Friday, September 28, 2012

Exchange Board approves Essential Health Benefits standard – false choice between benefits and cost

Yesterday the CT Health Insurance Exchange Board approved CT’s version of the Essential Health Benefit (EHB) package under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As of January 1, 2014 individual and small group plans will have to cover at least the EHB services. The ACA required that the EHB include at least ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse care, prescriptions, rehab and habilitation services, lab services, preventive and wellness care including chronic disease management, and pediatric care including vision and dental care. States have several plan EHB options including large commercial plans, federal and state employee plans. After long, contentious deliberations, two exchange committees of experts and stakeholders agreed on a moderate, compromise choice based on ConnectiCare’s HMO plan that includes all state mandates. The committees recommended that compromise to the Exchange Board. While the Board eventually approved the committees’ recommendation, there was a great deal of discussion about reducing the “richness” of the plan in the interest of “affordability”. Board members noted that the recommended plan is “richer” than what is offered now in CT. They failed to note that one of the main points of reform was to improve the “value” of health insurance so it truly covers what people need. If what is available now was sufficient, we wouldn’t have needed reform. The Board wants the legislature to “revisit” legislatively mandated benefits next year, eliciting groans from lobbyist and advocate observers in the room. Unfortunately there was no meaningful discussion about the potential for ongoing payment and delivery innovations successful in many other states, to provide flexibility that improve quality, access, patient satisfaction while controlling costs. The Board includes no independent consumer advocates and several insurance industry representatives. Consequently the Board is locked in the narrow false choice between mandated benefits and affordable premiums. That very old, very simplistic dialogue only spirals downward into worse care and upward into skyrocketing costs. The Board is missing a massive opportunity to learn from innovators and truly reform CT’s health care landscape.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Join us for Consumer Conversations: the CT Health Insurance Exchange

January 1, 2014 every CT resident will be required to secure health coverage. The CT Health Insurance Exchange is being developed under the Affordable Care Act to be a fair, user-friendly marketplace for consumers and small businesses to buy decent coverage, hopefully at an affordable price. The Exchange has not heard consumer voices, does not include any independent consumer Board members, and is dominated by insurance interests. Small Business for Healthy CT and the CT Health Policy Project have invited Kevin Counihan, CEO of the exchange, to meet with consumers and small businesses to learn what consumers need and how to make the exchange a success. We will also be joined by Christine Hager, Regional Director of HHS, the federal agency funding the exchange. The meeting will be October 26th from 8:30m to 11am at the Pond House Grille in Glastonbury. To register, click here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

CT Health Insurance Exchange and other briefs posted

The CT Health Policy Project’s 2012 candidate briefing book on CT’s health is posted – including a brief on the CT Health Insurance Exchange. In addition, this year’s book includes briefs on twelve other timely issues including health care cost drivers, Accountable Care Organizations, and CT & national health reform. The briefing book is part of – our resource library on health care issues and solutions facing CT.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Insurance Company Shenanigans – Part 2

If you live in CT and are insured through Golden Rule, now also known as United Healthcare’s United HealthOne; you should read the State of Connecticut’s Insurance Department notice # 509542, dated 8/17/2012. They filed a rate increase of 9.9% which the State of Connecticut cannot deny; since they filed it saying they will reimburse policy owners if they don’t spend 80 cents of every dollar on medical expenses. Let me interpret for you; according to the State of Connecticut, they are charging 3.3% more than they should be charging. Basically, on average, they are charging and collecting $380 more per year next year than this year; or by the State’s estimate $125 more per year than they should be charging you! Doesn’t sound like much, but consider this: you are financing the operations of a company that paid its CEO over $50 million in salary and benefits just a couple of years ago! Is this fair? Consider that $125 is the average, and that people with family plans are overpaying by far more than $125 per year to finance this $100 billion dollar corporation. Tony Pinto

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insurance Company Shenanigans – Part 1

In case you’re wondering why you don’t hear insurance companies complaining about Obamacare; it’s because they are big winners and don’t want to rock the boat. Insurance companies are “limited” to either paying out 80% of every dollar collected in the Individual and Small Group business market or 85% of every dollar collected in the Large Group business market. What this means is that they can keep 20% or 15% of every dollar respectively for themselves to cover their operational costs and create profits for them. Think about that… In the Individual and Small Group markets, they can keep 20% for themselves to pay their expenses and fill their pockets. Doesn’t seem like a big number; but, this means that the more expensive in dollars the health plan is; the more they make in profit. For example; if you buy a health plan that costs $400 per month with high co-payments; they can make $80 per month at-most at 20%. However; if you buy a health plan that costs $600 per month with lower co-payments; they can make $120 per month at 20%. Interesting, isn’t it… The more a health plan costs; the more profitable it can be for the insurance company. Tony Pinto

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When choosing a plan in the exchange, actuarial value just a starting place

A new real-world analysis by the Commonwealth Fund demonstrates devil in the details of the bronze/silver/gold/platinum health plan actuarial value levels designed to guide consumers and small businesses choosing plans in the new insurance exchanges. The metal categories were designed to organize and make sense of confusing choices and combat deceptive insurance industry marketing practices. The analysis describes the very different costs and coverage available to individuals under plans from the same metal category. In some cases a “better” plan based on actuarial value can end up costing consumers more depending on their costs during the year. Unfortunately it is very difficult for most consumers to predict their future health costs – isn’t that why we have insurance in the first place? The study concludes, “actuarial value is a useful starting point for selecting a plan, but it does not pinpoint which plan will produce the best overall value for a particular person.” So much for making things simple. As of January 2014, consumers will be required to secure health coverage under federal law. Individuals eligible for premium subsidies must purchase coverage in the new state insurance exchanges. Leadership of CT’s Health Insurance Exchange, now developing, has been criticized as dominated by insurers and lacking independent consumer representation.