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
- 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.
- REPORT: Early Consumer Testing of New Health Insurance Disclosure Forms (December 2010)
The health reform law includes a new requirement for a standard health plan disclosure for consumers. Consumers Union testing finds that consumers are greatly helped by the new disclosure but further improvements are needed.
- 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
- House health reform bill: The road to reform
Bill ensures virtually every American will have opportunity for affordable, comprehensive health care
- Best price insurance plans now among most expensive
Analysis shows many best-priced insurance plans in 2006 among worst deals today. The price instability in these private plans underscores the need to include a public option in any reform plan.
- 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
- Say what? A health insurer is lowering premiums? Yes, thanks to an ACA rule that some lawmakers now want to gut
When is the last time you heard about a health insurance company lowering instead of raising premiums for its customers? Chances are never, but now – thanks to the Affordable Care Act – 15,000 Aetna customers in Connecticut will see their health insurance premiums drop by up to 19.5 percent later this year. Aetna wants Continue Reading
- Attacks on health care keep coming
New benefits have kicked in, but opponents are trying to gut the law on several fronts.
- Worth a second look
If you have a pre-existing condition, serious or not so serious, you have new health insurance options starting Jan. 1.
- So You Think You’re Invincible? Contest
There’s some good news for millions of older teens and young adults struggling to find health coverage – they can now remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until the age of 26, whether they are in school or not.
This new rule gives some much-needed relief for recent graduates who can’t find a job with health coverage, or those young adults who have lost their insurance due to the difficult job market.
Of course, today’s youth often doesn’t think about the importance of having health coverage. Which is why Consumers Union is sponsoring our “So You Think You’re Invincible?” video Facebook contest. The winner gets $1,000 and their video featured on yourhealthsecurity.org.
- Companies sitting on surplus dollars while rates go up
Some of the biggest health plans have been accumulating huge surpluses even as they ask consumers to pay higher and higher rates. What gives?
- 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.