3 Tips to Help Avoid a Disability Diagnosis

With rising medical costs and a lack of emergency savings, many Americans are at risk of financial difficulty if they miss work due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. This is why it’s more important than ever to prepare for the unexpected.

One way to prevent disabilities caused by illness is through early diagnosis and treatment. But there are also some things you can do to help minimize your chances of developing an illness that leads to a disability altogether.

Exercise daily. Most experts agree that just 30 minutes of exercise can reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, and stroke.

Eat right. For example, foods such as blueberries and cinnamon may have cancer-preventive properties, while avocados and wild-caught salmon are heart-healthy superfoods.

Get regular check-ups. Checking in with your doctor on a regular basis gives you the best chance of early detection.

Early diagnosis and treatment may help you weather the storm physically, while long-term disability (LTD) insurance can help you get through the financial impact of a disability. LTD insurance pays you a monthly benefit that you can use to help pay your expenses if you become disabled and cannot work to earn a living. Many LTD plans also offer return-to-work features that help you ease back into the workplace when you’re ready.

A Benefit of Your Membership

As a valuable benefit of your membership, the WSBA Insurance Marketplace offers affordable LTD coverage.

If you are interested in learning more about this product, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. Our benefits counselors are standing by to help guide you to a plan that best suits your unique needs.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Group Health Planning and Renewals

This time last year we never suspected that wearing a face mask in public and social distancing would become part of our new normal. Concerts, festivals, and sporting events have been rescheduled or canceled, countless businesses have been forced to permanently close, and even Disney World temporarily shut their doors to the public.

With health and safety becoming a major focus this year for everyone, how can employers prepare for changes to the group health and benefits planning process?

Planning Your Benefits

To accurately plan your health benefits for next year, you’ll want to begin by identifying any trends or changes from this year. Here are a few questions you should be considering:

  • Have your claims gone up?
  • Have you lost employees?
  • Does your plan offer a low or no copay telemedicine product?
  • Is this the year you should consider a level-funded plan (which can save 10%-15% in premium costs)?
  • Do you have capabilities for employees to enroll online without having to collect paper forms?
  • Do you need to get even more creative with plan options and your contribution strategy?

Do you normally host enrollment meetings between your employees and broker agent? You may want to plan for virtual meetings this year assuming your agent has the ability.

Our team can offer expert advice, creative solutions, telemedicine, and best-in-class digital capabilities so you never need to collect paper enrollment forms again.

The Newness of the Virus

While plenty of data exists for viruses that have been around for decades, there just isn’t a lot of solid information on COVID-19 costs yet – which can make planning for the next year difficult. How long will the virus last? How much will treatment cost? Will there be any long-term health complications from the virus? These are the kinds of questions that the medical, healthcare and business communities don’t yet have answers to.

We’re here for you.

Need help determining which group health options may work best for your organization? Our licensed benefits counselors are available to answer questions regarding your group health benefits, and may even be able to help you save some money. Visit https://wsba.memberbenefits.com/employer-group-solutions/ to learn more about what our team can do for you.

family outside in sunshine on a park bench with smiling baby

Why Young People Need Disability Insurance

When we’re young, we don’t always think about what could happen in the future. The truth is, debilitating accidents, illnesses, and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time, and any age. So no matter how young you are, it’s important to have a long-term disability insurance plan in place that can help protect your savings if something should happen to you.

Plan for the unexpected.

According to a 2017 Disability and Health Journal report, a long-term disability diagnosis can increase cost-of-living expenses by almost $7,000 a year. If you were suddenly no longer able to work, how would you manage to support yourself? Would your family be able to maintain its current way of life? Could your savings survive the average disability length of 31 months?

If a paycheck is your main source of income, you’ll most likely need long-term disability coverage to meet these needs. Even if your employer already has long-term disability coverage in place for you, it may not be enough. Employer-based plans sometimes only cover a fraction of your salary and may not factor in any bonuses that you (or your family) rely on.

What is long-term disability insurance?

Long-term disability insurance coverage is designed to help you and your loved ones withstand the financial changes that a disability can bring. If you become disabled and are no longer able to continue working, your coverage will kick in and help pay everything from medical copays to everyday expenses such as your mortgage or credit card bills.

Hopefully, you will never have to reap the benefits of a long-term disability plan. But if you do, you’ll be glad you have coverage ready when you need it. Your life can change forever in the blink of an eye – and being prepared can make all the difference in the world.

As a valuable benefit of your membership, the WSBA Insurance Marketplace offers affordable long-term disability insurance coverage to members of the Washington State Bar Association.

To learn more, visit https://wsba.memberbenefits.com/long-term-disability/ or contact us at 1-800-282-8626 with any questions you may have. Our benefits counselors are available to help guide you to a plan best suitable for your unique needs.

A Smile Has More Power Than You Think

The act of smiling is part of a universal language that everyone understands. When someone cries, they are sad or hurt; when someone laughs, they felt something was funny; and when someone smiles, they are happy or being friendly. No matter where you are in the world, a smile will always be welcomed and understood.

But could smiling have more health benefits we thought?

Health Benefits of Smiling

According to NBC News, “science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life.”

Smiling triggers the body to produce serotonin and dopamine resulting in an elevated mood. Not only are these chemicals part of the recipe for happiness, they may also play a part in boosting the immune system.

In one study, participants were separated into two groups, and both exposed to a virus. The first group was exposed to happiness-inducing stimuli and the second group was not. The results of the experiment showed that the group not exposed the happiness-inducing stimuli experienced higher infection rates than the other, leading some scientists to suggest that happiness can have an impact on one’s immune system.

This is just one study of many to suggest a link between those who are unhappy and those with weaker immune systems.

In addition to boosting immune systems, smiling has also been scientifically linked to:

  • lowering heart rate
  • lowering blood pressure
  • longevity

What does your smile say?

Wouldn’t it be nice to smile with confidence? Whether you find yourself in need of costly dental repair or just a good bi-annual cleaning, as a member of the WSBA, you have access to unique savings on dental insurance.

With the Comprehensive PPO Dental Plan you have the freedom to visit any licensed dentist in the country and enjoy an annual max of $1,750. To learn more about the Comprehensive PPO Dental Plan or what other options are available to you as a member of the WSBA, visit https://wsba.memberbenefits.com/dentalvision/ today.

business man explain the basics of group health insurance in an office

Group Health Coverage Basics for Small Firms

Offering health insurance to your employees may sound like an overwhelming process — but it doesn’t need to be. Once you’ve identified your firm’s needs and know the basics of group health insurance, the rest is easy. So, what do you need to know first?

What’s the difference between group and individual health plans?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “A group health plan is an employee welfare benefit plan established or maintained by an employer or by an employee organization (such as a union), or both, that provides medical care for participants or their dependents directly or through insurance, reimbursement, or otherwise.”

In other words, a group health plan is designed to cover a group of employees, but each enrollee has their own plan with benefits – and the plan’s monthly premium is calculated differently than if it were purchased as an individual health plan.

The monthly premium for all health plans is determined by the perceived risk of the carrier in offering coverage. With a group health plan, the group seeking coverage has their risk pooled together as one, which in some cases, may lower the monthly cost.

Unlike individual plans, group health plans are also available in different types designed to help your business save the most money and make the best coverage decisions. To learn more about these different plan types and ways that your firm can save money on group health coverage, feel free to check out our latest group health webinar.

As a firm owner, do I have to offer group health insurance to my employees?

Depending on the size of your firm, the answer could be no. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) stated that businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not legally obligated to provide health insurance to their employees — but many choose to regardless.

Looking for a better benefits package is one of the most common reasons people change jobs. And if your firm doesn’t offer a health insurance benefit, it may give current and prospective employees reason to look somewhere else for employment.

If you are federally mandated to offer health insurance to your employees, you will need to ensure you are following the rest of the ACA’s rules and regulations for small businesses.

Making The Right Group Health Decisions For Your Firm

Ready to take a look at your options? Our team of licensed benefits counselors is on hand to help you find the best group health solutions for your firm. Visit wsba.memberbenefits.com/employer-group-solutions/ or schedule an appointment with us today.

happy husband wife and son standing in front of home

Two Ways That Life Insurance Helps Our Communities

What would your family do if you were no longer there to help support them? For many families throughout the country, this is a question that is sometimes asked too late. Maintaining a way of life can become extremely difficult after the death of a spouse or partner — not just emotionally, but financially as well.

But did you know that life insurance also plays a role in our communities and national economy?

Reduces Poverty Levels

Losing a loved one is hard enough without the added stress of associated financial hardship. Life insurance can help ease that burden. Payouts from life insurance policies can provide essential financial resources to help lift a family out of poverty or prevent them from entering into poverty altogether after the death of a loved one.

In 2018, the life insurance industry paid out more than $120 billion to beneficiaries. These payouts are designed to help families maintain their current way of life while they adjust to their new reality — helping to pay for everything from mortgages and estate taxes to child care.

Increases Home and Neighborhood Value

No one should be forced into making life-changing decisions while grieving the loss of a family member. In many households, this sudden loss may mean uprooting a family altogether to somewhere more easily supported by a single income.

With the help of life insurance payouts, families can take their time when deciding whether to relocate due to loss of income – while still being able to make necessary repairs and keep up with maintenance. Homes that have been properly maintained and cared for over the years not only result in higher property values, they also increase desirability of the overall neighborhood.

According to Prudential’s The Socioeconomic Impact of Life Insurance 2017-2018 report, “a $1 permanent increase in payouts results in a 47-cent reduction in federal spending on poverty and unemployment programs — plus a $22 increase in the aggregate value of home prices.”

Taking the Next Step

Are you interested in taking the next step to help protect your family?

Our licensed benefits counselors are standing by to help whether you are ready to enroll or have a few questions first.

To learn more about term life insurance, or the other benefits and services available to members of the Washington State Bar Association, please visit wsba.memberbenefits.com/term-life-insurance/.

young boy scared with hands cupping his mouth

The Growing Need for Special Needs Dental Care

A trip to the dentist can be an extremely traumatic experience for children with developmental disabilities and special needs.

According to the CDC, recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six children aged 3 – 17 have one or more developmental disabilities. Additionally, many studies have noted that those who suffer with developmental disabilities also struggle with various stages of dental decay.

What You Can Do for Your Special Needs Child

Teaching your special needs child the fundamentals of dental hygiene can be hard — having a successful dental appointment can be even harder.

Once you find a dentist who can provide both the care and environment your child needs, there are steps you can take to minimize the stress your child feels by going to the dentist.

  1. Schedule familiarization appointments.

Scheduling your child’s appointment ahead of time can help them adjust to their new surroundings. This will allow them to become more accustomed to the lights, sounds, and smells associated with a trip to the dentist’s office.

During these visits you can also meet with the dentist and their staff to help your child become more comfortable and less scared or nervous.

  1. Tell stories leading up to the appointment.

Telling your child positive stories about visits to the dentist’s office in the weeks leading up to the appointment will help give them an idea of what to expect. It’s important that these stories emphasize a happy environment and not something associated with scary tools or pain.

  1. Come prepared.

Does your child have a favorite movie or TV show? Bring it along on a tablet or phone so they can watch while they’re in the dentist’s chair. The distraction will help to focus their attention on the screen and not what is going on in their mouth.

  1. Work with the office staff.

The staff at the dentist’s office is there to make sure your visit goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Before the appointment, call the dentist’s office to see if the appointments are running behind and if you can sign in a little later. This will help you to minimize the amount of time spent in the waiting room.

The Right Choice for Your Family

Finding a dentist who can provide specialized care for special needs children can be very difficult. Depending on the severity of your child’s developmental disability, general anesthesia may be the only way to provide treatment — something that not all dentists are qualified (or equipped) to provide.

When was the last time your child took a trip to the dentist? Our Comprehensive PPO dental plan option gives your family the freedom to visit any licensed dentist in the country — or take advantage of savings when you visit one of over 135,000 preferred dentists and 32,000 specialists nationwide. Make your family’s oral health a priority by visiting wsba.memberbenefits.com/dentalvision/ today.

Need dental insurance for 2020? Apply by January 31st to receive coverage beginning February 1st!

adult couple reviewing bills and open enrollment materials

4 Myths About the Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period

We’ve heard a lot of Open Enrollment myths over the years and want to set the record straight.

Myth #1 “There are fewer insurers to choose from.”

Many carriers who initially fled the federal exchange have returned and now offer plans alongside others who have entered the marketplace. This increase in the number of plans being offered has allowed many individuals and families to re-examine their needs and adjust their coverage amounts accordingly.

In addition to having access to the same carriers and plans listed on the federal exchange, the WSBA Insurance Marketplace can offer members even more options. To view the full range of available ACA-compliant health plans, please visit https://wsba.memberbenefits.com/.

Myth #2 “The premiums are too expensive.”

Now that the federal exchange marketplace has stabilized, there may be lower-cost options for ACA-compliant health plans than past Open Enrollment periods. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield has filed for a 2.03% decrease in premiums in Texas.

Even if your coverage needs remain the same, you may be able to find a lower premium being offered by a different insurer. We recommend always reviewing the health insurance options available to you during the annual Open Enrollment period.

Myth #3 “You’ll be penalized at tax time for not having insurance.”

In previous years, if an individual did not have health insurance for more than 2 months of the year and did not qualify for an exemption they would face a tax penalty of $695 or 2.5% of their taxable income (whichever amount was greater). As of January 1, 2019, the tax penalty known as the individual mandate has been repealed, though some states may still enforce penalties on individuals who don’t have health insurance.

Myth #4 “Applications are processed instantly.”

On average, our team will process an enrollment application within 24 business hours and submit it to the carrier. Once the application is with the carrier, their team will take over and require an additional 10-15 business days to process the application.

The carriers often get overwhelmed with applications during the Open Enrollment period, so we recommend enrollees submit their health insurance applications as early as possible.

Securing ACA-Complaint Coverage for 2020

This year, Open Enrollment runs from November 1 through December 15 with a coverage effective date of January 1, 2020. This is the one time of year where individuals and families can enroll in ACA-compliant health insurance plans.

Ready to start shopping? Visit https://wsba.memberbenefits.com/ to shop ACA-compliant health plans today.

Not sure where to start? Schedule an appointment with one of our licensed benefits counselors and let us walk you through finding the best health insurance fit for your needs.

young happy couple in a kitchen

4 Questions to Ask When Purchasing Term Life Insurance

Once you have determined you need term life insurance, it’s time to choose a policy. Be aware that many policies differ on certain points, so you’ll want to ask a few important questions before purchasing a plan. The following questions can be answered by your agent or found within the information that has been provided to you concerning the policy.

How Long Should My Policy Last?

Term life insurance policies last for a specific amount of time — most policies last for 10, 20, or 30 years. Your decision on which length of time to pick depends on why you need life insurance in the first place. Some people purchase term life insurance just to make sure that short-term debts would be covered in the event of their death. Other people are looking to take care of long-term obligations such as paying off a mortgage or putting children through college. For these types of goals, a 20 or 30-year plan can be more beneficial. Insurance providers offer a variety of terms to help meet the individual needs of each client. This makes it easy to find a plan that fits your particular goals and needs.

What are the Exclusions?

All insurance policies will have exclusions or special circumstances that could affect your family’s ability to receive payments at the time of your death. Some exclusions can nullify your death benefits altogether. These exclusions will vary from carrier to carrier, so it is important to ask specifically which exclusions are included in the policy you are reviewing.

Some of the most common exclusions are suicide, dangerous hobbies or occupations, an aviation exclusion, and an act of war exclusion. Hobbies are one of the most varied types of exclusions, so make sure you check the details on this if you participate in any hobbies that could be deemed risky.

What Happens When My Policy Expires?

Because term life insurance policies are for a set period of time, most individuals who purchase them will live to see their expiration. If you think you may want to continue having life insurance coverage after it expires, you’ll want to review the options for continuing your coverage on the chosen policy with your agent. Certain term policies have a renewable or convertible benefit to make sure you can continue life insurance coverage in some form once it expires, even though you’re older and possibly in a different state of health than when you first bought your term policy.

What If I Can’t Pay My Premium?

Although your premium might seem affordable now if your financial situation changes in the future it might be difficult to pay your premium. you should be aware of the consequences for missing payments on the policy in question. Each carrier will have different types of penalties for lapsed payments. You should only purchase a policy with consequences you can live with.

Purchasing term life insurance is a great way to help ensure your family’s financial security. Visit the WSBA Private Health Insurance for more information on term life insurance plans.

happy family on couch browsing health insurance options on tablet

Getting the Most out of Open Enrollment

With 2020 Open Enrollment period in full swing, families across the country are reviewing their current insurance coverages and seeing what other options may be available to them. Below are a few tips to help you navigate the process.

  1. Learn the Language

Insurance jargon may be enough to make some people’s heads spin but learning just a few key terms could help you pick the best health coverage for you and your family. To make it easy, here are a few words we feel you should know:

  • ACA-compliant” refers to plans that follow all the guidelines and regulations in the Affordable Care Act. These plans are only available during the annual Open Enrollment period or through a Special enrollment period, if you have a qualifying event.
  • Non-ACA plans” also known as short term health plans do not adhere to all of the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines and regulations.
  • Deductible” the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in
  • Premium” the amount you pay to your insurance company every month
  • In-network” refers to a provider that has a contract with your insurance provider
  • Out-of-network” refers to a provider that does not have a contract with your insurance provider
  1. Think of the Future

No one can predict the future, but you may be able to take an educated guess as to what the next 12 months could hold. Thinking about the coming year could help you determine how much coverage is right for you and your family. Have you had any health issues in the past year? Are you taking any medications? By examining your current health status and concerns you may be able to narrow down your health insurance plan options.

  1. Utilize Your Resources

Did you know as a benefit of your Bar membership, you have access to our team of licensed Benefits Counselors? Our Benefits Counselors are experts in their field and are standing by to help you navigate the Open Enrollment process and find the best health insurance for you and your family’s needs.

We’ve been providing health insurance answers and guidance for over 30 years. Be sure to visit the WSBA Private Health Insurance Exchange for access to appointment scheduling services, webinar replays, and other informational resources designed to help make the Open Enrollment process as quick and easy as possible.

  1. Know Your Deadlines

Like last year, the annual individual health insurance Open Enrollment period began on November 1 and will run until December 15. For those who enroll in one of these ACA-compliant plans, you can expect an effective date of January 1.

Non-ACA plans typically do not follow the ACA open enrollment period dates and are available in most states year-round.

Ready to make your decision? Visit https://wsba.memberbenefits.com/health-insurance/ today to secure ACA-compliant coverage for you and your family in 2020.

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