Friday, November 13, 2009

Rite Of Passage: The Plight Of Uninsured Young Adults

(NAPSI)-The health insurance coverage issue may uncover some surprises for certain Americans.

One segment of the population that's particularly affected by the uninsured problem is young adults between the ages of 19 and 29. They represent 31 percent of the nation's uninsured.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Young adults usually begin with health insurance coverage under their parents' plan or a public insurance program. But the 19th birthday is a crucial milestone for the health coverage of many young adults in the U.S.

Public programs such as Medicaid usually end eligibility at the 19th birthday. Employer-sponsored health insurance plans often won't cover young adults as dependents under their parents' policy after 19 years of age unless they are enrolled in college.

Young people, even working full-time, may not be offered or able to afford health insurance. Others believe in their own "invincibility" when it comes to future health concerns.

The Myth of the Not-So "Invincibles"

Actually, young adults are more susceptible to some illnesses than any other population. Over 40 percent of uninsured young adults have characterized their health as only fair or poor.

To address the problem, health care reform legislation includes a variety of provisions to help young Americans gain quality, affordable coverage, including proposals to allow young adults to remain on their parents' insurance through the age of 27. Young adults could also benefit from proposed sizable tax credits. According to a report by Jonathan Gruber of MIT, the tax credits could save young adults as much as $685 off their health insurance premiums.

It is time that all Americans, regardless of age, receive timely, affordable, quality health care. It is time for the enactment of systemwide health care reform that provides coverage to all citizens, slows down health care costs and improves the quality of medical care.

To learn more, go to or call (202) 638-7151.

By Ralph G Neas and Henry E Simmons, MD

• Mr. Neas is chief executive officer of the National Coalition on Health Care; Dr. Simmons is its president. The Coalition is the Nation's oldest and most diverse alliance working for the achievement of comprehensive health care reform.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

National Survey Finds Many Consumers Missing Out on Insurance Discounts

Trusted Choice® recommends consumers maximize little-known discounts to ‘nickel and dime’ their way to big savings.

As millions of Americans look for ways to stretch their budgets to survive these tough economic times, too many are not utilizing all of the discounts that may be available to them in their homeowner and auto insurance, according to a new national survey conducted for Trusted Choice® and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”).

The survey asked home and auto owners if they believed they are taking full advantage of all the discounts they qualified for on their homeowners and auto insurance policies. More than 34% of respondents, representing 53 million households, admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply didn’t know. Regarding auto coverage, more than 20% of car owners either didn’t know or said they were not maximizing all the car insurance discounts available to them.

“The latest survey shows what we suspected: many Americans could be foolishly throwing money away because they fail to ask about insurance discounts for which they may qualify,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president of agent development, education and research. “Companies often offer some unique, regional, very specific and, at times, quirky discounts. In these economic times, every dollar counts—some consumers may be able to nickel and dime their way to big savings.”

And those who stand to benefit most from the discounts are often those who aren’t taking advantage of them: nearly 38% of respondents with a household income of less than $25,000 said they weren’t taking advantage of all possible homeowners discounts or said they didn’t know.

The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In reality, many consumers could be saving significantly more—as much as 30%.

“One of the biggest advantages to using an independent insurance agent is that they can explore the various companies and find the best possible coverage for each individual family or business,” says Robert A. Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. “Finding specific discounts can be time-consuming and confusing, so we advise consumers to consult with their Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent and ask questions.”

The Big “I” and Trusted Choice offer the following tips that may lead to substantial homeowners insurance savings.

· LIFE IN A GATED COMMUNITY? Some homeowners are entitled to gated community discounts.

· WHAT’S YOUR HOUSE WEARING? Some insurers give hail resistant roof discounts for Class 4 roofs and credits can be sizeable in some territories.

· “EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN:” Some companies are coming out with new rating models that are oriented toward offering lower rates to new customers. Sometimes, a customer can even save money by applying for a new policy with the same company.

· ‘FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE’ MAY ALSO APPLY TO YOUR CREDIT SCORE: For married couples, sometimes one person will have a better credit score than the other. Since some companies will use the score of the first person named on the application, putting the spouse with the best credit score on first can result in a lower rate.

· GOT NEW WIRES? Depending on the age of newer electrical wiring in your home, you may qualify for an age of wiring discount.

· HAS IT REALLY BEEN 10 YEARS? If you have not filed any home insurance claims in the last 10 years, ask about a discount. “Claims-free” homeowners can often save up to 20%.

The Big “I” and Trusted Choice provide the following tips and considerations that may lead to big auto insurance savings.

· IS YOUR TEEN A SCOUT? Some insurers give credits to young drivers who are involved in organizations such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

· WHAT’S YOUR ALMA MATER? At least one insurer gives a 5% credit if a driver is a graduate of a university on the company's approved list.

· DO YOU HAVE A COMPANY CAR? Many carriers will give a multi-car discount to consumers who have a company car even if they only own one personal vehicle.

· HAVE YOU BEEN WIDOWED? Some insurers give "married" discounts to widows and widowers.

· ARE YOU SHOPPING FOR NEW WHEELS? Before you buy a car, make a short list of the ones you're considering and ask your agent to estimate the difference in insurance premiums. The difference could save you thousands of dollars.

· ARE YOU A GREEN COMMUTER? Consider car pooling to reduce your commute frequency and ask your agent if that will impact your auto premium. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, you may also be fattening your wallet.

· HOW YOUNG ARE YOU? In some states, if you're 55 or older, and you're the principal driver of your insured car, you could save on your premiums by taking an approved defensive driving class.

· GOT A TRACTOR? If you're a full-time farmer or rancher, and you're insuring a farm or ranch vehicle used exclusively for work on your property, a farm vehicle bonus could help keep your costs down.

While there are plenty of quirky discounts your independent agent can investigate, there are many ‘tried and true’ discounts that many, but not all, insurance consumers know.

· UNEMPLOYED? People who are out of work should qualify for a low-mileage discount or lower rating factor that can save 5-10% on their auto premium.

· MULTIPLE POLICIES? If you have property insurance with ONE company, you may qualify for a multiple policy discount to lower both your auto and your home insurance premiums by as much as 10-15%.

· SOUND THE ALARMS! Alarm credits are often available if your home is equipped with two or more of the following: fire alarms, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, deadbolt locks and a burglar alarm. Savings can be up to 15%. (Criteria vary in some states. An agent can help determine what applies in your area.)

· ACCIDENT-FREE FOR THREE YEARS? If you've been safe on the road and accident-free for the past three years, and you haven’t received any moving violations, you might qualify for a good record discount. To be eligible, you and all additional drivers also need to have carried continuous, standard automobile liability insurance during those same three years. If you're a new driver and received your license within the past three years, you, too, could be eligible. Just make sure you meet the above qualifications from the date your license was issued.

· DOES YOUR CAR HAVE SAFETY FEATURES? Auto insurance discounts apply in many states, if your car comes equipped with approved anti-theft devices, anti-lock brakes, and/or passive restraint systems such as airbags.

The survey was conducted for Trusted Choice® via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR); an independent research company in Media, Pa. Interviews of a nationally representative sample of 1058 U.S. households were conducted in Oct. 28 – Nov. 1, 2009. More information about ICR can be obtained at
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Aetna and UnitedHealthcare Compete for College Student Market

/PRNewswire/ -- HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care market intelligence, reports that Aetna and UnitedHealthcare's StudentResources unit collectively enroll approximately 890,000 members in the university niche market, a growing segment as older and non-traditional students populate campuses. The recent Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana Health Plan Analysis finds that these plans typically include an annual limit on prescription drug coverage.

College health plans are considered to be part of the individual plan category, and across individual plans, insurers increasingly institute more stringent limits on pharmacy benefit options. However, within the college health plan segment, it's even more common to see an annual limit in place because prescription drug utilization among the younger student population will likely be less than the general population, and the limits provide a way to keep premiums low.

College health plans are tailored to dovetail with on-campus health services and often recognize the student health center as the primary provider.

"Most people assume that college students are insured under parent policies or by the university, but college plans are a growing market segment. The college plans offered by Aetna and UnitedHealthcare vary by institution, as each plan is designed to complement existing on-campus health and counseling programs," said Jan Shuxteau, analyst with HealthLeaders-InterStudy. "As college campuses become more diversified and attract more non-traditional students, the health needs have changed. Aetna's student health division, for instance, has reported a lot of use of its behavioral health services offered to students."

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New CVS/pharmacy Data Reveals Older Americans Could Save an Average of $612 Annually by Switching Medicare Part D Plans

/PRNewswire/ -- With the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare Part D beginning on November 15, CVS/pharmacy and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) are urging older adults and their caregivers to review their Medicare Part D options in order to find the lowest cost plan that meets their needs.

Confusion around the number and variety of prescription drug plans often becomes a barrier to identifying and selecting the most cost effective plan. Free online tools like the CVS/pharmacy Medicare Part D Savings Calculator at simplifies the comparison process, helping seniors more readily identify the plan with the lowest overall costs.

"Plan review can seem cumbersome, but completing a plan comparison each year is an essential step toward saving," said Fernando Gonzalez, R.Ph at CVS/pharmacy. "Tools like the Medicare Part D Calculator are designed to simplify the process to help older adults and their caregivers select a plan that provides them with the greatest value and peace of mind."

A CVS/pharmacy analysis of more than 10,000 older Americans using the Medicare Part D Savings Calculator last year revealed plan participants could save an average of $612 in annual drug costs just by switching to their optimal Medicare Part D plan.(1)

"This data underscores the importance for older adults and their caregivers to review Medicare Part D plans each year," said Wendy Zenker, Vice President of the NCOA Benefits Access Group. "With the number of changes to Part D plans from year to year, Medicare beneficiaries can expect to see significant savings and receive better coverage, if they compare and shop around."

To that end, CVS/pharmacy today launches a campaign with the goal of helping millions of seniors and their caregivers realize savings on 2010 prescription costs through education and assistance in Medicare Part D plan comparison. Starting November 12, CVS/pharmacy and the NCOA are offering Medicare Part D educational events throughout Annual Enrollment period at senior centers across the country.

Consumers can also go online at to use the free Medicare Part D Savings Calculator. And, CVS pharmacists will be available throughout the enrollment period to provide plan comparisons in stores for those who would like assistance.(2)

Remembering the Three Cs: Cost, Coverage and Convenience

CVS/pharmacy and NCOA recommend considering three factors when evaluating plans:

-- Cost - What is the plan deductible, monthly premium and prescription
co-pay for the prescriptions you regularly take? Evaluate the total
cost and not just the co-pays. And, identify in advance if you fall
into the doughnut hole.
-- Coverage - Are the prescription medications you regularly take covered
in the plan? Are there restrictions such as prior authorization? Each
year insurance plans change, including premiums, co-pays, and the list
of covered drugs. Your own prescription needs change as well.
-- Convenience - Can you fill the prescription at the pharmacy of your

Before starting the plan selection process, older Americans should review their current medications with their pharmacist. Often, prescription costs can be lowered by switching to a generic alternative, consolidating pills or by switching to an over the counter alternative. Having these changes in place before selecting a plan can help in choosing the most affordable option and potentially avoiding the doughnut hole -- the gap in coverage if your prescription costs reach $2,830.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Making An Insurance Claim During Severe Weather Make Sure Your Insurer Knows How To Reach You

/PRNewswire/ -- The Georgia Insurance Information Service (GIIS) reminds all Georgians affected by the Tropical Storm Ida to inform your insurer as soon as possible if you have damage, and to make sure your insurer knows how to reach you if you cannot be reached at your home.

The GIIS Web Site at has the catastrophe hotline numbers for all member companies.

-- If your roof is damaged and water is entering your home, when it is
safe, put a tarp or similar covering over the damage to prevent
further destruction from occurring.
-- If you must leave your home, make sure your insurer knows where you
will be staying and how to reach you.
-- Be very careful around downed lines and don't assume you know the
difference between a power line, a cable line or a phone line.
-- Follow all law enforcement directives.
-- If you can safely take photographs of the damage do so to present to
your insurance adjuster.
-- It is most important to have a home inventory of your belongings room
by room for your adjuster. If you do not have one, free home
inventory software is available from the GIIS Home Page, Look for a blue and gray button on the upper
right of your screen.

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Care Improvement Plus Announces Major Expansion in Georgia, South Carolina for 2010

/PRNewswire/ -- Care Improvement Plus, a leader in improving the quality of care for seniors with chronic illness and operator of the largest special needs plan in Georgia and South Carolina, has released the details of its 2010 Medicare health plan benefits, including a new state-wide plan to be offered to beneficiaries across both states.

Care Improvement Plus' new plan, "Care Improvement Plus Medicare Advantage" will provide comprehensive medical, hospital and prescription drug coverage, and a variety of valuable extra benefits including dental and vision coverage. In addition, the company has strengthened benefits for its chronic condition Special Needs Plan for Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with diabetes and/or heart failure, including lower premiums and generic drug copays across its Gold Rx plan options. The company currently has over 30,000 members in the region.

"Based on the success and quality achievements of our chronic condition plan, we felt there was opportunity for additional Medicare beneficiaries to benefit from our unique approach to managing care," said Frederick C. Dunlap, board chairman and chief executive officer of XLHealth, which owns and operates Care Improvement Plus. "We remain focused on delivering high-quality care and serving the underserved, with the added capability to offer enrollment to spouses and caregivers of our special needs plan members."

All Care Improvement Plus plans provide comprehensive Medicare coverage and a Part D prescription drug benefit, plus valuable benefits such as dental, vision, and transportation coverage, and care management support. In addition, all plans feature an open access provider network where members may go to any Medicare-approved provider that will accept payment from Care Improvement Plus.

"Our goal is to serve as a model for improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare spending for Georgia and South Carolina's costliest Medicare beneficiaries," continues Dunlap.

Care Improvement Plus will open enrollment on November 15, 2009 for services effective January 1, 2010. Those interested in learning more about Care Improvement Plus may call 1-800-711-1656, or visit for more information.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

AARP Endorses Affordable Health Care for America Act

/PRNewswire/ -- Today AARP announced its endorsement of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) and the accompanying Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act (H.R. 3961). The Association's support follows nearly two years of work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to craft a health care reform plan that meets the needs of AARP's nearly 40 million members and all older Americans. Among those needs are reforms that strictly curb insurance companies' discrimination against older Americans and Medicare improvements that strengthen benefits while protecting the program for future generations.

"We started this debate more than two years ago with the twin goals of making coverage affordable to our younger members and protecting Medicare for seniors," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho. "We've read the Affordable Health Care for America Act and we can say with confidence that it meets those goals with improved benefits for people in Medicare and needed health insurance market reforms to help ensure every American can purchase affordable health coverage."

Today's endorsement marks the first time in this legislative battle that AARP has put its full weight behind a comprehensive health care reform package. In the coming days, AARP will be educating its members about the health care reform package through its publications, paid advertising and more than five million calls and e-mails to its grassroots activists.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act and the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act contain critical components AARP has been fighting for on behalf of its members and all older Americans to improve health care for them and their families. They include:

-- Protecting and strengthening Medicare for today's seniors and future
generations of retirees;
-- Ensuring seniors can see the doctor of their choice or find a doctor
if they need one by improving Medicare's payments to doctors;
-- Lowering drug costs for seniors by closing the Medicare Part D
"doughnut hole" and allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug makers
for lower drug prices;
-- Taking steps to reduce waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency in the
Medicare program;
-- Requiring Medicare and insurance companies to provide for important
preventive services like screenings for diabetes, cancer and
osteoporosis free of charge;
-- Stopping insurance companies from denying you affordable coverage
because of your age;
-- Preventing insurance companies from denying you coverage if you have a
pre-existing condition or dropping your coverage if you get sick;
-- Limiting how much your insurance company can make you pay
-- Providing affordable health insurance options for those who don't have
insurance; and
-- Providing benefits to help seniors and people with disabilities live
in their own homes and communities by establishing the Community
Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program.

Wordelman added: "We cannot continue to let insurers price older Americans out of the market, just as we cannot stand idle while millions of seniors are forced to choose between their groceries and their prescriptions. AARP is proud to endorse the Affordable Health Care for America Act and the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act, and we urge members of the House to pass this critical package in the coming days to help fix our broken health care system."

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

HHS Secretary Calls on States and Communities to Get Health Coverage to Uninsured Children

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today called on states and communities to join with HHS to redouble efforts to find and enroll the 5 million children who are currently eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but are not yet covered. The Secretary
issued this call to action as she opened the National Children's Health Insurance Summit in Chicago, kicking off the nation's largest campaign to find and enroll uninsured children in over a decade.

Much progress has been made in recent years, but the enactment of the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) creates new opportunities to move forward. At the same time, given the economic downturn, the need among families for affordable coverage for their children could not be greater. Not since the creation of CHIP in 1997 has the federal government, in conjunction with states, concentrated so many resources on the effort to find and enroll children who are needlessly going without health insurance coverage.

"As a society and as parents, we have no greater responsibility than to provide quality health care for our children," Secretary Sebelius said. "Our charge here today is to get all eligible children covered to ensure they are healthy throughout their childhood. A healthy child is the
block upon which all other successes are built, not just for the child, but for the nation they will lead in the future."

In February, President Obama signed CHIPRA into law. The legislation fully funds CHIP over the next four years and devotes an unprecedented amount of federal funding to support outreach and enrollment efforts for both CHIP and Medicaid. Currently, Medicaid serves more than 32 million low-income American children while CHIP has over 7 million beneficiaries.

Today's speech launched the three-day conference in Chicago sponsored by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that has brought together state Medicaid and CHIP officials, local government, community-based organizations, safety net providers and others who are working to promote enrollment in children's health programs. These experts will exchange proven strategies for finding and enrolling children in health programs as well as removing program barriers that sometimes prevent children from staying in these programs despite
continued eligibility.

Participants in the conference will also hear from experts on a wide range of specialized topics, such as reaching diverse or isolated populations, the usefulness of online applications and how to best work with managed care plans and other health care providers.

Also attending today's conference are grantees from 69 organizations across the country that were awarded $40 million by HHS to fund outreach projects in their local communities. Over the next four years, HHS will award a total of $90 million in outreach grants.

"With the nation's unemployment rate at a staggering 9.8 percent and families losing their job-related health care, finding and enrolling eligible children could never be more important," said Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations within CMS.
"Bringing together government officials, tribal leaders, community organizations and policy experts, we hope, will build on the successes achieved in recent years and lead to fresh, innovative and successful strategies to deliver quality health care to every eligible child in

For more information about free or low-cost children's health insurance, visit the newly updated and redesigned Web site or call toll-free 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669). The site gives parents and caregivers information on connecting their children to health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP and also provides program
information and federal guidance for states and health policy professionals. It will be available in both English and Spanish. National Children's Health Insurance Summit presentations and other conference materials can be downloaded at

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