Alex Tolbert

Alex is the founder and CEO of BerniePortal. He is a recognized thought leader on technology, HR and benefits.

Recent Posts

What the midterm election means for health care

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 @ 09:11

Medicaid expansion, Obamacare and more

Unlike the past few U.S. elections, health care did not play a major role in the 2018 midterms. While some campaign ads in Tennessee and nationwide focused on the Affordable Care Act, prescription drug prices and protections for pre-existing conditions, Obamacare just isn’t the political lightning rod it once was.

However, that isn’t to say that the results of the election won’t impact health care. Many Americans still struggle to access care, and most are frustrated by rising costs. At this point, any major health care policy is unlikely to pass, but newly elected and re-elected politicians will still likely want to work toward improving the health care system locally and nationally.

Below, let’s look at how health care might be impacted by the results of this election, both in Tennessee and nationwide.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs, individuals, karl dean, bill lee, midterm elections

Four steps for finding the right health insurance plan in 2019

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Tue, Nov 06, 2018 @ 15:11

More options for Tennesseans

Do you need individual or family health insurance coverage in 2019? Open enrollment is here, which means consumers can compare and enroll in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans on Healthcare.gov until Dec. 15.

All the news about marketplace plans and new carriers coming to Nashville might distract consumers from an option that has been around for a long time, but is even more attractive in 2019 because of tax law changes. That option is Farm Bureau, and applying for one of its offerings should be the first step most Tennesseans take this year.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs, individuals, karl dean, bill lee

Tennessee premium rates are stabilizing — but are costs still too high?

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 @ 10:10

More options for Tennesseans

Open enrollment is almost here, and after years of double-digit premium increases, prices seem to be stabilizing.

Beginning Nov. 1, Tennessee consumers will be able to sign up for individual health plans via Healthcare.gov, and some consumers might actually pay less next year than they did in 2018.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act exchanges opened in 2014, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has filed for a rate decrease, dropping premiums nearly 15 percent. Cigna also requested a rate decrease for 2019, with premiums set to fall nearly 13 percent.

However, not all consumers will see a price reduction. One carrier in Tennessee, Oscar Health, plans to increase premiums in 2019 by 7.2 percent, and consumers with other plans may receive less in subsidies and pay more in premiums.

What is driving these cost changes? To understand, let’s look briefly at how premiums are set.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs, individuals, karl dean, bill lee

Does the U.S. have ‘free market’ healthcare?

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 @ 11:10

How to make healthcare more competitive

Americans have been debating healthcare for decades. As costs have continued to skyrocket for individuals, employers and the federal government, consumer frustration has also risen.

The U.S. healthcare system is often characterized by opaque pricing, varying levels of quality, and inefficiencies that make getting care confusing for patients and providers alike.

Politically, the debate usually boils down to which path would improve access to care and lower costs – a more centrally-planned healthcare system, or a more free-market approach.

The U.S. healthcare system today isn’t really a free market, but there are some pockets that operate more like one than others. Below, we’ll look at what keeps America’s healthcare system from being a true “free market,” an example of a pocket in healthcare where a free market does operate, and finally, some ideas that could make the country’s healthcare system more competitive.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs, individuals, karl dean, bill lee

Governor’s race: Where do the candidates stand on health care?

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 @ 09:09

Healthcare often a key issue in political races

When it comes to political issues, health care is one that many consumers feel strongly about. Health care is a big part of almost everyone’s life, so it’s often a key issue in political races.

This will likely be true in Tennessee’s upcoming governor’s race, where Republican Bill Lee will face off against Democrat Karl Dean in November. Further, because Tennessee consistently falls in the top 10 unhealthiest states, this is an issue with particular relevance.

However, when it comes to health care, Karl Dean andBill Lee may have more in common than they have differences. Their health care platforms, as published on their websites, share some key characteristics, but also a few contrasting ideas.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs, individuals, karl dean, bill lee

Five questions HR should ask about benefits software

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Wed, Sep 19, 2018 @ 09:09

Featured in HR Technologist:

In a competitive job market, a comprehensive benefits package is a key tool for recruitment and retention. But according to the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans, half of the employees don’t understand the benefits their employer offers.

As a result, many employers aren’t maximizing the value of their investment in benefits. In other words, if employees don’t know which benefits they have access to, or how to use them, the employer likely isn’t seeing the recruitment and retention advantages of offering them.

Benefits administration software can help employees make better, more informed decisions when it comes to the coverage options their employer provides. Most platforms make it easy for employers to provide more robust benefits communication and decision support tools, including PDFs, videos, and other functionality.

As a result, employees more effectively use their benefits, improving retention and maximizing the employer’s investment in those offerings.

But with many different kinds of benefits and HR software systems marketed to employers, how should the HR department think about finding and implementing the benefits system that is right for their organization? 

Most all-in-one HR systems will report a benefits administration feature, but employers and HR leaders should carefully consider the functionality of the platform before purchasing.

Here are five questions to ask when it comes to finding a system to better manage benefits eligibility and enrollment.

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Tags: HR Technologist, employers, benefits technology

How to make sense of a medical bill

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 11:09

How to review your medical bill for inaccuracies

Medical bills can be really confusing. Anyone who has had a healthcare experience is probably familiar with receiving several documents from different providers and insurance companies, and struggling to understand whether they are correct.

Often, the more acute the healthcare experience, the more complicated the billing. On top of this, many medical bills contain errors.

Industry groups estimate as many as 80 percent of medical bills contain inaccuracies. In these instances, consumers often end up overpaying. Some people have even argued medical bills are overly complicated on purpose to keep most consumers from noticing when they have been overbilled.

The whole process can cause a lot of anxiety, especially after a medical scenario. So how can consumers ensure their bills are correct?

Below are some tips to help consumers feel more comfortable reviewing their medical bills.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs

Where can consumers find help with health insurance?

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Wed, Sep 05, 2018 @ 09:09

Where to find help

Many consumers have anxiety about getting health insurance right. There are several different strategies available for health coverage, but few comprehensive resources to help consumers evaluate their options.

Further, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, one of the groups in Tennessee that helps consumers with health insurance, announced earlier this month that it won’t apply for federal funding to help consumers find coverage in 2019.

Through the Affordable Care Act, groups could apply for federal funding to train “navigators” to help consumers find, compare and enroll in health insurance. Funding for the program has been reduced, and the Tennessee Health Care Campaign said it would not compete with another navigator group in the state — Family and Children’s Services — for the funding.

As a result, already low resources for consumers will be further reduced. At the same time, many consumers in Tennessee will have more options than in previous years, including Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) plans, short-term plans, and non-ACA options.

This means more consumers will be in a position to make decisions between different kinds of coverage and will likely be looking for good advice. Despite a reduction in navigator services, there are still some places where consumers can find help.

Here are a few of these options.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs

Losing health insurance coverage mid-year? 3 options for consumers

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Mon, Aug 13, 2018 @ 10:08

What to do if you lose coverage

Losing health insurance coverage mid-year can happen for a variety of reasons. Whether you have had a recent job change, a move or a change in your household resulting in a loss of coverage, this transition can lead to anxiety for consumers.


What are consumers supposed to do if they lose coverage in the middle of the year? Fortunately, the reasons described above, among others, are considered “qualifying events,” which means you can sign up for health coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces at any time of the year after experiencing them.

However, the marketplace isn’t your only option. There are other options for health coverage, and which one you choose will depend on a few different factors, including your health status, how long you expect to need new coverage and your income.

Below is an outline of these options and how consumers can think about them.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs, surprise medical bills

Tennesseans have more health insurance marketplace options, but will consumers sign up?

Posted by Alex Tolbert on Wed, Aug 01, 2018 @ 09:08

Insurers re-entering Tennessee market

Next year, Tennessee consumers will have more options for coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces, as carriers reverse the trend of previous years and re-enter or expand in the state’s individual market.

Right now, five different insurance carriers have filed with the state to sell individual health plans in 2019. This is the most carriers selling in Tennessee’s individual market since 2016.

However, it is possible that fewer Tennesseans will enroll in this kind of coverage. Below, we’ll look at new options for Tennesseans and some factors to consider about marketplace plans versus other options.

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Tags: healthcare, The Tennessean, healthcare costs, surprise medical bills

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