As 2015 comes to an end, I'm examining my expenditures for the year. I plan to spend a full day going through my accounts to see where I overspent on non-essentials so that I don't make the same mistakes next year. But I already know how much I spent on health insurance and I know that I'll spend slightly more on it in 2016. I've used all of the health plan price comparison tools and I know I can't get a lower monthly premium than the plan I selected. And that annoys me because I haven't needed medical care services since I was a child.
I pay about $3,500 in annual health insurance premiums and that's considered relatively inexpensive. It is inexpensive compared to the $9,600 in annual premiums an acquaintance of mine pays. Before the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) she was paying twice that as a freelancer. Still $3,500 is a lot of money to pay for nothing. And if I needed to use my plan, I'd have to meet a $6,000 deductible. But I'm okay with paying that deductible if I actually received medical care (aside from the unsubstantiated markup prices for that care).
What I'm struggling with in this American health insurance market is that I have no real options to cut my health care expenses. I can't negotiate my insurance rate with the insurance company. I'm just stuck paying what they demand I pay. I can't design a health plan that suits my lifestyle. I'm stuck with plans designed for sick people.
My ideal health plan would be a $0 premium, high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA). This is how it would work: Continue Reading...
This is the time of year when human resource (HR) experts discuss the top trends in employee benefits. These annual observations typically focus on health plan design or delivery systems that are gaining momentum or at least not losing it. Think high deductible health plans and private exchanges. Or they concentrate on survey responses from employers about programs they are sticking with despite their lack of effectiveness. Think wellness, employee engagement and communication programs. But there is one on-going benefits trend that never makes an HR top trends list.
Maintaining the financial status quo of health insurers and benefit plan service providers.
There is a raging war going on in both the health care and retirement plan industries that service workplace benefit plans.
- Health insurers are in a fight with health care providers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies over costs that are threatening their profits. Health insurers are showing that they are not afraid to take on other parts of the health care delivery system. They are looking to Congress to reign in pharmaceutical costs, as well as pitting big pharma against itself when negotiating discounts. Additionally, they are cutting providers from the networks who won’t offer better discounts.
- Pharmaceutical companies are in a political and public relations battle over the ever-increasing prices of both specialty and generic drugs. They are also battling with health insurance companies that they blame for providing inadequate prescription drug coverage under their health plans. And, big pharma continues to play the research and development and innovation costs cards to justify its high prices (all while providing no cost information…).
- Health care providers and hospitals are sparring with health insurers over proposed mergers, narrowing of provider networks and low claims reimbursements. There's not much new to see in this fight except to see if the health insurer mergers will lead to greater health care discounts from providers.
The war over workplace retirement plans is not as high profile as what’s going on in health care, but it is important to track nonetheless. In fact, the fight to hold onto the retirement plan service provider status quo is even more epic because it pits the industry against the government over several issues. Continue Reading...
It's not enough that health insurance cost so much, insurers have to remind us of this during the Christmas holiday season. It's like they are fiendishly saying, "add this to your holiday shopping list." Secret Santa Gift - $150. Gift for mom - $250. Gift for significant other - $500. Gift for my health (insurance) - $9,500!
I say, if health insurance open enrollment has to occur this time of the year, health plans should be on sale. And, no, not sale as in we are now selling high-priced health plans, but sale as in, discounts for everyone. Not just discounts for the poor (although I'm totally for that) and the employer-sponsored, but health insurance discounts for everyone. And if someone says, there are health insurance discount sales available if you shop wisely and focus on overall costs and not just premiums, I'm putting them on a separate list.
The idea that people who are not eligible for government subsidies to pay for health insurance can afford it if they only shopped wisely, is false. It’s a total cop out by reformers. And where did this idea come from anyway? Just because someone in Washington, no matter how brilliant they may be, decided that the cutoff for individual subsidies was a certain amount does not mean that everyone else can comfortably afford health insurance. They can't. Continue Reading...
Despite relentless criticism, the Obama administration continues to propose and create policies and programs relating to health insurance and retirement savings plans. For sure, much of the criticism is due to fear of change by an industry that is doing well for itself. If brokers are able to briefly contain their fear of the unknown, they will see that they have a lot to gain from the Administration’s many proposals.
There are three main themes to the White House’s health insurance and retirement plan proposals:
- Increase Access
- Increase Legal Protections
- Increase “Tax” Fairness
It’s a fact that more Americans have access to health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). And while most everyone agrees that increasing access to health insurance is a good thing, Obamacare was a challenge for one group in particular—insurance brokers. After Obamacare, many insurance brokers expressed concern for their livelihood and if they could transition to a new, more drawn-out way of doing business. They also had legitimate concerns about their commissions. There is talk that some independent agents transitioned to other professions or retired, but for the most part insurance brokers did not lose their livelihood and now have a larger customer base to assist. Continue Reading...