You can quote the new Exchange and non-Exchange plans through one Quote (links below by market segment)
If you're new to the California health insurance market, the sheer number of Carriers available can be confusing. First of all, what is a carrier? What is their responsibility and how do you go about comparing them if you truly have no preference? Should you have a preference or should the plan design and price drive your decisions? These are very good questions and we'll try to get to the bottom of these from our experience almost 20 years in California health insurance. Let's look at what a carrier is and why it should matter to you.
A good number of people we deal with every day request information for a given carrier because that's what they had on their group health, Cobra, or prior coverage. There is some logic to this (assuming you liked your carrier) but each segment of health insurance is very different. One carrier may have great pricing on the small group side but not be very competitive on the individual and family California health insurance market. The benefit to carrier continuity deals with the provider networks in that you can feel pretty confident that those doctors you spent so long making sure they're in the network...will probably be in the new network under the same carrier. Not always but it's a good bet. We provide carrier network directories just to make sure. Beyond that, it probably makes sense to narrow the carrier options down to 3-5 solid insurance companies and then let the benefits and rates dictate which way to go. First, a little about the carriers in the California health insurance market.
We're actually pretty fortunate although the sticker shock of the last decade wouldn't say so. We probably one of the most competitive carrier environments for any State at all three segments: individual, group, and Medicare supplement levels. Some States only have one real carrier to choose from (hmmm...hmmm...BCBS). In California, we have Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Aetna, Pacificare (group side) , United, Humana, Cigna, just to mention the big ones with dozens of smaller but regional players. This is good news. The competition really narrows down quickly when we consider breadth of plan options, rate stability over a period of time, depth of provider network, and general financial strength and this short list may grow shorter when California Health Reform is fully enacted since there's a certain economy of scale that is required to survive that transition. Now, the California health carriers that are strong can differ from segment from segment and even over time. We'll see a carrier aggressively price plans and eat up a great deal of market share as individuals and companies are all chasing the lowest rates these days in some hope of respite from the medical inflation onslaught. Let's take a look at the current carrier landscape by segment.
On the individual/family health insurance market (under age 65) and privately purchased, the current leaders our Anthem Blue Cross of California, Health Net, and Blue Shield of California. These are all strong carriers with the Anthem and Blue Shield having the longest track record of PPO type California health plans (which are now the vast majority of this market). The networks for these three carriers are similar but not exact so if you have a specific doctor or hospital you want to have access to, check the online Carrier provider network search to make sure it's a good fit.
California group health insurance is a little different. It's broader in terms of the number of carriers that compete and are competitive. Since a group can move plans regardless of health in most situations, they are more fickle and will price shop. The carrier have to be more flexible and generous for this market. We would really focus on Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Aetna, Kaiser, United, and Pacificare. With these carriers, you'll have more than enough plans and price points to choose from. Most of the carriers offer some ability to offer multiple plans under one policy to each employee which is our recommendation since you can cap your exposure based on a certain amount, a certain plan, or a certain percentage of a plan.
For Medicare Supplement in California, we get a different sampling of strong carriers with some of the old stand by's still there. You have Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Health Net, AARP, and a few others. Recently, Blue Shield has been priced really well and keep in mind that Medicare supplement plans are standardized by Medicare so they will all have the same core benefits.
Regardless of which segment you're interested in, you can run your California health quote and see these various carriers side by side. When you click on a given plan of interest, you can bring up the current brochure for that carrier. This brochure has valuable information for that specific California health carrier including financial data, MLR (medical loss ratio which is a measure of efficiency), provider use and details, plus additional information on how the carrier operates. Of course, we're happy to walk through your carrier questions and give our take on the current carrier standings from hard to see elements that differentiate the carrier on a day to day basis. We see them from dealing with the carriers throughout the day and we're happy to discuss with you.
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