Archive for August, 2013

Spouses Losing Health Insurance Coverage at UPS

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

UPS announced this week that they will no longer cover some of their employees’ spouses’ health insurance.  There has been quite an uproar, especially from those who are opposed to the Affordable Care Act going into effect next year.  This latest UPS announcement is adding fuel to the fire for Americans who are against the changes that will be raising insurance costs for many employers.  In the article “UPS cuts insurance to 15,000 spouses, blames Obamacare,” Jose Pagliery of CNN Money tells us that Kaiser Health News made this announcement from an internal memo that recently went out to employees.  When asked, UPS discussed the matter with Kaiser and told them that this only applies to workers who are non-union.  Most of the UPS delivery and truck drivers are in a union and receive their health insurance through a union plan.

But employees who are not in the union will be effected when this change occurs.  Now there is one important aspect of this new rule that I haven’t heard as much chatter about.  The spouses that will be cut from UPS’s insurance plan are those who work and are eligible for health insurance through their own job.  Spouses who do not work or who don’t have health insurance through their employer will not be kicked out of the UPS employee plan.  UPS has a point in saying that other employers should bear the burden of increasing health care costs just as they do for their employees.  Adding coverage to dependents through age 26 and a yearly government fee on all employees are two of the reasons that UPS cited for dropping spouses’ coverage.

Yearly, UPS says that their health care costs typically go up around 7% each year, but they estimate their costs to rise more than 11% next year because of the Affordable Care Act.  They also claim that 35% of companies will be making a similar requirement to their workers’ spouses.  Towers Watson did a study regarding that claim and found that 18% of companies planned to force spouses to use their own employer’s health insurance if it is available to them.  The government fees will start at $63 a person next year, so dropping insurance for 15,000 people will certainly save UPS some money.

Increase in Health Insurance Takes Bigger Bite from Paychecks

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone, but research confirms that health care costs are growing faster than wages.  The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust found that employees pay 6% more for their health insurance than last year, which is three times higher than their increase in wages.  And that’s just the average.  I’m sure there are many people paying an even greater amount for their health insurance, not to mention those whose wages haven’t been increasing at all.  This is not to say that companies are being unfair however, because they are paying quite a lot more to cover their employees’ health care as well.  Compared to one decade ago, family health insurance premiums have increased by 89%.  Workers are paying $4,565 each year for their employer-sponsored health insurance, while individuals are paying around $1,000.  This information comes from CNN Money’s Tami Luhby in the article “Health insurance premiums rise faster than wages.”

Those amounts though are little in comparison to what the employers are paying.  Families are covering 28% of the total health care cost and individuals are paying only 17% of the cost.  The increase in total health care costs was around 4%, taking into account both the family or individual and employer share.  But overall wages only increased by 1.8% on average, so the health care increases take a bigger bite out of paychecks.  This study has been conducted yearly since 1999 and this year actually saw the second smallest increase in health care costs.  A slower economy is the biggest reason, but that is good news for employers and employees alike.  Employers have been trying to put more of their costs onto employees for awhile now though.  The amount of yearly deductibles as well as the number of companies making employees pay a deductible has been steadily increasing.

Something else that has become popular is offering wellness programs or discounts for employees who take steps to remain healthy.  More large companies implement these types of plans, but small companies do as well.  Companies with 50 or more workers will be required to offer health insurance plans starting next year.  But 93% of these companies are already offering health insurance to their employees.  When it comes to small employers, just over half of them are offering health insurance plans to workers.  Families at small companies pay a lot more than those at large companies for their health insurance, but the individuals at small companies actually pay less.  Individual health insurance exchanges popping up under the new health care law shouldn’t do much to change employer health insurance, unless the policies become more affordable to workers than remaining in their employer sponsored plans.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Will Offer Exchange Plans in All Florida Counties

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Florida’s health insurance exchange will open for business on October 1 of this year, with plans taking effect next January 1.  The health insurance exchanges will offer more coverage options to Americans who couldn’t afford health insurance before.  That is the idea at least.  Florida Blue’s Joe Gregor does believe that consumers will have more affordable options and less difficulty finding health insurance when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect.  According to the Orlando Sentinel’s “More details emerge on Florida health insurance exchange,” Marni Jameson said that we now know how many insurers will offer plans in each Florida county.  It’s actually not as many as you might expect, with some counties only having one insurer offering plans.  Blue Cross Blue Shield will be the lone insurer in some of the more rural counties, but they assure Floridians that their prices reflect expected competition and not the fact that they are the sole option in some places.

Ten insurance companies were federally approved to offer plans in Florida, some in one county and some in many of Florida’s 67 counties.  Aetna Life Insurance Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Cigna Health & Life Insurance Company, Coventry Health Care of Florida Inc., Florida Health Care Plan Inc., Health First Health Plans, Health First Insurance Company, Health Options Inc., Humana Medical Plan Inc., and Molina Health Care of Florida Inc. are the ten approved companies.  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida will be the only insurance company offering affordable coverage in all 67 counties.  The big counties in South Florida like Miami-Dade and Broward will have nine different choices, but which insurers are operating in which counties has yet to be released.  Palm Beach county residents will have eight insurance choices and most Central Florida counties have five or six different options from which to choose.

Each insurance company will offer different tiers of plans that will range from bronze to platinum.  The lower plans will obviously offer less coverage than the highest plans, but you can choose what you need for the price you will be able to afford.  The government is offering credits to Americans with certain income levels to help pay for the cost of their mandated health insurance.  In order to receive any government help with health insurance though, you have to choose from the federally approved plans.  In 21 counties in Florida, Blue Cross Blue Shield or Florida Blue as they operate in the state, will be the only insurance exchange option.  Other counties will have more choices.  But each county will have at least one insurance company operating in it, something that some state have not yet been able to accomplish.  If you live in Florida and are looking to purchase health insurance through the new exchange soon, you should have some affordable options for coverage.

California Insurance Exchange Gets Even More Options

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

There have been health insurance exchanges in California for decades, something that much of the country is just starting to understand now.  Since 1996, CaliforniaChoice has been operating a private health insurance exchange in California.  They are the most successful small group private insurance exchange, serving 150,000 individuals and more than 10,000 employers in the state.  This information comes from CaliforniaChoice’s press release “CaliforniaChoice Welcomes Covered California Into the Health Insurance Exchanges Market.”  In addition to their other members, Covered California has now joined this private health insurance exchange.  This is good news for California residents looking for health insurance because more competition, be it in private or public health insurance exchanges, benefits the general public.

CaliforniaChoice has many things to offer in addition to health insurance.  They provide dental, vision, life insurance, and chiropractic care options.  For no cost, they also give added value in the form of employee discounts and online human resources support.  Some of the providers in CaliforniaChoice’s exchange include Health Net, Aetna, Kaiser Permanante, Anthem Blue Cross, Sharp Health Plan, and Western Health Advantage.  Covered California includes options from some of these insurers as well as others.  They also just announced last week the carriers that are going to be part of their new Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace.

The success of both public and private health insurance exchanges lies in a combination of great choices for consumers and excellent customer service availability.  In addition to that, qualified brokers are the cornerstone of CaliforniaChoice for their expertise and unbiased information.  Their plans are only sold through brokers.  Small businesses aren’t currently penalized for not offering health insurance or forced to join Covered California’s SHOP program, but rules are changing for some employers when the full Affordable Care Act takes effect.  But as attention to health insurance and exchanges in particular increases across the United States, CaliforniaChoice hopes that more employers will realize that they can offer affordable health insurance to their employees and increase quality of life.