Archive for the ‘health insurance rates’ Category

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Here’s to Hoping Health Care Costs Don’t Soar

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

There were many purposes for the Affordable Care Act, not the least of which was to lower health care costs for Americans.  By creating insurance pools to increase competition among health insurers, the idea was that the cost of health care services and premiums would decrease.  While that is still President Obama’s hope, The Society of Actuaries just released a report saying that many consumers may see just the opposite effect.  The Motley Fool’s Sean Williams asks “Is Obamacare About to Skyrocket Your Health Care Costs?”

Some of the other changes being made in addition to creating insurance pools are banning insurers from denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions, mandating individuals to carry health insurance, and  requiring insurance companies to spend 80% or more of the premiums they collect on actual care.  The law also qualifies more patients for Medicaid and creates a medical device excise tax of 2.3% from medical device makers’ revenue.  That last change will help to pay for the expansion of the government sponsored Medicaid program.

So, all of these changes sound great right?  The problem that The Society of Actuaries found is an estimated 32% increase in the cost of underlying claims by the year 2017.  This is an estimated cost for non-group members, or those who don’t have insurance through their employer.  These prices can and should go down with the competition from the created pools, but some states may still see increases.  Ohio and Wisconsin are forecasted to see the cost of their claims go up by 80%.

32 million people who were uninsured will now be able to afford and carry health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.  In addition to that, many consumers who had very basic health coverage will be able to get better insurance.  But there are some companies and individuals negatively affected by this and making changes because of it.  Stryker, a medical device manufacturer, cut its workforce by 5% because of the new tax imposed upon them.  Aetna increased some premiums by 21% in anticipation of the impending caps on pricing from the law.  Many other companies, including Papa John’s pizza, have complained to lawmakers about the increase in costs to them because of the law.  Is there really any sweeping change that could positively effect everyone involved?

Healthy Young Adults Could See Insurance Soar

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

There are a lot of Americans who should be helped when it comes to the new health care laws taking effect in 2014.  People with pre-existing conditions will have to be offered coverage from health insurance companies or will be able to find it in state run exchanges.  Older Americans who have often been charged up to five times the amount for their coverage as their younger counterparts cannot be charged more than three times more now.  And many Americans who simply didn’t think they could afford health insurance will likely be able to find better health quotes and be helped with government subsidies after the full law goes into effect.  But the youngest, healthiest Americans could possibly be hurt the most as their health insurance rises to make up for all of the others.  This information comes from N.C. Aizenman of The Washington Post’s article, “Young Adults Face Health Insurance Rate Scare.”

Insurance companies are worried that they will face a lot of criticism when rates rise, so they are trying to prepare by warning consumers about the “rate shock” that is to come.  They blame this on the fact that they will have to offer customers more comprehensive coverage, they have to offer plans to people who are already sick (ie have pre-existing conditions,) and they can’t charge the elderly sky high rates anymore.  While supporters of the law do understand this, they argue that using the term “rate shock” is just a scare tactic and point out the fact that government subsidies will help pay for part of people’s health insurance increases.  A lot of healthy people in their 20s purposefully have plans with less coverage, but will now be forced into carrying more comprehensive plans that will cost them more, whether they like it or not.  Rates are not likely to double for those with employer sponsored health plans, but individual and small group coverage rates could jump anywhere from 10% to more than 50%.

45% of Health Insurance Applicants Denied in Montana

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

In a recent study done by HealthPocket, they determined that 22% of people applying for health insurance coverage are denied.  This information comes from Fox Business’ article, “Health Insurance Application Denied? Here are 5 Options,” by Mark Chalon Smith.  Luckily for them, President Obama has made it mandatory for insurance companies to offer coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, so that number will be down to almost zero in 2014.  Until then, there are a few things you can do to try and get yourself or your entire family covered by health insurance.  Pre-existing conditions are the top reason why consumers are denied health insurance coverage.  Insurance companies worry that they will be taking on too much risk and will shell out too much money to cover those who are already sick.

Montana is by far the worst offender when it comes to denying health insurance applicants.  Close to 50% of those who apply are denied coverage.  Other states with more than 30% of applicants getting denials are Alabama, the District of Columbia, Arkansas, Alaska, and New Mexico.  One of the main reasons that these states have such high denial numbers is that they typically have fewer health insurers offering plans in their area, so there is less competition.  Individual insurers with the worst denial rates include John Alden Life Insurance Company in South Dakota, Time Insurance Company in Kentucky, and Assurant Health in Utah, North Dakota, and Idaho.  Assurant Health defends their denial rates by saying that they do offer some type of more expensive plan for consumers who were denied their plan of choice, so they weren’t denied altogether.

In New York and Massachusetts, the denial rate for health insurance applications is already zero because those states mandate coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.  If you don’t happen to live in those states though, there are a few ways to try and get health insurance after a denied application.  Try multiple insurers and be sure to ask if there is any plan for which you qualify, even if you were denied your first application.  States offer pre-existing conditions insurance plans (PCIP’s) which have to cover you, even though the rates will be high.  There are also high risk health insurance plans in 35 states that have to cover you, another option that could be costly.  Low income families can get government help through Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  You can also try to join a professional group like a Chamber of Commerce or union to apply for their group coverage.  Keep in mind that it will all be temporary until coverage can no longer be denied in 2014.