Offbeat Will your company's health insurance soon cost more?

17:11  13 june  2018
17:11  13 june  2018 Source:   cbsnews.com

You'll be shocked at the price of health care for a family of four

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Thanks to company mergers, there will soon be just three U. S . health insurance providers—Aetna, Anthem, and UnitedHealth Group—if government officials allow the mergers to take place. And so are health -care networks, making it more difficult for people to get less costly in-network care.

If your company doesn’t offer a high-deductible health insurance plan , it probably will soon . The plans , which shift some costs from the company to the worker and encourage consumers to shop around for health care, are becoming far more common.

If you're one of the majority of health-care consumers who purchase insurance through your employer, you know that premium increases and rising out-of-pocket costs aren't confined to the health-care exchanges. Rising medical costs are also alive and well in the employer-sponsored insurance market.

According to the Medical Cost Trend report released today from PwC's Health Research Institute, employers and insurers are expecting a 6 percent increase in healthcare costs in 2019, in line with the 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent increases seen in the past five years. In most cases at least part of those costs are passed onto employees.

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Best Health Insurance Companies . Con : It costs much more than your previous employer-based coverage. So, these plans may soon work like any other health insurance in that respect.

The type of health insurance familiar to most consumers is group coverage offered by an employer. Many companies do not offer benefits to their employees, and often those companies that do offer benefits do so at an exorbitant cost for low quality plans .

At first glance the numbers look like good news. Health care costs aren't rising at a faster rate than years past, signaling a stabilizing in costs compared to the runaway double digit increases we saw in the early 2000s.

A closer look, however, shows a different picture. "Health-care cost increases, although steady, are still not sustainable," said Barbara Gniewek, principal at PwC. "The economy, wages and the Consumer Price Index are not growing at the same rate as health-care costs, and that's troubling," she explained. "Health care accounts for 12 percent of wages, double what it was 30 years ago, and that's without accounting for inflation."

Gniewek points to three dominant trends in health care that are fueling rising costs.

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In a perfect world, your soon -to-be ex will allow you to stay on their healthcare plan until the next open enrollment period, so getting health insurance after your divorce will be easy. This can be more cost efficient than COBRA and keeps you out of your ex’ s company plan .

Health insurance premiums are under control, but there are other ways your paying more for health care. It sure doesn't feel like health care costs are growing at record-low rates. Nearly one in four companies offer only a high-deductible plan to their staff.

Health care everywhere. Employers are offering workers access to health care in new places, including retail clinics, urgent care clinics and electronic physician consultations. This is increasing what insurers call "utilization" – in other words: consumption of health-care services – which drives up claims and costs. "Ironically these access points were designed to lower costs," Gniewek said. "We haven't seen the savings yet, although we may soon."

Provider mergers. Consolidation among hospitals and other health-care providers has been rampant in the past decade or so. While efficiencies from the mergers may eventually help lower costs, for the time being consolidation is actually increasing costs. Why? After a merger, it is usually the company with the higher cost providers that dominates. Contracts with insurers are renegotiated at the higher rates and in turn raising costs, at least in the short term.

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  To get around pharmacy gag rules, ask about drug costs "Do you have prescription insurance?"It's one of the first questions consumers hear at the pharmacy counter, and many hand over their insurance cards in the hopes of getting a good price. But sometimes using insurance can actually cost more — and even prevent the pharmacist from saying so.That's because of so-called gag rules, which bar pharmacists from telling patients when they could save by paying cash instead of using insurance.

If you submit your application through eHealthInsurance, we will inform you of the insurance company ’ s decision as soon as More information and a complete methodology of the study can be found in eHealth, Inc.’s 2010 report: Cost of Individual and Family Health Insurance Plans .

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More physicians working for hospitals. With the current health-care consolidation, many physicians have moved out of private practice and now work for hospital companies. In fact, 42 percent of physicians were employed by hospitals in 2016, up from 25 percent in 2012, according to the report. Hospitals and medical groups tend to charge anywhere from 14 percent to 30 percent more than physicians in private practice. The result: rising prices.

At the same time, some trends are putting a damper on health-care costs. Next year's flu, for instance, is anticipated to be far milder than this year's devastating season. In addition, more employers are offering care advocates. These services help the consumer navigate the insurance system to find the best quality care for the best price. According to the survey, 72 percent of employers offered health-advocacy services to their employees this year, a 14 percent increase from 2016.

Employers are also embracing so-called high-performance networks. Often called narrow networks, these are a group of selective doctors that an insurer chooses to provide care for the bulk of covered employees. These providers aren't necessarily the lowest cost providers but they are proven to have the best results. Thus, employer-sponsored insurers want you to see them.

If you're an employee at a large company, expect to see more offerings for care advocates and specialized networks. Employers will want to take advantage of these cost-saving tools. At the same time, although it's costly for now, you'll likely see more opportunities to grab health care at non-traditional places, such as drug stores or clinics. You may like the convenience and your employer will like the idea that a small health problem caught now can avoid an expensive, full-fledged health episode later.

Senate blocks Trump plan to cut $15B in unused spending .
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