health insurance

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Thousands Of Consumers Get Insurance Cancellation Notices Due To Health Law Changes

Insurers say some of their policies do not meet the standards required by the Affordable Care Act and must be dropped. (Getty Images)

Insurers say some of their policies do not meet the standards required by the Affordable Care Act and must be dropped. (Getty Images)

By Anna Gorman and Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

The main reason insurers offer is that the policies fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1. Most are ending policies sold after the law passed in March 2010.  At least a few are cancelling plans sold to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost — especially after the inclusion of federal subsidies for those who qualify. The law requires policies sold in the individual market to cover 10 “essential” benefits, such as prescription drugs, mental health treatment and maternity care. In addition, insurers cannot reject people with medical problems or charge them higher prices. The policies must also cap consumers’ annual expenses at levels lower than many plans sold before the new rules.

“I don’t feel like I need to change, but I have to.”

But the cancellation notices, which began arriving in August, have shocked many consumers in light of President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their plans if they liked them.

“I don’t feel like I need to change, but I have to,” said Jeff Learned, a television editor in Los Angeles, who must find a new plan for his teenage daughter, who has a health condition that has required multiple surgeries.

An estimated 14 million people — 2 million of them in California — purchase their own coverage because they don’t get it through their jobs. Calls to insurers in several states showed that many have sent notices. Continue reading

For Legal Immigrants, Obamacare Has Options for Aging Parents

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Mohan Iyer has been in a bind. He’s lived in the U.S. since he came here for college from India in 1980. He ultimately got a job, a green card and became a citizen in 1994. Most of his siblings live here now, too.

After his father passed away two years ago, Iyer and his siblings have wanted their mother to move here. But there’s one big problem: she is effectively barred from any kind of reliable health insurance.

“Health care has been a big issue,” said Iyer, who is 50 and lives in Menlo Park.

New immigrants of any age can purchase health insurance on Covered California
That’s because new immigrants over age 65 are not eligible for Medicare. For legal immigrants like Iyer, who are people of working age, the impossibility of obtaining health insurance for their parents has been a barrier in their hopes of moving aging parents or grandparents to the U.S.

Americans over 65 tend not to worry much about health insurance, because of Medicare, the government insurance program for the elderly and the disabled. But while Medicare is available to virtually all citizens, starting at age 65, immigrants legally present in the U.S. for less than five years are not eligible.

And because of the very existence of Medicare, private insurance companies generally do not offer health insurance plans for those over 65. “There are health insurance options,” Iyer said, “but these are usually catastrophic traveler’s insurance. They usually have a very high deductible and they’re expensive.”

They also tend to exclude pre-existing conditions, he said. Continue reading

Obamacare Downside: Reports of Premiums Going Up

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Luke Donavan reviews information from Kaiser, detailing how his health insurance coverage will change on Jan. 1. His family’s premiums are going up. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

The notice from Kaiser came in the mail about ten days ago.

Luke Donavan’s health insurance premiums were going up. A lot.

Donavan, 41 of San Francisco, is self-employed and buys his own health insurance. Currently he pays $841 per month for insurance for himself, his wife and three young children. But, Kaiser is canceling that policy and offering him a new one that fully complies with the Affordable Care Act. Effective Jan. 1, his family’s premium is going up to $1,000, with a higher deductible.

Donavan says he voted for Obama in both elections and calls himself a “big proponent” of the health law. He has a pretty calm demeanor and says he was “surprised” by this news from Kaiser.

“I just keep coming back to the name ‘Affordable Care Act,’” he said. “I thought I’d pay the same or less for better coverage.”

Subsidies are available for people to buy insurance, but they are dependent on income. Donavan says he earns too much to qualify.

Continue reading

Days Away From Signing-up, Many Californians Still Don’t Understand Obamacare

Women knit as they attend a Senior Information & Resource Fair in South Gate, California September 10, 2013 . The event included a discussion of how the Affordable Care Act, also called 'Obamacare' will impact senior citizens and what insurance plans will be available to them. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Women knit as they attend a Senior Information & Resource Fair in South Gate, California September 10, 2013 . The event included a discussion of how the Affordable Care Act, also called ‘Obamacare’ will impact senior citizens and what insurance plans will be available to them. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

In five days, a key piece of the Affordable Care Act goes live in California — the state-run insurance marketplace Covered California. Yet, most Californians eligible to participate, are confused.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Thursday, finds three in four state residents eligible for government-subsidized private plans are either unaware they quality, or wrongly believe they don’t qualify.

This survey was taken just about a month ago.

KQED’s Mina Kim spoke to Mollyann Brodie, the Director of Public Opinion and Survey Research and Senior Vice President for Executive Operations at Kaiser Family Foundation, about the survey. Continue reading

3 Out of 4 Uninsured Californians Eligible, But Unaware of Obamacare Benefits

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News

As uninsured Californians head into a new era of health coverage, they’re worried about costs and unaware of the help they’ll get from the government, a new survey finds.

The survey, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that three out of four Californians who earn modest incomes and could buy government-subsidized private coverage wrongly believe they’re not eligible for federal assistance or simply don’t know if they qualify.

In addition, many undocumented immigrants, who constitute about a fifth of the state’s uninsured population, erroneously believe they will be eligible for coverage. The law specifically bars them from getting coverage from the state’s new health insurance marketplace, which opens next Tuesday, for coverage beginning Jan.1, 2014.

“This has been, for so long, a political debate,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a Sacramento-based consumer advocacy group. “We’re just starting to move it into a practical reality. Now that the benefits are close at hand, there is a concerted effort to educate people about what their benefits are.” Continue reading

Some Say Obamacare’s ‘Affordable’ Coverage Isn’t So Affordable

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, a lot of emphasis has been placed on enrolling the so-called “young invincibles,” young people who tend to be healthy. The new Covered California insurance marketplace opens next Tuesday, and outreach workers across the state are spreading the news about new options and the coveted subsides, available from the federal government in the form of tax subsidies to make insurance more affordable.

But “more affordable” is relative. Kaiser Health News today tells the story of Michelle La Voie, a single mom making $38,000 a year and supporting two teenagers. She wants health insurance, but even with the subsidy she would likely get, she’s still not sure she can afford it. From KHN:

La Voie … would still have to pay $191 a month, or about 6 percent of her income toward the premium. She could also face as much as $2,000 in potential out-of-pocket costs for hospital care and prescription drugs, if she needs those things.

“What’s the point of having [a policy] if I can’t afford to use it?” asks the 47-year-old librarian in upstate Franklinville, New York, referring to the co-pays and deductibles that she might incur if she sought treatment.

Continue reading

Swapping COBRA For Obamacare Likely A Windfall For Big Business And Consumers

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Jay Hancock, Kaiser Health News

Health-law provisions taking effect next year could save U.S. employers billions of dollars in expenses now paid for workers who continue medical coverage after they leave the company, benefits experts say.

Insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are expected to all but replace COBRA coverage in which ex-employees and dependents can remain on the company plan if they pay the premiums.

Offered a choice between heavily subsidized coverage under Obamacare or paying full price with COBRA “most people are going to choose the exchange.”

“As soon as the law was passed, the question among employers and benefits people was: Is there still going to be a reason for COBRA?” said Steve Wojcik,  vice president of public policy for the National Business Group on Health, an employer group. Offered a choice between heavily subsidized coverage in the health act’s insurance exchanges or paying full price under COBRA, he said, “most people are going to choose the exchange.”

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, known as COBRA and intended to furnish coverage between jobs, is a burden for employers as well as participants. Continue reading

How More Expensive Health Insurance Might Actually Save You Money

Choosing the right plan can mean keeping money in your pocket. (Getty Images)

Choosing the right plan can mean keeping money in your pocket. (Getty Images)

By Michelle Andrews, NPR and Kaiser Health News

One of the most far-reaching provisions of the federal health overhaul prohibits insurers from refusing to cover people who are sick or charging them more for policies.

Still, for people with serious medical conditions, the online health insurance marketplaces present new wrinkles that could have significant financial impact.

Obviously, premium costs will be an important consideration for consumers. But just as important will be a realistic assessment of what kinds of out-of-pocket costs they could expect with different types of policies and what subsidies they will be eligible for.

Even though the premium for a platinum plan will generally be higher, the out-of-pocket spending cap may be significantly lower than other coverage levels.
The law requires new individual and small group plans sold on the online marketplaces, also called exchanges, and on the private market to cover a comprehensive set of 10 essential health benefits, including prescription drugs, hospitalization and doctor visits. The benefits covered will be similar in all plans, but the proportion of the costs that a consumer pays will vary.

There will be four different levels of plan coverage. Platinum plans will pay 90 percent of covered expenses, on average; gold plans will pay 80 percent; silver plans 70 percent; and bronze plans 60 percent. Continue reading

Advocates Prepare for Confusion and Resistance to Obamacare Among Asians

By Mina Kim, KQED

Doreena Wong will lead a $1 million effort to educate the state's Asian populations on the state-run insurance market Covered California.

Doreena Wong will lead a $1 million effort to educate the state’s Asian populations on the state-run insurance market Covered California.

There’s talk the Obama administration will try to enlist the help of NBA players to sell the federal health law to young men. For its part, Covered California, the state’s new health insurance marketplace, plans to spend millions on an ad blitz and social media strategy. But in a state as diverse as California, one of the toughest challenges will be reaching ethnic communities where English is a second language.

In Orange County’s Little Saigon neighborhood where suburban-style strip malls fill with Vietnamese storefronts, the Affordable Care Act isn’t top of mind.

Continue reading

Yes, Young Adults DO Value Health Insurance, Poll Shows

By Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

A strong majority of young adults, whose participation in the health law may be key to its success or failure, strongly believe health insurance is important for them and worth the money, according to a new poll.

As California and other states — as well as the federal government — prepare new online marketplaces for people to purchase insurance this fall, the willingness of young people to buy coverage has been a topic of great uncertainty. Their participation in these marketplaces is considered crucial, since the young tend to be healthier than older people and, therefore, will use fewer medical resources, allowing their premiums to help subsidize the care of the old and sick.

Among age groups, the young are considered the hardest sell on insurance, because the coverage mandated under the 2010 health law is more comprehensive — and therefore more expensive — than the catastrophic policies that many now obtain. Young adults are considered more likely to believe they won’t suffer any horrible illnesses or injuries — a trend that has led to them being labeled “young invincibles.”

More than 71 percent of adults 30 or younger say having health insurance is “very important to them.”
The poll found some reason to believe that the young may not shun the health law requirement that they hold insurance starting next January. More than 71 percent of adults 30 or younger say having health insurance is “very important to them,” according to the poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. When the pollsters put the question differently by asking whether “insurance is something I need,” more than 74 percent of people under age 30 agreed. Continue reading