by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


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29 September 2014

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

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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

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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.

09 September 2014

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

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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. 

05 September 2014

16 Percent Says No on Prop 45 and Insurance Regulations

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16 Percent Says No on Prop 45 and Insurance Regulations

70% of Californians supports Prop 45 in California, which requires health insurance companies to publicly explain rate increases before they raise your premiums. To play devil's advocate for the 16 Percenters who oppose (and 15% undecided), I checked out what's happening to Proposition 45 in California. 

45 is on the ballot in November just as Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who supports it, is up for reelection. If 45 passes the Insurance Commissioner can challenge rate hikes he finds excessive or unwarranted and veto them. 

Despite most Californians supporting Prop 45, political ads will attempt to dissuade them. To understand whose ad is on which side, follow the money or just look at the small print of the website/commercial/bumper sticker without causing a collision. 

Major insurance carriers (Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser, Healthnet, and United Healthcare) poured $37 million into the lobbying group, "Californians Against Higher Healthcare Costs" to oppose Prop 45. The group's homepage is

The Insurance Commissioner rewarded Consumer Watchdog $88,000 to review rate hikes last year. The consumer advocacy group and Commissioner support Prop 45 and so far 70% of Californians concur. opined that if Proposition 45 passed, Commissioner Jones would have too much power, labeling him "The Man who would be King" and "Insurance Czar". Did Kaiser Permenente forget what their name means in German? added the Commissioner would "have new power over your health plan's treatment options and even what your insurance covers". He would also interfere with Covered California, a new bureaucracy that controls healthcare costs. Covered CA opposes Prop 45.

A July 14th letter from Commissioner Jones to Covered CA's Director, Peter Lee, says that is false. All Prop 45 authorizes is the Commissioner to approve or deny rates. It does not change your health insurance benefits. 

This list of rebuttals from Prop 45 debates highlights the "he said-she said" game being played at voters' expense. At one point, the arguing sides contradict each other claiming Prop 45 creates "More duplicative, costly bureaucracy" and "won't create a new bureaucracy". This is why voter turnout is so bleak. 

Opponents argue that passing Prop 45 would allow trial lawyers or "consumer intervenors" to challenge rate hikes, which means insurance companies must increase rates to pay for legal fees. 

Commissioner Jones reported out of 7,000 property and casualty insurance filings his department saw last year, only 12 were challenged. That's 0.2 percent. P&C, home, and auto insurance premiums have been regulated since Proposition 103 passed in 1988. 

As reports, Prop 45 sponsors are the same type of lawyers who made $11 million from legal challenges since Prop 103 passed 25 years ago. That's peanuts, compared to the billions Californians saved under Prop 103.

FierceHealthPayer predicted the style of upcoming Prop 45 propaganda. Conservative ads could harp on "more bureaucracy" that leads to higher costs. Liberal messages may assume Prop 45 could interfere with the Affordable Care Act, which has been relatively successful.

Tell us what you think. Are these arguments strong enough to dissuade 70% of Californians who says Yes to Prop 45 or will it take more money?

01 August 2014

Obama Uses Executive Powers To Sue Himself and Diss Congress

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Last summer, House Republicans sponsored a bill to delay the unpopular large employer mandate that would force big businesses to cover full time employees. It passed Congress but not the Senate. 

President Obama, recognizing the Senate's diss, felt sorry for the House of Representatives and wanted to make it up to them. It's the least he could do for all the times the House had his back.

In July 2013, President Obama delayed the employer mandate himself using executive powers (e.g., super strength to cut red tape, x-ray vision to see through bureaucracy, and ice breath to freeze Russian assets).

Problem solved. Except one year later Congress approved House Speaker Boehner to sue the President for delaying the same mandate his party wanted to delay first. 

In hindsight, the President could have avoided a suit from Congress if he used his executive powers and law degree to sue himself. A Kentucky man sued himself and won and he only had a boomerang, which came back, hit him on the head, and helped him win $300,000 from the insurance company. 

How did Congress drop the ball, then blame Obama for picking it up and throwing it in Congress' net? 

Originally, Obamacare's large employer mandate required compliance by 2014. Each business would be fined $2000 for each "full time" employee it didn't offer health insurance. 

At the time, "full time" workers wrote to Congress, fearing big businesses would cut their hours or force layoffs to avoid compliance. Big businesses feared keeping workers "full time" and offering insurance would shrink profits and stunt growth. 

President Obama delayed the mandate until 2015 in order to give businesses more time to prepare for the change. Despite the flexibility, conservatives argued the President was absusing executive powers to change Obamacare's dates in order for the law to work. 

On July 30th, 2014 Boehner announced the President committed executive power overreach in Congress' eyes and would be sued. The following day, he begged the President to use the same executive powers he's getting sued for to fix the border crisis. 

Of course the House delayed voting on the emergency immigration bill that would help fix the border crisis, but they did release "Immediate Steps the President Could Take to Start Solving the Border Crisis"

Who says the 113th Congress is the least productive in history? They're so productive they have to delay doing their job in order to spend time telling the President how to do his. 

If you, unlike Congress, do your job but aren't offered health insurance at work, then you qualify for insurance on the Exchange (like Covered California) or off the Exchange (private insurance). Insurance plans on the Exchange offer financial assistance known as subsidies to those who qualify. 

If your job offers employer coverage also known as group insurance, you don't qualify for insurance on the Exchange. You have the option to opt out of your employer coverage to get private insurance, but it may be more expensive.

Ask an agent how to find the most affordable, convenient plan for you. Don't delay. We won't sue you if you do.