Category Archive - Individual

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Health Insurance Executives Fire Back

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Health Insurance Executives are speaking up after weeks of being scrutinized by high ranking officials. Congress has been raising concerns about Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield specifically for their expected premium increase–that could affect thousand of people with health insurance.

The executive, Angela F. Braly, president of WellPoint, defended the insurance company’s move saying soaring medical costs is the only reason they are planning rate increases. She went on to warn that capping health insurance companies premium increases would further complicate the health insurance system.

Anthem Blue Cross, a unit of WellPoint, recently announced many of its customers would have to pay an average increase of 25 percent, with some rates going up as much as 39 percent. The company postponed the rate increase after it garnered bad media attention and criticism.

High ranking officials including President Obama negatively responded to the Anthem’s expected move. Citing their billion dollar profits as an example of the problem with the healthcare system. Obama and other officials said it was a clear example of why legislation needed to be passed.

The increases in premiums are driven by prices charged by doctors, hospitals, drug companies and other suppliers, and by increases in the use of health care by an aging population, Ms. Braly said.

“For 2010,” Ms. Braly said, “we expect hospital inpatient and outpatient costs in California to grow by over 10 percent, driven primarily by hospital reimbursement rates. Additionally, we expect pharmacy costs in California to grow by over 13 percent.”

The President is slated to hold a meeting with Republicans and Democrats to discuss ideas on making personal health insurance more affordable..

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Many Women Unhappy With Health Insurance Experiences

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

(Image: Jaap Steinvoorte under CC 2.0)

According to a new survey by the Boston Consulting Group, many female consumers in America are dissatisfied with the health insurance industry. These days, that is an opinion shared by many seeking (or trying to keep) affordable health insurance; but what makes women especially dissatisfied?

The survey results seem to blame bad customer service above all. Women still tend to shoulder a greater proportion of family responsibilities, and are therefore often responsible for scheduling appointments for themselves and family members. If a child needs to visit the doctor, it is typically the mother who takes him or her. Although that is not necessarily the fault of health insurance companies, they may express frustration towards them as a symbol of the system.

Health insurance, however, may be partially responsible for one of their pet peeves:  long waiting times for lab reports and doctors. Primary care physicians, especially, have an increasing amount of their day eaten up by filling out paperwork to receive reimbursement from various health insurance carriers. Healthcare reform might simplify the process, but it may also come with its own problems and inconveniences.

Women may be more unhappy with their coverage because they tend to pay more for it than men, particularly when buying individual health insurance. Even if the policy excludes maternity coverage, the disparity still stands. Health insurers justify the cost difference by explaining that younger women, on average, file more medical claims than men of the same age. Cold comfort to women seeing the big bite out of each paycheck.

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Heart Disease is No.1 Killer of Women

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Many people believe cancer is the most deadly threat to women, but the No.1 killer is actually heart disease. Women over age 55 are at a greater risk as are those with close family member who had heart disease at an early age. However women are increasingly becoming at risk at younger ages.

All women can take steps to prevent heart disease by making healthy lifestyle changes. Having health insurance is key for preventative treatment. Receiving regular checkups and physicals and talking about heart health with your doctor can save lives.

According to the National Institute of Health, 80 percent of midlife women (ages 40 to 60) still have one or more of the modifiable risk factors — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, and smoking. Sixty percent of younger women, ages 20-39, have one or more of these risk factors. Recent data show high rates of overweight/obesity in younger women, which may lead to higher rates of heart disease in later years.

Symptoms of heart disease for women are different than they are for men. It can be hard to classify common symptoms. Health professionals say, in the past, women who were having massive heart attacks felt as if all they needed to do was burp and it would get better. It fools everyone. The best advice for women is if you’re feeling bad enough to think that something’s wrong and it’s persistent and it continues to make you feel worse — women still feel some kind of chest discomfort and some type of shortness of breath — you should go to the emergency room.

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Anthem Blue Cross Hikes Rates By A Third In California

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
One of California’s biggest health insurance carriers, Anthem Blue Cross, will increase  its individual health insurance premiums by nearly 40 percent starting next month.

The announcement came within hours of the Obama Administration’s call for Congressional Republicans and members of his own party to meet at the White House for a televised summit on moving forward with health care reform. President Obama appeared to use the announcement as political proof that health care reform is “essential,” while his Secretary of Health and Human Services denounced the insurance carrier in a statement later in the say.

“As we continue the health insurance reform debate in Washington, this announcement reminds us that too many Americans can be left with unaffordable insurance each time the rates of rules change in the private market,” said Sebelius. “It’s clear that we need health insurance reform that will give American families the secure, affordable coverage they need.”

Meanwhile back in Anthem’s home state, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner publicly scathed the company and urged individuals looking for affordable health insurance plans to compare rates with other carriers. Poizner said he was “Alarmed” by the larger-than-expected rate increase and said his department would examine Anthem’s actions in the coming days.

Health insurance is regulated in the individual states where they are sold. In Calfornia, state law requires that health insurance companies spend at least 70 percent of every dollar earned from their premiums on medical care. Poizner said he has hired an outside actuary to review Anthem’s increase “to ensure they are complying with this state law. If we find that their rates are excessive, I will use the full power of my office to being these rates down.”

Complicating Anthem’s justification for the increase, its parent company, Wellpoint Inc. announced it had earned $2.7 billion during the previous business quarter. Neither Anthem nor Wellpoint made a public statement to the news media about its rate plan at the time this story was published.

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Autism Babies Linked to Older Moms

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Researchers have made new discoveries about what is causing some children to develop autism. A new study found mothers older than 40 were about 50 per cent or 1.51 times more likely to have a child with autism than mothers aged 25 to 29; the risk for fathers older than 40 was 36 per cent higher than for men in their late 20s. Although the fathers age can be a contributing factor a mothers age is far more relevant.

Researchers have been perplexed with autism for some time now. Some scientists have linked the disorder to different factors including child vaccinations, environmental toxins, heredity and genetics. However, they have not found any single cause for autism. Even mothers with adequate medical insurance can find themselves in this position.

According to the Autism Society, autism is a pervasive development disorder that affects between 1 in 100 and 1 in 110 children in the US. It starts before the age of 3 and is characterized by repetitive and restricted behaviors and deficiency in social skills and communication and is thought to be linked to abnormal brain development that probably starts in the womb.

Researchers still need to figure out what it is about older parents that puts their children at greater risk for autism and other adverse outcomes, so they can we can begin helping those mothers who are at risk. In the meantime, health professional suggest mothers said it’s important to note that the increased risks are small and that most babies born to older mothers do not develop autism.

Researchers said the overall low risk for autism “may be the most important take-home message especially for prospective parents. However, expecting mothers who have health insurance get better care during their pregnancy, and have a much better chance of delivering a healthy baby. It is essential that all expecting mothers have adequate access to doctors for health advice and care.

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Don’t Try This At Home! DIY Operations

Monday, February 8th, 2010

(Image: under CC 2.0)

In these tough economic times, many people are struggling to pay for basic needs. Health care is one of those essentials. For pet owners, Fido or Fluffy is a part of the family, and their health is also a priority. Due to their smaller size and simpler physiology, health care for pets is far less expensive than human health insurance. However, some owners will go to desperate measures when their pets are very sick and uninsured–even if they are not in the pet’s best interest.

A man in Rhode Island was recently arrested for taking matters into his own hands and operating to remove a cyst from his 14-year-old dog’s leg. He was unable to afford a visit to the veterinarian, so he used local anesthetic. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong way to go about treating the Labrador mix. As it turns out, the surgery was completely unnecessary: the cyst was benign, and vets believe that the dog had been feeling no pain from it. What the man did was inexcusable, but it holds some lessons for people.

The dog required a second surgery by medical professionals to reverse the first surgery, which was even more expensive. Do-it-yourself surgery on another person is similarly dangerous. On a more realistic note, skimping on quality and visiting a quack physician–or skipping regular check-ups–to save money will also cost you more in the long run. It is better to save your money for individual health insurance, even if it’s only a catastrophic health plan for emergencies.

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Selling Health Insurance Across State Lines: Will it help?

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Republicans say yes, the law should be changed to allow insurance companies to sell health coverage to people in other states. Currently, consumers can buy policies only from insurers licensed by the states in which they live. A regulation in place to help protect consumers. However, Republicans who are pushing for the measure to be passed say selling across state lines will give Americans who buy individual health insurance individual health insurance a greater choice of plans and the possibility of lower prices.

The Republican idea has been incorporated into the Democrats’ House and Senate health bills, though in a somewhat different form. And it’s expected to be included in any legislation that wins final passage.

But critics say this move has not proven to be effective, and may in fact hurt consumers. Those who don’t support the idea say Americans who purchase insurance across state lines may be convinced a cheaper health insurance plan is best for them, when it actuality it is not, and will likely have fewer benefits. If the individual with fewer benefits falls sick, their health insurance plan many not offer enough protection.

And, back in 2007 a Rutgers University study, concluded “Despite exhaustive research, little compelling evidence exists that state health insurance mandates do, in fact, have a significant impact on” the cost of health insurance. They said
insurance companies keep costs down by using their volume-based bargaining power to make agreements with doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers to get lower rates than any individual buyer could ever achieve.

A smaller insurance company in, say, a smaller state would have a difficult trying to get lower medical rates .It seems the only way for insurers to offer cheap insurance across states lines would be to offer less comprehensive and effective coverage.

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Obama says Country Needs Public Debate on Health Bill

Friday, February 5th, 2010

President Obama is not backing down when it comes to his health bill although mounting pressure from Congressional leaders and the public suggest he should. The President told a group of supporters at a fundraiser that he wanted to layout the facts about his plan for affordable health insurance, let Republicans share their ideas for the plan, and then let voters decide what is best for them.

Things have been looking pretty grim for the President health bill since Republican, Scott Brown, won the special election for Senate in Massachusetts. The win ended the Democrats supermajority in the Senate, and completely stopped the bill from moving forward.

President Obama says once Congressional Democrats come to an agreement on the final bill he planned to push for a public debate. Things have turned very confusing for voters during the long health bill Congressional battle. Mr. Obama says voters are left believing things that really aren’t true.”They are certain that they would have to go onto a government plan, which isn’t true. They are still pretty sure that they would have to give up their doctor.”

If there is a public debate about the health bill, it is still not clear whether Americans will get behind it. Although millions of Americans don’t have medical insurance, they say they are tired of the healthcare reform bill battle, and really just want the President to focus on providing more jobs.

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Could Healthcare Reform Improve Deficit Projections?

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

According to some experts, pessimistic estimates of what Obama’s newly proposed budget will do to the national deficit may be slightly exaggerated, and health insurance reform may play a role in that.

How is that possible? Initial projections of former President Bill Clinton’s first budget indicated that there would be an unsustainable budget deficit by the year 2000. Instead, the country ended up running a surplus. The healthcare issue comes into play because health care spending–including purchases of individual health insurance–is over one-sixth of the GDP.

Economics professor James K. Galbraith explains that predictions of the deficit in 2020 assume that U.S. healthcare costs will continue soaring at the same rate for the next decade. If comprehensive healthcare reform passes and succeeds in its goal of expanding access to while reducing the cost of care through regulation and increased competition, that portion of debt spending could stabilize or even decrease.

(Image: yomanimus under CC 2.0)

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