Posts Tagged ‘health insurance rates’

Supreme Court Health Insurance Decision Coming Soon

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

We’ve been waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision about the Affordable Care Act for weeks.  It looks like tomorrow might just be the day that we get a decision, so here is a summary of some of the what-ifs that I found in an Associated Press article.  Mark Sherman and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar give six possible Supreme Court rulings and what they’ll mean for America in “Possible outcomes in pending health care law case.”  First of all, the Supreme Court could uphold the Affordable Care Act and say that it is legal.  That would end the legal battle, but Republicans would likely to continue to fight against this health care reform.  The article picks the winners in this scenario as the current uninsured Americans.

If the entire law is declared unconstitutional, both Democrats and Republicans will have to continue working to fix the health care system.  The ridiculously high costs, waste, and millions of uninsured Americans would still be present.  Those with health insurance would have a lot to lose as well because health insurance companies could easily stop covering children until age 26 and offering preventative care without copayments.  The next possibility is that the individual mandate could be struck down and the remainder of the Affordable Care Act stay in place.  Some people say that health insurance rates could increase anywhere from 10-30% if the individual mandate is struck down, but insurers still are forced to offer coverage to anyone applying.

The courts could get rid of the individual mandate as well as the requirements of health insurance companies to cover anyone and limit their charges for older people.  While this would save the insurance industry from a financial catastrophe, it would not solve the problem of those with preexisting conditions finding medical coverage.  If only the expansion of Medicaid is struck down, half of the people that were meant to be helped with the Affordable Care Act would be in trouble.  Finally, the Supreme Court could say that it is too soon to determine whether the law is constitutional or not.  This would likely make room for even more political debate and is not something that the Supreme Court wants to happen.  Let’s hope we get a decision soon.

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.

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.

Health Insurance Rates Related to WHO and UN Health Findings

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The United Nations recently did a health study which clearly linked the bad health problems of developed nations to those in poorer nations.  The differences in the developed countries’ diets and lifestyles have transferred to the poorer nations, according to Reuters’ Kate Kelland.  In the article, “WHO warns of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity,” it says that one out of every three adults around the world is suffering from high blood pressure.  This high blood pressure causes half of the deaths related to heart disease and stroke.  Some countries in Africa actually have half of their adult population suffering from high blood pressure.

In a World Health Organization (WHO) study, they found that one out of every ten adults in the world is diabetic.  Not only does diabetes affect the health and life of those suffering from it, it costs billions of dollars each year in medical care and treatments.  This means that health insurance rates will be higher not only for diabetics, but for everyone as health insurance companies have to pass their increasing costs on to consumers.

Traditionally, people think that most cases of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer happen in wealthy countries because we eat high fat diets, smoke, and drink more alcohol.  But 80% of the deaths from these chronic diseases occur in low and middle income countries.  They obviously don’t have the health care opportunities that exist in most of the wealthier nations, but this shows how much more prevalent these chronic conditions are now in low and middle income countries.  They have seen increases in smoking as well as more Westernized diets and less exercise in recent years.

Low cost drugs and an increase in diagnosis of high blood pressure has reduced the deaths from this condition in wealthy countries, but those things haven’t been available in lower income countries.  Obesity is another worldwide chronic health condition on the rise.  From 1980 to 2008, obesity rates doubled in every region in the world.  Twelve percent of the overall world population is obese, another cause of higher health insurance rates.  Americans are the worst with 26% of the population being obese, while only 3% of the Asian population suffers from obesity.  Now that we know this information, it is up to health insurance companies and governments to figure out what to do with it.

Compare Health Insurance Industry’s Consumer-Directed Plans

Friday, May 11th, 2012

While high deductible or personal savings account health insurance plans are not new, they are very trendy right now and the number of workplaces offering such plans is increasing.  This information comes from the Yahoo! Health article “Study: Savings and risk in health insurance trend,” by Ricardo Alonso-Zalidivar.  When President George W. Bush was in office, he promoted what he called health savings accounts hoping that having Americans more involved in their health insurance would lead to lower costs.  These plans have stayed around since then, even though there are more often called consumer-directed plans now.  Employers save money when their employees enroll is this type of plan.  Currently, one out of every six workers is using a consumer-directed health insurance plan.

Compare health insurance rates for consumer-directed plans and the premiums are much lower than with traditional health insurance plans.  In exchange for lower premiums, deductibles that have to be met yearly are much higher.  Employers help contribute to medical accounts with tax savings to help offset the added deductible expenses.  These consumer-directed plans can help employers save billions of dollars on their health care costs.  But some worry that there are added risks to overall American health, which could lead to an unfortunate increase in health care costs overall.

There is concern that higher deductibles will keep moderately healthy people away from the doctor until they get very sick because they have to pay so much to meet their deductibles.  While most preventative services are covered at no extra cost, it appears as though many people using consumer-directed plans didn’t know that and have skipped routine doctor visits.  If consumers cut too many of their preventative services, they may not be diagnosed with problems until it puts a serious strain on their health and overall health care costs.  For those using this type of health insurance plan, make sure you know all of the services covered without effecting your deductible.

Some people are worried that as more healthy people flock to consumer-directed plans, health insurance rates for traditional insurance plans will go up because most of the people need more medical care.  A recent study showed that health care savings could top $57 million if half of Americans moved to this lower cost type of plan.  Americans using less health care would account for 2/3 of the savings, with the rest coming from making less expensive health care decisions like using generic drugs.  This can be a great cost cutting health care solution for employers, Americans just need to make sure they are still seeking preventative care before getting seriously ill.

Increase in Serious Birth Defects with Fertility Treatments

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Most health insurance companies do not pay for fertility treatments, but they do insure any resulting baby under the parents’ plans.  Recent research out of Australia makes an interesting claim that could make health insurance companies wary of their members undergoing certain fertility treatments.  Yahoo! Health article “Fertility treatment babies prone to ‘serious defects’” says that Australian researchers have found a significant increase in serious birth defects for babies born through certain fertility treatments.  Serious defects for the purpose of this study included those that required treatment or handicapped the child, such as cerebral palsy.  While 5.8% of babies conceived naturally had serious birth defects, the number increased to 8.3% of babies conceived through certain fertility treatments.  The researchers believe this to be a very significant difference.

Researchers showed concern that the added risk for birth defects worldwide is not being discussed before fertility treatments.  Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference to the prospective parents, but there should be a discussion between doctors and patients just in case.  There is a different health risk associated with different fertility treatments.  Children conceived through IVF, in-vitro fertilization, had serious birth defects 7.2% of the time.  That number did decrease, however, when parents were younger, non-smokers, and had other ideal characteristics.  For ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, serious birth defects were seen 9.9% of the time.  This percentage did not change when taking other factors into consideration.  Readily available clomiphene citrate, used to induce ovulation, tripled the chances for serious birth defects.  Health insurance rates already take into consideration obesity, smoking, and other risk factors.  I wonder if they will increase rates for members undergoing fertility treatments just in case their babies end up having higher medical costs.

The Affordable Care Act will Affect Health Insurance in Many Ways

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I just found a great article with infographics about how the Affordable Care Act will change your individual insurance situation.  Right now, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments against many facets of this health care reform act, which has now been in place for 2 years.  According to Yahoo! Finance’s Lisa Scherzer, there are 4 main complaints being discussed in the Supreme Court’s hearings.  In “How will the affordable care act affect you?,” Scherzer gives examples of how individuals and families will be affected.

The main issue being contested right now is whether or not the government even has the right to force Americans to purchase health insurance.  There is also question over whether the individual mandate can be contested now or if the opposition will have to wait until 2015 to fight against it.  The Anti-Injuction Act of 1867 says that you cannot fight against a tax before you have actually had to pay the tax.  So it’s possible that this mandate requiring everyone to purchase health insurance or be faced with a fine cannot actually be contested until it is in full effect.  Many people are wondering if the hundreds of mandates associated with the Affordable Care Act will become null and void if the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional.  There is also concern over whether states being forced to expand their Medicaid coverage or lose federal funding for it is violating their sovereignty.  There are lots of issues up for debate in the Supreme Court this week.

A 30-year old, healthy woman working full-time but without heath insurance is the first example given.  If the ACA takes effect, she will be able to purchase health insurance from a state health insurance exchange because her income is below 400% of the poverty level.  She would be able to get insurance for $85/month or risk paying a fine of $695/year starting in 2016.  Another example given is for a self-employed 62-year old man who is in poor health.  He currently cannot get health insurance because of his pre-existing heart condition, but cannot afford his health care bills or insurance on his $10,000/year salary.  Since his income is below 138% of the poverty level, he would be eligible for Medicaid should the ACA take effect.  A final example is for a healthy family of 4 who have health insurance through both of their full-time jobs.  While their health insurance will not change, their health insurance rates could increase because health insurance companies may be passing costs down.  There are many more examples in the original article of how Americans will be affected.

Health Insurance Rates Will Be More Than Income

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

By 2033, you will likely be paying more money for your health insurance premiums than your total annual income provides.  Jenifer Goodwin of Health Day wrote about an Annals of Family Medicine study in the article “Health Insurance Premiums Will Surpass Median Household Income in 2033: Study.”  They used data from 2000-2009 and found that health insurance rates increased 8%, while median incomes only increased by 2%.  By using those same rates to forecast the future, your health insurance premiums would be about half of your income by 2021 and would cost more than your total income by 2033.  The median income in 2009 was just under $50,000.

This study is using the total premium cost for calculations, which does include both the money you contribute as well an any employer contributions.  If you have individual health insurance from a company like Aultcare, you pay all of the premium costs yourself anyways.  It does not take into account any of your out-of-pocket costs for co-pays, deductibles, or prescriptions.  Adding co-pay costs into the equation and taking out employer contributions, health care costs would equal half of the median income by 2031.

In 2005, it was estimated that health insurance rates would be higher than median income by 2025, so there have been a few positive changes.  The Affordable Care Act of 2010 looks to decrease some costs.  Also, the economic recession is forcing many families to spend less money on their health care.  That may not be a good thing overall, but it does lower demand and therefore, healthcare costs.  There are many opinions as to what will help this seemingly dire situation and all of them require overhaul of the current practices.  Regardless of who pays for these health insurance premiums, we need to make changes to what is covered by health insurance and what can be done to minimize testing and treatment where it is unnecessary.

Health Care Reform Changes Affect Doctor’s Visits

Friday, February 17th, 2012

If you are wondering what changes you’ll see at your doctor’s office when all of the health care reform takes effect, U.S. News & World Report did some research to let us know.  Their article, “4 health reform changes to expect at your doctor’s office,” was written last year, so you may have already begun seeing changes.  Since all of the health care reform changes haven’t taken effect, you will continue to see these four things starting at your doctor’s offices.

The article says that doctors will need to embrace change and work with other specialists to reduce health problems, therefore reducing health care costs.  First of all, you will start getting the exact amount of care that you need.  This means that extra tests and medications will not be used when they aren’t medically necessary.  A Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute will work to help doctors determine exactly what tests are needed and when medications are needed so that unnecessary things are cut out.  Compare health insurance care in the past and many doctors ordered extra tests and medications to cover their behind because they weren’t exactly sure what to do.

A team of health care professionals will now work with you.  This includes your doctor, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, physicians assistants and more, depending on your health needs.  You may even get contacted by someone from your team to remind you of follow-up or preventative care.  You team will have incentives to keep you healthy, cutting down the cost of health insurance rates and health care in general.  All doctors will be expected to use electronic medical records and prescriptions, cutting down on the mass amounts of errors of the past.  Many have already started this and the hope is that all doctors and hospitals will be able to work together to increase efficiency and your overall health.

Gossipers Should Have Lower Health Insurance Rates

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

According to Linda Wasmer Andrews’ Yahoo! Health article, “How gossip is good for you,” some gossip is good for your health.  Researchers from Berkeley’s University of California found that gossip helps ease frustration as well as lessening the increased heart rate that goes hand in hand with your frustration.  Maybe you can lower your health insurance rates if you can prove to your insurance company that you are a big gossip!  Prosocial gossip, or that which helps others avoid a bad circumstance by letting them know about someone’s bad behaviors, is what was researched.

One of the studies involved volunteers watching people playing a game, including someone who was cheating at the game.  As the volunteers watched, their heart rates increased watching the cheating.  But those volunteers who passed notes to the other participants letting them in on the cheating did not have the increased heart rate associated with the frustrations.  The study seems to show that letting someone know that their potential mate has been a cheater or that their potential business contact has a shady past can help your health as well as helping them avoid a conflict.

Studies have shown that gossip is both natural and normal.  Group behavior can be enhanced with a little gossip and people tend to behave a little better when the potential for gossip is there.  While there is some gossip that is just plain selfish and can be hurtful, “good” gossip can help groups build alliances and keep group members’ behavior in check.  While it’s unlikely that Aultcare or other health insurance companies will start promoting gossip for it’s health benefits, ads promoting gossip would likely be a good way to garner attention.