Is This Any Way to Pick a Company Health Insurance Plan?

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Having chosen to continue with my current insurance provider, Independence Blue Cross, and also to continue offering multiple plans for my employees, my next step was to choose which of the company’s 38 plans to offer. Independence’s Multiplan option, called “Blue Solutions” allows me to choose any five from a subset of 26 of the company’s 38 plans. Because I had a bad experience with the plan that most of my employees chose last year, a high-deductible bronze plan with low premiums, I wanted to take a look at all 26 plans again and compare their features.

Independence has a portion of its website devoted to its Multiplan option. It has a lot of information, arranged in a way that I found difficult to process. There is no premium information at all. There is no one document that compares all of the plans. Instead, Independence provides PDF files comparing their plans within a single metal level.

These are difficult to read online, and when printed on ordinary paper, the text is so small that I couldn’t read it. In the end, I used our 24-inch printer to print very large blow-ups of these grids, and then spread them out on my conference table. The printouts entirely covered a table 15 feet by 5 feet — a huge mess, but at least I could walk around the table and see all of the details in one place.

I asked my agent for pricing for all of the plans and got them in a day. Twenty-six PDF documents, each with an age and price grid. Knowing that the jump in price for each year is the same for every health insurance plans, I wrote the premium for a 35-year-old under each plan’s grid column, and at last I had a way to compare features and prices for a large number of plans in one place. I also pulled out the plan information from my offerings last year, and checked to see what had changed. In most of the plans, the premium wasn’t the only thing that had increased. Deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses had increased in 20 out of 26 plans. When there was a change, I wrote that on the paper as well.

Next, I spent a couple of hours looking through the choices, trying to guess which would be a good fit for my people. I wanted some gold policies for those with families, some silver policies, and at least one bronze policy. I was looking for plans that had a lower deductible, and, if possible, no co-insurance. I had found in my own experience that having significant co-insurance left me exposed to very large medical bills, even after I met my deductible. I didn’t want to expose my employees to that same level of financial risk.

And that’s when the insurance companies and health care providers will have won. They’ve managed to erect a system that is so complex that only an extreme effort on the part of business owners leads to any understanding of what the choices are and what is the best path forward. When the majority of owners no longer feel like making that effort, then there’s no constraint on future cost increases. The only rational choice will be for small companies to simply stop offering coverage, and pass all of the responsibility to their workers.



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