Archive for the ‘aultcare’ Category

Presidential Debate Rages On When it Comes to Health Insurance

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

In the wake of the second Presidential debate last night, it’s as good a time as any to discuss the differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney when it comes to health care.  Insurance News Net’s “Report: Romney Vs. Obama’s Health Plans” summarizes a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund.  This report, “Healthcare in the 2012 Presidential Election: How the Obama and Romney Plans Stack Up,” says that Romney’s plans would leave 72 million people without health insurance by 2022.  I’m not sure Governor Romney would agree with this number, but the Commonwealth Fund’s report took into account the proposals of each Presidential candidate to fix the problems in our healthcare system.  They then estimated the amount of Americans who would be uninsured under both plans, divided up by age and income.

Economist Johnathan Gruber performed an analysis of the Affordable Care Act, along with an analysis of two Romney proposals in order to determine the number of uninsured Americans there would be under each plan.  Romney’s plans include providing states Medicaid block grants and offering tax incentives for Americans who buy their own individual coverage of health insurance.  When you look at Americans 19 and under, 6 million would be uninsured under Obama’s Affordable Care Act compared to 17.9 million under Romney’s plans.  The Affordable Care Act would leave 3.3 million middle-class families uninsured, while 17.7 million would be uninsured under Romney’s plans.  Families of at least 4 making less than $32,000 a year would be the hardest hit.  Obama’s plans leave 17.2 million of them uninsured and Romney’s will leave 38.7 million without health insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, those purchasing health insurance through exchanges or individual companies like Aultcare are estimated to spend around 9.1% of their income on their health care costs.  Under Governor Romney’s health plans that repeal the Affordable Care Act, individuals are estimated to spend either 14.1% or 18.1% (depending on potential tax breaks) on their health care costs.  This economic report doesn’t take other changes that could be made by either President into account, so job growth and Medicare changes could effect these statistics differently.  But it is interesting to see the comparison between the two potential outcomes taking only their health care plans into account.


Take Health Cues from Diets in 4 Locations

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Four places in the world have been found to be disease “cold spots,” or places where the prevalence of certain diseases is almost non-existent.  Some of the lifestyle factors taken from people native to these areas may help you live a healthier life free from diabetes, cancer, depression, and heart disease.  In the Yahoo! Health article “Secrets of the world’s healthiest people,” Lisa Collier Cool discusses Daphne Miller, MD’s findings.

Although the Pima Indians in the United States have the highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes in the world, their close genetic relatives the Tarahumara Indians have almost no occurrences of Type 2 Diabetes.  So despite the genetic disposition, the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico live a lifestyle that keeps this disease away.  Some of what they do can be easily transferred into our lives to ward off Type 2 Diabetes.  First, they live an active lifestyle full of exercise.  But their diet is a big contributing factor as well.  They do eat a plethora of carbs, but mostly beans, corn, and hand made tortillas.  In addition to their unrefined carbs, the use of herbs and spices like garlic, cinnamon, parsley, and clove seems to help their blood sugar.

Darkness prevails much of the year in Iceland, which has been attributed to higher rates of depression in many countries.  But the Icelandic people actually have the lowest rates of depression in the world.  Dr. Miller believes that eating a large amount of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids prevents Iceland’s residents from having depression and can even treat symptoms.  They eat a lot of fish, lamb that feeds on omega-3 rich moss, and birds that eat the omega-3 rich fish.  Icelandic people also eat some foods that Americans may see as odd, including pickled lamb testicles and putrefied shark that has been buried in the ground.

In Cameroon, West Africa, cancer is very rare.  Colon cancer and bowel disorders are nearly nonexistent.  This has been attributed to a diet low in red meat and high in fiber.  A recent study of more than 400,000 people determined that eating high fiber diets can lead to a longer life and a lower risk of many health problems like heart disease.  In West Africa, their low red meat and high fiber diet is thought to be a contributing factor to low cancer rates.  They also eat fermented foods frequently, similar to those in Iceland.  Relishes, pickled foods, and other fermented foods improve the immune system with their good bacteria levels.

The Mediterranean diet has been thought to lower the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.  A forty year study in Europe found the Island of Crete to be the place where men lived the longest and healthiest lives.  This is the location where the healthy Mediterranean diet came about.  They use a lot of extra virgin olive oil, rarely eat red meat, and eat a lot of omega-3 rich seafood like they do in Iceland.  A high-fiber bread called rusks, wild greens, and yogurt with honey are also items in the Mediterranean diet thought to prevent blood clots and heart disease.

Many of the foods and lifestyle factors in these four places can be easily adopted to help lower your own risk of Type 2 Diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and depression.  Health insurance companies like Aultcare may be well-served to inform their customers of these fairly simple additions to their diet that can keep health problems away.  If doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies help to inform the public, we can hope to lower the rates of many of these often deadly diseases.

Better Off Dropping Employer Health Insurance for Individual?

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Employer sponsored health insurance plans seem to be covering less and less as health care costs skyrocket.  It’s leaving many Americans wondering if they should just drop their employer health plans and compare individual health insurance plans.  While the premiums will likely be more with an individual plan, you have to factor in all of the out of pocket costs you may be saving on as employer plans cover less and less.  In the NPR article, “Health Insurance Cutbacks Squeeze the Insured,” Rob Stein tells the heartbreaking story of a family in California losing out as their employer sponsored plan covers less and less of their health care.

The woman in the article is married with a five year old son and receives health insurance from her employer.  She had a liver transplant at age ten and has to take daily anti-rejection medication as well as have monthly blood tests to ensure her body is not rejecting the transplanted liver.  Last year, she was devastated to find out that her company was changing their health insurance options and would only be offering one plan, a high deductible health insurance plan with no prescription coverage.  This woman was lucky to find a charity organization to cover her $1,000 monthly prescription, but has been unable to afford her $300 monthly blood work bill.  Skipping these appointments and others when she and her family are sick can cause big health problems, but they simply can’t afford the added costs.

As the cost for employers to offer health insurance skyrockets, the plans they are offering have become less comprehensive and more basic.  Americans have seen their deductibles, copays, and cost sharing increasing over the past few years and there is little that they can do about it.  Those who have health insurance coverage are finding themselves paying thousands of dollars each year before the health insurance they pay for actually covers anything.  Employers are not fully to blame here; they are trying to keep up with inflation and rising health care costs without going under as well.  This is particularly trying for small employers who are already struggling to get by in a tough economy.  These rising out of pocket costs are forcing many Americans to see if they can actually pay less getting individual health insurance from a company like Aultcare.

Health Insurance Rates Will Be More Than Income

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

By 2033, you will likely be paying more money for your health insurance premiums than your total annual income provides.  Jenifer Goodwin of Health Day wrote about an Annals of Family Medicine study in the article “Health Insurance Premiums Will Surpass Median Household Income in 2033: Study.”  They used data from 2000-2009 and found that health insurance rates increased 8%, while median incomes only increased by 2%.  By using those same rates to forecast the future, your health insurance premiums would be about half of your income by 2021 and would cost more than your total income by 2033.  The median income in 2009 was just under $50,000.

This study is using the total premium cost for calculations, which does include both the money you contribute as well an any employer contributions.  If you have individual health insurance from a company like Aultcare, you pay all of the premium costs yourself anyways.  It does not take into account any of your out-of-pocket costs for co-pays, deductibles, or prescriptions.  Adding co-pay costs into the equation and taking out employer contributions, health care costs would equal half of the median income by 2031.

In 2005, it was estimated that health insurance rates would be higher than median income by 2025, so there have been a few positive changes.  The Affordable Care Act of 2010 looks to decrease some costs.  Also, the economic recession is forcing many families to spend less money on their health care.  That may not be a good thing overall, but it does lower demand and therefore, healthcare costs.  There are many opinions as to what will help this seemingly dire situation and all of them require overhaul of the current practices.  Regardless of who pays for these health insurance premiums, we need to make changes to what is covered by health insurance and what can be done to minimize testing and treatment where it is unnecessary.

Gossipers Should Have Lower Health Insurance Rates

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

According to Linda Wasmer Andrews’ Yahoo! Health article, “How gossip is good for you,” some gossip is good for your health.  Researchers from Berkeley’s University of California found that gossip helps ease frustration as well as lessening the increased heart rate that goes hand in hand with your frustration.  Maybe you can lower your health insurance rates if you can prove to your insurance company that you are a big gossip!  Prosocial gossip, or that which helps others avoid a bad circumstance by letting them know about someone’s bad behaviors, is what was researched.

One of the studies involved volunteers watching people playing a game, including someone who was cheating at the game.  As the volunteers watched, their heart rates increased watching the cheating.  But those volunteers who passed notes to the other participants letting them in on the cheating did not have the increased heart rate associated with the frustrations.  The study seems to show that letting someone know that their potential mate has been a cheater or that their potential business contact has a shady past can help your health as well as helping them avoid a conflict.

Studies have shown that gossip is both natural and normal.  Group behavior can be enhanced with a little gossip and people tend to behave a little better when the potential for gossip is there.  While there is some gossip that is just plain selfish and can be hurtful, “good” gossip can help groups build alliances and keep group members’ behavior in check.  While it’s unlikely that Aultcare or other health insurance companies will start promoting gossip for it’s health benefits, ads promoting gossip would likely be a good way to garner attention.


Health Insurers Push to Continue Polio Vaccine

Monday, November 21st, 2011

World Polio Day is a reminder that while the Salk vaccine helped diminish the crippling of children in 1955, there are still places in the world where polio cripples and kills children.  According to the Skokie Review’s “Rotary Club of Skokie Valley fights polio,” Skokie Valley’s Rotary Club has made a large contribution to help rid of polio worldwide.  They are working to get more routine vaccination of children as well as helping support the medical staff, volunteers, and others working with children stricken with polio.  While polio is still a problem in parts of the world, it has been gone from America for years.  There is a slight worry by some that it could return.

Polio vaccinations are given in four doses between 2 months of age and 6 years.  A fear of autism has brought many parents to delay and even skip some of their children’s vaccinations altogether.  Health insurance companies like Aultcare are opposed to most parents deciding not to vaccinate their children.  They fear that stopping vaccinations, like that for polio, will bring about outbreaks of many diseases that we haven’t seen in America in decades.  The debate between those who are for vaccinations and those who are against it is very complicated and far-reaching, but insurance companies tend to lean towards the pro-vaccination side.  Vaccinating children against diseases saves money because the diseases stay gone.

Long Term Health Care Costs Rise More Than 5%

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

The long term care health costs in this country are out of control, causing the government to throw out their long term care insurance plan and many companies to stop selling long term health care insurance.  According to Business Week’s “U.S. Long-Term Health Costs Rise at Faster Pace, MetLife Reports,” Maryellen Tighe reports an increase of 5.6% in assisted living costs last year.  It costs more than $41,000 a year for someone to be cared for in an assisted living facility.  Nursing home costs increased 4.4% last year, for an average yearly expense of more than $87,000.  Adult day care services increased in cost by 4.5% to an average of $70 per day.  The cost of having a health aide come into your home stayed the same at $21 per hour.

This year’s increases have been more than in the past, likely because of a struggling economy and skyrocketing health care and energy costs.  MetLife, Guardian Life Insurance Co., and Allianz SE have all stopped offering new long term care insurance plans because of skyrocketing costs.  There are still 7 million adults with long term care insurance to help cover assisted living or home health care expenses though.  Medicaid and Medicare do cover some long term health care expenses, but there are strict qualifications for those programs.  Aultcare has to worry about medical inflation rates, but long term health insurance rates have increased even higher than the average medical inflation rates.


Easy to Compare Health Insurance Quotes

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

It’s about to get much easier to compare health insurance quotes and determine exactly how much money you’ll have to pay out of pocket.  The Washington Post article, “New health insurance rules would let consumers compare plans in ‘plain English’,” says that consumers should get this benefit by next March.  Author N.C. Aizenman says that the government plans to require all health insurers to to give a short and easy to understand summary of their policy’s benefits and costs.  This will be available to current customers as well as those looking to compare different health insurance plans.  In addition, each plan will have to include a breakdown of your out of pocket expenses for having a baby, receiving treatment for breast cancer, and treating diabetes.

The Department of Health and Human Services compared the health insurance summaries to ‘Nutrition Facts’ food labels.  Summaries have to be less than four two-sided pages and cannot be in font smaller than 12-point.  Consumers can request a summary at any point in the application process.  Insurers like Aultcare have to provide summaries before enrollment in a plan, 30 days before a health plan is up for renewal, and 60 before any important changes are to occur in someone’s health plan.  Right now the regulation is in a 60-day comment period.  It is expected that many health insurers will express concern over the added administrative costs they will have with these summaries.  Employer-sponsored plans have so many different options that insurers might have to make thousands of different summaries.  Consumers, however, will much more easily be able to compare health insurance quotes and plans to see what option is best for them.

Taking Severely Obese Kids from Parents as Health Insurance Rates Soar

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Two American doctors wrote an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which says that states should have the ability to remove severely obese kids from their parents.  John Moore’s article “State should take obese kids from parents: US doctors” from the AFP reminds us that while this is not the specific opinion of the American Medical Association or JAMA, it may be someday.  Lindsey Murtagh and David Ludwig, doctors at the Harvard School of Public Health and Children’s Hospital in Boston, respectively, believe that removing children who are severely obese from the homes of their parents is the same as removing kids who are starving.  Health insurance rates and childhood illnesses skyrocket because of the obesity problem in the United States.  Two million kids in the US are considered severely obese and have a BMI above the 99th percentile, shocking to some but reality to many who see these kids every day at school or in the neighborhood.

Both doctors argue that the parents of these severely obese kids are neglecting their health risks and medical problems.  The children are likely to develop lifelong conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and other ailments that will be nearly impossible for them to overcome.  While states already have laws protecting kids from starvation or undernourishment, only a few states have laws protecting them from overfeeding and severe obesity.  California, Iowa, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico do have a legal precedent on the books.  This debate is likely to interest some insurance companies like Aultcare who spend billions of dollars a year on obesity related ailments.  While these doctors believe that a temporary home in foster care can help children learn healthy eating and exercise habits and lose excess weight without the risks of bariatric surgery, it is wise to look into other alternatives first.  Educating the parents should really be the number one priority and they should at least have some kind of a warning and help before their kids are taken into foster care.  Severely obese kids do need help, but their parents likely do as well.

Compare Health Insurance with Limited Coverage

Monday, June 27th, 2011

It really may not be worth the cost to carry limited health coverage plans once you compare health insurance costs with the coverage you receive.  Consumer Reports’ advice columnist Nancy Metcalf answered the question “Should I buy a low-priced limited benefit health insurance plan just in case something happens?”  A reader wrote in because their COBRA insurance would no longer be available and they were worried about not having health insurance.  They had researched costs associated with plans from well-known companies like Aetna and Blue Cross as well as less expensive, more limited coverage from a company like Lands Health.

These indemnity plans with limited benefits clearly state that they are not major medical insurance plans.  While they may cover some doctors visits and decrease your co-pay or prescription costs, the main point of the inquirer’s question was what to do “in case something happens.”  Metcalf gave an example for this scenario regarding breast cancer and how much you would pay out of pocket with and without a major health plan.  If you were diagnosed with breast cancer and had a lumpectomy, chemo & radiation therapy, you would pay an average of $70,000 out of pocket with a limited benefit plan.  On the other hand, with a full coverage plan from a company like Aultcare, Aetna, or Blue Cross, you would pay around $4,000 depending on your particular benefits.

It would be much more beneficial to research into the most affordable comprehensive health insurance plan when you are most concerned with “in case something happens.”  Depending on the state in which you live, your age, gender, and medical history, you can find a plan around $400 per month.  That number changes based on those factors, but is the average for a 50-year-old non-smoking woman living in Indiana.  Once the health care reform fully goes into effect in 2014, state health insurance exchanges will offer more affordable health insurance coverage and yours may even be subsidized by the government.  Some states are already offering the heath insurance exchanges.