Even Bigger Insurance Sticker Shock Coming for 2017

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Posted by admin | Posted in ACA-Obamacare | Posted on 25-05-2016

Insurance companies are rolling out their rate increase requests for 2017, and they are becoming available on ratereview.healthcare.gov starting today. Nebraska’s are already available and it is massive sticker shock for Blue Cross customers. BCBSNE is requesting a 34.9% average increase to premiums on individual plans and it is stated to affect 13,000 policy holders (about 25,000 people). For small group plans they requested 9.43% (generally businesses are on this). The other insurance companies in Nebraska requested increases ranging from 10.05% (United Healthcare) to 35.09% (Medica). It doesn’t tell me the starting rates, and these increases have not been approved by the state insurance commissioner yet. From looking through past filings, it appears that most of the time the requested increase is approved, with the exception of a silver plan request that was reduced from 30% to 23%. So maybe these very high rates will be reduced a little, but it appears we’re still looking at a very high increase no matter what. You can start looking for your state’s requested increases at that link above. Some of them aren’t out yet, but they should be soon.

The Federal Reinsurance program completely phases out in 2017 which is why people expect (and are seeing) such a large jump. That program was designed to help cushion the financial transition for insurance companies into the ACA, but without it the companies are shouldering all the costs themselves. It’s possible Congress will extend that program. Rates are also going up because more sick people are using the insurance, medical inflation has raised the health costs a lot, and drug costs are also skyrocketing.

The requested 34.9% is an average increase across all plans, and it may not be the final increase, but let’s do the math based on what we know.

For our family, the bronze plan for 2016 was $1102.27/mo. A 34.9% increase would make it $1486.96 for the BRONZE plan rate in 2017 (with a giant deductible).

The 2016 gold plan rate was quoted as $1683.95, so the proposed increase would make it $2271.65 for the GOLD plan rate in 2017. That is more than many house payments. More than 2-3 house payments for most people around here. I cannot imagine paying that.

I’m sorry, this is clearly unsustainable. I hope, for the sake of those on insurance, that these proposals are reduced. But it’s clear to me that we are reaching a crisis in this county. I had read that one company was going to completely eliminate all their bronze level plans in one state because those customers were paying less, using the coverage for what they needed, then dropping the policy. They were actually more expensive customers to the company than the silver and gold level customers were. For bronze plans that aren’t disappearing across the country they could have deductibles as high as $7150 per person.

Expect to hear a bit about this in the news as these kinds of increases are back breaking for many. If something isn’t fixed there could be another big round of people dropping insurance in favor of health care sharing again this fall. God bless us all.

 

Update: I heard recently that Blue Cross in Texas and Oklahoma was asking for 50% increases to their premiums for 2017. A company did that in New Mexico last year and the request was denied by their state insurance commissioner. The company then pulled out of that state. I wonder how the requests in OK and TX will be received. I have doubts they will be approved at that level, but maybe.

Don’t Forget to Shop Around!

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Posted by admin | Posted in Self Pay Resources | Posted on 03-05-2016

Looking for the best deal is so common in most aspects of our lives. We do that at Walmart, online stores, car dealerships, clothing stores, furniture stores and even the grocery store. We look for coupons and sales, and make deals with salesmen. But shopping around for health care is just not that common for most people and it’s because of the insurance culture we were raised in. With insurance paying the tab we cared only about the copay and didn’t ever ask how much the tests cost and our way to save money on medicine was to ask if there was a generic option (a great first step). We forget that in many areas we can get our tests done at more than one location and that prices can vary a lot. We often don’t realize that the exact same medication can be wildly more expensive at one pharmacy versus another in the same town. We just don’t pay attention because we were conditioned not to ask. Pay the copay and walk out the door. Deal with the shocking consequences of deductibles later.

This habit needs to change and members of health care sharing ministries have learned (or are learning) how to become great health care shoppers. With the bills coming to us first and because we want to save the ministry’s members as much money as possible we are asking questions, shopping around and finding the deals we didn’t know existed. Schools have a desperate need to teach financial management skills to highschoolers and I am adding health care shopping to my list of curriculum wants.  It’s going to take millions of us asking around to get the culture changed. I recently read of a fellow Samaritan Ministries member who got a cash discount from the hospital for an MRI, but didn’t accept it as low enough so he went shopping around. He found an imaging clinic who offered him a rate 65% cheaper than what the hospital offered. Same service. The amount will be shared by Samaritan members, so he just saved all of us several hundred dollars by making a couple extra phone calls. That is awesome. We need to do this whenever we can. Ask around, shop around, find the deals. They’re out there and the health care industry isn’t going to turn the corner on costs until we can show each facility they are not the only game in town.

If you aren’t sure whether the price you are being quoted is appropriate, use a service like the healthcarebluebook.com to see what insurance is paying for the same service in your area. It at least gives you a starting point. Happy shopping!