Archive for April, 2013

Spouses Getting Health Insurance Surcharges with Employer Plans

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

If you have health insurance coverage through your spouse’s employer, there’s a good chance that you are about to get charged more than you are now.  According to the Forbes article, “Employers Penalizing Spouses For Health Insurance,” Kerry Hannon says that many employers are adding a new surcharge to cover the increasing costs of health care.  Employers aren’t legally required to offer health insurance coverage to your spouse or children, in fact they aren’t even legally required to offer coverage to you.  Health care costs are increasing and after the changes coming in 2014, employers’ costs will increase even more.  In an effort to cut some of their expanding insurance costs, many employers are adding surcharges to cover employee’s spouses that can cost you up to $3,000 more yearly.

Recently, 1/5 of employers who took a health survey said that they were imposing a surcharge of at least $100 on spouses who had access to their own health insurance at their employer.  I don’t blame companies for doing that.  If someone has access to their own employer health insurance, the spouse’s employer shouldn’t necessarily have to take a hit on those health care costs just to be nice.  A surcharge may not be that unfair in those kinds of circumstances.  It’s different if the spouse doesn’t have access to their own insurance and would have to search for an individual plan elsewhere rather than being covered on their spouse’s plan.  In addition to the 1/5 of companies currently imposing a surcharge, another 13% plan to start charging between $500 and $3,000 by next year.

More often than not, the spouses being covered by employers are women.  Their health care costs are typically more expensive than their husband’s costs because of having babies and seeing doctors on a more regular basis.  Many younger women are staying home with their young children and don’t have insurance coverage outside of their spouses.  Women aged 50-64 often work part time, not at all, or for a non-profit company that doesn’t offer health insurance.  If you’ve found out that you’ll be paying a surcharge to have health insurance through your spouse’s employer, compare your other options to see if you should stick with that plan or make a change.  When you have the option of insurance through your employer, see how much it will cost you and if the benefits are equivalent or better.  It might be more of a hassle to switch if you have to change doctors and worry about double the paperwork for two different health insurance plans.  Also, if you are going to look for individual coverage that you’ll pay for after taxes, the tax savings of being on your spouse’s plan might make it worthwhile not to go on your own.  But if you feel like finding your own coverage is necessary, you can find an individual plan that will meet your needs.

Low Income Health Insurance Enrollment in Utah

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Attention Utah residents: tomorrow is a big day if you are looking for cheap health insurance for your low income family.  This information comes from The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jennifer Dobner in her article “Health insurance open enrollment for low income Utahns begins.  Starting Monday, April 22, open enrollment for The Utah Department of Health low income health insurance program is available.  Individual residents have until May 6 to enroll, while families get some extra time and don’t have a deadline until May 17.  The program, called The Primary Care Network (PCN), is available for Utahns who are uninsured.  They have to be between the ages of 19 and 64 and can either have children or not.

Anyone applying for the low income program has to be a U.S. resident and has to meet the specific requirements when it comes to their level of income.  They cannot be able to obtain insurance coverage from Medicaid, Medicare, or veterans coverage to be eligible.  Single people must earn less than $17,235, or 150% of the federal poverty guidelines.  Families with four members can qualify if they earn less than $35,325 yearly.  You can apply for the health insurance coverage on the state health department’s PCN website.  Utahns who qualify will have to pay $50 each year for their coverage, which includes some preventative care.  There is limited coverage for doctors visits, prescriptions, dental and vision visits, routine immunizations, and some other preventative services.  Make sure you don’t miss the deadline for this year’s enrollment in Utah’s low income health insurance program.

Fewer Employers Offering Health Insurance in Florida

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Consider yourself lucky if you still have health insurance covered by your employer.  The number of Americans with that luxury is declining fast, especially for those who work for small companies.  Florida’s Sun Sentinel just published an article about how their state compares to the national average based on a report from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center.  Maria Mallory White’s “Study: Company-paid health insurance more rare” says that Florida is below the national average when it comes to the number of people with employer-sponsored health insurance.  Compared to the national average where 52.4% of Americans have this employer coverage, only 44.1% of Florida’s companies are offering health insurance plans.  That ranks them at 45th in the nation.

This accounts for a 10% decline in both the coverage offered in Florida as well as the nation as a whole.  Losing health insurance benefits has been a steady process over a long period of time throughout the United States.  Those people losing the most ground were lower-wage workers and workers’ dependents.  The ten year study was done on workers under the age of 65 because those over 65 are eligible for Medicare insurance.  While the number of Florida residents under 65 decreased by almost 10%, the coverage for their dependents decreased by a whopping 25%.  The only state with a larger decline in dependent coverage was Mississippi.

Floridians with income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines saw a 10.4% decline in their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.  Those with income between 200% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines saw a 6.1% decline in their coverage option.  One of the largest factors in this decrease in employer health care coverage is the size of companies.  Small companies are less likely to offer health insurance coverage to their employees.  Some larger companies are downsizing and becoming small, while small companies that were offering health insurance no longer are because of increasing costs.  Florida companies with 50 or fewer employees offer health insurance 29% of the time.  This is lower than the national average for small companies, who offer health insurance 37% of the time.  If you have lost your employer-sponsored health insurance, you can find an affordable quote from Compare Health Rates.

Health News: Cancer Treatment without Side Effects

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

There is some interesting health news coming out of Missouri this week that could change the face of cancer treatment.  According to Healthline News’ Jenara Nerenberg, researchers at the University of Missouri believe they have found a new type of radiation treatment that kills cancer without any known side effects.  In “A Cancer-killing Treatment With No Side Effects?,” the researchers are hoping this new treatment will eliminate the hair loss, nausea, fatigue, and other side effects of traditional chemotherapy and radiation cancer treatments.  So far, research on mice slowed the growth of cancerous tumors significantly without any visible side effects.

Their technique is called boron neutron capture therapy, or BNCT, and it can be used on multiple types of cancers.  The radiation therapy works by sending a boron-based chemical into very absorbent cancer cells.  After the cells take in the chemical, they will be exposed to neutrons which explode the boron atoms inside of the cancer cells.  Cancer cells are destroyed and the surrounding healthy cells are left intact.  The research team led by Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne published their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research like this often takes years to be implemented into actual treatments, so it is likely far from being introduced to human patients and covered by health insurance companies.  But the article says that Professor Hawthorne is more likely to get his treatment recognized because of some unique circumstances.  President Obama recently recognized him as a National Medal of Science winner.  While there will have to be new equipment and facilities before humans receive this BNCT treatment, The University of Missouri already is home to the biggest university research nuclear reactor in the U.S.  Hawthorne is excited to offer the first radiation treatment of this kind in the world.