Archive for April, 2014

Pennsylvania Health Insurers Offer Low Cost Non-Compliant Plans Through 2017

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Pennsylvania is one of nine states that is giving health insurance customers a break before forcing them to adhere to Affordable Care Act guidelines.  According to the Pittsburgh Business Times’ Kris B. Mamula, Highmark health insurance is the latest company offering renewals that don’t meet all of the new insurance mandates.  In “Highmark prepares new renewal plan health insurance,” we learn that Highmark is following in the footsteps of UPMC Health Plan with their new renewal options.  UPMC was the first company in western Pennsylvania to offer these non-compliant health insurance plan renewals that are lower cost.  They started offering these plans four months ago.  Highmark Inc. will be offering new renewal plans to employers who provide health insurance coverage.  The options will be available during both the July and December enrollment periods.

Plans were introduced during an insurance broker meeting last week.  Although minor details were not yet given to the public, Highmark is calling the plans “grandmothered plans”.  These lower cost plan options do not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  Insurance companies in Pennsylvania and eight other states have a three-year window where they can continue to offer their existing health insurance plans without penalty.  They will have to meet the Affordable Care Act guidelines in 2017, but the added three years gives employers some time to plan out their course of action.  More details are expected to be released by Highmark soon.

When UPMC started offering their lower cost plans, premium increases were between 0 and 48%.  Plans that incorporate the mandated coverage from the ACA had premium increases 100% and greater.  Insurance brokers who were at the recent meeting said that Highmark will be offering more flexibility with their non-compliant health insurance renewal plans.  Highmark is also likely to see a large increase in sales of their Community Blue plans, which limit the network of providers available.  It’s good news to employers and others who will benefit from the three year reprieve given in Pennsylvania and eight other states.  But eventually they will all have to meet the new guidelines put into place by the Affordable Care Act.  They will save money and have added time to determine their best plan options starting in 2017.  But in other states, health insurance companies will already be settled into their new health plans and insurers in these nine states will have to play catch up.

Hard to Find Health Insurance Anywhere After March 15 Deadline

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

The deadline to sign up for health insurance and meet the Affordable Care Act requirements has come and gone.  Health insurance exchanges will not start offering plans until later this year for the next enrollment period.  But most people were not expecting some private health insurance companies to stop selling health insurance plans after March 31 as well.  According to Health Day’s Karen Pallarito, “Suddenly Health Insurance Is Not For Sale“.  One Tennessee insurance broker said that many health insurance companies in her area are not selling insurance plans until the exchanges open again later this year.  One of the main reasons that some health insurers have made this decision is because they believe they will attract healthier, younger people when the government exchanges are open as well.  Insurance companies can no longer reject sick people or those recently diagnosed with a disease.  They are hoping that they will be able to attract the young, healthy individuals that will keep their costs lower.

For coverage that will start in 2015, the next open enrollment period starts on November 15.  Penalties for not obtaining insurance coverage yet won’t be issued until tax time next year, but those who waited might just be ready to purchase insurance come November.  Healthy and young individuals are most likely to plan in advance when shopping for health insurance.  That is why it makes sense economically for health insurance companies to only offer plans during open enrollment times.  Individuals who have recently become sick or need some type of care right away are the most likely to search for health insurance at any time of the year.  Open enrollment periods were designed to deter people from waiting until they are sick to shop for health insurance.  When that happens, insurance can become unaffordable all around.

Health insurance companies offering plans outside of the exchanges can choose whether or not to sell health insurance year round or not.  One survey of 180 health insurance companies found that one or more health insurers will be offering plans after March 15 in only 14 states.  Some of those plans will only be offered through the end of April.  You will be able to find health insurance in some places though.  Arizona’s non-profit insurer Meritus plans to continue offering health insurance plans year round.  They are currently working with the Arizona Department of Insurance.  In Nevada, their Health Coop will continue offering insurance plans to consumers around Las Vegas.  There may be some states where it is difficult to find health insurance before November 15.  If you are looking for a plan, you will probably have to work a little harder than before the deadline.

Strong Support for Mandatory Birth Control Coverage

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Back in 2010, the Affordable Care Act mandated that private health insurance companies cover birth control for their plan participants.  It is one of the so-called 10 essential benefits that must be covered by insurers.  Some of the other benefits include screenings for cancer and vaccines.  You don’t even have to pay co-pays for these 10 essential benefits and often don’t have to pay anything for the contraception either.  A recent study at the University of Michigan found that the majority of Americans strongly support the mandate for birth control coverage by insurance companies.  They surveyed more than 2,000 people for the study and found that 69% of them were in support of this mandatory contraception coverage.  Not surprisingly, women were among the strongest supporters of the mandate.  Black and Hispanic respondents also supported the mandate in higher percentages.

This information comes from NBC News’ Maggie Fox in the article “Most support birth control mandate, survey shows“.  While most Americans support the mandate for health insurance companies to cover birth control, there is strong opposition to this mandate as well.  Religious groups, employers with conservative beliefs, and outspoken conservatives don’t believe that companies should have to pay for contraception when it is against their personal beliefs.  Two employers filed a lawsuit against the mandate, saying that it is against their religious beliefs to support some kinds of birth control.  The Supreme Court will rule on that lawsuit in June of this year.  Health insurance companies had to revamp a lot of their health plans with this change in contraception coverage, as well as other mandates that have been coming into law since 2010.  The majority of Americans support the mandated birth control coverage, so you will continue to find this available when searching for health insurance plans.

7 Health Insurance Issues to Follow This Year

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Kaiser Health News and USA Today collaborated on an article asking “What Happens Next On The Health Law?“.  Julie Appleby, Mary Agnes Carey, and Phil Galewitz gave us seven things to watch for between the end of enrollment on March 31 and the beginning of the next enrollment period in November.  This health care reform has been hotly debated for the length of a presidential term already and will likely continue to be a hot topic into the future.  Now that the first enrollment period has come to an end, we can finally start to measure some of the successes, failures, and changes that have actually occurred.  Before that, it was just speculation.

Everyone wants to know how many people actually signed up for health insurance plans after the law took effect.  We certainly don’t have any concrete answers yet, but President Obama says that early indications show 6 million people signed up.  This doesn’t take into account those Americans who got health insurance outside of the government agencies or with insurance companies.  The March deadline was also loosened for people who tried to sign up and had website issues.  It could be a month or so before we get concrete numbers.  For the law to work ideally, young and healthy individuals needed to sign up.  So who actually did enroll?  Around one-quarter of them were in the targeted demographic of 18 to 34.  The majority of new enrollees were aged 35 and up and were female.  Health insurance rates are based on state enrollment though, so it’s more important to determine who signed up in each state.  Those states who had more older, sicker individuals sign up might see increasing health insurance rates.

The biggest question to be answered is whether or not the law actually affected the number of uninsured Americans overall.  There are no clear statistics to answer this question just yet.  The Kaiser Family Foundation says that they are pretty sure the uninsured rate has gone down, based on a Gallup poll and McKinsey phone survey.  That last survey found that 27% of those who signed up for health insurance previously did not have any.  Everyone will be closely tracking final figures on this topic.  You will not find the same plans and prices when the next enrollment period begins on November 15.  Insurance companies will have to go over all of the costs and figures before they release their new selections next fall.  It’s too early to determine whether Medicaid participation will grow, but that is something that a lot of people are watching this year.  There has been a lot of political fighting over Medicaid expansion, so it is being closely monitored.

Many of us are wondering what might happen with employer sponsored health insurance.  Employers who already offer it will continue to do so, but will likely pass cost increases onto employees through increasing deductibles and co-pays.  Employers with less than 50 employees do not have to offer them health insurance.  Those with 50-99 employees have to offer 70% of them insurance plans by 2016.  Companies with 100 or more workers have to offer 70% of them health insurance by next year.  Look out for coverage options relatively soon if you work for one of those companies.  Congressional elections will likely be affected by these health care issues in the near future.  You’ll probably see a lot of advertising and news time dedicated to health care reform issues this year.  If you are looking for a health insurance plan, find an affordable option here.  The next enrollment period for the government exchanges begins on November 15.