Posts Tagged - ‘health insurance plans’

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Are Health Insurance Brokers An Endangered Species?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Image: H. Michael Karshis under CC 3.0

In many states, regulators fear that health insurance brokers are falling by the wayside. The healthcare reform law passed this year requires that a certain percentage of premiums be spent on providing medical care, as opposed to being spent on administrative costs.

Some consider brokers as middlemen, standing in the way of affordable health insurance by creating yet another level of bureaucracy. However, they can help people navigate the confusing variety of plans available and shop around–although that purpose may become irrelevant once states get their own health insurance exchanges up and running.

In addition, many brokers may end up out of work if they cannot adapt to the changes in the market and regulatory environment.

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Health Insurance Companies Spent $86 Million on Anti-Healthcare Reform Lobbying

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Image: DonkeyHotey under CC 3.0

Some people may worry that this is what at least a portion of their health insurance premiums has been paying for: according to Bloomberg’s examination of major insurers’ tax records, they spent a total of $86 million on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s campaign to defeat the Obama administration’s healthcare reform legislation in 2009.

These expenses–public rallies and events, media advertisements, and sponsored polling meant to sway opinion–would probably not qualify as falling under the medical loss ratio guidelines, which say that a certain percentage of customer premiums should be spent on providing care through their health insurance plans, as opposed to administrative and other expenses. Cigna and United HealthCare were among the biggest givers. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce is only one of the myriad interest groups opposing the law.

Was it a worthwhile investment? The bill passed early this year, so maybe not. However, they appear to have successfully swayed the views of a significant portion of the American public. The Republicans now taking over Congress will do their best to weaken the law, if not repeal it entirely.

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Will AT&T’s New Business Make Health Insurance Plans Cheaper?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Last week, AT&T announced that it will be launching a new unit called ForHealth. The target market is doctors, health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical firms.

It aims to provide cloud-based networking solutions, which are set to lower medical costs while improving communication–and therefore patients’ health. Many believe that moving to digital record keeping will lower the cost of health insurance plans, with the savings hopefully being passed onto consumers.

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First Step for GOP: Repealing Health Insurance Reform?

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Image: Gage Skidmore under CC 3.0

After a mostly triumphant Tuesday, Republicans are gearing up to take on several legislative centerpieces of the Obama administration. Most significantly, they are looking to say sayonara to healthcare reform by repealing what they refer to as “Obamacare”.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, current Senate Minority Leader (the Democrats retained control of the Senate) Mitch McConnell stated that the GOP was given a wide mandate by independent voters to repeal healthcare reform. According to them, they owe it to the American people to do better and come up with another way of making health insurance plans more accessible.

For their part, Dems are skeptical that the law can actually be reversed so easily. Those looking for it to happen as soon as the new congresspersons are sworn in in January will be disappointed. For one thing, Obama is sure to veto any such legislation that reaches his desk.

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Health Insurance Company CEO Retiring

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Image: Listphile

Health insurance companies are going through many changes at the moment. For Aetna, this is just one more: their CEO, Ronald A. Williams, is stepping down from that role next month. (He will retire from the company entirely early next year.) Williams was the chief executive officer since 2006, and was in charge of the lucrative segment of health insurance plans during a period of soaring costs.

Who will replace him? Aetna President Mark T. Bertolini is being promoted to fill the gap. Bertolini will also have a seat on the board of directors. However, Williams will still be involved as a consultant on healthcare reform issues until February 2012. He will receive $20,000 a month for those services, in addition to a retirement package valued at over $7 million. (Presumably, his health insurance is fully covered.)

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Boeing’s Health Insurance Plans Becoming Less Attractive To Employees

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Image: X-Ray Delta One under CC 3.0

In order to combat continually rising health care costs, many companies are changing their benefits packages to transfer more of the expense onto employees. Boeing is no different.

According to human resources senior VP Rick Stephens, co-payments, co-insurance percentages, and deductibles will go up next year. One of their health insurance plans will have its co-insurance percentages soar to 20% from 10% in 2012. About 90,000 employees will be affected.

Union employees are exempt, because they have their own negotiated contract. Many are speculating that the healthcare reform law has something to do with it, which the aircraft manufacturer denies.

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McDonalds, Other Businesses Exempt from Healthcare Reform Law

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Image: DRB62 under CC 3.0

There has been much concern surrounding healthcare reform’s impact on businesses. Many are worried that employers will drop their health insurance plans altogether, rather than complying with new requirements that increase the standard of care.

However, 30 companies and unions–McDonalds is the most popular–have received an exemption from that provision. The waiver must be renewed by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius each year until 2014. HHS made the judgment that rather than risking companies discontinuing seasonal and temporary workers’ health coverage entirely, it makes more sense to allow them to retain the inferior mini-med plans with extremely low annual limits of coverage. This will be the case for several years, until the health insurance exchanges are fully operational to give such employees more options.

Other firms are protesting this move, because small businesses will suffer while the big names with lobbying influence can get around the unfavorable provision.

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Self-Employed Health Insurance Plans To See Tax Breaks

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Image: shimelle under CC 3.0

Unlike employees with corporate-sponsored health insurance, the self-employed have had to take charge of their own health care. In most cases, they must pay for their health insurance plans out of pocket.

This year, a provision in the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act will allow self-employed S-corp, single member LLC, or sole proprietorship business owners to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums from their tax returns. Like other corporations, they can deduct health care as a business expense for their 2010 tax returns.

This is especially helpful since sole proprietors have to pay both the employer and employee portions of payroll taxes.

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