Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ 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.

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.

 

California Insurance Exchange Gets Even More Options

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

There have been health insurance exchanges in California for decades, something that much of the country is just starting to understand now.  Since 1996, CaliforniaChoice has been operating a private health insurance exchange in California.  They are the most successful small group private insurance exchange, serving 150,000 individuals and more than 10,000 employers in the state.  This information comes from CaliforniaChoice’s press release “CaliforniaChoice Welcomes Covered California Into the Health Insurance Exchanges Market.”  In addition to their other members, Covered California has now joined this private health insurance exchange.  This is good news for California residents looking for health insurance because more competition, be it in private or public health insurance exchanges, benefits the general public.

CaliforniaChoice has many things to offer in addition to health insurance.  They provide dental, vision, life insurance, and chiropractic care options.  For no cost, they also give added value in the form of employee discounts and online human resources support.  Some of the providers in CaliforniaChoice’s exchange include Health Net, Aetna, Kaiser Permanante, Anthem Blue Cross, Sharp Health Plan, and Western Health Advantage.  Covered California includes options from some of these insurers as well as others.  They also just announced last week the carriers that are going to be part of their new Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace.

The success of both public and private health insurance exchanges lies in a combination of great choices for consumers and excellent customer service availability.  In addition to that, qualified brokers are the cornerstone of CaliforniaChoice for their expertise and unbiased information.  Their plans are only sold through brokers.  Small businesses aren’t currently penalized for not offering health insurance or forced to join Covered California’s SHOP program, but rules are changing for some employers when the full Affordable Care Act takes effect.  But as attention to health insurance and exchanges in particular increases across the United States, CaliforniaChoice hopes that more employers will realize that they can offer affordable health insurance to their employees and increase quality of life.

Election is a Win for Obama’s Health Care Changes

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

One thing is abundantly clear after the Presidential election yesterday; Americans are divided politically.  Whether you are in the small majority of Americans happy with President Obama’s re-election or one of those who were hoping for a Romney win, you will likely be affected by changes in health insurance.  This win by Obama just about cements his health care reform changes, some of which have already taken effect.  Americans with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage because of their health problems.  Also, many more young adults are insured now because they can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

In the CNN Money article, “Obama’s re-election secures health care reform,” Emily Jane Fox says that while most of the changes will take place in 2014, some insurance changes will happen next year as well.  Even without the majority of the changes being in effect, the number of uninsured Americans decreased this year for the first time in four years.  Americans who are 19 to 25 and often uninsured are happy about the changes as well because 3.1 million more of them now have insurance.  The individual insurance mandate requiring most Americans to carry insurance doesn’t go into effect until 2014, but the following changes will happen next year.

In order to help pay for federal subsidies that lower and middle class Americans will receive to help pay for their health insurance, two Medicare taxes are going to start in 2013.  There will be a new surtax on wage income for people making more than $200,000 a year or couples making more than $250,000 a year.  Investors will also start getting charged a 3.8% tax on part of their capital gains and dividends.  The surtax will affect around 2.4% of Americans, or 4 million people at first.  That number is estimated to be 8.3 million, or 4.6% of households by 2022.  A $2,500 limit will be imposed on workers’ tax-deductible contributions to flexible savings accounts.  Employers will be required to offer health insurance when they have more than 50 employees who work for them full-time.  This last item will be required by 2014 and fines will apply if it isn’t adhered to.

Whether you supported President Obama or not, his health care changes are here to stay.  Some Americans will see very positive outcomes from their health insurance changing, while others are unhappy about the added taxes and the required health insurance coverage.  We’ll continue to follow this story as the mandates take effect.

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.

No More Elective C-Sections

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Elective c-sections and inductions have become increasingly popular over the last few decades.  Women who were uncomfortable, wanted their baby born on a certain day for a tax break or a special number, or hoped to be home from the hospital by a holiday or special event were scheduling to have their babies earlier than full term.  There are definitely medically necessary early c-sections and inductions performed, and that will not change.  But those women hoping to have their babies early for the convenience factor are going to find it harder to get an elective c-section or induction.  This is according to Lylah Alphonse’s Parenting article posted on Yahoo! Shine, “More Hospitals Banning Elective C Sections.”

Massachusetts’ top hospitals have banned elective c-sections and inductions before 39 weeks gestation.  Hospitals in New York, California, Oregon, Texas, Arizona, and Illinois have also started banning these elective procedures.  Compare health insurance companies’ reactions and this is good news for them.  Statistics show that 39 to 40 weeks of gestation yields the healthiest babies with the lowest rate of complications.  The brain, lungs, and gastric system of babies are all developing rapidly in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  Since babies born before 39 weeks have greater chances of complications, it just doesn’t make sense to perform elective c-sections or inductions earlier than 39 weeks for a trivial reason.  Obviously there are circumstances where the mother or baby’s health is in danger and those babies need to be delivered prior to 39 weeks, but that is not considered an elective procedure.

Founding Fathers Mandated Health Insurance

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Earlier this year, Rick Ungar of Forbes pointed out a little known fact that mandated health care insurance was put in place by our founding fathers and dates back to 1798.  In his article, “Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance – in 1798,” he says that the lawsuit filed by the state of Florida claiming that government mandated health care is unconstitutional is quite false.  An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen was passed in July 1798 by Congress, many of whom were founding fathers, and signed by President John Adams.  It basically mandated that all seamen who were employed privately must carry health insurance.  It also created a marine hospital service which was operated by the government and treated the sick and injured seamen.

The merchant marine was crucial to the economy because of their importance importing and exporting goods, but seamen were getting hurt on the job and getting illnesses from the countries to which they traveled.  A Marine Hospital Service was created to treat the sick and injured seamen and it was paid for by a mandatory tax equal to just over 1% of the seamen’s pay.  This was the first time that privately employed Americans were required to carry health insurance; ships could not go in and out of the ports before paying their mandatory taxes.  The Marine Hospital Service evolved into the Public Health Service, which is operated by the Surgeon General.  While what was good for the nation in 1798 doesn’t necessarily transfer to 2011, the argument regarding the founding fathers and the constitution being against the most recent health care reform doesn’t appear to hold true.

Compare Health Insurance for Same Sex Married Couples in New York

Monday, July 25th, 2011

New Yorkers who recently celebrated gay marriage and health insurance companies are looking into benefits to see what changes will be made.  Chris Hawley and Michael Hall of the Associated Press wrote about this in their article “NYers ask how gay marriage will affect benefits.”  Many people hope to add their same sex spouse to their insurance plans and save money.  But some companies who compare health insurance plans before and after New York legalized gay marriage won’t be making any changes at all.  There are employers who put restrictions on domestic partner benefits and it remains to be seen if and how these restrictions will be changed now that the marriage is legal.

With well over 40,000 same sex couples in New York, the question of how legalized marriage will affect health insurance benefits is important.  Many of the couples are already legally married in other places, but now that their marriages are legal in New York, insurance and tax consequences will follow.  State taxes will be reduced and offer savings for the newly married and those whose unions are now legal in New York.  But because their unions are not recognized federally, the differences between state and federal taxes will become more complicated.  Health insurance, taxes, adoption and estate selling are the most common financial changes that will occur with the new laws, but other areas of life will be affected as well.

Couples who are married do not get taxed on their employer’s contribution to health plans from companies like Aultcare health insurance, for the costs to cover their spouse.  Even if same sex couples were able to get their partner covered under their health insurance plan, as is the case in about one-third of businesses, the working spouse was taxed on the employer contributions toward their partner’s coverage.  Now that their marriages are legal in New York, same sex couples will see savings from this tax.  But those who maybe weren’t planning on getting married could risk losing same sex domestic partnership benefits now that they can legally get married.  It might force some couples to get married once they compare health insurance benefits that could be lost if they don’t, but not all companies will force people to marry to keep their benefits.  There are quite a few changes that same sex couples, businesses, and the government will have to figure out with gay marriage legalization in New York.

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.