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Stephanie Cohen, Scott Golden, Jack Cohen


Understanding the COBRA Subsidy

By Scott Golden, CFO

Needless to say, when it comes to the changing world of health care benefits, we are in very interesting times. The economy continues to teeter and unemployment is still high. We are seeing those factors tie directly to health insurance benefits.

I am speaking, specifically, about COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 that was amended as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) signed by President Obama in February 2009.

How it works: "Assistance Eligible Individuals" pay only 35 percent of their COBRA premiums; the remaining 65 percent is reimbursed to the coverage provider through a tax credit. The premium reduction applies to periods of health coverage that began on or after February 17, 2009 and lasts for up to 15 months.

A new trend: Although the COBRA subsidy has been around for 25 years, until recently few people opted for it when they left a job. Today, almost everyone who is terminated takes the benefit. It makes sense for the employee, especially in tough economic times when an employee doesn't know when, or if, they'll find a new job.

The problem: Because the subsidy only lasts 18 months, there is an urgency to have an abundance of medical procedures done in that time. In turn, this is costing the former employers – and insurance companies – more in claims costs. While few are crying for the insurance companies, there is a larger impact to consider.

Unintended consequences: The COBRA subsidy will probably make the overall cost of care more expensive for the entire system in the short-term. It is unclear whether there are long-term benefits incurred from people taking care of things now, rather than waiting. It is interesting to look at what happens when these types of things occur.

To learn more about the COBRA benefit, visit

If you haven't signed up already, don't miss the Women Ambassadors for Business luncheon, co-hosted by Stephanie Cohen, on June 24 from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. Learn more here.

From all of us at Golden & Cohen, here's to your good health!

Stephanie Cohen, CEO,
Scott Golden, CFO,
Jack Cohen, COO,

Jack Cohen

Do You Need Vacation Insurance?

By Jack Cohen
Chief Operating Officer
Golden & Cohen

With summer travel upon us, I'm frequently asked this question: Is travel insurance worth the investment? The answer is simple: Yes. It is most definitely worth purchasing, mostly because domestic health insurance plans only provide emergency coverage, such as an unexpected trip to the hospital. And that's the case only if you have the type of insurance that covers you for out-of-state medical care.

Better safe than sorry: I realize this isn't what you'd like to be thinking about while you are planning your summer respite. Nonetheless, travel insurance gives you additional protection and usually covers hospital stays, doctor visits, emergency care, trip interruption due to unforeseen circumstances, lost luggage – and in the worst case scenario, it covers the return of mortal remains or the return of minor children in the case of a political or emergency evacuation.

Exclusions from some or all travel insurance include pre-exisiting conditions that existed three years prior to the effective travel date, elective treatments, or surgeries. Most policies will also not pay for immunizations, routine physical exams, AIDS treatments, or a political evacuation if there was a travel advisory.

What type of travel insurance should you buy if you are going abroad? If you are traveling abroad, at the very least consider buying coverage that provides medical care while traveling abroad – doctor's office visits, sick visits, and hospital care. If you are traveling to an unstable spot, consider buying protection that covers you in the case of an emergency evacuation.

Three things to remember:

1. Speak to a knowledgeable insurance broker when in need of specialty insurance products.
2. Make sure the carrier is a highly rated one.
3. Read the entire policy so you know what you are buying before leaving for the trip.

Have more questions? Send me an email:

The Essential Performance Review Handbook by Sharon Armstrong

Inside The Essential Performance Review Handbook

A Q&A by Stephanie Cohen with HR expert and author Sharon Armstrong

Although performance reviews are actually less popular than a trip to the dentist for most supervisors (see that study below), it's not supposed to be this way.

That's why HR expert Sharon Armstrong wrote, The Essential Performance Review Handbook, which was published last month by Career Press.

Sharon's goal is to help take the pain out of the performance review process, and as any manager and business owner knows – that's a wonderful idea. Below you'll find a Q&A with Sharon, where you'll find ideas on how to master this important task.

Stephanie Cohen: Tell us about your new book, and what you hope readers will take away from it.

Sharon Armstrong: I do my best in the book to provide advice on how to make the performance review process productive, painless, and effective.

After all, I have been there as a manager and know from firsthand experience that performance appraisals can be one of the most anxiety-provoking aspects of work life–for both supervisors and employees.

Appraisals are meant to clarify and reward, and to be interactive and fair. They take real time, real dialogue, and a real focus on the future, rather than just the previous few months. They need to work successfully for all employees–not just the terrific ones.

Stephanie Cohen: Why do people hate them so much?

Sharon Armstrong: Supervisors often complain they are required to focus on tedious written forms, but don't have enough training in how to use them. They also worry about getting hit with complaints or lawsuits when there's even a hint of discussion in the review about "improvement opportunities." There's also the frustration of measuring intangibles. What's more, employees often aren't any happier about the performance review process. Read why here.


Life in the Trenches of the Health Insurance Business

Stephanie Cohen and Scott Golden

Stephanie Cohen, Scott Golden, Jack Cohen

This month we offer insight into a situation that's not well known:

You are paying too much for prescription drugs – but don't know it.

Did you realize that medicines can actually cost more money if you use your prescription card versus buying the prescriptions at Walmart, Target or online sources?

The situation: Mrs. Mumsly, the wife and administrator of a Maryland doctor's practice, emailed us recently to say how disappointed she is with the practice's drug management program.

"As of May 1, they were charging $320 for a 90 day supply of a generic drug that could be obtained in a local store for $10 to $15," she said.

"We looked into it and could not find out if this was due to the deductible pending, a non approval of the prescription, or some other error. But we are definitely paying more for these drugs than we should be."

The solution: As a consumer and holder of an insurance policy, it is important to ask questions and confirm what the cost is of services rendered and received.

In order to see where and how you can get the best price for a prescription, you must call the pharmacy to see what the price will be.

If we were the Health Insurance Ambassadors: We would require insurance companies to disclose the fact that the prescriptions may be less expensive at different pharmacies.

The painful truth: Costs vary substantially between drug stores, cities, states and insurance policies. It is up to the user to be an advocate or use a broker to help find the most cost effective way to receive medicines.

Remember – buyer beware. And do your homework. It could save you a lot of money.

What are your health insurance nightmares? We encourage you to share your stories with our newsletter editor,

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By Hope Katz Gibbs, president & founder, The Inkandescent Group; Design by Michael Gibbs; Programming by Max Kukoy

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