March 18, 2013
Today eHealth, Inc., parent company of eHealthInsurance.com, America’s first and largest private online health insurance exchange, released a ‘Cost of Comprehensive Health Benefits’ report. This new report shows that average monthly premiums for individual health insurance plans are forty-seven percent (47%) higher than average when they cover a comprehensive list of eight health benefits.
Since 2005, eHealth’s Cost and Benefits report has tracked the percentage of plans surveyed that cover eight health benefits deemed to be comprehensive by eHealth, including: Laboratory and X-Ray; Emergency Services; Prescription Drugs; Chiropractic; Maternity; OB/GYN; Periodic Exams; and Well Baby care.
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) created a new list of ten Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) that all major medical health insurance plans must cover at an actuarial value of 60% or more in order to fulfill the federal mandate for health coverage, beginning in January of 2014. Those EHBs include: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.
The data presented in this report do not reflect the impact that new Essential Health Benefit (EHB) standards will have on plan prices, nor does the report take into account other factors that may impact the cost of health insurance in 2014. Not only do some of the benefits differ and overlap, but chiropractic care is not deemed to be an EHB by the ACA.
“These data provide valuable insight into the cost of health insurance plans as consumers prepare to enroll in the more comprehensive health plans that will become available with the Affordable Care Act,” said eHealth Senior Vice President of Carrier Relations Robert Hurley. “Our report does not provide an ‘apples to apples’ comparison of plans that cover the essential health benefits established in the Affordable Care Act, but it does provide some interesting insight into the potential impact that new benefits standards could have on the cost of health insurance plans in the individual health insurance market.”
Richer health benefits cost 47% more, industry report warns
By Chad Terhune
Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2013
“I think consumers can expect new health plans next year are going to be somewhere between 40% to 60% more expensive,” said Bob Hurley, eHealth’s senior vice president of carrier relations. “I think there is a fair amount of concern that the health plan requirements are too rich.”
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Many critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) say that the health plans to be offered in the proposed state insurance exchanges should be replaced with plans that have fewer regulatory requirements and that can be sold across state borders. They often cite the bargain prices of plans offered by eHealthInsurance as an example of how we could make health insurance more affordable for everyone. So what is eHealthInsurance offering?
By their own analysis, eHealthInsurance does not consider their plans to be comprehensive unless they offer the eight benefit categories listed in the article excerpt above. If those benefits are included, the premiums are 47 percent higher for both individual and family plans than the premiums for their cheapest plans. Note that these eight benefits are not the same as the ten benefit categories that are required as essential health benefits under ACA, so it is likely that the premiums under ACA will be even more than 47 percent higher than the cheap eHealthInsurance plans. This doesn’t even take into consideration cost sharing such as the deductibles.
There is already concern that the benchmark silver plans under ACA, with an actuarial value of only 70 percent (patient pays 30 percent of costs, which might be partially offset by income-indexed subsidies), may leave patients vulnerable to excessive out-of-pocket costs. If the stripped down eHealthInsurance plans were allowed as replacements for exchange plans, it is inevitable that most enrollees would face financial hardship should they develop significant medical problems.
So what is the response of eHealthInsurance? eHealth senior vice president Robert Hurley says, “I think there is a fair amount of concern that the health plan requirements are too rich.”
This exposes the highly touted low cost eHealthInsurance plans as the shoddy plans that they are. You might be nominally insured, but don’t you dare get sick.