Anu Sarma

10 Essential Facts About 2017 Open Enrollment

by Anu Sarma on October 28, 2016 Comments Off on 10 Essential Facts About 2017 Open Enrollment

Are you thinking about individual or family health insurance? Do you need NEW health insurance cover, but not sure how to get it? Now is a great time to start planning for Open Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare.


While the current President may be on the way out, your health insurance issues are still valid and you still need to have health insurance in the US as part of the Affordable Care Act provisions. You can only sign up for insurance using your state’s marketplace or health insurance exchange during one annual period – the Open Enrollment period (unless you get married, have a baby, or experience another “qualifying life event”.)

If you are getting health insurance through an employer then they will let you know about the open enrollment period. But if you want health insurance without an employer, this quick guide is for you.

What can you buy during Open Enrollment? You can purchase a policy direct from the health insurance marketplace in your state. You can get it from a health insurance company directly. You can find a quote and buy health insurance online. Or you can use a health insurance agent.

Here’s what you need to get ready for Open Enrollment 2017.

1. Open Enrollment 2017 begins on November 1 2016 and ends on January 31 2017. This is a relatively short amount of time to get your plan purchased. But bear in mind that your cover does not begin immediately. There are different start dates depending on when you sign up: January 1, February 1, or March 1 2017.

2. You must use the Open Enrollment period to sign up for health insurance if you do not have it from another source. For example, if you do not have any insurance through your job or the employer of your spouse, if you do not have government cover, and if you are now older than age 26 – you cannot still be on your parents’ insurance once you reach this age.

3. You don’t have to get a completely new plan. If you have a current plan you can keep it. But check that your current plan hasn’t changed for next year in a way that makes it less appealing for you. You will receive a notice of changes so make sure you read it so you can be in time to get a new policy if you need to.

4. Now’s the time to do it – if you miss the open enrollment period you have to wait another year to get cover. You need health insurance or you get a penalty at tax time. You may have a life event that makes it possible to use a special open enrollment period during the year, but this should not be relied upon.

5. If you have cover for only dental or vision, workers compensation, insurance for a specific condition, or a plan for medical discounts, these do not count as cover.

6. If you do not have cover, the penalty is 2.5 percent of your income (calculated as $595 per adult if this is more) with a maximum penalty of $2,085.

7. You can’t get life insurance, travel medical insurance, or types of long-term care insurance through the health insurance marketplace. You can get these products elsewhere, at any time.

8. You can buy from four different levels of insurance plans for the individual and the family. These are generally categorized as bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans. The bronze plan type has the highest deductibles, meaning you pay less on your premiums but more out of pocket. Platinum plans have the lowest out-of-pocket deductibles. Bear in mind that you cannot change from one level to another in the same year, so watch out if you choose the highest deductibles because you are stuck with high bills if you suddenly need surgery.

9. All health insurance plans must cover at least the 10 essential benefits, which include: outpatient care; emergency care; hospitalization; pregnancy and baby care; mental health care; prescription drugs; rehabilitation; lab tests; wellness tests; and dental and vision for children.

10. You may not need to buy health insurance if you suffer a hardship like being the victim of domestic violence, or the victim of a natural disaster, a death in the close family, an eviction, bankruptcy, or incarceration.

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Anu Sarma10 Essential Facts About 2017 Open Enrollment

Secrets of Traveling with Two Passports

by Anu Sarma on September 21, 2016 Comments Off on Secrets of Traveling with Two Passports

The passport is a personal identification document that proves to countries you are exiting or entering that you have a right to be there—or HAD a right to be there. It helps a country understand who is visiting and assists in controlling who is a resident of a nation for the purposes of receiving benefits and other issues. It sounds pretty straightforward, but the use of passports can get tricky if you happen to have more than one.


There are three reasons a person might have more than one passport:

1. Dual citizenship
This usually happens when a person has been born in one country and receives automatic citizenship, and then moves to another country where citizenship is acquired by application. The country of birth may always recognize natural-born citizens as legal citizens of the country. And the new home country may not recognize the perpetual citizenship of the country of birth.

2.Travel between countries in conflict
Some countries will not allow visitors from nations they are in conflict with. For example, some countries in the Middle East will not allow people to enter if their passports contain a stamp from Israel. In this case, the U.S. State Department may allow a person who knows they will be traveling between two such countries to carry two passports, so they can separate the stamps. In some cases, a person is allowed to carry a paper with the stamp from the conflicting country that can be removed when entering the other country in conflict.

3. Application gap
Some countries require that actual passports (not copies) are sent to them to apply for a work visa in that country. It can take a while to process the visa, but the traveler might need a passport in the meantime to travel to other countries. If this is known ahead of time, the U.S. State Department might allow the traveler to have two passports—one to send with the visa application and one to use for actual travel. The second visa is usually valid for a shorter amount of time.

In the last two cases, it is fairly clear which of the two passports to use when traveling. However, in the case of dual citizenship, it can be confusing. Which passport do you show to the country you are leaving or entering?

How to Decide Which of your Two Passports to Show When Traveling

A general rule of thumb is to use the correct passport to prove what is of concern to the entity you are dealing with. An airline, for example, needs to you to prove you have the right to enter the country you are entering. It’s different for immigration officials.

When you are leaving a country, some immigration offices need to prove you HAD the right to be in the country you are leaving. In that case, you would show the passport that proved you were a citizen of the country you are leaving.

Most countries want you to prove you are citizen of the country you are entering, so when dealing with the immigration officials of the country you are traveling into you would show the passport that proves you are a citizen of the country you are entering.

What about situations for which you are not present physically? This might include booking flights or making arrangements in a country before you arrive. In this case, you would use the passport you might show if you were there in person. For example, if you want to book flights to Spain and you are a dual citizen in the U.S. and Spain, you would in this case provide the Spanish passport to prove you have a right to enter Spain as a citizen of that country, rather than entering as a foreign visitor from the U.S.

For more information, check out this article covering some of the subtleties of using dual passports:

Would You Ever Want to Use the “Other” Passport?

It is possible, in some cases, that it might be advantageous to use your visitor passport to enter a country instead of the passport that shows you are a citizen. Some people say you might have better protection from the U.S. authorities, for example, if you enter a hostile country and you have entered as U.S. citizen. However, the fact remains that you are a citizen of the U.S., and protections for citizens of this country would likely be extended to you even if you entered the country as a citizen of that country.

This could be complicated and advised actions can change with every situation, so it might be a good idea to check with the U.S. State Department and other authorities before entering a country where there could be a potential problem.

For the most part, it’s probably a good idea to use only the one passport that applies to your situation rather than showing two passports at the same time, which could cause confusion. However, if questioned about this, we suggest being honest, admitting your confusion, and asking for advice from the officials you are dealing with.

The ultimate goal for both you and travel officials is to make the travel verification process easy and clear.

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Anu SarmaSecrets of Traveling with Two Passports

Top Telehealth Terms You Need to Know

by Anu Sarma on August 11, 2016 Comments Off on Top Telehealth Terms You Need to Know

Did you hear about telehealth? If you suffer from a serious long-term health condition, or you need monitoring or diagnosis on a regular basis, you will probably benefit from telehealth. As technology continues to advance and the world increasing operates on a remote basis, telehealth is an example of modern technology helping solve important healthcare problems.


Find out more about telehealth and the key terms and terminology you need to know in this quick guide.

What is Telehealth?

One answer to the question what is telehealth comes from The Telecare Services Association which says telehealth is “the remote exchange of data between a patient at home and their clinician(s) to assist in diagnosis and monitoring typically used to support patients with Long Term Conditions. Among other things it comprises of fixed or mobile home units to measure and monitor temperatures, blood pressure and other vital signs parameters (and the answering of targeted questions) for clinical review at a remote location using phone lines or wireless technology.”

The concept of telehealth explained further shows that this is a way of monitoring patients using technology that assists with such conditions as chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and epilepsy. Using telehealth services allows a patient to take better control over their own health, and it also allows clinicians to more effectively monitor patients.

As information is transmitted in real time, issues can be resolved before they become critical or life endangering. The telehealth technology works by monitoring vital signs such as a patient’s blood pressure and sending this information via broadband or a telephone line to the healthcare professional. Anything that appears outside of the “normal” ranges is investigated and the clinician formulates the necessary response to keep the patient safe and well.

Changes in a Definition of Telehealth

Experts say that, over time, the definition of telehealth is broadening and can be used to encompass other forms of healthcare monitoring such as lifestyle changes and the remote monitoring of emergencies in real time.

Other terms associated with telehealth include telecare, telemedicine (which according to the World Health Organisation means “the practice of medical care using interactive audio visual and data communications. This includes the delivery of medical care, diagnosis, consultation and treatment, as well as health education and the transfer of medical data”), e-health and m-health.

Key Telehealth Terminology

To the average patient, telehealth terminology can be confusing. The jargon associated with telehealth can make it difficult for a patient to understand how their care is being affected, particularly older patients who do not generally use wireless and monitoring technology on a daily basis.

Here are a few examples of telehealth terms explained:

Analog: Many telehealth devices use analog lines to transmit data, which means that the data is transmitted as a continuous stream. It is a way of describing how data moves between devices.

Bandwidth: This is the capability of the data transmission – the capacity of data per unit of time. In general the higher the bandwidth of a transmission, the more data that can be transmitted.

Broadband: Broadband refers to a communications system that can carry a high amount of different frequencies meaning that many different messages can be transmitted at the same time.

Digital camera: Most telehealth systems have digital cameras involved that allow still or motion images to be transmitted between devices. This is useful for remote healthcare monitoring.

Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine (DICOM): This acronym is a standard of quality in communications for medical imaging devices.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): EDI is the means of sending data directly between points without any paperwork or any human intervention.

Encryption: When data is sent electronically it is encrypted – mathematically coded – so that it cannot be read by anyone apart from the person it is sent to. This is a security feature that allows medical data to remain confidential.

Intranet: This is a form of private internet where a number of communication hubs are linked, such as in a medical office or a hospital.

Peripheral devices: Different devices are attached to the telehealth systems that help to improve communications and send better data including blood pressure cuffs, weight scales, and stethoscopes.

Real time: A telehealth system sends data and it is received as it is sent – in real time, with only a slight delay.

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Anu SarmaTop Telehealth Terms You Need to Know

9 Health Risks Expats Need to Think About

by Anu Sarma on April 13, 2016 Comments Off on 9 Health Risks Expats Need to Think About

Moving to a far-flung country is a great adventure but wherever you go there are health risks you need to be aware of. From risky transportation to substandard hospitals, you could be putting your health at risk as an expat. Make your expat experience the best it can be by considering these potential health and wellbeing concerns.


1. Dangerous Roads and Drivers
Often the most important health and safety risk abroad you need to consider is the least exotic – the condition of road transportation. In less-developed countries the roads are likely to be badly maintained which creates dangerous driving conditions. Lighting is poor and cars are not always regulated. Driving standards may be lower than you are used to. Road traffic accidents cause thousands of hospitalizations among expats every year. If you are driving, pay extra attention to the road. When traveling in a car or as a pedestrian, take precautions to improve your safety such as using a seat belt and taking care when crossing roads.

2. Big Problems like Ebola
The threat of Ebola has not completely gone away. While the horrendous outbreak may be over, there are cases where the virus lies dormant, and another threat could be on the horizon. If major health problems like Ebola do occur where you are living, it is often preferable to leave to a safer country until the threat has subsided. Expat health problems are often global problems.

3. Basic Hygiene Fails
While considering the large, catastrophic events that could affect your health, many people forget that the smaller risks on a daily basis are equally as serious. Minor health complaints for expats like gastroenteritis can be more complicated abroad, as well as causing you significant distress. Make sure you wash your hands frequently, and take care not to eat food that may be prepared in unhygienic circumstances.

4. Problems with the Treatment for Minor Illnesses
If you do not have access to good standards of diagnostic care, what appears to be a minor condition can quickly become more serious. Travel to a better equipped hospital if possible so you can be sure of a more accurate diagnosis.

5. Dangerous Hospital Infections
It is a real problem that even when the hospitals are of a good standard, you are at risk of infections or infectious diseases when the place is packed with ill people. Standards may also be lower, resulting in the risk of receiving contaminated blood or an infection due to poor hygiene.

6. Language Problems
It can be difficult to get the best healthcare for your needs when you do not speak the local language, and the doctors only have a basic grasp of English. In bigger cities there will usually be staff members who speak good English, but in rural locations this is less likely. For serious health complaints, try to find an interpreter who can be with you in consultations. Write down the names of any medication you are currently taking or any health conditions you suffer from.

7. Counterfeit Drugs
You can find counterfeit medications even in the most developed countries, although it is more likely to be a problem in less developed parts of the world. Try to buy medication only from a reputable pharmacy – an international chain, or a trusted local business.

8. Insufficient Health Insurance
You may find out too late that your health insurance policy provides for only the most basic of care. Many policies do not include cover for an air ambulance or repatriation, which you will need if you fall ill in a remote area and need transportation to a better hospital. Choose a comprehensive health insurance policy that protects you wherever you are.

9. Pre-Existing Health Conditions
Having a serious pre-existing health condition should not be a barrier to living abroad, but you do need to prepare for situations that relate to your condition while you are an expat. Learn the key phrases and words to describe your condition in the local language, as well as how to talk about any complications you may be suffering from. Understand what your medication is called overseas, and where you can get it. Carry medical ID or wear medical ID jewelry.

A good quality international health insurance policy helps to minimize your health risks abroad and provide a safer, more comfortable expat experience.

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Anu Sarma9 Health Risks Expats Need to Think About

Top Tips to Combat Health Insurance Cost Increases in 2016

by Anu Sarma on April 1, 2016 Comments Off on Top Tips to Combat Health Insurance Cost Increases in 2016

Everything seems to cost more nowadays, and health insurance is no exception. Chances are you’re paying more for gas, for groceries, and for health care – and the trend is set to continue. While the Affordable Care Act has slowed down price increases in premiums in recent years – and the general cost of healthcare has also flattened out – the amount you pay for health care expense (the deductible) has steadily increased. Why has this happened? And what can you do in 2016 to manage your higher health insurance bills?


Why Are You Paying More for Health Insurance?

It’s a fact – healthcare costs are rising . One of the biggest problems the healthcare industry faces is a rising cost of expensive, often specialty drugs. Costs are shifting to take this burden away from the insurers and onto the insured. Different drugs on the market now for cancer, arthritis, and heart disease are vastly more expensive than before. And with the aging population, we are spending more on healthcare overall.

What you can do about it depends on where you get your health insurance in the first place:

Health Insurance from Employer

If you are one of the 50 percent of Americans insured through your employer, chances are you’ve noticed it’s not such a great deal anymore. While it is always a bonus to get good quality insurance through your job, that doesn’t mean it is automatically cheap – or an excellent deal. Over the past few years employer-based healthcare schemes have been slow-growing. Employers tend to be increasingly shifting costs to employees – this is known as cost sharing and it is not necessarily a good thing for you when you get your insurance through your work.

The Kaiser Family Foundations says that the average deductible more than doubled from 2006 to 2014 – from $584 to $1,217. And there’s been a rise in the number of workplaces schemes that only offer high deductible plans. If you are seeing larger deductibles or premiums every year, there are a few things you can do.

1. If you are stung by higher premiums, look for a high-deductible plan. You’ll pay less each month but you need to realize that if you get ill, you’ll pay more out of your pocket before the insurance kicks in.

2. If you don’t like the idea of the large deductible, choose a plan with a higher premium. This will be something like a PPO where you have a wider choice of doctors and don’t have to worry about a large bill if you get sick.

3. Sign up for a health spending account where you can set aside pre-tax income for the expenses you pay out of pocket for treatment. In this way you can minimize the problem of a high deductible while keeping your premiums under control.

Marketplace Health Insurance

If you are enrolled in a healthcare insurance plan from the marketplace there are things you can do to combat rising healthcare costs. The main thing to remember is that you can shop around.

1. Are you getting the maximum allowable benefit? Update your income and reapply for health care subsidies or the premium tax credit. It may be that you can claim for more money off your insurance by making sure your details are up to date and accurate.

2. Check your plan carefully. What was once great value may now have shifted as the marketplace changes. It pays to look at what else is on offer and switch plans wisely to avoid the increasing cost of insurance.

3. Do you have children? Make sure you apply for CHIP coverage, or Medicaid. These schemes are designed to help families with children and you may be eligible even if your income is above average.

But don’t panic if you have been reading reports about double-figure rises – in reality, most of the plans will not increase by this amount, and you will probably see a much slower rate increase with marketplace plans that you may have been expecting. Plus, with marketplace plans the increase in premiums will often be minimized by increased subsidies. Take a little time to look at what your plan offers now, and what you are paying in relation to the market. You have the freedom to move – and the opportunity to save money in 2016.

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Anu SarmaTop Tips to Combat Health Insurance Cost Increases in 2016