How to Insure Your College Freshman

August 22, 2013

Clothes, check. Laptop, check.  Health insurance?  That’s something you definitely want to check on. A new school year is approaching, and your freshman will soon be off to college. But before your college student ventures out this fall, it’s important to check now that they have adequate health insurance coverage rather than waiting to look into it if and when an emergency happens.

Consider these health insurance options for your college-age son or daughter:

Staying on your family’s health plan, protected under health reform. If your college student is already on a family health plan, that could be the best option. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, children are entitled to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. This can be especially beneficial for students who continue graduate studies or take time off.

However, if they go out of state to school and your plan only allows for in-network doctors, it could pose a costly problem to see an out-of-network doctor. In this case, it might be worth checking out individual health plans, school-sponsored health plans or student health plans.

Individual health plans are offered in many states at a low cost. An individual plan ensures that your college student can keep coverage regardless of their status at college. So, if they need to take a semester off, transfer schools, switch to part-time status, or a parent loses a job, they will keep their coverage under an individual health plan.

School- sponsored health plans are affordable and provide medical services on campus. Many colleges offer health insurance for students. The benefits of these plans vary from school to school, so check with the school’s admission office. Some of these plans are subsidized by the school, so they may be low cost. Some plans offer low premiums (monthly costs), but limit coverage. These plans may cover very basic medical care, but exclude other services.

Medicaid can help those who are not insured. If their parents do not have health coverage, some students can qualify for Medicaid based on family income. 

Look to the exchanges. Next year students will be able to buy a health plan through the health insurance marketplaces.  In addition, a recent federal guideline passed this month states that students who don’t enroll in the student health plan may still qualify for subsidized coverage on an exchange. According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department, under health reform, if their income is between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 to $45,960 for an individual in 2013), they can be eligible for a subsidy.

Looking into these health insurance options can help you be prepared to send your college-bound son or daughter off to school. If you’re a Health Advocate member and need more help understanding health insurance options for your college student, give us a call—one of our Personal Health Advocates will be happy to assist you.

 


Affordable Care Act rule aims to increase transparency, moderate premium costs

May 24, 2011

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final regulation to protect consumers from unreasonably large increases in their health insurance premiums. On September 1, 2011, it will be required that premium increases of 10% or higher be thoroughly reviewed by states and federal officials. In September 2012, that 10% threshold will change to a percentage varying by state in accordance to its specific health and insurance trends.

HHS has been working with the states to improve their oversight capabilities, and has additionally awarded them $44 million in Affordable Care Act grants. Another $200 million will be available to the states as well. This new regulation, combined with other protections from the Affordable Care Act, should help to moderate premium hikes, and ultimately provide the consumer with more value for their premium dollar.

The rule also requires that insurance companies provide the consumer with clear, easily understandable reasons for any “unreasonable” rate increase (again, 10% until Sept. 2012). These justifications must be posted by the insurance company on both their own website and HHS’ Affordable Care Act website (www.healthcare.gov). 

Significant premium increases will be up for review not only the states, but also the consumers. When reviewing rate increases, states must provide the public with an opportunity for input. With this rule, transparency can help to lower costs, and consumers will have a chance to have their say in determining a reasonable premium cost.

Click here to learn more.


Find low-cost or free dental services nationwide

January 21, 2011

In today’s economic climate, most people find it hard enough to afford keeping up with their basic medical care, let alone dental care.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Besides the obvious cosmetic benefits of taking care of your teeth, the American Heart Association says that keeping good dental hygiene could reduce your risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, the folks at WorlDental.org have put together an expansive database of free and low-cost dental services throughout the United States. The site features loads of information on clinics, fairs, and other places to get cheap dental care in Minnesota, Northern California, and Indiana; North Carolina, Michigan, and Maryland; Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hamphire; as well as New Jersey and virtually anywhere else in America.  The site is updated continuously, so if you don’t see a clinic or event in your area, check back soon.

Are you having trouble paying for dental care? Would WorlDental be helpful to you? Leave us a comment!


Use of medical services likely to fall in early 2011

January 19, 2011

Over the last few years, expensive insurance premiums and rising unemployment have made Americans reluctant to spend money on costly non-essential procedures and medications. This reluctance often has led to patients skipping out on appointments and cutting back on medications.

Despite this trend, Debra Sherman of Reuters reports that there actually was an increase in spending on medical services during the fourth quarter of 2010. This brief lapse in financial conservatism could have happened for a number of reasons, including increased confidence in the economy. However, it’s more likely that people were attempting to make as many doctor visits as possible after meeting their annual deductibles. With these deductibles having been reset on January 1, it is expected that people will go back to skipping doctor visits.

It’s important to know that saving money does not have to cost you and your family sound health. There are other ways of cutting costs where you can maintain good health without breaking the bank. All you need to do is strategize:

  • Be proactive. Don’t default to any single doctor. Planning ahead and shopping around will provide you with many options. A lack of options may subject you to expensive services – more options means more prices to compare. Search your area for medical services and be open to different providers – community hospitals typically offer the same services as academic medical centers, but at a cheaper price.
  • Like we discussed last week, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about a discount. It never hurts to ask.
  • Keep a journal to keep track of all of the services you have received. When you receive your bill, match up records to make sure there are no errors.
  • Make sure to stay on top of your medical bills – this means being clear on what your insurer will and will not cover, addressing billing errors immediately, and writing everything down – if there is a dispute, it will support your argument to know who at your insurance company you spoke with and what it is you discussed.

Have you avoided care to save money? Tell us your story in the comments!


The Dangers of Inactivity

January 14, 2011

The health dangers associated with prolonged periods of inactivity have long been known to the medical community and the general public. Parking yourself in front of the television and avoiding exercise, the common wisdom goes, can lead to weight gain and deteriorated health.

However, a new study from the University of Queensland, Australia, brings to light more details regarding the dangers of sitting. According to the study, prolonged periods of sitting — even among those who exercise regularly — lead to a bigger waistline and increased levels of blood fats.

This data comes on the heels of a University College London study  that found that the risk of heart disease doubled among those who spent more than four hours a day on the computer. Furthermore, the risk of a cardiovascular event increased 125 percent for people who spent at least two hours in front of a television or computer screen after work.

What’s shocking about these findings is that regular exercise alone isn’t enough to combat several hours’ worth of sitting — something millions of Americans do everyday at their desk jobs. Genevieve Healy, the lead author of the Queensland study, suggests that regular exercise mixed with frequent breaks during the workday to stand or walk around is the most effective way to offset the negative effects of sitting.

For many of us, spending over four hours a day in front of a computer is unavoidable. Based on these findings, what do you plan to do to offset the negative effects of sitting? Let us know in the comments!


Top 5 Ways to Cut Medical Costs

January 7, 2011

The cost of healthcare escalates by the day. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t find ways to cut corners on medical costs. Become a savvy health consumer with these five tips on cutting costs — without sacrificing quality of care — brought to you by The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed.

1. Find a doctor who will forgo medical fees. Yes, they do exist. You can search for doctors in your area willing to forgo fees through the American Medical Association’s website.

2. Negotiate a discount with your doctor. Doctors are often far more willing to offer a discount or a payment plan for care than you might think – in a recent survey, 61 percent of adults who attempted to negotiate a discount were successful.

3. Instead of a specialist, use your primary doctor. Family doctors, general internists and pediatricians tend to charge less than specialists and can sometimes offer the same caliber of care. If you need maintenance care for a controlled chronic condition, this may be an option for you.

4. Need dental? Try a university dental clinic. Seeking care at a university dental clinic can cut your costs greatly – in some cases, patients pay only for the necessary materials – and the dental students and interns are closely supervised. Your state dental society can help you find a clinic near you.

5. Participate in a clinical trial. The U.S. National Institute of Health’s website lists current clinical trials being held across the nation. If you qualify, you could greatly reduce the costs of your care and medication – or eliminate them altogether.


Top 5 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Medical Bills

January 5, 2011

Doctor and hospital bills are routinely rife with errors and inaccuracies – costing you precious money. Save cash and peace of mind with these five tips on monitoring your medical bills, brought to you by The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed.

1. Be specific when clarifying coverage with your insurer. Before receiving a medical procedure, check with your insurer to be sure what they will and will not cover. Keep detailed records of who you spoke with and when – this information will help you greatly when disputing a billing error.

2. Address billing errors quickly and aggressively. All too often, insurance companies and doctor’s offices issue incorrect bills. Don’t be a victim: insurance companies will often reprocess a claim, saving you money.

3. BYOM – Bring Your Own Medication. Don’t waste money paying for the same drugs at the hospital pharmacy.

4. Ask if you can pay in cash. Many hospitals offer a discount on bills paid in cash rather than check or credit. It never hurts to ask.

5. Opt for a non-teaching hospital, if possible. Community hospitals offer similar care as academic medical centers, and often at a lower cost. Ask your doctor.