Better Consumer Information
Navigating the purchase and use of a health insurance policy could be a lot easier. What are your basic rights, and how should you decide between your available options? Read about changes and improvements you can expect in the coming years.
Consumers Union Documents
- REPORT: Addressing Barriers to Online Applications: Can Public Enrollment Stations Increase Access to Health Coverage? (November 2011)
This report looks at the use of public enrollment stations (sometimes known as “kiosks”) for helping people enroll in health coverage. Looking at pilot projects in a diverse set of states, including Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, New Mexico and Washington, the paper summarizes the variety of ways agencies have facilitated public access to online enrollment. The paper identifies a number of important lessons learned from pilot projects, which will be important for those states moving forward to implement health care reform by 2014.
- Medicare: 6 Things You Need to Know Now
While the long-term future of the Medicare program is part of a national debate, you need to know about the important new services and changes to the program, available right now, that were part of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. That’s true whether you are currently on Medicare, about to become eligible, or Continue Reading
- REPORT: Early Consumer Testing of Actuarial Value Concepts (September 2011)
This study finds that consumers are very interested in knowing the value of their health plan choices; in other words, whether their options are a good value for their premium dollars. However, determining value is very difficult for consumers.
- REPORT: Early Consumer Testing of the Coverage Facts Label: A New Way of Comparing Health Insurance (August 2011)
The Coverage Facts Labels is a way for Americans to better understand the coverage offered by health plans. Testing by CU finds that consumers are greatly helped by the new disclosure.
- BRIEF: Making Health Insurance Choices Understandable for Consumers – Meeting Synopsis (February 4, 2011)
Consumers Union held a public forum to discuss the importance of making health insurance choices understandable for consumers. The session highlighted specific sources of confusion and actionable solutions.
- BRIEF: Making Health Insurance Cost-Sharing Clear to Consumers: Challenges in Implementing Health Reform’s Insurance Disclosure Requirements (February 3, 2011)
This brief reports on findings from a Consumers Union study that examined consumers’ initial reactions to the new health insurance disclosure form called for by the Affordable Care Act.
- BRIEF: What will an “Actuarial Value” Standard Mean for Consumers?
“Actuarial value” is an estimate of the overall financial protection provided by a health plan. While actuarial value is a concept widely used by the insurance industry, it is not familiar to most consumers. This brief explains the concept of actuarial value and how the 2010 health reform law makes actuarial value to standardize the financial protection offered by health plans starting in 2014.
- BRIEF: Mini-med Health Plans: Don’t Call It Insurance
Mini-med health plans have garnered attention recently because their benefit levels don’t conform to new requirements being phased-in that all health plans provide coverage up to certain levels.
- Preventive Services Covered Under the Affordable Care Act
If you have a new health insurance plan or insurance policy beginning on or after September 23, 2010, the following preventive services must be covered without your having to pay a copayment or co-insurance or meet your deductible.
- New study finds confusion on plan cost-sharing options
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) calls for health insurers to disclose the benefits and costs of their health plan offerings in a standard way so families can compare options and make good choices. Consumers Union studied the early prototypes for this Summary of Coverage.
- Consumer Reports Offers Free Guide to Medicare Changes, New Benefits
The guide will help people navigate the new changes and take advantage of services available under the law
- Consumers Union Urges Lawmakers to Reject Attempt to Cut Federal Funding for State-Based Health Exchanges
State based health exchanges provide competitive, consumer-centered marketplaces for purchasing health insurance
- CU offers guide to health reform options & benefits
On first anniversary, the guide offers information about the law and how it affects you and your family
- Senate proposal could mean fewer get insurance
CU urges Senate to fix provision of health reform law that burdens small businesses without penalizing families
- Health insurer spending standards help consumers
CU says new “medical loss ratio” standards from HHS will drive insurers to devote more on medical care
- Nonprofit BCBS Health Plans amass billions in surplus
Health insurers set aside billions of dollars in surplus – essentially retained profits – even as they raised premiums for consumers.
- CU applauds House passage of health care bill
The House passed health care legislation which will now move the Senate for a floor vote
- House health reform bill goes long way toward solving health care crisis, CU says
Consumer protections, more affordable and secure health coverage, cited in endorsement
- CU President to testify in Senate on health reform
Jim Guest will testify at a Senate hearing on the importance of health care reform for women
- CU launches first TV ad for health reform
CR Poll: 51 percent forced to make tough health choices in past year such as skipping doctor visits
- Health reform law expands preventive care coverage for tens of millions in 2011
While some features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) don’t go into effect until 2014, other provisions of the 2010 law are already well-established. That means that despite our ongoing battles to hold insurance companies accountable, we’re beginning to see evidence of many of the health law’s benefits. For example, in September we reported that the Continue Reading
- Affordable Care Act is increasing coverage, study confirms
In September, we reported on a Census survey showing that the Affordable Care Act expanded health care access to over 500 thousand young adults in 2010 alone. Although some were skeptical of the data, it strongly suggested the increased coverage was the result of a provision requiring that insurers allow young adults to stay covered by their Continue Reading
- New disclosure requirement is wildly popular, not widely known
When we think of the holiday season, the ideal image is not curling up in front of the fireplace to read through our health insurance plans. In fact, one survey showed that we dread buying insurance more than paying our taxes or going to the gym. So it may not be a surprise that in Continue Reading
- Census report shows Affordable Care Act is working
A new report released by the Census Bureau showed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expanding health care coverage to more than 500,000 young adults in 2010, a number expected to continue rising. The full extent of the ACA’s coverage-expansion provisions, such as increasing Medicaid eligibility and offering subsidies and competitive insurance markets to Continue Reading
- Out-of-pocket caps will help put the brakes on higher health plan costs
A new study shows that average monthly premiums for people who purchase health insurance on their own range from a low of $136 per month in Alabama to a high of $437 per month in Massachusetts. But, as the study notes, these monthly premium figures don’t tell the whole story. Out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, coinsurance, and Continue Reading
- Report: Coverage will expand dramatically; costs will not
One of the most common questions surrounding the new health reform law was whether it could expand health insurance coverage without breaking the bank. Fortunately, a new report from actuaries in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that it can. In fact, as economist and lead author Sean P. Keehan noted in Continue Reading
- Rates drop for federal high risk pool
Last summer we told you about the new federally funded “Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan” or PCIP for short. We had high hopes for this new option for people with previous health conditions but learned early on that the program needs tweaking. Consumers wrote back to us describing how even though the cost for this new Continue Reading
- Are 40 states truly “effective” at protecting consumers from excessive rate hikes?
When it comes to protecting consumers from unfair health insurance rate hikes, the ball is – for the most part – still in the hands of state regulators. Let’s see if they will take it to the hoop. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has determined that 40 states have an “effective” Continue Reading
- Man robs bank for health care in jail
Not too much more to say than that. After losing his longtime job, a man needed health care, more than a quick visit to a local clinic. With no money to pay for it, and unable to qualify for assistance, he walked into a bank, handed over a note asking for $1 and waited for Continue Reading
- Why not privatize Medicare?
The Senate voted “No” on the Ryan plan to privatize Medicare last week. To find out how your Senators voted, visit Consumers Union’s vote center. Medicare is a remarkably effective system for covering the health care needs of our most vulnerable. Costs could come down more, and it could be even more efficient, but is Continue Reading
- Here is what the new health insurance labels will look like Source: The Consumerist (Thursday February 9, 2012)
“The new Summary of Benefits provides consumers with important insurance information in a standardized way for the first time,” said Lynn Quincy, senior policy analyst for Consumers union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “This rule is a big step in helping consumers better understand and evaluate their insurance options.”
- Consumer groups fear White House may water down rule on user-friendly health plan summaries Source: Washington Post (Thursday January 26, 2012)
One of the most popular provisions of the health care reform law — consumer-friendly summaries of what your insurance plan covers — suddenly seems to be at risk.
- ‘Almost heaven’ meets ‘paradise’ — Virgin Islands and West Virginia discuss an exchange Source: Kaiser Health News (Monday January 9, 2012)
From economy to climate, they are as different as any two places in the United States. But that hasn’t stopped them from discussing whether to work together to form a health insurance exchange under the federal health care law, say officials in West Virginia and the Virgin Islands.
- Collaborative efforts can save money and improve care Source: Kaiser Health News (Thursday January 5, 2012)
Physicians and hospitals share cost savings with the employers and insurers, and in some cases share losses if savings targets aren’t met. Medicare has launched a similar program under the 2010 health reform law aimed at developing so-called accountable care organizations.
- Millions of young adults getting coverage under new healthcare law Source: Los Angeles Times (Wednesday December 14, 2011)
The healthcare law signed by President Obama last year has now helped as many as 2.5 million young adults get health insurance over the last year despite the lagging economy, new data released by the federal government indicates.
- About 2.5 million young adults gain health insurance under U.S. overhaul Source: Bloomberg (Wednesday December 14, 2011)
About 2.5 million Americans under the age of 26 received medical insurance because of a rule in the health-care overhaul that allowed them to remain on their parents’ plans. The percentage of people ages 19 to 25 with insurance rose to 73 percent from 64 percent between September 2010 and June, according to the Atlanta-based Centers Continue Reading
- Health law's 'doughnut hole' fix saves recipients $1.5 billion Source: USA Today (Tuesday December 6, 2011)
The health reform law’s changes to Medicare have resulted in more than 2.65 million recipients saving on average $569-per-person on prescriptions, while premiums have remained stable. Another rule change has allowed more than 24 million to receive a free annual physical or other screening exam.
- American employers are using more insurance plans with high deductibles Source: Live Insurance News (Sunday November 27, 2011)
A new survey has shown that employers in the United States who are struggling to manage the increasing costs of healthcare insurance are broadening the use of plans with high deductibles to help to keep the monthly premiums at a more affordable level, since more of the burden of medical expenses is falling on the Continue Reading
- States cut mental health budgets as demand increases Source: Kaiser Health News (Thursday November 10, 2011)
More than half the states have cut their mental health budgets since the recession hit home, while the economic slump has pushed up demand for such services, according to a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
- Low-income state workers begin to gain access to Children’s Health Insurance Program Source: The Washington Post (Sunday November 6, 2011)
At least six states have opened their Children’s Health Insurance Program to the kids of low-income state employees, an option that was prohibited until the passage of the 2010 health-care law.