General Insurance Issues

Obamacare…Did you know? #3

I’m doing a series on things I think you should know about Obamacare. Here is installment #3…

There’s a major glitch or loophole in the healthcare law that actually allows large employers to avoid health-law penalties by offering stripped down plans that are devoid of any hospital benefits. That’s right. No hospital benefits at all. Obamacare regulators created an online calculator to certify whether plans offered by large self-insured employers that pay their own medical claims meet the Affordable Care Act’s toughest standard. The Obamacare calculator is used to test “minimum value” for adequate benefits. Many, including your 2-Minute Drill author, were surprised to read in a recent Kaiser Health News story that the calculator approves these plans lacking any hospital benefits.

ObamaCareGlitchesCartoon

Word is that numerous large, low-wage employers with high turnover that haven’t offered medical coverage in the past — retailers, hoteliers, restaurants and other businesses with high worker turnover and lower pay — are considering driving a truck through this loophole by offering plans without any hospitalization coverage. By doing so, they thus protect themselves from some of the employer mandate penalties that come into play next year. Some of the talking heads in the industry claim the calculator was purposely designed this way by the administration. However, I tend to agree with respected consultant Bob Laszewski.  He’s quoted as saying “That’s baloney. Nobody said we’re going to have health plans out there that don’t cover hospitalization. That was never the intention…I think they just screwed up.”  Stay tuned for more on this.

Obamacare…Did you know? #1

Obamacare…Did you know? #2

Obamacare…Did you know? #2

I’m doing a week-long series “Obamacare…Did you know?”

Last week I talked about how as we move into the open enrollment phase for 2015, more complexities arise and more computer glitches are expected. Read my post Obamacare…Did you know? #1

Judge Slams His Gavel and American Flag Table Reflection.

Just recently a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that subsidies can’t go to those who purchased health coverage through a federal exchange (most states). This decision adds to a mix of rulings on whether individuals in states utilizing the federal marketplace can legally be provided with premium subsidies. Many expect that this subsidy issue, which is a major component of the Affordable Care Act, will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. In July, two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on health-law subsidies, raising questions about the fate of tax credits/premium subsidies provided to several million Americans.  While this issue makes its way through the courts, subsidies remain available.

Read more about this in an article on Politico

Stay tuned for more this week on Obamacare…Did you know?

Health Insurance Literacy: Too Complex for Some?

We can all agree that our healthcare system is difficult to understand. Have you considered the confusion for people who have never had health insurance, or perhaps have not had it for a really long time? According to Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance literacy is something that we as a society should work to improve. Here are some key points regarding the new insurance marketplace and ACA that Altman asks us to consider:

  • 37% of enrollees don’t know the amount of their deductible
  • only 46% of enrollees say they are getting a subsidy, when the official numbers indicate 85% are actually getting them
  • many enrolled have no understanding of basic insurance terms like premium, deductible, copayment, coinsurance, maximum annual out-of-pocket spending, provider network, covered services, annual limits on services or excluded services
  • people with lower incomes are less likely to understand the key elements of insurance (the people who need coverage the most understand it the least)

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Altman also points out that people gaining new coverage are also expected to understand the intricacies of provider networks in the plans they choose, particularly if they have a health problem requiring specialty care. Otherwise, they’ll face high out-of-pocket costs when they visit out of network provider specialists. Understanding how drug coverage works is also important when dealing with tiers. Most of us understand that brand-name drugs cost much more than generics — but what about the folks who don’t know that? We all have a role to play to improve health insurance literacy. Unfortunately, as Altman points out in his article that appeared recently on WSJ’s Washington Wire, A Perilous Gap in Health Insurance Literacy, many of us get tested on our knowledge every time we access our health care plan.

Here are two info graphics that can help you get started with improving the health insurance literacy of the people you know:

We are the 90 by CommunicateHealth.com

The Facts about Health Literacy by Healthcare IT News

 

Compromising on Contraceptives and Religion. Say what?

Recently the Obama Administration compromised to allow waivers for religious organizations to restrict paying for contraceptives on their health plans.

What does that mean for most religious groups that offer health benefits? Unless a group is self funded and writes their own plan, it will be difficult to change things. As we have discussed in earlier blogs posts, 98% of all employers purchase fully insured plans from insurance companies. Insurance companies file their plans and, for the most part, are abiding by the original requirements in ACA on what to cover. Therefore, if a group is fully insured, they cannot just change their plan.

WSJ-Apr222014-AdminOffersContraceptionCompromise

It is possible that the insurance carriers may roll out plans that give these types of groups a chance to change their plan. However, at this point that is not possible and we usually see insurance companies move slowly on these events.

The administration rolled this out to allow for waivers. The carriers will probably wait and see if there are a lot of requests and then decide if they will react.

To read more on this topic, please read Administration Offers Contraception Compromise for Religious Employers, an article that appeared on WSJ Online.

 

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