Posts Tagged - ‘health insurance premiums’

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

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

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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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Pennsylvania Insurer Wants Health Insurance Plan Rate Hikes

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
health insurance plan

As of January 1st, your health insurance plan could become more expensive if you live in certain regions of Pennsylvania.

Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania wants up to $10 million worth of premium hikes. For now, eight plans would be affected, including those targeted towards lower-income individuals–including a guaranteed issue policy for the recently unemployed. Some of the plans are subsidized.

Pennsylvania health insurance customers have one month to comment on the proposal before the state’s insurance department makes a decision on BCNEPA’s request..

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Federal Grant To Review Illinois Health Insurance Premiums?

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

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Over the past several years, Illinois health insurance rates have risen significantly. Like many other states, their insurance department has been overburdened and unable to investigate premium increases.

States have been criticized for rubber-stamping health insurers’ requests in the past. Illinois is looking for a $1 million federal grant from the healthcare reform law to analyze and collect information about health insurance premiums in the state. Their intention is to better determine which would be considered reasonable, and which should be deemed unconscionable–higher than both the medical inflation rate and national averages.

If the state’s application is approved, they’ll receive the funding next month.

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Utah Individual Health Insurance Rates Go Up

Friday, July 9th, 2010

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Similar to those in other states, Utah health insurance companies are raising their premiums. They blame the Obama administration’s healthcare reform law for forcing them to prepare for decreased profits later.

Although state law allows insurers to charge as much as they believe the market will bear, some consumer advocates are worried that filings for rate increases are considered proprietary business information and kept secret. Therefore, few health insurance buyers know what they’re getting into. Most rate changes aren’t known of unless a policyholder speaks out and complains to the media, as they did in this case.

The federal government is looking to states to strengthen their enforcement and prevent “rate creep”, which makes Democrats look bad in the mid-term election season. Humana has raised Utah individual health insurance rates by 29%, while Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield has increased some Medicare Advantage premiums by 48%.

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Health Insurance Company Harvard Pilgrim Agrees To Lower Rates

Monday, July 5th, 2010

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Regulators have been facing off with health insurance companies over proposed premium increases that the former consider excessive, and the latter think are necessary to continue doing business.

Apparently, compromise is possible. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care agreed to a settlement with the state of Massachusetts that limits their individual and small group health insurance rate increases. The decrease is insignificant: their initial requests ranged from 8% to 12%, while the new deal has increases of 7% to 11%.

Since earlier caps on premiums set by the state were rejected on appeal, the insurer could’ve kept fighting. However, they chose to move on instead–although they will still lose money under the agreement. Thankfully for consumers, Harvard Pilgrim (the second-largest insurance provider in the state) also agreed not to retroactively bill policyholders since April for the higher rates.

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Did Group or Individual Health Insurance Premiums Rise More In ’09?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

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According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, those buying individual health insurance have experienced far greater increases in their premiums recently.

Their findings:

  • 77% of those buying health insurance on their own were presented with a price hike
  • On average, those proposed hikes were 20%
  • 16% of those presented with proposed rate increases switched to less generous–and less expensive–health plans, either through the same or a different insurer. Many of the others didn’t switch due to pre-existing conditions that would make finding a different plan difficult.
  • Altogether, the average rate increase (including those who changed plans) was 13%.
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010

A premium is the monthly charge associated with any health insurance policy. In the vast majority of cases, it does not cover every single medical expense. If it did, the premium would be unacceptably high for most people.

The cost of your monthly premium currently depends on several factors:

  • Your age
  • Your health status
  • Your gender
  • The desired level of coverage
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Is Bundled Health Care In Our Future?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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One of the primary causes of rising health insurance premiums is the sheer overuse of care. The current payment system encourages doctors to order as many procedures as possible, since they get paid on an a-la-carte basis. The cost is then passed to health insurers, and therefore you.

In the near term, healthcare reform won’t change this. However, it does create pilot programs that experiment with bundled payments. Bundled health care means that physicians and hospitals are paid a near-flat fee based on treating and managing certain conditions, as opposed to being paid for each individual procedure.

Proponents of the strategy claim that it will lead to more affordable health insurance, since it provides an incentive for doctors to use preventative care more effectively.

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Will Your Health Insurance Company Drop Some Hospitals?

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

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A growing trend in the health insurance industry is to eliminate certain elite hospitals from their provider networks. They believe that refusing to cover those hospitals–that charge significantly higher rates for services than the average–will save money for them and their consumers.

Massachusetts is promoting these so-called restricted provider networks, with a 10-20% discount on health insurance plan premiums. These plans also promote using free-standing imaging centers for medical scans.

Elite hospitals are truly superior in some areas, but their outcomes are similar to more affordable community hospitals in others. Proponents of this strategy feel that diverting some patients from these teaching hospitals will encourage them to clamp down on medical costs in order to regain their business.

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Health Insurance Companies Justify Rate Increases

Monday, April 12th, 2010

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Today, a judge will decide if Massachusetts health insurance companies’ proposed rate increases can go forward. The state’s insurance commissioner refused to allow over 200 premium increases, stating that they were unreasonable in a recession.

Insurers are seeking a preliminary injunction that would allow them to begin charging the higher rates, which are 8% to 32% higher than last year’s. They believe that being forced to stick with the lower rates would put them out of business.

The state’s attorney general, however, states that the insurers haven’t exhausted the entire appeals process–they shouldn’t have assumed that the commissioner would automatically approve their proposals. Until the state acts, they should be prepared to sell affordable health insurance at the previous rates.

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