Posts Tagged - ‘healthcare’

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Which Country Has The Most Disputes with Health Insurance Companies?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Most people agree that health care is an essential good, though they may disagree on how to go about providing it. Yet, a recent survey shows that millions the world over are forced to skip it because of the high cost. In order to maintain profitability, health insurers want to keep costs down. However, this often results in disputes between patients and health insurance companies over coverage.

According to the Commonwealth Fund’s findings, one nation sees more of these battles than others: the United States. Other industrialized nations, such as Germany and Switzerland, are believe to have less complex systems. Some have more private sector involvement than others, but the survey’s authors generally believe that they manage to provide more affordable health insurance (America has the highest per-capita spending on it) without as much hassles.

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How To Avoid Medical Bankruptcy

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Image: camposcharteredlawfirm under CC 3.0

One of the most common causes of bankruptcy is medical costs. In fact, 62% of bankruptcies are the result of health care expenses. Even those who have health insurance are affected, due to crushing co-payments and co-insurance percentages! That’s why it’s essential to pick the right health insurance plan for your needs, with the correct level of benefits.

Here are some tips on avoiding these pitfalls:

  • Think twice before selecting a health savings account. High-deductible HSA plans are appealing due to lower premiums, but studies have found that people with higher deductibles are more susceptible to bankruptcy.
  • Whatever health coverage you choose, keep a separate savings account with money in the bank to pay for unexpected emergencies or other medical expenses.
  • Check with your health insurer to confirm that they actually paid the providers, even if they are responsible for the billing.
  • Ask for a copy of your bill, and look for mix-ups that could cause you to owe more than you expected.
  • If at all possible, avoid opening credit card accounts to pay for health care, even if the provider offers it to you. Credit card debt is harder to eliminate than medical debt, comes with far higher interest rates, and leaves a black mark on your record.
  • Don’t take out a home equity loan, either. Not only is it also harder to eliminate through bankruptcy, but it could also lead to you losing your home.
  • Try to negotiate a payment plan with the hospital or doctor’s office, even if you have health insurance. They may offer more favorable terms.
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What the Health Bill Means for Young Adults

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

(Image: Zef Delgadillo under CC 3.0)

People between ages 19 and 29 are more likely to be uninsured than most other groups. Young adults are also more likely to visit the Emergency Room than many other groups. No one should start out their adult life under a mountain of medical bills. Even a basic individual health insurance plan will limit exposure to unexpected medical costs. Individual health insurance plans for adults ages 18-24 can be as low as $100/month, or less. A health plan can save you thousands of dollars in the event you need emergency care.

What’s more, the health bill extends specific provisions that reach out to young adults. Effective immediately, the legislation allows those through age 26 who do not have medical insurance to remain on their parents’ policies at their parents’ discretion. Currently, states regulate the age at which children are kicked off their parents’ insurance policies. Generally, it’s around 18 years old. Plans will be much more affordable for young adults under the new bill.

There is also immediate help for uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions. This applies to young adults and all other Americans. The health bill includes a $5 billion fund to finance an immediate, temporary insurance program for those who are uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions.

If you need help finding coverage, health insurance agents will help you compare the costs of various plans at no additional charge.

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What does the Healthcare Bill Change Now?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

The healthcare bill has passed after more than a year of debate and negotiations. Some of the provisions will go into affect immediately. So what does the passage mean for both uninsured and insured Americans? Here is a look at some of the major changes.

  • Seniors will get help paying for prescription drugs.
  • Individuals with income of $200,000 or more and families with a combined income of $250,000 or higher will see an increase in taxes.
  • If you already have health coverage, within six months, the plans will have to stop setting lifetime limits on coverage and canceling policy holders who get sick.
  • Insurers will also have to allow children to stay on their parents’ policies through age 26 and cover children with pre-existing conditions, but can still deny adults with medical problems until 2014.
  • By 2014, most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance or face penalties.
  • Small businesses and the uninsured would have the option of shopping for coverage in medical insurance exchanges, a marketplace in which people would be able shop for and compare insurance plans. Those exchanges would be implemented in 2014.
  • The bill greatly expands Medicaid and subsidies to the poor. Insurance companies would not be able to place lifetime caps or deny coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions.
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    Health Bill will Pay for Itself?

    Friday, March 19th, 2010

    (Image: Zef Delgadillo under CC 3.0)

    Democrats are elated about the financial report released by the Congressional Budget Office. It estimated the health bill would reduce projected federal budget deficits by $138 billion over the next decade, with additional tax revenue and Medicare savings.

    The report is already helping move the legislation forward. Representative Bart Gordon and Representative Betsy Markey had a change of heart on the healthcare bill. Both Democrats cited the budget report as the deciding factor. Many Senators had expressed concern about the cost of the health bill and were convinced the country just couldn’t afford it.

    White House officials are now touting the budget report which they say proves the health care plan will not only save lives, but will also pay for itself in the long run.

    The federal government would spend $940 billion over the next 10 years to provide medical coverage to 32 million people who would otherwise be uninsured. More low income individuals will be covered and other families will receive subsidies on behalf of the government to purchase health insurance.

    President Obama still needs the support of about six more Democrats to reach the 216 votes needed to pass the affordable health insurance bill. Senators are slated to vote on the health bill this weekend.

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    Do you want a Presidential Physical?

    Thursday, March 18th, 2010

    (Image: Zef Delgadillo under CC 3.0)

    President Obama had a pretty thorough physical back in February– some say too thorough. And with all the talk over healthcare spending many are wondering just what the President’s included.

    The president received two top-of-the-line, high-tech tests, CT scans of his colon and his coronary arteries, you most likely won’t be getting when you show up at your doctor’s office this year.

    Neither of these tests are part of a regular annual physical so health insurance companies probably won’t cover the costs.

    Some doctors are encouraging more Americans to have the tests, saying they have caught heart disease and colon cancer at early stages. However, other doctors disagree and feel Mr.Obama’s testings fall into the American belief that more healthcare is always better. Such physicians say having the tests are costly and also expose patients to unnecessary radiation.

    If you still want the President’s physical, it will cost you a pretty penny even if you have medical insurance. Facilities such as the Cooper Clinic, Scripps Health in San Diego, and the Cleveland Clinic offer “executive physicals” for $2,000 to $3,000 depending on the extent of the exam.

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    Small County Helps Workers Get Healthcare

    Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

    One small restaurant is not waiting for the White House to solve the healthcare dilemma. In downtown Pueblo, Colo., a restaurant called Gold Dust Saloon is helping its employees buy affordable health insurance.

    The company is one of 30 participating in a county program to provide low-cost coverage to employees of small businesses. The program is called the “three share”. The cost of insurance is split three ways; cooks and waitresses from the restaurant pay a portion, and the worker and the community cover the remaining balance. In Pueblo, two local hospitals pay the community portion.

    The program is the only way such employees can afford medical coverage. Many small businesses have stopped offering workers group health insurance due to skyrocketing premiums. The three share program is helpful but only reaches out to a small group. Millions of others still have no one to help cover their insurance costs.

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    Obama’s Future in the Hands of Health Bill

    Monday, March 15th, 2010

    President Obama is on his final push for the health bill. If Obama’s plan does pass, healthcare in America will never be the same again. Millions left without medical insurance will receive financial help to get coverage, others will be offered lower and more stable premiums, and insurance companies will be forced to follow tighter regulations.

    Mr. Obama, himself, has much to gain from passage of the health bill. The President’s reputation will be strengthened. He has struggled for more than a year of his term to overhaul the healthcare system. During that time, some Americans have lost faith in the president’s leadership, and others believe the political system is broken. The President has poured his all into this bill. It would certainly damage his credibility as a leader for months if Democrats do not support and pass his legislation.

    If President Obama and the Democrats succeed, the challenge over the next eight months will be to convince the public that the program is better than polls suggest they think it is. Health bill supporters will need to prove to Americans that health insurance for all is best for everyone. And while parts of Obama’s plan would take effect right away other provisions would take time.

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    Historical Health Bill Vote Nearing?

    Friday, March 12th, 2010

    President Obama is making a final push for his overhaul healthcare plan. White House say they will call for a vote as soon as next week. Some Republicans say the President has missed a number of deadlines for the healthcare bill, and aren’t convinced he will meet the current one. But, if by chance the legislation is passed it will be a historic moment that will change the lives of many Americans who can’t afford medical insurance.

    Here is a list of highlights as posted by the Washington Post.

    -HOW MANY COVERED: 31 million uninsured Americans.

    -INSURANCE MANDATE: Like the bills approved last year by the House and Senate, the proposal would require almost everyone to be insured or pay a fine. There is an exemption for low-income people.

    -INSURANCE MARKET REFORMS: Stops unpopular insurance industry practices such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging women more. In response to recent insurance premium rate increases, including increases as high as 39 percent by Anthem Blue Cross in California, the legislation adopts an Obama proposal to give the federal government the authority to block rate hikes, roll back premium prices and force insurance companies to give rebates to consumers.
    Click here!

    -MEDICAID: The legislation would expand the federal-state Medicaid insurance program for the poor to cover people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, $29,327 a year for a family of four. The federal government would pick up more of the tab, paying 100 percent of the cost for newly eligible individuals through 2017. A special deal that would have given Nebraska 100 percent federal financing for newly eligible Medicaid recipients in perpetuity has been eliminated. A different, one-time deal negotiated by Sen. Mary Landrieu for her state, Louisiana, worth as much as $300 million, remained.

    -TAXES: The legislation would scale back a Senate-passed tax on high-cost insurance plans that was opposed by House Democrats and labor unions. The tax would be delayed from 2013 until 2018 and the thresholds at which it is imposed would be moved up from policies worth $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families, to $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. Those changes mean $120 billion in lost revenue over 10 years that would be replaced mostly by applying an increased Medicare payroll tax to investment income as well as wages for individuals making more than $200,000, or married couples above $250,000. The Senate bill had applied the tax only to wage income.

    -PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: The proposal would close the “doughnut hole” coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit that kicks in once seniors have spent $2,830. The Senate bill would have provided a 50 percent discount on the cost of brand-name drugs in the doughnut hole but Obama would close the gap entirely by 2020. The added cost, which Democrats have not yet disclosed, would be paid for in part by an additional $10 billion in fees on the drug industry.

    -EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITY: The legislation keeps the approach in the Senate bill, which doesn’t require businesses to offer coverage but charges fees to companies with more than 50 employees if the government subsidizes employees’ coverage. The proposal increases the fees to $2,000 per worker instead of $750, but grants companies an allowance that was not part of the original Senate plan. The proposal includes part-time workers in the calculations, counting two part-time workers as one full-time worker.

    -SUBSIDIES: The proposal provides more generous subsidies for purchasing insurance than the Senate bill did. The aid is available for households making up to four times the federal poverty level ($88,000 for a family of four).

    -HOW YOU CHOOSE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE: Small businesses, the self-employed and the uninsured could pick a plan offered through new state-based purchasing pools called exchanges. People working for big companies would not see major changes.

    -GOVERNMENT-RUN PLAN: The proposal does not include the government-run insurance plan sought by liberals and approved by the House. It takes the Senate approach, which gives Americans purchasing coverage through new insurance exchanges the option of signing up for national plans overseen by the federal office that manages the government health plan available to members of Congress. Those plans would be private, but one would have to be nonprofit.

    -ABORTION: The proposal does not change the abortion provision in the Senate bill, which is opposed by anti-abortion groups that say it allows federal financing of abortion. The bill tries to maintain a strict separation between taxpayer dollars and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage.

    No health plan would be required to offer coverage for the procedure. In plans that do cover abortion, beneficiaries would have to pay for it separately, and that money would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money. States could ban abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange. Exceptions would be made for cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.

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    Healthcare Spending is No Easy Fix

    Friday, March 12th, 2010

    The healthcare debate has lawmakers at odds, and if you are wondering why Congress can’t seem to get a hold on the issue of medical insurance the simple answer is: it’s not easy. A large part of the healthcare debate is spending, and lawmakers must predict how much money the country’s health system will need in the future.

    As said in an article by The New England Journal of Medicine, no one can accurately predict what health care expenditures will be 10 years from now, because they will depend on many factors, every one of which is unpredictable. For instance, what health problems will the country face in 2020? No one knows what the incidence of heart disease, cancer, and other major objects of health care spending will be 10 years from now. The prevalence of obesity may continue to increase or reverse its course. New infectious diseases may appear and become widespread. Equally important, and equally difficult to predict, are advances in medicine, or in economic terms, changes in medical technology. New drugs, new devices, new imaging techniques, and new surgical procedures have had a huge impact on health care expenditures in the past and probably will in the future as well.

    And then there is the cost of medical advancements. Some advancements are proven to be cost effective while others are seen as wasteful. But how can Congressional leaders know exactly which interventions to invest in?

    Healthcare spending becomes a matter of how much a life is worth. It’s a difficult principle to quantify and even more challenging for lawmakers to govern. So as lawmakers struggle to come to common ground on how to make health insurance more affordable, remember, it’s no easy fix.

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