Red Cross Needs Your Blood

The American Red Cross is in great need of donations. The organization says we’re facing “the worst blood shortage in over a decade.”

A combination of the relentless pandemic and an unusual flu season have exacerbated a preexisting shortage. The L.A. Times reports that overall donations have dropped 10% since March 2020. Students once accounted for 25% of donors, but their contribution is down by 60% because most on-campus drives have been canceled.

Want to donate? You can schedule an appointment by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, downloading the Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

HEALTH

CA Lawmakers Propose Universal Healthcare (Again)

A proposed bill and state constitutional amendment to create a free universal health care system in California just passed it’s first hurdle, but is still seen as far, far from a done deal.  Assembly Bill 1400 aims to establish universal health care under the name CalCare. The bill passed its first hurdle: a contentious Assembly Health Committee hearing on Tuesday evening.  Now up for debate are little (haha) things like the financing. All involved acknowledge the difficulty of getting CalCare enacted. Even if the law to create CalCare is passed by the Legistlature, it would still have to be put before voters. Experts say that could not even happen until 2024. So…

COMMISSIONER

Passing Along A Statement from Ricardo Lara

In case you missed it…California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara made a statement about Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022 budget plan, which he says makes major new investments in health care and helps Californians prepare for climate change. From Lara:
A budget is a reflection of priorities. Governor Newsom is making a bold statement with a massive commitment to protecting California families’ health and fighting climate change, including building our resilience against wildfires, extreme heat, flooding, and sea-level rise.”
As we witness the impacts of climate change with each passing day, I will continue to use all the tools available to protect consumers through a competitive insurance market, making home safety a top priority, while working with the Governor’s Administration and Legislature to increase funding to harden our homes and communities to reduce the risks of wildfire. In addition, with billions of dollars to increase access to clean air vehicles, reduce super-pollutants in refrigerants, and advance public health and equity, California is doing our part to tackle climate change and reduce its impact on our most vulnerable communities.
Achieving Health4All Californians is a giant step forward for equity and equality. When we won health care for all California children, we knew our work was not done until their parents and grandparents were protected. Seeing Health4All realized in the California budget is a testament to the leadership, advocacy, and dreams of so many. I want to thank Governor Newsom for making history today for California families and look forward to working with the State Legislature to finally see this become a reality.

COVID TESTS

It’s 8 COVID Tests Per Month, Per Person

More info has emerged on insurers paying for COVID home tests. The Biden administration on Monday issued rules requiring private health insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests starting Jan. 15. Under the policy, insurers are required to cover the cost of eight at-home COVID-19 tests per person per month.  The administration also said it would incentivize insurers to cover the cost of tests upfront. If insurers establish a network of preferred pharmacies or retailers where they pay upfront for the tests and the insured essentially pays nothing, then the insurance company would be allowed to cap their costs at $12 per test at pharmacies outside that network.

 

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

What’s Up After CARES?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and American Rescue Plan Act have allowed people far more leeway in how much of their own money they can keep in their FSAs, HSAs and dependent care flexible spending accounts. As we know, much of that leeway came to an end on Dec. 31, 2021.

With the expired provision, 2022 will be the last year people can bring their entire FSA with them into the new year. According to EBN:

Unless anything changes, people will be able to carry no more than $570 with them into 2023, the amount reflecting an inflation adjustment from $550.

Pros say we could see problems if people have trouble accessing medical services in 2022. Read more here.

FINANCIAL PLANNING

Yep. Think of Social Security Advice as a Gateway Drug.

Mary Beth Franklin at InvestmentNews says financial advisors may be the answer to the Social Security Administration’s problems with a recent avalanche of applicants and SSA staff retiring. Since 2000, SSA has offered an online portal for applicants but too few retirees actually use it.

A report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found the reasons respondents cited for contacting SSA representatives instead of applying online can be divided into four categories:
• complex issues that clearly require talking to an SSA representative, such as discussing the specifics of spousal and survivor benefits;
• general aversions to online services, like a concern about data privacy;
• straightforward inquiries that could be addressed without contacting a representative, like checking the benefit amounts and eligibility;
• and obstacles to online claiming that could be remedied by SSA service improvements, such as fixing data errors.

The report says that as the online experience improves and the generations retiring become more and more comfortable with online services, more will obviously use it. Right now, however, the problem is an opportunity for financial advisors. One source jokingly says that financial advisors should think of social security advice as a gateway drug for financial planning services. From Franklin:

Clearly there’s a continued need for Social Security claiming advice. Those financial advisers who can help answer clients’ questions about Social Security benefits will be well-situated to respond to the current retirement surge.

 

COLLEGE PLANNING

California Has an Official College Savings Plan

Maybe you already knew this, but we didn’t. California has an official college savings plan. It’s called ScholarShare 529. Furthermore, there’s a website called College Countdown and it features lots of good info. The folks at College Countdown, in fact, recently announced that beginning in 2022, Patricia A. Roberts, Gift for College‘s Chief Operating Officer, will be a monthly contributor to its new Distinguished Contributor Series on the College Countdown college preparation website. Roberts has assisted tens of thousands of families across the country figure out how to pay for college. Great info to pass along to clients!

TOMORROW

Jan 13: IICF Aims to Help Industry Establish Apprenticeship Programs
The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation hosts a webcast tomorrow, Jan 13, titled “Connecting Talent with Opportunity: Apprenticeship Program.” The one-hour webcast is part of IICF’s ongoing Dialogue for Diversity series. The program will feature a panel of experienced managers and a new adopter of the Apprenticeship Program sharing insight on how to establish and build a successful program. Hear authentic testimonials from apprenticeship program graduates now working for Aon and Zurich, along with feedback from a hiring manager.

Attendees will glean valuable tools for getting started or conducting an expansion of an apprenticeship program, including a playbook and access to networks. If it’s up your alley, you can register here.

EVENTS

  • National African American Insurance Association Anniversary Year Kick Off Event, online, Jan 18, 8-10am PT. Info here.
  • You Powered Benefits Symposium, in person, Feb 6-9, Phoenix. Info here.
  • NAIFA-LA & FSP-Pasadena Will G. Farrell Awards Event, online, Feb 24, Info here.
  • CAHU Women’s Leadership Summit, in person, March 14-16, 2022, Green Valley Ranch, Las Vegas, Info and registration here.
  • LAAHU Annual Symposium, in person, April 26, Pasadena Convention Center. Info here.
  • BenefitsPro Broker Expo, in person, May 23-25, 2022, Austin, TX. Request more info here. Register here.