Health care reform is the number one topic in the media right now, with many arguments both for and against health care reform being thrown about. In addition to the pros and cons, there are stories about the issues surrounding the opening of the federal marketplace (or health exchange) and speculation whether any of it will derail the attempts of the Obama administration to push the health care reform laws through no matter what obstacles they face.
There is little doubt that the insurance companies that have chosen to participate in the health exchanges are waiting on tenterhooks (along with most of America, it seems) for the next installment of the drama that is the Affordable Care Act. After all, they have a considerable amount of revenue invested in health care reform and have not yet received the booming business they were promised.
What Is the Problem?
Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the health exchanges since open enrollment started on October 1, but only a small fraction of these visitors have applied for or been able to purchase an insurance policy. From the widespread computer issues causing potential applicants to be booted from the system, to the fact that rates quoted are not necessarily the rates that will be charged, people have simply been unable to even attempt to comply with the laws of the Affordable Care Act.
Additionally, the early rates being released from states where the exchange is operating at least marginally as expected are considerably higher than the Department of Health and Human Services led everyone to believe. The fact that the Affordable Care Act is proving to be far from affordable has many health care consumers putting off their purchase of health insurance for as long as possible.
For insurance companies that have placed the majority of their profit eggs in the health care reform basket, the consequences for the problems with the Health Insurance Marketplace continuing could be disastrous.
What About Insurance Companies Not on the Exchanges?
There has been speculation about different companies opting out of participating in the health exchanges, on either the state or federal level. Also, other companies like Aetna and Coventry were initially planning on selling insurance on the exchanges and later pulled out. At the time, the general consensus seemed to be that they would be the ones losing out on all this great business, so no big deal.
Now, however, it looks like the companies who either opted out or pulled out of the insurance exchange may have the last laugh. With fewer clients making purchases on the exchange, yet with the Affordable Care Act enrollment deadline getting closer every day, these companies may experience a boom in business.
Add to this the fact that fewer plans on the exchange mean fewer cost-effective options for health consumers and you have insurance companies in a position of being able to offer plans that are actually less expensive than the ones offered in the federal or state health insurance marketplaces.
How Does This Affect Consumers?
If you are one of the millions of Americans who will not qualify for a subsidy, the fact that some well-known companies are offering plans off the exchanges means you may be able to purchase an ACA-compliant plan for less. Competition between insurance companies is fierce and they are all vying for your business.
The best way to shop around and make sure you are receiving the best rate possible is to talk with an insurance professional. You can discuss your needs as well as how much of the cost you are willing to shoulder for medical expenses. At that point, your insurance agent can research all of the options available to you and help you come up with a health plan that best fits your needs, budget and desires.
In Tennessee, your options for coverage off the exchange are good. Some of the companies currently offering such health plans include Aetna, Coventry and Cigna, all three of which are long-standing companies in the state. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee also offers plans both on and off the exchange, which widens your options even further.
No doubt you’ve heard talk about the increase in premiums coming to light now that the Affordable Care Act open enrollment has begun. Premiums have increased in most states, in some cases as much as 200 percent, which has led many consumers to question just how affordable the Affordable Care Act really is.
However, if you are not going to be applying for a subsidy to help with your insurance expenses, making a purchase off the health exchange is definitely the best way to avoid rate shock. While premiums may still be higher than you are used to (and definitely higher than they should be!), you will be getting a comparable plan for less money out of your own pocket.
If you are a Tennessee resident and have stories to share about your experience with purchasing health insurance under the ACA (either on or off the exchange), please share them with our readers in the reply section below. It is always helpful to hear how other people have fared as the changes to health insurance are made!