Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Our Current View on Liberty as we Head into Annual Enrollment

If you’ve been following along you understand our logic behind switching to Liberty and have a sense for how things have gone thus far. With annual enrollment upon us it’s a good time to summarize our experience to date from a pros/cons perspective.

Pros:

The cost – our previous post outlined it well. We’ve saved thousands of dollars with Liberty as opposed to the least expensive plan we could find on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Exchange. Of course, it helps to be relatively healthy and not experience a lot of out of pocket costs, but from a premiums perspective, the savings are significant.

Increased freedom – okay, so maybe healthcare isn’t the area you want to choose to “buck the system”, but if we are being honest we like being a little different here. We are self-employed so maybe it’s natural we like systems that offer us greater freedom. It’s nice to not have to worry about being restricted to a specific doctor or healthcare system because of your insurance.

Friendliness – I won’t dwell on this point because I believe it’s highly variable but the people we’ve spoken to at Liberty have generally been friendly. While they might not have been able to solve all the inefficiency they generally had positive attitudes and we appreciated that.

Cons:

Our healthcare providers not working directly with Liberty – This has been the primary inefficiency we have experienced. Since we are recognized as self-pay customers we must pre-pay for medical appointments, go through an inevitable reconciliation of what we pre-paid vs. the actual cost, then submit a bill to Liberty. As we’ve clearly documented, navigating the back-office of a major medical provider is tedious at best.

Communication could use improvement – Once your bill is submitted we found that communication as to what is happening with your bill could be improved. This is probably not that difficult of a change. Instead of fairly ambiguous statuses provide a little more detail…or clearly explain what each of the statuses means. I’m sure this exists somewhere but it needs to be clearer to the customer. We had to call far to often to understand what was going on and in a couple cases, we learned they were waiting for something from us…but how were we to know.

Operational inefficiency – This relates closely to the previous point. Our gut feeling is that Liberty is a growing organization that is learning how to cope with a larger user base. A growing user base means interacting with more customers, more healthcare providers, having to process more bills, answer more questions – a higher degree of variation. Liberty has reported to members they are working to improve their billing processes with new systems, etc. and hopefully this will have a positive impact.

So, at this point, the million-dollar question: Would we recommend Liberty to someone asking? Here’s how we’d answer that:

Characteristics of people we’d recommend Liberty to:
Use a healthcare provider that will send bills directly to Liberty
Relatively healthy with no significant pre-existing conditions or medical needs
Have the cash flow to cover a 60-90 day lag in being reimbursed
Do not have a more affordable alternative
Open minded and can handle learning and some inefficiency to start

Characteristics of people we’d recommend looking for other alternatives:
Have a healthcare provider that treats you as self-pay and won’t send to Liberty
Have pre-existing conditions of significant/more frequent medical needs
Do not have the cash flow to cover a 60-90 day lag in being reimbursed
Have access to an affordable alternative


So are there any affordable alternatives to Liberty? Health insurance options are rapidly evolving with the current administration so it’s important to understand what is new for 2019. We can’t make an informed decision without understanding our options so our next few posts will preview how we are thinking about 2019. 

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