Archive for November, 2013

Physical & Lifestyle Factors That Affect Health Insurance Costs

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

There are a lot of factors that go into determining health insurance premium costs.  They aren’t always easy for the average consumer to figure out, but Money Crashers has put together a list of the “10 Factors That Affect Your Health Insurance Premium Costs.”  Kira Botkin says that insurance companies first place a value on your risk profile, which is made up of information from your insurance application and your medical history.  Some things in your risk profile are under your control, while others are not.  Once the company does extensive research to determine your risk profile, they compare it with company benchmarks and decide whether they will offer you health insurance coverage.  Your premium is then determined based on your individual risk factors.

The first group of risk factors is that of the medical and physical variety, some of which you have full control over.  Number one is your BMI, or Body Mass Index.  People with a high BMI are almost always charged more for individual health insurance policies.  They have a higher risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease and women with high BMI’s can have complicated pregnancies.  Whether or not you smoke or chew tobacco will affect the price of your health insurance.  Some companies deny you altogether, but many offer plans with higher premiums and cover the cost of programs to help you stop smoking if they are prescribed by a doctor.  Gender and age are the next two factors affecting your insurance premiums.  Women often pay more for health insurance because they go to the doctor more often, fill more prescriptions, and get more diseases on average.  Maternity costs are also very high for women of child bearing age.  Speaking of age, younger people often get lower health insurance premiums because they visit the doctor less and typically have fewer health conditions.

Pre-existing medical conditions have been in the news headlines a lot lately.  Many insurance companies wouldn’t even cover people with these pre-existing conditions until the Affordable Care Act started requiring insurers to do so.  Any pre-existing medical conditions like asthma or a cancer history will increase the cost of your insurance premiums.  Although you have no control over your family health history, family history does often play a role in the cost of your health insurance premiums.

The second group of risk factors pertain to your lifestyle and personal health.  Your job plays a part in determining your insurance premiums.  Those in very risky or dangerous jobs might be charged more because they could get injured.  Also, people who work in very sedentary jobs are often charged an increased premium because of their increased likelihood to develop cardiovascular disease.  Where you live can also affect how much you pay for health insurance.  If your area has more unhealthy people and a more sedentary lifestyle, you could pay more for insurance, even if you are healthy.  Married people pay less for health insurance than single people, on average.  Married couples are often healthier and live longer than unmarried people.  Finally, whether or not you have been uninsured in the past can affect your new health insurance premium.  If you were uninsured or are just now shopping for your own insurance policy, you will likely have a higher premium.

Be healthy and control the things that you can control in your lifestyle to give yourself the best chance at a lower health insurance premium.  Compare insurance companies and policies and do your homework before choosing an individual health insurance plan.  Some risk factors are out of your control, but take charge of those that are not.

Individual Health Insurance Plans in Illinois Extended for a Year

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

There is good news for people with individual and small group health insurance plans Illinois.  Many of the more than 185,000 people who received cancellation notices from their insurance company will have a year long reprieve from finding new coverage.  After an outcry from Americans, President Obama has urged state insurance regulators to make exceptions to the Affordable Care Act requirements.  Many existing health insurance plans do not meet all of the requirements, causing hundreds of thousands of people to get a cancellation notice.  If your insurance plan was effective prior to October 1 of this year, you will now have until October 1 of 2014 to select a new insurance plan.  This is great news to Americans who were scrambling to make health care plan decisions by January 1.  WGN’s Peter Frost discussed the details for Illinois residents in the story “Illinois to let companies sell existing health insurance plans.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the largest insurance company in the state, said that they will be contacting people who received cancellation notices to tell them their new options.  More than 475,000 people in Illinois had individual health insurance policies as of data collected in 2012.  Some of the people whose plans do not meet Affordable Care Act requirements will receive federal tax credits to help pay for new insurance plans.  But many others are upset because their new plan options cost double what their prior health insurance plans cost.  So far, 15 states have told their insurers that it’s okay to extend current insurance plans for another year.  Some states are not allowing this plan extension though, despite the President’s request for them to do so.  Some insurance companies worry that extending old plans will keep too many people out of the health insurance exchanges, which could raise those plan costs.  Those people who are buying plans in the health insurance exchanges have until December 23 of this year to purchase a plan that will go into effect January 1.

Uninsured Veterans May Be Helped by Affordable Care Act

Monday, November 11th, 2013

On this Veteran’s Day, The Washington Post reports that one out of every ten veterans does not have health insurance.  In Sarah Kliff’s article “One in 10 veterans lacks health insurance. Obamacare could change that.,” she says that the expansion of Medicare could be the biggest game changer for veterans without health insurance.  Despite the fact that the Veterans Health Administration is the biggest health care system in the United States, not all veterans are receiving care at their 1,700 hospitals.  Some veterans don’t qualify because they have to serve for 24 consecutive months in order to qualify for coverage from the Veterans Health Administration.  Others don’t meet other specific requirements, including disability and income.

There are 1.3 million veterans who do not currently have health insurance.  In addition to that, there are more than 900,000 veteran family members who are uninsured.  But veterans actually have a lower uninsured rate than the national average of 18%.  While 10% of veterans are uninsured, it doesn’t mean that all of those people don’t qualify for Veterans Health Administration benefits.  Some people don’t know they qualify, others think the process of applying is too complicated, and some veterans may live too far from the facilities to use them.  Those veterans who are uninsured are typically younger than insured veterans and have lower levels of education and higher rates of unemployment.  That isn’t really surprising, but explains in greater detail why some Veterans are uninsured.

So how might the Affordable Care Act help to insure some of these uninsured veterans?  A recent report estimated that 40% of those uninsured veterans will now qualify for Medicaid under the new poverty guidelines.  Unfortunately for some veterans, 24 states are not currently planning to expand Medicaid.  Even so, hundreds of thousands of veterans may be able to receive health insurance under the expanded Medicaid system.  Many of their family members will also qualify for insurance coverage.  Researchers also wouldn’t be surprised if the VA started changing their policies regarding health insurance coverage.  This remains to be seen of course because this is all uncharted territory, but expansion of health insurance overall might mean some expansion at the Veterans Health Administration.

Did the President Know 15 Million Would Have Health Insurance Cancelled?

Friday, November 8th, 2013

President Obama has been under a lot of scrutiny for 3.5 million Americans losing their health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.  He made a lot of promises about his health care reform that have not held true.  It’s unclear whether he knew that he was lying or he really believed what he was saying to be true at the time.  According to the Associated Press’ Julie Pace, President “Obama says he’s sorry Americans (are) losing insurance.”  He assures Americans that his administration is working hard to fix the problems caused by the Affordable Care Act.  There have been many technical problems with the website Americans are using to sign up for new health insurance plans through the exchanges.  President Obama admits that it is his job to make the plan better and to do something about all of the health insurance plan cancellations that have come since the reform went into law.  He is confident that all Americans who want health insurance coverage will be able to find it by the government deadline of March 31.

Republicans are frustrated with the President and are using the fact that Americans are losing health insurance to renew their fight against the Affordable Care Act.  But the White House says that the basic premise of the Affordable Care Act invalidates around 5% of current health insurance plans.  Without being grandfathered in, those plans who do not meet the mandatory coverage requirements can no longer be offered.  This means that 15 million Americans, or 5% of the 300 million, won’t be able to keep their health insurance plans.  But just because your current plan is being cancelled, it does not mean that your health insurance company won’t have other options for you.  Those plans with very limited coverage will no longer be available, so you can expect to pay more for your health insurance if you are getting better coverage.  If your current insurer is not offering you another plan, you can shop for coverage through the health insurance exchanges or find an individual health insurance quote through Compare Health Rates.