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Serving North Carolina residents since 1974.

NC Health Plans

2018 Open Enrollment for Health Insurance and Medicare Plans

The Annual Open Enrollment Period is the one time of the year when eligible customers can start new coverage or make changes to existing coverage.  The Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Period and the Health Insurance Annual Open Enrollment Period have different dates and serve different groups of eligible customers.

Individual Health Insurance

The 2018 Health Insurance Annual Open Enrollment Period under the Affordable Care Act will begin on November 1st, 2017 and last until December 15th, 2017 for a plan that will take effect on January 1st, 2018.  These dates are different than prior years and the time period is much shorter.  Any new enrollment or change to an existing health plan must be done between these dates unless one has experienced a Qualifying Life Event which could allow for changes outside this window.  If an Individual Health Insurance plan is not required to follow these enrollment guidelines, the plan is likely not compliant with the Affordable Care Act regulations.

During the Open Enrollment Period, applications and changes to plans can be made through numerous different avenues.  For this reason, it’s always a good idea to contact an agent for guidance on the easiest ways to enroll or make changes to your health plan.  You can speak with one of our qualified representatives for more information or assistance enrolling in a plan.  Call our toll free number today 888-765-5400.

Medicare Plans

The 2018 Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Period will begin on Oct 15th, 2017 and last until December 7th, 2017 for a plan that will take effect on January 1st, 2018.  This Enrollment Period is set up for Medicare Advantage Plans and Part D Prescription Drug Plans.  Both plans are offered through private insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC.  Medicare also has other Enrollment Periods for times like a 65th birthday or Qualifying Events, which may also enable customers to enroll in Medicare Plans.

Medicare eligible customers are typically over the age of 65 or under 65 with certain disabilities.  If a person is enrolled in Medicare, they would not also be eligible for an Individual Health Insurance plan.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

Happy July 4th from NC Health Plans

NC Health Plans wishes you a Happy Independence Day.  July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays. Because freedom is something to savor. To enjoy. To celebrate. But most of all to appreciate.

Never should we take the precious freedoms we daily enjoy for granted. Freedom was not cheap. Freedom was a dream purchased with the blood of our forbearers.

One of the most enjoyable and exciting ways to celebrate our nation’s independence is to set off some fireworks. This 4th of July, it’s important to remember that fireworks can be dangerous. They can cause burns and eye injuries in both children and adults, as well as more serious injuries. Of course, the best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home and take your family to your local public fireworks display and leave the show to the professionals.

So today, as we celebrate with parades, BBQ and fireworks. Let’s remember and be thankful. God Bless America, and may we continue to be the shining example of freedom.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

2018 Plans and Rates with Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC

As controversy and debate continue in Washington over the future of the healthcare system, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC is planning for 2018.  In late May, Blue Cross filed 2018 plans and rates with the North Carolina Department of Insurance.  Insurance rates were filed for health insurance plans in all 100 counties of North Carolina for an average rate increase of 22.9%.  The Director of Actuarial and Pricing Services at BCBSNC wrote an article explaining these rate increases.

BCBSNC has also been very clear that while filing for rates and health plans in all 100 North Carolina counties for 2018, many uncertainties continue.  The health insurance industry still expects significant change. However, the makeup and impact of this change is not known.  The timeframe and timeline of this change is also unknown.  These unknowns make preparation for the coming year very difficult for the insurance companies.  There are tremendous amounts of laws, regulations, and factors that are currently being discussed in Washington which directly impact the plans and rates of health insurance in North Carolina.

These unknowns also make preparation very difficult for the thousands of customers that depend on Individual and family health insurance plans in NC.  Blue Cross NC currently has over 500,000 customers enrolled in Individual ACA plans.  These rates, however, will impact this group differently.  The customers receiving a subsidy through the Health Insurance Marketplace will likely be less impacted if these plans and rates are approved.  The customers that do not receive any subsidy will likely be most impacted by these changes.

Despite the potential future changes, our commitment to North Carolinians will not change.  We are committed to providing North Carolinians with updates, advice, and the guidance needed to navigate this unique health insurance market.  We feel people need straight forward advice on the impacts of the health insurance industry changes now more than ever.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

NC Health Plans Remembers Memorial Day

Flags And Graves

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The above lines were written by Robert Laurence Binyon in September of 1914, but they are still and most especially, true today.  As residents of North Carolina, one of the largest state contributors of military service members in the nation, the agents at NC Health Plans would like to take a moment and remember those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  Although Memorial Day is often celebrated by eating a burger on a boat or having a beer at the beach, we are sincerely grateful we enjoy the freedom to work and relax as we see fit.

And we recognize that such freedom was purchased at a price.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

 

 

 

Pause to Remember Memorial Day

Memorials in Cemetery with American FlagsBlue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina knows a lot about working to give the residents of NC the peace of mind that comes from knowing you and your family are covered for all of your health care needs.  BCBSNC understands the value implicit in being covered when it counts.  As Americans, however, Memorial Day is a sobering reminder that peace of mind and knowing someone has your back in times of trouble doesn’t come free.   That is what Memorial Day is all about.  This weekend we celebrate the men and women of the Armed Forces, both past and present, who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and protection.

Although Memorial Day is typically, and I think appropriately, celebrated by throwing some burgers on the grill in the backyard, the holiday has some important origins.  Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed every year on the last Monday of May.  The holiday originated after the American Civil War to honor soldiers of both the Union and Confederate armies who had died during the war.  Even today, many people visit cemeteries or war memorials on this day and hundreds of volunteers place a small American flag on each grave in the national cemeteries.  Not to be confused with Veteran’s Day, which honors all the men and women of the Armed Forces, Memorial Day is a day specifically intended to celebrate and remember the service members who died while serving.

The traditional observance of Memorial Day is as follows:  The United States flag is raised to the top of the staff and then slowly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains until noon.  The half-staff position is in memory of the more than one million men and women who have given their lives in service of their country.  At noon, the flag is then raised by the living to full-staff as a symbolic resolution not to let the sacrifice of the dead be in vain, but to stand in their place and continue to fight for liberty.

This Memorial Day, while we are grilling burgers, taking our kids to the beach or taking our boats out to sea with friends, let us a take a moment and be thankful for the freedom we still enjoy.  It may sound pithy, but freedom really isn’t free and the fact that we can do the things we love the most is a gift for which many men and women have given their lives.

For more information on Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina health insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

 

Known Changes to NC Health Insurance in 2018

Between media outlets and elected officials in Washington, there is no shortage of discussion and published content about the future of health insurance in North Carolina and across the country.  However, we still have very little concrete direction about what consumers, insurance companies and the healthcare industry can expect moving forward.  In the beginning of 2017, we provided our thoughts on the health insurance market in North Carolina moving forward.  Now, in May, we have some information about known changes, but uncertainty still exists.

The most recent and significant changes will impact all health insurance shoppers during the coming years Open Enrollment Period.  On April 13th, the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced final “Market Stabilization” rules for the Individual health insurance market.  From these changes, the Open Enrollment Period is now set to begin on November 1st and end of December 15th for an effective date of January 1st.  This will be the shortest Open Enrollment Period thus far and is the first time only one effective date option is available.  The previous Open Enrollment lasted until January 31st and offered effective dates of both February 1st and March 1st.  This means shoppers will need to make sure they have completed the enrollment process during these new Open Enrollment dates, otherwise, Special Enrollment Period requirements will apply.

Other notable changes impact Special Enrollment Periods and the requirement for documentation to prove Qualifying Life Events in order to enroll in health insurance plans outside the Open Enrollment Period.  This has been a request of insurance companies for several years now and simply requires customers to verify with supporting documentation that a Qualifying Life Event has occurred.

Other major changes are expected, but timelines and impacts of possible changes are very difficult to calculate now.  As we receive further guidance, we will continue to update the consumer community and empower you with the knowledge needed to navigate this constantly changing health insurance market.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

BCBSNC Medicare Supplement Rate Changes in 2017

With BCBSNC Medicare Supplements renewing on June 1st of each year, most existing customers have recently received information about new rates.  The content of these letters will be different this year for many members.  Most Medicare Supplement members will be happy to find the rates will experience very little change unless the individual is having a birthday this year that moves them into a higher age band.  Some plans, like Plan G, will actually see a significant rate decrease which we expect to attract significantly more members in the year to come, especially since Plan G is very similar to our most popular Plan F.

The most important concept to understand is that in May of 2017, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina allows their existing Medicare Supplement members to make a change to their plan if they so desire.  This plan change must be processed during May to take effect on June 1st.  Additionally, the change is processed without being required to answer any health questions to qualify.  This is different than many other Medicare Supplement insurers that only allow their members to make plan changes after answering a series of health questions.  Therefore, the month of May is the best time of the year for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina members to consult with an agent and determine whether they are still enrolled in the best possible plan at the best rate.  As trained and professional advisors, we are here to help.  If you are interested in learning more about other Medicare Supplement plans and prices, call us at 888-765-5400 or use the quote button to view the new rates.

A Spring Recipe: Toasted Quinoa Salad with Scallops & Snow Peas

At NC Health Plans, we are always looking for new healthy recipes and we ran across one today that looks different and yummy.  If you are like me, it is often times difficult to find recipes using scallops in a healthy way.

12 ounces dry sea scallops, cut into ½-inch pieces, or dry bay scallops

4 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari, or soy sauce, divided

4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided

1½ cups quinoa, rinsed well

2 teaspoons grated or minced garlic

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup trimmed and diagonally sliced snow peas, ( ½ inch thick)

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Toss scallops with 2 teaspoons tamari in a medium bowl. Set aside. Place a large, high-sided skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil and quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, until the quinoa begins to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Stir once, cover and cook over medium heat until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. (Do not stir.) Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in snow peas, cover and let stand for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk 3 tablespoons canola oil, the remaining 2 teaspoons tamari, vinegar and sesame oil in a large bowl. Add the quinoa and snow peas, scallions and bell pepper; toss to combine.

Remove the scallops from the marinade and pat dry. Heat a large skillet over medium-high until hot enough to evaporate a drop of water upon contact. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons canola oil and cook the scallops, turning once, until golden and just firm, about 2 minutes. Gently stir the scallops into the quinoa salad. Serve garnished with cilantro, if desired.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

 

Affordable Health Insurance in NC- What We Can All Do

The cost of health insurance and healthcare is growing and has been for a long time; but what can be done?  First, let’s understand that the health insurance industry is very complicated and unlikely to be accurately summarized in a short article.  The topic can be broken down into so many segments, each of which deserves its own time and attention.  Few segments are as important as the concept of affordability.  Without affordability, health insurance begins to lose its value and is capable of serving less people.

The concept of affordability is no simple matter.  Analyzing Medical Loss Ratios and actuarial values is a task performed by some of the best and brightest the insurance companies have to offer.  There’s no question these professionals have earned a seat at the table when discussing the cost of health insurance.

When looking beyond the highly publicized drivers of health insurance costs, there are a few much more simple concepts that can have significant impact on the affordability of health insurance in North Carolina and the entire country.  These are ways consumers can help in the fight to lower healthcare spending and health insurance premiums.

  1. Eat Healthy and Exercise Regularly: There is no shortage of available information about healthy diets and exercise. Positive Health Wellness is a great resource for ideas that can help us live healthier lifestyles and feel better as a result.  Large insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina have been open about concerns regarding the health status of so many insured members.  This has initiated the insurance company to become more active in paving the way for their member to live healthier lifestyles.
  2. Take advantage of preventive care doctor visits: Most health insurance plans have coverage for services like routine physicals and screenings.  Typically, these visits are covered at 100%.  Utilizing these covered services may help identify potential illnesses before they become more severe.
  3. Use the Emergency Room for Emergencies: BCBSNC has found that a very large percentage of emergency room visits are for non-emergency situation that could have been handled in a Primary Care Doctors Office or an Urgent Care facility.  Emergency Rooms are often one of the most expensive places to seek care.  Emergency Rooms serve an important purpose and are recommended for certain situations.  However, it’s important to make sure this is the best place to be seen based on the circumstances.

Understanding that we all have some control of the cost of health insurance can change the conversation.  The recommendations listed don’t provide an immediate fix to the on-going problems but they can certainly contribute to a solution.

SPRING INTO FITNESS

The road to weight loss is often strewn with fad diets, broken promises, and exercise equipment that gathers dust instead of logging miles. You do need to make sure you are getting regular physical activity.

And what better time than springtime to kick your fitness up a notch? Longer days and warmer weather provide the perfect motivation. And you do not have to train for a marathon, either. Just get more activity than before and you are getting on track. Let springtime inspire you to break down those barriers and finally make fitness a way of life.  Take those evening strolls with your spouse, play outside with your children, take your dog for a nice long walk.

Regular physical activity improves your mood, enhances the quality of your life, helps you burn off stress and, most important, it strengthens your body while it burns calories. Physical activity helps your body work the way it is supposed to. Even simple walking is a good, weight-bearing exercise that helps keep muscles, and your heart strong.

Think about how good you feel when you finish your workout. Many people have trouble getting started, but once they finish, they feel terrific, partly due to endorphins, those feel-good brain chemicals.

Evidence suggests that physical activity improves mental ability in people with heart disease, and that music enhances brainpower. And the combination of music and exercise was found to be more stimulating to the brain than exercise alone. So, turn your music up and get started.

Through your health insurance plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina offers all the essential benefits under Obamacare and having your wellness/preventive care visit each year is covered at 100% with no deductible. Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, and then spring into action.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

 

A Better Understanding of Medicare Plans and Parts with BCBSNC

Enrolling in Medicare is far too often an overwhelming experience.  The various parts and plans are enough to make an educated individual feel confused and frustrated when just trying to understand the new coverage options.  Thanks to technology, there is no shortage of resources available to help with the research.  However, access to information doesn’t always simplify the matter.  Determining the most trusted sources of information and who is best to advise are common additional questions.

These are just a few of the many concerns for new Medicare recipients.  Most people have been covered for years by a familiar health insurance plan.  Whether employer sponsored plans or an individual health plan, the coverage concepts have likely been the same for a very long time.  This sense of familiarity is suddenly gone when entering the world of Medicare.

Medicare is broken down into separate Parts, some of which are provided by the Federal Government and others that are provided by private insurance companies.  Medicare Supplement plans are also available through private insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to fill coverage gaps that exist within Medicare Part A and B.  This all means Medicare beneficiaries are often blessed with numerous options; however, understanding these options becomes the next important step.

Despite this feeling of confusion and overload, the good news is thanks to the internet and technology, information about Medicare is now more readily available than ever.  From websites like NC Health Plans, you can read about the different Medicare plans and parts, generate free quotes, research at your own pace, and talk with a live representative anytime you have questions or concerns.  This puts the Medicare recipient in the driver’s seat and allows them to make the best decisions for themselves and their specific medical needs.

In conclusion, my advice is simple.   First, don’t let the fear of the unfamiliar overwhelm you.  This is a great time to be making this transition and to learn about your Medicare options.  Next, don’t hesitate to speak with a licensed advisor.  Medicare advisors have been formally trained on the topic and the good ones are happy to help you better understand the options.  Finally, don’t overcomplicate it.  Everyone’s medical coverage needs are different, but just a few Medicare plans are most popular.  Ask which plans are most popular and why.  The answer to this question should help you narrow your search and understand the differences.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

Fitness for Seniors – Wellness Visits Matter

Good news for older adults, part of the prescription for a healthier, better retirement is exercise. Physical activity protects against declining health and adds years to your life.    Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina offers many choices of Medicare Supplement Plans which offers discounts to gyms and don’t forget those wellness visits each year.

Did you know that moderate intensity physical activity can help you live longer and reduce health problems? Regular exercise helps control blood pressure, body weight and cholesterol levels, and cuts the risk for hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke. It conditions muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to help fight osteoporosis, keep your body more limber and stabilize your joints, thus lowering the risk of everyday injury. Also, it improves digestion and is good for managing lower back pain, arthritis and diabetes. Regular physical activity helps you maintain your independence. Recently, there has been research that suggests an active lifestyle lowers the risk of some cancers. But perhaps the best reason for incorporating regular exercise into your life is that you will feel better. Exercise helps you sleep better and manage stress better, and gives you more energy to enjoy work and play.

A good exercise program includes cardiovascular exercise, muscular conditioning and flexibility exercises. The best cardiovascular exercises for seniors are non-jarring, such as walking, swimming and cycling. Start with a light regimen and gradually build up to a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week. Playing with children, walking the dog, dancing and gardening are other ways to incorporate activity into your daily routine.

Strengthening exercises such as lifting light weights help to maintain your muscle mass and promote bone health. Research suggests that adults older than 50 years who do not perform resistance training lose nearly 1/4 pound of muscle mass per year. Since muscle mass is directly related to how many calories your body burns each day, resistance training is important for weight management. End each workout with stretching exercises to help maintain your mobility and range of motion and decrease your risk for injury.

The best way to keep fit is to choose exercises you like. Some older adults like aqua aerobics, yoga, pilates or just walking the dog. Seniors also enjoy group exercise classes, since they offer an opportunity to socialize and develop friendships.  As always, make sure you consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.