Archive for September, 2018

Why do California’s state politicians dislike Californians so much? Gov. Brown just signed legislation that guarantees Ca’s citizens will see no relief from rising health plan premiums.

September 27, 2018

Some things are just too crazy to understand such as why California’s legislature and Governor continue to put forth healthcare related legislation that guarantees the good premium-paying citizens of CA will get no relief.

The legislation that the Governor just signed, SB 910 and SB 1375, put a “ban” of the health plans referred to as Short-term medical plans as well as on Association health Plans both of which came about as a result of the Trump Administration’s efforts to lower healthcare cost and increase alternatives. The proponents of the bills Gov. Brown just signed applaud that this moves CA one step closer to universal coverage which to them means “state run healthcare”.

As we’ve discussed in previous Posts, the efforts in healthcare related legislation by CA’s liberal politicians cause more pain, both physical and financial, to 90% of the population just to move toward their stated goal of government run healthcare. One piece of legislation after another, over the past 10 years, has reduced access to care, raised cost of insurance and increased out of pocket cost for patients. I could list numerous pieces of legislation that punish the majority but did nothing to benefit the people the Legislators claim to help.

SB 161 is a good example of these bad bills. In legislative hearings the proponents of SB 161 openly stated that their goal was to eliminate competition for the group plans of Covered California. So SB 161 was created to restrict small employers from gaining access to lower cost group health plans that utilize self-insurance and stop loss policies. The result – small employers lost access to competitive group health plans and of course we all know that Covered Ca’s group plans suck.

This time, the CA legislature’s goal is to block both Short-term medical plans (STPs) (what liberals refer to as junk insurance) as well as Association Health Plans (AHPs).  Democratic Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the afore mentioned SB 161 has also authored SB 910 and SB 1375 which ban STPs and AHPs respectively. Remember that both of these health plan options are designed to offer more choice, that means potentially better alternatives than the ACA’s metallic plans provide.

The opponents of these innovative and competitive types of coverage claim that because these plans are exempt from some of the Affordable Care Act rules these plans will “cherry pick” healthy citizens. That these STPs and AHPs would leave the un-healthy citizens on the current plan offerings of the ACA, which we all know suck.

BTW, by suck I mean:

  • Too expensive
  • Too high out of pocket limits.
  • Too much risk for “unexpected” costs as we’ve discussed.
  • Too skinny provider networks
  • Too few options for individuals and families

The Liberals claim that the STPs and AHPs are bad because:

  • They can underwrite which means they can accept or reject applicants.
    (While not all are accepted this does bring premiums down)
  • That members with pre-existing conditions might see their claim denied.
    (Folks with Pre-ex could remain on the ACA compliant plan of their choice)
  • They don’t need to cover ‘essential health benefits which Liberals always highlight includes mental health and maternity care.
    (Not everyone needs maternity care, pediatric dental, or mental health benefits so AHPs and STPs can cover what folks really care about at lower premiums)

The real story is that California’s liberal legislature has convinced itself, and any new politician that joins them, that CA needs “universal coverage” run by the State of Ca. Can you imagine how horrific a state run plan would be for everyone including those citizens with pre-existing conditions. (Who the Libs say they care about)

Have you ever tried to fight the Government when it makes a mistake? It’s impossible to get help, a correction, satisfaction or relief.

But, if your private plan’s Insurer mucks something up you can get relief or at least an explanation. Plus, you have a regulatory body such as the Dept. of Insurance or Dept. of Manage care to step in, if needed. Insurers try to avoid intercession by regulators.

Who would you rather fight: the State Government Bureaucracy that does not give a hoot about us as individuals or an Insurer that lives in fear of the DOI?
You know the answer!

The sad fact is that we are all being penalized as the CA tries to implement its vision of state run health care. As stated many times, 90% of us are paying increasing premiums while getting decreasing benefit and the legislation the Governor just signed won’t make it better for the 90% of us.
Enough on that!

As a random thought, have you noticed the press and liberal candidates increasing the fear mongering about pre-existing conditions. As we predicted a month ago,  every article about health care includes a paragraph or two about the GOP’s desire to cut off your coverage for your pre-existing conditions. These statements would be laughable if it weren’t so darn serious.

As I’ve stated, no Conservative or Republican would dare take Guarantee Issue and Coverage for Pre-ex away from us. Remember, these people want re-elected more than anything. Why would they do something stupid like that? Plus, the Insurers have learned to be profitable in the new era, very profitable.

OK, next week you’ll read about E Clampus Vitus as I venture to my Fall Trek. I hope you will enjoy reading about the history of the Clampers.

Always remember, we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

We warned you about the Employer Mandate. The Congress is working quickly toward an outcome that makes little sense! let’s see why.

September 20, 2018

You read here on August 16th 2018 how the US House passed out of Ways and Means a bill  which would suspend the employer penalty payments for the period after December 31, 2014 up to January 1st, 2019. Again Yes, you read that correctly. For years, 2015 through 2018 the employers affected by “play or pay” would not be required to make the penalty payments. I’m sure it’s some clever GOP move to throw off logic.

The Bill was voted out of the House last week which means the Senate gets a whack at it. Will it make it into law before the mid-terms? I doubt it but let’s take a look at the brilliance of our House GOP as it stumbles over itself yet again in its efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.

Here are a few high points of what H.R. 3798 would provide:

  • Change the ACA employer coverage mandate threshold for “full-time employee” to 40 hours per week, from 30 hours per week. (May increase uninsured ranks)
  • Keep the ACA employer coverage mandate from applying to any month beginning after Dec. 31, 2014, and before Jan. 1, 2019. (Will employers that complied receive any restitution?)
  • Postpone the start date of the ACA excise tax on high-cost health benefits packages to Dec. 31, 2022, from the Dec. 31, 2021, start date now in effect. (No one likes this tax or even understands who will pay it. Why not just eliminate it?)
  • Repeal an ACA excise tax on indoor tanning services. (Duh, who cares!)
  • Require employers to provide Form 1095 coverage statements to individuals only when individuals ask for the statements, instead of having to send the statements to all employees, recently departed employees and certain dependents every year.
    (This is not a bad idea, but if there is no Individual Mandate and no Employer Mandate why is reporting necessary at all?)

Here are the challenges as stated by experts:

One challenge supporters of H.R. 3798 face is finding new federal revenue, or new federal spending cuts, to offset the effects of ACA employer mandate changes on the federal budget.

Analysts at the Congressional Budget Office estimated in a report posted Tuesday that H.R. 3798 could cut federal revenue by about $12 billion in 2019, and by about $52 billion over the period from 2019 through 2028.

The delay in the effective date of the employer mandate and the change in the definition of full-time worker could cost the government about $46 billion in revenue over the 10-year period starting in 2019, according to the CBO analysts.

Here’s what I said before and I’ll say it again:
Is it even close to being a good idea in the first place or just a political gimmick by politicians so that they have bragging points as they campaign for reelection? We know from the Individual Mandate that they won’t repeal it outright but rather they will  simply reduce the penalty to zero. Jeez, that’s a cowardly way to legislate.

As we asked previously, is the employer “play or pay” mandate a good idea or should it be eliminated? Plus, what effect will it have on the thousands of employers and hundreds of thousands of employees who complied already?

I am a free market, let the private sector resolve it and keep the Government the hell out of it, kind of guy. But, this issue is a complex one because as I mentioned tens of thousands of employers have already taken steps to comply.

Those employers stepped up to do what was required, those employers purchased the plans that complied with the law and spent money that the non-compliant employers did not. It would be unfair for non-compliant employers to avoid the penalty while other employers have already spent untold fortunes with no hope of getting that money back.
Can these employers, who feel they were forced to comply, receive any restitution equal to what they paid to comply?

Remember this example:
If Company A and Company B both bid on the same project they would both include all of their operating and legacy costs in those bids. Therefore, if Company B provides no health plan, because it was and is noncompliant, then its costs might be lower thus allowing it to submit a lower bid and possibly win a project over Company A which does provide benefits.

Personally, I think an employer who provides benefits is probably a better run company and certainly tries to take care of its staff. So, that employer should have an advantage but money is money which means the buyer may take the lower bid. That sucks but happens.

But, the other side of this is the employee’s. Hundreds of thousands of employees have been offered and enrolled on a health plan, possibly for their first time. What happens to them if their employer discontinues a plan because it’s no longer required legally? Many would go without coverage simply due to affordability.

Let’s face it, the ACA has caused premiums to increase astronomically over the past 7 years on individual plans (all plans really). These employees, pushed off an employer sponsored plans, would be required to go into that ACA Individual Plan jungle, and I do mean jungle as it is a “freaking” mess in that market. Would those employees want to pay those high premiums – could they afford those premiums? Probably not.

In addition, the health plan landscape, that is alternatives and access, varies greatly state by state. Many states, like California, are not allowing any of the Trump administration’s new ideas to come to California. California says No AHPs, No to skinny plans on top of what California had already implemented to harm small employers with its stop loss killing legislation known as SB 161.

Again, I would wager that many employers, who bit the bullet and complied, will maintain their plans thus continuing the expense they incur. The elimination of the penalty will make it so that non-compliant employers will be allowed to continue not providing benefits, not spending those funds and may think they have a financial advantage in the market against competitors.

So, against my human nature and all that helps one develop values I don’t think the “Play or pay” mandate should be eliminated for large employers. In fact it should be enforced. The IRS has had difficulty identifying which employers should or should not be Playing and less success in getting noncompliant employers to pay. Big deal – get it done so that the law is applied equally.

So, even though the House will be in recess as you read this, you will be informed. Together we need to stay focused on healthcare issues like this. Can you think of a single big government bureaucracy that has ever not fouled it’s intended objective? No, so when we identify issues that need attention or fixed or eliminated we should shout for it.

That way they’ll know that we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

Higher Out of Pocket cost for healthcare services seems to be a surprise to some. Question for you: Who hasn’t expected that? Let’s explore this.

September 13, 2018

Over the past few months we’ve seen a steady increase in articles and news headlines with stories about how people have experience higher Out of Pocket (OOP) than they ever expected. The stories, and there will be more before election day, actually highlight many of the fundamental flaws in the ACA that we have been discussing for years.

But, their tactics are clever, if not devious, as the authors carefully imply the cause of these flaws is a result of the GOP and the Trump Administration’s tinkering with the ACA. Of course the GOP changes have nothing to do with higher OOP and higher premium of the Obama administration’s signature healthcare bill, The Affordable Care Act. Stills sounds awkward calling it the affordable care act, doesn’t it?

First question that comes to mind is: “who could be surprised that higher premiums, higher deductibles, skinny networks, and record Insurer profits would lead to higher OOP for members?” I have no doubt the stories and the examples about which they write are 100% true. But, none of us should be surprised because it is election season.

Of course, the GOP has tinkered around the edges of the ACA which the authors can use as side notes to imply a cause. But, there is not one change by the GOP that would have led to more OOP than the ACA plans provided for prior to January 2017.

There has been no change to the metallic plan structure or minimum claim payout requirements legislated by the GOP. Unfortunately, we could have really used some legislative fixes to actually improve or eliminate the ACA but that’s an old story which we have discussed over the past 2 years.

So, what causes the surprise of the higher Out of Pocket.

  • Number one issue that always surprises folks is the high deductible plans with naturally higher OOP. When we shop for our health plans aren’t we all are surprised and dismayed by the cost and benefits?
  • We’re surprised that for the premium we pay the plans provide no benefit for RX or Office Visit copay until after the higher deductible is met. Many have stated that the Bronze plans actually encourage folks to defer of seeking healthcare.The metallic plans suck for sure but the OOP is foreseeable if not predictable.
  • The biggest shock comes from services provided outside the PPO network (OON) of the member’s plan. Members may try to use PPO Docs but sometimes it’s not possible because the PPO networks have been cut down so much. The shock comes from the OON provider’s invoice due when providers “balance bill” the patient for services outside of the PPO network. Those charges can be huge and generally not predictable. A patient may have an emergency situation or complex health treatment which will absolutely with 100% certainty result in unexpected charges due to OON providers.

A recent survey by the Kaiser Health Foundation compared the level of “worry” Americans have with their ability to pay various costs they incur.
The survey reveals the percentage of folks concerns about their ability to pay their bills.  The respondents who stated they were Somewhat Worried to Very Worried is staggering yet predictable:

  • 67% concerned about unexpected medical bills.
  • 53% concerned about health insurance deductibles.
  • 46% concerned about gasoline or transportation costs.
  • 45% concerned about RX costs. (Seems low doesn’t it)
  • 43% concerned about their utility and electric costs.
  • 42% concerned about their monthly health insurance premium.
  • 41% concerned about their rent or mortgage.
  • 37% concerned about affording food.

Of the 8 categories we see 4 of the largest concerns are healthcare related.
The bigger issue should be that those 4 categories do not occur independently. We pay premium to be covered and majority of IFP Plans (Individual or Family Plans) are Bronze or Silver so we have larger OOP for both Rx and most medical services. Then add the Out of Network balance billing concern and we have a potential and predictable catastrophic event. But, that’s no surprise is it?

Most Bronze plans have deductibles of $5,000 or higher with no first dollar Rx  benefit and OOP of $7,000 or higher. If a Bronze Plan is what a member can afford then OOP costs can be somewhat projected, in the absence of out of network care. I think most Americans would agree that the high premiums they pay for even a Bronze plan, with its high OOP, is not acceptable. Particularly healthy Americans who, as we have discussed in prior discussions,  pay a large “surcharge” to compensate for the UN-healthy.

We appreciate KHF’s efforts to report results and surveys concerning healthcare costs and delivery. They do a good job of compiling and reporting results and area specific trends. But what we see in many reports is the presenter adding commentary concerning unrelated but politically expedient issues.

Lately, the most added unrelated-issue is the impact members would experience if the GOP eliminates Guarantee Issue and coverage for Pre-existing conditions. It would be suicide for the GOP to eliminate GI and Pre-ex coverage but it wouldn’t be the first time the GOP shot themselves in the foot. Even if the court rules on the GOP case in favor of the 19 states suing the ACA , the GOP will continue to provide for GI and Pre-ex. If the GOP does not maintain GI and Pre-ex then the next two election cycles will be a disaster for them.

We discussed if previous posts that as we approach the mid-term elections we will see an increase in stories designed to cause fear for our citizens who may have ongoing healthcare conditions. Fear mongering politics is sad but it’s true.

So, what are we to do? Just as we’ve discussed before; we stay informed and prepared so we can correct people when they are citing information that you know is wrong. We must be prepared to help our fellow citizens be informed so that they do not succumb to the fear tactics that work so well on the uninformed.

We can do this because; we’re all in this together!

Until net week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

 

Mid-term elections and YOUR coverage for Pre-existing Conditions: what do they have in common?

September 6, 2018

I realize that the mid-term elections are two months away and most of us hate the campaign adds and the rhetoric but we should prepare now for the “mis-information” we will see and hear concerning what the GOP plans to do to coverage for Pre-existing conditions. We’ve discussed before how difficult it is to decipher the facts vs. fiction or the truth vs. campaign promises (Bullsh#t). That is just not easy for folks to do.

The Dems have focused on a number of issues on which to campaign this year. The GOP strategists probably thought that healthcare and the ACA would not be one of the issues on which the Dems would campaign but they were wrong and the Dems are taking advantage of the thickheaded dopey actions taken by the GOP to dismantle the ACA.

The single effective tool the Dems will use is the scare people/voters about losing their coverage for Pre-existing conditions. The Dems historically and routinely use Medicare as a scare tactic but this issue of covering or not covering pre-existing health conditions may be more effective than scare tactics about Medicare. Not kidding!

Articles and short excepts are every where which make the accusation that the GOP’s scheme is to change the ACA so that Insurers won’t be forced to cover pre-existing conditions. These articles also carefully link eligibility and guaranteed acceptance to this issue to make folks believe that Insurers will no longer be required to accept all applicants and the Insurers will be able to deny coverage for conditions existing prior to coverage.

This tactic of weaving un-true facts into the voters minds is common from the Dems. In this instance I think the idea for this tactic started after they realized that Short-term Policies (STP) extending for up to a year would be popular among health Americans and STPs do not pay for pre-existing conditions and can qualify an applicant with a health questionnaire. In addition, Association Health Plans (AHP) have gotten traction in some states.

It is assumed, and I agree, that the STPs and AHPs have the potential to attract healthy people of all ages which could leave the standard ACA compatible plans with a higher percentage of unhealthy people. Why should anyone dispute this assumption and in fact we should support it.

The fact is healthy people have been subsidizing the unhealthy with their higher premiums for seven years. In addition the Insurers would have been subsidized for their losses but in reality the Insurers have made huge financial gains because of the ACA.

What company couldn’t be profitable if you could charge anything you wish, for a product that has huge out of pocket costs and the customer is forced to buy it. Plus, millions of customers have their premium and out of pocket subsidized as well.

So, back to Pre-ex. I have seen nothing in any of the bills floating around that eliminates guarantee issue or full Pre-ex, not one. If you have please send it to me.

The week of August 20th a group of tem GOP Senators offered a bill that they named “Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-existing Conditions Act”. Catchy name isn’t it, just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Why would the GOP name its bill that if it diluted the coverage for people with pre-ex?

Immediately articles started popping up quoting “healthcare experts” citing that the GOP was trying to dilute the ACA’s guidelines for covering pre-existing conditions as well as guarantee acceptance. I’ve read the bill and I see nothing that comes close to supporting that accusation. In fact, it states clearly that Insurers and health plans can not decline applicant nor can they not cover pre-existing conditions.

But you understand the Media and the Internet. Somebody, somewhere, regardless of their expertise or even if they have read the bill, says that it denies coverage  and the mis-information is off and running. A second entity states that “reports are coming in that the GOP is trying to deny Pre-ex” then another only now its plural and says “multiple reports are stating that the GOP wants to deny your pre-ex”.

Whew, it’s no wonder that folks can be misled or at least confused.
First, shouldn’t one ask themselves:

  • Why would the GOP offer legislation two months before a key election that the Dems could use to scare folks with existing health conditions?
  • Why would they name it the “Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-ex Conditions” if it did not ensure coverage for patients with pre-ex?
  • Statistics and common sense tells us that everyone either has a family member that has a pre-existing condition or they have a pre-ex themselves. Why would the GOP alienate that many people two months before an election.
  • Is it possible that this information that places a negative spotlight on the GOP be “fake”?
  • What would Mark have to say about this? Just kidding with that one.

We discussed it many times. There are so many people with professional or at least private motivation that continually spew out false information. Some inadvertently but the majority of the false information is designed to achieve the originator’s objective.

We just need to watch for it and ask the question that steers our common sense to know which is which.

That’s easy though because we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”