My son was born in 1987. Like many kids his age, he is currently "underemployed" as he struggles to get an internet start-up idea off the ground. Thanks to our new health care law, he was able to stay on my insurance until he reached the magic age of 26.
But the honeymoon has ended and recently I began the process of deciding if I should continue him on my Cobra plan at the high price of $485.14 per month or seek a high-deductible major medical plan instead.
Being former military, I have homeowners and car insurance through USAA. So I was interested when they sent me a marketing e-mail suggesting I might want to look at health insurance options available for my son. The plans were offered by "Assurant Health Care," so I thought I’d explore what this one company offered.
First, Assurant Health offered three options for coverage: (1) Fixed-benefit Insurance starting at $67 per month, (2) Temporary Insurance starting at $86.74 per month, and (3) Major Medical Insurance starting at $90.74 per month. So far so good.
Fixed-benefit insurance, I learned, is different from major medical insurance since it pays set cash amounts (fixed benefits) when a person receives medical services. Depending on what providers charge, my son might (scratch that, probably will) have to pay a portion of his health care bill and cap at a $1 million, $2 million, or $3 million lifetime benefit, depending on much he’d like to pay each month.
Temporary insurance is marketed as "30 to 180 days of short term insurance coverage. Protection is provided when you’re between jobs, waiting for employer benefits, or in temporary, seasonal or contract work." Hmm, this seemed like a possibility provided he can get a job in that period of time. Oh wait, this hasn’t gone so well so far, so this might not be the best option for him.
Major Medical insurance: was being marketed as insurance similar to what I have now, except with a varying sized deductibles and no life-time care limit.
On the surface, each of these options looked possible until I read the fine print on all of them: pre-existing conditions would not be covered by any of the above plans. But my son has a few pre-existing conditions. Wait, doesn’t our new health care law cover people with pre-existing conditions?
As I recall, the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) is overseen by the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) created through our new health care plan and under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services. To be eligible for the PCIP, “individuals must have a pre-existing condition and have been without creditable coverage for at least 6 months prior to application,” explained the Government Account Office that limits “the program to individuals who likely have been unable to access insurance because of their pre-existing condition.”
Now he just lost his insurance, right? So he has to wait 6 months? Can you say "Catch-22?"
To make matters much worse, the PCIP ran out of money in February, 2013 so the Department of Health and Human Services stopped enrolling patients with pre-existing conditions who might need coverage. What does this mean for the rest of our new health care law’s ability to pay for U.S. citizens as insurers offload all their patients with pre-existing conditions on them? Will Congress assure there be enough money available to care for patients with pre-existing conditions when the new health care law goes into effect? And why hasn’t this been fixed by now? This should sound a prescient warning concerning correcting problems with the law to us all.
His only other option currently is to enroll in Illinois CountyCare, a Medicaid program constructed on the back of the Affordable Care Act. It provides limited services and not all doctors are part of CountyCare, I learned. In fact, according to their website:
"Only doctors that are part of the CountyCare network may accept CountyCare patients. When an individual enrolls in CountyCare, they will be asked to select a patient centered medical home site from a list of participating providers. Choices will include Cook County Health & Hospital System sites as well as some other community providers, such as community health centers."
But at least he’d have some health care, right?
It is hard to say. He might have insurance, but access to providers might be very difficult, especially when we consider Cook County, the second most populous county in America, has 40.5% of the entire population of Illinois within its border.
Given these options, it appears my son will likely continue his Cobra plan for now, since the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.
Now I consider myself fairly medically savvy. I read fine print. I am fortunate to have financial resources. And I like the ability to choose between options for my son’s insurance needs. But it looks like the depth and breadth of health care options for young adults without pre-existing conditions is going to be staggering but with many coverage loopholes. For those young adults with pre-existing conditions, their options for care will remain quite limited, especially if they’re unemployed or underemployed.
I feel for the young, under-employed who are less medically-savvy and have no fall-back options for care. Will they obtain the wrong insurance or be under-insured as they fumble through a variety of websites that offer hundreds of coverage options? Will they have to find a new doctor beginning in 2014?
It seems so.
Welcome to the insurance nightmare of the Obamacare Underworld.