Archive for August, 2012

Customer Satisfaction with Health Insurance Companies

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

A recent study done by Pitney Bowes uncovered people’s true feelings about their health insurance company.  According to company press release, “Health insurance providers score high on trust, need improvement on message clarity,” there are some key differences in happiness and needs throughout the different age groups studied.  The study asked 1,000 adults in the U.S. for their satisfaction and preferences regarding communications with their health insurance company.  Insurers would see the most success by communicating with their customers in more than one way.

Nearly half of the people surveyed preferred  getting their communications in the mail, probably because it can be easiest to see often hard to understand information right in front of you.  But 38% of people wanted to also access their information online, in addition to receiving paperwork in the mail.  Both older and younger customers wanted to receive communications through multiple sources, including online.  While increasing technology can mean more work for health insurance companies like Physicians Mutual, keeping their customers happy by communicating how they wish is in the best interest of everyone involved.

Customers have a lot of trust in their health insurance providers.  Eighty-two percent trust their insurer.  Seniors make up a large portion since 96% of them trust their health insurance company.  The lowest trust came from those aged 45-54 with 77% of them trusting their insurer.  While 63% of respondents were happy with how clear communications from their insurer are, that leaves 37% who gave a bad grade for clear communications.  The main recommendation to insurance companies to improve this number was using language that is easily understandable and as simple as possible on their statements.

Rather than correspondence through email, physical mail, or online chat sessions, 78% of those surveyed preferred a live phone conversation if they have a problem or question for their insurer.  The three bits of information that customers would like to receive from their health insurance company are ways to save money at number one, followed by information on improving their family’s health and information on improving their appearance.  Does your insurance company provide information and programs on health and wellness?  Twenty-two percent of respondents said they don’t even know, 58% said yes, and 20% said no.  Half of those who have access to health and wellness programs don’t even use them though.  This is a great opportunity for individual and group health insurance companies to save money through helping their customers stay healthy.  Let us know if you are happy with your health insurance company and their communication.

Medicare Health Insurance Debate at Political Forefront

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

It looks like health care is going to remain a popular debate throughout this election in November.  Specifically, Medicare is on the minds of both President Obama’s campaign as well as that of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan.  The political fighting went from a strong focus on jobs and the economy over to Medicare this week after the announcement of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate.  In the Associated Press article “Medicare barbs dominate White House race,” Jim Kuhnhenn and Philip Elliott discuss how both sides are threatening that the other will take away senior citizens’ health care security.

President Obama was on a campaign stop in New Hampshire yesterday and said that Mitt Romney would definitely break apart the Medicare system.  Offering health insurance to seniors, Medicare is a very popular government program, but is expensive to fund even with the contributions made by workers throughout their careers.  Paul Ryan is known for his budgeting and plans to get rid of the deficit, so after he became Romney’s running mate this week there has been concern over what will become of the costly Medicare health program.  Mitt Romney is also on the campaign trail and is working to assure Americans that he would not get rid of this popular program upon which many seniors depend.

Campaigning with his mom at the largest retirement community in the world this weekend, Paul Ryan accused President Obama of using Medicare funds to pay for his Affordable Care Act health care reform.  With Ryan’s proposed Medicare changes, the government would use vouchers to encourage retirees to use individual health insurance plans rather than Medicare.  Traditional Medicare would still be around, but money would be saved if the government could convince fewer seniors to use it.  Critics, like President Obama, say that the costs would just be shifted to individuals and that would put more people in a financial pinch.  Both sides will continue to battle over Medicare health costs and all the other issues through November.  We’ll keep you updated with the health insurance information here.

Take Health Cues from Diets in 4 Locations

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Four places in the world have been found to be disease “cold spots,” or places where the prevalence of certain diseases is almost non-existent.  Some of the lifestyle factors taken from people native to these areas may help you live a healthier life free from diabetes, cancer, depression, and heart disease.  In the Yahoo! Health article “Secrets of the world’s healthiest people,” Lisa Collier Cool discusses Daphne Miller, MD’s findings.

Although the Pima Indians in the United States have the highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes in the world, their close genetic relatives the Tarahumara Indians have almost no occurrences of Type 2 Diabetes.  So despite the genetic disposition, the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico live a lifestyle that keeps this disease away.  Some of what they do can be easily transferred into our lives to ward off Type 2 Diabetes.  First, they live an active lifestyle full of exercise.  But their diet is a big contributing factor as well.  They do eat a plethora of carbs, but mostly beans, corn, and hand made tortillas.  In addition to their unrefined carbs, the use of herbs and spices like garlic, cinnamon, parsley, and clove seems to help their blood sugar.

Darkness prevails much of the year in Iceland, which has been attributed to higher rates of depression in many countries.  But the Icelandic people actually have the lowest rates of depression in the world.  Dr. Miller believes that eating a large amount of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids prevents Iceland’s residents from having depression and can even treat symptoms.  They eat a lot of fish, lamb that feeds on omega-3 rich moss, and birds that eat the omega-3 rich fish.  Icelandic people also eat some foods that Americans may see as odd, including pickled lamb testicles and putrefied shark that has been buried in the ground.

In Cameroon, West Africa, cancer is very rare.  Colon cancer and bowel disorders are nearly nonexistent.  This has been attributed to a diet low in red meat and high in fiber.  A recent study of more than 400,000 people determined that eating high fiber diets can lead to a longer life and a lower risk of many health problems like heart disease.  In West Africa, their low red meat and high fiber diet is thought to be a contributing factor to low cancer rates.  They also eat fermented foods frequently, similar to those in Iceland.  Relishes, pickled foods, and other fermented foods improve the immune system with their good bacteria levels.

The Mediterranean diet has been thought to lower the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.  A forty year study in Europe found the Island of Crete to be the place where men lived the longest and healthiest lives.  This is the location where the healthy Mediterranean diet came about.  They use a lot of extra virgin olive oil, rarely eat red meat, and eat a lot of omega-3 rich seafood like they do in Iceland.  A high-fiber bread called rusks, wild greens, and yogurt with honey are also items in the Mediterranean diet thought to prevent blood clots and heart disease.

Many of the foods and lifestyle factors in these four places can be easily adopted to help lower your own risk of Type 2 Diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and depression.  Health insurance companies like Aultcare may be well-served to inform their customers of these fairly simple additions to their diet that can keep health problems away.  If doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies help to inform the public, we can hope to lower the rates of many of these often deadly diseases.

No Health Insurance One Reason for Shortage of Workers

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

There is already a shortage of home health aide workers now and the increasing demand as Baby Boomers age is going to put a lot of older people in a predicament.  Home health aides help take care of those at home who need assistance with anything from bathing to feeding to work around the house.  Unfortunately though, their pay is not high and their jobs don’t offer health insurance plans or retirement plans.  Many home health aides also have to pay for their own gas and transportation to and from appointments.  This really adds up because they can see many patients each day depending on the type of care they are giving.  They don’t see any way they can compare individual health insurance or retirement plans on their low paychecks.  These factors are making it difficult to find home health aide workers.

John Seewer of the Associated Press talks about what is going on in the home health care industry in the article “Aging baby boomers face home health challenge.”  Home health aides allow older people to live at home much longer than they would be able to without this kind of help.  Many baby boomers live alone and could not function without these home health aides.  States save money when people are at home longer because Medicaid and Medicare payments for nursing home care are sky high compared to what is paid for a few hours a day of care at home.  But home health care workers are feeling a pinch when it comes to their pay and this is likely to cause big problems in the upcoming years.

Home health care aides are the fastest growing profession in the United States.  There will be 1.3 million job openings over the next ten years and if those don’t get filled, many baby boomers will be forced to live with family members or prematurely go into nursing homes when they could have lived at home longer with some assistance.  So what is holding people back from filling these jobs?  Their median pay is only $9.70 per hour and with no health insurance, retirement, or vacation it is a tough sell for some unemployed.  The majority of home health aides have second jobs and many are also on government assistance.  The article points out that these aides tend to like their jobs because of the joy they bring to their patients and the flexible hours, but worry that they cannot pay their bills.  Home health agencies worry about attracting workers over the next decade when they are hardly making a profit already.