Friday, January 26, 2018

Folders, Pamphlets and Forms…Oh My

Over the last two weeks, we’ve received a couple pieces of what the marketing folks might call “collateral” welcoming us to Liberty and SavNet. For those keeping score (none of you) we have not received our membership cards. Ultimately, it matters most how quickly payments are processed so there’s no reason to jump to any conclusions. While we wait I’m proud to show off the folders, pamphlets and forms you’ll receive as new members. Hold on to your seats.

There are two obvious things you’ll be thinking as you review this picture: (a) My photography skills are outstanding – I must just have one of those eyes and (b) Why do I even care? Well, you shouldn’t care that much but if you are anything like me you like to know what you’re getting into when you try something new – in that spirit, I want to share as much as possible so you can make an informed decision. A few notes on what’s included:
  • Our welcome folder was the first set of information we received. It includes a welcome letter, refer a friend ad and your 2017 Guidelines (which apparently must be the same as your 2018 Guidelines). Also included are a few forms:
-       Authorization for Release of Medical Information – This form authorizes Liberty to get access to your medical related information. Essentially, you are authorizing your healthcare providers to provide Liberty with access to your medical records, bills, etc. to help with case management. It may sound intrusive but I can see why it would be necessary for Liberty to have these agreements in place.
-       Medical Expense Need Agreement – This is a form that basically says I won’t use the money I receive for medical bills to address other expenses. Basically, I won’t be a jerk, submit false bills, all that stuff.
-       Medical Expense Processing Form – This is the form that needs to be filled out and submitted to Liberty any time you are submitting bills for a medical need.  
-       Provider Information – This is a form you can use to “nominate” your healthcare providers to be part of Liberty’s recommended providers list. I would assume Liberty uses this information to contact the provider, let them know one of their patients is now with Liberty, and try to negotiate discounted rates. Given our situation, it is unlikely I will use it (our healthcare provider is familiar with Liberty). 

When I saw these forms I thought we had already signed off on a few of them as part of the application process but we sent them back nonetheless.  

  • A few days after receiving our welcome folder we received a pamphlet from SavNet. This is a nice summary of what the SavNet Health Savings Program provides including the discounts on dental, vision, chiropractic and hearing services. Keep mind this is a separate SavNet program than the discounted prescription program. We have separate dental insurance which works out well for our family of 5 so I’m not sure how often we’ll use this but it’s nice to understand how it all works. If we wanted to forgo our dental insurance and change our dental providers to a SavNet provider, a routine check check-up, under SavNet would be $37 according to the information we received. For a family of 5, receiving 2 check-ups a year like us, that’s $370. For now we really like our providers and the estimates SavNet provides are…well…estimates. Nonetheless, it’s nice to know it’s there if we need it.
So that’s what you can expect in your welcome folder, pamphlets and forms. Not as scary or exciting as lions, tigers and bears but good to know if you are considering Liberty.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Interesting Information in our First Liberty Newsletter

Liberty sends members a monthly newsletter with articles of interest, reminders on Liberty practices and other information helpful to members.

One piece of information we thought was particularly interesting was found at the bottom of the newsletter. I’ve often wondered, as have many people who are aware we’ve joined Liberty, how much money Liberty receives in shares in a given month and how much they pay out for medical expenses. At the bottom of the newsletter Liberty provided this information. Obviously, if the amount of money Liberty pays out is much higher than what we receive, this could eventually lead to higher monthly share amounts or higher unshareable amounts. Below is the information from December: 

First off, I think it’s great that Liberty is this transparent with members about what is received and what is paid out. After all, the members serve as the community and this isn’t traditional insurance. I think the transparency builds confidence. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change. If there’s a month that deserves an asterisk it’s one where payments of medical expenses (paid out) exceed what was shared (paid in) by $9M. Liberty is able to review this information in the context of past months and similar periods so they have far better information to determine if this is a trend or not. Nonetheless, I appreciate the transparency and thought it was an interesting piece of information to share from the newsletter. 

It’s Officially 2018 and We’re on to Liberty…Membership Cards and an Initial Trip to the Pharmacy

When the clock struck midnight on the east coast our traditional health insurance officially expired and our stint as Liberty Healthshare members began. As our family traveled back from our holiday destination my wife and I did have a moment where this sunk in. It wasn't a bad feeling, it was just an acknowledgment that we’re under a new system and prepare for the change. We are actually excited about seeing how things work.

As we turned to the new year I was interested in receiving our Liberty Healthshare member cards. Similar to traditional insurance, these are the cards Liberty suggests you provide to your healthcare provider instructing them where to send bills and coordinate payment. In my conversations with my primary healthcare provider, it sounds as if they won’t care if I have this card or not – they don’t view Liberty as an insurer so they’ll just send me the bill. Nonetheless, I’m interested in trying it out and would like to receive the card. If I don’t receive the card by the end of next week I’ll give Liberty a call. 

On another note, we did receive membership cards for the SavNet program. The SavNet program provides discounts on prescription drugs and other healthcare services including dental, hearing, vision and chiropractic services. While this is not insurance, it does provide discounts when you present the cards at eligible providers. We’ve found most pharmacies in our area work with SavNet. Membership in SavNet is included in the $449 family monthly sharing amount.

There are two cards that Liberty sends to you – the Pharmacy Program and the Health Savings Program. To be clear, the Health Savings Program is not equivalent to the Health Savings Account. It is what is presented at participating dental, vision, hearing and chiropractic providers.

Within the last few days, my wife had to pick up a routine prescription at our local drugstore. I had not informed her we received the SavNet card yet so she paid for the prescription as a self-pay customer. She received a self-pay discount at the pharmacy and her cost, for this routine prescription, was approximately $15. We had done research prior to joining Liberty to understand what the unsubsidized cost would be for this prescription and this experience was in line with our expectations. It will be interesting to see what the cost is with the SavNet card. My wife said our cost for the prescription under our past plan was approximately $7-8.

We’ll let you know when we receive our Liberty Healthshare member card and if it means anything to our providers. Stay tuned.