Archive for July, 2013

Being Unhealthy Can Cost You When it Comes to Health Insurance

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Changes to health insurance plans have already started and the bulk of changes are still looming in the near future.  With rising costs and unhappy Americans, some employers are taking creative approaches to dealing with increasing health plan costs.  In “Your health plan: the next frontier,” Money’s Amanda Gengler tells us what we can likely expect with the future of health insurance plans.  One small company owner in Missouri made big changes when he saw skyrocketing health care costs and an increasing number of sick days being used.  He made healthy changes to the vending machines, opened a fitness center, gave free on-site check-ups, and gave big financial incentives in the form of lower deductibles and no premiums for workers who took steps to be healthy.  A big portion of increasing health care costs has been passed onto employees through higher deductibles, premiums, and co-pays.  But making healthier choices to avoid needing so much medical care is a newer way to try and save money.  It certainly benefits employees in more ways than one.

Prices vary widely from doctor to doctor, especially if you choose one that is out of network.  New plans will likely streamline your choice of doctors even more and staying in that smaller group could save you big on your premiums.  Insurers and employers save money if you don’t visit top shelf doctors who order more tests than average.  Estimates show that around 1/3 of big companies will have this type of streamlined plan by next year.  This plan might even force you to pay the entire cost of seeing an out of network doctor.  If this type of plan becomes an option to you, research what doctors and hospitals you will lose out on and see if you are happy with the replacements available.  Florida Blue says that local big-names and academic med centers aren’t usually included in these streamlined plans though.

Many companies will have you choosing your own health plan from a list they have chosen in the future.  They may pay a percentage of your plan costs or a fixed dollar amount, and the plans may even be in the private exchanges.  Plan to spend a lot more time researching plans and options and maybe even switching to a high-deductible plan to save money.  Since you will be paying a bigger percentage of your bills, employers are hoping that you will make more cost-efficient health decisions and stay healthier overall.  A healthier America may just be what it takes to lessen the increase or even decrease health care costs overall.  Expect a lot more health initiatives from your employer that could lower parts of your plan costs or offer you rewards, even cash.  But on the flip side, you might get charged more for a high BMI or high cholesterol, especially if you aren’t doing anything to change it.  The Money article has some great examples and personal stories of how health plans have changed and will continue along that road in the future.

Humana Covers Missing 36 Counties in Mississippi

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

There is good news for those without health insurance in Mississippi.  Considering it is one of the fattest states in America, it’s scary that so many Mississippi residents don’t have health insurance.  Even more worrisome was the fact that 36 counties in the state almost didn’t have coverage available under the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace.  Luckily, that did not happen and all of the 82 counties in Mississippi will have health insurance plan choices available.  In the article, “Health insurance exchange will be offered in all 82 counties,” Jimmie E. Gates of The Clarion Ledger talks about the big changes that recently happened in Mississippi.  Mike Chaney, the state’s Insurance Commissioner, is pleased that all of the state’s residents will at least have access to health insurance in the federally run Health Insurance Marketplace.

Humana is to thank for this big turn of events in Mississippi.  As of last month, Humana planned to offer health insurance plans in four of the 82 counties in the state.  But in an amazing display of ethics, Humana made the decision to offer coverage in an additional 36 counties.  The Insurance Commissioner was concerned about all of the residents who wouldn’t be able to get coverage in this marketplace.  He says that Humana has demonstrated great corporate citizenship by extending its offerings to the other counties.  Humana is already covering 200,000 residents in Mississippi.  This is including individual insureds as well as employer plans, Medicare recipients, and military retirees and their families.  Magnolia Health Plans is also covering a good portion of the counties in Mississippi.

Health Insurance Marketing Getting Funny and Targeting Youth

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Here’s a side of health insurance that most consumers haven’t considered.  Aside from the occasional hilarious or inappropriate commercial that you see, you probably don’t remember many of them.  But as Americans get closer to the date where health insurance coverage is federally mandated, look for insurance companies to amp up their advertising campaigns in some interesting ways.  Kaiser Health News’ Sarah Varney discusses how “Marketing health insurance may be funny business” in the days to come.  Kaiser spoke with a viral marketing agency in New York City to find out where the difficulties lie for health insurance marketers and what you can expect in the upcoming months.

Many customers will start shopping for their health insurance coverage in the online insurance exchanges.  Others will take more traditional routes, but the overall landscape will be different.  Before the Affordable Care Act, people were turned down for insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions and they are still angry about that.  Some customers saw premium increases up to quadruple what they had originally paid for their health insurance.  Regardless of what they have done in the past, good or bad, many consumers have negative opinions about insurance companies and how they treat their customers.  It’s a perfect time for insurers to catch the eye of consumers in a good way and get a positive perception out there.

It can be difficult to tell one insurance company from another sometimes.  Whether it is Care First, Anthem, or PacifiCare doesn’t necessarily matter to most consumers.  What matters first is that insurance companies get their name out there and then take good care of their customers.  In order to get their name to the general public, health insurers may start following in the footsteps of car insurance companies by using humor.  Everyone knows Geico’s gecko and Progressive’s Flo, but who can name a health insurance company “mascot?”   The marketing expert believes that we will see a lot more of the humorous and comical when it comes to our health insurance ads.

He also points out that ads are going to be targeted a lot more to young and healthy people.  They have been the least likely to buy individual health insurance plans partly because some think they are unlikely to get sick and partly because they make less money and are not willing to spend it on insurance.  The benefit isn’t as obvious as it may be with older consumers.  But with the government requirement impending, insurers might start marketing their names and logos in places where the youngest, healthiest people will see it.  Perhaps you’ll see an Angry Birds character or a Jersey Shore-like show advertisement related to drinking.  In addition to being inundated with a new type of advertising, we will probably see insurers offering more reward programs for staying with their company.  You might get an i-tunes or Starbucks gift card for maintaining good health and sticking with your insurer for five years.  It costs a lot of money to find a customer to replace you.

As customers become even more valuable to health insurance companies, consumers will be a little more in control over their plans.  Expect insurance companies to fight to get you and fight to keep you.

Supplemental Insurance Covers What Your Health Plans Are Lacking

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Supplemental health insurance helps to cover medical costs that your primary health insurance does not cover.  Much like most homeowners’ insurance policies don’t include flood insurance, some health insurance policies don’t cover medical treatments that you need or want.  “Do You Need Supplemental Health-Care Insurance,” by Fox Business’s Donna Fuscaldo, helps consumers determine if buying supplemental coverage is something they should consider.  With every type of insurance that we buy, we are trying to manage the risk in our lives.  Whether it be health insurance, car insurance, or life insurance, we are protecting ourselves in the case of an unforeseen circumstance.  So the first thing you need to consider is how much risk you are willing to take or better yet, take away from yourself.

You can get supplemental health insurance for just about anything.  Dental, vision, critical care, and accident insurance are the most popular.  Before looking to purchase any of those you should confirm the coverage that you already have through an existing health insurance plan.  You don’t want to pay for double coverage of anything.  Compare the cost for this additional insurance between multiple health insurance companies.  While the prices will vary, coverage like dental or vision is typically very affordable.  Dental coverage will include routine cleanings and other minor work.  Vision insurance allows for eye exams and a certain amount of glasses or contacts.  Critical illness coverage pays for your care in the event that you get a life-threatening disease like cancer, while accident insurance pays for injuries related to any type of accident.

A lot of people are trying to save money by using high-deductible health insurance plans for their main health care policy.  If you are one of them, supplemental health insurance may make sense so that you aren’t paying out a $5,000 deductible in the event of an injury or illness.  Most plans are only $150-$300 a year, depending on who is being covered.  Many health insurance plans offer supplemental insurance as a rider on your current plan or you can purchase them as a separate insurance coverage.  Start by adding up the cost you will pay out-of-pocket for your deductible and coinsurance in the event of a hospital stay.  Then you can compare those costs to your yearly expense for supplemental insurance and see what makes more sense.  Supplemental medical plans can also cover wages lost from missing work or mortgage payments that you are unable to make due to an illness or injury.  This additional health insurance coverage is worth a look if you think your main insurance plan is lacking.