Posts Tagged ‘individual health insurance’

Health Insurance Plans Cancelled; Unintended Side Effect of Affordable Care Act

Monday, October 21st, 2013

An unintended side effect of the Affordable Care Act seems to be the cancellation of some individual health insurance plans by insurers.  Business Insider’s Josh Barro gives the main reasons in “Here’s Why So Many Americans Are Getting Letters Saying Their Health Insurance Is Canceled.”  There are 14 million Americans who have health insurance individually, either by choice of because they don’t have the option of employer sponsored insurance coverage.  President Obama told those Americans that they would not have to make any changes when the Affordable Care Act went into law.  While he likely believed that to be the case, Kaiser Health News has found that many insurance companies are sending cancellation notices to those people that their plans cover.  People are being forced to change plans for a couple different reasons.

Many health insurance plans don’t meet the new standards required by the health insurance laws.  All plans have to include coverage of 10 essential health benefits, have specific individual and family limits on out of pocket costs, and insurers have to pay a certain percentage of the costs their participants charge.  Plans that don’t meet the requirements will be cancelled and you’ll have to get a plan that does meet these new requirements.  Those plans will cost more, so make sure to see if you qualify for a government subsidy.  The other big grouping of plans likely to be cancelled are those with a large number of particularly high risk insureds.  Plans like that cost a lot of money, but now that there will be more choices for people with pre-existing conditions, the plans could be more affordable through exchanges than they have been outside of them.

Some have questioned why individual plans will even exist outside of the health insurance exchanges once the entire law is in effect since subsidies are only available through exchange plans and the laws are mostly the same.  One reason is that not everyone qualifies for a subsidy anyways, so they don’t necessarily need to shop in an insurance exchange.  There are some plans being grandfathered in that won’t have to follow all of the stipulations of the Affordable Care Act.  Those plans offered before March 2010 will likely be more affordable and will only be available outside of the exchanges.  Since the exchange websites have had some hiccups thus far, if you aren’t looking for a specific plan offered or a subsidy, you don’t have to worry about using that website and can shop outside of exchanges.

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.


Here’s to Hoping Health Care Costs Don’t Soar

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

There were many purposes for the Affordable Care Act, not the least of which was to lower health care costs for Americans.  By creating insurance pools to increase competition among health insurers, the idea was that the cost of health care services and premiums would decrease.  While that is still President Obama’s hope, The Society of Actuaries just released a report saying that many consumers may see just the opposite effect.  The Motley Fool’s Sean Williams asks “Is Obamacare About to Skyrocket Your Health Care Costs?”

Some of the other changes being made in addition to creating insurance pools are banning insurers from denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions, mandating individuals to carry health insurance, and  requiring insurance companies to spend 80% or more of the premiums they collect on actual care.  The law also qualifies more patients for Medicaid and creates a medical device excise tax of 2.3% from medical device makers’ revenue.  That last change will help to pay for the expansion of the government sponsored Medicaid program.

So, all of these changes sound great right?  The problem that The Society of Actuaries found is an estimated 32% increase in the cost of underlying claims by the year 2017.  This is an estimated cost for non-group members, or those who don’t have insurance through their employer.  These prices can and should go down with the competition from the created pools, but some states may still see increases.  Ohio and Wisconsin are forecasted to see the cost of their claims go up by 80%.

32 million people who were uninsured will now be able to afford and carry health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.  In addition to that, many consumers who had very basic health coverage will be able to get better insurance.  But there are some companies and individuals negatively affected by this and making changes because of it.  Stryker, a medical device manufacturer, cut its workforce by 5% because of the new tax imposed upon them.  Aetna increased some premiums by 21% in anticipation of the impending caps on pricing from the law.  Many other companies, including Papa John’s pizza, have complained to lawmakers about the increase in costs to them because of the law.  Is there really any sweeping change that could positively effect everyone involved?

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.

Individual Health Insurance Refunds in Texas

Monday, June 25th, 2012

If you live in Texas and you have health insurance, you could be one of the many Texans getting a rebate from your health insurance company.  According to Houston’s Chronicle, David Hendricks writes that “Health insurance rebates (are) coming for Texans.”  Even though the Affordable Care Act health reform is currently under review by the Supreme Court, plans are moving forward as though the reform will remain unchanged.  There was a June 1 deadline for all health insurance companies to report how much of their premiums went towards health care and how much went towards administrative costs.  Any insurance company who spent more than 20% on administrative costs, including pay for executives and profits, has to refund that excess to its policyholders.

There will be $167 million in rebates for 1.5 million Texas residents; this is highest amount in the U.S. accounting for 15% of the total rebates.  Those with individual health insurance policies will receive rebates as refund checks, reductions in premiums for the future, or credit card reimbursements.  For those Texans who have group health insurance through a small business or large employer, the refund process will be different.  The companies will actually receive the health insurance refund and will use that money to improve health insurance as a whole for the company.  One example will be an overall improvement in the health care coverage.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released a report with the overall information last week, but there is no listed detail about which health insurance companies will have to pay up rebates and which maintained administrative costs below the 20%.