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Medical insurance claim form with money
Shopping for new health insurance? Trying to figure out what your coverage limits are? It just got easier, as Wendell Potter explains.
From now on, health insurers will have to provide us with information in plain English, and in no more than four pages, about what their policies cover and how much we’ll have to pay out of our own pockets when we get sick. And they’ll have to provide it in a standard format that will enable us to make apples-to-apples comparisons among health plans. Click here to see an example of what the plan descriptions must now look like.  

As you can imagine, insurers fought hard to kill that part of the law. That’s because they’ve profited for years by using legalese and gobbledygook in describing their policies, and also by purposely withholding information we really need to make informed coverage decisions.

Insurers lost, on that one. When the health insurance exchanges get started up, those finding insurance on the exchanges will also have the benefit of this simpler, more transparent information for purposes of shopping around. That's today's really good health insurance news. Here's the bad, via Ezra Klein.
Insurance premium growth has wiped out the last decade of wage growth. Overall, that middle-income family saw its income go up by $23,000, from $76,000 in 1999 to $99,000 in 2009 — not too bad. But rising health-care costs in the form of increased insurance premiums and co-pays, ate up nearly all of that. Factor in that spending, as a recent Health Affairs article did, and the average family only had $95 a month more in available income than it did a decade ago.
At least now you'll know where that money is going. The Affordable Care Act has done some great things, but there's a lot yet to be done to start really bringing down the cost health care in America, and with it the cost of insurance.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:14 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Imagine that: insurance companies now have (9+ / 0-)

    to tell you what you're actually buying from them. Years after it was required to put labels on food, insurers will now have to tell you what their ingredients are.

    Selling a pig in a poke just got a lot more difficult.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:28:48 PM PST

  •  Add to that no raises in the last 3 years and (7+ / 0-)

    I'm starting to watch my standard of living drop.

    How about the rest of y'all?

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:31:23 PM PST

  •  Have the new Obamacare taxes been covered here? (0+ / 0-)
  •  Seriously, this is going to save (5+ / 0-)

    people a total of millions of hours trying to figure out what they hell those who can afford it are buying. You had to be an accountant and a lawyer and a psychic to get the right thing for you.

    I remember the hell I had to go through the last time I could afford insurance at a job I had. And that was just the same company with different level plans.

    Now, onto the real deal: get rid of the insurance companies.

    The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

    by Jim P on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 01:00:55 PM PST

  •  We need to pressure the administration (3+ / 0-)

    to make the Federal Insurance Exchanges "active", i.e. they use the pool of customers in the exchange to bargain with insurance companies on premiums, like large companies do. Seeing as how the federal government may play a larger role than initially anticipated, this is very important.

  •  I love that example! (2+ / 0-)

    Transparency - who knew?  ;-)

    As of this morning November 7, 2012 the Includers are ascendant, and the Excluders are in the minority. [samsoneyes]

    by FlamingoGrrl on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 01:28:57 PM PST

  •  what wage growth over the past decade? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rolfyboy6, judyms9, wader

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:09:03 PM PST

  •  Health Insurance COOPs (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TrueBlueDem, judyms9, gosoxataboy, wader

    One of the treasures buried in the ACA is the concept of Consumer Oriented and Operated Plans (COOPs). The ACA had about $6 billion in it to provide no-interest loans to start up and capitalize consumer-run health care plans in each state to compete on the exchanges with the existing market. Twenty-four COOPs were authorized before the end of 2012.

    The final deadline for applying for a COOP loan was 12/31/12 at 11:59 pm. On 1/2/13 we woke up to find out that COOP loan funding was cut out of the federal budget in the fiscal "cliff" amendments. Any state that didn't have a COOP isn't going to get one, at least not with federal help.

    Let us remember that AIG got a loan of $182 billion. Just sayin'.

    "When you give back all your ill-gotten gains, you're a reformed crook. When you keep most of the loot and only give back a small part of it, you're a philanthropist." - Alfred E. Newman

    by Abstract668 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:17:56 PM PST

  •  That $95 of extra pocket money (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader based on 1999 dollars would only buy $69 worth of stuff in today's dollars.

    In any event, since the ACA created that 80 percent rule for insurers -- they have every incentive in the world in seeing the costs of medical services go up.

    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:18:38 PM PST

    •  Unirntended consequence (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, wader

      At least two large employers in my area, with more to follow, are limiting the number of hours employees can work to just-below-full-time, so they won't have to provide insurance for them under the ACA.  More and more companies are thinking about using this dodge....awful.

      Dear budget cutting GOP'ers: Public transit is my “car.” And frankly, I’d like it back.

      by imfunnytoo on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:24:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks to the ACA, birth control from $95/mo to $0 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fille americaine, wader

    Thanks President Obama. Finally our insurance company doesn't decide what birth control is best for our family!

  •  When do the exchanges begin? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have a small policy and I need to upgrade. I live in Colorado. Thnx

    •  Exchanges begin 1/1/14 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Colorado is on the ball. You should be fine. You've got a CO-OP, too.

      "When you give back all your ill-gotten gains, you're a reformed crook. When you keep most of the loot and only give back a small part of it, you're a philanthropist." - Alfred E. Newman

      by Abstract668 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:59:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  but wait (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    i thought he was a psychopathic sellout who had a secret plan all along to remake america in Ronald Reagan's image...or something.

  •  Lots of reasons for the diversion of so much of (0+ / 0-)

    working class income into health care.  When it was clear that the manufacturing economy was giving way to the service economy there was a scramble into health care, pharmaceutical, and insurance fields.  Companies that previously had limited sales to life insurance went into small group health insurance to capture the market that had been ignored by the large health care insurers who were making their money off companies with hundreds and thousands of premium payers.  Sales staff (I was one briefly.) worked from a script developed by the company and off of laptops to dazzle potential customers with graphs and charts.  It was gold rush time for the insurance companies.
    The only thing that is going to bring the profit-driven costs down is the single-payer system, which is why the wingers and their handlers are working so hard to kill off Medicare rather than see it expand to cover all Americans.  This would also eliminate Medicaid, and that program is a trump card in the hands of state governors and legislatures.
    Obama probably doesn't want to move too quickly toward single payer because it will displace a lot of those people who hold jobs in the highly flawed health care delivery system, thus expanding unemployment at a time when it would further devastate our economic health.  Once somebody comes up with the next great thing, the next large arena of employment, then we may get the single payer.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:47:55 PM PST

  •  The rising premiums that are little more... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...than petty revenge being waged against the consumer, in retaliation for "ObamaCare," proves one thing quite decisively...

    The private insurance industry has proven themselves to be bad partners when it comes to American Healthcare.  Therefore, let us have a government funded PUBLIC OPTION to spare consumers the injury of suffering from the greedy backlash wrought by profiteering 1 percenters.

  •  Bastards (0+ / 0-)

    Is what I just called Blue Cross Anthem.

    I got a prescription to get the shingles inoculation. I am 63 and have had chicken pox.  I'm under a lot of stress now due to kidney stones, so I'm a prime candidate to get shingles. Or, so my doctor tells me.

    Doctor sent the prescription to a pharmacy where I was told it would cost $219 and that I would have to pay for it and turn it into my provider.

    Called the Blue Cross assholes and they said you can get a form and submit it and we'll look at it and decide if we want to give you anything.

    Two years ago these assholes stuck me with the bill.

    So, I guess I'll get shingles.

    Thank you Blue Cross Anthem Assholes!

  •  This is a decent start, but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sc kitty

    we really need to also make it easier for people to figure out how much medical procedures or exams are going to cost before undergoing them. For anyone who has a deductible or a percentage coinsurance, including Medicare beneficiaries, it's important to be able to know what a doctor's visit or especially a hospital procedure is going to cost, yet it's often difficult if not impossible to get that information beforehand.

    I had to go to the hospital last summer to get stitches when I fell off my bike. The doctor wanted to take an x-ray of my arm but said I had to undergo a urine test first to make sure I wasn't pregnant. I told her that I had broken up with my boyfriend 4 months earlier and hadn't been with anyone since and had just had my period, so I couldn't possibly be pregnant. She said it was standard procedure. I said that my insurance had cost-sharing on a percentage basis and I didn't want to pay for a test I didn't need. She couldn't tell me how much the test would cost or even whether there would be any extra cost for it (she thought the visit might have a flat fee). Finally she relented and did the x-ray without the urine test, but it was ridiculous how many hoops I had to jump through and how she couldn't tell me what it would cost.

    I can't tell you how many times I have gotten unexpected bills despite diligent efforts to ascertain costs ahead of time. Doctors don't think twice about ordering a million tests without any regard to how much it will cost the patient (usually when you ask they don't even know).

    •  we need a Sen Monroney: (0+ / 0-)
      ... in 1958, when US senator Mike Monroney of Oklahoma shepherded a bill through Congress requiring that official pricing information be glued to the window of every new automobile sold in the US. ....If there is ever an industry in need of a Senator Monroney today, it is health care, ...Patients need to have data, including costs and their own medical histories, liberated and made freely available for thorough analysis good-faith effort at making prices clear and setting market forces to work. ... But what they’ll need is transparency in treatment, cost, and institutions—in other words, a digital sticker. Getting that transparency has to be Job One.

      Faux News ruined my state

      by sc kitty on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 09:01:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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