Archive for the ‘Berkshire Hathaway’ Category

Hospitals are now required to publish the rates they charge for services. Will this be helpful for patient’s health, for controlling costs, for lowering premiums? Let’s see.

January 24, 2019

This Federal legislative mandate is another fine example of Government wanting to help, thinking it can help, penalizing business and general community to do something it hadn’t before, then mucking it. It’s a mandate for hospitals to publish the rate they charge for the services it provides. The “no insurance coverage rate” or sticker price if you like.

Anyone who has ever purchased automobile understands what “sticker price” means. Simple, it’s the cost listed on the sticker glued to the car you’re looking to purchase.
Is that what every one pays? No.
Is it the starting point for negotiating. Yes.
Would the provider charge uninsured patients less if asked. Yes

If you are old enough you will remember the rate card nailed to the inside of every hotel room in America. The hotel and lodging industry referred to that as their “rack-rate”. It was mandated that the rate be displayed.

But, every time you looked at the rates on the card you would ask yourself “Does anyone ever pay that much?”. It was the hotel’s “not to exceed” rate but rooms would be priced based on supply and demand.

So, now patients and technically potential patients will get access to what a hospital will charge for the healthcare services, supplies and facility it provides for the treatment the patient seeks.

Of course this won’t be helpful to anyone and adds cost to the venders.

If insurance, Medicare or Medicaid is paying the bill then it will not pay anywhere close to the “rack rate” hospital’s post. In fact, even a person, uninsured, will not paid this amount.

So what good is this mandate?
Technically, a hospital can divulge what a service would cost under the coverage and discounts the member’s plan pays. They all have discounted PPO rates which could be used to divuge cost to a patient.
But insurers won’t like that and in fact would go nuts, then go to court. Insurers guard their negotiated discounts like the United States guards Fort Knox.

Insurers would hate to see their negotiated rates scattered among the internet for all competition to see. It goes along with the Insurer’s resistance to publishing claim experience or loss ratios publicly.

Your humble author has long advocated that Insurers be mandated to provide insured’s the loss ration on their plan for the year even if it be made available only at renewal time. Do you think it would be helpful for an employer, large or small, to be able to see that its loss ration is less than 100%. How  would an employer respond if its loss ration is 55% at the same time the insurer offers a 30% increase at renewal.

Posting rates will do little to improve healthcare outcomes, little to lower out-of-pocket cost and nothing to lower premiums.

So, this new mandate will not:

  • Lower out-of-pocket costs
  • Lower premiums
  • Improve healthcare outcomes

But, politicians can boast that they have done something. Just as the ACA caused a complete disruption to healthcare delivery and financing this mandate will provide a veil behind which insurers can hide. You’ll see.

Let me know what you think because we’re all in this together.

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

What if SCOTUS holds that the ACA is Unconstitutional? What can the GOP put in its place? You hold the solution, here!

January 10, 2019

Several years ago I jotted down a few ideas which, if implemented, would address at least the biggest issues in medical insurance and healthcare delivery: cost and access. With the recent Court decision deeming the ACA unconstitutional we need, that is the GOP, needs to offer betters solutions. The ideas below are a start toward that better solution.

You all know that I am an optimist trapped in a cynic’s body so my hopes of replacing the ACA with a workable solution are real but also guarded. But, what if you/we were asked for input to design a workable solution. Could you do it?

I have expanded the solutions, since jotting down my initial 12 points in prior posts, because I believe that there is an easier and less expensive means to address healthcare financing for the chronically poor, the uninsurable and the chronic uninsured. You may think that I have left a few issues untouched and if so let me know your thoughts.
However, I know that these ideas, if put in place, build the framework to address:

  • Those that want to buy insurance but are un-insurable.
  • Those who want to buy but who can’t afford the premiums charged for insurance.
  • Those who currently buy and pay for their coverage but are finding the increasing premium too much to pay. 
  • Those that don’t want to buy or will wait until they have a problem to buy insurance.
  • Guaranteed acceptance.
  • Pre-existing conditions.
  • How to push premiums lower
  • How to push unit cost of healthcare lower
  • Transparency (Total & Complete Transparency).

So, together we can develop the core outline of what Congress could build if it truly tried to bring about the best reforms for our system. Please give us your input to improve upon these points as well as address issues that we have not addressed or not addressed well.

It may be fun and interesting but who knows we might even make a difference.

Since Americans are used to the ACA mandates of kids to 26, unlimited lifetime, and wellness or preventive let’s leave those in. But,  let’s eliminate the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) limits since no other industry in the world has its profit margin restricted like insurers are by the ACA. Other than that let’s assume we have a blank canvas upon which we can draw our ideas.

Here are the basic ideas to include in a bill to replace the ACA:

  1. Make health insurance premium 100% tax deductible for anyone who pays it.
  2. Make all fully-insured plans for individuals and families guaranteed issue but with a reasonable Pre-existing period for no prior coverage.
    Example – Pre-ex period: 12 months.
  3. Group plans of 2+ employees remain guaranteed issue with full take-over or “No Loss-No Gain” as it used to be called..
  4. Allow carriers a reasonable corridor for Risk Adjustment Factors (20%). Also, eliminate artificial pricing rules (such as 3:1 ratio) and let insurers determine pricing with their area rating factors based on their data and statistics.
  5. Tort reform: Loser Pays and/or Fixed Attorneys at 15%.
  6. Allow carriers and plans such as Association Health Plans to sell across state lines. (Possibly the most difficult of all.)
  7. Eliminate Essential Health Benefits and allow No new benefit mandates from states or Feds for five years. Allow insurers freedom to build plans as they determine.
  8. Mandate HRAs and MERPs permissible and available to implement on all plans.
  9. All insurers must publish and release statistics and experience data.
    It’s ok and can remain consistent with Hippa.
  10. Universal enrollment forms for all group plans and all individual/family plans.
  11. Health plan commission set at level 7% and does not increase as premium does.
  12. All Providers must post their rates per service. Hospitals must post their outcome statistics as well as infections, error rates, and other outcome data.
  13. State based or plan based re-insurance pools to assist Insurers in controlling premiums. If unlimited lifetime benefits are retained then Insurers and Plans need support to handle the increasing number of mega-claims. 
  14. Providing coverage for those who can’t afford to pay premium regardless of its cost:
  • Eliminate Exchanges. Allow people to be enrolled directly with the Insurer or Plan of Choice.
  • The IRS can maintain these enrollment records and disperse payments to Insurers and do so without adding fees to premiums.
  • That also eliminates the huge fees added to premiums by Exchanges to compensate the Exchanges.
  • Set the income levels for participation in subsidies (even use the current formula).
  • Eliminate the Medicare Expansion as it pushes people toward poverty.
  • Instead, keep these folks covered by the private market and allow them to obtain their coverage from private Insurers and Plans.

I also think we need to build incentives for employers to support wellness plans. If we want to bend the cost curve downward we must address behavior and expectations through affective wellness and benefit structure.

I do address coverage for the poor as I mentioned above. Setting a poverty level which assists folks in need but forces folks into Medi-Cal (Medicaid for outside Cal) is problematic as it may discourage folks from working their way out of their financial circumstances. Besides, those Medi-Cal plans “suck”. You would not want to be covered by one so why push these unfortunate folks into it.

So, this is our starting point. I encourage you to give this some thought and to give us your input. If we offer a worthwhile solution then who knows; we might make a difference. That’s what I mean when I say “We’re all in this together”.

Let me know what you think.
Until next week.

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

U.S. Court rules the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. What should Americans expect?

January 3, 2019

So far, it’s amazing how little attention this Court’s decision is getting. Maybe there’s too many other headlines on which the Media must focus. Border security, N Korea, aggressive moves by both China and Russia, the 2,500 point reduction in the Dow, or the booming economy and threats of Fed interest rate increases, partial Gov. shutdown, or maybe even Christmas (Nah, probably not) are all getting headlines but the ACA being deemed unconditional is not.

Maybe the Media and the ACA supporters don’t want to highlight the Court’s decision for some political reason. The GOP doesn’t want to focus on it because it wasting of the best opportunity to Repeal & Replace. No, the GOP really has nothing to gain in bragging about this Court’s ruling.

To be fair and honest, there is nothing anyone on either side of the issue can do right now because the Court’s ruling will not be effective for at least a year and the Left will appeal the Court’s decision. Many believe this decision will be decided by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is allegedly a “conservative” based court with a 5/4 advantage to conservatives. But, we can’t forget that it was Chief Justice Roberts who allowed the ACA to live based on his opinion that the non-compliance penalty was a tax and not a fine as the Dems had argued. 

That still seems surreal to remember that the Dems argued, even before SCOTUS, that the individual penalty was a fine and not a tax. Even the first sentence in Judge Robert’s opinion made opponents believe the ACA would be struck down but then cam the Judge’s second sentence which stated that the fine was indeed a “tax”. I can still remember where I was when I heard that and how fast the Media jumped on the initial statement believing the Court was striking down the ACA.
Geez, that was a bad day for American premium-payers!

So, what should we expect for the next 12 months? Not much really. The Politicians will try to use the Court’s decision to their own advantage regardless of which side of the opinion they stand. But, the only Republicans who may speak up will be the conservative group referred to as the Freedom Caucus. This handful of GOP reps fought hard for R&R but were unsuccessful due to the jello-filled backbones of the GOP leadership.

Heck, even reducing the penalty to zero, instead of repealing it completely, was weak. As you’ve read here before, your humble author has stated many times that setting a fine to zero does not mean a potential penalty is no longer in effect.

As of this moment, the partial Gov shut down is consuming the Media and the Left. They think this is an issue on which they can take the biggest political advantage so they will keep the Court’s decision in their back pocket, for now.

But, Republican, if they are smart, will introduce a replacement for the ACA that includes the features everyone likes but without the features that increase premiums. It is possible and you will read about it in next week’s post.

For now, sit tight. If you have coverage now, which I know you do, then you have nothing to worry about. People concerned about Pre-ex conditions also have nothing to worry about. In fact, the 10 million Americans covered by Exchanges who receive premium support have nothing to worry about either.

The fight will not be pretty and the Media will paint a picture of people suffering in the streets, of children not being immunized, of woman not getting prenatal care (or birth control pills) because they could not get the medical attention they need and deserve.

But, we’re in this together so let’s let people know that there is a better solution and it would increase benefits and lower costs. More to come.

Until next week.

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

It’s that time of year again for “reflection”, and to look forward with the knowledge gained over the past year.

December 27, 2018

The unbearably hectic season of Thanksgiving and Christmas has past, New Year’s Eve is in a few days and frankly most of us are probably worn out or worn down. Face it, life has not gotten easier just because we have smart phones, iPads, the internet and even an economy that continues to boom. No, life is complicated, busy and frustrating as well as rewarding, gratifying and exciting. That’s life in the modern world.

Some people take a little time out of their busy schedules, at this time each year, to think about the year that’s past and consider their hopes for the year to come. In business one must reflect on the past year’s activity or results in order to forecast for the future. Some people do the same for their personal lives.

As you know, I’m an optimist trapped in a synic’s body so this is a most satisfying time of year as I review life insulated by the capsule of time lodged between Christmas and the New Year.
Let’s look at some good and some not so good with these thoughts in mind.

The GOOD
Second Year for Donald Trump to millions was a positive vindication of their honest hope that he could change the negative spiral America had faced for the previous 12 years. Yes, that’s right 12 years.
No Repeal and Replace, but a recent Court decision striking down the ACA as unconstitutional, which will cause more confusion than good. The Media will swarm this as a Trump debacle when in fact it is a result of poor leadership of Rep. Ryan and Senator McConnell. But it does give us a chance to make meaningful corrections. If they follow our  published14 step solution, that is.
Twitter  is a GOOD, even though I don’t know how to use it, but it has allowed the President to get his word out by going around the dishonest liberal press. While not all of the Pres’s tweets have been helpful, Twitter has provided a tool by which he can get his message out.
Snow in Sierras may be a local thing for folks living in the San Joaquin Valley of CA. But last Winter’s extra snow pack and rainfall gave CA a welcome break from the 5+ years of drought.  We pray for another season of snowfall.
Family Health, which is important to each of us, has been relative good for your humble author’s family. Unfortunately though, we do have close friends suffering greatly so we do pray for them. But selfishly, for our immediate family things are good, and  for that I am grateful.

The BAD or at least not so good

Congressional Leadership in Washington (not to mention CA) has been a great source of frustration for most of us over this past year. The GOP leadership is unable to communicate well to the people, makes things unnecessarily complicated and does not act together. In addition, it appears intent to maintain the status queue for what’s been so accurately described as a “swamp”.
Plus, January 2019 will usher back Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Ugh!
Press both national and local continues to be untrustworthy. Whether a Liberal or Conservative, one must agree that we can’t trust what we read or hear anymore without a bit of concern. It was similar in the Cronkite/Viet Nam era but then news traveled slower. Now, with the internet and people deliberately trying to push “fake news” it is tougher to know the facts let alone the truth. It’s hard to imagine this will get better soon.
Internet which I mentioned above, can be a most amazing tool for our life and health. When you search for goods or services or wish to stay in touch with friends it is incredible. Unfortunately, it can be a tool just as useful for confusion, misinformation, and evil. It’s user beware and we must all be aware.
No R&R, that’s right. With the Court decision mentioned above I predict that the 2019 House and Senate will not get anything meaningful done on repealing and replacing the ACA. That may be a good thing given the mess the GOP tried to force through in 2017. But it won’t be good for premium payers that don’t qualify for subsidy and small business that continues to deal with the high priced metallic plans of the ACA.

Hope for 2019, that’s right hope! I’m betting the economy will continue to go well. There will be more jobs and better pay scales available. We will feel the benefits of the American economy every where.
The biggest obstacle and concern will be the ongoing issues caused a Congress bogged down with hatred, illegal immigration, by Russia, China, Iran and their intent to cause damage to America. With their help we can keep North Korea, Iran and the middle east from spreading terror and disasters. Without their help it could be more terrorist acts and crisis. Plus, it would be helpful for Dems stop obstructing progress and to not worry about President getting a “win” on the border, trade, employment, terror, N. Korea, etc.

But, I am hopeful for several reasons. One, we are all more aware of who we should trust or not. We have a President and Cabinet trying to build America up not tear it down. And America is an engine that produces outcomes desired and envied by the rest of the world.
While others around the world try to tear us down they also know that there’s no place on earth like America.

Plus, you have me writing to you every week, helping you understand the “malarkey” our government and Media is trying to pass off as healthcare reform.

Have a safe and Happy New Year. Together we can make it through anything to build a bright and prosperous future. We may even make healthcare better and cheaper.

Until next week.

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

Another year in which we can all say “Merry Christmas” without fear of persecution. Thank you Mr. President!!

December 20, 2018

It’s five days before Christmas and while the Stockings are not yet hung, I bet most of us are thankful that the “war on Christmas” has been placed on-hold, for another year.

So this week instead of promoting or dissecting some aspect of healthcare reform let’s look for aspects of 2018 and our own lives in America that bring peace and good will to man. Sorry that isn’t PC, should have said “good will to us all”.

I say Thank You to:

  • First Responders who run toward the crisis or danger while we run away. These brave men and women are better civil servants to our Nation than anyone else, especially politicians, can ever brag to be.
  • Military that in spite of a decline in funding and respect over the past 10 years continue to keep us save by stopping the dangers over there from reaching over here. I did not join the military when I was of age, a decision I regret to this day.
  • Law Enforcement officers on a daily bases as they walk or drive into unknown danger without hesitation and without the support of too many in our nation.
    We should all stand each time the National Anthem plays!
  • Teachers who signed up to help educate our future generations and continue do so even when facing the toughest environments. Wouldn’t it be easier to teach if English was the required language, parents would help from home, and Unions cared about kids more than self-preservation?
  • Moms for doing what they do to love their children even when we are unlovable. Giving birth might be the easy part for Moms these days as they too often take on the role of both parents and both bread winners in American homes. Moms are the first responders for our families and they need our help and thanks.
  • Our Churches that stand for the true Word of God and don’t give in to the secular-worldly efforts by too many to cast shadows upon what we all know is right.
  • Co-workers that come to work each day to work as a team toward similar goals of creating good products, good service, and respect for team.

Thank God, above all else, for His gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, for us all. God so love the world that He gave His only Son for us that we might have eternal life. To those of you who are believers you know that a relationship with Jesus Christ does give us an eternal home but also gives us a relationship throughout the year like none other possibly could.

That’s just a few.
To whom or what are you thankful that makes your life safer and better?

Love to hear from you and especially at Christmas we should know that we’re all in this together. 

Merry Christmas to all!! And to all, until next week.

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

 

Post Election Review: What’d we gain and what’d we lose. By “we” I mean the average premium paying American citizen!

November 8, 2018

It’s only 12 hours post Election Day as I write this so everyone is still playing nice and watching for the “first dig of the spur” from the other side. When you read this, in 24 hours, I wager that the language used in the political discussions will already have turned back to negative, divisive or worse.

Will the House be nothing but subpoenas, investigations, impeachment, and obstruction?
Will the Senate, as well as other conservative voices reciprocate.
Will anything meaningful for America get done before the 2020 election?
Will we see nothing but gridlock and scapegoating?
I’ll let you fill in the answers to those questions!

Here are a couple random thoughts both Nationally as well as here in good ol’ California.

  • I doubt that the Employer Mandate will be eliminated which we have discussed in previous Posts. That is not a bad outcome because the GOP tinkering with the ACA was not helping.
  • Will the Individual Mandate be re-instated?
    Probably not, even though it should be.
  • Will anything positive be done to improve the ACA’s adverse rating methodology and burdensome fees and taxes added to it?
    Probably not!
  • Will “Single Payer” or “Medicare for All” advance anywhere in the Country or in  any State?
    Probably not, though it will get a lot of press coverage.
  • Will the truth about coverage for “Pre-ex conditions” come out showing that the Dems and the Media were fear-mongering the issue?
    Probably Yes, but people will need to listen closely to hear the truth!
  • Will premiums start to go down on ACA compatible plans?
    Definitely not!

 

What about the Golden State: California?

  • Will AHPs or STPs be allowed to exist and help the tens of millions who could benefit from them?
    Nope, not without a insurrection?
  • Will Insurers be allowed to restrict small employers access to HRAs with subtle threats to insurance brokers?
    We’ll see but I know one Insurer that for sure will not be restricting HRAs.
  • Will Californians see their premiums continue to increase at each renewal?
    Yep, but the Media will state that the increases are lower due to the good-work of the ACA. We’ve discussed that  effort in subterfuge before, too.
  • Should employers continue to sponsor group health plans for their employees
    Absolutely and do so with the Employer Driven method proven so effective.

Am I concerned about the future for healthcare financing and delivery in California?
I have been concerned about this issue since 1985 so I will continue to be concerned but I will not give up hope. Sooner or later (probably later) the status will become so unbearable that the solutions will be so amazingly clear that even the Dems in California can see it.

Let’s allow them to think that independent-competitive insurance plans operating in a less government regulated environment is their idea! Maybe that will do it.

Regardless, we’re all in this together, so keep the faith and keep watching for more “common sense solutions” as we venture forth together.

Until next week.

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

Headlines read, “Somebody Needs To Fix It” as we near the mid-terms. They mean healthcare, of course!

October 25, 2018

That’s right, as predicted here, healthcare and insurance coverage is taking center stage in many mid-term races across the Country. The Media is inserting itself with stories that suggest one GOP candidate after another is against covering pre-ex or  for repealing the ACA, or Short-term plans are good and so forth.

The biggest, most threatening and most mis-reported is the candidate’s stance on the coverage for Pre-existing conditions. I have not read or heard of even one candidate that proposes the elimination of guaranteed acceptance or coverage for pre-existing conditions. He or she would be a fool to do so but here’s how the Media spins it. 

Many in the GOP and other so-called Conservatives support the Trump Administration’s actions that:

  • Allow Short-term Medical Plans to extend coverage for up to a year.
  • Allow for  Association Health Plans that allow “affinity” or groups of similar nature to band together for the purpose of buying insurance.

Both of these ideas are opposed by the Democrats and other single-payer big government healthcare proponents who don’t support solutions that might actually work and therefore provide options other than a government-run plan.

That comment is not cynical, by the way, because any debate about these plans includes the usual sound bite rhetoric opposing STPs and AHPs.

But back to the point, the Dems and Media, during these mid-terms, are trying to paint the GOP with the label of “taking away coverage for Pre-ex” because pre-ex is not usually covered by STPs and AHPs and those plans will have some latitude in coverage.

Our citizens will always have access to ACA plans that are GI and cover Pre-ex so the argument should be an easy one to overcome. But it’s not.

The typical scare tactics are being employed:

  • To frighten citizens into believing that their coverage will be taken away.
  • To scare people into thinking that their premiums for their ACA plans will increased simply because of these “evil” STPs and AHPs. 

The good news that:

  • I think most Americans are smarter than the Media or Democrats give credit.
  • Plus, people with Pre-ex conditions most likely already have their coverage.
  • And 85% to 90% of individuals covered under the ACA Exchanges are subsidized therefore costing the member little or nothing to get coverage.

But, the Media needs to talk about something so as it does with so many issues it projects hypotheticals on to an issue that does not exist. Then that hypothetical gets reported by other outlets two or three times and “bingo” it’s a news story that gets legs.

It’s a fact and for certain that our health care system needs fixed. There are easy steps, which we have Posted before, that could lead to better coverage, better access and lower costs if only they would put you and me in charge.

Next week we’ll discuss the coming mid-term election with some specific ideas for people who really want a better-less costly healthcare solution. That’s why we call it the “The Solutions Based healthcare Blog” and because we’re all in this together!

Until next week.

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

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”.

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”