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Religious Freedom or Religious Control? Employees Should Get to Decide Where Their Paychecks Go

7:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Christine Charbonneau for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I am the CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.  I am also an employer.  In the latest round of the War on Women being waged by Congress and the legislatures of the 50 states, much has been written of late about employers; what they want and do not want to insure, and most recently, how employers would be allowed to “weigh in” on the reproductive decisions of our employees.  Spare me.

I have 500 employees in three states.  Like most employers, I have a finite budget for the health insurance I offer my staff.  My goal, as I see it, is to get them the richest package of services I can find for the money I have to invest.  I consider the premiums I pay for this health care to be part of each employee’s compensation.  I also know that covering my staff appropriately results in a happier workforce, with less downtime due to medically related absences, so the investment is good for business, as well. 

Just as I would never dream of telling my staff what to do with their bi-weekly paychecks, I have no interest in telling them how to use their insurance benefits.  After the premium is paid, it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS. 

However, as Planned Parenthood has made it a goal to ensure that reproductive health services are covered in the larger marketplace, I will not purchase a health plan which does not cover contraception, and every outcome of pregnancy, including abortion. Three years ago, while completing the merger of Planned Parenthood affiliates in Western Washington, Alaska and Idaho, I sought to unify the health insurance plans which covered our employees, so that they would all get the same benefits and to save my organization the cost of administering multiple plans.

As we were selecting our insurance provider, I was told that they would be unable to cover abortion services for my employees in Idaho.  I was flummoxed.  After all, this is America, and I was fairly certain that there would have to be a way to buy coverage for a legal procedure.  So I told the plan in question that they would write me the coverage I was asking for, or I would write my $2,000,000 a year premium check to someone who would.

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It Don’t Come Easy: Changing Health Insurance in America, Part Two

9:05 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lucinda Marshall for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from Pre-Existing Pundit.

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Several days ago, I wrote about the ordeal I have been going through trying to move my health insurance from Kentucky to Maryland.  Because I had a health insurance policy with Anthem Blue Cross in Kentucky, the local Blue Cross was obligated to offer me what is called a guarantee issue conversion policy that does not require underwriting (a good thing since I have several pre-existing conditions that would otherwise make it difficult for me to obtain health insurance).

As I reported earlier, the Maryland conversion policy was almost no insurance at all so one of the options I wanted to explore was what kind of policy CareFirst (the Blue Cross company that serves the Washington, DC metro area, including the Virginia and Maryland suburbs) would offer me if I lived in the District instead of in Maryland. I asked CareFirst to send me the information and when it arrived it was a stunner.  We are talking about maybe a 15-mile difference in location and the same company.  But the policies were radically different, which CareFirst attributes to insurance laws which vary by location.

If you live in Maryland, there is a $250 deductible and  for most things, you pay 25 percent, the plan pays 75 percent up to a very unrealistic lifetime maximum of $250,000 (most plans have a $1,000,000 maximum or no limit).  There is no cap on out-of-pocket expenses.  Premium for a 55 year old woman? $443.22, less than my Kentucky policy but for a lot less coverage and substantial risk.

But hop on the Metro and move into the District and wowswers–the guaranteed conversion plan there has a $750 deductible, pays 80 percent instead of 75 percent and there is a $3500 cap on out of pocket expenses for an individual.  There was nothing that I saw about a lifetime maximum.  Sounds good so far, but there is a catch and it is a big one–the premium.  Are you sitting down? $1448.  Per month. Aside from CEO’s of health insurance companies, not too many people can afford that. Read the rest of this entry →