you can’t get in touch with a lead, try calling from a different number at another time, and see if that will get you through to the lead.
  • Make test calls– Make test calls to numbers associated with different phone carriers, so you can identify which ones have marked you as a “Scam Likely” call.

Your business ultimately depends on reaching leads and customers. Being marked as a scam call can drastically hinder performance, but there are ways to prevent or if need be fix this issue! The last thing you want is for a customer to swipe ignore on their phones when “scam likely” appears.

If you’re looking for new leads to grow your business, Benepath can help! We offer exclusive leads who are ready and waiting to speak with you. Benepath will provide you with better tools, more guidance, unsurpassed sales training, and techniques from the most successful agents and trainers in the industry. To get more information, fill out the form above, or call 866-368-0377.

Twitter 101: A Quick Guide for Insurance Agents

Have you been thinking about marketing on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, or are you already doing so? These are all great ways to reach customers in different age groups, but if there’s one platform you should definitely add into the mix, it’s Twitter. Twitter has been and continues to be one of the leading social media platforms for businesses, including insurance agents: after all, there are roughly 187 million users on Twitter, and reaching them could mean a major boost for your business! And while Twitter seems simple, since you’re limited to just a short 280 characters, you do have to know where to get started, and how to create or share a relatable tweet that grabs attention.

First Things First..

When you open up a Twitter account, you will have to post a picture of yourself, or the logo of your company, as well as create your Twitter handle, or username. Choose wisely here: you want your Twitter handle to be professional and easy to remember, as well as able to make your business easier to find.

the @ sign in red with a blue background
It is important to pick a professional and trendy handle name in order to attract more attention.

When you’re ready to start tweeting, remember that the key to selling your business and services is to actually start by selling yourself and your personality, NOT by trying to make sales through your Twitter account. Nobody likes being aggressively sold to when they’re spending time on social media; they want relatable information that will help them, or just make them laugh, so start with some lighthearted tweets. As you get more customers following you, answer questions that you get from them, followed by a link to your website or blog

Different types of things you can tweet include:

  • Shared Content Tweet
  • Shared Content with Commentary Tweet
  • Retweet with Commentary
  • Problem & Solution Tweet
  • Stat or Fact Tweet
  • Photo Tweet

Follow Relevant Accounts

In order to be successful on Twitter, you have to engage with other users, and that includes following accounts that are relevant to your business: when you follow people, generally they follow you back. You should seek out and follow insurance influencers, news publications, businesses, and other agents – just be careful not to overdo it and follow a huge number of accounts just to get followers in return! This is a red flag that will violate Twitter’s guidelines, which will land you with a suspended account.

Keep It At A Minimum

In 2017, Twitter doubled the characters you can use from 140 to 280, but did you know that the most common length for a tweet is just 33 characters? That being said, research shows that tweets that have between 71 and 100 characters get the most retweets, and tweets that are shorter than 100 characters also get 17% higher engagement than those that are longer than 100 characters. In other words, just because you have 280 characters to use, that doesn’t mean you should constantly be hitting your limit.

Follow The Trend!

The next step is to get into what’s trending on Twitter and to capitalize on it by adding trending hashtags to your tweets, which can get you more exposure for your profile. To find trending topics, you can browse from your dashboard, or use a free tool to help you, such as Hashtagify.

white hashtag with a blue background
Use hashtags wisely: 1-2 hashtags have 21% more engagement than 3 or more.

Use Hashtags #

As mentioned above, to get in on trending topics, you should be using hashtags, which help to group and categorize tweets, and make it easier for people to search for information. Why use hashtags? Well, tweets that include them receive 2 times more engagement than those without them – but it’s important to know how many to use. Nothing is more annoying than seeing 15 hashtags under a picture or other content, and studies show that tweets with 1 or 2 hashtags have a 21% higher engagement rate than those with 3 or more.

Do Your Homework

Twitter is often used to see what’s happening in the world, so it’s the perfect platform for you to share relevant insurance news; there’s always something going on in the health insurance and Medicare world, so you can use that to your advantage. But, remember, before you share a tweet on a news article or topic, make sure to do our own research first! Know what’s happening, get the facts right, and then contribute to the topic.

Visuals Are A Must

People are drawn to images and pictures, and the same goes for tweets with images: in fact, tweets with images receive 313% more engagement than those without! You can use a picture, image, or even a GIF, just make sure not to use low-quality or generic stock images, since most people are turned off by generic pictures and are more drawn to original images.

Social media is your best friend in growing your business. Twitter is one of those social media platforms that can promise you success, as long as you use it correctly. Before diving in and crafting your first tweet, consider the tips mentioned, so you can #succeed.

The Largest Jump in ‘Cost Of Living’ (COLA) Adjustments In Over a Decade

Every year, Social Security beneficiaries receive a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, which usually bumps up their payments by a percentage point or two. For 2022, though, beneficiaries could be in for a much bigger than usual COLA: in 2021, the COLA was 1.3%, but for 2022, the COLA is expected to jump 5.3% – the largest jump in over a decade, when it hit 5.8% in 2009! The COLA can affect Medicare Part B premiums; such a large increase could mean that Medicare Part B premiums will also rise, resulting in more beneficiaries looking to purchase a Medicare Supplement Plan to help keep their medical expenses in check.

What Is COLA?coins stacked going upwards and a clock in the background

The COLA is an annual increase in the amount of money Social Security beneficiaries receive; it is based on the increase in cost-of-living, calculated from the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CIP-W, which is set by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The COLA is never a negative number, because benefits are not reduced even if the cost of living decreases.

Why Such A Large Increase?

In 2021, Social Security beneficiaries received a 1.3% increase to their monthly checks, which was about $20 per month for most. But for 2022, the COLA is expected to rise more dramatically because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has driven up prices for necessities like groceries and gas, and therefore has increased the cost of living.

money coins going up with a red arrow above
Whenever there is an increase in the Cost Of Living Adjustment, Medicare Part B premiums generally go up too.

Medicare Part B Premiums

Whenever there is a rise in the COLA, there is almost always a rise in Medicare Part B premium prices, as well. The huge jump in the COLA next year could actually end up being problematic for some Medicare beneficiaries, because an increase in Part B premiums could cancel out any increase in their Social Security benefits. According to Mary Johnson of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), “Medicare premiums are increasing three to four times faster than the annual [COLA].”

The good news, though, for the majority (roughly 70%) of Medicare beneficiaries is that there is a “hold harmless” clause in Medicare, which says that no increase in Part B premiums can reduce a Social Security recipient’s monthly check below what it was in the previous year. And because next year’s COLA is anticipated to be so large, and inflation is projected to go down, seniors with the “hold harmless” clause will actually have more money in their wallet, giving them more purchasing power when it comes to Medicare Supplement Plans.

The final COLA number will be announced this October, after more data is gathered. As an agent, it is important to know this number so you can better be prepared to help Medicare beneficiaries find a plan that will make the most of their benefits, as well as offset increased Medicare prices.

Selling to seniors via video conferencing

The unaddressed truth behind Covid-19 is that until we get a vaccine, those of us who have an increased risk of serious health problems are going to need to remain socially distant even after the spike subsides. While a therapy for the virus could be found as early as June, a vaccine is much further away, with most experts looking at the end of 2020.

Adjusting to the times

For a variety of reasons, many of you prefer to sell face to face, and right now you can’t, for the safety of yourself and your clients.

You are left with one of three choices:

  • Stop selling
  • Sell over the phone
  • Sell over video

Why Video Conferencing

Seniors are not as tech-illiterate as many people think. In a study done by Amwell Health Solutions, data showed that 45% of American seniors have participated in video calls using FaceTime, Skype, and/or Google Hangout. Some seniors are even catching up to the new Zoom movement, using it to talk to their family and friends.

73% of seniors claim that faster health related services, such as insurance consultation, are the driving reason for their willingness to use video conferencing. Seniors have the will to participate, you just have to add this to your toolkit.

While calling could get the job done, you are missing an important layer – the visual cues. With phone calls we miss 50% of the conversation because you can’t see how the person you are talking to is responding. Video conferencing eliminates that limitation.

How do you do it?

So, how do you get seniors on the screen, not just on the phone? The first secret is that you have to make it easy. Best practice is to just have them click on a link you emailed them. You’ll probably need to include instructions on how to find the link, but the more simple you make the process, the more success you will have.

Ask the senior if they have used to using Hangouts, FaceTime or Skype. These popular systems are the most common, and you should adapt to their preferences. By adapting to their preference, the success rate of your calls will be significantly higher. While this may involve more flexibility on your end, it will undoubtedly benefit you in the long run.

The question “why you are taking meetings this way?” will come up, and be honest with them. Tell them it is to keep them safe in today’s environment. This expresses that you care about them as a person, not just a client, helping your overall rapport.

In conclusion

By incorporating live video into your sales process you’ll be able to:

  • See your customer’s visual cues
  • Share and go over your quality presentation materials
  • Build a deeper relationship with your customer
  • Make more sales!

And if you need help matching with Medicare insurance prospects, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 866-368-0377.

What the Payroll Protection Program means for insurance agents

 

Congress recently signed the CARES Act to help relieve Americans of the economic impact COVID-19 has had in the US. As part of this stimulus package, there has been a Small Business package included. This $350 billion dollar program is called the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), and independent contractors can begin applying on Friday April 10th!

We put together this video and article to help guide you understand what this program is.

Are you qualified?

Most insurance agents in the US are paid as independent contractors. You’ll know if you are one if you are given a 1099 each year or a W-2. If you were receiving 1099’s, you are an independent contractor and are eligible under this program.

If you are paid by a W-2, your employer, if they have less than 500 employees, can apply and pay you an average of what you earned in commissions over the last 12 months.

Here are the important details of the PPP:

  1. The maximum amount of the loan is 8 weeks of your average previous 12 months earnings (up to 100k), plus expenses for rent, mortgage interest and utility costs – which are no more than 25% of your 8 weeks earnings.
  2. You have to certify that you need the loan due to the impact of the Coronavirus.
  3. The interest rate is 1% and payments are deferred for 6 months.
  4. The loan can be forgiven based on how much you pay yourself plus your actual expenses
  5. There are no personal guarantees or collateral requirements
  6. Whatever isn’t forgiven has to be paid within 2 years

To apply for a PPP loan, you need to contact your bank. Make sure they are a Small Business Association lender, or a SBA lender for short. The SBA is the only association that will be writing the approval for these loans through member banks. The total amount of these loans are limited to $350B, and while that sounds like a lot, it is expected to run out quickly. This means you will want to take advantage of the Payroll Protection Program quickly.

Get Ready For The 2020 Health Insurance Tax

Insurers were given a pass in 2019 by Congress regarding their annual health insurance tax. The reason was that the government was concerned about consumers’ out-of-pocket costs. However, if the ACA’s health insurance tax resumes as planned, this ‘free pass’ might be over and insurers will face a $15.5 billion tax bill in 2020. The health insurance tax was created to fund the implementation of the ACA’s marketplace exchanges. For consumers, this means that insurers will raise premiums by more than 2% if the tax is implemented by the IRS.

Health Insurance Tax Over The Years

Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting recently analyzed the projected impact of the health insurance tax on health insurer premiums over the next 10 years. They found that premiums are likely to increase by 2.2% in 2020.

The tax started at $8 billion in 2014, increased to $11.3 billion for 2015-2016, and had a suspension in 2017. The tax was then reinstated at $14.3 billion in 2018, and then given another suspension for the year of 2019.

Who It Applies To

A fully-insured health plan is the more traditional way to structure an employer-sponsored health plan. With a fully-insured health plan: The company pays a premium to the insurance carrier. The health insurance tax applies to all insurers offering fully-insured coverage. This goes for :

  • on-exchange and off-exchange individual markets
  • large and small group markets
  • insured public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The Rise In Premiums

Premium increases will vary by state. However, premiums are expected to increase annually anywhere from $154 to $479. A person in the individual market can face a $196 increase. A person in the small group market can expect a $154 increase, while a family of 4 faces a $479 increase. As for families in the large group market, the increase for an individual will be about $158, while a family faces a $458 increase.

The Outcome Following The Tax

If the tax is implemented and is as high as almost $16 billion, then increased tax burdens on small employers will follow. Fully-insured small employers will face the repercussions, while private and self-insured public employers will not. Employers are not the only ones who will have to pay for the tax increase. State taxes will go up for everyone in order to cover the increased tax on Medicaid.

More importantly, many people might opt out of insurance due to the increase in premium costs. Healthier individuals opting-out will cause an imbalance in the risk pool, meaning higher premiums for the (less healthy) people who are insured.

As of now, there is no definitive answer if the tax will be implemented in 2020. Congress is considering bipartisan legislation that would suspend the tax through 2021, but it is not a guarantee. If the health insurance tax is implemented, insurance rates and premiums will be more expensive than it already is.

Commercial Insurance Rates are Rising. Here’s Why

No one wants to pay more for insurance, but it is our unfortunate reality. Commercial insurance rates are rising, meaning higher premiums across the board for many businesses. Coverage affected ranges from Business Owner’s Policy to Worker’s Compensation. It is projected that prices will continue to rise throughout the rest of 2019. From underwriting to pricing, these changes come from two major sources: cars and catastrophes.

Vehicles

Auto insurance aside, vehicles have become a major factor in the rise of our commercial insurance rates. You may think “why does this matter to me?” It matters because vehicles are our main source of transportation, influencing our economic structure deeply. Everything you have as a business owner is brought to you by some type of vehicle. With more production and vehicles on the road come more opportunities for accidents to occur. This involves more than just passenger cars.

With our economic boost, we see an increase in areas like construction. Motorized vehicles operate in these zones, causing more concern for insurance companies. More work means more workers are needed to operate these vehicles. It only leads to an upward climb in insurance rates.

There is no easy solution for the car aspect contributing to this climb. We can only wait for legislation to step in.

Catastrophes

We’ve recently experienced a lot of natural disasters. In November 2018, California was ravaged by wildfires. While it is accustomed to fires, these were the worst in years, affecting areas as far north as San Francisco, and areas as richly populated as Malibu. The Woolsey Fire destroyed over 1600 structures (including most of Paradise, CA) and caused the death of three individuals.

Besides fires, hurricanes are a force to be reckoned with annually. In 2017, Texas’ southeastern area, including Houston’s almost 6 million people, were decimated by Harvey. This storm solely caused $125 billion worth of damage. Not to mention the opioid epidemic, which is heavily affecting our medical industry with 60,000 people dying from it in 2016. All of these things only scratch the surface of the disasters our country is experiencing.

This is causing rates to climb between 1-5% for insurance deductibles depending on how close you are to at-risk areas. As people scramble to make sure they are covered more for potential disasters, insurance companies raise their rates. At the same time, claim payouts are in the billions of dollars, forcing the capital in insurance companies to deteriorate. It’s simple supply and demand affecting the market.

While it may not provide much comfort, the reality is that an increase in productivity added to the disaster influx is causing inflation for commercial insurance prices. While it’s mostly liability markets that are affected, the results can be felt by everyone.

Medicare’s “3-Day Rule” Lawsuit Goes To Trial

There was confusion and misinformation regarding the 3-day rule for skilled nursing facility coverage. In order to get the 100 days of skilled nursing coverage from Medicare, the mandate states a beneficiary must spend at least 3 days in the hospital as an inpatient. However, doctors and hospitals can admit elderly patients on an “observation stay,” which does not count as an “inpatient.” A class-action lawsuit, filed back in 2011, challenged Medicare’s eligibility rules for skilled nursing coverage. Trial over the lawsuit is finally being heard in a federal courtroom.

After an “observation stay,” senior patients are then discharged to a skilled nursing facility, complete with a bill. Because a substantial number of hospitals follow these routines, seniors are often forced to pay these bills out of pocket. Medicare will not cover the costs since it does not qualify as full admission.

In recent years, Medicare imposed strict limitations on hospital admittance. This explains why patients who are admitted are put under “observation.” Medicare pays one-third less for an observation patient than one who is in full admission. While Medicare benefits from these cost-saving tricks, it’s the patients that suffer.

Another way Medicare saves itself money is by shifting the cost of hip and/or knee replacements onto the beneficiaries. Medicare encourages doctors to perform these replacements as outpatient surgeries so that discharges happen within a few days.

This has caused an uproar with patients because many of them simply cannot afford sky-high medical costs. So in turn, about 14 patients filed a class-action lawsuit. If they win, Medicare might have to reimburse almost 1.3 million beneficiaries.

President Trump’s Medicare chief, Seema Verma, listened to the complaints and voiced that something does have to change in order to help the beneficiaries. She stated, “We’ve talked a lot about the operational changes that we’re making, the policy changes that we’re making, but at the end of the day, this is about putting patients first.” If the 3-day rule does in fact change, the costly bill following a hospital visit will be alleviated, and many beneficiaries will be happy.

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