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Ask Colleen King | Blogs


And the Anthem rate increase debate rages on–still?

02-15-2010by Colleen King

Well, it’s been just over a week since the rate increase heard around the world hit and people are still going

Anthem Blue Cross, Woodland Hills, CAAnthem Blue Cross, Woodland Hills, CA

nuts. President Obama has expressed outrage. Kathleen Sebelius isn’t satisfied. California Department of Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner allegedly said that people shouldn’t buy from Anthem Blue Cross (I say allegedly because another agent told me this, I didn’t see it myself in writing.) If that last one is true, personally, I feel it’s reckless for the Commissioner to make a statement like that unless he’s seen the documentation. But, he’s running for governor so it’s another chance to get in the media.

I really hope that all this screaming and chest beating gets us somewhere. Most people need relief from their health insurance premiums that’s for sure. Anthem’s defense is that despite ‘profits’ of $2.7 billion in Q4 2009, they lost money on their individual health insurance policy unit overall in 2009. They say they paid out more in claims than they took in. And that’s entirely possible, we’ll never know until the investigations are done. And I would LOVE to see the results of any audits. Think about it–they have to be able to justify what they are doing, because anyone can call rate changes into action at any time. There has to be some justification for what they are doing, and since 30-39% increases aren’t hitting everybody, you know there’s more to the story.

Don’t get me wrong. Just because I sell insurance doesn’t mean I agree with everything they do. BUT, having worked in a national level operations unit I know how stories get twisted. And you do too, just from your everyday consumption of the media. Remember if it bleeds, it leads. This time it’s just bleeding Anthem blue.

So while everyone is going nuts, what do YOU to help your situation. First, I will tell you to keep in mind, the more you want from a plan, the more it will cost. So next, tune in tomorrow and I’ll give you some suggestions to help cut your health insurance premiums. Not all of my suggestions work for everyone, but there may be one or two for you. Or at least it will help you understand better how this all works.

Be well! more

Anthem Blue Cross is raising individual policy rates–it’s that time again?

02-10-2010by Colleen King

I would have gotten to writing this sooner but I’ve been talking/emailing with many of my clients today about the Los Angeles Times story today talking about Anthem Blue Cross’s March 1 rate increase. The story is claiming an average of 30-39% in increases.

First of all, we all know the media loves controversy and shock value. As usual, they skipped a couple of things. Don’t get me wrong, just because I sell health insurance doesn’t mean I agree with all the carriers say and do. Independent agents like myself want to see some changes in how health insurance works because we spend a lot of time trying to get people covered, trying to appeal above standard rate increases and declines, then we have to take cover when the increases hit.

I pulled out my Anthem list of March 1 increases to see how many of my people are in the 30-39% range–none of them. Anthem has gone to ‘anniversary date’ ratings recently so that the increases don’t all hit on March1; it’s tough for them and for agents trying to help their clients. Otherwise I would have had about 60 people calling me. So out of my 12 people getting increases this month, three are dental plans only, and those increases are from 5-13%. But that’s dental you say, so what?  How much were the medical increases you ask? more

Two things to watch out for when buying health insurance or life insurance

02-09-2010by Colleen King

We agents really aren’t all bad, money grubbing fiends but unfortunately the insurance industry has had their share over the years. You want your agent to watch out for you best interest, not theirs–i.e. commissions. I kid my clients at times when suggesting a less expensive health insurance policy than one they are looking at. I’ll tell them ‘you can buy that, and my mortgage company and I would appreciate it, but do you really need to spend that much?’ So what two things do you need to watch out for?

Twisting– This is a term you hear more in life insurance but it can apply to health insurance as well. This is where an agent gets you to drop a policy, or replace a policy, that doesn’t really need to be changed but it will generate a sale for them. The times to change a policy would be:

* rates have gone up

* your needs have changed–maybe you need less coverage, maybe you need more

* a health condition you once had has changed or gone away and you had previously received an above standard rate. Sometimes you don’t need to change carriers, but sometimes it ends up being easier.

The other thing you want to avoid at all costs is the Rescission of a policy. Insurance companies are within their rights to rescind coverage if you have lied or misrepresented facts on an application. What will happen usually is they will refund any premium paid minus any expenses they paid out. So if you bought health insurance, ‘fibbed,’ had an expensive bout of care thinking you’d just drop the coverage later, think again. Not only will you be on the hook for the costs but you also risk criminal prosecution for insurance fraud.

These days insurance carriers are running a bit scared due to all the health care reform changes coming up. And I had a rescission happen to me. Dealt with the party entirely over the phone (which is not unusual with health insurance) and thought all was well and good. A few months later the carrier called me about this person, asked me some questions, saying there was something ‘pre-existing’ with this person that wasn’t on the application.The policy ended up being rescinded, and I have no idea about the associated costs, but turns out my client had gone through inpatient rehab, which certainly isn’t cheap!

The irony was I was told I couldn’t have any information on what the situation was that flagged this due to privacy protection. But I was copied on the rescission letter, and it cited the reason for rescission was this person’s ‘recent care’ at a drug rehab facility that was named in this letter–so much for confidentiality!

So in short, if you don’t think you need any changes, don’t be pressured into it. And if you do fill out an application, play it straight; it’s not worth the angst of losing coverage you need. And a second opinion from another agent should be considered if you are concerned about what you are being told.

Have a great weekend! more

Category: Uncategorized

Health care reform and the contribution of Rep. Joe Wilson

09-26-2009by Colleen King

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the great ‘shout heard around the world’ by Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-SC),constituting a serious breech of etiquette for Congress, but what it brought to light appears to have drastically changed what will happen with a specific portion of the proposals in health care reform.

What set Rep. Wilson off was President Obama’s statement that illegal aliens would not be covered by the new version of health care. Well, that is what it says in the House bill. What no one wants to cop to is that there was no enforcement mechanism, no provision for checking someone’s residence status when applying for public or subsidized health care. And it’s not like something would have to be created, there is already a database that can be checked and is used by 70 government programs currently. Why not this one?

The SAVE database, the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, Is used to check eligibility for government programs. Similar to when your doctor calls your insurance company to verify your eligibility for benefits. Except for the prospect of being deported if you aren’t found to be eligible. If you are in Los Angeles, you’ve heard a lot about this on the KFI 640 AM radio show with hosts John and Ken.

Many have said that this was omitted due to pressure to do something about immigration reform. I’ll leave that to another Examiner to comment on. It is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that to cover the 6 1/2 million illegal immigrants will cost $31 billion. So eliminating that will be a drop in the $900 billion estimated bucket that the reform plan will cost over the next 10 years. But since everything so far is an estimate, I’ll take the $31 billion, thank you.

But coming from a nursing background, once upon a time, the problem with NOT covering people here illegally is that their kids are in school with our kids. If they aren’t receiving care, such as immunizations, there is a public health risk potentially.

So what do we do? Suggestions? more

Health Savings Accounts–the 2010 figures are in!

09-14-2009by Colleen King

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) remain a popular adjunct to qualified high deductible health plans in finding ways to save on health insurance premiums. There are individual health plans and group health plans that you can get that will allow you to open an HSA. For a list of what you can and can’t use the money for, click here.

Every year the IRS sets the figures for maximum contributions, minimum deductibles and few other things that govern health savings accounts. Here are the numbers for 2010:

Maximum individual contribution to an HSA–$3050

Maximum family contribution to an HSA–$6150

Policy out of pocket maximum for individuals–$5950

Policy out of pocket maximum for families–$11,900

Minimum deductibles on plans for individuals–$1100

Minimum deductibles on plans for families–$2400

Catch up contribution for those over 55–$1000

That last one is potentially really important–for people over 55, if you have some extra cash floating around, you can put an additional $1000 in your HSA, above the annual maximum. This is another potential advantage to a couple both opening up an HSA. For 2009, you could both deposit the $3000 maximum AND an additional $1000. If you only have one account, it is an individual account so you could put the 2009 family max of $5950 plus $1000 for a total of $6950 for the year. If you each have separate HSAs, based on the 2009 figures, you could each put in $3000 to your accounts, plus another $1000 each, for a total of $8000.

But that only works if you are drowning in cash. I don’t consider an HSA to be the first place to stash extra money, most of us would rather put it in a retirement account. But if you’ve maxed out all your ‘pre-tax’ options, here’s one more place. And, it’s deductible on your federal tax return.  Be well! more