Archive for May, 2012

Better Off Dropping Employer Health Insurance for Individual?

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Employer sponsored health insurance plans seem to be covering less and less as health care costs skyrocket.  It’s leaving many Americans wondering if they should just drop their employer health plans and compare individual health insurance plans.  While the premiums will likely be more with an individual plan, you have to factor in all of the out of pocket costs you may be saving on as employer plans cover less and less.  In the NPR article, “Health Insurance Cutbacks Squeeze the Insured,” Rob Stein tells the heartbreaking story of a family in California losing out as their employer sponsored plan covers less and less of their health care.

The woman in the article is married with a five year old son and receives health insurance from her employer.  She had a liver transplant at age ten and has to take daily anti-rejection medication as well as have monthly blood tests to ensure her body is not rejecting the transplanted liver.  Last year, she was devastated to find out that her company was changing their health insurance options and would only be offering one plan, a high deductible health insurance plan with no prescription coverage.  This woman was lucky to find a charity organization to cover her $1,000 monthly prescription, but has been unable to afford her $300 monthly blood work bill.  Skipping these appointments and others when she and her family are sick can cause big health problems, but they simply can’t afford the added costs.

As the cost for employers to offer health insurance skyrockets, the plans they are offering have become less comprehensive and more basic.  Americans have seen their deductibles, copays, and cost sharing increasing over the past few years and there is little that they can do about it.  Those who have health insurance coverage are finding themselves paying thousands of dollars each year before the health insurance they pay for actually covers anything.  Employers are not fully to blame here; they are trying to keep up with inflation and rising health care costs without going under as well.  This is particularly trying for small employers who are already struggling to get by in a tough economy.  These rising out of pocket costs are forcing many Americans to see if they can actually pay less getting individual health insurance from a company like Aultcare.

Health Insurance Rates Related to WHO and UN Health Findings

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The United Nations recently did a health study which clearly linked the bad health problems of developed nations to those in poorer nations.  The differences in the developed countries’ diets and lifestyles have transferred to the poorer nations, according to Reuters’ Kate Kelland.  In the article, “WHO warns of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity,” it says that one out of every three adults around the world is suffering from high blood pressure.  This high blood pressure causes half of the deaths related to heart disease and stroke.  Some countries in Africa actually have half of their adult population suffering from high blood pressure.

In a World Health Organization (WHO) study, they found that one out of every ten adults in the world is diabetic.  Not only does diabetes affect the health and life of those suffering from it, it costs billions of dollars each year in medical care and treatments.  This means that health insurance rates will be higher not only for diabetics, but for everyone as health insurance companies have to pass their increasing costs on to consumers.

Traditionally, people think that most cases of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer happen in wealthy countries because we eat high fat diets, smoke, and drink more alcohol.  But 80% of the deaths from these chronic diseases occur in low and middle income countries.  They obviously don’t have the health care opportunities that exist in most of the wealthier nations, but this shows how much more prevalent these chronic conditions are now in low and middle income countries.  They have seen increases in smoking as well as more Westernized diets and less exercise in recent years.

Low cost drugs and an increase in diagnosis of high blood pressure has reduced the deaths from this condition in wealthy countries, but those things haven’t been available in lower income countries.  Obesity is another worldwide chronic health condition on the rise.  From 1980 to 2008, obesity rates doubled in every region in the world.  Twelve percent of the overall world population is obese, another cause of higher health insurance rates.  Americans are the worst with 26% of the population being obese, while only 3% of the Asian population suffers from obesity.  Now that we know this information, it is up to health insurance companies and governments to figure out what to do with it.

Compare Health Insurance Industry’s Consumer-Directed Plans

Friday, May 11th, 2012

While high deductible or personal savings account health insurance plans are not new, they are very trendy right now and the number of workplaces offering such plans is increasing.  This information comes from the Yahoo! Health article “Study: Savings and risk in health insurance trend,” by Ricardo Alonso-Zalidivar.  When President George W. Bush was in office, he promoted what he called health savings accounts hoping that having Americans more involved in their health insurance would lead to lower costs.  These plans have stayed around since then, even though there are more often called consumer-directed plans now.  Employers save money when their employees enroll is this type of plan.  Currently, one out of every six workers is using a consumer-directed health insurance plan.

Compare health insurance rates for consumer-directed plans and the premiums are much lower than with traditional health insurance plans.  In exchange for lower premiums, deductibles that have to be met yearly are much higher.  Employers help contribute to medical accounts with tax savings to help offset the added deductible expenses.  These consumer-directed plans can help employers save billions of dollars on their health care costs.  But some worry that there are added risks to overall American health, which could lead to an unfortunate increase in health care costs overall.

There is concern that higher deductibles will keep moderately healthy people away from the doctor until they get very sick because they have to pay so much to meet their deductibles.  While most preventative services are covered at no extra cost, it appears as though many people using consumer-directed plans didn’t know that and have skipped routine doctor visits.  If consumers cut too many of their preventative services, they may not be diagnosed with problems until it puts a serious strain on their health and overall health care costs.  For those using this type of health insurance plan, make sure you know all of the services covered without effecting your deductible.

Some people are worried that as more healthy people flock to consumer-directed plans, health insurance rates for traditional insurance plans will go up because most of the people need more medical care.  A recent study showed that health care savings could top $57 million if half of Americans moved to this lower cost type of plan.  Americans using less health care would account for 2/3 of the savings, with the rest coming from making less expensive health care decisions like using generic drugs.  This can be a great cost cutting health care solution for employers, Americans just need to make sure they are still seeking preventative care before getting seriously ill.

Increase in Serious Birth Defects with Fertility Treatments

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Most health insurance companies do not pay for fertility treatments, but they do insure any resulting baby under the parents’ plans.  Recent research out of Australia makes an interesting claim that could make health insurance companies wary of their members undergoing certain fertility treatments.  Yahoo! Health article “Fertility treatment babies prone to ‘serious defects’” says that Australian researchers have found a significant increase in serious birth defects for babies born through certain fertility treatments.  Serious defects for the purpose of this study included those that required treatment or handicapped the child, such as cerebral palsy.  While 5.8% of babies conceived naturally had serious birth defects, the number increased to 8.3% of babies conceived through certain fertility treatments.  The researchers believe this to be a very significant difference.

Researchers showed concern that the added risk for birth defects worldwide is not being discussed before fertility treatments.  Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference to the prospective parents, but there should be a discussion between doctors and patients just in case.  There is a different health risk associated with different fertility treatments.  Children conceived through IVF, in-vitro fertilization, had serious birth defects 7.2% of the time.  That number did decrease, however, when parents were younger, non-smokers, and had other ideal characteristics.  For ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, serious birth defects were seen 9.9% of the time.  This percentage did not change when taking other factors into consideration.  Readily available clomiphene citrate, used to induce ovulation, tripled the chances for serious birth defects.  Health insurance rates already take into consideration obesity, smoking, and other risk factors.  I wonder if they will increase rates for members undergoing fertility treatments just in case their babies end up having higher medical costs.