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Jerry Ballard & Associates, Inc.
Local: 252-726-5400
Toll Free: 888-765-5400


A name you can trust, an agent you can count on.
Serving North Carolina residents since 1974.

NC Health Plans

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 acquiring 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.

 

Medicare Supplement Plan F vs Plan G

For years, the Medicare Supplement Plan F has been the most popular of the Supplemental plans.  The plan is currently the richest benefit Medicare Supplement available in most states.  It provides coverage for all the gaps in Original Medicare.  The extremely high level of benefits has drawn Medicare shopper’s attention and has helped it develop a well-known reputation with consumers of Medicare Supplement plans.  Despite being the richest benefit plan, we often find there is a better plan option when a comparison is made.

The Plan G is almost identical to the Plan F with one exception- the Part B deductible.  The Part B deductible in 2018 is $183.  The Plan G does not provide coverage for this deductible which means the member would be responsible for paying this amount of $183 out of pocket when incurring Medical expenses for things like doctor’s office visits.  Once the Part B deductible is met, the Plan G pays exactly the same benefits as the Plan F.

In recent years, the monthly premiums for the Plan G have become significantly less than the Plan F premiums.  These lower premiums have made the Plan G a very attractive plan for shoppers.

Comparing the two plans is actually pretty simple.  If the premium savings over the course of the year exceeds the Part B deductible, the Medicare beneficiary will be better off on a Plan G.  For example: If the Plan F is $150/month and the Plan G is $120/mo, the beneficiary will save $30 per month on Plan G.  That is a $360 difference in premium over a year, but then figure in the Part B deductible (which is $183 in 2018) and the total savings over the year equals $177.  Because the math almost always makes the Plan G a better fit, we have seen this plan significantly grow in popularity over the past several years.

It’s important to do this comparison when considering these two options.  Let our Medicare Advisors help you through this process and see whether you could save money by comparing the difference in the Medicare Supplement Plan F vs Plan G.  If you are an existing Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Medicare Supplement member, you are able to make a change to your Medicare Supplement plan during the month of May without having to answer health questions in order to qualify.

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.

6 Topics to Consider Outside Open Enrollment

Whether you are enrolled in Medicare, Health Insurance, or are uninsured, there are some concepts, rules and requirements to consider outside the Annual Enrollment Periods.  Here is a list of a few basics to consider about insurance despite currently being outside the heavily publicized Open Enrollment Periods.

  1. 1095 Tax Forms– As most are filing taxes this time of year, don’t forget the IRS may require you to show proof of health insurance. The 1095 tax forms serve as proof of health insurance coverage.  These 1095 forms can be provided by the Health Insurance Marketplace or by a private insurance carrier, depending on how you are enrolled.  We recommend consulting a Certified Public Accountant for more information on about the need for these forms.
  2. Short Term Health Insurance– If you are currently uninsured and have not recently experienced a Qualifying Event that would allow you to enroll in a qualified health insurance plan, a short term health plan may be an option. Short term plans do not comply with the Affordable Care Act regulations which allows shoppers to enroll in these plan outside the Open Enrollment Period.  You could qualify for coverage to begin as early as the next day.
  3. Medicare Supplements “Blue to Blue”– If you are an existing Blue Cross of NC Medicare Supplement member, you are currently able to make a change to your Medicare Supplement plan during the month of May to take effect on June 1st. See rates for alternative Medicare Supplement plans here.  The capability to change plans during this time frame is through the Blue to Blue program.
  4. Dental Insurance– Don’t forget your smile! Dental insurance plans can be enrolled in anytime throughout the course of the year.  These plans are not regulated like health insurance plans by separate enrollment periods.  Learn More about BCBSNC Dental Insurance
  5. Qualifying Life Events– If you have experienced a Qualifying Life Event, this could allow you to make a change to your health plan or enroll in a new plan. Get a Blue Cross Quote to see whether any of the Qualifying Events apply to you.
  6. Report Income Changes to the Marketplace– If you are enrolled in a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace and you have experienced an income change, it’s important to report this change to the Marketplace. Income changes can impact health insurance plan rates and coverage.

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.

Don’t Forget Your Dental Blue with BCBSNC

Though the 2018 Health Insurance and Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Periods are now behind us, many people forget they can still shop for dental insurance.  Dental Insurance is not subject to any designated enrollment period like Medicare and Health Insurance plans.  The BCBSNC Dental Blue plans can be applied for anytime throughout the year.  The only deadlines to consider are the application effective date deadlines.  Blue Cross of NC requires applicants to apply for the Dental Blue coverage by the 15th of the month in order to qualify for an effective date of the 1st of the following month.  Aside from this regulation, shoppers should also consider the waiting periods for certain covered services.  Generate a quote to learn more about the coverages and waiting periods.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC also made a few notable changes to the Dental Blue plan in 2018.  First, seniors are now eligible for the same coverage as customers under the age of 65.  This means Dental Blue members that are over age 65 no longer have a co-payment for preventive care visits.  The preventive care visits are now covered at 100% just as they have always been for the under 65 Dental Blue members.  Please generate a quote and see the brochure for more details on the preventive care coverage.  Next, the coinsurance percentages have changed for Basic services.  These services are now covered at a higher percentage than in years past.

Studies have also shown that oral health may be related to numerous other health conditions and diseases.  This is another good reason to make sure you don’t neglect the need for regular routine dental care.  The Mayo Clinic explains more about which conditions and diseases have been linked to oral health and dental hygiene.

Kennon Wainwright a Leader in the North Carolina Medicare Market

At Jerry Ballard & Associates we strive for excellence and like to recognize outstanding performance by our Agents.  We would like to announce some of these achievements in our Medicare, over 65 Market through Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), for high standards and production.  Our Agency Manager, Kennon Wainwright,  finished Number 1 in our region for top production in Medicare Supplement coverage and Number 2 overall in the State of North Carolina.  He also placed Number 2 in our Region on Medicare Advantage sales and Number 3 overall in the State of North Carolina.  We offer all North Carolina Medicare products through our Carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC.

If you are turning 65 or transitioning to Medicare in the next 6 months, give Kennon a call and let him guide you through this cumbersome and confusing process.  He is happy to to go over all the different supplement plans offered through our Agency and provide all the tools and information necessary to make the best choice.  If you would like to generate a quote for these Medicare Plans CLICK HERE to begin.

We also offer Senior Dental Plans through BCBSNC.  If you would like to generate a quote and/or Apply on Line, please CLICK HERE to get started.

Kennon resides on the coast in beautiful Morehead City, North Carolina with his wife and children.  He attended Virginia Episcopal for High School before entering The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   Kennon is a tremendous asset to our agency and brings knowledge about all BCBSNC products to best serve you and all your insurance needs.

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.

 

 

 

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.