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I thought it time to catch up on what's new in medical plans. We've heard so much about HSA and HRA plans in recent years, which by the way they continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Blue Cross reported that as of January 2008, they serve more than 260,000 members in HSAs and other consumer-directed health plans. Many of you have made that switch yourselves, looking for ways to cut premium costs and engage consumer spending decision making. Bravo! It takes everyone's concerted effort to keep health care costs down. Meanwhile, other plans have evolved both in the group and individual markets. On the group side, Blue Cross came out with "Blue Value" plans last summer, that incorporates higher office visit copays ($40), higher hospital deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and less coinsurance coverage. HealthPartners launched "Three for Free" plans, offering three office visits per year before being subject to a deductible and lower coinsurance. Medica announced their "Focus" series, which offers rich coverage in a select network, for 20% less than similar plans with broader networks. PreferredOne offers nine $1000 deductible plans, nine $2000 deductible plans, four $3000 deductible plans, and one $4000 and $5000 deductible plans (and a partridge in a pear tree!).

The point here is that more cost sharing is the trend. HSA and HRA plans are not a good fit for every group. The newer plans described here still offer basic first dollar coverage, but also have incorporated higher out of pocket factors. Preventive care still offers 100% coverage, but is beginning to shift services that used to fall beneath that category and are covered now under doctor visits.

In the individual market, Blue Cross and Medica have made big splashes with "Simply Blue" and "Medica Solo". Both plans offer first-dollar coverage, meaning, besides $200 worth of preventive care, the plans also provide 3 visits or a $500, $750, or $1000 annual allowance towards office visits, before a deductible ($3000-$10,000) kicks in. Prescription drugs are available with a copay, of up to $200 annually, before the deductible applies. In other words, modest utilizations works well with these plans, designed for young adults needing minimal care. Maternity benefits are not provided, nor can one add dependents to these plans. These plans are very competitively priced, and we have found they work well for older healthy single folks too. Information on these individual plans can be mailed or Emailed to you; online enrollment is also available. I am always happy to assist you and answer any questions.

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