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Insuring Your Health – 2012 Archive

In an ongoing KHN feature, Michelle Andrews writes about the coming changes to health care.

Please send comments or ideas for future topics to

Read 2011’s Insuring Your Health stories.

See Andrews answer your health insurance questions via video.

When Employers’ Health Plans Disappear, Workers Often Have Few Options December 31, 2012 For some people, the promise of employer-provided health insurance is reason enough to take a job or stay put in one. But unexpected events can undermine the security of on-the-job coverage.

Study Finds Coverage To Help Kick Smoking Can Be Tricky December 17, 2012 Most people who smoke want to quit, and the 2010 health-care law is supposed to make it easier for them by requiring many insurance plans to cover smoking-cessation treatments, but do they?

When A Plan Overpays For A Service, Is A Patient Responsible For A Refund?December 10, 2012 A patient received a letter informing her that her health plan had overpaid by more than $9,000 what it owed for the services of an assistant surgeon in her operation. What can she do?

Weighing A State Mini-COBRA Plan; Premiums Based On PayDecember 3, 2012 This week I answer readers’ questions about picking an insurance plan when leaving a job, small-business health insurance coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act and salary-based premiums.

Medical Questions About Gun Ownership Come Under ScrutinyNovember 27, 2012 High-profile law in Florida banning doctors from asking patients about guns was overturned in the courts. But the health law restricts insurers, employers and HHS from asking.

Hurdle For Advocates Of Medical Marijuana: Insurance Coverage November 20, 2012 Even as more states move to allow the drug for medicinal purposes, health insurance policies rarely cover its use.

High Deductible Plans Offer Low Premiums But Steep Risks November 13, 2012 More employers are offering these insurance options, but they can leave workers paying thousands before coverage kicks in.

Dispelling Some Rumors About Medicare And The Health Law Limiting Care November 6, 2012 Answers to readers’ questions about whether some older seniors are denied access to surgeries and whether the health law restricts the number of prescription drugs for patients.

Consumer Advocate Cautions That State Rules Will Impact Scope of Health Law October 31, 2012 Timothy Stoltzfus Jost discusses a report he co-authored for insurance commissioners about setting up the federal law.

States Prompt Insurers To Again Offer Child-Only Policies October 23, 2012 Many companies stopped selling the plans that cover just children after the federal health law prohibited them from rejecting kids with preexisting medical conditions.

New Insurance Exchanges Specialize In Retirees’ Needs October 15, 2012 When employers drop coverage for former workers, they sometimes offer help in finding benefits.

Federal Retiree Weighs Whether To Keep FEHB Or Switch To Medigap  October 8, 2012 Answers to readers’ questions about federal workers’ best deal on supplementing Medicare and signing up for Medicare if you’re living abroad.

Insurance Dependents Can Face Special Challenges On Privacy October 2, 2012 The health law may create challenges for dependents’ medical confidentiality.

Open Season Brings Rising Premiums And More Expensive Dependent CoverageSeptember 25, 2012 As employees review health plan options for 2013, they can expect changes.

Nursing Homes Patients Often Sign Away Rights To Lawsuits September 18, 2012 Among the many documents when entering is generally a mandatory arbitration agreement.

Shingles Vaccinations Not Covered For Some Medicare Beneficiaries September 11, 2012 Answers to readers’ questions about how seniors can qualify for coverage for the inoculations, whether parents are required to keep young adults on their plan and getting pregnancy care for dependents.

HHS Says Health Plans Cannot Discriminate Against Transgender PeopleSeptember 4, 2012 In a letter, federal officials say employers, insurers and others cannot deny coverage or benefits based on “gender identity.”

Health Law Has Gaps In Men’s CareAugust 27, 2012 At the urging of women lawmakers and advocacy groups, the overhaul provides coverage for some women’s preventive care, but men’s coverage is more limited.

New Scrutiny On Medigap Plans; Explaining Who Is A Dependent August 21, 2012 Answers to readers’ questions about changes to Medigap insurance and how plans determine who in a family is covered.

Many People Would Like To Know Their Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s DiseaseAugust 14, 2012 Current testing provides only limited information and is generally discouraged by experts. In addition, health insurance generally doesn’t cover it.

Some Plans Deny Pregnancy Coverage For Dependent ChildrenAugust 7, 2012 Although group plans must cover workers and spouses who become pregnant, they don’t have to extend that insurance to children.

Transportation Law Encourages Stricter Teen Driving RegsJuly 31, 2012 States have cracked down on young drivers and tried to curb distractions, but safety experts say more still needs to be done.

Forget The Company Plan – Boss Wants You On Dad’s InsuranceJuly 24, 2012 Employers can encourage young adults to forego the office’s plan and instead join their parents’ policy. 

Even After Changing Policies, Some Consumers May Get A RebateJuly 17, 2012 Readers ask for guidance on questions involving health insurance rebates, coverage for same-sex spouses and benefits for pregnancy.

New Obesity Guidelines Expected To Increase CoverageJuly 10, 2012 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends “intensive” intervention but it is not clear that employers and insurers will welcome the change.

Retail Health Clinics ExpandingJune 26, 2012 President of MinuteClinic says his facilities help fill the void caused by a shortage of primary care doctors.  But they also help patients find physicians and coordinate care.

Workplace Clinics Expand FocusJune 19, 2012 Some big employers offer physical therapy, dental and vision exams, mental health counseling and even acupuncture and massage.

Mass. Biggest Insurer Tightens Rules On PainkillersJune 12, 2012 Blue Cross Blue Shield will require a review after 30 days to reduce addiction risks and keep the drugs from teenagers and others for whom they weren’t prescribed.

New Screening Tool Could Increase The Use Of Virtual ColonoscopiesJune 5, 2012 Medical experts seek ways to raise the number of consumers who get tested.

New Psychiatric Manual Could Impact Addiction DiagnosisMay 29, 2012 Guidelines could make it easier to address problems early.  But some experts worry about one of the new tools to evaluate addicition.

Trained Interpreters Can Help Avoid Medical MishapsMay 22, 2012 Too often, however, hospitals and other providers can’t afford to keep such services for people with limited English.

Some States Mandate Better Coverage Of Oral Cancer DrugsMay 15, 2012 The pills generally are considered a pharmacy benefit and can cost patients thousands of dollars while traditional IV chemo usually has cap on out-of-pocket costs.

Patients’ Share Of Specialty Drug Costs RisingMay 8, 2012 Growth in spending on these expensive prescriptions, used for complex conditions such as MS and Crohn’s disease, is far outpacing traditional drugs.

Some Insurers Deny ER Coverage To People Who Have Been DrinkingMay 1, 2012 Laws in about half the states allow plans to restrict payments for medical services related to alcohol or drug use.

Travel Insurance Can Protect Your Health Or WalletApril 24, 2012 For a few dollars you can buy travel health insurance coverage that protects you if you have to cancel or shorten a trip.

New Options Help Patients Seeking Out-Of-Network CareApril 17, 2012 Still, you can count on higher costs if you go to hospitals and doctors who haven’t agreed to negotiated rates with your insurer.

Most Insurance Coverage Skimpy For Hearing AidsApril 10, 2012 These devices can easily run thousands of dollars but Medicare doesn’t pay anything and other policies generally offer little.

Medicare Now Covers Annual Screening For DepressionApril 3, 2012 The change in coverage comes as concern grows that mental health issues often go undiagnosed in the elderly.

Some Insurers Paying Patients Who Agree To Get Cheaper CareMarch 26, 2012 In these programs, people who have been prescribed a diagnostic test or elective procedure earn a bonus when they opt to go to a less expensive facility than the one recommended by their physician.

Some States Limit How Uninsured Pay For High-Risk InsuranceMarch 19, 2012 They are concerned that such third-party funding may drive up the number of people seeking to join the pre-existing condition insurance plans.

Premium Rebates, Coverage Labels, Reduced Medicare Drug Costs Highlight 2012 Health Law ChangesMarch 13, 2012 Despite deep political division about the health overhaul, implementation marches on.

New Book Offers Checklists To Help Hospital PatientsMarch 5, 2012 Doctors and other care providers are increasing using checklists in their work, but one author has developed similar guides for consumers.

Insurers Open Stores For Health PlansFebruary 27, 2012 With more people buying insurance on their own, and more to come under the health law, insurers seek a retail strategy.

Insurance Coverage Might Steer Women To Costlier-But More Effective-Birth ControlFebruary 21, 2012 Long-acting methods such as the IUD and the hormonal implant are nearly 100 percent effective and require no effort after insertion.  But birth control pills are about 92 percent effective.

Despite Doctors’ Concerns, Deliveries At Home IncreaseFebruary 14, 2012 The numbers are still small but some women opt for home for the convenience and to save money.

Experts Divided Over Screening Children For High CholesterolFebruary 7, 2012 Doctors say testing may identify some in need of treatment but could also lead to many youngsters being mistakenly labeled as at risk.

People In State High-Risk Insurance Plans Often Feel Left BehindJanuary 31, 2012 The federal health law set up new plans that are cheaper and more comprehensive than the older ones run by states but consumers need to go without insurance for six months to qualify.

Hospitals Seek To Attract Business With Patient PerksJanuary 23, 2012 The rewards range from free parking and gift-shop discounts to wellness seminars even social mixers.

Insuring Your Health: Some Doctors Allow Easy Access to Their NotesJanuary 17, 2012 The movement to give patients direct access to their health information has picked up steam.

The Health Law Goes GraphicJanuary 10, 2012 Advocate of health overhaul uses an unusual style to describe the federal law and its provisions.

Work Insurance Often Offers Coverage To Stop SmokingJanuary 3, 2012 Some companies are also penalizing employees who don’t give up cigarettes by hitting them with higher health insurance premiums.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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