Category Archives: Insurance

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers asked her Facebook followers for the Obamacare nightmare stories. She did not get the response she was expecting.

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like-thumb-facebookTo mark the 5th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, Washington State Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, asked her Facebook followers to share with her their Obamacare nightmare stories.

She didn’t get the response she was expecting. Most responders are giving it a big “thumbs up.”

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High-deductible plans bring down costs now, but will they bring pricey problems later?

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Twenty-dollar bill in medicine bottleBy Jay Hancock
KHN

Got a high-deductible health plan? The kind that doesn’t pay most medical bills until they exceed several thousand dollars? You’re a foot soldier who’s been drafted in the war against high health costs.

Companies that switch workers into high-deductible plans can reap enormous savings, consultants will tell you — and not just by making employees pay more.

Total costs paid by everybody — employer, employee and insurance company — tend to fall in the first year or rise more slowly when consumers have more at stake at the health-care checkout counter whether or not they’re making medically wise choices.

Consumers with high deductibles sometimes skip procedures, think harder about getting treatment and shop for lower prices when they do seek care.

What nobody knows is whether low-cost, high-deductible plans will backfire, resulting in higher costs later on.

What nobody knows is whether such plans, also sold to individuals and families through the health law’s online exchanges, will backfire. If people choose not to have important preventive care and end up needing an expensive hospital stay years later as a result, everybody is worse off.

A new study delivers cautiously optimistic results for employers and policymakers, if not for consumers paying a higher share of their own health care costs. Continue reading

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Kreidler announces examination of Premera data breach

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MKreidlerPhotoFrom the Office of the Insurance Commissioner

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced Tuesday the launch of a multi-state “market conduct” examination of the Washington-based health insurer Premera Blue Cross in response the news that computer hackers were able to penetrate the company’s customer records.

“We take the recent cyberattack at Premera very seriously,” said Kreidler. “Insurance regulators across the country are on high alert given the recent breaches both at Premera and Anthem and we will use every resource within our authority to ensure that consumers are protected and to see that insurers are responding appropriately.”

 

“I remain seriously concerned at the amount of time it took Premera to notify its policyholders of the breach,” said Kreidler.

Market conduct exams on-site reviews of an insurer’s financial books, records, transactions and how they relate to a company’s activities in the marketplace.

The hackers gained access the records of 11 million customers – 6 million in Washington – including access to customers’: Continue reading

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Special enrollment period ends April 30

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Special Enrollment Period ends April 30

Don’t miss the chance to enroll in health coverage for 2015 if you owe the fee.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is providing individuals and families who owe the fee when they file their 2014 taxes with one last chance to get covered for 2015.

This is too important to put off. If you don’t have coverage for the remainder of 2015 you’ll risk having to pay the fee again next year for the portion of the year you don’t have coverage. The fee for people who don’t have coverage increases in 2015. If you don’t have health coverage for 2015, the fee is $325 per person or 2% of your household income – whichever is higher.

hcgov get coverage with arrow


Millions of people have already signed up for 2015 coverage, and . . .

. . . 8 out of 10 who enroll are getting financial help.

We hope you take advantage of this extended opportunity to get quality coverage this year.

The HealthCare.gov Team

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Another chance to enroll for coverage for 2015

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HCGOV Thin Marketplace header

HCGOV HHS Seal

Special Enrollment Period: March 15 – April 30

Don’t miss the opportunity to enroll in health coverage for 2015 if you owe the fee.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is providing individuals and families who owe the fee when they file their 2014 taxes with one last chance to get covered for 2015.

hcgov get coverage with arrow


Millions of people have already signed up for 2015 coverage, and 8 out of 10 who enroll are getting financial help.

We hope you take advantage of this extended opportunity to get quality coverage this year.

The HealthCare.gov Team

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The Children’s Health Insurance Program debate

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insure kids now chip schipBy Christine Vestal
Stateline

The federal-state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will run out of money on Sept. 30.

Until recently, Congress showed little interest in paying for it. But this week, the House agreed on a bill that would continue the $13 billion program in its current form through 2017.

In late February, Republicans in both houses issued a “discussion draft” outlining modifications they claimed would make the program more flexible for states, even though most governors say they don’t want any changes to what they consider a near-perfect health care program.

Most governors say they don’t want any changes to what they consider a near-perfect health care program.

The GOP proposal would have narrowed coverage to the lowest-income families currently served by CHIP and allowed states to cut back enrollment.

If CHIP is not renewed, advocates say more than 2 million of the 8 million kids currently covered by the program could wind up uninsured.  Continue reading

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Despite predictions, health law brings no drop in job-based insurance, study finds

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431px-Lewis_Hine_Power_house_mechanic_working_on_steam_pumpBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

There has been much hand wringing over the health law requirement that large employers this year offer insurance to workers who put in 30 or more hours a week or face penalties for not doing so.

The new rules would cost employers a bundle, some fretted, as part-timers clamored for company coverage previously unavailable to them. Others worried that employers would cut workers’ hours to get under the cap.

Average enrollment in company plans was essentially unchanged between 2014 and 2015 at 74 percent of all workers.

A new study found that so far there’s little cause for concern: Average enrollment in company plans was essentially unchanged between 2014 and 2015 at 74 percent of all workers.

The survey of nearly 600 employers by benefits consultant Mercer found that in 2015 the average percentage of employees who were eligible for coverage increased 1 point to 88 percent, but it was offset by a drop in the enrollment of eligible workers of 1 point on average, to 83 percent.

Part of the explanation for the stable results stems from the fact that most employers were already in compliance, says Beth Umland, Mercer’s director of research for health and benefits. Continue reading

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Washington state Obamacare premiums 12% cheaper this year – report

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ACA health reform logoThe average monthly premium of a the lowest cost “Silver” plan in Washington state offered through the health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act fell from $269 in 2014 to $237 in 2015, according to a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a 12.0 percent decline.

In Seattle, the price of the average monthly premium fell even more from $267 to $233, a 12.2 percent decline.

The averages were calculated for the premiums on lowest cost Silver plans offered to a 40-year-old non-smoker.

Silver plans are designed to cover 70 percent of the cost of essential health benefits with the patient pays 30 percent.

About 87 percent of people obtaining insurance through the exchanges receive subsidies to help cover the cost of premiums.

To learn more go here.

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Many unaware that health care law subsidies may be banned – Poll

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ACA health reform logoWith a decision due by summer in a Supreme Court case that could unravel President Barack Obama’s health care law, a new poll finds many Americans have heard nothing about the case. But when the potential fallout is explained, most say it would hurt the country and they would look to Congress or the states to fix it.

via News from The Associated Press.

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Blue Shield Of California Loses Exemption From State Taxes : Shots – Health News : NPR

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Flag_of_CaliforniaCalifornia tax authorities have stripped Blue Shield of California, the state’s third largest insurer, of its tax-exempt status in California and ordered the firm to file returns dating to 2013, potentially costing the company tens of millions of dollars.

At issue in the unusual case is whether the company is doing anything different from its for-profit competitors to warrant its tax break. As a nonprofit company, Blue Shield is expected to work for the public good in exchange for the exemption from state taxes.

via Blue Shield Of California Loses Exemption From State Taxes : Shots – Health News : NPR.

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Major data breach of Premera Blue Cross affects millions in Washington state.

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computer laptop and stethoscopeFrom the Office of the Washington State Attorney General

OLYMPIA — Premera/Blue Cross today announced it has been the target of a major data breach.

The breach affected Premera Blue Cross, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, and its affiliated companies, Vivacity and Connexion Insurance Solutions, Inc. It impacts millions of individuals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

It is unclear at this time what information was taken, but it may have included Social Security numbers, dates of birth, mailing and email addresses, telephone numbers, member identification numbers, bank account information and claims information (which includes medical information).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, to find out more about the attack and who was behind it.

“I’m very concerned about this and other data breaches that put Washingtonians at risk,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “My team is looking into what happened, and we will do everything we can to protect consumers.”

The breach was discovered Jan. 29, 2015 and Premera has determined that the breach was the result of a May 5, 2014 cyberattack.

The company is offering two years of credit monitoring to all customers, ID theft restoration services and ID insurance through Experian. Customers can visit www.premeraupdate.com to sign up for the services.

Premera/Blue Cross reports it is in the process of setting up a dedicated call center to handle breach-related questions. Affected consumers will also receive notices.

The source of the attack is not yet known.

For more information, visit www.premeraupdate.com.

The Legislature is currently considering Attorney General-request legislation to strengthen notification requirements when data breaches occur. HB 1078 passed the House March 4 and is now before the state Senate.

For more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft and how to recover, visit www.atg.wa.gov/identity-theftprivacy.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

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Premera hacked

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135242Premera has been the target of a sophisticated cyberattack in which attackers gained access to the personal, financial and medical information of more than 11 million customers, the company announced today.

The company has set up a dedicated website where members can sign up for two years of free credit monitoring and identity protection services.

To learn more,  members should go here.

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Owe a fee for not having health coverage in 2014? You may still be able to get coverage for 2015.

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The Special Enrollment opportunity runs from March 15 through April 30, 2015.

From Healthcare.gov

Alert IconOpen enrollment for 2015 is over. But if you owe a fee on your taxes for not having health coverage in 2014 and don’t yet have health coverage for 2015, you may still be able to get coverage for 2015.

In 2015, the fee for not having health coverage increases to $325 per person – or 2% of your household income – whichever is higher.

This fee generally applies if you can afford to have health coverage but choose to remain uninsured – although you may not have to pay the fee if you qualify for an exemption.

If you don’t have coverage for the remainder of 2015 you’ll risk having to pay the fee again next year for the portion of the year you don’t have coverage.

The good news is that the Health Insurance Marketplace is providing individuals and families who are subject to the fee when they file their 2014 taxes with one last chance to get covered for 2015. In order to take advantage of this Special Enrollment Period, you must meet all of the following requirements: Continue reading

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New Report: Health law has helped insure 16.4 million

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ACA health reform logoBy Julie Rovner
KHN

A total of 16.4 million non-elderly adults have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law five years ago this month – a “historic” reduction in the number of uninsured, the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday.

Those gaining insurance since 2010 include 2.3 million young adults aged 18 to 26 who were able to remain on their parents’ health insurance plus another 14.1 million adults who obtained coverage through expansions of the Medicaid program, new marketplace coverage and other sources, according to HHS’ report .

The percentage of people without coverage has dropped by about a third since 2012: from 20.3% to 13.2%.

Officials say the percentage of people without coverage has dropped by about a third since 2012: from 20.3 percent to 13.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Continue reading

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Rating agencies agree to be more flexible about medical debt

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

Too many consumers have learned the hard way that their credit rating can be tarnished by medical bills they may not owe or when disputes delay insurer payment.

That should change under a new policy agreed to this week by the three major credit reporting agencies.

The agencies say they will establish a 180-day waiting period before medical debt is added to someone’s credit report. In addition, the agencies agreed that when an insurer pays a bill, the debt will be promptly removed from the consumer’s credit report, unlike certain debts that remain for years.

Agencies say they will establish a 180-day waiting period before medical debt is added to someone’s credit report.

The changes are part of a settlement between the credit rating agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and the New York Attorney General’s office that aims to improve accuracy and enhance procedures for disputing credit report errors. The agreement covers consumers across the country.

The three agencies gather information from banks and collection agencies about consumers’ credit — such as payment history and how much someone owes — to create a credit score for about 200 million individuals throughout the country. A person’s credit score is used as a measure of credit-worthiness, and it can influence people’s ability to get loans and the interest rates they’re charged, among other things.

“This is going to help millions of people access more affordable loans,” says Mark Rukavina, a principal at Community Health Advisors in Chestnut Hill, Mass. “People will no longer be penalized for having a medical bill slip past them and get on their credit report even though the bill gets paid.” Continue reading

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