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Health, Life, Dental & Group Insurance Quotes Fast, Easy & Online! – LifeHealthBroker.com.


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COVERED CALIFORNIA TO GET IMPROVED ONLINE ENROLLMENT

coveredca

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Line: (916) 205-8403
Nov. 15, 2013

COVERED CALIFORNIA TO GET IMPROVED ONLINE ENROLLMENT

First Significant Upgrade to Website Will Make Signups Even Easier

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California™ is preparing for the first major scheduled upgrade to its website on Nov. 22, which will bring self-service enrollment online for small businesses and further streamline the individual consumer experience.

The suite of upgrades will be in place by Monday, Nov. 25. The enrollment portal will be taken offline for two days prior while the improvements are installed, from late Friday, Nov. 22, to the early morning hours of Nov. 25. The information pages of CoveredCA.com, including the Shop and Compare Tool for individuals, will remain up and running during that time.

Covered California previously anticipated installing the upgrades Nov. 16 through Nov. 19 but delayed that for a week to allow for more strenuous testing of functionality.

The new site will have online enrollment pages for the exchange’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), designed for employers with 50 or fewer eligible employees. Those businesses can currently register online, check for eligibility and work with licensed Certified Insurance Agents to get quotes. The upgraded site will allow self-service online quoting and enrollment for small employers, aligning SHOP with industry standards for the small-group market enrollments in November and December.

Business owners can also continue to sign up for SHOP through Certified Insurance Agents, or by using paper applications.

Small businesses are not required to buy insurance for their workers, but many business owners recognize the value of offering health coverage to employees. Covered California’s SHOP is a way for employers to offer affordable coverage as a tool for attracting skilled workers, and a way to help employees stay healthy and productive.

Consumers will see some changes in the improved enrollment website to make it more user-friendly, including faster page-loading speeds, smoother navigation paths and changes in text to make questions easier to understand.

Covered California used feedback from individuals, assisters and Service Center representatives to make the improvements, including an optional post-enrollment survey of consumers. Staff also zeroed in on areas in the website where consumers seemed to take longer or abandon the enrollment process.

 

About Covered California

Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans. With coverage starting in 2014, Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the Governor and the Legislature. For more information on Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.


Views:1492

The hidden truth behind early Obamacare numbers – CNN.com

Have you signed up for insurance or tried to? Share your experience on CNN iReport

Washington (CNN) — The White House has been tight-lipped about how many uninsured Americans have signed up for health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act, which has led to some concerns about whether enough people are enrolling in private health plans to make the economic model work.

Under the law, insurance companies are required to cover anyone. But in order to make that economically feasible, everyone has to buy insurance.

The White House has set a goal of enrolling 7 million people in private insurance plans through the new health insurance exchanges by March 31, 2014, the end of the glitch-plagued open enrollment period that started October 1.

But it has been tight-lipped so far about how many people have actually enrolled in private insurance plans — those who have both applied and paid the premiums in advance.

Officials announced Thursday that 700,000 people have applied for insurance plans in both the 36 states that are using a federally run health care exchange and the 14 states running their own exchanges.

Obamacare website ‘fixable’ by end of November

But don’t apply that 700,000 application figure to the 7 million enrollment goal. For starters, there’s no guarantee that all 700,000 will ultimately enroll in a health insurance plan.

And those 700,000 applications include Medicaid enrollments.

Medicaid programs are the public health insurance programs run by states to provide low-income people with health insurance.

As the law was originally envisioned, more than half of the uninsured people in the United States — 24 million or so, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — who would be getting insurance through Obamacare would have been getting Medicaid. Anyone who makes less than 138% of the poverty level — about $27,000 for a family of four — isn’t eligible for federal subsidies to buy insurance, so Medicaid is effectively their only option.

So it’s not necessarily a bad thing if more than half of the people getting insurance under Obamacare so far are getting Medicaid. But in many of the states operating their own exchanges, new Medicaid enrollees account for more than half of the people who have obtained insurance under Obamacare since October 1.

Related: Finger-pointing over Obamacare

Should it be alarming that so many of these 700,000 new applications are people trying to get Medicaid and not private insurance?

Not yet, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

“There’s nothing in what we’ve seen to suggest anything like that,” he said. “Whether you’re able to be eligible for Medicaid or not is totally dependent on your income.”

But he did admit “Some of the numbers we’ve seen, preliminary, early numbers, do seem a little out of whack.”

But he said there’s a reason for that.

“In these small handful of states, they’re aggressively targeting people they think might be eligible for Medicaid,” Salo said.

Salo pointed to people who the states already know are on food stamps receiving some other kind of state or locally funded health program.

“You know who they are, you know what their income is, you know they’re OK accepting government benefits. If you go after these guys, there should be no surprise that these people are being enrolled.”

Also, in some states, Medicaid coverage starts immediately, meaning there may be more of an incentive to enroll early because you get coverage sooner than on the private market where no matter when you enroll in the first two and a half months coverage still starts on January 1.

In Arkansas they’ve insured more than 62,000 people in Medicaid since October 1. But in a novel twist they’re doing it by using Medicaid dollars to buy people private insurance on the exchanges.

Related: Obamacare more than a phone call away

And Oregon has been approved to use food stamps and other metrics as a prequalifier for Medicaid enrollment. So the state sent letters to uninsured welfare recipients that detailed simple steps to enroll in Medicaid — i.e. just sign a form and mail it back or call a hotline. This has resulted in tens of thousands of enrollees. But Oregon also has yet to allow online registration for private health insurance. It’s the one state that elected to fix the glitches in its website before going live.

It may very well be that not enough people — particularly the young and the healthy people who are needed to pay premiums to offset the benefits going out to older and less healthy — are signing up for health insurance on the exchanges.

But with so little information from the government, it is too early to tell.

What we learned and didn’t from Obamacare website hearing

The hidden truth behind early Obamacare numbers – CNN.com.


Views:1167

Workers’ comp rating bureau recommends 8.7 percent boost in basic workers’ comp rates – San Francisco Business Times

The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau California, an industry-supported advisory group, has officially recommended an 8.7 percent rate increase to the California Department of Insurance

That’s smaller than a 9.5 percent increase that the trade journal Workers’ Comp Executive reported last week as the number an actuarial committee was considering. Any advisory rate recommended by the California Department of Insurance would take effect Jan. 1.

But an Oct. 23 letter that was hand-delivered from WCIRB to Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones‘ office said the advisory group is recommending an 8.7 percent jump in the so-called “pure premium” rate. The 8.7 percent is more than a September recommendation by the same group because it includes a 1.8 percent boost to cover projected increases in physician fees, due to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The recommendation is now in the hands of Jones. A hearing is being held today, Monday Oct. 28, to review the proposed increase.

The commissioner can accept, reject or modify the recommended increase. The state’s workers’ comp insurers often follow the commissioner’s guidelines, but aren’t required to do so.

The new recommendation could boost average pure premium rates to $2.75 per $100 of payroll, or 8.7 percent greater than the California comp industry’s average pure premium rate as of July 1, which was $2.53.

But a policyholder’s industry and past experience play a large role in determining actual rates, and insurers can choose to dive below or jump above the advisory rate the commissioner ultimately signs off on.

Jack Hannan, a WCIRB spokesman, said the group didn’t ever propose a 9.5 percent increase, saying that number came from Workers’ Comp Executive, using its own analysis.

Commissioner Jones has yet to comment on the recommendation from WCIRB.

Dale Debber, publisher of Workers’ Comp Eexecutive, argues that his publication is calculating the rate recommendations based on data from WCIRB, using “the traditional way of calculating it.” He says the rating bureau has used a novel approach since Jones took office, in his view because the commissioner is “manipulating” the numbers to make them more palatable to voters.

Chris Rauber’s beats include health care, insurance and the wine industry for the San Francisco Business Times.

Related links:

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Workers’ comp rating bureau recommends 8.7 percent boost in basic workers’ comp rates – San Francisco Business Times.


Views:1256

UnitedHealth unit chosen to fix health care website | Star Tribune

– The government on Friday named a UnitedHealth Group Inc. subsidiary as “general contractor” to oversee the troubled federal website designed to sign up Americans for health insurance under national health care reform.

Quality Software Services Inc., known as QSSI, will “oversee the entire operation” of Healthcare.gov, a government spokeswoman said.

The Maryland software company, acquired by Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth’s Optum business unit in 2012, designed the website’s data services hub, one of the functions that has worked well since the problem-plagued system went online Oct. 1.

QSSI now becomes responsible for prioritizing the site’s worst problems and getting them fixed.

UnitedHealth unit chosen to fix health care website

  • Article by: JIM SPENCER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2013 – 9:09 AM

The federal government named Quality Software Services to tackle problems with the national health insurance website.

– The government on Friday named a UnitedHealth Group Inc. subsidiary as “general contractor” to oversee the troubled federal website designed to sign up Americans for health insurance under national health care reform.

Quality Software Services Inc., known as QSSI, will “oversee the entire operation” of Healthcare.gov, a government spokeswoman said.

The Maryland software company, acquired by Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth’s Optum business unit in 2012, designed the website’s data services hub, one of the functions that has worked well since the problem-plagued system went online Oct. 1.

QSSI now becomes responsible for prioritizing the site’s worst problems and getting them fixed.

“They’ve done a good job already,” said Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees Healthcare.gov. “They are familiar with the project and have the skills and expertise to address these problems.”

A one-sentence statement QSSI issued on Friday provided no details on how the company expects to attack issues that have delayed the ability of hundreds of thousands of Americans to get health insurance coverage.

“Working with CMS, QSSI will help monitor, assess, prioritize and manage the technical operations of healthcare.gov to enhance the consumer experience,” the statement said.

People in 36 states will use the federal website to sign up for coverage because their states did not create exchanges like Minnesota’s MNsure. Users of the federal site have complained of long wait times, dropped connections and lost data.

At a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday, Optum Vice President Andy Slavitt, QSSI’s boss, told members of Congress that even his attempt to establish an account on the website had failed.

Management consultant Jeff Zients, brought in by President Obama to troubleshoot the insurance sign-up system, said that in the first few days of the website’s operation, very few people could create accounts, much less apply for insurance.

Now, with technical fixes and expanded computer power in place, 90 percent of those who try to create accounts succeed, Zients said. But the ability of people to actually complete an application for health insurance remains poor.

“Performance has been volatile,” Zients said. “At points it was very low, with as few as three out of 10 users getting through the application process.”

Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have both called the sign-up system’s performance unacceptable.

Using a construction analogy, Zients said a team of experts has produced a “punch list” of dozens of items that must be repaired or retooled for the system to function properly. QSSI will review that list and decide the order in which fixes will occur.

Zients promised that the sign-up system “will work smoothly for the vast majority of users” by the end of November.

Government officials were unable to say how much more taxpayers will pay QSSI for its new responsibilities. Slavitt told the Energy and Commerce Committee that the company’s current contract was for $85 million.

But a new study by Bloomberg Government, which factors in late additions to the website’s contractors, puts QSSI’s share at $155.3 million out of a total of more than $1 billion.

Jim Spencer • 202-383-6123

UnitedHealth unit chosen to fix health care website | Star Tribune.


Views:1218

Employers Are Ready For The Affordable Care Act. Even If They Don’t Really Understand It | Inc.com

Many provisions of the Affordable Care Act are set to take effect in January. And do America’s business owners have to say about it?

Bring it on. Or, wait. Don’t.

That’s the finding of a new survey of 1,000 employers with between 50 and 999 workers, released today by ADP Research Institute. Seventy percent of those surveyed expressed confidence that their companies will be able to meet the requirements of the new health-care law. At the same time, however, only 48 percent felt confident that their organizations understand all the new ACA regulations.

A separate survey of HR/benefits decision makers in June 2013 found that only 32 percent were extremely or very confident that their firms actually understand the regulations. And nine out of 10 were not

The confusion isn’t surprising, particularly given the kinds of employers surveyed. “The legislation changes dramatically if you have more than 50 full-time-equivalent employees,” says Jessica Saperstein, division vice president of strategy and business development at ADP. “Many of these companies have full- and part-time employees, so there is a lot of complexity in defining eligibility and what you need to do to be in compliance.”

Asked about specific measures they are taking in light of the ACA, more than one-third of survey respondents said they will offer, or already are offering, wellness programs. A similar number are reducing medical plan options, and 28 percent already have started, or plan to start, capping the hours of part-time employees to keep them below the levels required for providing coverage.

Many critics of the Obamacare claim that the new regulations will depress hiring. But only 20 percent of respondents in the ADP survey plan to suspend additional hiring. And fully half of respondents said that they “definitely will not” reduce the number of employees in response to the ACA and 35 percent expected to increase headcount in 2013.

“The good news is that we’re not seeing a dramatic downturn in hiring,” says Saperstein. “There is still an expectation of growth.”

Employers Are Ready For The Affordable Care Act. Even If They Don’t Really Understand It | Inc.com.


Views:1335

Some health insurance gets pricier as Obamacare rolls out latimes.com

Jennifer Harris needs a new health insurance plan

Thousands of Californians are discovering what Obamacare will cost them — and many don’t like what they see.

These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years.

Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama‘s signature legislation.

PHOTOS: The battle over Obamacare

“This is when the actual sticker shock comes into play for people,” said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “There are winners and losers under the Affordable Care Act.”

Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.

Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don’t qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.

“It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else,” said Harris, who is three months pregnant. “This increase is simply not affordable.”

On balance, many Americans will benefit from the healthcare expansion. They are guaranteed coverage regardless of their medical history. And lower-income families will gain access to comprehensive coverage at little or no cost.

The federal government picks up much of the tab through an expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to people earning up to four times the federal poverty level. That’s up to $46,000 for an individual or $94,000 for a family of four.

But middle-income consumers face an estimated 30% rate increase, on average, in California due to several factors tied to the healthcare law.

Some may elect to go without coverage if they feel prices are too high. Penalties for opting out are very small initially. Defections could cause rates to skyrocket if a diverse mix of people don’t sign up for health insurance.

Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

“She said, ‘I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,'” Kehaly said.

Nearly 2 million Californians have individual insurance, and several hundred thousand of them are losing their health plans in a matter of weeks.

Blue Shield of California sent termination letters to 119,000 customers last month whose plans don’t meet the new federal requirements. About two-thirds of those people will experience a rate increase from switching to a new health plan, according to the company.

HMO giant Kaiser Permanente is canceling coverage for about half of its individual customers, or 160,000 people, and offering to automatically enroll them in the most comparable health plan available.

The 16 million Californians who get health insurance through their employers aren’t affected. Neither are individuals who have “grandfathered” policies bought before March 2010, when the healthcare law was enacted. It’s estimated that about half of policyholders in the individual market have those older plans.

Obamacare: News and analysis

All these cancellations were prompted by a requirement from Covered California, the state’s new insurance exchange. The state didn’t want to give insurance companies the opportunity to hold on to the healthiest patients for up to a year, keeping them out of the larger risk pool that will influence future rates.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the state and insurers agreed that clearing the decks by Jan. 1 was best for consumers in the long run despite the initial disruption. Lee has heard the complaints — even from his sister-in-law, who recently groused about her 50% rate increase.

“People could have kept their cheaper, bad coverage, and those people wouldn’t have been part of the common risk pool,” Lee said. “We are better off all being in this together. We are transforming the individual market and making it better.”

Lee said consumers need to consider all their options. They don’t have to stick with their current company, and higher premiums are only part of the cost equation. Lee said some of these rate hikes will be partially offset by smaller deductibles and lower limits on out-of-pocket medical expenses in the new plans.

Still, many are frustrated at being forced to give up the plans they have now. They frequently cite assurances given by Obama that Americans could hold on to their health insurance despite the massive overhaul.

“All we’ve been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it,” said Deborah Cavallaro, a real estate agent in Westchester. “I’m infuriated because I was lied to.”

Supporters of the healthcare law say Obama was referring to people who are insured through their employers or through government programs such as Medicare. Still, they acknowledge the confusion and anger from individual policyholders who are being forced to change.

Cavallaro received her cancellation notice from Anthem Blue Cross this month. The company said a comparable Bronze plan would cost her 65% more, or $484 a month. She doubts she’ll qualify for much in premium subsidies, if any. Regardless, she resents losing the ability to pick and choose the benefits she wants to pay for.

“I just won’t have health insurance because I can’t pay this increase,” she said.

Most Americans are required to have health coverage starting next year or pay a fine of $95 per adult or 1% of their income, whichever is greater. The fines increase over time.

A number of factors are driving up rates. In a report this year, consultants hired by the state said the influx of sicker patients as a result of guaranteed coverage was the biggest single reason for higher premiums. Bob Cosway, a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman Inc. in San Diego, estimated that the average individual premium in 2014 will rise 27% because of that difference alone.

Individual policies must also cover a higher percentage of overall medical costs and include 10 “essential health benefits,” such as prescription drugs and mental health services. The aim is to fill gaps in coverage and provide consumers more peace of mind. But those expanded benefits have to be paid for with higher premiums.

The federal law also adjusts how rates are set by age, a change that gives older consumers a break and shifts more costs to younger people. Rates by age can vary by only 3 to 1 starting next year as opposed to 6 to 1 in some cases now in California. People in their 20s just starting their careers may earn so little they qualify for subsidies. But that might not be the case for consumers who are slightly older and earning more.

“It has the effect of benefiting people in their 50s and 60s and shifting costs to people in their 20s and 30s,” said Patrick Johnston, president of the California Assn. of Health Plans. “Benefits are being increased for all, but it’s not government subsidies for all. Some will pay more.”

Rates would be going up regardless of changes from the healthcare expansion. The average individual premium will climb 9% next year because of rising healthcare costs and increases in medical provider reimbursement, according to Milliman’s estimates.

Some consumer groups have questioned whether insurers are inflating their rates under the guise of the healthcare law changes.

“We believe the prices are higher than they should be,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group. “This is giving a bad name to the Affordable Care Act.”

State regulators checked the insurance companies’ math and underlying cost projections for next year, but they don’t have the authority to deny increases. Under federal rules, insurers can be ordered to issue rebates if they don’t spend a minimum amount of every premium dollar on customers’ medical care.

“The rates aren’t going up because insurance companies are pocketing more money,” Lee said. “That is what it takes to pay the claims and deliver the healthcare.”

Javier Lopez, 38 and a self-employed aerospace engineer in Huntington Beach, pays about $750 a month for an Anthem Blue Cross plan for his family of four. His premiums may rise nearly 20% next year for a new policy because his current plan is being phased out.

Lopez says he’s willing to absorb that one-year jump if it means the government can rein in future rate hikes.

“I’m hoping with this reform,” Lopez said, “we won’t see big increases year after year.”

chad.terhune@latimes.com

Twitter: @chadterhune

Some health insurance gets pricier as Obamacare rolls out – Page 2 – latimes.com.


Views:1174

Obama admin. knew millions could not keep their health insurance – Investigations

President Barack Obama walks out to deliver remarks on the Affordable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Oct. 1, 2013.

By Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye
NBC News

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

This story has been republished here

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”

 

None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered.

 

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”

“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said  Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.

The White House does not dispute that many in the individual market will lose their current coverage, but argues they will be offered better coverage in its place, and that many will get tax subsidies that would offset any increased costs.

“One of the main goals of the law is to ensure that people have insurance they can rely on – that doesn’t discriminate or charge more based on pre-existing conditions.  The consumers who are getting notices are in plans that do not provide all these protections – but in the vast majority of cases, those same insurers will automatically shift their enrollees to a plan that provides new consumer protections and, for nearly half of individual market enrollees, discounts through premium tax credits,” said White House spokesperson Jessica Santillo.

“Nothing in the Affordable Care Act forces people out of their health plans: The law allows plans that covered people at the time the law was enacted to continue to offer that same coverage to the same enrollees – nothing has changed and that coverage can continue into 2014,” she said.

Individual insurance plans with low premiums often lack basic benefits, such as prescription drug coverage, or carry high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. The Affordable Care Act requires all companies to offer more benefits, such as mental health care, and also bars companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions.

Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the president’s promise that consumers would be able to keep their health care. “What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage, minimum services that every insurance plan has to provide,” Carney said. “So it’s true that there are existing healthcare plans on the individual market that don’t meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act.”

Other experts said that most consumers in the individual market will not be able to keep their policies. Nancy Thompson, senior vice president of CBIZ Benefits, which helps companies manage their employee benefits, says numbers in this market are hard to pin down, but that data from states and carriers suggests “anywhere from 50 to 75 percent” of individual policy holders will get cancellation letters. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, who chairs the health committee of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, says that estimate is “probably about right.” She added that a few states are asking insurance companies to cancel and replace policies, rather than just amend them, to avoid confusion.

 

 

A spokesman for America’s Health Plans says there are no precise numbers on how many will receive cancellations letters or get notices that their current policies don’t meet ACA standards. In both cases, consumers will not be able to keep their current coverage.

Those getting the cancellation letters are often shocked and unhappy.

George Schwab, 62, of North Carolina, said he was “perfectly happy” with his plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield, which also insured his wife for a $228 monthly premium. But this past September, he was surprised to receive a letter saying his policy was no longer available. The “comparable” plan the insurance company offered him carried a $1,208 monthly premium and a $5,500 deductible.

And the best option he’s found on the exchange so far offered a 415 percent jump in premium, to $948 a month.

“The deductible is less,” he said, “But the plan doesn’t meet my needs. Its unaffordable.”

“I’m sitting here looking at this, thinking we ought to just pay the fine and just get insurance when we’re sick,” Schwab added. “Everybody’s worried about whether the website works or not, but that’s fixable. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. This stuff isn’t fixable.”

Heather Goldwater, 38, of South Carolina, is raising a new baby while running her own PR firm. She said she received a letter last July from Cigna, her insurance company, that said the company would no longer offer her individual plan, and promised to send a letter by October offering a comparable option. So far, she hasn’t received anything.

“I’m completely overwhelmed with a six-month-old and a business,” said Goldwater. “The last thing I can do is spend hours poring over a website that isn’t working, trying to wrap my head around this entire health care overhaul.”

Goldwater said she supports the new law and is grateful for provisions helping folks like her with pre-existing conditions, but she worries she won’t be able to afford the new insurance, which is expected to cost more because it has more benefits. “I’m jealous of people who have really good health insurance,” she said. “It’s people like me who are stuck in the middle who are going to get screwed.”

Richard Helgren, a Lansing, Mich., retiree, said he was “irate” when he received a letter informing him that his wife Amy’s $559 a month health plan was being changed because of the law. The plan the insurer offered raised his deductible from $0 to $2,500, and the company gave him 17 days to decide.

The higher costs spooked him and his wife, who have painstakingly planned for their retirement years. “Every dollar we didn’t plan for erodes our standard of living,” Helgren said.

Ulltimately, though Helgren opted not to shop through the ACA exchanges, he was able to apply for a good plan with a slightly lower premium through an insurance agent.

He said he never believed President Obama’s promise that people would be able to keep their current plans.

“I heard him only about a thousand times,” he said. “I didn’t believe him when he said it though because there was just no way that was going to happen. They wrote the regulations so strictly that none of the old polices can grandfather.”

For months, Laszewski has warned that some consumers will face sticker shock. He recently got his own notice that he and his wife cannot keep their current policy, which he described as one of the best, so-called “Cadillac” plans offered for 2013. Now, he said, the best comparable plan he found for 2014 has a smaller doctor network, larger out-of-pocket costs, and a 66 percent premium increase.

“Mr. President, I like the coverage I have,” Laszweski said. “It is the best health insurance policy you can buy.”

More from NBC News Investigations:

 

 

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Obama admin. knew millions could not keep their health insurance – Investigations.


Views:1164

CaliforniaChoice Announces New Small-Group Business Solutions Suite | Business Wire

October 22, 2013:
ORANGE, Calif.–()– CaliforniaChoice announced today the introduction of a small-group “Business Solutions Suite” designed to provide small businesses and their employees with a host of additional products and services at no additional cost. CaliforniaChoice is one of the nation’s most successful small-group private health insurance exchanges.

“When it comes to purchasing health insurance, employers today are choosing between a government option, a single carrier or a private exchange,” said Ron Goldstein, president and CEO of CHOICE Administrators, which operates CaliforniaChoice. “Our new Business Solutions Suite includes products and services employers want and need; and we’re able to offer them at absolutely no additional cost to the employer, which enhances the overall value of our program.” CaliforniaChoice’s Business Solutions Suite will be available January 1, 2014.

The Business Solutions Suite is comprised of three levels; these levels are broken out based on the number of employees in a small business. Each level includes discount dental, voluntary vision, discount hearing programs, a pharmacy prescription card, a premium-only plan, access to an online human resources support center, Cal Perks employee discount programs, payroll discounts, and Cal-COBRA billing support. Businesses with more than 15 employees also have access to a flexible spending account, and those with 20 or more employees receive federal COBRA billing support.

Goldstein explains the Business Solutions Suite is included alongside CaliforniaChoice’s extensive medical and ancillary benefits portfolio. CaliforniaChoice offers a wide selection of benefit plans – ranging from platinum metal tier benefits (the richest benefits) to gold, silver and bronze – through Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, Sharp Health Plan and Western Health Advantage. CaliforniaChoice also offers both full and limited provider networks within each metal tier of benefits, which gives employees more flexibility when it comes to selecting the right coverage. The program also includes a host of optional benefits including dental, vision, chiropractic, life and payroll services.

Exchanges, both public and private, are similar to health insurance “shopping malls” where consumers, employers, employees and brokers can compare plans side by side based on cost, provider network and plan designs. CaliforniaChoice helped pioneer the exchange concept in the 1990s and has continued to be a leading advocate by educating the market about the advantages of exchanges. Today CaliforniaChoice serves more than 10,000 employers and 150,000 employees. For more information on CaliforniaChoice, visit www.calchoice.com.

CaliforniaChoice Announces New Small-Group Business Solutions Suite | Business Wire.


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Kaiser faults California’s exchange for lack of quality ratings – latimes.com

Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente and two other insurers say California’s insurance exchange is withholding crucial information from consumers by not posting quality ratings alongside health plan rates.

The insurance companies said “there has never been a compelling reason to deny this information to consumers…. On this issue, Covered California has surrendered its ‘pace car’ status.”

Sharp Health Plan in San Diego and Western Health Advantage in Sacramento joined Kaiser in criticizing the state’s position in a letter sent Monday to Covered California, the state health exchange. Some consumer advocates have also urged the state to reconsider, saying any delay rewards lower-performing insurers.

Thousands of people have been shopping for coverage at the state’s website at www.coveredca.com since enrollment opened Oct. 1 under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Covered California ignited this debate in August when it backed off earlier plans to include insurance company ratings in its online enrollment system.

This came as a surprise because state officials had touted the idea of consumers choosing coverage based on the overall value, combining price and quality measures.

Full coverage: Obamacare rolls out

At the time, the exchange said it reversed course because the latest state rankings examine performance from 2011, and they don’t reflect many of the new health plans and provider networks being offered for the first time under the federal healthcare law.

Major insurers such as Blue Shield of California and Health Net Inc. have offered narrower networks for some exchange policies to help lower premiums. In contrast, Kaiser and its full provider network are often more expensive.

State officials have discussed including ratings for some health plans, such as Kaiser, that are using their current network and labeling newer products as “not yet rated.” Covered California’s five-member board is expected to consider the matter at a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday.

In their letter, the three insurers also point out that other state-run exchanges, such as those in Colorado, Maryland and Oregon, are displaying quality data prominently on their websites. Colorado’s website even sorts a consumer’s options by quality, rather than just price.

“The leadership of these three state exchanges faced a choice, as California’s does now – and they chose to put consumers first,” the insurers said.

The state’s Office of the Patient Advocate publishes annual ratings of the largest HMO and PPO plans, handing out one to four stars in a variety of categories. The report card looks at whether insurers are meeting national standards for recommended care and it asks patients to rate their own experience.

The state also issues separate quality ratings on insurers serving patients in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor. Several of those plans that cater to lower-income residents are selling policies in the broader exchange.

Kaiser routinely scores well in rankings on quality of care and patient satisfaction. It was the only HMO in the state to earn a top four-star rating for providing recommended care on the most recent report card. Sharp and Western Health each received three stars on the same measure.

Open enrollment in the state exchange runs through March 31.

ALSO:

Covered California set to drop health insurer ratings

California exchange removes troubled online directory of doctors

California issues annual ratings for health plans, physician groups

via Kaiser faults California’s exchange for lack of quality ratings – latimes.com.


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