Posts Tagged ‘health insurance plans’

Hobby Lobby Employees Could Lose Health Insurance Coverage

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Hobby Lobby is one of many companies who claim that the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”, is forcing them to do something they believe is unethical.  In the article “Hobby Lobby: The Cost of Not Offering Health Insurance,” Andrew Abela and Irene Kim discuss the Supreme Court case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby’s argument is that the federal law has forced them to make what they call an impossible decision.  They can either offer health insurance with coverage that they believe is unethical or they can pay fines to the government that they say could ruin their finances.  A couple Justices have suggested that the company does have a third option which they haven’t considered.  They could pay a $2,000 per employee fine and simply not offer their employees health insurance coverage at all.  The Justices argue that the company wouldn’t be any worse off than with the first two options.

Hobby Lobby argues that in addition to paying the per employee fine they would also have to increase employee wages so that their employees could go out and purchase individual health insurance plans.  But Justice Kagan said that whether the company chooses to offer health insurance plans that are against their religious beliefs or chooses not to offer health insurance to their employees and pay a fine, their costs will be just about the same.  That is certainly debatable.

If the company were to stop offering health insurance plans to their employees, they would have to increase employees’ after tax pay by the approximate amount that it would cost for them to purchase their own health insurance.  Premiums will cost more for a lot of individual and family plans than the discounted rate that Hobby Lobby would have received for a large group health insurance plan.  In addition to higher premiums, individual plans typically have higher deductibles that they company will have to account for in their salary increases.  Between the salary increases and the $2,000 per person penalty for 13,000 employees, the article estimates that Hobby Lobby will pay $60 million each year if they choose this option.  That estimate is quite a bit more than the company would pay to offer their employees health insurance.  But finances are not the only thing the company needs to consider.  A loss of health insurance could decrease employee morale, even with a salary increase to pay for individual health insurance.  The company also has a religious belief that they need to take care of their employees.  Hobby Lobby will likely continue their fight against the federal government forcing them to offer insurance coverage for birth control that is against their religious beliefs.

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.

Individuals Paying More for Health Insurance Without Government Subsidies

Friday, February 28th, 2014

On the heels of the Office of the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report detailing premium increases for many small businesses, there is another report saying that individuals are paying more for health insurance as well.  According to The Business Journal’s Kent Hoover in his article “Take out subsidies and Obamacare is Really Expensive,” those Americans who are not receiving government subsidies are paying significantly more in health insurance costs.  Some Americans qualify for government tax subsidies when they buy an individual or family health insurance plan in the health insurance exchanges.  Low and middle income Americans can buy insurance plans through the government website or individual state health insurance exchanges and receive a tax break based on their income level.

But eHealth Inc. just performed a study to see how much health insurance plans cost for those who don’t qualify for the government subsidies.  They compared data from before the Affordable Care Act went into effect with plan costs as of February 24 of this year, after the ACA prices took effect.  Average individual health insurance plans now are $274 per month.  That is a 39% increase from average plan costs before the ACA requirements changed health care.  Family plan monthly average costs increased to $663 per month.  This is up 56% from the same time last year.  The company performing the study sells an array of health insurance plans and wants to highlight what they perceive as the negative changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act.  Those who already had affordable health insurance may be negatively affected, while those people who didn’t have health insurance or with very high plan costs receive the benefits of the health care law.

Compare health rates from multiple insurance companies to find the most affordable premiums for you or your family.  If you don’t qualify for a government subsidy or have health insurance through your employer, there are countless health insurance plan options available from an array of health insurance companies.

Many Target Employees Now Searching for Health Insurance

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Part-time employees working at Target stores are searching for new health insurance policies right now.  As of April 1, Target’s part-timers are no longer eligible for the company’s health insurance plan.  This information comes from Bloomberg’s Alex Wayne in the article “Target to Drop Health Insurance for Part-Time Workers.”  They are following in the footsteps of Trader Joe’s, Home Depot, and other large retailers in the U.S.  Last year, the company had more than 361,000 workers.  They would not specify how many of those workers are part-time, which means that they work fewer than 30 hours a week.  But Target did say that only 10% of their part-time employees actually opted to take the health insurance offered to them.  This could be because they are students on their parents’ plans, have a spouse with health insurance, or forgo having insurance altogether.

Target is making these changes because of President Obama’s U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Companies with more than 50 employees must offer health insurance plans to their full-time workers or they will be penalized.  Most Americans will also be penalized if they are not insured.  But Target insists that their part-time workers will be better off searching for their own health insurance plans.  If they qualify for a government subsidy, they can buy a plan from a health insurance exchange and pay less than they would with Target’s plan, according to the company.  This allows both the employee and the company to save money.  It’s not apparent how many of these Target workers will qualify for a subsidy though.  Those who don’t qualify might end up paying more for their health insurance than they did with Target.  If you are looking for a cheap health insurance plan, you can receive affordable quotes here.

Employees shopping in the health insurance exchanges have until the end of March to meet the open enrollment deadline.  This lines up with the end date of Target’s insurance plan for their part-time workers.  Target insists that people will not have their hours cut just so that the company no longer has to offer them health insurance plans.  They say that this will only apply to those who are already part-time, but only the employees will know if this holds true.  If it’s true that only 10% of their part-timers opted for company health insurance anyways, this change may not make a large impact overall.  But with the company withholding figures on the number of part-time workers and those close to the cusp of 30 hours, I’m not sure how many people truly will be affected by this health insurance change.

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.

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.

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.

Being Unhealthy Can Cost You When it Comes to Health Insurance

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Changes to health insurance plans have already started and the bulk of changes are still looming in the near future.  With rising costs and unhappy Americans, some employers are taking creative approaches to dealing with increasing health plan costs.  In “Your health plan: the next frontier,” Money’s Amanda Gengler tells us what we can likely expect with the future of health insurance plans.  One small company owner in Missouri made big changes when he saw skyrocketing health care costs and an increasing number of sick days being used.  He made healthy changes to the vending machines, opened a fitness center, gave free on-site check-ups, and gave big financial incentives in the form of lower deductibles and no premiums for workers who took steps to be healthy.  A big portion of increasing health care costs has been passed onto employees through higher deductibles, premiums, and co-pays.  But making healthier choices to avoid needing so much medical care is a newer way to try and save money.  It certainly benefits employees in more ways than one.

Prices vary widely from doctor to doctor, especially if you choose one that is out of network.  New plans will likely streamline your choice of doctors even more and staying in that smaller group could save you big on your premiums.  Insurers and employers save money if you don’t visit top shelf doctors who order more tests than average.  Estimates show that around 1/3 of big companies will have this type of streamlined plan by next year.  This plan might even force you to pay the entire cost of seeing an out of network doctor.  If this type of plan becomes an option to you, research what doctors and hospitals you will lose out on and see if you are happy with the replacements available.  Florida Blue says that local big-names and academic med centers aren’t usually included in these streamlined plans though.

Many companies will have you choosing your own health plan from a list they have chosen in the future.  They may pay a percentage of your plan costs or a fixed dollar amount, and the plans may even be in the private exchanges.  Plan to spend a lot more time researching plans and options and maybe even switching to a high-deductible plan to save money.  Since you will be paying a bigger percentage of your bills, employers are hoping that you will make more cost-efficient health decisions and stay healthier overall.  A healthier America may just be what it takes to lessen the increase or even decrease health care costs overall.  Expect a lot more health initiatives from your employer that could lower parts of your plan costs or offer you rewards, even cash.  But on the flip side, you might get charged more for a high BMI or high cholesterol, especially if you aren’t doing anything to change it.  The Money article has some great examples and personal stories of how health plans have changed and will continue along that road in the future.