Author Archives: Laura Mutsko

An Agent or an 800 Number?

It is as predictable as the season’s changing. Your mailbox will soon be overflowing with letters and brochures on all the different Medicare Advantage Plans. You will see television ad after ad, each claiming their Advantage plan provides the most comprehensive coverage. Most will ask you to go online or call an 800 phone number to sign up. The question is, how do you know which plan to choose?
There is a better way. Before you decide, talk to an independent insurance representative who can sit down face-to-face with you and help you find the right plan for you. Independent brokers represent a number of companies and can explain how coverage differs. They will look for a plan that suits your needs and budget.
Best of all, you will not pay any more for your insurance if you purchase your Advantage Plan or Part D Prescription Drug Plan through an independent broker instead of an 800 number. Brokers and agents are compensated by the insurance company, not the customer.
As an independent agent and broker, I provide my clients with many other services as well, including:
Unbiased Advice: I help my clients choose a plan covering their preferred doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs. I also have a good idea of which companies have the best track record when it comes to pleasing their customers.
Help with questions: My customers have me to turn to when they have questions. That’s a lot better than an 800 number where you may reach a different customer service representative every time you call.
Help with claims: I help my clients navigate the rules and regulations and provide assistance if they need help filing a claim or an appeal. It is personal service that sets the independent representative apart from an 800 number.
No charge for service: There is never a charge for any of these services. They are all a part of the ‘package’ you get when you choose Mutsko Insurance Services. Call me, Laura Mutsko at Mutsko Insurance Services at 440-255-5700 before you decide on a Medicare Advantage Plan for 2017. Information on new plans will be available after October 15 when Open Enrollment begins.

Look who’s turning 65 in 2017

April 10 – Steven Seagal, actor

May 2 – Christine Baranski, actress

May 15 – Chazz Palminteri, actor

May 18 – George Strait, country music singer

May 21 – Mr. T, actor and professional wrestler

June 7 – Liam Neeson, actor

June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, actress, and Carol Kane, actress and comedian

June 20 – John Goodman, actor

July 1 – Dan Aykroyd, comedian and actor

July 17 – David Hasselhoff, Baywatch actor

Sept. 9 – Angela Cartwright, The Sound of Music actress

Oct. 22 – Jeff Goldblum, actor

Nov. 3 – Roseanne Barr, comedian and actress

Nov. 8 – Alfre Woodard, actress

Nov. 30 – Mandy Patinkin, actor, Homeland star

Look who’s eligible for Medicare this year

What do Bob Costas, Liam Neeson and Roseanne Barr have in common?  They will all be celebrating their 65th birthday in 2017, making them eligible for Medicare.  Here are some others who will turn 65 before the end of the year.

March 22 – Bob Costas, journalist

April 10 – Steven Seagal, actor

May 2 – Christine Baranski, actress

May 15 – Chazz Palminteri, actor

May 18 – George Strait, country music singer

May 21 – Mr. T, actor and professional wrestler

June 7 – Liam Neeson, actor

June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, actress, and Carol Kane, actress and comedian

June 20 – John Goodman, actor

July 1 – Dan Aykroyd, comedian and actor

July 17 – David Hasselhoff, Baywatch actor

Sept. 9 – Angela Cartwright, The Sound of Music actress

Sept. 25 – Mark Hamill. actor

Oct. 22 – Jeff Goldblum, actor

Nov. 3 – Roseanne Barr, comedian and actress

Nov. 8 – Alfre Woodard, actress

Nov. 30 – Mandy Patinkin, actor, Homeland star

Are you insured through a Union or Former Employer?

If you are insured through a former employer or union please read all mail concerning your insurance coverage as soon as you receive it. Your dates for making changes may not be the same as Medicare’s open enrollment. Always talk to your benefits administrator before making changes because it can be difficult to get this type of coverage back once it is dropped.

Please explain more about the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS).

The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) is a survey of people who currently have Medicare. It is used to provide feedback to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on how people get their health care, the rising cost of health care, and how satisfied people are with their care. The information is used to help CMS better understand the needs of Americans on Medicare.
You may be selected to be a part of the sample group of 16,000 individuals who are asked to participate in this survey each year. Letters from Medicare go out to potential participants in late summer explaining that someone from NORC at the University of Chicago will be in touch to set up an interview.
A professional interviewer will contact you in person or by phone to setup a visit. If you agree to participate in the study, the interview will take about one hour. Your participation in the survey is strictly voluntary.
Those selected to participate represent thousands of other people similar to them. If you are selected, literally no one else can take your place in the study. All of your information will be strictly confidential as prescribed by The Federal Privacy Act of 1974. Your participation is voluntary and your Medicare benefits cannot be affected in any way by the answers that you provide, or by whether or not you choose to participate.
If you are invited to participate and would like to verify your selection in this study, please contact NORC toll free at 1-877-389-3429. You can also visit the respondent website at www.mcbs.norc.org for more detailed information.
The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey is important to the future of Medicare. Please consider helping in this national effort to improve your Medicare program.

New Medicare Cards to be Issued

Medicare will mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries between April 2018 and April 2019. Your new card will have a new number that’s unique to you using a combination of eleven letters and numbers, replacing your Social Security number. The new card will not change your coverage or benefits.
This change in ID numbers is required by a law enacted two years ago and will help to reduce identity theft. You do not need to take any action to get your new Medicare card. Until you receive a new card in the mail, you should take steps to protect your current card. Do not carry your Medicare card unless you are on your way to a health care appointment. Instead, make a copy and black out all but the last four digits.
Be wary that scammers may devise ways to take advantage of you during the transition to the new cards. Do not be fooled if someone calls or visits you demanding you allow them to switch out your card. Medicare will not send someone to your home or phone you asking for personal information such as your Medicare number. Other points to remember:
• Medicare does not email or visit homes unannounced to “update’ or “verify” data that it already has.
• Medicare will never threaten you with a loss of your benefits for not making an immediate change.
• If you receive a phone call about this, ignore that your caller-id may show that the call is from Medicare or CMS. This is likely a phony caller-id that helps the scammers look more believable.
• When in doubt, contact the Medicare helpline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-633-4227.

If you would like to learn more about Medicare, please join me for my class, Getting Started with Medicare. You will find a list of upcoming classes at www.mutskoinsurance.com/seminars. For all other questions on insurance, including life, health, dental, vision and Medicare Advantage plans, contact me at 440-255-5700. I look forward to helping you.

Do Marketplace insurance plans cover mental health and substance abuse services?

Yes.  All Marketplace insurance plans cover mental health and substance abuse services as an essential health benefit.

Health insurance plans available in the Marketplace must cover 10 categories of essential health benefits. One of these categories is mental health and substance abuse services, also known as substance use disorder.

These services include behavioral health treatment, such as psychotherapy and counseling. They also include mental and behavioral health inpatient services and substance use disorder treatment.  There is a full list of what each plan covers in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Mental and behavioral health and pre-existing conditions
Marketplace plans can’t deny you coverage or charge you more just because you have a pre-existing condition. This includes mental health and substance use disorder conditions.
Coverage for treatment of pre-existing conditions begins as soon as your Marketplace coverage is in effect. There’s no waiting period for coverage of these services.

There are also no lifetime or yearly dollar limits for mental health services. Marketplace plans can’t apply yearly or lifetime dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits which includes benefits for mental health and substance use disorder services.
Parity protections for mental health services

Marketplace plans must provide certain “parity” protections between mental health and substance abuse benefits on the one hand, and medical and surgical benefits on the other.
This means that in general, limits applied to mental health and substance abuse services can’t be more restrictive than limits applied to medical and surgical services. The kinds of limits covered by the parity protections include:

· Financial, like deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits
· Treatment, like limits to the number of days or visits covered
· Care management, like being required to get authorization of treatment before getting it

(taken from HealthCare.gov)

 

Allergy Strategies before Medicine

How to keep your spring allergies in check.

Suffering from springtime allergies?  Your first impulse may be to reach for allergy medicines. Instead, think about taking some practical steps to help reduce the pollen, dust mites and other allergens inside your home. 

1.  Windows: Wash curtain and wipe down blinds. Keep windows closed to keep pollen outside.

2.  Bedding: Wash pillowcases, sheets and blankets regularly – at least once a week or more. Cover your pillows, mattress and box springs with covers that are dust-mite-proof.  

3.  Stuffed Animals:  If you cannot wash your kids’ stuffed animals, run them through an air fluff cycle in the dryer. Store stuffed animals in a plastic bin to keep dust to a minimum.

4.  Clothing:  Leave your shoes at the door, change your clothes and take a quick shower after being outside to reduce pollen inside your home.

5.  Flooring:  Replace carpeting with hardwood floors, tile and linoleum.  All of these harbor  fewer allergens than carpeting and rugs. If you cannot replace your carpeting, wash your rugs regularly and deep clean your carpeting.

6.  Smoking:  Allergies are simply one more reason to ask smokers not to light up inside your home.



Search for Unclaimed Funds

The Department of Commerce has released a new list of unclaimed funds accounts.  You may have hundreds, even thousands of dollars waiting for you to claim.

Unclaimed funds are accounts that have gone dormant. They may be a forgotten insurance policy, an uncashed check or a forgotten rent, phone or electricity deposit.  More than 53,000 claims were paid out in 2013, with each one averaging $1292.

An updated list of unclaimed funds accounts is available on the Department of Commerce’s Online Treasure Hunt at http://www.com.ohio.gov/unfd/.  The website also has forms for individuals and organizations to use in claiming their money.

Anyone with questions about unclaimed funds can call the Division toll free at 1-877-644-6823 (OHIO UCF).