Our quality of life is inextricably linked to the quality of our health, which is why it is so important to make informed decisions when selecting health coverage and care providers. But if you are not a health care industry insider, it can be difficult to determine if you are really getting the most for your medical dollars. So, here are answers to some frequently asked questions to help you make a better choice when shopping for your health.
How can I obtain health insurance? Is healthcare.gov the only option for purchasing coverage on my own?
Most Americans obtain health insurance through their employers. If you are covered under an employer-sponsored insurance plan, your employer should notify you of any changes to your coverage during the open enrollment period.
Healthcare.gov, the online health insurance marketplace or "exchange," is just a new avenue to health coverage. Employers and individuals can still purchase plans directly from insurance companies or through brokers. You can visit GoKP.org to learn more about Kaiser Permanente of Georgia's health plan options.
However, shopping on the exchange could have an advantage — federal subsidies. HealthCare.gov requires users to fill out an application to determine eligibility for financial assistance, which can reduce the out-of-pocket cost of health plans and medical expenses. The federal subsidies are only available to those who purchase coverage through HealthCare.gov, where you can also find a selection of Kaiser Permanente health plans.
What should I look for in a health plan?
When considering a new insurer, find out how its plans compare to the competition. Each year, the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) and J.D. Power and Associates rank health plans based on a number of factors, ranging from quality of care to customer satisfaction.
Kaiser Permanente of Georgia's commercial and Medicare health plans are the highest ranked in the state and among the top 20 in the country, according to NCQA. A J.D. Power and Associates' study also ranked Kaiser Permanente of Georgia highest in member satisfaction in the South Atlantic region for the fourth consecutive year.
Health insurers and providers are using the term "coordinated care." What does it mean, and why is it important?
Care is coordinated when your primary care physician, specialists and clinicians work together to manage your health. When all of your health care providers are working as a team, they are able to make more informed decisions when it comes to treating you.
Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, which offers both health coverage and medical care, has been operating a coordinated care system in metro Atlanta for nearly 30 years. We have one of the largest multi-specialty medical groups in the state with more than 450 board-certified physicians, who care exclusively for Kaiser Permanente members. So, whether you are seeing your primary care physician, dermatologist or cardiologist, they have access to your complete medical history through our electronic medical records system.
What major changes under the Affordable Care Act should I be aware of?
Under the Affordable Care Act, or health care reform, all U.S. citizens will be eligible for some form of health coverage starting in 2014, and they cannot be turned down for coverage because of a medical condition.
Health plans must provide many preventive services, such as screenings for cancer, diabetes and hypertension, at no additional cost.
After January 1, 2014, if you choose to go without health insurance for more than three consecutive months, you could face a tax penalty.
I've seen Kaiser Permanente medical offices across metro Atlanta. Where can I go to learn more about the organization?
Kaiser Permanente has 29 medical offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and a location in Athens to better serve our members. Our medical offices are staffed physicians with The Southeast Permanente Medical Group, which has doctors in more than 20 specialties. To learn more about Kaiser Permanente, just log on to GoKP.org.
Kerry W. Kohnen
Nine Piedmont Center
3495 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30305
www.kp.org | (404) 364-7000
Kerry W. Kohnen is president of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, the state's largest not-for-profit health plan serving 240,000 members through 30 medical centers across metro Atlanta and Athens.