Reasons not to change health plans: The devil you know

Ever since the start of open season, a number of us have been affectionately nagging you about sticking with the same health plan year after year.

Uncle Sam spends a bundle giving employees in many agencies the time and the free (to them) online tool to shop around. The Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees says that many, many people could save between $1,000 and $2,000 next year if they’d switch to a lower cost, but equally good, health plan.

Despite the well-meaning scolds, most people do nothing. They stick with the same health plan. Many have never changed, even though many of the plans have. In some plans, the basic option costs a lot less than the standard option and has nearly identical benefits.

Just moving in-house could save money.  But each year, only about 6 percent of the policyholders change plans.

But it isn’t just inertia, our universal love of doing nothing. That’s the reason more people don’t change. Some do and find, too late, that it was a mistake. That doing nothing would have been smarter than taking action.

As an example, here’s an email from a longtime IRS employee who switched, only to find out he had made a big mistake:

“I’ve been with the IRS for well over 30 years and have changed insurance coverage a number of times to save money; however, the last time I did it, I learned a lesson and probably won’t change again. This is really a story of unethical practices within the health care industry, but unfortunately that’s their standard practice as well.

I had switched to a less expensive health insurance plan with another company.  I did my due diligence in verifying that all of my medical providers were “participating,” which they indicated they were.  During that year, I had an accident where I had hurt my hand and needed it to be checked out.  Before going to the emergency room of the closest hospital, I called and asked again if they were participating.  They indicated that they did.  If they had said that they didn’t, I had a number of other choices, but no need, they did participate with my health insurer.  With the intake nurse, I inquired with the same question again.

Needless to say, I ended up getting this huge bill.  Here, while the hospital participated with my new insurance, the emergency room doctor did not.  When I complained, his office offered a bit of a break, wasn’t that nice.  I fought the bill through the hospital,  saying that I had clearly communicated a number of times asking about that very question and to still give me a non-participating doctor was unethical. The emergency room doctor finally relented, accepting what should have been the correct amount due, had he been participating, but the whole process was a real hassle.

The lesson I learned was that I should stick with Blue Cross-Blue Shield, as they have the most participating providers by far, lessening the chances of a ‘gotcha’ bill.

So, until our politicians legislate ethical behavior within the health care industry, I’ll be sticking with Blue Cross-Blue Shield.  I won’t be holding my breath for them to act.”

– Paul

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Steff Thomas

George Meegan won the record for the longest unbroken walk of the Western Hemisphere from the southern tip of South America to the northernmost part of Alaska at Prudhoe Bay. The journey was 19,019 miles (30,608 km) and took Meegan 2,425 days to complete on foot.

Source: Wikipedia