by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


03 October 2014

Nevermind Ebola in Texas: Medi-Cal Pays for Vaccines in California

Posted in Latest News

Nevermind Ebola in Texas: Medi-Cal Pays for Vaccines in California

Testing one person for Ebola costs $244 dollars in resources according to WHO (World Health Organization), not including the price to bury your body and sanitize your household. Unfortunately there isn't a vaccine. But one could be available for trials in 2015.

Although that's not soon enough for the Ebola scare of 2014, the Affordable Care Act does require insurance plans, including Medicaid, to pay for existing vaccines. Perfect for the upcoming flu season! Medicaid-eligible families don't have to wait to sign up by the next open enrollment either, which falls on November 15. 

American Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan allegedly contracted the virus in Liberia by helping an infected neighbor into a taxi so she could find treatment. Good thing the virus won't spread by altruism where Duncan landed: Texas, whose Governor Rick Perry passed up Medicaid expansion. He didn't even offer a condolence Uber to the free clinic.  

While Perry governs one of 19 states who declined Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, he at least had the prescience  to complete the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) training for Ebola testing, diagnosis, and treatment in August. In a press release Texas touted it's one of only 13 states with this accreditation.

Health officials in Los Angeles County reported they're ready to handle all Ebola cases, noting they've tested and quarantined one Inglewood patient  who may be stricken.

Flu season is just around the corner like Obamacare's next open enrollment. Medicaid, private, and Covered California insurance pays for immunization. So why would any governor ignore Medicaid expansion and deny free vaccines for: the disabled, foster children, pregnant women, the elderly, low income families, and children? 

When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Medicaid laws differed in each state. To become uniform, Obamacare required states expand Medicaid eligibility by lowering the income level qualification to 138% or below of the Federal Poverty Level. Since it would cover more eligible people, Medicaid would cost more. Perry's excuse to dodge Medicaid expansion was the state can't afford it.

But 100% of Medicaid expansion is paid by the federal government for the first 3 years down to 90% by 2020 and on. If Perry meant the future Texas can't afford Medicaid expansion, then he's risking the 1 million Texans eligible for Medicaid in 2014 because he's afraid of a little investment in the future. And I mean a little. 

Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office showed Medicaid expansion would only cost 1.6 percent more over the next decade for those states who accept it versus those states who refuse it. 

Your federal tax dollars are distributed to Medicaid in every state. By refusing Obamacare's expansion, Texas declined $9.6 billion in federal Medicaid funds which it helped pay for. 

Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country at 25%. It probably has the highest number of angry taxpayers too. 

Center for Disease Control estimates there are 100 at-risk people in Texas who made contact with Duncan when he showed signs of Ebola. That means 25 may not even have health insurance. 

Would accepting Medicaid expansion help Ebola victims afford treatment? Probably not. The government will likely pick up the tab one way or another to keep Ebola from spreading. 

If Rick Perry is so concerned about future Texas' well being, he should expand Medicaid like California and vaccinate the population from the next epidemic. 

Can't wait to get free vaccines for the next trending virus? Everyone not eligible for Medicaid must wait until November 15 to sign up for health insurance, which will cover the costs for immunizations. Just don't commit any good deeds or visit Texas until then. 

29 September 2014

National Coffee Day: What if Buying Coffee Was Like Health Insurance?

Posted in Latest News

Video by

Everyone's giving away free coffee on National Coffee Day. And I'm just trying to connect Obamacare to what's topical and keep my job. Turns out someone already found a way. Yes there is an actual cartoon inspired by Obamacare that answers the question, "What if buying coffee was like health insurance?"

It's obviously not in favor of the Affordable Care Act, but here it is anyway. 

Some things to look out for: produced this. Not sure what losing means for reality and their website doesn't do a great job explaining.

The guy in the hoodie looks young (or is he just drawn that way?). I'm guessing he's in his 20s.

He's clearly talking to the worst health insurance agents (baristas) judging by the $700 quote.

Since insurance prices are determined by age, location, and income, let's look at how much insurance would really cost the average 27-year-old in California who earns $50,000.

First, it wouldn't cost close to $700. Over 75% of uninsured young people qualify for health insurance subsidies, so their premiums would drop significantly no matter what plan they pick. 

In the video, the hoodie guy wants a black coffee (code for bare bones insurance plan). In California, a minimal coverage bronze plan for a 20-something costs an average $46 (when subsidies are applied) up to $192 (without subsidies).  And that includes the 10 essential benefits the hoodie guy bemoaned. So much for "ridiculous rates". 

The rest of the video wastes time in the following categories: 

Complaining about health insurance mandates (when no one complains about having to buy car insurance).

Complaining about not needing all 10 essential benefits but still having to pay for them (News flash: no one watches all 700 channels they pay for). 

Complaining about owing a "shared responsibility payment" (You had 6 months to buy health insurance!). The next open enrollment starts November 15. 

Complaining about going somewhere else to buy "coffee" (Good, no one wants your crap attitude. But if you're still looking here are some great health insurance agents!).

25 September 2014

September is National Velociraptor Awareness Month

Posted in Latest News

September is National Velociraptor Awareness Month

Photo by Chris Phutully from Australia [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

September is National Velociraptor Awareness Month. Great if you have health insurance. Dinosaurs love freshly-vaccinated flesh. The American Society of Velociraptor Attack Prevention (ASVAP) suggests insuring your house for a raptor attack. Its website even has coupons. I say why not insure yourself while you're at it.

Buying a policy for the first time or renewing yours? Were you aware that Obamacare has its own coupons? They're called health insurance subsidies or tax credits and are essentially sums of money the government pays toward your insurance premium. Tax credits go to qualifying individuals and families who sign up for "on-exchange" health insurance. Have you signed up for free tax credits? Clever girl. 

ASVA explains that velociraptor attacks are the third cause of death among adults age 27-29. Turning 26 is a milestone in the insurance world but it doesn't have to be your last before the inevitable raptor ambush. 

The Affordable Care Act requires adults over 26 to leave their parent's insurance plan and get their own to avoid a fine. Like baby raptors leaving the nest, this can be intimidating. Just look for the best insurance agents in Canoga Park to help. They're down the street from the Topanga Mall, home of the misleading Fossil store, which never carries amber mosquito canes despite their name. 

So how are velociraptors a threat in the present versus when dinosaurs ruled the earth: the early 90s? 

The 1990s had Jurassic Park and The Lost World. but something has survived. 2015 will see the long-awaited sequel, Jurassic World. Generation Y grew up on Barney, but today's youth learn from animatronic thunder lizards at Los Angeles' Dinosaur Encounters. The 90's Power Rangers wielded the mighty morphin dinosaurs but a 2016 remake will feature 3D, likely-voiced-by-Andy Serkis dinozords. 

Velociraptors depend on prey underestimating their relevancy. That's how they attack - when you least expect it. Will the release dates of these blockbusters be pushed back? Then we won't know when or where the raptors will invade. At least we know when the next open enrollment is:  November 15.

Better get insurance.

Ah ah ah. You didn't say the magic word.

Ah ah ah. You didn't say the magic word.

Ah ah ah. You didn't say the magic word.

Ah ah ah. You didn't say the magic word.

Ah ah ah. You didn't say the magic word.

Ah ah ah. You didn't say the magic word.

19 September 2014

How Much Will I Owe Obamacare for Not Having Health Insurance?

Posted in Health Insurance 101

How Much Will I Owe Obamacare for Not Having Health Insurance?

I don’t wanna wait for the next open enrollment.
I want to get a plan. What will it be? 
I don’t wanna wait for the next open enrollment.
Will I enroll or will I pay… a penalty?
Doo doo doo doo doo. Doo doo doo doo doo.

Yes that was the theme of Dawson’s Creek. Why does an Obamacare blog reference an 11-year old melodrama whose star recently became a vaccine spokesman? That’s one reason. Obamacare covers all vaccines so your insurance company doesn't charge you. What happens if you don’t have insurance? Not only will you pay out of pocket at the next doctor's visit, but you’ll owe the IRS on your next tax returns. Wait, what?

Doo doo doo doo doo.

It’s neither too early to prepare for flu season nor Obamacare’s next open enrollment period, which starts and ends the same time: November 15 – February 15. Coincidence? It's a chance to get insurance if you haven't had coverage all year. If you didn't carry health insurance in 2014, you must pay a fine (tax) on your upcoming tax return.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who buy health insurance plans that comply with Obamacare are exempt from paying the fine also known as the “individual shared responsibility payment”.

Health insurance plans with minimal essential coverage include:

Health insurance you purchase individually or as a family

Health insurance from the Exchange (Covered California in this state)

Health insurance from a student health plan

Health insurance from work

Coverage under government organizations: Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP

(Complete list of minimal essential coverage plans)

They do not include:

Workers’ compensation

Standalone dental or vision insurance

Disability income insurance

Plans that provide limited benefits

(Complete list of plans without minimal essential coverage)

But if you experienced a financial hardship, are a member of a recognized Native American Tribe, or you just don’t have to file a tax return, you’re excluded from owing the shared responsibility payment.

(Complete list of Obamacare exemptions)

Even kids under 18 and seniors are subject to the Obamacare tax. That tax will depend on your income, family size, and each month you didn’t have insurance.

For the first year, you could owe whichever is greater:

  • $95 per adult without insurance and $47.50 per child 


  • 1 percent of your annual income

So unless you make around $9500, you’ll likely pay 1% of your annual income as an Obamacare tax. Here are some examples from the IRS to better understand what you owe. You can cry over it once you exhaust your Dawson's Creek tissues.


Doo doo doo doo doo. 

09 September 2014

Covered California's Twitter Support Is So Much Faster Than Phones

Posted in Latest News

Covered California's Twitter Support Is So Much Faster Than Phones

Covered California earned its 1 Star rating on Yelp due to excessive wait times, which can exceed 1 hour on the phone even outside of open enrollment season.  But Brett MacFadden of Sacramento sought customer support the 21st century way, by tweeting @CoveredCA. And #surprise, it worked. 

The graphic artist and teacher at California College of Arts tweeted his dispute to @CoveredCA and his carrier, @BlueShieldCA after receiving a health insurance cancellation notice. Macfadden voiced after paying $3000 to date in premiums without even using a dollar of medical services that this was the worst experience of his consumer life. 

Not only did he get their attention, but CoveredCA retweeted @BlueShieldCA pleading that the carrier reinstate his policy. Imagine instead what a customer who waited by phone would hear: "Sorry you were on hold for 3 hours just so we could tell you to call Blue Shield, but here's their number. Don't forget to rate us on Yelp! (GULP)".

Just by scrolling CoveredCA's Twitter profile, this appears to be its first tweet to an actual customer. Does it mean CoveredCA is focusing away from using #catallergies and instead solving customer problems?

Here's a typical @CoveredCA tweet:

Not so fast. Not every correspondence between customers and CoveredCA is saved on Twitter, possibly because CoveredCA deleted them to make room for #guacamole. Wouldn't keeping them public at least show their customer support team is working? But a simple Google search reveals many customers who've successfully tweeted CoveredCA and received help. 

Judging the time stamps between MacFadden's first tweet and Blue Shield's last shows both BS and CoveredCA worked to resolve his case in the following 24 hours. Using Twitter may not always be faster than an hour wait, but counting the dropped phone calls, transfers between departments, and frustrated sobbing sessions, it's a much more efficient use of time. All it took was a single tweet and there wasn't a single Taylor Swift song played while on hold.

If the next time CoveredCA's wait time exceeds more seconds than it takes to type 140 characters, make a Twitter account and complain the old-fashioned way: by typing it on your smart phone.