In December, during the Open Enrollment Period, she enrolled in the previous health plan for the 2018 year. The health plan took her first month’s premium payment, applied it to her past due balance, and then terminated her coverage at Covered California. Under the new rules the health plan is within their rights to take her money and deny her coverage for 2018.
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A glaring deficiency in the report is the failure to attribute any decline in enrollments, either on the federal level or at Covered California, to an improving economy. Unemployment is at record low percentages and more people are working for employers who offer group health plans. Covered California’s own small group plans have seen increased enrollment since its inception in 2014 and their budget report estimates continued enrollment growth.
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.
In the case of this specialty genetic laboratory test, the lab billed $8,000 for the test. The health plan determined that the Allowable Amount was $3,000 for the test. The health plan paid 50% of the allowable amount in the form of a check to the plan member. Oddly, the Evidence of Billing indicated that none of the $8,000 claim was covered, even though they sent a check to the plan member for 50% cost-sharing for the test. Regardless, the plan member is still responsible for full $8,000 to the lab for the test.
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.
Families don’t all have to be with the same carrier either. Some parents have chosen a PPO plan for their children because certain doctors who are treating their children are in-network with the PPO plan. The parents then choose a less expensive HMO plan for themselves. It could be that a family member needs surgery during the next year. That person might opt for a Gold or Platinum plan to reduce out-of-pocket expenses while the other family members hang out in the Bronze or Silver metal tier level.
Because of all of the numerous ways a provide network search can give incorrect results, I am now recommending that people print out a list of providers in their area. Usually the list can be created in a PDF format that is searchable with Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can look through the list of doctor names alphabetically. You might see Dr. Balabat and realize that is your doctor when you thought the name was spelled Baladat.
But once you cross the border, some plans can be a little coy in whether they will cover any health care services. For both travel in the United States and abroad, you really need to study the health plan’s member agreement also referred to the Evidence of Coverage (EOC). The EOCs are those big documents that tell you have the plan works, what’s included, and what’s excluded. Some EOCs are specific about foreign travel coverage while others that I have studied make no mention of coverage outside the U.S.
Finally, some folks are considering just enrolling in Medi-Cal because they are eligible. They have very little or no income to report on their taxes because they are living off of savings, interest, and dividends. Here again, Medi-Cal would be used as a containment strategy to an unexpected accident or illness. Medi-Cal is typically a HMO plan which requires a Primary Care Physician to make referrals to specialists, order tests, or imaging.
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.