Don't Let Your For-Profit Insurer Pick Your New Health Care Plan

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In recent months, thousands of Americans have received insurance cancellation letters offering them plans with ridiculously expensive new premiums. But those who trust their insurers to offer them the most affordable, most beneficial plan available should maybe reconsider that whole trust thing. As Talking Points Memo reports on Monday, some insurers across the country are sending misleading letters to lock people into expensive plans before they can shop around on the exchanges (which will probably, possibly, maybe work by November 30). In September, Washington's Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler told shoppers not to blindly trust the recommendations of their insurers in a consumer alert. "Don't just take what your insurance company says, make sure you shop around. You have the right to buy any plan inside the new exchange or in the outside market," Kreidler said. 

Consumers in Kentucky were similarly misled by insurers, when Humana sent letters informing consumers they had to lock-in their old rate by September 20, nearly two weeks before Kentucky's state exchange opened. Humana was later fined $65,000 by the state for sending "misleading" letter. "They are not giving people the ability to make an informed choice, because the information is not yet out there," Ray Brundige, who received one of those letters, told USA Today in September. "They're doing themselves and the community a disservice." Yes, the same insurers who rejected sick people with pre-existing conditions to maintain profits aren't above misleading shoppers.

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This isn't anything new, though it wasn't until now that health insurers could blame Obamacare for premium spikes. In January of this year several insurers sought to raise their rates by up to 22 percent, while healthcare costs increases have slowed in recent years, The New York Times reported. And as piece noted, Anthem Blue Cross raised rates 39 percent in 2010, and that was a major boost to the health reform movement. Moral of the story: insurance companies don't have your best (financial) interests at heart. Or, maybe a better lesson is explore your options. 

The New York Times has examined several reports which found that millions of Americans will be eligible for free or basically free health insurance plans. Analysis by McKinsey and Company found that 5 million to 6 million Americans qualify for subsidies that are greater than the cost of the cheapest bronze or silver plan.  Bronze plans have higher out-of-pocket costs (a maximum of $6,350 per year for individuals and $12,700 per year for couples), but thanks to subsidies individuals could end up paying next to nothing towards their premiums (erring on the side of caution, some insurers are advertising rates of $20 to $30 per month for subsidized bronze plans). For the coveted young and uninsured, who probably won't use much insurance, this might make health insurance more worthwhile—according to the reports, half of uninsured individuals 39 years old and younger are eligible for zero-premium bronze plans. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.