Archive for June, 2014

Hobby Lobby Employees Could Lose Health Insurance Coverage

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Hobby Lobby is one of many companies who claim that the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”, is forcing them to do something they believe is unethical.  In the article “Hobby Lobby: The Cost of Not Offering Health Insurance,” Andrew Abela and Irene Kim discuss the Supreme Court case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby’s argument is that the federal law has forced them to make what they call an impossible decision.  They can either offer health insurance with coverage that they believe is unethical or they can pay fines to the government that they say could ruin their finances.  A couple Justices have suggested that the company does have a third option which they haven’t considered.  They could pay a $2,000 per employee fine and simply not offer their employees health insurance coverage at all.  The Justices argue that the company wouldn’t be any worse off than with the first two options.

Hobby Lobby argues that in addition to paying the per employee fine they would also have to increase employee wages so that their employees could go out and purchase individual health insurance plans.  But Justice Kagan said that whether the company chooses to offer health insurance plans that are against their religious beliefs or chooses not to offer health insurance to their employees and pay a fine, their costs will be just about the same.  That is certainly debatable.

If the company were to stop offering health insurance plans to their employees, they would have to increase employees’ after tax pay by the approximate amount that it would cost for them to purchase their own health insurance.  Premiums will cost more for a lot of individual and family plans than the discounted rate that Hobby Lobby would have received for a large group health insurance plan.  In addition to higher premiums, individual plans typically have higher deductibles that they company will have to account for in their salary increases.  Between the salary increases and the $2,000 per person penalty for 13,000 employees, the article estimates that Hobby Lobby will pay $60 million each year if they choose this option.  That estimate is quite a bit more than the company would pay to offer their employees health insurance.  But finances are not the only thing the company needs to consider.  A loss of health insurance could decrease employee morale, even with a salary increase to pay for individual health insurance.  The company also has a religious belief that they need to take care of their employees.  Hobby Lobby will likely continue their fight against the federal government forcing them to offer insurance coverage for birth control that is against their religious beliefs.

Consumers Would Like to Know Premium Increases In Advance

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Increasing healthcare costs have been a bone of contention for years.  This was long before the Affordable Care Act became law and it’s continuing after the ACA went into effect.  One of the biggest problems that many consumers have is that it’s just not clear where the extra money they have to pay is going.  The cost of health insurance premiums is rising much faster than our incomes, so healthcare is really taking a hit on consumer budgets.  Consumer Reports’ David Butler wrote an article for Fox Business titled “Make the pricing of health insurance more transparent.”  If consumers know why they are paying more money and exactly where their money is going, people might not be so angry about paying higher premiums.  Or it might make the health insurance industry function in a better way so that money is used wisely. Health insurance companies are already getting ready to set their premium prices for next year.

The open enrollment period for signing up for health insurance in the government exchanges is less than five months from now.  It would make sense that consumers get a taste of what premium costs are going to be before searching for health insurance plans.  Health insurance increases before the Affordable Care Act were often extreme and there weren’t any safeguards in place to prevent astronomical premium increases.  This is why millions of Americans chose to avoid purchasing health insurance and take the risk that they wouldn’t get sick.  President Obama’s goal in creating the Affordable Care Act was to get more Americans insured.  One safeguard that the law put into place was an oversight of premium rates at both the state and federal level.  The Department of Health & Human Services has the ability to review premium costs and increases that they deem unreasonably high.

The government is trying to make health insurance premiums more transparent, so that consumers can see potential increases before they are hit with them.  Unfortunately the timing has not been quite right.  2013 information was recently released, although we are already paying for those premium increases.  Now would be a good time to see the potential increases for next year, before open enrollment and before health insurance decisions have to be made.  Making the information public before increases go into effect allows consumers and states to determine if the increases are justified.  Another problem is that some insurance companies say that their information is confidential, so we aren’t able to have access to any transparency.  It’s frustrating for consumers to feel in the dark and out of control when it comes to health insurance premium increases.  Consumer Reports hopes to change the system by requiring full transparency of health insurance premium increases before they come into effect.  If you are having a hard time finding affordable health insurance, search for quotes here.

Health Insurance Mistakes to Avoid

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Whether you are looking for a new health insurance plan or already have one, there are some typical mistakes people make that you should try to avoid.  MSN Money just posted the article “Don’t make these 10 health insurance mistakes,” by Allison Martin of Money Talks News.  It’s wise to consider these ten things even if you are not shopping for individual health insurance coverage because you are likely contributing some of your health care costs even in an employer sponsored plan.  It’s rarely the best decision to simply choose the cheapest health insurance plan.  You should consider much more than just cost.  The first mistake that people make when it comes to health insurance is basing their policy decision solely on the premium and deductible costs.  Keep in mind that if your plan covers 80% of hospital or surgical procedures, the 20% that you owe could add up to a large chunk of money.

Also make sure that you read the fine print in any potential health insurance policy.  Some of the most important things to look for are in-network or out-of-network coverage, HMOs, PPOs, different coverage options and whether referrals are needed.  If there is coverage that you know you need or doctors that you don’t want to leave, check that before getting a new plan.  It’s a big mistake not to shop around for health insurance from different health insurance companies.  Read reviews from customers and others who have worked with the company.  Believe it or not, purchasing COBRA coverage is often a big mistake.  You pay more than 100% of the plan cost, when you paid around 25% with your employer sponsored coverage for the same plan.  It pays to shop for a less expensive health insurance option, even if it only ends up being temporary.

Some people make the mistake of purchasing too much insurance coverage.  If you don’t see the doctor often, a platinum level plan might be too much coverage for you.  In the health insurance exchanges, as well as with private health insurance plans, there are lower levels of coverage options from which to choose.  Health insurance plans are not one size fits all.  Many coworkers just choose what their friends in the company have chosen, even though their insurance needs might be very different.  Do not make the mistake of not getting health insurance because you are healthy.  You never know when you will need coverage and many hospitals no longer treat those without insurance.  Make sure to ask for discounts for things like quitting smoking or being in a wellness program.  It costs a lot of money to see a provider who is not in your network, so think carefully before seeing an out of network provider.  Some people opt for health insurance plans that do not have prescription drug coverage.  This is one of the most common items that people regret when choosing a health insurance policy.  Avoiding these ten health insurance mistakes could save you thousands of dollars in the long run, so do your homework.

Health Insurance Premiums Have Been Increasing for Years

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

A recent study done by the Commonwealth Fund found that health insurance premiums have been increasing for years.  The nonprofit group performed this study to determine what had been happening in the health insurance industry before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act changes.  They wanted to show the public the whole picture so that people aren’t blaming all of the health insurance increases on Obamacare.  This information comes from Maggie Fox’s NBC News article, “Health Insurance Premiums Have Been Increasing Since 2008.”  They studied health insurance premiums in the private health insurance markets.  Those are the individual and family health insurance plans that Americans find and pay for out of their own pocket, not through a group or employer.  The study found that health insurance premiums have been steadily increasing since 2008.

Individual insurance premiums increased by at least 10% per year from 2008-2010.  We are still waiting to see what the premium prices will be for 2015, but most experts agree that they will be higher than this year’s prices.  The study results point out that premium increases really cannot solely be attributed to mandatory changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act because premium prices were rising 10% per year before the law took effect.  Premiums almost have to increase because health insurance companies have to cover much more than they covered before the ACA took effect.  Insurers can no longer deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions either, so it costs them much more money to offer insurance plans.  They can’t exclude maternity coverage from plans or charge cancer patients more for their insurance policies, so premium prices across the board are likely to increase.

State and federal run health insurance exchanges started offering plans this year.  Before these exchange plans were an option, an estimated 14 million people bought individual health insurance plans outside of the workplace.  This is either because they don’t have a job or their employer doesn’t offer them health insurance coverage.  Eight million people have bought insurance plans through the exchanges this year, according to the President’s administration.  A Gallup poll found that the number of Americans without health insurance went from 18% in December to 13.4% in May.  It’s going to take years before we know the true effect of the Affordable Care Act on the health insurance industry, especially because of the plans that have been allowed to continue offering sub-standard policies for two more years.  It will just be important to keep in mind that health insurance plans were rising before the ACA as well.  Increases in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were 9.9%, 10.8% and 11.7%, respectively.