Alternatives to Obamacare

Affordable coverage by January 1?

This week I have to make a final decision about a new health insurance plan for my family.

Yes, I’ve been dawdling. Partly because I wanted to wait and see how my state’s health exchange would work (there were several glitches, so I’m glad I waited) and whether the administration might “fix” or delay parts of the law, as it did when it suggested insurance companies could extend canceled policies through 2014 ( my state has refused to play).

And, to be honest, I’m procrastinating because I’m angry about losing my current policy, about paying … Continue reading

How are you coping with Obamacare exchanges?

Glitchy exchanges improve…kind of

The big news this past weekend, other than Black Friday deals and mayhem, was the much-anticipated announcement that by the end of the day Saturday, Nov. 30, the federal health exchange, healthcare.gov, would—finally—be working as it was supposed to.

Well, is it? That depends.

Most of the media report that the website is “improving” and working better than it did on October 1. That’s a pretty low bar. The official Health and Human Services exchange website, hhs.gov, states:

The site is better today than it was on Oct. 1.  We are on track

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Prescription drugs: Statins

prescription drugsThe blockbuster drug

My husband has had mildly elevated cholesterol for years. At several points in time, his doctor has recommended that he start taking one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs, like Lipitor (atorvastatin), the best-selling prescription drug of all time. In 2006, Lipitor sales peaked at $13.7 billion—that’s just one year!

Because my husband has no other risk factors for heart disease—he is not overweight, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t have high blood pressure (if anything, it’s low), he has no family history of heart attacks, and he eats a low-saturated fat diet and exercises regularly—I have always … Continue reading

Outbreaks and vaccinations

childhood vaccinationsThe canary in the coal mine

Late last week I read the troubling story about a recent polio outbreak in Syria. Although polio, thanks to the vaccine, has been almost eradicated in most parts of the world, it is still present in several middle eastern countries.

Because of political unrest and the huge numbers of refugees fleeing to Europe, world public health officials worry about more widespread outbreaks of this crippling, and deadly, disease.

Outbreaks of highly contagious, but preventable, diseases have become more common because of the anti-vaccination movement. And as these like-minded individuals tend to settle … Continue reading

Prescription drug shortages

drug shortagesOr “Levothyroxine costs how much?”

Last week I went into our local Costco to pick up my husband’s 90-day supply of levothyroxine, a generic thyroid replacement medication.

He has been taking levothyroxine every day for three years, since he had his thyroid gland removed due to thyroid cancer. And he will need to continue taking it every day for the rest of his life.

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Luckily, a three-month supply only costs us about $18 (and that’s without prescription drug coverage).

So imagine my surprise when … Continue reading

Self triage and save money

Know some resources and use them

Triage is a commonly used word in medicine, especially in overcrowded emergency departments as staff do their best to determine which patients are sickest (will soon die unless treated) and which can wait. This process of prioritizing patients for treatment is known as triage.

But triage has a broader definition: The principle or practice of allocating limited resources.

And for most of us, money is definitely a limited resource!

In 2014 more health insurance policies will come with huge deductibles, and I think this trend will continue. Health care costs are not going to … Continue reading

Protect yourself from medical identity theft

Medical identity theft—an old problem, but a growing one

Medical identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to fraudulently receive medical care—and have it paid for by you and/or your insurance.

If that person is treated under your name, not only your finances, but your entire medical history could be at risk.

What if your blood type was changed? What if a serious drug allergy was added or removed from your records? What if your chart suddenly identified you as a 23-year-old female who had an appendectomy, when you are actually a 45-year-old woman with an appendix about … Continue reading

Don’t insist on antibiotics!

antibioticsThe problem of too many antibiotics

For at least three decades, doctors have been aware that they over prescribe antibiotics, a practice that raises the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Like the well-known MRSA (mersa), methycillin-resistant staphylococcus  aureus.

But they still do it.

A recent report from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows that between 2000 and 2010, doctors wrote antibiotic prescriptions for 60% of sore throats, even though they were only appropriate—for strep throat— about 10% of the time.

Antibiotics were also prescribed for bronchitis (cough) in 73% of cases; antibiotics never help bronchitis, a condition caused … Continue reading

Obamacare needs more work…

…because health care is still sick

So the political brouhaha is over in Washington, DC (for now) and Obamacare can continue it’s rollout unchecked–except by the federal exchange’s own technical ineptitude.

But eventually the online marketplaces will be functioning as they are supposed to, and all Americans–regardless of their economic or health situations–will be able to buy affordable health insurance and have access to the best care possible.

Or will they?

Our health care system has long been described as broken, sick, on life support. Obamacare has taken the system back into surgery to try and repair some of … Continue reading

Tips to save money on specialist visits

…or mistakes I wish I hadn’t made

We are entering a new era in health insurance coverage and paying for health care. Kind of.

More people will have an opportunity to buy insurance through the new exchanges. However, we will also be expected to pay much more towards our care through considerably higher deductibles and co-pays.

And I suspect this is a trend that will spread to more and more insurance plans in the near future.

My family’s new deductible will be about $10,000, so I will be more motivated than ever to limit my health care expenses. But we’ve … Continue reading

Faith-based, health-sharing ministries

An intriguing question

The other day I was complaining (again) about the steep hike in my insurance premiums when someone asked me, “Why don’t more people sign up for the health-sharing co-ops?”

“What do you mean,” I asked. “The new Obamacare CO-OPs?”

These non-profit health insurance companies received start-up grants and loans to provide more competition with not-for-profit and for-profit health insurance companies on the exchanges. They are available on about half of the exchanges. Their rates will still be comparable to other companies, though, because of the mandated benefit coverage (more benefits = higher premiums).

“No,” he said. “The … Continue reading

Save money on dental care

Tips to save money on dental care

If, like me, you buy an individual health plan, most likely it doesn’t cover dental (or vision) care.

I have priced buying separate dental coverage, but over an average year the premiums exceed any savings, so I have always chosen not to buy it.

Also, like me, if you are going to be faced with a steep rate hike for your medical insurance next year, you will not want to spend the extra money on a separate plan.

Pediatric dental care must be covered per Obamacare rules, but not adult dental, … Continue reading

What Obamacare means for me

The anticipated and dreaded letter . . .

. . . from my health insurance company finally arrived yesterday.

Dear Member:

We are writing to let you know about some important changes to your individual health insurance coverage. . . . Your health insurance plan will no longer be available after December 31, 2013.

We very much want to continue serving you and so have selected a new ACA-compliant Regence plan for you. Your new plan has more benefits and a different price.

Wow. You bet it does. Looking at the enclosed rate sheet, I found my family’s new monthly … Continue reading

Obamacare: Health insurance basics, part 2

It’s all about the subsidies

Key to Obamacare are the subsidies or tax credits that low- and middle-income individuals and families will receive to help them pay for health insurance.

How these subsidies will work is pretty complicated, but what could you expect when two bureaucratic behemoths–health insurance and the IRS–are responsible for them?

It’s taken me ages to reach some level of understanding about the subsidies, but follow along with me and I’ll share what I know as clearly as possible.

Who is eligible?

The eligibility guidelines are straightforward:

  • You do not receive or are eligible for (affordable) health
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Obamacare: Health insurance basics, part 1

Health insurance exchanges: Ready, set . . .

The health insurance exchanges, whether state or federally run, are set to open for business on October 1, or close to it.

For those who have never bought health insurance, or those who used to have insurance provided by an employer but will now be shopping on the exchanges, some of the basic concepts and definitions might be confusing.

It’s important to understand all the terms, however, so you can buy the best plan for your health needs and budget.

The biggest reform brought about by the Affordable Care Act is … Continue reading