[…] Since most of us don’t have medical training, we might not even know the important questions to ask when we’re shopping around for healthcare. And even if we do, we also have to be able to discern whether the person we’re asking has any conflicts of interest (another excellent article in this week’s HWR from Dr. Roy Poses). Asking patients to have “skin in the game” sounds like a good idea until you really dig into what it means to be a healthcare consumer. Given the difficulty of comparing something as basic as prices for medical procedures – much less things like long-term safety and efficacy – it’s unlikely that patients can really be informed healthcare consumers unless things become a lot more transparent. More “skin in the game” probably just means patients pay more out of pocket for their healthcare (via higher health insurance deductibles and copays), or else put off healthcare until they can better afford it. Some might be shopping around, but it’s unlikely that many people are really able to be well-informed “comparison shoppers” yet – the information they would need just isn’t available.
[…] Keep in mind that all of those prices are based on the fact that the individual policies are medically underwritten (which means that the rates can be increased during underwriting or the application can be denied based on medical history), while the group plans are guaranteed issue and the rates cannot vary based on the group’s health status. There’s a huge range of options available, both in the individual and small group markets. But the premiums in the small group market for our family of four (parents in their 30s with two young children) would be roughly double what they are in the individual market.
Although I realize that the RAND study is important and useful, I wonder why the real-life scenario of individual versus small group premiums is so different. And although the ACA does put a cap on how much greater premiums can be for older people versus younger people, it doesn’t stipulate what the base premiums have to be for the younger people. Premiums have to follow the MLR rules (with insurers spending at least 80 – 85% of premiums on medical expenses), but they will reflect claims expenses pretty closely. […]
[…] I’m still a fan of consumer directed health plans, high deductibles, and HSAs. I think that they can be useful tools to help people keep their health insurance premiums as low as possible and also (if an HSA is involved) set aside pre-tax money to cover potential future medical bills. But they are not a panacea. They are probably not a good solution for anyone who has a chronic illness that needs ongoing, expensive care. They don’t work so well for people with very little money who would struggle to cover the relatively high out-of-pocket costs and would not likely be able to fund an HSA. And no matter how great the actual consumer directed health plans are, the fact remains that transparency with regards to healthcare costs is still quite elusive. For some procedures, it can be relatively easy to get a set figure up front in terms of how much it’s going to cost. But much of the time that number can be difficult or impossible to pin down. Obviously, complications can arise in any medical situation (and the resulting increase in costs would make earlier estimates irrelevant). But even without factoring in complications, “shopping around” for healthcare is often an exercise in futility. In order to make consumer directed health plans more effective, there is much work to be done with regards to cost transparency.
[…] Tiered health insurance plans seem sort of like HSA qualified high deductible plans, but with the added flexibility of being able to have a lower deductible if you’re willing to choose from a more limited network of providers. With a high deductible policy, you’re going to be paying a significant amount out of pocket if you have a major claim, regardless of where you go for treatment. You’ll usually pay even more if you go to an out-of-network provider, but even if you stay in-network, the deductibles on HSA-qualified plans are pretty steep. A tiered health insurance policy can be viewed as a high deductible policy if you opt for the high cost tier providers, or a low deductible/copay plan if you’re able to be flexible in terms of where you go for care. Yes, this might mean switching to a new PCP or opting for a clinic or hospital that isn’t quite as convenient. But as David points out, these plans usually have significantly lower premiums, and for some people, that will be a very worthwhile trade off.
[…]prior to reading Ungar’s article I wasn’t aware of the agreement between the Independent Physicians Association and Rocky Mountain Health Plans with regard to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. The doctors in the IPA were so determined to treat every patient equally that they worked out an arrangement with RMHP to have the insurance carrier accept payment directly from Medicare and Medicaid and then pool that money together with premiums collected from RMHP insureds.
[…] Hixon argues that patients with more financial responsibility for their own care do indeed make better decisions regarding efficient use of healthcare dollars. Furthermore, he cites a study that found that patients with high deductible health insurance policies (eg, HSA qualified plans) had more preventive care, lower rates of hospitalization, and were more compliant in terms of following their doctors’ recommendations. They were also more likely to question their medical bills and had overall lower medical costs than people with traditional low-deductible policies.
[…] In addition to probably being above average in terms of financial savvy, I would assume that the demographic that opts for high deductible health insurance is also probably healthier than average. It makes sense that the more health problems a person has, the more likely he’ll be to choose a lower-deductible policy, since he knows he’s likely to be using the policy at least somewhat regularly. On the other hand, a person with no health conditions at all is probably making a good gamble to select a high deductible policy, since there’s a decent chance he’ll be able to go for several years without having a major claim. So the fact that people with HDHPs have lower medical costs isn’t really surprising. It’s largely a self-selected group (employers who offer an HDHP usually offer another plan as well, and everyone shopping for individual health insurance who picks an HDHP has other options from which to choose). I’m not sure that medical costs would still be lower for people with HDHPs if they policy designs were assigned randomly across the entire population.
[…] I’ve long been a fan of high deductible, HSA qualified health insurance policies (our family had one until very recently when we switched to a high deductible plan that isn’t HSA qualified but has much lower premiums). But I’ve also always been aware that we’re fortunate to be able to utilize a high deductible health insurance policy – both in terms of being healthy and not needing much in the way of healthcare, and also in our ability to make contributions to our HSA to cover the cost of care we might need in the future. People who have serious health conditions and/or those with very limited funds […] When it comes to actually being a savvy consumer of healthcare, the vast majority of us wouldn’t even know where to begin. Google? Asking friends? Maybe, but chances are, we’re going to go to a doctor and follow (at least roughly) the recommendations the doctor makes. Most of the time, providers are the ones who control how much care a patient receives ie, it’s the supply that’s driving things, rather than the demand. We might know that something’s not right and take the initial step of going to the doctor. But what happens next (surgery? PT? wait and see? Medication? etc.) is generally up to the doctor. As Michelle pointed out, the patient’s number one priority is going to be getting better, especially if the problem being treated is a serious one. Shopping around for the best price and poring over comparative effectiveness research data probably isn’t going to be high on most patients’ lists.
[…] For the average person who has had an individual policy for a decade and is late 50s-ish, keeping that individual policy (even though a group plan may become available) might be the ticket to being able to have some flexibility in terms of when to retire. The group plan is guaranteed issue – health conditions won’t be a barrier to getting coverage. But the group plan is also tied to the current employer, and the policy will only be available for a maximum of 18 months after you leave that job (via COBRA). […] Linda’s article is an excellent reminder about the importance of looking at the specifics of your own situation – including long term issues that might outweigh short-term benefits – rather than following conventional wisdom or doing what everyone else is doing.
[…] These numbers are much more in line with the rise in health insurance premiums that we’ve seen over the past few years. I have no explanation for why the data from the two sources is so dramatically different in terms of medical trend in 2010, but if the trend was really closer to 7.5% rather than 1.7%, the health insurance premium increases would be a lot easier to understand. […] In addition to the MLR rules, some states (including Colorado) have implemented strict review processes for rate hikes. The ACA now calls for insurers who propose a rate hike of 10% or more […]
[…] She specifically addresses Medicare costs, but it stands to reason that the same cost-saving strategies and paradigm shifts will also help to lower healthcare costs that are being reimbursed by private health insurance carriers. Not only do private carriers tend to follow Medicare’s lead, but the focus on value over volume from a provider perspective will benefit everyone, as it’s unlikely to be applied only to Medicare patients.
[…] How would it help to have health insurance exchange boards negotiating with health insurance carriers to try to lower premiums – without addressing the root problem, which is the ever-increasing cost of healthcare? […] Much of the focus of the healthcare reform rhetoric has been on health insurance (availability, premiums, etc.), and some important issues have been addressed in the process. But we cannot continue to focus primarily on the cost of health insurance (or try to artificially lower it) without reducing the cost of healthcare.
[…] Those are a few of the thoughts that come to mind when I think about direct-pay medical care. I can see pros and cons to the idea, and I’m sure that there are many PCPs who would love the chance to focus more on medicine and less on administration/payer issues. But I think that most PCPs also want to make sure that everyone – regardless of financial status – has realistic access to medical care. And I’m just not sure that would be the case if more PCPs started pulling out of the health insurance networks – especially the networks that serve low income populations.
[…] A person with a set amount of money that can be devoted to life insurance premiums will be able to purchase significantly more face value if she goes with term coverage. But the insurance will be in place for the rest of her life if she goes with permanent coverage (assuming she doesn’t cancel it). There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether term or permanent life insurance is a better option, and it depends largely on the person’s budget, face value needs, and long term planning. […]
[…] Chances are, if you have a claim on your home or auto policy, it will be because of a one-time incident like a fire or a car accident. That can be the case with a health claim too, of course, but many times a large claim on a health insurance policy can be the result of a chronic condition or one that will need extensive long-term treatment. A person might have health insurance at the start of the ordeal, but may lose coverage as time goes on […]
The IRS announced that the contribution limit for an individual would increase by $50 in 2012, from $3,050 to $3,100. The family contribution limit is increasing from $6,150 to $6,250 (+$100).
The maximum annual out-of-pocket increased as well. The individual out of pocket maximum is going from $5,950 to $6,050. The family out of pocket maximum is increasing from $11,900 to $12,100.
The minimum deductible on an HSA qualified plan remained the same, $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for families.
For more details about HSAs and HSA qualified plans, visit our HSA page.
[…] However, the real world is not always ideal. The Post editorial makes some very good points, and I don’t doubt that if CPH+ moves to a monthly premium system this summer, there will be some kids who lose their coverage, and fewer children will enroll in the future compared with how many would have enrolled if monthly premiums were not part of the deal. […]
[…] Dr. Perednia makes some excellent points about the inability of patients to be true “consumers”, even in cases where they have their own money on the line. He notes that if you call your doctor’s office to find out the price of a procedure, they won’t be able to tell you because there are too many complexities in the health insurance system for the doctor to give you an accurate idea of what the cost will be. And if you call your health insurance carrier directly […]
[…] But although the spending caps will be beneficial to families that have large medical expenses, they do nothing to actually address the rising cost of health care, and the over-utilization that is also driving costs. This has been a recurring theme with a lot of the provisions created by health care reform: we’re finding ways to spread the costs in a more equitable fashion, but we’re not really addressing the fact that the total cost burden of health care in this country isn’t sustainable on its current trajectory, no matter how much we spread it out across the population.
[…] Most of us agree that we need to find a way to reduce overall healthcare spending, but we also need to make sure that we don’t compromise future healthcare outcomes in the process. While some of the issues mentioned in the study – such as the drop in routine blood tests for people with diabetes – are definitely concerning, we shouldn’t simply assume that a reduction in overall preventive care will automatically lead to poorer health in the future.
[…] It’s always good to see new innovations that help to expand access to healthcare, and clinic memberships that allow people to cover their day to day medical expenses with a predictable annual fee and low cost appointments is likely to be quite popular, especially among people who can’t afford comprehensive health insurance. But as with any other product, a clear awareness of what you’re purchasing (or being offered, if an employer is covering the cost) will help to avoid future surprises.
[…] People who already max out their HSA contributions and still have money left over to contribute more would likely appreciate the removal of the HSA contribution cap. But those are not the people who are struggling to afford health insurance or pay for medical care. They are not the people our elected representatives should be focusing on when coming up with solutions for health care reform. Although I like our HSA and the flexibility it gives us to save for future medical expenses, I acknowledge that HSAs are not a panacea for what ails our health care system. […]
[…] In Colorado, all policies have long been required to have a standardized plan description form (separate from the carrier-created marketing brochure), and House Bill 1166 passed earlier this year, requiring that all policy information be written at no more than a 10th grade reading level. But I think that most consumers tend to look at brochures, mailers, online advertising, and other marketing materials designed by each insurance carrier. […]
Although the increases we’ve seen this year are similar to what we’ve seen over the last several years, there have been more questions since the PPACA was signed into law in March about whether federal health care reform is the driving factor for this year’s increases. To clarify, the Colorado Division of Insurance has released a statement noting that federal health reform is responsible for less than 5% of the total health insurance premium increase in Colorado this year. […]
[…] There’s nothing wrong with being opposed to all or part of the health care reform law. However, it’s not factual to call the PPACA “socialism”. It’s does a disservice to voters to say that the reform law contains “death panels”. It’s not factual to say that patients will have to go to a bureaucrat before seeing his or her doctor. Spreading this sort of misinformation is truly harmful to the debate. Rather than discussing the actual facts of the law and searching for sensible solutions and compromises, fear-mongering sound bites with no basis in reality only serve to get people riled up.
[…] Personally, I would be open to the idea of seeing a family practice doctor who doesn’t contract with health insurance carriers, and paying for routine care out of pocket, if there were some way to combine that with a discount on our health insurance premiums… If the DocTalker Family Medicine idea were to become more widespread and if insurers could account for this type of care when setting premiums, I can see it making a lot of sense for healthy families who want to use health insurance for large medical bills and budget for smaller bills themselves.
[…] For people with chronic health conditions who meet their deductibles every year, the savings with a high deductible health plan might be small or non-existent, and in those cases, more comprehensive coverage might make sense. But for people who are healthy, and insuring against potential future medical costs, it typically makes sense to minimize the amount that you’re guaranteed to pay (premiums) and accept a little bit higher exposure to amounts that you might have to pay (medical expenses that fall below the deductible). […]