WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly 59 million Americans went without health insurance coverage for at least part of 2010, many of them with conditions or diseases that needed treatment, federal health officials said on Tuesday.
They said 4 million more Americans went without insurance in the first part of 2010 than during the same time in 2008.
“Both adults and kids lost private coverage over the past decade,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news briefing.
The findings have implications for U.S. healthcare reform efforts. A bill passed in March promises to get health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans who currently lack coverage.
But Republicans who just took control of the House of Representatives last week have vowed to derail the new law by cutting off the funds for it, and some want to repeal it. Experts from both sides predict gridlock in Congress for the next two years in implementing healthcare reform’s provisions.
Even before the healthcare reform act, Congress passed provisions expanding free health coverage for children.
“As private insurance coverage fell, the safety net protected children, but did not adequately protect adults,” Frieden said.
Nine percent of adults lost private insurance, and public insurance picked up just 5 percent of them, the CDC said. Frieden said 22 percent of adults aged 18 to 64 are uninsured.
The CDC analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey or NHIS for 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 and the first quarter of 2010 for its report. “It’s an in-person household survey interviewing nearly 90,000 individuals from around 35,000 households,” Frieden said.
The analysis found that in the first quarter of 2010, an estimated 59.1 million people had no health insurance for at least part of the year, an increase from 58.7 million in 2009 and 56.4 million in 2008.
More than 80 percent were adults aged 18 to 64. People over 65 are eligible for Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for the elderly.
Frieden said more people also went for a year or more with no health insurance — from 27.5 million in 2008 to 30.4 million in the first quarter of 2010. “That’s an increase of 3 million in chronically uninsured adults,” he said.
“Now, the data also allow us to debunk two myths about health care coverage,” Frieden added.
“The first myth is that it’s only the poor who are uninsured. In fact, half of the uninsured are over the poverty level and one in three adults under 65 in the middle income range — defined arbitrarily here between $44,000 and $65,000 a year for a family of four — were uninsured at some point in the year.”
And Frieden said many people argue that only the healthy risk going without health insurance.
“In fact … more than two out of five individuals who are uninsured at some point during the past year had one or more chronic diseases and this is based on just a partial list of chronic diseases,” he said.
For example, 15 million of the people who went without health insurance had high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma.
People with such conditions often end up in emergency rooms and require treatment, paid for by hospitals or taxpayers, that is far more expensive than getting proper preventive care would have been.
“If you have diabetes and you don’t get needed care in the short term you end up in the intensive care unit,” Frieden said.
(Editing by Todd Eastham)
Source: Yahoo News
In Huntington Beach, visitors will be charged a $3,000 fee for emergency response if involved in a motor vehicle accident. This fee was implemented by the city council in an attempt to reduce costs for emergency services. Charges will either be billed to the insurance agencies or directly to the motorists (in the event… that they do not have insurance). Residents, however, will not be billed because they pay for emergency services through taxes. Other Orange County cities have implemented similar laws.
Source: SF Gate
Because of the recent budget deficits, lawmakers have made the decision not to renew COBRA subsidies for employees. Starting from May 31, unemployed individuals will no longer be eligible for the subsidy. Individuals must now pay higher premiums for COBRA or drop off coverage entirely. Until the new healthcare reform bill comes into effect in 2014, it will be troublesome for those in the lower income brackets to be insured. The Obama administration is attempting to reinstate the subsidy, but faces obstacles due to the deficit and lack of congressional support.
Source: USA Today
St. Paul, MN — Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and the Federal Trade Commission announced today (Wednesday, Aug. 11) at the FTC’s offices in New York City a joint national law enforcement crackdown against fake health insurance companies that advertise affordable coverage but don’t cover medical bills if they get sick.
Attorney General Swanson said the bad economy and high cost of health care are fueling these scams, and she warned consumers in need of health insurance not to do business with unlicensed companies.
“High health insurance premiums and high unemployment have created a market niche for bogus health insurance companies. Many people are struggling with health insurance premiums that have more than doubled in the last decade, and many others lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs. Fake health insurance companies exploit these financial pressures by selling risky health discount plans that don’t offer financial protection when people get sick,” said Attorney General Swanson.
Nationwide, the average premium for an individual health insurance policy went from $2,196 in 1999 to $4,824 in 2009, and the average premium for a family health insurance policy went from $5,791 in 1999 to $13,375 in 2009, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The number of Minnesotans without health insurance jumped from 7.2 percent in 2007 to 9.1 percent in 2009, mostly due to job loss. In Minnesota, nearly 15 percent of Minnesotans are unemployed or underemployed, according to a report filed last year by the Minnesota Management and Budget agency. In the United States, 14.6 million Americans are still looking for employment, according to job figures released last Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Attorney General Swanson joined FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director David Vladeck, Attorney General Greg Zoeller of Indiana, and New York State Superintendent of Insurance James Wrynn in announcing the nationwide law enforcement crackdown against health discount companies posing as health insurance companies.
In connection with the national crackdown, the FTC today announced lawsuits against three companies selling health discount plans:
Consumer Health Benefits Association of Florida, Healthcare One, LLC of Arizona, and United States Benefits, LLC of Tennessee.
The Attorney General’s Office provided assistance to the FTC in its investigations. In September, 2009 Attorney General Swanson filed a lawsuit against Consumer Health Benefits Association. In July, 2010, her office won a Consent Judgment barring the company and its principals from selling health discount plans in Minnesota and requiring the company to pay $500,000 in restitution and penalties.
In February, 2010 Attorney General Swanson filed a lawsuit against two other companies selling health discount plans: Direct Medical Network Solutions, Inc. and Association Healthcare Management, Inc., d/b/a Family Care, both of Texas.
In March, her office won a Consent Judgment against Direct Medical barring the company and its principals from selling health discount plans in Minnesota and requiring the company to pay $250,000 in restitution and penalties. The lawsuit against Family Care remains pending.
The lawsuits filed by the FTC and Attorney General Swanson share common characteristics. The companies targeted are among a niche group of companies that seek out citizens who are looking for affordable coverage in the face of high health insurance premiums.
The companies deceptively sell limited discount plans to consumers, in part by misleading them into believing that the plans are health insurance or insurance-like products. Health discount companies often use insurance terms like “coverage,” “deductible,” “co-pay” and “premium” to confuse consumers.
The companies sometime misrepresent that the plans have a vast network of doctors and hospitals or offer 80-20 “coverage.” In fact, health discount plans don’t provide health insurance, but only provide small discounts off the prices charged by a limited number of providers. The companies often target people who have sought online quotes for health insurance, and they often push for quick sales. They generally charge enrollment fees between $100 and $150 and monthly fees between $100 and $450.
The Attorney General warned consumers:
• Discount Plans Are Not Insurance: A health discount plan is not an insurance policy and does not provide insurance protection; instead, it offers at best limited discounts from the retail price charged by a limited number of doctors, clinics, and hospitals. Only insurance companies licensed by the State of Minnesota can sell health insurance in Minnesota.
• Discount Plans Do Not Pay Your Doctor: A health discount plan does not pay your doctor, clinic, or hospital for your bills and does not insure you for your health care bills.
• Be Careful Consumers: Read any plan before you buy it.
• Beware Of Empty Promises: Some health discount companies operate a “bait and switch” scheme in which they make verbal promises about the supposed benefits of the plan, which they try to disclaim away in writing after the fact.
• Walk Away If They Say “Time Is Running Out”: Beware of sales pitches where you are told that the current monthly fee is only available for a limited period of time, or that the company may only sell a limited number of plans in Minnesota.
Source: Home Town Source
The Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board announced Thursday it plans to begin accepting applications this month and providing coverage to Californians next month in a new health insurance program for individuals with preexisting conditions – one of first major provisions of federal health reform to be implemented in the state.
California will receive a federal allocation of $761 million to operate the plan through the end of 2013, when insurance rules will change under the provisions of the new federal health reform act so that preexisting conditions are no longer considered in insurance pricing and eligibility.
To be eligible for PCIP, persons must be a citizen, national or lawfully present in the United States; must have had no creditable coverage in the six months prior to application; and a preexisting condition as evidenced by proof of denial by an insurance carrier within the past 12 months or an offer of coverage above the premium level of the MRMIP PPO rate.
To date, nearly 4,000 people have requested the PCIP application be sent to them when it becomes available. Persons interested in receiving an application when they become available later this month may submit their name, address, phone number and email address to PCIP@mrmib.ca.gov.
The Board on Thursday also reviewed and approved premium rates for the new plan that range from $127 monthly for persons aged 15 and under in the state’s three most southern counties to $1,003 monthly for persons more than 74 years old in the six counties of the Bay Area. For a 50-year-old person living in San Francisco, the monthly premium would be $499 as compared to $915 for the state’s high risk pool. These rates are effective through December 31, 2011.
In addition, the Board told its staff to begin negotiations immediately with two
organizations forwarded for consideration after competing in a robust solicitation process to operate as administrative vendor and third-party administrator for the program.
MAXIMUS, a Virginia-based private company with offices in Folsom, CA, will
participate in negotiations with MRMIB staff to provide administrative vendor services for PCIP. The Board also gave approval for staff to negotiate with a group led by HealthNow Administrative Services to provide third-party administrator services to the plan. Together, the administrative vendor and third-party administrator will provide through MRMIB a structure similar to that used by self-insured employers to their employees and would provide all the components of a comprehensive health care plan to subscribers.