During the 2013 United Way Days of Caring Campaign, IBX employees volunteered at many organizations in the Philadelphia region that the United Way supports. Over 250 employees took time out of their busy schedules over the course of four days to give back to our community and those in need. Volunteer projects varied from weeding, mulching, gardening, and painting, to spending time with seniors. No project was too big, and no task was too small. We’d like to extend a sincere thank you to all of this year’s volunteers who came out and showed the community what IBX is all about.
During the debate on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you may have heard a lot about the “individual mandate.” Some said it would help lower costs, others said it was unconstitutional. Today, it’s the law of the land since the “individual mandate” was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2012. So just what does it mean?
The health care law’s new “individual mandate” means that beginning January 1, 2014, the government is requiring all people, with few exceptions, to have health insurance. If you don’t have access to health insurance through an employer or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, you must purchase a health insurance plan on your own.
Many have called the “individual mandate” the cornerstone of the ACA. If people only bought health insurance when they needed care and then dropped it when that care was no longer needed, the cost of coverage would go up for everyone. By requiring all people to have health insurance, the ACA ensures that younger and healthier people as well as those with health conditions all have coverage. This will help spread costs more evenly and keep rates more affordable.
Therefore, if you don’t have a health plan by January 1, in 2014 you may have to pay a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of your taxable income (whichever is greater). These penalties will increase in 2015 and later.
While the penalty is the “stick” to ensure all people buy coverage, there is also a “carrot”. Based on your household income, you may receive tax credits and subsidies to purchase this coverage. You will also be able to use the tax credits and subsidies to lower your costs right away, meaning you won’t have to wait until you file your taxes at the end of the year to recoup your savings.
Also, buying individual insurance should be easier for consumers than it has been in the past.
You can’t be denied coverage — so you don’t have to worry about being able to get health insurance if you have an expensive medical condition. Your health plan can only be cancelled if you commit fraud or don’t pay your bill. There are no annual or lifetime limits on the amount your health insurer will pay for essential health benefits.
The health care law also created a new way for consumers to shop for insurance through a website called the Health Insurance Marketplace (sometimes referred to as the “exchange”). In Pennsylvania, the Marketplace will be run by the federal government and you will be able to compare plans based on the coverage levels you want. The Marketplace will be available after October 1, to shop for a plan that will be effective after January 1, 2014, and the Marketplace will be the only place individuals can qualify for tax credits or subsidies, more about this in my next blog post.
To apply for coverage after October 1, here is a simple check list to make sure you have the right information before you begin to shop for plans. If you need more information about health care reform individual coverage, come to one of our community events and you can speak to a trained health care professional. To learn more follow us on Twitter @ibx or like us on Facebook.
You may recall that in an earlier post, I discussed how my mother was diagnosed with the disease and ultimately made a complete recovery. A few years back I lost a dear friend of mine to lung cancer, eight months after he was diagnosed. This past spring my aunt told my family that she had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer.
September is Blood Cancer Awareness month. Every four minutes someone in the United States is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. My aunt was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare form of blood cancer caused by abnormal cells in the bone marrow. As of now she is being treated for the symptoms of her disease, but in time she will need a bone marrow transplant. When my family heard that she would need a transplant, we all jumped at the chance to get tested. In order to be considered a perfect match, one would have to match my aunt’s human leukocyte antigens (HLA). HLA typing is a DNA-based tissue test used to match patients and donors for bone marrow transplant.
My aunt being one of five siblings, we thought she would have a great chance of finding a match within her own family; siblings are the best chance for a perfect HLA match. Unfortunately, none of her siblings are a match and will not be able to donate. There are two other family members who are a close match to my aunt, but none are a perfect match, which would give her the best chance at recovery. The search for a donor continues to this day.
When it was my time to get tested, I contacted Be the Match and signed up to be on the bone marrow registry list. Be the Match sent me a kit which contained swabs and a return envelope. I swabbed the inside of mouth and sent the samples back. The whole process took less than five minutes, and I am now on the donor list. I am currently waiting to find out if I am a match for my aunt.
In the eternal fight against cancer, family and friends often feel helpless. We know there is nothing we can do for the cancer fighter and we have to begrudgingly sit on the side lines. Joining the donor list made me feel like I was actually doing something to help my aunt fight this horrible disease. If I am not a match for her, then maybe there is someone out there I am a match for. If there is a chance I can help kick cancer’s butt, I am all in!
Individual mandates. Essential health benefits. Health Insurance Marketplace. Health care reform seems to have created a whole new language.
Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land, these terms translate into changes that affect you and your family. Here are the top five things everyone should know about the new law.
- In 2014, insurance will be required for most everyone. And chances are you’ll have more help getting it. If you don’t have insurance through your employer, you’ll be able to buy individual plans in a new Health Insurance Marketplace. Based on your household income, you may receive tax credits to purchase this coverage. But, if you don’t purchase a health plan in 2014, you will pay a penalty when you file your 2014 taxes.
- You can’t be denied coverage or have your rates increased because of your health status. This means you will be approved for a health plan if you are sick now or have been sick in the past. All individual and small group health plans will also contain a core set of essential health benefits which include preventive services, emergency care, prescription drug coverage, and more.
- For individual and small employer health plans, the ACA creates four levels of benefit coverage, known as metallic tiers, based on how much of your health care costs are covered. The tiers — Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum — are designed to make it easy for consumers to compare different health insurance plans. All plans will have the same core set of benefits, but will differ in what you pay for your monthly premium and what you pay when you access services like visiting a doctor when you are sick.
- Consumers who do not have insurance through an employer or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid will be able to shop for plans on the government-run Health Insurance Marketplace (also referred to as “exchanges”) and may receive help paying for coverage. After October 1, you will be able to use the Health Insurance Marketplace’s website to compare plans and apply for benefits. Individuals and families with incomes below 400% of the Federal Poverty Level may qualify for subsidies or tax credits to help pay for insurance coverage. The Marketplace will be the only place to apply for these subsidies and tax credits.
- Some employers must offer coverage to their employees by 2015, or pay a penalty. Small employers with 49 or fewer employees are not required to offer health insurance and will not be penalized for not offering coverage. However, employers with 50 or more employees must offer health care coverage to all full-time employees or pay a fee to the federal government. These penalties were originally scheduled to go into effect in 2014, but they have been delayed until 2015 to allow employers more time to evaluate and modify their health plans.
Though this subject is complicated, these are the top five things I think everyone should know about the ACA. I’ll be going further into these topics in future blog posts, so stay tuned.
Next Week: What is an “Individual Mandate?”
In the coming year, a lot will be changing in health insurance. On Oct. 1, the curtain will be lifted on one of the largest expansions to private health insurance in our country’s history.
The health care reform law may be a commonly discussed topic, but it’s also a complicated one. The changes are complex and they will mean different things to different people. Yet, nearly half of all Americans don’t know reform has become the law of the land, let alone how they will be affected by the changes.
As a person who’s been working in the health insurance industry for more than 26 years, I understand how reform can be confusing. My job here at Independence Blue Cross (IBX) for the last few years has been to understand the Accountable Care Act (ACA) and what it means to our members, our customers, the physicians and hospitals in our network, and our company.
That’s why I’m blogging on the topic — to shed some light on what’s to come. All of us will be affected by these changes in some way, and it is important to stay informed about what is coming down the pike. For example, having health insurance will no longer be optional after this year. And at IBX, we want to be sure you have the right information to make the best choices for you and your family.
IBX has been affected by reform just like everyone else. The ACA has forever changed the way we do business. However, we are prepared for what is ahead, and I look forward to sharing my insights on how the ACA is changing everyone’s game.
Follow my posts as I hope to help make the new health care law understandable. And I invite you to participate by commenting and asking questions via social media. I look forward to the conversation.
Innovation! It’s a word that has been used a lot recently in the business world; but, here at IBX, we are looking at different ways to improve to be the best we can for our employees and the community. Earlier this year, I lead an innovation challenge with a team where we were tasked to come up with ideas that would help employees reach their health and wellness goals.
There were SO many new and different ideas about how to help employees accomplish their goals, I thought I’d share with you in case you’re looking for some inspiration.
Healthy Innovative idea #1: Just find one thing.
One person on the innovation team suggested each employee find one small healthy change to focus on. When we were talking with people about why they weren’t necessarily interested in starting or sustaining a healthy lifestyle, many viewed the thought of working out daily and cooking healthy meals to be daunting or too difficult. The idea of doing one thing is designed to help employees recognize that small changes can make a big difference over time.
For example, did you know you use 200 muscles just to take one step? What if you took two flights of stairs every day instead of the elevator?
Healthy Innovative idea #2: Make it fun.
Another amazing idea revolved around a competition. In our research, we found that many people enjoy participating in friendly competitions. The idea that followed involved creating weekly challenges — such as walking more or eating more fruits and vegetables — between colleagues or departments. In my area, we started having team walks during lunch and would bring in fruit baskets for employees on the floor. Emails with inspiration and motivation were passed daily, and teams got really excited. It was so easy to get started and I even created a mini challenge with my friends outside of work.
Leading this challenge and following through with the ideas has been a refreshing way for me to be an advocate for a balanced healthy life. I believe so strongly that everyone should do what they can to be healthy and happy. Maybe you could even encourage your company to conduct a similar challenge to promote healthy living!
So tell me, if you could do one thing every day for your health, what would it be?
Under the new health care law, all small group and individual health plans must include a core set of essential health benefits. Visit our reform guide to learn what this means for you.
Check out tweets from this week’s @DreamitVentures Health Demo Day!
Our most popular pin this week, drum roll… Top 15 Reasons to Run.
Stay tuned for more from IBX!
As a child it is easy to be fearless, to take risks, and to try anything. One of my first memories was when I was 5 years old and tried to jump off a swing. I didn’t think twice when my older brother told me to jump. Maybe I should have. I failed and landed face down instead of on my feet with two broken wrists. Do you think that stopped me from trying again? Nope, once my wrists healed, I was back at attempting the perfect jump and landing.
Recently, as I was perusing Pinterest, a quote caught my eye: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” This quote made me think hard about my life path and advice I could give others.
It’s okay to fail
As we get older, it becomes scarier to take risks. The belief that failure is bad can be overwhelming. For instance,
- In high school, you had to have amazing grades; win the game; get into the best college.
- In college – you wanted to get in the best sorority; receive honors; get that amazing internship.
- After college – it’s all about getting a job, then getting promoted; attending every event your friends invite you to; know what you want out of life.
And if you didn’t do any of these things you would consider yourself one big failure. But what if as a society, we looked at failure as bravery? What if we didn’t judge everything that everybody did? What if you didn’t get into the best college as perceived by your 17 year old self? What if your first job after college isn’t ideal? What if you haven’t found your calling or the career you love yet? Chances are the world wouldn’t end and you may have new, bigger dreams.
A few years ago I really wanted to move to Boston, and I interviewed for what I thought was my dream job. Needless to say, I didn’t get it and I felt like such a failure. I was so embarrassed and upset that I practically went into hiding. Looking back, I’m happy I didn’t move to Boston – I got an amazing opportunity at IBX and can honestly say that I love my job. I recently moved into my dream apartment in center city, and so far I’ve had some amazing experiences that I wouldn’t have if I lived in Boston.
Having the courage to go for something you really want is being fearless. If you fail, it’s ok because you tried and it could open the door for something even better.
So, what advice should we take from our 5 year old self?
- Dream BIG!
- Dare to believe.
- Believe in yourself.
- Believe in your support system.
- Start doing the things you actually want to do.
- Step out of your comfort zone.
By taking some risks and living fearless, you could have the most amazing experiences but you’ll never know until you try.
On June 24, I turned thirty years old. Ouch.
How is it possible that I am now thirty? I feel no different than I did when I graduated college. I still love cheesy pop music and think Coke Slurpees are the best invention ever. I would rather wear flip-flops than high-heels, and I still need to remind myself that my laundry won’t do itself. If I didn’t know any better, I would think I am still in my late teens or early twenties.
But time stops for no one, and I have to come to the realization that it’s time for me to start acting like a real adult, even though I still don’t feel like one.
Although I believe age is just a number, turning thirty has opened my eyes to areas in my life that I want to improve. I can no longer claim ignorance on health and financial matters. Gone are the days of thinking I can eat whatever I want, buy whatever I want, and worry about the consequences later. It is finally “later” and some things need to change.
A few months before my birthday, I jotted down a list of things I wanted to accomplish by the time I turned thirty. I am ashamed to say, I accomplished none of them. On my birthday, I took a good look at myself and vowed that I would finish what I started. I will take this next year to work on my top ten goals. By June 24th, 2014, I want to:
- Run the Blue Cross Broad Street Run
- Compete in a mud run of some kind
- Be near, if not at, my goal weight
- Open a health savings account
- Be credit card debt free
- Volunteer for a charitable organization that is close to my heart
- Take a trip somewhere warm that serves drinks with umbrellas
- Compete in one CrossFit competition
- Be able to do pull-ups and push-ups unassisted
- Go sky-diving
When I look at that list now, I know there is nothing there that is out of my reach. If I can achieve these ten things, I will be on my way to living a healthy, fun, financially-stable life.
Tell me, what goals do you want to accomplish over the upcoming year?
I have good news and bad news. You want the bad news first?
The bad news
I didn’t finish Stephen’s Challenge. Yes, I’m disappointed, and no, I didn’t quit. I hurt my back, somewhere between my right oblique and my lower back. I took it easy for a few days, and then the days turned into weeks and I was still feeling the pain. Maybe it’s from lifting too much at the gym or maybe it’s from carrying around a 20-lb baby on my hip (I think we both know the answer).
But, I’m not going to dwell on what I didn’t do, because it’s the past and can’t be changed. I’m going to focus on the good news.
The good news
I learned a lot from this challenge. When I started, I was out of shape and not feeling so great. My own health didn’t feel as important when I had a baby to take care of. In fact, I didn’t feel like I had ownership of my body – it was simply a vehicle which produced a baby and kept her nourished. Stephen’s Challenge taught me to:
1. Stop making excuses.
2. Start small and take it easy.
3. Have a goal.
And you know what? I made it through 7 of the 8 weeks, following this challenge religiously. No matter how busy my day was, I made sure to do the workout du jour, even if it was the last thing I did before going to bed. I also made conscious efforts to go to the gym on the weekends and run a few times a week.
While it’s tough to say whether my burpees improved, I saw a big difference in my run time. I’m embarrassed to admit that my baseline for a 1.5 mile “run” on April 1 was 26:06. But I didn’t stop to walk. And I had to remind myself that I hadn’t run in nearly a year because of my pregnancy. By May 21, I’m proud to say that I was actually “running” 1.5 miles in 14 minutes. A 9-minute mile pace is something I can be proud of.
Rest and heal. I’ve already lost some of the progress I made during Stephen’s Challenge. But what I haven’t lost is my motivation. Once I’m completely healed, I’ll start running again. I will come up with my own plan of working some exercise into my daily routine. And before you know it, I’ll be back in shape and my daughter will be trying to keep up with me!
What’s something you’ve learned from a challenge in your life?