Selecting New Insurance

Open enrollment can be a confusing time. We recently had a rate increase with our insurance so I made my own spreadsheet of insurance choices. A few others were in the same boat so I shared this with them and now you. My daughter had the Blue Options 1424P plan and now has the Blue Select 1535P plan. This is how "I" compared.

My breakdown is as follows: (*See Disclaimer at the Bottom of Page) 

Woah, craziness huh?!  Here is the key to this:  The yellow and green sections at the top are basically the same plans, except Blue Select is a different network than Blue Options. Blue Select is a smaller network and saves big on monthly premiums. (The blue highlighted has a Blue Options comparative plan but wasn't one I was focusing on). I found that my daughter's pediatrician, pediatric endocrinologist, CGM supplier, and local children's hospital were all now providers for the Blue Select network, so it no longer made sense to continue paying higher premiums for the Blue Options network. 

What does all this mean?!?

Terminology Basics:
  • Deductible is the amount of money certain plans charge out of pocket before coverage starts on certain benefits. If a family deductible is indicated, this means that if 2 people met their family deductible and the third person on the same plan went to use their benefits, they would not have a deductible because the plan capped it (example $800/$1600. Person 1: $800; Person 2: $800. Equals $1,600, so if Person 3 had to use benefits requiring a deductible, it would show as already having met the family deductible and there would not be a deductible charge for that Person 3. However, co-insurance may still apply if Family Out of Pocket Maximums were not yet met.)
  • Co-insurance is the percentage of the negotiated/adjusted bill that you'd be responsible for (up to your out of pocket maximum). 
  • Out of pocket maximum individual: The most that (utilizing in-network providers, brands, etc) that you would pay out of pocket, not including yearly premiums. This is a single person.
  • Out of pocket maximum family: If multiple people were on the same plan and each had a BAD year, this is the most that family would be paying out of pocket, besides premiums. 
  • The "P" at the end of these plans stands for Pediatric, which means that these plans have pediatric dental and vision included for $0 for most items. (All of these particular plans offer most items at $0 so I did not do a complete breakdown of benefits, but these include glasses, exams, cleanings, fillings, dental x-rays, etc.)
  • All information was gathered from the insurance website. (In this case bcbsfl.com)

I posted a few icons on the side of the breakdown picture: 
  • Green key: 1st visit is $X; 2+ = any subsequent visits are $X
  • Blue crosshairs: There is a maximum on some of the plans for 3 days. So there is a co-pay of $X per day, up to 3 days worth of co-pays, after which there are no additional co-pays per day. 
  • Purple arrow: The DME category is extremely important for type 1 diabetics who intend to receive any sort of pump or CGM equipment while on the plan. Always review this area for coverage details prior to selecting a plan. These plans all show $0, which mean that a member would receive a pump, pump supplies, CGM, and CGM supplies for $0. No deductibles, co-pays, or co-insurance. 
  • Yellow star: The * next to $20 indicates that this plan has a Condition Care RX program, which gives reduced co-pays on medications for certain chronic conditions, including diabetes. Meaning that instead of the normal $40 co-pay for preferred brand RX, preferred brand diabetes medications would only be $20. You'll also notice that there is a 3 month mail order in place for diabetes RX's as well, for a reduced co-pay of $38 (3 months), which can save you $22 per 3 months per RX. *UPDATE 2/29/16: I ordered under the 1535P and found that this plan does not offer the Condition Care RX program anymore like 1424P does. The copays are $50 per 3 months (tested on insulin and strips) but I found that it went down to $36 for lancets. So a bit more for a few plans than anticipated but nothing that would sway choices in other directions. As always, verify coverage prior to enrolling in any plan. Condition Care RX is something not always advertised so apparently I missed that it was not the same as before. My apologies!

Scenarios: (Yes, I was thorough and had even more non-diabetic scenarios but limited it here for target audience purposes). Scenarios are how you get plans to make sense. You can look at a few plans and see a scary 40% co-insurance, but how often would that even apply?  Maybe it's a difference between the higher deductible plan with lower premiums vs. a higher premium plan with lower deductibles. Scenarios are the best way to make that decision of risk vs. benefit for what you anticipate your needs to be in any given year, along with a few years of increased expenses. 

Scenario 2 (really is first one shown here, sorry!):  I want to point out that these are estimated costs and number of visits, everyone would be different. Locations, hospitals, negotiated rates, premiums, everything VARIES per person. This was for MY daughter but is the guideline of how to create your own basic spreadsheets. 

  • Yearly: Monthly premiums times 12 months. Remember that these do not count towards out of pocket maximums. 
  • Deducible/Coinsurance/Out of Pocket Max's: Recap of the plan benefits
  • PCP: Primary Care Physician. This scenario estimates 2 sick-day (not preventative) visits to PCP. 
  • Specialist: assumes 6 visits to the specialist (IE: endocrinologist, increased from normal year due to DKA follow-ups etc). 
  • Labs: Assumes yearly maintenance labs were completed at an independent participating lab (such as Labcorp/Quest). 
  • Inpt Hospital/Physician: 2 days spent in-patient hospital for a negotiated rate of $20,000. (This is quite high but covers nationwide fluctuations). 
  • DME: Assumes Dexcom CGM Kit (1 receiver; 2 transmitters) and CGM supplies/ Pump supplies for 12 months. If getting a new pump, would still have been covered for $0.
  • RX's: 12 months of Insulin (this is assuming pump, which is bolus only); Strips; and Lancets are mail order under this plans Condition Care RX program, which means that 3 months is discounted to $38. So for a year's worth, it would be refilled 4x at $38 per script, times those 3 scripts. Non-pumpers would have their basal insulin in addition to this. Glucagon: I did an assumption of 2 per year, filled at retail pharmacy but still under the Condition Care RX program for a discounted co-pay (but didn't add in the second refill co-pay, this is a mistake but for the time and effort of making this picture wasn't worth fixing it.)

I then compared each category involved and the assumptions made. I will breakdown the first two plans for comparison. 

Blue Select 1535P: Yearly premiums are $2,904. Visiting the PCP twice for non-preventative visits are a $25 co-pay each time, so $50 total. Visiting the specialist 6 times means a $60 co-pay each time, for a total of $360. This plan has an in-patient hospital co-pay of $600 per day (up to 3 days max), which means a 2 day hospital stay would be $1,200. Preferred RX for glucagon is a $20 co-pay per fill (yes, I miscalculated here, add $20 or assume only 1 glucagon was filled that year). Filled 3 scripts via mail order pharmacy 4 times that year, for a total of $456. All CGM and pump supplies are covered for $0. The out of pocket maximum was not met. This plan meant an estimated cost of $5,010 (or $5,030 with second glucagon). 

Blue Select 1451P: Yearly premiums are $3,252. Visiting the PCP twice for non-preventative visits are a $0 co-pay each time, because the first 3 sick visits to PCP under this plan are no co-pay. This plan has an in-patient hospital deductible of $800 plus 10% coinsurance. Assuming the negotiated rate of the stay is $20,000, that means: $20,000 minus $800 is $19,200. $19,200 times 10% is $1,920. Add back in the $800, for a total hospital bill of $2,720. However, the out of pocket maximum is only $2,500 so this is the maximum you'd be spending out of pocket (assuming you were using in-network everything).  (Visiting the specialist 6 times means a $20 co-pay each time, for a total of $120. Preferred RX for glucagon is a $20 co-pay per fill (yes, I miscalculated here, but assume only 1 glucagon was filled that year). Filled 3 scripts via mail order pharmacy 4 times that year, for a total of $456. BUT ---there are actually no co-pays for any of these because out of pocket maximum was met with hospitalization. This assumes it occurred before any of these co-pays were paid, otherwise the overall idea is the same but the payments would be spread out through the specialist/pharmacy etc and the hospital would just collect less from you) All CGM and pump supplies are covered for $0. This plan meant an estimated cost of $5,752

The Blue Select 1457P plan yearly cost in this scenario estimated $4,732; Blue Options 1505P estimated at $5,938; and Blue Options 1424P estimated at $5,860. The winner here is the Blue Select 1457P plan when basing the plan benefits on a scenario such as this.

However, you need to account for if this is the norm vs. an abnormal year. Scenario 3 (really the second shown) shows a typical year with normal endocrinology visits and supplies, without hospitalization. For a normal, healthy year, the Blue Select 1535P plan was the winner. 

Because my daughter was switching from the Blue Options 1424P plan to the Blue Select 1535P plan, we saved an estimated $1,460 PER year. By not being complacent and accepting the rate increase and staying with the same 1424P plan, we save $6,690 in a scenario 5 year period (assuming 1 year of hospitalization scenario and 4 maintenance years). We save even more if she remains healthy during those same 5 years. 

The difference between the hospital DKA scenario and the normal year scenario for the two "winners" was only around $275 (Plans 1535P vs 1457P). So for our family, in risk analysis, it was worth the gamble of $275 in a hospital scenario (non-probable) in order to automatically save $330 per year by choosing the 1535P plan over the 1457P plan. In a 5 year period, if we "win" $330 (assuming stagnate rates etc) in 4 of the 5 years, we still come out ahead over a thousand dollars over that period, just by choosing the plan that makes more sense for us and previous health indications.  

This guide is helpful if you are needing help deciding between group insurance plans, individual plans, COBRA insurance vs. individual plans, or when there are rate increases, benefit changes, employer contribution changes, etc. It is geared towards a type 1 diabetic, but the principles can be used by non-type 1's as well. 

*Disclaimers: I am not an insurance agent or authorized representative of any insurance company, etc. All information should be verified prior to enrolling in any health insurance. Prices are based on a child-only individual policy without subsidies for Florida Blue for a four year old child with information found on bcbsfl.com. Any mistakes are my own.  A child-only policy typically is an individual plan that is found directly with the insurance provider and may not qualify for subsidies. These are not government plans such as Medicaid/Medicare and rates can change at any time and all benefits are subject to the written terms of the plan, including limitations and exclusions. Increased usage of the plans may result in additional charges up to the out of pocket maximums. Not all plans found in the United States offer prescription co-pays under their maximum out of pocket umbrella and you may need to calculate them above and beyond any out of pocket maximums. This is especially important if you are on any specialty drugs (such as for cancer, HIV, hepatitis, etc.) Your personal insurance agent or HR representative should be able to provide more details about your plan options. Not all plans cover pumps or CGM's (and supplies) under DME or at all, as they may be subject to limitations, exclusions, or pharmacy benefits. Check all benefits carefully prior to selecting/enrolling.