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OnlineNavigator
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Help with your questions about health care reform.
Help with your questions about health care reform.

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I took a phone call from a man in California yesterday. He is on Medicare but his wife needs to buy individual insurance for two years before she is Medicare eligible. He was shocked by the $400 to $500 or more monthly premiums for health insurance on the CA exchange. He was even more shocked by the policy deductibles that ran up to $7,000. Since his wife is healthy and won't incur large medical expenses, he reasoned, the insurance is a waste of money. I explained that he can't find a lower price by "shopping around" since the premium rates are set by state law to be the same everywhere. They own two homes in CA - a primary house and a vacation house - so I reasoned that they have a significant net worth but that the immediate problem is cash flow. I focused our discussion on alternate strategies using available products at www.freedombenefits.net to preserve access to health care, preserve financial security in retirement and avoid the individual mandate penalty. But in the end, I don't think that my advice sunk in. He is still suffering from "ticket price shock". Unfortunately it seems that there are tens of millions of Americans stuck in this same rut in their financial planning.

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Q: Hi, i just want to ask if what insurance can i apply i don't have an ss no. & itin hope you can help me for this.

A: Any of the policies listed at www.freedombenefits.net are available without a SSN or ITIN. Just select the state where you live to see the available choices.

You do need to enter an identification number but you can use another number like a passport number or a number that you invent.

If the reason that you do not have a SSN is that you have recently entered the U.S. then Inbound Immigrant insurance often turns out to be an excellent value. http://freedombenefits.net/affordable-health-insurance/Inbound-immigrant-medical-insurance.html  

A majority of OnlineNavigator user questions this past week focused on COBRA benefits. We are not aware of any fundamental reason for the increase in interest on this topic. It might just be that Google is sending more people to us through its search engine who search for COBRA resources.

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Q: my company is interested in providing support to our clients’ employees’ who will be enrolling with the exchange (and I will be the person responsible for doing this).  I’m not a certified Navigator and I currently have no experience with the exchange and how the process works.  Is there a training course I can take without actually becoming certified?  Or can I take an online certification course?
  
A: The federal government offers excellent online training and certification. It is free and available at your own schedule.
I’ve taken all of them and was favorably impressed. Good luck.

The flip flop effect of Obamacare on physicians' practices around the country;
This week we read a flood of news stories this past week about an unintended and apparently unanticipated flip-flop effect of Obamacare on doctors' offices around the country. Prior to 2014 a typical doctor's office would see two middle income patients for every low income patient who was covered under some type of Medicaid program. Now doctors report that the ration has flip flopped due to the rapid expansion of Medicaid and middle income people learning what's not covered by their health plan. Two out of every three patients a typical doctor treats today are on Medicaid. Middle income patients are not making appointments for fear of the out of pocket costs not covered by insurance. A significant portion of middle income people are avoiding or delaying medical care due to the cost. But the millions of newly insured low income people are taking advantage of that new coverage to seek treatment. We read that more than half of Americans already have unpaid medical debt showing on their consumer credit reports and this problem appears to be getting worse. Yet lower income individuals do not have to worry about this since Medicaid typically pays for all of the bill without leaving deductibles and co=payments. IMO, the underlying realization that the bulk of working class Americans can't afford the Obamacare health care system is still building momentum but will eventually dominate the discussion about health care reform.

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Understanding the cost of COBRA coverage

"What is the cost of COBRA coverage?" is the most common question posed at the consumer support web site COBRAplan.com
 The answer is simple. Since the term "COBRA coverage" refers to the same insurance you already have, the cost is the same as your current coverage. 

There are two additional points to consider: 
1) Under COBRA the individual must pay the entire cost of the coverage including both the employer's portion as well as the employee's portion. So if you were paying $200 per month and the employer was paying $300 then the cost of coverage under COBRA is $500.
2) The health plan administrator is allowed to add a 2% surcharge for the cost of handling the program. So the $500 cost used in this example would actually by $510 with the administrative fee included.

Other topics you may wish to consider:
How does COBRA affect eligibility for insurance subsidies?
What are the lower cost alternatives to COBRA?
These and many more topics are covered at www.COBRAplan.com. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the average marketplace subsidy per subsidized enrollee will be $5,290 this year. That's great if you qualify but the majority of the working class people we hear from through OnlineNavigator service do not.  

The OnlineNavigator web site was updated today to reflect the changes that came with the end of open enrollment season for 2014 on the individual health insurance marketplace. We will continue to answer consumer questions about all aspects of health reform.

Monday night's interview of Gary Lauer, CEO of eHealth Inc. with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly shows why private insurance exchanges need to look in a different and more creative direction for growth. Consumers are not behaving the way we expected. Government is not in a position to react but private exchanges can answer the need and capitalize on the most recent trends in consumer response to health care reform. 

News tonight from Treasury Department and the IRS: Implementation of Obamacare is delayed another year for businesses with less than 100 employees.  
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