Archive for July, 2011

Compare Health Insurance for Same Sex Married Couples in New York

Monday, July 25th, 2011

New Yorkers who recently celebrated gay marriage and health insurance companies are looking into benefits to see what changes will be made.  Chris Hawley and Michael Hall of the Associated Press wrote about this in their article “NYers ask how gay marriage will affect benefits.”  Many people hope to add their same sex spouse to their insurance plans and save money.  But some companies who compare health insurance plans before and after New York legalized gay marriage won’t be making any changes at all.  There are employers who put restrictions on domestic partner benefits and it remains to be seen if and how these restrictions will be changed now that the marriage is legal.

With well over 40,000 same sex couples in New York, the question of how legalized marriage will affect health insurance benefits is important.  Many of the couples are already legally married in other places, but now that their marriages are legal in New York, insurance and tax consequences will follow.  State taxes will be reduced and offer savings for the newly married and those whose unions are now legal in New York.  But because their unions are not recognized federally, the differences between state and federal taxes will become more complicated.  Health insurance, taxes, adoption and estate selling are the most common financial changes that will occur with the new laws, but other areas of life will be affected as well.

Couples who are married do not get taxed on their employer’s contribution to health plans from companies like Aultcare health insurance, for the costs to cover their spouse.  Even if same sex couples were able to get their partner covered under their health insurance plan, as is the case in about one-third of businesses, the working spouse was taxed on the employer contributions toward their partner’s coverage.  Now that their marriages are legal in New York, same sex couples will see savings from this tax.  But those who maybe weren’t planning on getting married could risk losing same sex domestic partnership benefits now that they can legally get married.  It might force some couples to get married once they compare health insurance benefits that could be lost if they don’t, but not all companies will force people to marry to keep their benefits.  There are quite a few changes that same sex couples, businesses, and the government will have to figure out with gay marriage legalization in New York.

Compare Health Insurance Quotes With New Public Rate Info

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Residents in the state of Washington can now see health insurance rate increase requests and all pertaining information thanks to Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s HB1220.  The Business Examiner article “Health insurance rate requests now public” says that individual and small business health plan rates are now available to the Washington public on their government’s insurance website.  Some health insurance companies who put requests in before the July 1 deadline volunteered to make their information public as well.  The rate requests and supporting documents will be available online not long after they have been filed by the insurance companies.

Now that the public has access to the same information as the Insurance Commissioner, they can see for themselves why increasing health care costs are justified.  Commissioner Kreidler had a long battle with insurance companies over this legislation, and wondered what some of the companies may have to hide.  Consumers can now see what is behind rising health care costs when they compare health insurance quotes.  They will be able to see how much of their health costs go to medical claims, administration, and profit.  Whether their benefits will change at all with the health rate increases is more information that will be made public.  Kreidler is confident that this information will greatly benefit the consumers of Washington.

Taking Severely Obese Kids from Parents as Health Insurance Rates Soar

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Two American doctors wrote an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which says that states should have the ability to remove severely obese kids from their parents.  John Moore’s article “State should take obese kids from parents: US doctors” from the AFP reminds us that while this is not the specific opinion of the American Medical Association or JAMA, it may be someday.  Lindsey Murtagh and David Ludwig, doctors at the Harvard School of Public Health and Children’s Hospital in Boston, respectively, believe that removing children who are severely obese from the homes of their parents is the same as removing kids who are starving.  Health insurance rates and childhood illnesses skyrocket because of the obesity problem in the United States.  Two million kids in the US are considered severely obese and have a BMI above the 99th percentile, shocking to some but reality to many who see these kids every day at school or in the neighborhood.

Both doctors argue that the parents of these severely obese kids are neglecting their health risks and medical problems.  The children are likely to develop lifelong conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and other ailments that will be nearly impossible for them to overcome.  While states already have laws protecting kids from starvation or undernourishment, only a few states have laws protecting them from overfeeding and severe obesity.  California, Iowa, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico do have a legal precedent on the books.  This debate is likely to interest some insurance companies like Aultcare who spend billions of dollars a year on obesity related ailments.  While these doctors believe that a temporary home in foster care can help children learn healthy eating and exercise habits and lose excess weight without the risks of bariatric surgery, it is wise to look into other alternatives first.  Educating the parents should really be the number one priority and they should at least have some kind of a warning and help before their kids are taken into foster care.  Severely obese kids do need help, but their parents likely do as well.

More Qualify for Medicaid When You Compare Health Insurance Reform Law

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

An interesting part of the healthcare reform act from last year will allow 3 million middle class Americans to qualify for Medicaid.  This could put a huge strain on the government and seems to many lawmakers to be a mistake.  The Associated Press article “AP Exclusive: Medicaid for the middle class?,” by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, discusses the possible loophole.  Medicaid health insurance is meant to help the poorest Americans, but will now be available to pre-retirees making around $64,000, or 138% of the federal poverty level, starting in 2014.  Pre-retirees who compare health insurance might decide to take the government up on this free healthcare until they qualify for Medicare at age 66.

The loophole allowing millions more Americans to qualify for Medicaid is that Social Security will no longer be included in the income eligibility determination for the government health insurance.  A spokesman from the Health and Human Services Department said that they are concerned about middle class Americans qualifying for a program meant only to help the neediest in America.  The main concern is over the financing of course.  Millions more getting relatively free healthcare means millions more government dollars being spent.  Early retirees can get Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but are not eligible for Medicare health insurance until age 66.  Currently, they have to find another form of health insurance, whether they get a limited benefit plan like Go Blue Florida, or comprehensive individual health insurance.  It is likely that something will be done to change this loophole before it is to take effect in 2014, but if not this could mean big bucks paid out by the federal and state governments.