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November 26, 2008

Health Insurers See ''Universal'' Opportunity

Health insurance companies such as Humana and UnitedHealth always seem to pay a price for "gifts" from the federal government.

Over the past several years, they have pocketed billions of dollars in government subsidies selling private Medicare plans. They know that Democrats aim to cut those bonus payments, however, so they're searching for new ways to grow. They see universal health care, which could turn 46 million uninsured Americans into potential customers, as their next big opportunity.

President-elect Barack Obama has regularly listed universal health care among his top priorities. Even so, some experts believe, the new president must address his prime concern -- the economic crisis -- before he can think about launching an expensive health care program. As a result, they say, private insurers will likely endure the looming Medicare cuts with little opportunity to offset those losses.

"There isn't going to be a growth driver in the health insurance business for the next few years," predicts Robert Laszewski, an industry consultant who serves as president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates. "It's going to be very bad times relative to the very good times" health insurance companies have enjoyed.

Others still see a real chance for meaningful reform. They believe that the economic crisis has been caused in part by skyrocketing health care costs, which have been blamed for half of all personal bankruptcies and the decline of giant corporations such as General Motors and Ford . As a result, they feel that the country's leaders must address both issues at the same time.

Sheryl Skolnick, senior vice president of CRT Capital Group, belongs to that camp. The veteran health care analyst predicts that Democrats will pounce on the "irresistible opportunity" to pass a comprehensive health insurance bill now that they have the power to do so.

Californians, click here for your free health care quote now!

Posted by healthinsurance at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2008

California health insurance premiums rising more slowly

Thousands of Sonoma County workers are facing decisions about their California health insurance, with many employer-sponsored insurance plans entering their annual open enrollment period.

Premiums continue to march upward but by and large seem to be in line with a trend seen last year: rising, but at slower rates than in the first half of the decade, when they rocketed higher and buffeted the local health care market.

Health insurance brokers who negotiate health plan packages for local companies say they are seeing some premium increases below 10 percent this year -- although depending on the plan and company size, some increases are far higher.

"It's all over the board," said Bud Martin of ABD Wells Fargo Insurance Services in Santa Rosa.

"It depends a lot on the size of the group and what kind of benefit structures they have," he said. "Sometimes it's 10 or 11 percent, sometimes it's 17."

Nationally, the annual cost of family coverage under employer-sponsored plans reached an average of $12,680 in 2008, up from $5,791 in 1999, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health research group. Employees' share of that annual bill hit an average of $3,354 last year, up from $1,543 in 1999.

Experts caution that workers shouldn't choose a plan on premiums alone, but should take into account factors such as how much they expect to use health care services.

"Often employees will just choose the plan that sounds the best or the name that sounds the best," said Debra Squyres, director of human capital consulting at TriNet. For example, an employee might choose a "Platinum" plan over a "Value" plan "not knowing really how that plan works," she said.

The San Leandro-based firm provides human resource outsourcing services including benefits management to about 900 Northern California firms.

Some plans, said Squyres, are not raising their premiums as much, but are offsetting that by increasing their patient deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket maximums.

That's not necessarily bad, because people who use their health services less may find that option more sensible and cheaper. But it illustrates why plans need to be carefully examined, Squyres said.

Californians, click here for your free health insurance quote today!

Posted by healthinsurance at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2008

Children from California Could Lack of Low-Cost Health Insurance

State officials from California want to cap the list of people registered in the health insurance system based on children of the poor working people. The authorities stated that this decision can come because of too many new clients who take upon the insurance health system.

But advocates say that if the Healthy Families Program needs such a drastic change, this would be the hardest decision to be taken in a 10-year history time. Lesley Cummings, the executive director of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, said that nearly 162,750 children would have to wait almost six months before being checked by a doctor.

The program now gives medical insurance for almost 900,000 children and an averaged 27,000 kids are subscribed every month. If no action is taken, the system will reach a $17.2 million loss. A decision is expected to be taken in December and the waiting list will also be settled on December 18.

Cummings stated that if the board doesn’t cut the enrollment now, worse actions will be necessary taken later. "Capping enrollment, rather than eliminating coverage that a child currently has, seems the preferable path," he added. The bad thing is that kids who come from families who earn up to %250 of the federal poverty level are eligible for this health program.

Incomes of $3,667 a month divided to a family of three are $4,417 a month divided to a family of four makes it possible for the parents to subscribe their children to the Healthy Families Program. Those who are below this line get healthcare through Medi-Cal program.

Click here for your free California health insurance quote today!

Posted by healthinsurance at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)