Since the beginning of health care reform under President Obama there has been intense speculation about how the health insurance companies will react when setting rates for the various health plans they offer. Health insurance is not a commodity like wheat, oil, or pork bellies where the market place of buyers and sellers agree upon a price. While competition does impact the rates to a certain degree, health insurance prices are largely determined by the health care services to be covered, the cost of health care services, and the expected claims for those services within a geographical location where the plan is being offered.
Given the Republican philosophy that less government is better government, Covered California’s reason for existence may evaporate. But it all hinges on Trump’s term ‘transition’. Does he want to transition away from the Marketplace Exchanges, or is he merely suggesting transitioning away the Qualified Health Plans as a requirement for the tax credit?
Covered California has given their online health insurance enrollment system a serious make over with the release of the CalHEERS 17.2 build. Not only has the user interface been enhanced, members must now enter their employer’s contact information before they will be eligible for the monthly subsidy. In addition, Covered California will begin notifying a member’s employer when they enroll or renew their Covered California health insurance.
The California Department of Health Care released a report confirming that several health plans may have had inaccurate provider directories for their member to search through. The Timely Access Report year 2015 reviewed several different measurements to determine if health plan members could obtain timely access to health care services. The report noted that 13 health plans listed Primary Care Physicians who were not in the health plan’s provider network.
After Covered California acknowledged at the January 2017 Board meeting that they had system issues that affected over 40,000 consumers, new enrollment problems seem to be boiling up. Some consumers have reported that household members who are ineligible for Covered California family dental plans have been automatically enrolled in dental insurance in 2017. In some very rare instances, the Covered California system is allowing consumers to actively enroll in two different subsidized health plans.
Millions of people have been enrolled into expanded Medi-Cal through Covered California based solely on their lack of income. Thousands of those same Medi-Cal beneficiaries went on to get jobs or other insurance and forgot to report this to their county Medi-Cal eligibility department. Many of these people fear they will have to repay Medi-Cal for the months they were really ineligible for the no cost health insurance. Do you have to repay Medi-Cal after your income increases and you were no longer eligible? The short answer is usually not.
With all the discussion about congress repealing the Affordable Care Act, there is confusion over what exactly is an Obamacare health plan. Some people think the federal government is dictating the type of health plans that must be sold to individuals and families. It is up to each state to set the rules for their health insurance plans. The federal government under the regulations of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) stipulates what type of health plans are eligible for the Premium Tax Credits that make health insurance affordable for individuals and families.
Like a mugger coming out of the shadows, San Diego County Medi-Cal worker(s) mugged a family enrolled in Covered California and stole their health insurance for 2107. The attack was unprovoked as the couple had not been in Medi-Cal and don’t have any children in Medi-Cal. However, Covered California reported the family to San Diego County because the family fit the profile of a household who they think aren’t smart enough to estimate their own income for 2017.
The one aspect of health insurance that the Affordable Care Act did not address is the cost of health care services. Without a governor on the prices that doctors and hospitals can charge, the health insurance companies must constantly increase their rates to cover the cost of health care expenses that seem to rise faster than the national average for inflation. One way to reign in the ever increasing costs of health care is by providing consumer information on the cost of health care services through price transparency. The Health Care Transparency Project has started an online petition to request the Trump administration implement price transparency for consumers.
Consumers should be cautious when a health insurance agent wants to bundle a bunch of other products such as life and accident insurance with the Covered California health plan. These agents and marketing organizations are more interested in selling higher commission products such as life, accident, cancer, stroke, heart attack, and dental plans than they are health insurance. They may try to convince a consumer to drop the health plan to a Bronze level so they can sell questionable indemnity plan products as extra protection for the higher deductible.