Insider's Guide: 2017 Health Insurance Options in Michigan

Bummed out about health insurance? You have more options than you might think!

"Everything is figureoutable" - Anonymous

Every year it seems like the same story. Premiums are going up, doctors change networks, and carriers change their plans. You had just gotten used to your plan, and your budget was doing ok, and then boom - it's all changed again. It's not a fun game to play, yet it's where we find ourselves.

If you're scrambling to find a health plan this year, you're not alone. Premiums are up across the country, and it seems like we're continually hearing about more carriers leaving the market. Well, the good(ish) news for those of us in Michigan is it's not as bad as the rest of the country--We still have plenty of choices in the Great Lake State our premium increases were significantly less than the national average.

In this post, we equip you with our insider perspective of what's going on in the Michigan market and for each insurance company to help prepare you to navigate this upcoming Open Enrollment.

Key health insurance trends in Michigan

At Take Command Health, we're busy serving our customers during Open Enrollment (the deadline is 12/15 for 1/1/17 start dates, by the way). Since receiving plan information for Open Enrollment, we've run our own analysis on the plan structures, doctor networks, and prescription formularies that we use to help our clients on our website, TakeCommandHealth.com. Now that we have a clear picture on what the 2017 market looks like, we wanted to share 3 big trends we're seeing this year:

  1. A solid number of options - While there has been a reduction in the number of carriers and plans that will be offered in 2017 (from 15 carriers to 12), the number of carriers and plan options in Michigan remains in a good place (especially compared to the rest of the country). If you've had your 2016 plan cancelled it can be frustrating, but rest assured that you're likely to find another solution in your area. Even if your plan is still available next year, it's always a good idea to shop around to see what else is available given the year-over-year changes. At TakeCommandHealth.com, we pride ourselves on helping you see all your options: Tax credit eligible plans from Healthcare.gov, private plans only available "off-exchange", and even faith-based options.
  2. Premiums up for "name brand" companies - On average, monthly premiums in Michigan have increased by 17% across the state. Of the big name brands, Priority increased by 14%, Blue Cross by 18%, and Humana has by far the largest increase at 39%. Before you get nervous though, some local and regional players have kept premiums flat. In particular, Molina has an increase of just 3%. The technical reason for this gets into something called "risk corridors" and transfer payments that are part of the ACA laws that impact larger, more well-known insurance companies more than others. We'll spare you the technical details here, but we want to give you a heads up - this may be the year to try a new, smaller company. We'll have plenty of these plans on our site and can help you verify it's a good fit before making a change.
  3. Narrower doctor networks - This year the number of PPO options has decreased, but Blue Cross and HAP are still offering PPOs to much or all of the state. That being said, most other plans are carriers continue to move towards narrower HMO networks. The good news, however, is that doctor's still have to take some insurance to be able to have a patient base, it just makes it harder for your family to find everyone they need on one plan. Our tip here is to consider placing your family on different plans. You can also try out our brand-new, first-of-its-kind doctor search tool to quickly search all of the doctor networks in your area.

What to expect from each major insurance company in Michigan

Now that you've got the overall picture on what's happening in the market, we wanted to share some of our insider knowledge and perspective on what's happening with each insurance company. We'll continue to update this if there are any late-breaking announcements from the carriers.
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United Healthcare
Status: OUT

So long United. Sayonara. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

United makes headlines because they are the largest insurer in the US. However, most people don't realize last year was their first time to offer individual plans on-exchange. Their entrance made clients, brokers, and everyone excited. Their plans had large doctor networks and were paying brokers top commissions. But the wheels came off before Open Enrollment was even over last year. United had severely miscalculated and was terrible at serving individuals. Although they couldn't pull their plans off the market (companies are committed for the whole year), they slashed commissions to 0% and cut back on customer service and retention efforts. They were the worst-rated company among our clients for customer service. Even if they didn't pull out, we were likely going to cut them from our line-up anyway.

 

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Blue Cross, Priority
Status: State-wide coverage

Blue Cross and Priority remain committed to the individual insurance market in Michigan. Both will offer a plan in every county on Healthcare.gov this year. Blue Cross' PPO plans are widely available - great news if having the broader PPO network is important for you.

The catch, however, is premiums will be up across the board by an average of ~18% for Blue Cross, and ~14% for Priority.  If you receive a tax-credit on-exchange, your credit will likely scale with the increase, meaning you'll have negligible impact. However, if you don't qualify for a tax-credit, your plan will be more expensive for you this year.

UPDATE (11/19): Priority Health is adding a lower cost, narrow network plan for Southwest Michigan. Stay tuned.

 

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HAP
Status: Solid coverage in Eastern Michigan

HAP offers one of the only other PPO plans apart from Blue Cross, and has strong coverage throughout the eastern portion of Michigan in 21 counties. They're also offering HMO plans in most of the same areas. Rates will increase on-par with the state average of 17%. HAP is an example of a regional player that appears to be remaining fairly steady in their coverage options.

 

humana-logo-low-res
Humana
Status: Coverage in Southeast MI, Kalamazoo, and Kent County

Humana is offering their HMO plans in most of Southeast Michigan, along with Kalamazoo County and Kent County.  Unfortunately, Humana will have the highest rate increases of any carrier in the state at ~39%. They've significantly cut back the total number of plans they're offering compared to last year - eliminating about half of those plans. We think is evidence that Humana has struggled to make ends meet on the individual market in Michigan, but is still hopeful they can right the ship.

 

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Aetna
Status: 1 state-wide POS network plan only available Off-Exchange 

Aetna will still offer plans in Michigan this year, but they will be off-exchange only. This means you won't find them on Healthcare.gov and you can't get a subsidy or tax-credit to help you pay for your premiums. Depending on your area and the doctors you want to have in network, the Aetna plan may be a great choice for you.

Our sense is that Aetna has figured out there are actuarial differences between their clients that purchase on the exchange and those that don't. This isn't surprising as we've found it's too easy to "cheat" on Healthcare.gov and sign up for coverage only when you're sick - an insurance company's worst nightmare. We think Aetna is essentially "hiding" this year: they want to stay in the market but they won't be actively promoting plans. We have great relationships with Aetna and have their full line-up available at TakeCommandHealth.com.

 

molina-logo  mclaren-logo

Molina, McLaren
Status: Regional coverage in Southeast Michigan

Molina and McLaren are offering plans in Southeast Michigan, primarily in the greater Detroit areas. individual insurance market in Michigan. Both will offer a plan in every county on Healthcare.gov this year. Blue Cross' PPO plans are widely available - great news if having the broader PPO network is important for you.

The catch, however, is premiums will be up across the board by an average of ~18% for Blue Cross, and ~14% for Priority.  If you receive a tax-credit on-exchange, your credit will likely scale with the increase, meaning you'll have negligible impact. However, if you don't qualify for a tax-credit, your plan will be more expensive for you this year.

 

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Medi-Share
Status: State-wide, off-exchange (faith-based)

Faith-based Medi-Share has a state-wide PPO network available in 2017 managed by PHCS (Private Healthcare Systems, now owned my Multiplan). It’s smaller than some of the PPO networks in the past, but it does provide flexibility to see your doctors and will cover out-of-network expenses as long as it meets Medi-Share’s faith-based guidelines. Medi-Share won’t be for everyone, but is a worthy option to consider if it fits your personal convictions and lifestyle. Make sure to check out our Medi-Share review and compare it to other major medical plans on our website before you enroll.

Next Steps: What's my best option?

Well, you probably already figured out the bad news - your rates have increased. The good news is Michiganites will still have a lot more choice than residents in other states if you know where to look.

We don't want you to feel alone though. Take Command Health is here to be your advocate and empower you to find a plan that works for you and your family. In addition to our award-winning tools that'll help you make a confident plan choice, we've added some new features we want to let you know about:

  • We're expanding the capabilities of our doctor search tool to search doctor networks no matter where the plan is - on exchange, off exchange, and even faith-based plan types.
  • We've negotiated some pretty awesome deals for our members--Call a doctor 24/7 for $0, medical bill negotiation support, dental, vision, and pharmacy discounts, etc.
  • We're pretty confident we have the biggest, most complete line-up of plans in Michigan this year.
  • We've put together a new support team ready to help you tackle any issue. You can get started by chatting with us on our website or emailing us at support@takecommandhealth.com.

Now that Open Enrollment has started, you can visit our website and we'll walk you through your options. Our goal is to help you get the most out of your money and find the plan that really works for you and your family. Remember you have until Dec 15th to select a plan that starts Jan 1st, 2017.

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