Archive for the ‘compare health insurance’ Category

You Could Lose Your Health Insurance When Your Parent Dies

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

The last thing you are worried about when a parent dies is what will happen to your health insurance coverage.  But unfortunately for many young people, they also lose their health insurance coverage when their spouse dies.  This also holds true for spouses, including those with young children.  In the U.S. News & World Report Health article “What to Do When You Lose Your Health Insurance,” Geoff Williams offers up options for those who lose their health insurance unexpectedly.  The article gives the example of a 30-year old woman who lost her health insurance coverage when her father passed away in April.  She has ulcerative collitis, a bowel disease that could cause serious complications without her medication and doctor visits.  She found out that she had lost her health insurance when she tried to fill a prescription and her insurance was declined.  It cost her $200 out of pocket just to buy the four pills that she needs for one day.

It’s not common for a 30 year old to have health insurance coverage under her Dad’s plan, so the woman in the example was lucky to have such a perk.  In this particular instance, her Dad had carried individual health insurance with his carrier for so long that they allowed him to keep his daughter on his plan to age 31.  She would have had to search for health insurance soon anyways, so she was likely already researching her options.  If you don’t have health insurance coverage, you can shop for it at any time.  The Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment period is from November 15 to February 15, but the government dates aren’t necessarily written in stone.  You can apply for a health insurance plan at any time when you have had a life change that took away your health insurance.  You can also apply for health insurance with an individual health insurance company at any time during the year.  Most companies have open enrollment periods similar to the government, but for a shorter period of time.  You can make changes to your plan during that time, unless you have a life changing event some other time during the year.

Life changing events include death, the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, a change of income, relocation, or the sudden loss of health insurance.  If any of these events happen to you, the government gives you a 60 day grace period to obtain health insurance in the exchange.  You can get health insurance quotes from multiple companies here.  You can also use an agent that works for one health insurance company or a broker that shops the health insurance marketplace for you.  The last option is similar to shopping the market for health insurance with comparehealthrates.com.  Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are available to those with low income.  COBRA is a health insurance option for people who have just lost their jobs, and therefore their health insurance coverage.  If your parent dies and you lose your health insurance, there are options for you to find health insurance coverage.  The woman in the article was able to get her insurance plan extended until August 1 so that her daily medication is covered, so she had a couple months to search for her own health insurance plan.

 

Large Employers May Stop Offering Health Insurance Plans

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

A lot of people who get their health insurance from their large group employers might just be searching for insurance coverage elsewhere soon.  While it certainly wasn’t the intention of the Affordable Care Act to make it more difficult for employers to offer insurance to their employees, that has been an effect of the health insurance mandate often referred to as Obamacare.  In the Forbes article, “Obamacare Increases Large Employers’ Health Costs“, Sally Pipes tells us about recent study findings.  S&P Captial IQ’s study determined that 90% of workers in America who currently have health insurance through a large employer will be searching for a policy in the government exchanges by 2020.  That figure seems extreme, but the harsh reality is that the taxes, fees, and added insurance mandates placed on large employers are hurting them.  Many of these employers simply don’t think that they can afford to offer health insurance if something doesn’t change.  They are currently mandated to offer you health insurance plans, so that is something that will have to be considered as well.

Group health plan sponsors pay a new fee to help fund the government sponsored Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).  This organization tests the effectiveness of certain medical treatments and Medicare uses the results to determine what they will cover for their patients.  Some skeptics worry that results could be twisted to support lower cost treatments over more effective, but higher cost ones.  Another fee that large employers have to pay is a Temporary Reinsurance Fee.  This fee is supposed to stabilize premiums in the individual health insurance marketplace.  The American Health Policy Institute estimates that $15.3 million will be collected by this fee in just two years.  In 2018, large employers will start paying a 40% excise tax on health insurance plans that are deemed “expensive”.  Individual premiums above $10,200 and family premiums above $27,500 are considered “expensive”.  One company estimates that this excise tax will cost them $378 million over the course of five years.

In addition to the direct taxes, there are indirect tax increases for employers as well.  There is the mandate for companies to offer health insurance to full time workers within the next year or two.  If they don’t, they will pay a fine.  Companies also have to allow children to remain on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26 now.  That last mandate alone has increased employer insurance costs between 1 and 3%.  Mandating full coverage of preventative care services, such as immunization and birth control is drastically increasing employer health care costs as well.  The AHPI survey estimates large employer health care costs to rise by 4.3% in 2016, by 5.1% in 2018, and increase by 8.4% in 2023.  This equates to hundreds of billions of dollars extra that large employers will have to shell out over the next decade or so.

Unfortunately, what this means to Americans with health insurance from their large employer is that their costs will likely increase as well.  More than 80% of large employers have already increased their employees’ deductibles, or plan to do so soon.  Some employers might stop offering health insurance altogether and pay the fine for not offering plans.  They might actually save money by doing that, although employee morale could decrease from such a move.  Companies may also offer incentives for sick employees to search for health insurance in the exchanges instead of using the company plan, saving both the employer and employee money.  But if all of the sickest employees head into the health insurance exchanges, costs within those will increase for everyone.  The potential destruction of employer health insurance plans was certainly not a goal of the Affordable Care Act, but it might just be a consequence.  If you are worried about losing your employer health insurance, you can compare health plans and rates here.

It’s March Madness for Health Insurance Sign-Ups As Well

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Not only is it a big weekend for March Madness basketball, it’s a big weekend for the health insurance industry as well.  March 31 is the deadline to sign up for health insurance or else risk receiving a penalty by the government when you file your taxes next year.  As long as you have started filling out a health insurance application, there is a grace period until April 7 to finish filing your paperwork.  The Associated Press offered important information in their article, “Monday is the deadline to sign up for health law”.  Government reports say that more than 6 million people have already signed up for health insurance through the newly created marketplaces since they opened October 1.  That number doesn’t even take into account the number of people who have signed up for new health insurance plans outside of the marketplaces since the new law took effect.  Four out of five of the people signing up in the marketplace have gotten a government tax credit to help pay for their premium cost.

The federal government’s website has a deadline of midnight on March 31, but states that are running their own marketplaces might have different deadlines in place.  You can sign up online, by phone, or even in person because many local areas have sign-up centers.  Since we are down to the wire with sign-up time, there will probably be long wait times no matter which way to choose to sign up through Monday.  If you don’t qualify for a government tax subsidy, but want to get health insurance to follow the law, there are many more options for finding health insurance.  You can compare health rates for individual or family insurance plans here.

In Tennessee, there is a “Local push underway to get health insurance before (the) deadline“.  Local ABC News affiliate WATE reporter Kayla Strayer posted a list of locations where people in East Tennessee can receive free help from insurance agents.  One out of six people in Tennessee has been living without health insurance.  Most of these people say that they simply can’t afford it.  Insurance experts are helping many of these Tennesseans determine whether they qualify for government subsidies as well as helping them with the application process.  One volunteer says that you can see the relief on people’s faces when they find a health insurance plan that they can afford.  Many have been going without health insurance, and in turn doctor visits and tests, even though they know they need treatment.  Americans have to sign up for health insurance by March 31, or risk being charged a fee.  Fees are equal to 1% of your income, or $95 per adult and $50 per child.  Some Americans will be exempt from this insurance mandate.

High Number of Americans are Underinsured

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

The country has been very focused on uninsured Americans over the past couple of years.  Another important issue that is rarely discussed is how many people are actually underinsured.  U.S. News & World Report’s Kimberly Leonard discussed research from the Commonwealth Fund in her article, “Report Highlights Underinsured by State”.  The Commonwealth Fund’s report is called “America’s Underinsured: A State-by-State Look at Health Insurance Affordability Prior to the New Coverage Expansions”.  When looking at Americans under the age of 65, one out of every eight is underinsured.  This means that although they do have health insurance, they still pay a high percentage out of pocket for health care costs.  Many underinsured Americans end up filing for bankruptcy because of their health care bills.  They are also at a high risk of ignoring symptoms and avoiding the doctor.

States with the lowest rates of underinsured Americans were in the Northeast and the upper Midwest.  The Southern and Western states had the highest rates.  New Hampshire’s underinsured rate of 8% was the lowest in the nation.  Some of the other states with low rates include Minnesota, Maryland, and Massachusetts.  The highest underinsured rate of 17% belongs to both Idaho and Utah.  Both Tennessee and Mississippi had underinsured rates of 16%.  When the report looked at the combination of uninsured and underinsured Americans, the highest numbers of uninsured and underinsured Americans were in New Mexico and Texas.  Middle income Americans in Wyoming and Alaska suffer the most from being uninsured or underinsured.  One-third of the middle income population in those states falls into the uninsured or underinsured category.  The lowest uninsured and underinsured rates were in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia.  These states had combined rates less than 20%.

Deductibles, premiums, household income, and insurance status were taken into account for the report results.  Lower income households, earning less than $47,000 per year for a family of four, are considered underinsured if they spend more than 5% of their yearly income on health care costs.  Middle income households, earning between $47,000 and $95,000 per year, are underinsured if more than 10% of their annual income is spent on health care.  The Commonwealth Fund report found that $32 million Americans are underinsured, $4 million of whom come from middle income families.  It also showed that 47 million Americans were uninsured in 2012.  Obviously this data was collected before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.  It will be a good comparison for the next few years to see if the ACA makes the changes that it set out to make in “fixing” our health care system.  The number of uninsured Americans has certainly gone down, and the number of underinsured Americans should as well.  Since insurance companies can no longer discriminate against those with preexisting conditions and they must offer affordable plan choices, fewer Americans may be underinsured in the future.

 

Individuals Paying More for Health Insurance Without Government Subsidies

Friday, February 28th, 2014

On the heels of the Office of the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report detailing premium increases for many small businesses, there is another report saying that individuals are paying more for health insurance as well.  According to The Business Journal’s Kent Hoover in his article “Take out subsidies and Obamacare is Really Expensive,” those Americans who are not receiving government subsidies are paying significantly more in health insurance costs.  Some Americans qualify for government tax subsidies when they buy an individual or family health insurance plan in the health insurance exchanges.  Low and middle income Americans can buy insurance plans through the government website or individual state health insurance exchanges and receive a tax break based on their income level.

But eHealth Inc. just performed a study to see how much health insurance plans cost for those who don’t qualify for the government subsidies.  They compared data from before the Affordable Care Act went into effect with plan costs as of February 24 of this year, after the ACA prices took effect.  Average individual health insurance plans now are $274 per month.  That is a 39% increase from average plan costs before the ACA requirements changed health care.  Family plan monthly average costs increased to $663 per month.  This is up 56% from the same time last year.  The company performing the study sells an array of health insurance plans and wants to highlight what they perceive as the negative changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act.  Those who already had affordable health insurance may be negatively affected, while those people who didn’t have health insurance or with very high plan costs receive the benefits of the health care law.

Compare health rates from multiple insurance companies to find the most affordable premiums for you or your family.  If you don’t qualify for a government subsidy or have health insurance through your employer, there are countless health insurance plan options available from an array of health insurance companies.

11 Million People Will See Increasing Small Group Health Insurance Premiums

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Do you have health insurance coverage through your small business employer?  Are you a small business that offers health insurance to its employees?  If so, your premiums may be increasing because of the Affordable Care Act.  ABC 17 News’ Parija Kaviland posted an article saying that the “ACA will raise premiums for 65% of small firms.”  The main reason for this change is that small business health insurance premiums were figured based on employees’ health status and gender.  So groups filled with women of child bearing age would pay more than groups filled with young, healthy men.  Under the new law though, pricing for small group health insurance can no longer be based on health status, gender, or how often the health insurance is used.  This levels the playing field for businesses that employed older or less healthy workers, but also will raise the costs for those small businesses who had healthy workers that didn’t use many health insurance services.

Overall, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that 11 million people will see increasing costs as part of that 65% of small firms.  This does mean that 35% of small businesses will likely see premium decreases, however.  Many of the lower premiums will be offered because those particular small businesses employed older and sicker individuals on average.  The younger, healthier workers will not be able to take advantage of lower premiums anymore.  But the CMS report noted that small businesses are eligible for tax credits just like individuals are under the Affordable Care Act.  Credits are based on how many people are employed, their average salaries, and how much they contribute to their insurance plans.  Tax credits will help some small businesses counter the effect of increasing premiums.

The CMS report did not estimate how much premiums would increase for the 11 million people expected to see their payments go up.  They also didn’t say how much payments might go down for the other 6 million people enrolled in a small group health insurance plan.  The only certain thing is that no one will be able to take advantage of offering lower than average premiums because they have young and healthy workers anymore.  One downside of that was that even if one person got seriously ill, rates could increase dramatically for everyone in the plan.  This new system seeks to make premium costs fair across the board.  They shouldn’t be as affected by one illness or a few women getting pregnant and incurring high health care costs.  Some plans have been grandfathered in and will not be affected by these changes just yet.  If you are looking to compare health insurance in an individual or small group plan, we’d be happy to help you receive quotes from multiple insurance companies.

Many Target Employees Now Searching for Health Insurance

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Part-time employees working at Target stores are searching for new health insurance policies right now.  As of April 1, Target’s part-timers are no longer eligible for the company’s health insurance plan.  This information comes from Bloomberg’s Alex Wayne in the article “Target to Drop Health Insurance for Part-Time Workers.”  They are following in the footsteps of Trader Joe’s, Home Depot, and other large retailers in the U.S.  Last year, the company had more than 361,000 workers.  They would not specify how many of those workers are part-time, which means that they work fewer than 30 hours a week.  But Target did say that only 10% of their part-time employees actually opted to take the health insurance offered to them.  This could be because they are students on their parents’ plans, have a spouse with health insurance, or forgo having insurance altogether.

Target is making these changes because of President Obama’s U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Companies with more than 50 employees must offer health insurance plans to their full-time workers or they will be penalized.  Most Americans will also be penalized if they are not insured.  But Target insists that their part-time workers will be better off searching for their own health insurance plans.  If they qualify for a government subsidy, they can buy a plan from a health insurance exchange and pay less than they would with Target’s plan, according to the company.  This allows both the employee and the company to save money.  It’s not apparent how many of these Target workers will qualify for a subsidy though.  Those who don’t qualify might end up paying more for their health insurance than they did with Target.  If you are looking for a cheap health insurance plan, you can receive affordable quotes here.

Employees shopping in the health insurance exchanges have until the end of March to meet the open enrollment deadline.  This lines up with the end date of Target’s insurance plan for their part-time workers.  Target insists that people will not have their hours cut just so that the company no longer has to offer them health insurance plans.  They say that this will only apply to those who are already part-time, but only the employees will know if this holds true.  If it’s true that only 10% of their part-timers opted for company health insurance anyways, this change may not make a large impact overall.  But with the company withholding figures on the number of part-time workers and those close to the cusp of 30 hours, I’m not sure how many people truly will be affected by this health insurance change.

How Children’s Health Insurance Differs From Adults

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

The new health insurance laws affect children differently than adults.  U.S. News & World Report’s article “How Obamacare Affects Children” discussed the differences so that parents know what to expect.  Kimberly Leonard got information from the Urban Institute, Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, First Focus and the American Academy of Pediatrics for this list of how children’s insurance will be different from adults.  First of all, children did not have to wait to shop for health insurance in the new health insurance exchanges.  They were already eligible through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  This program has been available to uninsured children at either no cost or a very low cost.  This federally or state run program drastically lowered the number of uninsured children to a number that is still a record low.  But even though the number of uninsured children is at a record low, one in ten kids in the United States was uninsured before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

Now that millions of parents will be getting health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, many of the 7.6 million uninsured children will also get health insurance coverage.  Parents may be shopping in the health insurance exchanges or comparing health insurance from companies so that they will not be penalized for not having coverage.  Some parents whose children qualify for public health insurance plans might be better suited signing their kids up for that then adding them to their new private health insurance plan.  Compare the benefits and costs and make sure that your child’s current pediatrician is covered if you want to stay with them.

The biggest news for children under the Affordable Care Act is the large amount of services that private health insurance plans must offer, many of them for free.  There are 26 preventative services that are now covered without the payment of a copay, deductible, or co-insurance.  Kids with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage because of their disability or health issue.  There are also 10 Essential Health Benefits services that have to be covered by private plans and health insurance exchange plans.  These include vision and dental coverage for kids, emergency services and more.  Kids over the age of 19 don’t have to be covered with vision and dental, so consider that when shopping plans.  One of the biggest benefits to parents and older children was the inclusion of kids under their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.  Some young adults aren’t offered health insurance at their first jobs, so being able to maintain coverage through their parents is the only way for them to have health insurance.  This list includes many of the ways that health insurance for children is different than insurance for adults and the added benefits that kids can receive.

 

Individual Health Insurance Mandate Changes

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

In Robert Pear’s New York Times article, “Another Rule in Health Law Is Scaled Back,” he tells Americans that even more people will be exempt from penalties for not buying health insurance.  The secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, just announced this big shift that was put into place by President Obama.  He has been working to tweak the Affordable Care Act, which has drawn a lot of scrutiny because of Americans receiving cancellation notices from their health insurers.  Changes to the minimum health insurance requirements have forced insurance companies to send cancellation notices to a lot of people.  In most cases, they are offered a new plan that includes more benefits to match the minimum standards.  But the cost of those plans is much higher as well, a cost that some Americans say they simply can’t afford.

The White House announcement says that those people who have had their current individual health insurance plans cancelled will have a new option.  They can enroll in a catastrophic coverage plan if they are eligible for a hardship exemption because more people will now be eligible.  This way they will not receive a penalty in 2014 for not carrying health insurance.  Catastrophic insurance plans can be bought through the government health insurance exchanges.  They were available before this change, but only to people under 30 or those who qualified for a hardship exemption.  They provide the most basic of health insurance coverage.  The White House says that any consumer who thinks that the health insurance options available in the exchanges are more expensive than their cancelled health insurance policy is eligible to get only catastrophic coverage.  Many insurers are surprised by this change and believe that it takes away from the individual mandate imposed by the Affordable Care Act.  If you are looking for a new health insurance plan, compare health quotes to see if you can find affordable coverage.

Personal Stories of Americans Looking for Health Insurance

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Just say the words health insurance in public right now and you are likely to incite some type of debate.  It’s a hot button issue because of the Affordable Care Act, people losing health insurance coverage, and a new government site that is running anything but smoothly.  In “Barriers to health insurance: doubt, distrust, and glitches,” Maggie Fox of NBC News gives us three personal stories of Americans dealing with health insurance problems.  One woman has been trying, unsuccessfully, to find a plan on the government website for months.  One man has seen his existing insurance plan canceled and will have to pay considerably more for an acceptable plan.  But he won’t even give the website a chance because of all of the negative talk he has heard.  And another woman’s insurance company has doubled her premiums, but she won’t shop elsewhere because she trusts her current insurer.

The first woman highlighted has tried for more than two months to get an insurance plan on the government website, run by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  She has run into countless barriers and error messages in her quest to find affordable health insurance.  Most of the time, she can’t even make it to the sign-in page.  She has received help from the call center and said that the workers were kind and helpful, but they were running into glitches as well.  She will keep trying until the site is working correctly.  Next, a man in Indiana has been worrying about what to do with his health insurance.  His plan was canceled because it does not meet the new requirements.  Without action being taken on his part, his insurance company will issue a “comparable plan” that costs $1,000 more than his original plan each month.  Rather than deal with the headache he anticipates on the government website, he is relying on help from an insurance agent to maintain his insurance.

Finally, the story of a female lawyer from Iowa is highlighted.  She has been paying for individual health insurance from Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield for 16 years.  Her premiums have increased to $11,565 per year.  When asked why she wasn’t shopping for more affordable insurance premiums, she said that she trusts her insurer and appreciates the continuity.  The article authors found plans through the government website that would cover this lawyer ranging in price from $2,820 per year to $7,250 per year.  But she is strong in her conviction that she doesn’t want to comparison shop because she is comfortable where she is.  She does think that the Affordable Care Act will work in the long run to make health insurance more affordable for Americans.  It often takes awhile for new programs to run smoothly, so she is willing to wait it out and hope for lower health insurance premiums in the future.  If you are looking for health insurance, Compare Health Rates can help get you free quotes from multiple insurance companies.