Friday, February 24, 2006

AHRQ- Individual Health Insurance 2/24/2006

Individual Insurance
If your employer does not offer group insurance, or if the insurance offered is very limited, you can buy an individual policy. You can get fee-for-service, HMO, or PPO protection. But you should compare your options and shop carefully because coverage and costs vary from company to company. Individual plans may not offer benefits as broad as those in group plans.
If you get a noncancellable policy (also called a guaranteed renewable policy), then you will receive individual insurance under that policy as long as you keep paying the monthly premium. The insurance company can raise the cost, but cannot cancel your coverage. Many companies now offer a conditionally renewable policy. This means that the insurance company can cancel all policies like yours, not just yours. This protects you from being singled out. But it doesn't protect you from losing coverage.
Before you buy any health insurance policy, make sure you know what it will pay for...and what it won't. To find out about individual health insurance plans, you can call insurance companies, HMOs, and PPOs in your community, or speak to the agent who handles your car or house insurance.
Tips when shopping for individual insurance:
Shop carefully. Policies differ widely in coverage and cost. Contact different insurance companies, or ask your agent to show you policies from several insurers so you can compare them.
Make sure the policy protects you from large medical costs.
Read and understand the policy. Make sure it provides the kind of coverage that's right for you. You don't want unpleasant surprises when you're sick or in the hospital.
Check to see that the policy states: the date that the policy will begin paying (some have a waiting period before coverage begins), and what is covered or excluded from coverage.
Make sure there is a "free look" clause. Most companies give you at least 10 days to look over your policy after you receive it. If you decide it is not for you, you can return it and have your premium refunded.
Beware of single disease insurance policies. There are some polices that offer protection for only one disease, such as cancer. If you already have health insurance, your regular plan probably already provides all the coverage you need. Check to see what protection you have before buying any more insurance.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

CareFirst BCBS 2/1/2006

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Introduces Consumer Directed Health Plan for Individuals
OWINGS MILLS, MD (February 1, 2006) - Beginning February 1, individuals can purchase Consumer Directed Health Plan (CDH) coverage similar to that which CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield already offers small and large groups. BluePreferred HSA, the product for individuals in CareFirst's BlueFund suite of CDH plans, is a health plan with an integrated medical and prescription drug deductible targeted to individuals under age 65 in Maryland, Washington, DC and Northern Virginia.
Designed to produce more cost-effective health care by making members more aware of how their medical spending decisions affect their cost of coverage, BluePreferred HSA enables individuals to get appropriate care and affordable quality service by combining BluePreferred's lower premium, higher-deductible Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) with a tax-advantaged savings account, known as a Health Savings Account (HSA). The tax-free investment account, funded by members, enables them to withdraw money without penalty for eligible medical expenses. Funds in an HSA not used in a benefit year can roll over to the next year.
Individuals may choose an HSA with CareFirst's preferred bank, The Bancorp Bank, or set up an account with their own bank. BluePreferred HSA members who enroll with The Bancorp Bank will also receive a new CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield debit card, enabling them to quickly and easily withdraw money directly from their HSA account. Members can visit www.carefirst.com, which provides interactive online tools to learn about various aspects of health and wellness. The Bancorp Bank will soon be introducing a Web site on which members can manage and track their account. These tools enable individuals to get a better grasp of the elements contributing to health care costs.
BluePreferred HSA provides the same flexibility as a traditional PPO plan, yet offers lower premiums in exchange for higher deductibles. Individuals can choose from a large network of doctors, and no referrals are required. In addition, an HSA is a lifelong, portable account that belongs to the individual even if health care carriers change.
"With health care costs on the rise, CareFirst is being proactive by showing our members how to make wiser health care decisions," said Gregory A. Devou, CareFirst Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. "We created BluePreferred HSA as a one-stop shop to encourage individuals to spend their health care dollars responsibly."
Once an account has been created, any money from the HSA withdrawn for purposes other than qualified medical expenses is taxed as ordinary income plus a 10 percent penalty. This additional penalty does not apply in similar situations to individuals over the age of 65. More information on HSAs can be found at http://www.treas.gov/offices/public-affairs/hsa/.
In its 70th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to more than 3.3 million individuals and groups in Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware. Through its CareFirst Commitment initiative and other public mission activities, CareFirst supports efforts to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas.