Early 2019 health insurance enrollments are down

As of December 1, a combined total of 32 million people had enrolled for 2019 health insurance from the 39 states participating in the healthcare.gov platform. This total is down by 11 percent when compared to the same time in 2017. 

Last year over two thirds of Americans who enrolled in Obamacare plans purchased from the marketplace signed up in the last two weeks of the enrollment season. It appears to be a growing tradition for the vast majority of the sign-ups to occur close to the end of the open enrollment period.

The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll from which the results showed that about 70 percent of Americans don’t know that the enrollment deadline this year is December 15. 

In general, most health insurance exchanges report that enrollments this year are lower than last year. Yet at least one enrollment firm reports that enrollments have increased this season. It appears that firms with more technologically advanced platforms hold an advantage in recruiting new health plan members. Freedom Benefits notices that access to live enrollment support at the point of enrollment, either by telephone or online, also has a positive impact on enrollments.

Enrollment for the supplemental and alternate plans listed on FreedomBenefits.net remains open year-round. Some but not all of thee plans  are available ithout regard to serious medical history. None of these plans provides the same level of coverage for pre-existing medical conditions as the plans from the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

The real small business health benefit

Your employees already have health insurance. Chances are they found coverage though the Health Insurance Marketplace with a premium subsidy that gives then a lower net cost than anything your business could provide.

But the benefits are lacking. The large deductible leaves them scared. Nobody has an extra $5,000 or more just sitting around in case of an accident or illness! And what about lost wages during time off from work? What can you do to help?

The employer can offer inexpensive supplemental gap insurance that pays cash benefits in addition to the primary insurance. The cost can be as little as $20 per month. And because it is provided through an insurance plan, your employee does not risk losing their premium subsidy.

Check out Smart Insurance Marketplace to learn more. Live help is available by phone and email.

health benefits

Low cost health insurance expands

President Trump signing
President Trump authorized new health plan options

The market for lower cost affordable health insurance is expected to grow with at least to more companies making public securities market offerings for expansion. Bright Health and Oscar Health both completed successful public offerings this year.  These health plans offer lower beenfits at a lower cost in states that allow these alternatives. President Trump pushed for approval of these plans that were previously prohibited by Obamacare. Not all plans are available in all states.

Freedom Benefits has served as a leading adviser in this field since 1995. We support freedom of choice for well-informed consumers and we will continue to monitor, review and recommend these alternative health plans as they develop. Personal support is available online or by telephone.

Uninsured: what does it mean to health care access?

The number and percentage of uninsured children rose in 2017 after a decade of improvement.  One in five uninsured children live in Texas, according to recent research. The number of uninsured people in the US overall is rising but the percentage of uninsured remained at 8.8% overall.

What does this actually mean as a matter of public health policy? Are those without health insurance actually being denied access to healthcare? Or is the quality or quantity of care affected? There is much written on this topic but the answers are not easy to discern. Maryland health officer Russell Roy writes: “Uninsured people receive less medical care and less timely care, they have worse health outcomes, and lack of insurance is a fiscal burden for them and their families”.

At Freedom Benefits our anecdotal observation is that once a person has access to the healthcare system they have a much better chance of receiving high quality ongoing care, with or without ongoing insurance. Some people, even with health insurance, never gain access to the healthcare system. This appears to be because some people do not have the cash for office visits or required co-copayments. For this reason we focus on coverage that provides easy and affordable up-front access to the healthcare system. Benefits in the affordable health insurance plans are limited but at least the patient is ‘in the door’ of the healthcare system. Once inside the healthcare system, professionals tend to have more resources to provide for continued patient care.

Having health insurance is important but it is more important to have easy access to the healthcare system regardless of insurance.

Celebrating a small mile mark for Freedom Benefits

Today we are celebrating a small mile mark for Freedom Benefits with the enrollment assistance provided to the first “new generation” health plan applicant for 2019. I thought this would be a good time to summarize the history of the project and how we came to this point:

cropped-american-eagle1-1.jpg1995 – Freedom Benefits is launched in Pennsylvania as a way to help local building contractors find health insurance using online technology so that insurance agents dd not have to bother with this mundane work.  The logo photo of an American bald eagle with the American flag was taken while visiting an outdoors expo in Oaks PA with my young son.

1997 – The concept “gels” and Freedom Benefits comes to stand for freedom of choice for consumers; a concept that works only if consumers have access to fair, unbiased and accurate advice. The service quickly expanded nationwide offering low cost and alternative  kinds of health insurance. Tony was one of the few people in the US licensed in all 50 states and DC and was conversant in all states’ health insurance laws, consumer issues and planning.

1998 –  our web site Medsave.com was the fastest growing in the industry even brefly outpacing the growth rate of Ehealthinsurance.com. (Then Ehealth went public and exploded in growth leaving us in the dust).

2003 – Tony made national news a few times as an expert on Medical Savings Accounts and the new Health Savings Accounts.

2004 – Passed 50,000 users. Received an offer to sell at $1.6 million and declined it as too low based on the rate of growth.

2009 – Medsave.com was sold at a fraction of the earlier offer because of the threat of the Affordable Care Act disrupting the market.

2010 – The Affordable Care Act is passed and Freedom Benefits grinds to a halt.

2013 – FBI investigates Pennsylvania scammers using the business name that caused us grief for a while. We were cleared as not being related to the scammers trying to steal identity.

2012 – Applied for trademarks for “Freedom Benefits”, “OnlineAdviser” and “OnlineNavigator” in hope that the post-Obamacare industry would elvolve in a way where we could participate.  Freedom Benefits focused primarily on Health Reimbursement Arrangements for small businesses just to keep active.

2015 – Made an arrangement with SASID to handle enrollment while Tony handled online user support, primarily offering pre-enrollment health care planning.

October 2018 – Trump administration authorizes the expansion of alternate health insurance.

November 2018 – Freedombenefits.net web site relaunches with a new marketing plan.

Today, November 26, 2018 the new web site assisted in the enrollment of the first person on a new alternative type of post-Obamacare health insurance plan.


(The earlier dates in this blog post are approximate based on memory).

20 states fight unconstitutional Obamacare provisions

President Trump signing

Twenty states sued the federal government in February 2018 arguing that the current law requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions is unconstitutional. The US Justice Department now sides with these 20 states in trying to use the courts to bring an end to Obamacare. Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, the lawsuit said that without the individual mandate, which was eliminated as part of the Republican tax law signed by President Donald Trump in December, Obamacare was unlawful. Ironically, observers say that these 20 states stand to lose more health care funding than many other states if the lawsuit is successful. A copy of the initial filing is available here.

Paxton said “The U.S. Supreme Court already admitted that an individual mandate without a tax penalty is unconstitutional. With no remaining legitimate basis for the law, it is time that Americans are finally free from the stranglehold of Obamacare, once and for all”.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, representing one of the other twenty states in the lawsuit argues a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions is unconstitutional. The lawsuit would affect almost one million people in Alabama alone according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit with insurance industry connections. They say that about 1 in 3 people in the state of Alabama have a pre-existing medical condition that would not be covered if the state’s lawsuit is successful.

To address this situation, President Donald Trump issued an executive order early in his presidency directing the adoption of regulations that would deem some low-cost health insurance that does not cover pre-existing conditions as being ACA-compliant.

The 20 states that want to end Obamacare are: TEXASWISCONSINALABAMAARKANSAS, ARIZONA, FLORIDAGEORGIA, INDIANAKANSASLOUISIANA, MAINEMISSISSIPPIMISSOURINEBRASKANORTH DAKOTASOUTH CAROLINASOUTH DAKOTATENNESSEEUTAH, and WEST VIRGINIA.

Freedom Benefits stepped up its services to offer advice on choosing between the old and new types of health care plans and can help introduce consumers to the best health plan for their situation and budget. Freedom Benefits reminds residents of these 20 states that a medical condition that makes a person uninsurable can happen to anyone at any time. It is important to have a backup plan and an asset protection plan to protect family assets from the high cost of unexpected and uninsured medical costs.

How to find a medical care provider under Core Health Insurance

Click here to access the  national provider search tool

This is a generic provider search tool. If you were provided a provider search link by your health plan administrator, use that instead.

President Trump signing
President Trump authorizes new health plan options

Following the October 2018 enactment of new federal health insurance rules liberalizing the use of lower cost limited benefit health insurance – policies with with less structure than Obamacare are growing in popularity. A host of new plans are being developed or re-introduced to the market where permitted under state law. One of the most popular plans is Core Health Insurance. Details of coverage are listed on the actual quote and enrollment web page but an introduction is included in another blog post.

Core Health Insurance plans provide limited defined coverage for treatment provided under and hospital or doctor in the United States. However, the policyholder can save time and money by using an in-network provider.

The participating provider network is Multiplan, a large national organization used by about seven different health insurance companies.

Participating providers can be found based on a search by name, location, specialty, or facility type.

The network’s web site administrator works hard to ensure that data on medical care providers is accurate but provider information changes frequently. Also, finding a provider on this site is not a guarantee of benefits coverage.

Before you receive care, you should contact the provider to verify new patient status, location and network participation.

It also makes sense to verify your health plan benefits and read the coverage description and limits before receiving care.

Personal policyholder assistance is available by telephone or online through OnlineNavigator.

Introduction to Core Health Insurance

This is meant as a brief description only and not as an offer to to sell insurance. Freedom Benefits and OnlineNavigator are not authorized to sell insurance or to represent any insurance company. See the insurance company’s published information for all details.

Core Health Insurance logo
Core Health Insurance

Core Health Insurance provides specified limited dollar coverage for your basic medical needs, helping to provide a medical option for people who do not have the luxury of being covered by a comprehensive health insurance plan. Core Health does provide benefits for pre-existing conditions but be sure to understand all of the limitations. Core Health insurance generally continues month after month, year after year, until you cancel it or until you reach the maximum age for coverage. In general, these plans provide less coverage at a lower price than Obamacare plans but may also cover more of the more common types of smaller medical expenses.

Acceptance is guaranteed for all applicants in these states: AL, AR, AZ, CA, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MI, MS, NE, NV, ND, NM, OH OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV, WI, and WY.

Core Health Plans include benefits for:

  • Doctor Office Visit benefits
  • Wellness Visit benefits
  • Hospital and ICU benefits
  • Emergency benefits
  • Surgery and anesthesia benefits
  • Accident medical expenses and more
  • Single or Family coverage
  • Freedom to choose any Doctor or Hospital
  • Discount Medical Program

View the benefit overview on the insurer’s quote page. Personal help is available online or by phone to help with your decision.

 

Freedom from birth control coverage requirements

Qualifying small business employers can now customize their benefits and save money in the process.

Effective immediately, the Trump administration will allow religious groups, nonprofits, some small businesses and some other employers to opt out of an Obamacare requirement to provide birth-control coverage for their employees. Exempt employers include “religious employers”, houses of worship, health sharing ministries, a few employers who got religious exemptions, non-profit hospitals, some institutions of higher education. This is the first time since 2011 that employers were allowed this option. Two separate rules issued by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury finalized exemptions for employers that have religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. One HHS rule called the “Religious Exemptions and Accommodations for Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act” allows employers to claim “sincerely held” religious objects while a second HHS rule called the “Moral Exemptions and Accommodations for Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act” offers another exemption on moral grounds.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in the Hobby Lobby case that the Affordable Care Act couldn’t require employers to offer insurance coverage for certain birth control methods they equate with abortion. The court decision applied only to private corporations such as the family-owned companies  that challenged the law. Women working for those companies could still get morning-after pills and IUDs from other sources, such as the government or private insurance plans.

Freedom Benefits can help small business employers modify their employee health plans to exclude this expense and save money through insurance or a health reimbursement arrangement. Likewise, we can steer employees who need this coverage to alternate sources.

 

For more than two decades, we have been committed to freedom of choice in health care planning. Check out the new alternatives to Obamacare through the online health insurance marketplace and let us know how we can help you make more efficient and better informed health care planning choices.