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To Buy or Not to Buy: Picking a Vision Plan in Portland

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Everyone likes to see but getting the right vision plan in Portland, OR can be a strenuous process. Because some medical insurance plans include vision as one of their benefits and others don’t, it can be confusing to know if you should buy a separate plan or not. Here’s everything you should know about vision insurance before you make a decision:

  • Vision care can either be grouped in with other benefits as part of your normal medical plan. It can also be purchased as a separate plan. This is an important distinction to consider when picking the right option for you, your family or your employees.

  • Most vision insurance plans cover eye exams, glasses and contacts, though the extent of that coverage varies widely. Your everyday medical insurance will step in for more invasive or complex procedures such as care for cataracts or eye injuries.

    • Check your plan! Coverage changes from company to company. Some offer a new exam or new glasses frames every 12 months while others only cover them every 24 months.

    • Some plans are also very specific on what, or how much, can be covered. For example, only basic lenses may be covered and you’ll have to pay for scratch-resistant coating or designer frames out-of-pocket.

  • Speaking of out-of-pocket costs, always compare what you would be spending on your own to how much an additional vision plan will cost you. Receiving an eye exam once every two years is important preventative care but you may never need to spend even more on trifocals.

    • Wholesalers such as Costco and Walmart usually offer discount exams and frames but options are much more limited than if you used an insurance plan.

  • Here are some important questions you should be asking before you make a decision:

    • How much does a doctor visit cost in your area? Can you save money seeing an eye doctor in SE Portland rather than in the Pearl District, for example?

    • How much are you willing to spend on new glasses? Do you like the look and reliability of Ray-Bans or are you happy with Warby Parker alternatives that don’t accept insurance?

    • How fast does your eyesight change? If you notice significant differences every year in your prescription, a more intricate vision care plan might be necessary.

Picking the right vision plan is crucial for good eye health. Contact an insurance professional today for help choosing the right option for you.
When Should You Review Your Homeowner’s Insurance?


Homeowner’s insurance is one of those things that homeowners hope they’ll never have to take advantage of. That’s why it often is the last thing homeowners think about when they get a remodel or buy big-ticket items. But, there are times when it’s a good idea to review that policy. Here are five times in your life when you need to dust off your homeowner’s insurance policy and review it:

1. A remodel or a major repair.

Are you about to add an addition or get a new roof? Get your insurance agent to re-look at your homeowner’s insurance. Some home improvements can actually cut your premiums, while other changes (like getting a new pool) will increase your risk. Find out which changes to your home will increase or decrease your premium before committing to those updates.

2. Change your lifestyle.

Some life changes can provide you with discounts. For example, if a member of your household quits smoking - making the house smoker-free - your insurance rates may go down. Additionally, retirees from specific professions could qualify for a discount, so be sure to take a look at that once you retire.

3. Get more secure.

Installing a home security system, purchasing a fire extinguisher, and installing a smoke alarm in each room can all cut your homeowner’s insurance costs. So, if you have been thinking of taking advantage of an alarm system deal, talk to your insurance agent about how much money it will save you. You may get peace of mind and a heavier wallet at the same time.

4. Buy expensive items.

Pricey items like a huge flat screen tv or expensive computer equipment might not be completely covered by your existing insurance. Insurance coverage will only protect up to a certain limit, so if you are worried about the safety of your new diamond tennis bracelet, contact your insurance agent and make sure this lovely item is insured against home burglary.

5. Work from home.

Many homeowner’s insurance policies will protect equipment for home-based businesses up to a certain amount. However, customers may not be covered and some work supplies may not be covered. Check with your agent to find out if you need to buy a business policy as well as a homeowner’s insurance policy.

At Innovative Benefits Group, we work hard to make sure you pay the lowest possible rate for the best insurance. Contact us today to find out how you can obtain the best homeowner’s insurance policy for your needs.
Small Businesses Can Take Advantage of a HUGE Tax Credit


Small businesses all around Oregon may be eligible to receive a tax credit while providing excellent health insurance to their employees. The credit is called the IRS Small Business Health Care Tax Credit and it can save Oregon businesses up to 50 percent of the amount they pay toward employee’s healthcare premium costs. If you have tax-exempt employees, the credit will still cover 35 percent of those premium costs.

Here is the minimum criteria your small business will need to meet in order to qualify for the credit:

1. You must employ fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees. This doesn’t include family of owners/partners or seasonal workers who worked fewer than 120 days during the tax year.

2. Your average annual salary per employee must be $50,000 or less.

3. You must pay at least 50 percent of your full-time employee’s healthcare premium costs.

4. The plan you offer must be a certified medical or dental plan. Certified plans include many Atrio health plans, Health Republic Insurance plans, Kaiser plans, Moda Health plans, Oregon’s Health Co-Op plans, Providence Health plans, and more.

If you qualify for this tax credit, be sure to apply for it! Even though Oregon’s Small Business Health Options Program has not yet opened, you can still get the tax credit. The easiest way to apply is to talk to your insurance agent about it. They will request a letter from Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace that states that the plan your purchased is certified. Once you get that letter, you can file it with your taxes and ask your accountant to apply for the tax credit. (While this letter doesn’t guarantee the tax credit, you do have to have it in order to apply.)

Are you interested in getting certified insurance? Contact us today and we will help you get set up for a prosperous 2016!
Ten Holiday Stress Relievers

Let’s face it, the holidays are fun, magical and… stressful! From the Starbucks red cup controversy to the HUGE lines in stores and at malls, there are a lot of things about the holiday season that can add extra tension to your life. So, instead of getting too worried and worked up, here are ten holiday stress relievers that will help you remain calm, cool and collected:

1. Keep to your routine. Probably the first things that fly out the window during the holiday season are your exercise routine and your healthy eating habits. Try to keep to your most essential “feel good” habits like taking that daily walk or remembering your multi-vitamin. While some things may lose momentum over the holidays (that diet or those hours in the gym), keep doing what makes you feel best.

2. Try to eat real food. You can eat candy and chocolate, but keep eating three meals of real food a day. Working on empty calories will make you feel terrible and make you get stressed out more easily.

3. Do an act of kindness. Practicing daily acts of kindness can actually boost your immune system, lower your heart rate, and give you more energy! So, pay it forward this season.

4. Get outside. It’s ccccold here in Portland! But, it’s not so chilly we can’t get outside and spend some time in nature. Try to get out on a hiking trail, stroll through a park, or work in the garden.

5. Leave some time for yourself. Because this season is all about giving to others, we often forget to give a little something to ourselves. Instead of going to back-to-back holiday parties, take some time out to soak in a hot bath, get some extra sleep, or walk down Peacock Lane.

6. Be grateful. Gratitude can reduce stress. So, instead of focusing on the negative, think about those positive things you are grateful for. Perhaps you are grateful you found a job you enjoy or your family is kind and caring. Also, let people know you are grateful for them! It’s a wonderful way to make someone’s day.

7. Stay on-task. Some people love to write To-Do lists during this time of year because it keeps them focused and on-task. Others hate To-Do lists and work better by calendaring out their week. No matter how you do it, stay on-task and focused so that you can get through anything you dislike about the season and spend more time doing things you enjoy.

8. Delegate. If you are hosting a holiday party or dinner, don’t let all the pressure rest on your shoulders! Ask friends or family members to help or bring dishes. Talk to any children attending your holiday festivities and ask them to help with activities too. Perhaps they can play with the toddler while you put the turkey in the oven. Maybe they can wipe tables or put out the silverware. Even if the help you receive isn’t perfect, allowing others to contribute to your event makes them feel more included and can make your party a low-stress experience.

9. Laugh. Cracking up reduces stress hormones, so go ahead and read a funny comic or watch that adorable dog video on Buzzfeed. Ask your significant other to head out to a funny play or talk to your family about the silliest things they did as kids.

10. Don’t volunteer for everything. Sometimes you just have too much on your plate. Pare down your schedule and make time for fun holiday activities you enjoy. Head on out to Zoolights and miss that holiday party. There’s no need to cram every moment in or rush through the season.

Here at Innovative Benefits Group, we work to keep our members healthy and happy with insurance and financial plans! Contact us today for a free quote.
What Open Enrollment Means

The open enrollment period is here for 2016 health insurance coverage. Because the Affordable Care Act is still relatively new and the concept of “open enrollment” has only been in place for a couple of years, let’s take a look at what this means.

What is Open Enrollment?

This is the time period when medical insurance plans update their services and you can enroll in a health insurance plan, change plans, or apply for cost assistance. Every health insurance plan, even private plans, share the open enrollment periods.


However, plans provided by employers, Medicaid, and Medicare have unique periods in which you can enroll. For example, your job-based health insurance has open enrollment periods that are set by your employer, so they can happen during a different time of year than general “open enrollment.” It is a good idea to ask HR what your open enrollment period is.

When Does Open Enrollment Happen?

Open enrollment for 2016 is happening right now! Here are the dates, along with how they correspond with when you would become insured:

November 1, 2015: Open enrollment started. If you sign up for new plans or change health insurance plans between November 1st and December 15th, your new coverage will begin on January 1st, 2016.

December 16, 2015: You can still sign up for a new plan or change your insurance plan between December 16th and January 15th, but coverage won’t start until February 1st, 2016.

January 16, 2016: Open enrollment will end soon, so if you have not signed up for a new plan or changed your health insurance to the plan you want by this date, you have until January 31st to do so. If you sign up between Jan 16th-31st, your coverage will start on March 1st, 2016.

January 31st, 2016: This is the last day of open enrollment and it’s your last chance to change or get new 2016 coverage. If you don’t enroll in a 2016 health insurance plan by January 31st, you can’t enroll in a health insurance plan for 2016 unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

What are Special Enrollment Periods?

There are specific life events that allow you to change plans or enroll in a health insurance plan for the first time without being constrained by the open enrollment dates. You have to apply for insurance within 60 days of the qualifying life event. Such events include:

  • Having a baby

  • Adopting a child

  • Marriage

  • Losing health coverage

  • Putting a child into foster care

  • Moving to a new state

  • Changes of income

  • Gaining membership of a federally recognized tribe

  • Becoming a U.S. citizen

  • Leaving incarceration

  • A change in the dependency status of someone on your health insurance plan

  • Death of a covered member within your household

Such life events can change your coverage, so be sure to talk to your insurance broker if you end up qualifying for a change in your insurance during a special enrollment period. Additionally, here at Innovative Benefits Group, we can help you find the best plan for your needs within the tight open enrollment period. Contact us today for a free quote.

The Water Tower 5331 SW Macadam, Suite 260, Portland, OR 97239 Email: Phone: 503.972.4285 Fax: 503.972.4284