MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--(Marketwired - Dec 7, 2016) - When it comes to health care, 2016 threw some curve balls, including several insurers announcing they would leave Affordable Care Act markets, double-digit premium increases and the election of a new administration that promises to repeal or significantly amend Obamacare. As the year ends, AgileHealthInsurance.com offers insights into what lies ahead for health care and how consumers should navigate impending changes.
2017 Health Care Trends
Consumers are confused about what repealing/replacing Obamacare really means. Although President-elect Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans have promised to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and will remain so until changed by an act of Congress, which takes time. Most analysts expect any major changes will be implemented at a later date and won't affect 2017 plans that have already been purchased. But long term, Trump and Republicans have said they will replace Obamacare with more plan choices, lower costs and greater flexibility regarding which benefits are included.
Congressional Republicans may move quickly to pass a bill that repeals parts of Obamacare. Changes would likely be phased in over the next couple years to allow health insurers time to develop new replacement plans as well as to adjust to new market rules and regulations.
Prescription drug costs come under the microscope. Open enrollment for Obamacare plans ends Jan. 31, 2017, and as consumers begin using their new health insurance, they may find they are paying more for prescriptions drugs. Insurers are using a range of strategies to keep a handle on rising costs. These include: using new formularies, which are the preferred lists of drugs with the most favorable pricing; and shifting from copayments to coinsurance, where consumers pay a percentage of the price instead of a flat amount.
"With prescription drug costs increasing significantly, it's important for consumers -- especially those on maintenance drugs -- to review and understand their prescription drug benefits on an annual basis," said Sam Gibbs, executive director of AgileHealthInsurance.com. "Their out-of-pocket costs may have changed. It's important people stay on top of those changes and work with their doctors to find what works best for them."
Telehealth/telemedicine usage increases. As more plans offer telehealth benefits and consumers' preference for the service continues to grow, the use of telehealth is expected to increase. In fact, 90 percent of large employers will make telehealth services available to employees in states where it is allowed next year, according to a survey from the National Business Group on Health. This type of benefit can provide prompt, 24/7 access to a doctor through phone or video consults. Depending on the plan, it may be an included benefit or available for a monthly fee.
Providers and insurers refine mobile experience. From scheduling a doctor's appointment to enrolling in health coverage, consumers -- especially millennials -- are looking to do more on online, especially through smartphones or tablets. About a third of AgileHealthInsurance.com customers interact with the Agile website through a mobile device, a trend that will continue to grow.
"From scheduling appointments and getting test results to enrolling in health insurance, more consumers are demanding an easy, effective digital experience," Gibbs said. "Online access not only offers convenience and lower costs, but it can also improve communication between doctors and patients. We expect both providers and insurers to continue to refine their online interfaces, especially for smartphones."
Both parties weigh in on an Obamacare replacement. President-elect Trump has indicated he would like to keep some of Obamacare's more popular provisions, including allowing children to stay on their parent's plan until age 26 and a provision for pre-existing conditions. We will see early next year how Congress adopts Trump's vision for an Obamacare replacement into their developing legislation. Like all legislation, consumers should not read too much into the news of the process and wait to see the final results before making changes to their health insurance plans.
AgileHealthInsurance.com was created to educate people about the benefits of term health insurance and provide a fast, online process for purchasing these plans. Term health insurance is a flexible and low-cost major medical insurance for individuals without expensive pre-existing health conditions. It is not Obamacare. Term health plans offer consumers the flexibility to choose health plans with the benefits that matter most to them and combine these benefits with broad provider networks. Additional information about AgileHealthInsurance can be found at www.AgileHealthInsurance.com.