Saturday, January 30, 2016

Health Insurance for 2016

The news nationally and here in Washington are filled with stories about health insurance news. Locally, several companies have either left the market or have announced that 2016 may be their last year to offer coverage.

Inside the Health Plan Finder (HPF) there are 136 plans offered for 2016. Only 20 of them are holdovers from last year which means that we have 116 brand new plans. There are some new companies/new players including United Health Care. However, UHC is skittish about remaining in the individual and family market beyond this year. As for the all plans in HPF you must watch for network limitations. Always make sure the doctors you want to see are in the network of the plan you want and can afford.

Outside the HPF the market is shrinking, too. LifeWise Health, spawned by  Premera Blue Cross several years ago has decided to eliminate agents/brokers AND change their open networks to a network that looks a lot like and HMO.

Premera Blue Cross stopped accepting online enrollments in the fall of 2015 and required paper application with proof of residency. Regence BlueShield followed the lead of Premera and also started required proof of residency. Why? Because dishonest people were buying health insurance with expensive pre-existing conditions (pregnancy being one) and then dropping coverage after the big bills were paid by the insurance company. Premera and Regence were hit with millions of dollars of claims.

The last week of January 2016, Premera laid off most of their sales department for individual and family health plans, keeping one person for the west side of WA and one for the east side of the State. This may be a red flag or it may be a sign of tightening their belt to stay viable. Watch closely.

Moda Health came to WA in 2011 as ODS (Oregon Dental Services). Rates were good and the network was very good. Well, Moda has since pulled out of WA and AK. On January 30th the Insurance Department in OR put Moda on the watch list.

This makes for an uncertain future for millions of people. Was the dissolution of the private health insurance market part of the overall plan?