Archive for the ‘Individual Health Insurance’ Category

Pay More Attention to the March 31 Health Insurance Deadline

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

There is a lot of false information circling around about Affordable Care Act deadlines.  If you’ve been told that the deadline for obtaining health insurance coverage is January 1, don’t worry if you haven’t found a plan yet.  January 1 is actually the first day that you can take advantage of subsidized health insurance coverage if you have signed up in time and paid your premium in time.  It is not a deadline, but an opportunity, according to Dr. David Blumenthal.  This information comes from Insurance News Net’s “The Big Deadline for Coverage is March 31.”  Much of the confusion about deadlines stems from the fact that they have been changing since this health insurance law took effect.  Even the January 1 deadline has been extended to the following Tuesday for consumers shopping on the healthcare.gov website.

You have until March 31 to obtain health insurance coverage before you will actually be penalized for not having insurance.  Penalties will come when you file your taxes for 2014.  If you miss the January 1 deadline, which is  now January 10, you won’t be penalized for anything.  Basically, you just aren’t taking advantage of being insured with a federal subsidy as soon as you could.  But with millions of uninsured Americans, not all of them are searching for health insurance from the state or federal health insurance exchanges.  Not everyone will qualify for a subsidy.  If you do qualify for a subsidy, buying health insurance through a state or federal exchange is likely in your best interest.  There are many uninsured Americans who do not qualify for tax subsidies, so they don’t have to worry about the January deadline.  They do have to worry about the March 31 deadline though.  In order to avoid receiving a penalty when you file taxes next year, shop for an individual health insurance plan before the March 31 deadline.

College Students Have Choices When it Comes to Health Insurance

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

College students often underestimate the importance of health insurance.  They believe that they are young and healthy and don’t want to “waste” money from their low-paying jobs to pay for something of which they can’t see the immediate value.  ABC News recently published Bankrate’s article, “Top 6 Health Insurance Options for College Students,” by Chris Kissell.  The article stresses the importance of health insurance to college students and highlights the fact that it is easier than ever for them to find a health insurance plan.  There are more options than ever before.

Perhaps the simplest option is to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan.  This won’t work for someone whose parents are uninsured, but everyone else under the age of 26 can now stay on their parents’ plans.  Sometimes this is tricky if students go to a college out of state though.  Make sure that there is somewhere to see a doctor in-network or try to schedule your doctors appointments when you are home for a break.  If remaining on your parents’ health plan isn’t an option, try to sign up for a health insurance plan through your college.  Many colleges offer plans to students and the cost can even be included with your tuition and paid by student loans.  Some college plans have limited coverage though, so read the details carefully to know what you are getting.

Another health insurance option is to shop in a health insurance exchange created by Obamacare.  Most students have low enough income that they can qualify for a subsidy to help them pay for their plan.  Students can also sign up for something called ‘catastrophic coverage’ through the health insurance exchanges.  These plans have low premiums and high deductibles.  Preventative care is covered, but beyond that deductibles are high.  This type of plan might work for some students, but one health ailment could lead to high medical bills.

As some states expand their Medicaid programs, students may be eligible to apply for this government health insurance.  Their entire family’s income would have to meet the poverty qualifications for them to be eligible for Medicaid.  Not all states are expanding their Medicaid programs, so this won’t be an option for all low-income college students.  Most Americans will be required to have health insurance or face a fine from the government.  But college students earning less than $10,000, exempting them from filing income taxes, won’t be forced to carry health insurance.  Forgoing health insurance can be dangerous and costly though, so search for an individual health insurance plan if none of the other options work for you.

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.

Individual Health Insurance Plans in Illinois Extended for a Year

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

There is good news for people with individual and small group health insurance plans Illinois.  Many of the more than 185,000 people who received cancellation notices from their insurance company will have a year long reprieve from finding new coverage.  After an outcry from Americans, President Obama has urged state insurance regulators to make exceptions to the Affordable Care Act requirements.  Many existing health insurance plans do not meet all of the requirements, causing hundreds of thousands of people to get a cancellation notice.  If your insurance plan was effective prior to October 1 of this year, you will now have until October 1 of 2014 to select a new insurance plan.  This is great news to Americans who were scrambling to make health care plan decisions by January 1.  WGN’s Peter Frost discussed the details for Illinois residents in the story “Illinois to let companies sell existing health insurance plans.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the largest insurance company in the state, said that they will be contacting people who received cancellation notices to tell them their new options.  More than 475,000 people in Illinois had individual health insurance policies as of data collected in 2012.  Some of the people whose plans do not meet Affordable Care Act requirements will receive federal tax credits to help pay for new insurance plans.  But many others are upset because their new plan options cost double what their prior health insurance plans cost.  So far, 15 states have told their insurers that it’s okay to extend current insurance plans for another year.  Some states are not allowing this plan extension though, despite the President’s request for them to do so.  Some insurance companies worry that extending old plans will keep too many people out of the health insurance exchanges, which could raise those plan costs.  Those people who are buying plans in the health insurance exchanges have until December 23 of this year to purchase a plan that will go into effect January 1.

Tips for Purchasing Individual Health Insurance

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

I’m always searching for the latest in health insurance news and lately all you can find are complaints about the Affordable Care Act.  Isn’t there anything else going on with health insurance companies?  Whether you are for or against President Obama’s health insurance reform, give it a chance to work before really judging it’s effectiveness.  For those Americans who are trying to compare health insurance policies so that they can comply with the individual mandate, there are insurance options both in and outside of the exchanges.  In U.S. News & World Report’s “8 Keys to Picking the Best Individual Health Insurance Policy,” Megan Johnson and Steve Sternberg offer helpful information to consumers.  Their goal is to help you save money on your health insurance policy as well as find a plan that will meet all of your health care needs.

One of the first things you should do is determine your personal must-have list.  The Affordable Care Act mandates dozens of preventative health services that must be covered.  In addition to those, make sure to add maternity coverage, vision insurance, or any other specific coverage that you think you may need.  Do not buy more coverage than you will need.  Although you can’t anticipate exactly how your future will play out, you could save a lot of money by increasing your deductible if you are healthy overall.  If you have specific doctors that you know you want to continue seeing, make sure that they are covered in your network before purchasing a health insurance plan.  It rarely make sense to see an out of network doctor because the costs are so high.  Find out exactly what your out of pocket costs are going to be.  This includes premiums, coinsurance, and co-pays  These costs are listed up front from insurers.

For people who have constant or lifelong prescriptions, it’s crucial to confirm that your medicines are covered by an insurance plan.  Individual health insurance plans have been putting annual limits on coverage for a long time, but that will be disappearing soon.  Before all plans follow the new criteria, check your annual coverage limits and see if your insurance company has applied for any waivers to avoid eliminating their limits.  Dependents are allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance plans through the age of 26 now, so factor them in when you are choosing or changing a health insurance plan.  Finally, spend the time to research many different health insurance plans.  You certainly don’t want to make a costly mistake when shopping for health insurance, so be sure to walk through multiple plans and work with an expert when necessary.

Health Insurance Plans Cancelled; Unintended Side Effect of Affordable Care Act

Monday, October 21st, 2013

An unintended side effect of the Affordable Care Act seems to be the cancellation of some individual health insurance plans by insurers.  Business Insider’s Josh Barro gives the main reasons in “Here’s Why So Many Americans Are Getting Letters Saying Their Health Insurance Is Canceled.”  There are 14 million Americans who have health insurance individually, either by choice of because they don’t have the option of employer sponsored insurance coverage.  President Obama told those Americans that they would not have to make any changes when the Affordable Care Act went into law.  While he likely believed that to be the case, Kaiser Health News has found that many insurance companies are sending cancellation notices to those people that their plans cover.  People are being forced to change plans for a couple different reasons.

Many health insurance plans don’t meet the new standards required by the health insurance laws.  All plans have to include coverage of 10 essential health benefits, have specific individual and family limits on out of pocket costs, and insurers have to pay a certain percentage of the costs their participants charge.  Plans that don’t meet the requirements will be cancelled and you’ll have to get a plan that does meet these new requirements.  Those plans will cost more, so make sure to see if you qualify for a government subsidy.  The other big grouping of plans likely to be cancelled are those with a large number of particularly high risk insureds.  Plans like that cost a lot of money, but now that there will be more choices for people with pre-existing conditions, the plans could be more affordable through exchanges than they have been outside of them.

Some have questioned why individual plans will even exist outside of the health insurance exchanges once the entire law is in effect since subsidies are only available through exchange plans and the laws are mostly the same.  One reason is that not everyone qualifies for a subsidy anyways, so they don’t necessarily need to shop in an insurance exchange.  There are some plans being grandfathered in that won’t have to follow all of the stipulations of the Affordable Care Act.  Those plans offered before March 2010 will likely be more affordable and will only be available outside of the exchanges.  Since the Healthcare.gov exchange websites have had some hiccups thus far, if you aren’t looking for a specific plan offered or a subsidy, you don’t have to worry about using that website and can shop outside of exchanges.

Chicago Employers Passing On Health Insurance Increases to Employees

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Employers are passing large health insurance increases on to their employees, larger than the increases they are even facing.  According the The Chicago Tribune’s Peter Frost, Chicago employers are increasing the percentage of health care costs paid by employees by 9% this year.  The article “Increase in employer health insurance costs at a 5-year low” points out that large employers in Chicago only saw their health insurance costs increase by 3% this year.  While it is still an increase in their costs, this is the lowest increase in the past five years.  Costs went from $10,434 annually per employee to $10,753 this year.  This Chicago specific data came from a study done by Aon Hewitt, which compiles data for 516 large companies in the United States.

The 9% employee increase comes through higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses like co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance.  Costs per employee went from $4,715 in 2013 to $5,135 this year.  Unfortunately for employees, their costs are expected to rise another 9% next year to $5,613.  Workers are paying 22% of their overall health care premiums, an increase of close to 20% over the past ten years.  Forty-seven percent of employers have increased employee costs related to health care in the last year.  Almost as many companies said that they plan to do so as well within the next five years.  Aon predicts the smaller employer increases ending soon and anticipates that Chicago will see a 6.6% increase in 2014, based on changes from the Affordable Care Act.

You are considered lucky if you have health insurance coverage through your employer, even with premium or out-of-pocket costs that are increasing.  If you want to compare health insurance plans and see if you can get a more affordable individual plan, Compare Health Rates can help you with that.  Make sure to compare all of the details before making any big health insurance changes.

Divorce Brings Up Health Insurance Concerns for Many

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

A large group of people seeking individual health insurance coverage may be able to celebrate lower premiums because of the Affordable Care Act.  If you know anyone who has gotten divorced, you may be well aware of the sting that ex-spouses face when they lose their health insurance coverage because it was tied to their ex.  Each year, 115,000 women lose health insurance coverage because of a divorce.  This information comes from Marketwatch’s Elizabeth O’Brien in the article “Obamacare could ease divorce’s financial sting.”  While the overall divorce rate has slowly declined, people over 50 have seen an increasing divorce rate.  This is like a double whammy for those getting divorced and losing their health insurance because insurance is often more costly overall as you age.  Although ex-spouses are usually able to continue their healthcare through COBRA, the program is very expensive and ends in less than two years.  This leaves a lot of recent divorcees without insurance coverage, often for a long time.

Not only is it more expensive to find individual health insurance for over-50s, pre-existing conditions have excluded many of them from even being able to find an insurance plan.  The fact that they do not yet qualify for Medicare means that divorce is setting many women’s retirement goals even farther back because of health insurance costs.  When the Affordable Care Act takes full effect January 1, 2014, many of these divorcees will have good news when it comes to health insurance.  Those who were disqualified from plans will have choices for health insurance and costs should be more affordable for those who already found plans.  Attorneys have said that many older couples remain married until they are 65 just so the non-working or non-insured spouse with pre-existing medical conditions can remain on the spouse’s plan until they qualify for Medicare.

Health insurance is often a factor in divorce negotiations and was tricky in the past.  Now that health insurance exchanges will help people find affordable coverage and plan tiers will be more standardized to show out-of-pocket costs, estimating health insurance costs will be easier in negotiations.  Federal subsidies will be available to many divorcees looking for individual health insurance plans, especially if they have little to no income.  And these subsidies will be a big factor in alimony calculations since health care costs can contribute to higher alimony payments.  There are other health considerations when it comes to divorce and arranging for the division of policies.  Long term care insurance policies must be divided and those who didn’t have such a policy should consider one since they won’t have a spouse to help care for them if needed.  Many people also get a court order at the start of divorce proceeding to make sure that spouses are maintaining payments on health insurance and other insurance policies while details of a divorce are being worked out.  If you are looking for a health insurance policy because of a divorce, we have many affordable plans from which to choose.

Health Insurance Quotes Differ Based on Age & State

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Many Americans are concerned about the upcoming government mandate to purchase health insurance or receive a penalty.  WebMD says that “Health Insurance Premiums Will be Competitive,” according to their article from HealthDay.  The Kaiser Family Foundation and Avalere Health, a private data firm, both performed independent studies to see how health insurance will change in 2014 when the individual mandate goes into effect.  Government tax credits will be in place to help Americans with lower income better afford their required health insurance, but many are worried about being able to afford the coverage even with the credits.

Kaiser figured the rates for people of different ages and different plan levels.  For a middle tiered (or “silver”) plan, a single person earning around $29,000 a year would pay $190 a month. A lower tiered (or “bronze”) plan would cost a younger person between $100 and $140 a month after their tax credit.  Older Americans could get premiums below $100 a month with their tax credit if they choose a high deductible and higher co-pays.  Avalere conducted their own study on the costs and found similar results.  A 21-year-old who doesn’t get a tax credit would pay around $270 per month for a silver plan.  The same plan without a tax credit would cost a 40-year-old $330 and a 60-year-old $615.  Americans with average to higher income will not get government tax credits.

Online insurance marketplaces will start offering competitive health insurance plans starting at the beginning of next month.  Americans who do not have health insurance from their employer will be able to shop multiple health insurance plans and determine whether or not they are eligible for a government tax credit through these online marketplaces.  According to studies, 4 out of 5 Americans shopping in the insurance exchanges will be eligible for at least some type of a tax credit.  If you purchase a lower end plan, rates are very competitive but they differ widely between age groups and even state to state.  Uninsured Americans are still concerned that any extra monthly expense will be too much for them to manage, not to mention their credit doesn’t come until tax time rather than being up front.  Compare health insurance from many sources if you are looking to follow the new mandate and get yourself covered.