Archive for May, 2011

Medicare Plans’ New Ratings Based Partly on Health Insurance Rates

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

medicareOne of the most recent changes from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is a new ratings system for Medicare Advantage Plans, says Patty Henetz of The Salt Lake Tribune.  In the article “New ratings for Medicare Advantage plans may boost quality in Utah, nation,” we learn that insurers will be judged on 36 factors related to 5 different groupings and issued a rating between one and five stars.  Companies consistently rating above average will be rewarded with incentives like rebates and bonuses.  This quality control rating system allows consumers to pick their insurer based on more than just health insurance rates, but the quality of service they will receive as well.  The incentives to insurers also make it more lucrative for insurance companies to offer quality service to consumers.

The federal Medicare website will flag insurance plans that have had ratings below three stars for three consecutive years with a warning sign.  Unfortunately for consumers in Utah and much of the central U.S., the highest rated plans are not available to them.  Not one five star plan was available in Utah and noone in the state was signed up for a four star plan, probably due to low availability.  If the ratings systems improve the quality of plans like the government hopes, residents of Utah and other central states should have access to better Medicare Advantage plans soon.

Out of the 523 plans rated, only three received a five star rating this year.  The highest rated plans were in Florida, competing with Go Blue Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Arizona.  Non-profit insurance companies tend to have higher ratings than those for profit.  States in the Northeast and on the West Coast seem to have higher rated plans available than other areas.  Lower enrollment and plans that are too new are two reasons that those in the central U.S. had a harder time finding highly rated plans.  In addition to ratings based on factors like customer service, healthy consumers, and responsiveness; increases of health insurance rates will also be closely monitored.  Any increase above 10% for monthly payments will be more closely reviewed.

Disclosure of Health Insurance Rates in WA

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

WA mapThe Washington State Insurance Commissioner had quite a battle on his hands with Premera Blue Cross over House Bill 1220, according to the Seattle PI.  Vanessa Ho’s article last month, “Insurance chief on Premera: ‘Cruel charade on public’” detailed the battle.  House Bill 1220 allows the public access to all requests for and details of increases in health insurance rates from insurance companies.  Insurers like Group Health Cooperative and Regence BlueShield had no problem with the bill that helps consumers understand the reason behind health insurance rates increasing.  Consumers have access to insurance companies actuarial formulas and their costs associated with administration and medical services, as well as operating profits and losses.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler questioned the motive behind Premera Blue Cross’ disapproval of House Bill 1220.  Their initial amendment proposal was for the information to become public only if rate increases are accepted by the State Insurance Commission.  After that failed, Premera filed an amendment requesting that the public only see a summary of the information submitted for the rate increase requests, rather than have access to all of the information.  While Premera argues that the summaries release enough information to comply with federal health care reform laws, Commissioner Kriedler thinks that consumers deserve to see all of the information provided to the state during their rate hike requests in order to compare health insurance companies.

Compare Health Insurance Quotes for Abortion Coverage in SC

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A new bill was passed in the South Carolina House which could require women to pay separate health insurance premiums to cover abortions.  That is the only way that health insurers would have to cover the procedures when South Carolinians compare health insurance quotes.  This information comes from The Augusta Chronicle’s ‘Across South Carolina’ section in the article “House approves more abortion legislation.”  This bill protects doctors who will not perform abortions because of personal reasons as well.  The House approved the bill with a vote of 69-41.  This legislation is part of a bill mandating that state insurance exchanges put in place with federal health care reform will not have to provide coverage for abortions.

The South Carolina House has a GOP majority which lists abortion legislation among its top priorities.  Democrats in the state are unhappy about this new bill.  They argue that a woman has no idea if she would ever need abortion coverage in the future, especially if she encountered rape or incest.  Other opponents say that health insurers like Aultcare health insurance will be unlikely to even offer the added coverage and that women would rarely add an additional premium for something like abortion.  They may never plan to have one, but a pregnancy difficulty or deformity, or a devastating rape cannot be predicted.  The abortion debate will rage on in both state and federal government as long as there are opposing sides, which will likely be forever.

Pre-Existing Conditions: Compare Health Insurance Options

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

texasThere are many health insurance options for Americans with pre-existing conditions.  An article in Texas’ The Brownsville Herald, “Federal insurance program covers pre-existing conditions,” discusses the state and federal options available.  Author Steve Clark says that the federal agency is called the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  This public insurance is available to Americans who have been denied coverage after they compare health insurance from private insurers, due to pre-existing conditions.

The pre-existing condition insurance plan or (PCIP) offered by the federal government could be used by 7 million Americans, 250,000 in Texas alone.  This program was brought about from the Affordable Care Act last year and will last through 2014, when private insurance companies like Aultcare must cover Americans with pre-existing conditions.  As of February of this year, only about 1,000 Texans had signed up for insurance through the government’s PCIP.

Texas already runs the Texas Health Insurance Pool for high-risk individuals including those with pre-existing conditions.  Each state has a high risk health insurance pool that is an option for Americans along with the federal PCIP.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say that their option is less costly than the state run pools.  The stipulations to qualify for the PCIP are being a U.S. citizen or legal resident, having a pre-existing condition, being uninsured for at least six months, and being denied coverage by private insurers.  Compare health insurance options when you have a pre-existing condition.