Posts Tagged ‘family health insurance’

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.

 

Humana Covers Missing 36 Counties in Mississippi

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

There is good news for those without health insurance in Mississippi.  Considering it is one of the fattest states in America, it’s scary that so many Mississippi residents don’t have health insurance.  Even more worrisome was the fact that 36 counties in the state almost didn’t have coverage available under the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace.  Luckily, that did not happen and all of the 82 counties in Mississippi will have health insurance plan choices available.  In the article, “Health insurance exchange will be offered in all 82 counties,” Jimmie E. Gates of The Clarion Ledger talks about the big changes that recently happened in Mississippi.  Mike Chaney, the state’s Insurance Commissioner, is pleased that all of the state’s residents will at least have access to health insurance in the federally run Health Insurance Marketplace.

Humana is to thank for this big turn of events in Mississippi.  As of last month, Humana planned to offer health insurance plans in four of the 82 counties in the state.  But in an amazing display of ethics, Humana made the decision to offer coverage in an additional 36 counties.  The Insurance Commissioner was concerned about all of the residents who wouldn’t be able to get coverage in this marketplace.  He says that Humana has demonstrated great corporate citizenship by extending its offerings to the other counties.  Humana is already covering 200,000 residents in Mississippi.  This is including individual insureds as well as employer plans, Medicare recipients, and military retirees and their families.  Magnolia Health Plans is also covering a good portion of the counties in Mississippi.

Rewards & Penalties for Health Care Choices

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Well, this sounds like a fantastic idea to me.  Some experts in the health insurance industry have suggested making health insurance more like car insurance.  The better you take care of yourself, the cheaper your health insurance rates will be.  It certainly gives people incentives to drive the speed limit and avoid accidents when their car insurance rates will increase if they don’t follow the rules.  It makes sense that getting a discount for being healthy would push Americans to exercise more, eat healthier, and avoid unnecessary doctors visits, all while keeping their yearly check-ups for health maintenance.  The Marketwatch article by Jen Wieczner asks “Should health insurance be like car insurance?”  I think that it should.

Both employers and health insurance companies have been pushing Americans to make lower cost health decisions for awhile now.  They recommend seeking urgent care help before more expensive emergency room visits and may even recommend a gym membership to stay healthy.  A lot of times the consumers don’t save any money when they make these healthy or low-cost decisions though.  Insurance companies and employers might save money, but there is little to no incentive to the consumer if they aren’t seeing any of this savings.

The results for companies who have already started either rewarding those who help lower costs or penalizing those with higher health risks are pretty astounding.  IBM gives employees $300 rebates each year if they are members of nutrition and fitness programs.  From 2005 to 2007, this alone helped the company save $190 million in health care costs.  The employees at IBM spend 60% less on health care than the average in the industry.  Almost 40% of companies offering health insurance charged more in premiums or deductibles to those who are considered unhealthy, including smokers, obesity related illnesses, and those with high cholesterol.  On the other end, 80% of companies says they will offer some type of financial incentive for their employees who demonstrate healthy behavior.

JetBlue is offering great cash back incentives for employees who take charge of their health, in essence saving both the company and the employees money.  A lot of companies are actually saving money on health care costs by getting rid of the copays for generic drugs, second opinions, and also for preventative care.  Companies are stressing that they don’t want individuals and families to stop going to doctors to save money, they want them to take charge of their health and make good decisions about when to be seen.  So far, that seems like the best way to lower overall costs for companies and individuals.  Experts say that paying employees a percentage of what they save would be a good goal for the future.  If they need a CT scan and choose to get it at an outpatient facility rather than a hospital, they could save thousands of dollars for the company.  Getting a percentage of that in their pocket or towards their HSA is great incentive to be financially responsible when it comes to health care spending.