Friday, December 13, 2019

Sharing is Caring - Or maybe not

Over the years, we've written pretty extensively about Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs), both their advantages and their flaws.

On the one hand, they are ACA-compliant, which means that they technically check the Mandate/Tax/Penalty-avoidance box. And, they are typically far less expensive than comparable ObamaPlans.

On the other hand, they are underwritten, and they are not insurance, which means that there are few (if any) consumer protections available for folks who enroll (notice that we can't call them "insureds"). They often have religious restrictions, as well, which could be problematic for some.

Back in August, we noted that Washington State insurance regulators were taking a hard line against Aliera's HCSM arrangement:

"The top insurance regulator in Washington state is accusing a high-profile health care cost sharing ministry, and its program manager partner, of trying to avoid state insurance regulation by wrapping ordinary health insurance in a health care sharing ministry wrapper."

Fast forward to now, and co-blogger Bob tips us to this item from the Peach State:

"... health shares marketed by Georgia-based Aliera, the company through which Greer bought his plan, exemplify those risks, with the company under investigation or ordered to stop selling plans by regulators in at least four states."

I can sympathize with Alierra's clients: as anyone who's recently shopped at the site can attest, plans are increasingly expensive, both in premium and potential out-of-pocket, even with subsidies (tax credits). So it's easy to understand the allure of alternatives like health sharing, while overlooking the very real pitfalls.

I must say, I'm not sure how insurance regulators think they have the authority to ban an explicitly non-insurance product, but maybe that's just me.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

MVNHS© & Medicaid4All: A Study In Health "Care"

As we've long noted, when health care is a "right" bad things happen:

"Quebec’s health minister said Thursday he would sign a ministerial decree to block dentists from withdrawing from the public health system amid a bitter standoff over contract negotiations."

Here, of course, we have the 13th Amendment.

For now.

As we've also long noted, Britain's Much Vaunted National Health System© (which is based on that premise) continues to prove my conclusion true:

And that, dear readers, is what awaits us with #Medicaid4All.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Google vs Privacy

"I'm the Google whistleblower. The medical data of millions of Americans is at risk - Anonymous"



"I didn’t decide to blow the whistle on Google’s deal, known internally as the Nightingale Project, glibly. The decision came to me slowly, creeping on me through my day-to-day work as one of about 250 people in Google and Ascension working on the project."

The challenge, of course, is how we define privacy these days. As co-blogger Kelley recently pointed out about this very story:

"In America only one State (New Hampshire) stipulates in its laws that the patient owns information in the medical record. In all other States it either stipulates that the Provider (Hospital and/or Physician) owns the medical record or there is not such stipulation."

And when we use devices, we've given explicit permission about what the folks on the other end may do with it.

From 4 years ago:

"[I]f a person receives a wearable device through their hospital or doctor, the healthcare data that device collects is covered by HIPAA. At least, the data HIPAA defines as protected healthcare information (PHI) is safeguarded."

And we've seen how well that's worked out.

[Hat Tip: FoIB Shari G]

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Weird Tricks

Working with a new (to me) client on an Exchange plan, husband and wife, $28,000 annual income (2020). Very vanilla, no real issues. Plug in their demographics, hit the button, and see that they qualify for a fairly substantial subsidy tax credit. The only 'off' thing is that the income is 100% from hubby (this comes into play in a moment).

So continue on to the quote screen, see that they can buy a $5,250 deductible HSA-compliant plan for about $50/month (total for the two of them, after applying $1,250 subsidy). Nice.

Yesterday, Suzy stopped in to pull the trigger, and we went to sign them up. We carefully went through each screen, and confirmed that we'd entered all the relevant personal info for both of them. But when we got to the "checkout lane," the premium had gone from $50 to almost $80, and - weirder still - it seemed to only list Suzy.


So, we call the hotline, and sure enough, they were only showing her as on the plan; keep in mind, we both saw me click the buttons to include hubby. Okay, no big deal, nice guy at the other end got us all hooked up, hubby added and, lo and behold, a miracle:

Instead of $80 for Suzy alone, it was $40 for the two of them.

And yeah, I'm thinking this, too.

Apparently the gummint also works in mysterious ways. How else to explain why it's half the cost to insure both of them?

Monday, December 09, 2019 Enrollment: Week 5 Results

As we head into the home stretch:

[click to embiggen]

Total plan selections are down from last week, which makes sense: at this point it's primarily fence-sitters finally taking the plunge. Ditto on new consumers, down by about 25%.

Will be interesting to see how this week, the final one of Open Season Enrollment '19, shapes up.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Is this the "Next Big Thing?"

Probably not, but still very promising:

Regular readers will be familiar with Dr Rob, one of the pioneers of the Direct Primary Care (DPC) practice model. As the video explains, he's expanded the practice to include family medicine and even an obesity focused doc. As always, we wish Dr Rob the greatest success, and are delighted that he's taken this to the next level.

Oh, you wondered why I said it's probably not "the next big thing?" Well, for starters, lacking availability of true catastrophic health insurance plans (which are illegal under ObamaCare), folks still need to have some kind of insurance coverage for big ticket items, which means double coverage.

For another, DPC proponents decry the lack of choice offered by narrow networks (now the norm), but this seems to me to be the epitome of such.

I do like that they're looking beyond the scope of individual subscriptions ("retail") and seeking to partner with employers. The issue there, of course, is capacity and scalability. Will be fascinating to see this develop.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Sure, sure, but hey: Free! A #Medicaid4All Story



Interesting ACA case: Tax Credit Conundrum edition

Sometimes Open Enrollment can be interesting. Case in point: Pastor Jerry.

Pastor Jerry is the newly hired clergyman for a local church, with a nice compensation package made up of three parts: a salary, a housing allowance, and a reimbursement arrangement for medical insurance. The salary and housing allowance are fixed, known costs, while the health insurance budget is "up to $2,000 a month." And therein lies the rub:

Based on his salary/housing allowance, his family qualifies for about $800 in tax credits (aka "subsidy"). Nice, but not the end of the story. The problem is that if his employer reimburses him for the premium and/or out-of-pocket expenses that increases his annual income and screws up the subsidy calculation. It's kind of chasing its own tail. I spent quite a bit of time in separate phone calls with the nice folks at; the best advice (well, the easiest advice) was to just forgo the subsidy and avoid the whole mess.

There's a lot to be said for this: indeed, the KISS Principle holds much sway. But I really hate to leave (government) money "on the table," and wracked my brain trying to come up with a better way.

Lying in bed the other evening, it hit me: when choosing how much of one's subsidy to use, folks almost always pull the trigger for the full amount (which makes sense: results in lowest premium). But one can, in fact, choose to use $0 upfront, and just claim it the following April. This was a true epiphany: it means there's no real downside, nor is there any possibility of "clawback." Indeed, the worst case scenario is that he gets very little money back, but it's still better than having to cough it up in the following year's taxes.

Pretty nifty.

Oh, we also discussed precisely how to handle that out-of-pocket reimbursement, and decided on an HSA over an HRA. They'll be working with our friends at FlexBank on this.

Exit question:  given the facts above, what potential issue do you see regarding the employer's reimbursement versus the delayed tax credit?

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Importance of Life Insurance: Real Life

Co-blogger Bob V tipped us to this important, all too common story:

"My husband is my caregiver, and spending $45 a month on his life insurance means I won't be alone if he dies."

Rebecca Chamaa was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and relies on her husband as her primary caregiver and advocate. If he were to die, she would need to be able to afford a full-time nurse (or equivalent), which can get pretty spendy. Hence, the importance of life insurance:

"Like many people, my husband had a small life insurance policy at work, but that policy wouldn't cover our mortgage or provide enough cash for me to stay in our home, pay for funeral expenses, and arrange for someone to help me with household tasks, or at a minimum some caregiving activities."

Very moving, very timely.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Waiting on the MVNHS©

And we do mean waiting:

[click to embiggen]

Thanks to our friends at the Association of American Physicians and Hospitals, we learn that north of four-and-a-half million Brits are on waiting lists. For those keeping score, that totals out to almost "7 percent of the entire British population."

Talk about a 7 percent solution...

And it's not just in hospitals:


Monday, December 02, 2019 Enrollment: Week 4 Results

According to email from the Feds, "in week four of the 2020 Open Enrollment period, 703,556 people selected plans using the platform."

Of course, this just means that folks have added plans to their carts, the real numbers will be when (if?) they actually pull the trigger and send in a check.

In any case, here's last week's snapshot:
[click to embiggen]

Total plan selections are down about 7% from Week 2 (we missed last week dues to Thanksgiving travel). New consumers are down, as well, as are renewals.

This makes sense, however: we're already a month into the process, and (presumably) most of the folks who are going to make a choice have already done so. I do expect a slight uptick the final week as procrastinators make their choice.