The limitations to the BlueCard program for 2019 on PPO plans means the out-of-area health care services are no different than Blue Shield’s Trio HMO plan for individuals and families. Unless the health care services are for emergency or urgent care they won’t be covered unless the member has prior authorization from Blue Shield of California.
Blue Shield individual and family plans also come with Teladoc for phone call consultations, NursesHelp 24/7 online chat, and the BlueCard program that allows member’s access to providers when they are travelling out-of-network. The plans also include a physician home visit. The home visit, Heal on-demand house calls, is subject to the member’s location. There is also Telebehavioral health benefit that helps members with mental or substance abuse challenges access therapy online with mental health professionals.
The final extra is the personal emergency response system (PERS). PERS is an emergency alert system that can be activated at the push of a button. It can work with an in-home landline, cellular network, and includes mobile GPS to identify the user’s location. The most advertised use for the personal emergency alert system is if the person falls and can’t get up. This can happen in the person’s home, while they out walking around the neighborhood, or hiking on a trail.
For eligible members, there is no additional cost to participate in this program or for services provided by Landmark. Covered services provided by non-Landmark providers through a referral from Landmark may be subject to cost-sharing based on members’ health plan benefits and coverage.
Both Health Net and Blue Shield have wasted thousands of hours of time for consumers, agents, and their customer service staff. Tempers have become short and patience has run thin. And as of December 21st, a month after some people have applied for health insurance, 10 days before the plans are to become effective, many families don’t know if they will have insurance on January 1, 2018.
Health insurance companies are smarter than your average house cat. They have reams of data about health care claims and demographics. They can forecast, with reasonable confidence, that altering some of the member cost-sharing benefits may reduce their final exposure to pay member claims. It has also been suggested that consumers who purchase health insurance off-exchange, paying the full premium rate with no subsidy, may be more judicious in how they use health care services. In other word, off-exchange consumer mays tend to file fewer health care expense claims. This results in lower rates to the consumer.
The health plans don’t recognize the invoiced amount of the health care services from out-of-network providers as either accruing toward the deductible or for their cost-sharing of 50% before the maximum out-of-pocket amount is met. The health plans apply a Usual and Customary Rate (UCR) or the Allowable Amount. This limits their responsibility for payment and increases the health plan members costs.
The health plans and Covered California may give lip service to the value of the agent community, but it is not reflected in the compensation we receive. I’m not trying to get rich as an insurance agent. My net revenue listed on my Schedule C for 2016 was $34,000. If the new compensation schedules significantly erode my insurance revenue then I will have to find other income streams. Maybe Covered California will hire me to answer phone calls; I hear they have a great benefits package.
If a consumer was in a market where the only choices were Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Blue Cross was the SLCSP (Blue Shield necessarily being the least expensive Silver plan offered) then these consumers may see their relative tax credit subsidy decrease. This will hold true if the Blue Shield plan, and now the only plan available, continues to have a rate lower than what Blue Cross would have had in 2018.
If you are going to be spending an extended period of time outside of your plan area, for work, vacation, or going to college, carefully review your plan’s Evidence of Coverage to make sure the BlueCard Program is part of the covered benefits. I was surprised to learn that both Blue Cross and Blue Shield HMO plans included the BlueCard Program for 2017.