In 2017 more than 650 counties in the United States will only have one health insurance carrier option on the marketplace. Why? Several health insurance companies have decided to exit state and federal marketplaces citing expensive claims and providers unwilling to negotiate lower payment deals for patient care.
The lack of choice will most impact America’s rural communities where the average income is less, but health care costs more. Of the 650 counties affected, approximately 70% of them are in rural areas where residents are sicker, and health care providers charge far more than their urban peers for care and procedures.
Worse yet, the cost of insurance is supposed to rise 12%-20% nationally for millions of individuals who purchase their own health insurance. The full brunt of these increases will be felt head-on by rural dwellers compared to their metropolitan cousins because monthly health insurance premiums in rural areas are the most expensive in the nation on average, while provider care is harder to access.
What does this mean for rural residents in Alabama, Kentucky, Washington, Wyoming and other states left with just one insurance option? The prospects are troubling.
If you are a resident in one of the 650+ counties that will be reduced to just one health insurance carrier option in 2017, you should look for money-saving options that will provide you protection from health care costs that are your responsibility. In all likelihood, premium costs will increase in 2017, deductibles could rise and provider networks might shrink. To keep your out-of-pocket health care costs from following the same trend, there are several things you can do to help quell rising expenses.
Make Telemedicine Your Primary Doctor
Telemedicine is a champion of rural communities, initially developed to help underserved hospitals in rural areas get access to specialists and technology in larger cities. Today many telemedicine companies offer consumers a low-cost way to get medical attention that would typically require driving to a doctor’s office or Urgent Care center, waiting in a lobby with other sick people, all to get a few minutes with a doctor in order to receive a needed prescription.
Members of HealthValues receive free and unlimited doctor consultations over the telephone or through video chat, 24/7, 365 days a year. For rural community members, a telemedicine visit can save on lengthy drives to the nearest care facility. Considering the average child sees a doctor more than three times a year, and the average adult can see a physician two times or more, the cost savings for one family of five can total to more than $1,000 in savings on doctor bills.
Supplement Your Insurance Plan
As insurance premiums continue to rise, many families are lowering their monthly health insurance cost by enrolling in a more affordable, high deductible health insurance plan, and then filling their gap in coverage with supplemental insurance. For a family with children, supplemental insurance can pay for common yet unexpected childhood accidents such as a broken arm or leg, and for adults, offer a level of protection for a new cancer diagnosis or a heart attack.
Bundled supplemental insurance coverage offered as part of the HealthValues membership protects on both levels for both accident and critical illness. And the cash can be used to pay for medical bills, the mortgage, child care and more.