The health care landscape is changing, and with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2013, and a seeming backlash against it in last year’s mid-term elections, everyone is affected or has an opinion. But are people really saving money? Finding better insurance options? We asked four metro Richmonders, each from different work backgrounds, to talk about their recent experiences.
Jyot Singh is the CEO of RTS Labs, an award-winning software development company in Glen Allen. Singh and his 25 employees have found that dealing with the new health care marketplace, while it does have its benefits, can be a costly experience.
“The plan we offered last year was based on the age and sex of the employees and, with the new health care rules, some of our employees had a 120-percent increase in their cost. There was lot of frustration … it became challenging for us to explain the price increase upon policy renewal. Any company that was primarily made up of healthy young males received this kind of increase. I feel that [this kind of] dramatic increase in cost is the biggest hurdle facing small businesses. We did shop around and got pricing from Anthem, Aetna, United and Optima. Coventry had the most cost-effective plan that met our needs. The benefit to the employer is that you get stronger employee retention and company morale, while the benefits to the employee are that group-based policies have a larger physician/hospital network and pharmacy formula, plus the employer pays a portion of their premium and they have the ability to pay premiums on a pretax basis.”
Zarina Fazaldin buys and rents historic homes, mainly in the Carver neighborhood of Richmond. She has stayed with her longtime insurance provider, but now wants to test the new marketplace and see if she can get a better deal.
“I started my business in 2004 and got insurance for it. But with the economy going bad and everything, I did some research and found that I could save $400 by getting individual rather than business insurance. I stayed with the same insurance company, with Anthem, but I didn’t really take the time to look at the plan; they kind of rushed me through it. I also had an illness about two years back, and I had to pay a lot of money out of pocket. When the [Affordable Care Act] began, my premium went up, almost $100. And my deductible was a little low compared to what I had. I had kind of been put into a plan I didn’t want. What I learned from this was to research, research, research. My business partner went through the ACA website, and he is saving. But I really didn’t take the time I should have to shop around, talk to different providers, talk to friends and compare different plans. It is hard when you have your own business to find the time, but I need to do it.”
Chris Yoder, in Hanover County, was a longtime accountant for a D.C. nonprofit when changes there led him to resign last spring. He and his wife made some timely decisions …
“I could’ve remained on the insurance from my last job, through COBRA, but that was more expensive. I went through the ACA website in September, and I didn’t think it was confusing. I went for a high deductible plan [with Anthem] — the first $6,500 I’m responsible for on anything that is outside of the preventive area. I’ve already used the plan. I’ve been to the doctor three times now, including an ambulance ride to the hospital and a night in the emergency room. They diagnosed that I had vertigo, and they ran CT scans and did other tests to make sure I didn’t have a heart attack, a stroke or a brain tumor. It was pretty expensive. My plan automatically reduced some of the charges of the procedures — one of the tests went from $5,000 to $2,500. I had to pay up to $6,500, but after that the insurance would start paying it. I’d say I’m comfortable with what I have.”
John Moser, who lives in the city, has his own planning, design, fabrication and management company that works with museums on special exhibitions. As an independent contractor, he says that he has good, bad and uncertain feelings about the new health care changes.
“The good: We are saving a bunch of money monthly with Obamacare. The bad: I had high deductibles before and high deductibles now … so for all practical purposes, it has been and continues to be like being uninsured, unless something catastrophic happens. My premium is lower, [but] I still have to avoid visiting the doctor unless it is absolutely necessary. The uncertain: Obamacare asks you to base your coverage on projected income. I’m self-employed and truly have no idea how much I will make in 2015, so it feels like a gamble. Am I happy with the new health care law? It’s better than before, but still far, far from the system I want. I want universal health care because I believe in a world where people can be taken care of when they get sick or when they are out of work.”