AOL’s DailyFinance – New Recession Rule: Don’t get Tests While Shopping for Health Insurance

AOL’s Money and Finance site DailyFinance.com reports on the connection between medical testing and insurance underwriting in “New Recession Rule – Don’t get Tests While Shopping for Health Insurance“.

Most people rush to schedule as many medical tests as possible just before their COBRA coverage runs out. But some experts now say that’s precisely the wrong thing to do when you’re shopping for post-COBRA health insurance. The problem with those medical tests is that they just might find something — and if that something requires treatment or even the potential for treatment, that can make you undesirable to most insurers.

But are these experts offering life-threatening advice — time of diagnosis is often a factor in advancing diseases? With that understood, here’s what some people are saying:

“A person applying for individual health insurance should delay any non-essential medical testing or prescription drug purchases until they have secured insurance,” says Alex Maybaum, director of consumer advocacy for AnnualMedicalReport.com. Maybaum, whose business helps people keep track of what shows up in their medical reports so that they don’t wrongly get turned down for insurance, even goes one step further. “A person seeking individual health insurance would be well-advised to request that their family members — parents, siblings and relatives — also avoid any major medical testing, especially tests for diseases with a genetic component such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Disease.”

For example, Susan Brink used to cover consumer health issues for the Los Angeles Times and US News and World Report and now is a freelance writer and editor. She says she spent 30 years advising her readers to not skip their mammograms and get their medical tests on time — and then realized the new recessionary twist on her advice when it came time to shop for post-COBRA health insurance.

“I realized that taking the preventive measures I should be taking would lead to a medical paper trail that could leave me up the creek,” she said. In fact, it did. When her cholesterol measured high, it led to her being turned down for an individual policy. As a Vermont resident, Brink was able to join the state’s all-inclusive medical pool. The insurance costs her $425 a month.
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Security Glitch at WellPoint Exposes Private Data of 450,000 Insurance Consumers

Major health insurer WellPoint Inc. has warned 470,000 people who applied for its health insurance that a website security glitch may have exposed their Social Security numbers, medical records, and other sensitive data to the public.  The WellPoint data breach affects consumers in 14 U.S. states including Connecticut, California, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

The top U.S. health insurer by membership learned of the problem in March 2010 when an insurance applicant sued the company, saying she was able to obtain information in other people’s applications for health insurance by manipulating URLs to a site that tracks membership applications.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he is investigating this “massive security breach” at WellPoint Inc. that may have compromised financial and health information on almost 500,000 consumers.  Blumenthal wrote to the Indianapolis-based company, the largest U.S. health insurer, asking for information on how the breach occurred, what’s being done to protect those affected and how to prevent future incidents, he said today in a statement.

“This information breach is only the latest in a disturbing series of cases where nonpublic personal information has been subjected to unauthorized access,” Blumenthal said in his statement.  “WellPoint should provide affected consumers with two years of credit monitoring services and at least $25,000 of identity- theft protection,” Blumenthal said.

WellPoint notified 470,000 consumers in June 2010 about the breach, which affected people who applied for individual insurance.  Exposed data could have revealed medical history and credit card information, said a WellPoint Inc. spokeswoman.

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Healthcare.gov Open for Consumers and Health Insurance Companies

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under the authority of President Barack Obama, unveiled an innovative new online tool to help consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to new information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable health care coverage.  As stipulated by the Affordable Care Act, HealthCare.gov is the first website to provide consumers with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool.

HealthCare.gov helps consumers take control of their health care and make the choices that are right for them, by putting the power of information at their fingertips,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “For too long, the insurance market has been confusing and hard to navigate.  HealthCare.gov makes it easy for consumers and small businesses to compare health insurance plans in both the public and the private sector and find other important health care information.”

HealthCare.gov is the first central database of health coverage options, combining information about public programs, from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, with information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans. Consumers can receive information about options specific to their life situation and local community. In addition, the website will be a one-stop-shop for information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as other health care resources. The website will connect consumers to quality rankings for local health care providers as well as preventive services. (more…)

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Obama Administration Announces New Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan

The United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a new “Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan” (PCIP) under the Affordable Care Act Program to provide temporary coverage for Americans without health insurance due to pre-existing conditions now through 2014, when the new insurance exchanges are established.

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which will be administered either by a state or by the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide a new health coverage option for Americans who have been uninsured for at least six months, have been unable to get health coverage because of a health condition, and are a U.S. citizen or are residing in the United States legally.

Created under the Affordable Care Act, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a transitional program until 2014, when insurers will be banned from discriminating against adults with pre-existing conditions, and individuals and small businesses will have access to more affordable private insurance choices through new competitive Exchanges. In 2014, Members of Congress will also purchase their insurance through Exchanges.

“For too long, Americans with pre-existing conditions have been locked out of our health insurance market,” said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Today, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan gives them a new option – the same insurance coverage as a healthy individual if they’ve been uninsured for at least six months because of a medical condition.  This program will provide people the help they need as the nation transitions to a more competitive and fair market place in 2014.” (more…)

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