by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 

 

05 September 2014

16 Percent Says No on Prop 45 and Insurance Regulations

Posted in Latest News

16 Percent Says No on Prop 45 and Insurance Regulations

70% of Californians supports Prop 45 in California, which requires health insurance companies to publicly explain rate increases before they raise your premiums. To play devil's advocate for the 16 Percenters who oppose (and 15% undecided), I checked out what's happening to Proposition 45 in California. 

45 is on the ballot in November just as Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who supports it, is up for reelection. If 45 passes the Insurance Commissioner can challenge rate hikes he finds excessive or unwarranted and veto them. 

Despite most Californians supporting Prop 45, political ads will attempt to dissuade them. To understand whose ad is on which side, follow the money or just look at the small print of the website/commercial/bumper sticker without causing a collision. 

Major insurance carriers (Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser, Healthnet, and United Healthcare) poured $37 million into the lobbying group, "Californians Against Higher Healthcare Costs" to oppose Prop 45. The group's homepage is StopHigherCosts.org.

The Insurance Commissioner rewarded Consumer Watchdog $88,000 to review rate hikes last year. The consumer advocacy group and Commissioner support Prop 45 and so far 70% of Californians concur.

StopHigherCosts.org opined that if Proposition 45 passed, Commissioner Jones would have too much power, labeling him "The Man who would be King" and "Insurance Czar". Did Kaiser Permenente forget what their name means in German?

StopHigherCosts.org added the Commissioner would "have new power over your health plan's treatment options and even what your insurance covers". He would also interfere with Covered California, a new bureaucracy that controls healthcare costs. Covered CA opposes Prop 45.

A July 14th letter from Commissioner Jones to Covered CA's Director, Peter Lee, says that is false. All Prop 45 authorizes is the Commissioner to approve or deny rates. It does not change your health insurance benefits. 

This list of rebuttals from Prop 45 debates highlights the "he said-she said" game being played at voters' expense. At one point, the arguing sides contradict each other claiming Prop 45 creates "More duplicative, costly bureaucracy" and "won't create a new bureaucracy". This is why voter turnout is so bleak. 

Opponents argue that passing Prop 45 would allow trial lawyers or "consumer intervenors" to challenge rate hikes, which means insurance companies must increase rates to pay for legal fees. 

Commissioner Jones reported out of 7,000 property and casualty insurance filings his department saw last year, only 12 were challenged. That's 0.2 percent. P&C, home, and auto insurance premiums have been regulated since Proposition 103 passed in 1988. 

As StopHigherCosts.org reports, Prop 45 sponsors are the same type of lawyers who made $11 million from legal challenges since Prop 103 passed 25 years ago. That's peanuts, compared to the billions Californians saved under Prop 103.

FierceHealthPayer predicted the style of upcoming Prop 45 propaganda. Conservative ads could harp on "more bureaucracy" that leads to higher costs. Liberal messages may assume Prop 45 could interfere with the Affordable Care Act, which has been relatively successful.

Tell us what you think. Are these arguments strong enough to dissuade 70% of Californians who says Yes to Prop 45 or will it take more money?

04 September 2014

Your Tax Refund Depends on a Flawless Health Insurance Application

Posted in Health Insurance 101

Your Tax Refund Depends on a Flawless Health Insurance Application

If you received too much financial assistance from Obamacare, you may owe the Feds. If money equals happiness then the IRS may drain your tax refund like a Dementor's kiss.

Health insurance applicants were spoiled by the honor system last year. They could easily apply through an agent or online without showing proof of income or citizenship for 90 days. Many applicants forgot to and Covered CA didn't really stay on top of it. 

But Covered California is finally mailing reminders to over 98,000 Californians almost a full year after open enrollment began. Since 2013, Covered CA verified over 700,000 documents that were sent via snail mail, faxed, or uploaded online.

In order to keep your health insurance, your documents must show accurate citizenship status and income. If government computers don't verify your information they should already have in the first place, you could lose your coverage.

Coming to a mail box near you, the letters will request proof of citizenship and/or income with instructions how to return them. Accepted forms of lawful presence include: US birth certificate, US passport, certificate of naturalization, or certificate of citizenship. More accepted documents are listed here.

Note: They will not be used for immigration purposes! As long as the applicant's citizenship checks out, Covered CA will simply match the proof of income with the projected income placed on last year's health insurance application.

No matter what time of the year, Californians are expected to maintain a "flawless" health insurance application by reporting a change in income, a change in family size, or a change of address within 90 days to Covered CA. Since data on an application determines how much in health insurance tax credits you receive, Obamacare wants nothing less than perfection. That's what it's paying for, right?

If you earned more income than you reported on your application, and you received health insurance subsidies (tax credits) every month, you may owe some to Uncle Sam. And yes, the amount may come out of your tax refund.

Income brackets and caps on subsidy refunds may help safeguard Californians from owing too much. The IRS posted examples of subsidy refunds if someone underreports income, but the amounts may not be definitive until tax season. 

A person earning between $22,000 - $34,470 may owe up to $750 in insurance subsidy refunds to the IRS. Someone making less than $22,000 may owe back only $300. The amounts really depend on income, family size, and age.

How does the Land Rover dealership verify my income before selling me a car but my health insurance agent can't? If Beyonce sold insurance, every application would be flawless. 

Speaking of flawless: RIP Joan Rivers. And Happy Birthday, Beyonce!

02 September 2014

Oops Hobby Lobby! California Requires All Insurance Plans to Cover Abortions

Posted in Individual Health Insurance

Oops Hobby Lobby! California Requires All Insurance Plans to Cover Abortions

The Catholic Church believes God is watching everything, which may include the small print on your insurance plan. If only He had a counterpart at California's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) there wouldn't be another uproar about abortion.  

After reviewing insurance contracts, DMHC discovered it erroneously approved the request of two Catholic Universities which illegally restricted abortion coverage from their group health insurance plans.

Director of DMHC, Michelle Rouillard, wrote to Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permenente, who covered the problematic Catholic schools, Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara University, to request compliance with California laws within 90 days. 

Just in time for Covered California's next open enrollment, November 15

Despite the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling, which allowed employers to restrict abortion coverage based on religious beliefs, California's own Constitution protects women's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. So do the California Reproductive Privacy Act, Knox Keene Act, and Women's Contraceptive Equity Act (WCEA).   

In WCEA, the definition of "religious employer" is more specific than SCOTUS' ruling that any "closely-held corporation" with a religious consciousness can block health insurance rights. 

WCEA defines such employer as a non-profit whose purpose is the "inculcation of religious values" and so on, which does not describe either Catholic University affected by this case or most corporations who've challenged women's rights in court in the past. 

Both schools can keep their plan but must include abortion coverage by the fall or will incur a scolding worse than a nun's cane.   

26 August 2014

I Got a Letter from Covered California Saying I Qualify for Health Insurance for 90 Days

Posted in Health Insurance 101

I Got a Letter from Covered California Saying I Qualify for Health Insurance for 90 Days

We just got a letter. We just got a letter. We just got a letter. Wonder who it's from? Mail from Covered California can be frequent, tardy, confusing, redundant, wasteful, but usually self-explanatory. If you started a health insurance application on Covered CA's website, you may still get letters delivered to your home. You can't escape them, even if you move to a Hut-on-a-Rock. 

The most common mail from Covered CA is a generic thank you letter telling the recipient he/she may qualify for premium assistance . It may annoy or confuse people who already signed up for a plan and know the whole tax credit spiel. 

This letter is automatically generated once someone enters a mailing address on Covered CA's online application. It takes a few business days to arrive, and by then you may have already enrolled. Don't take it out on the mail man for sending out-dated news. Even if you decide against Covered CA's insurance, the letter will arrive to try and change your mind. Ignore it if you already selected a plan. 

The second most frequent mail I get asked about proclaims "you qualify for health insurance through Covered Calfiornia for 90 days". Or it's worded as "you qualify for 90 days because information doesn't match Covered California's records". This letter is just worded horribly and sends everyone into a panic attack. No one is getting health insurance for just 90 days. 

The letter means that based on information you or a health insurance agent provided on your application, e.g.: your gross annual income, your age, family size, citizenship status, you must provide proof in the next 90 days. For example, if you say you're 26-years old, you must upload a copy of your birth certificate or drivers' license on Covered CA's website or fax your documents to an agent to do it for you.

The 90 days refers to the amount of time Covered CA gives a person to provide proof. If you cannot show proof as requested in your letter in 90 days after you sign up, you must reapply for health insurance. 

Similar-sounding scare mail was delivered to 100,000 homes over the summer, reminding forgetful Californians to send in proof of citizenship or residency. The cost of forgetting is losing your health insurance in October, which means you'll see a fine on next year's tax returns for not having 3 months of consecutive coverage in 2014. 

Seek a health insurance agent who understands the process if you want your case expedited. Just remember to be timely or risk shooting yourself in the foot and losing health insurance. Literal or figurative foot-shooting is now covered by Obamacare. 

21 August 2014

Only 15 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish

Posted in Health Insurance 101

Only 15 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish

A Covered California board meeting revealed only 15% of certified insurance agents speaks the language most commonly used by the highest uninsured population in California. Now it's clear why the state didn't reach its Latino enrollment goal

12,636 independent insurance agents are Covered California certified. That means only they can sell both types of insurance plans: those through the state exchange (Covered California) called "on-exchange" plans and private insurance plans called "off-exchange".

On-exchange plans additionally offer financial assistance, called subsidies or tax credits, but only to those who qualify. Nearly 2 million or 46% of Latinos is eligible for health insurance subsidies. Of that percentage, about 25% speaks Spanish primarily.

Latinos in California are more uninsured than any other demographic, which explains why agents and Covered California would seek them out. 

But when Covered California's website listed insurance agents by spoken language, only 15% were Spanish-literate, compared to 60% of Covered California councilors. One might assume the exchange had the upper hand, but by the end of open enrollment, independent agents enrolled more applicants than Covered California itself.

40% of all applicants enrolled through an agent while 9% signed up by phone or via online chat with a Covered California councilor. 44% of California's population speaks Spanish; that's over 2 million people, but only 252,000 Latinos signed up for health insurance last year; just shy of Covered California's 260,000 goal

Language barriers weren't the only reason Latino enrollment figures fell short. In the first 3 months of open enrollment, Covered California didn't have a functioning Spanish website. The same could be said about their English one, but at least it led to the English application. Broken links on "CuidadoDeSalud.gov" misdirected applicants to the English form, causing muchos problemas. 

Eventually, the major bilingual issues were fixed, allowing for a smoother enrollment. To improve next Obamacare season, the exchange budgeted $100 million for Latino outreach to likely fund the continuation of their Spanish billboards in Los Angeles and commercials during telenovelas. 

Haronian Insurance agents speak Spanish, Tagalog, Farsi, Hebrew, and I'm forgetting one... Oh, right, English. Across the Obamacare Planet, only one place can translate wonky insurance terms to the language you know. French users, you're on your own. 

English 101: Don't be fooled by the wrong subject when turning a verb singular or plural. 

In the tile of this article, "!5 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish", what's wrong? "Agents speaks Spanish" sounds odd, but is correct. 

"15 Percent" is the subject and "Speaks" is the verb. "Of Covered California Agents" is a prepositional phrase because it starts with a preposition (of) and ends with a noun (Agents). 

Prepositional phrases serve a purpose, but not to the verb. They exist to answer: Which, When, How, and Where.

In this sentence, which speaks Spanish? Of Covered California agents? No. 15 percent speaks Spanish.

Do percentages confuse you into thinking they're plural? Do you say, "Two percent of my body is fat." or "Two percent of my body are fat."? Neither? Stop worrying about grammar and go work out!