Posts Tagged ‘compare health insurance’

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.

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.

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.

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.

Affordable Care Act Questions Answered

Monday, October 7th, 2013

The health insurance exchanges are now open and despite some initial glitches and system overload, response has been fairly positive.  People still have a lot of questions about the Affordable Care Act, so NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman answered questions asked by Americans regarding the new health care law.  As NBC News chief medical editor, Dr. Snyderman offered a wealth of information about how we will all be affected in “Health exchanges open. What now? Dr. Nancy Snyderman answers your questions.” I’ve summarized the important information she relays on the NBC News website.

People who have health insurance through their job do not have to do anything.  You can shop around in the exchanges for a better value, but keep in mind that you won’t get any tax credits for an exchange plan if you have an available plan through your work.  Premium payments will be made directly to the insurance company whose plan you choose.  There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not premiums will increase for those who already have health insurance plans and unfortunately, only time will give the answer to that question.  If you qualify for a tax credit, you can choose to lower your premium right from the start or get an estimated tax credit the following year.

All doctors are not necessarily required to cover all plans, so check the details of your particular plan to confirm the doctors you can see.  If you are eligible for a plan through your spouse’s employer but want to search for your own through an exchange, you are not eligible for a tax credit.  Even someone young who is in college full time and does not work could be penalized if they do not purchase health insurance.  But they can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26 because of the new law, so that might be a better option than purchasing their own.  Starting January 1, preventative care will be available at no cost, including birth control pills for women.  If you need insurance because of a “qualifying life event” like a job loss after March 31, 2014 you can still obtain it.

American citizens living abroad will not be penalized if they don’t have health insurance.  People with pre-existing conditions can now get insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.  Your costs will be based on the number of people you want to cover and how much money you make.  Older Americans will not lose anything if they are already on Medicare and they may gain some added benefits.  The penalty if you do not have health insurance will appear when you file your taxes and will vary based on income.  Within two years the penalty jumps to a much higher amount.  You can sign up at healthcare.gov and get even more questions answered.  If you want to compare health insurance plans, you can also click here.

Spouses Getting Health Insurance Surcharges with Employer Plans

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

If you have health insurance coverage through your spouse’s employer, there’s a good chance that you are about to get charged more than you are now.  According to the Forbes article, “Employers Penalizing Spouses For Health Insurance,” Kerry Hannon says that many employers are adding a new surcharge to cover the increasing costs of health care.  Employers aren’t legally required to offer health insurance coverage to your spouse or children, in fact they aren’t even legally required to offer coverage to you.  Health care costs are increasing and after the changes coming in 2014, employers’ costs will increase even more.  In an effort to cut some of their expanding insurance costs, many employers are adding surcharges to cover employee’s spouses that can cost you up to $3,000 more yearly.

Recently, 1/5 of employers who took a health survey said that they were imposing a surcharge of at least $100 on spouses who had access to their own health insurance at their employer.  I don’t blame companies for doing that.  If someone has access to their own employer health insurance, the spouse’s employer shouldn’t necessarily have to take a hit on those health care costs just to be nice.  A surcharge may not be that unfair in those kinds of circumstances.  It’s different if the spouse doesn’t have access to their own insurance and would have to search for an individual plan elsewhere rather than being covered on their spouse’s plan.  In addition to the 1/5 of companies currently imposing a surcharge, another 13% plan to start charging between $500 and $3,000 by next year.

More often than not, the spouses being covered by employers are women.  Their health care costs are typically more expensive than their husband’s costs because of having babies and seeing doctors on a more regular basis.  Many younger women are staying home with their young children and don’t have insurance coverage outside of their spouses.  Women aged 50-64 often work part time, not at all, or for a non-profit company that doesn’t offer health insurance.  If you’ve found out that you’ll be paying a surcharge to have health insurance through your spouse’s employer, compare your other options to see if you should stick with that plan or make a change.  When you have the option of insurance through your employer, see how much it will cost you and if the benefits are equivalent or better.  It might be more of a hassle to switch if you have to change doctors and worry about double the paperwork for two different health insurance plans.  Also, if you are going to look for individual coverage that you’ll pay for after taxes, the tax savings of being on your spouse’s plan might make it worthwhile not to go on your own.  But if you feel like finding your own coverage is necessary, you can find an individual plan that will meet your needs.

Compare Health Insurance if BREVAGen Risk is High

Monday, September 24th, 2012

BREVAGen is a new predictive risk test that could not only make a huge difference for health insurance, but also for the lives of women all over the world.  Primary Care Associates’ Dr. Lisa Steffensen is using this test to help her patients determine their risk of developing breast cancer that is not related to a familial tie.  This type of cancer is sometimes referred to as sporadic breast cancer.  The press release, “Primary Care Associates of Bellevue Pioneers Breast Cancer Risk Assessment,” is in Yahoo!’s Finance section today.  Dr. Steffensen says that by using this test, it allows her practice to treat patients in a way that will minimize their risk and hopefully save many more lives than without the use of BREVAGen.

This predictive risk test has been clinically validated to help predict sporadic, estrogen-positive breast cancer risk.  Some of the factors used in determining patients’ risk are their lifetime exposure to estrogen along with scientific markers to predict both a five-year and lifetime risk of developing this type of breast cancer.  BREVAGen uses an oral swab, which is sent to a CLIA-certified laboratory.  They study seven genetic markers and determine your risk factor based on those markers and other medical history.  Some of the medical history studied includes race, ethnicity, the age you first gave birth, your current age, your reproductive history and more.

Health insurance companies could garner some valuable information if BREVAGen becomes a widely used risk assessment measure.  They could lower health insurance rates for those with lower risk factors and offer additional health screenings and preventative care for those with higher risk factors.  The law ensures that Americans will not be denied health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, but a high risk factor may force people to compare health insurance rates if some companies use BREVAGen results to charge higher rates.  Primary Care Associates says that BREVAGen has been proven better at determining breast cancer risk than only using the Gail score.  They also say that it follows the guidelines for prevention and early detection given by the American Cancer Society and other non-profit cancer groups.

No Health Insurance One Reason for Shortage of Workers

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

There is already a shortage of home health aide workers now and the increasing demand as Baby Boomers age is going to put a lot of older people in a predicament.  Home health aides help take care of those at home who need assistance with anything from bathing to feeding to work around the house.  Unfortunately though, their pay is not high and their jobs don’t offer health insurance plans or retirement plans.  Many home health aides also have to pay for their own gas and transportation to and from appointments.  This really adds up because they can see many patients each day depending on the type of care they are giving.  They don’t see any way they can compare individual health insurance or retirement plans on their low paychecks.  These factors are making it difficult to find home health aide workers.

John Seewer of the Associated Press talks about what is going on in the home health care industry in the article “Aging baby boomers face home health challenge.”  Home health aides allow older people to live at home much longer than they would be able to without this kind of help.  Many baby boomers live alone and could not function without these home health aides.  States save money when people are at home longer because Medicaid and Medicare payments for nursing home care are sky high compared to what is paid for a few hours a day of care at home.  But home health care workers are feeling a pinch when it comes to their pay and this is likely to cause big problems in the upcoming years.

Home health care aides are the fastest growing profession in the United States.  There will be 1.3 million job openings over the next ten years and if those don’t get filled, many baby boomers will be forced to live with family members or prematurely go into nursing homes when they could have lived at home longer with some assistance.  So what is holding people back from filling these jobs?  Their median pay is only $9.70 per hour and with no health insurance, retirement, or vacation it is a tough sell for some unemployed.  The majority of home health aides have second jobs and many are also on government assistance.  The article points out that these aides tend to like their jobs because of the joy they bring to their patients and the flexible hours, but worry that they cannot pay their bills.  Home health agencies worry about attracting workers over the next decade when they are hardly making a profit already.

Going Without Health Insurance to Qualify for Coverage

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

When the federal government stipulated that Americans had to have no health insurance for six months before they would qualify for the government’s high-risk health insurance plan, they weren’t hoping for people to drop any health insurance and go without for six months.  That has been an unintended consequence though.  According to Kaiser Health News’ “Taking A Risk To Secure Health Insurance,” freelance writer Randy Dotinga dropped his California high-risk health insurance in January to go without coverage for six months and qualify for the federal high-risk plan.  The reason is that there is a huge cost and benefits difference when you compare California’s high-risk health insurance and the federal program.

Unfortunately, the author only qualifies for high-risk plans because of his pre-existing condition, atrial fibrillation in his heart diagnosed at age 27.  He has a very low risk for complications, but could not find an individual health insurance company to insure him with his pre-existing condition label.  As a resident of San Diego, he opted for California’s high-risk health insurance plan.  He pays $9,000 a year for his PPO coverage, but its limits are extremely low.  With only $75,000 for annual spending and $750,000 of lifetime coverage, Dotinga would be in deep medical debt if he were to face a medical crisis.  The federal plan he is hoping to qualify for would only cost him $3,180 per year and would offer unlimited yearly and lifetime coverage, quite an upgrade.  Now you see why he is willing to risk going six months without health insurance.

Even if the government were to eliminate its six month requirement, they would have to find another way to keep it so that the numbers of Americans joining their plan was not out of control.  The need for health insurance coverage is high right now and many Americans are looking forward to a certain provision in the Health Care Reform Act that takes full effect in 2014.  Health insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions.  This is good news for the author and others suffering from conditions like diabetes and asthma, but this good news might not come to fruition.  There is a good chance that President Obama’s health care reform will be overturned, leaving Dotinga with no option other than his low coverage, $9,000 a year California high-risk health insurance plan.

Health Insurance Rates Increasing 7.5%

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Look out, Americans.  According to a Kaiser Health News report, “Health Care Costs (are) Expected To Increase 7.5% In 2013.”  I don’t think anyone is prepared for that, but 7.5% is actually considered good compared to past increases.  The rates of inflation and economic growth are three times less than that, not to mention many Americans are out of work or not getting raises at their current jobs.  The best way to protect yourself against rising health insurance rates is to compare health insurance companies and find yourself the best rates you can get.

Reuters says that while the cost of your health care services will likely increase by 7.5%, the largest employer-sponsored health plans will see an increase closer to 5.5%.  Company wellness programs and workers paying more towards insurance will keep those plan costs increasing less.  It is becoming increasingly popular for more health insurance costs to be paid by workers, even with employer-sponsored plans.

Bloomberg points out that the 7.5% increase actually makes it the fourth year in a row that increases are under 8%.  I guess that is a good thing.  They point out that the rate is slowing, which is in part due to cheaper health clinics, less expensive drugs and supplies, and the effect of hospitals publishing their costs to keep health insurance rates down.  If you take changes in benefits into account, the overall rate is actually increasing more like 5.5%.  This is because deductibles and co-payments are higher, so Americans are still paying more out of their own pockets.