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Health insurance plan changes offer exclusive options for Farm Bureau members

The health insurance annual Open Enrollment Period for individuals under age 65 began Nov. 15. This year, there are several new plan options available exclusively to Farm Bureau members.

In order to help you stay informed, we sat down with Steve Kammeyer, vice president of health insurance services with Farm Bureau Financial Services, and asked him some questions.

What is the Open Enrollment Period we keep hearing about?

The Open Enrollment Period is the time period during which you can purchase a new individual health policy or change to another policy without any underwriting, exclusions or limitations. You may also be able to make changes to your existing policy. This year’s Open Enrollment Period runs from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015.

Is this the only time I can buy health insurance?

It is not the only time you can buy, but it is the only time you can buy without a qualifying special event. Examples of a special event include:

• Loss of coverage through your employer group plan.

• Loss of Medicaid coverage.

• Moving to a new state.

• Changes in family (marriage, divorce, birth of a child).

What coverage options do I have?

As a Farm Bureau member, there are several plan options to choose from this year. There are some exciting new plans in the health savings account (HSA) market that allow much more flexibility than prior plans, and these new plans are currently only available to Farm Bureau members. You may also have the option to stay on your current plan. With many plans to choose from, your Farm Bureau agent is a great resource to help you find the right plan.

What about people who work for me? My accountant said I need to make some changes in the plan I provide.

If you provide insurance to your employees, there are rules you need to be aware of. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made it clear that an employee’s individual premiums cannot be paid by an employer either by reimbursement to the employee or directly to the carrier.

There are a couple of ways to provide benefits to employees:

• Offer group health insurance to your employees.

• There is a safe harbor allowing a small business owner with only one employee to continue to pay individual premiums.

It is important to work with your accountant if you provide health care coverage to employees.

With the result of the mid-term election, is the Affordable Care Act going to be repealed or changed dramatically? What should I do to prepare?

The election results will un­­doubtedly lead to some attempts to change the law. However, we don’t expect any significant changes in the near term. Remember, the plan you are buying is not a government-sponsored plan. It is provided by private insurance companies, which will continue to provide that coverage and adjust to new guidelines that may be issued by the federal government.

Is Medicare coverage impacted by this?

No. Medicare coverage, Medi­care supplement plans and Medi­care prescription drug plans aren’t impacted by these rules or enrollment periods. There are, however, opportunities to make changes in those plans separate from this law, and your Farm Bureau agent can help with that. In fact, right now is a great time to look at prescription drug plans, as there are new plans that could save you premium dollars.

How do I know what is right for me and determine what I need to do?

The best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with your Farm Bureau agent to review your current health insurance plan and make sure you have the proper coverage going into 2015. If you don’t currently work with a Farm Bureau agent, you can locate one by going to www.fbfs.com and using the agent locator tool.