NAR’s health insurance marketplace is worth a look

Broker Notebook

Starting in January 2014, I will be getting my health insurance through an exchange.

For months, Minnesota’s health insurance exchange posted outrageously high sample rates on its site. I kept trying to look away, but could not.

Health care image via Shutterstock.
Health care image via Shutterstock.

I’ve been carrying this fear in the pit of my stomach, because I know what it is like to spend more on health insurance each month than on housing.

It seems like the news media and politicians have done everything they can to keep me worried about the arrival of “Obamacare.”

I have listened to scary news stories for months about how bad Obamacare is going to be for everyone. The state exchange has not helped alleviate those fears, publishing super-high and inaccurate sample numbers on the MNsure.org website.

Friends who work for insurance companies assured me that my current, somewhat affordable health insurance plan — which carries a large deductible and provides little actual health care — would go away at the end of the year, and be replaced with a much more expensive plan next year.

It took a lot of effort on my part to prove that I was healthy enough to qualify for the health insurance that I currently have, and I really don’t want to lose it.

At this point, I really don't know if my health insurance costs will go up or down, or if I will get more health care or less, when Obamacare takes effect.

A couple of weeks ago I got a notice from my insurance provider stating that the plan I am on will not be grandfathered in, and will cease to exist when the new laws take effect in January.

It’s scary, but at least this time around I cannot be turned down for health insurance. It doesn’t look like I will have to have a bunch of painful, invasive and costly tests to prove that I am healthy enough to be insured. But I still wonder how many houses a year I’ll have to sell to pay for it.

Group health insurance is a good thing, but it also holds people hostage. They are often afraid to leave a job they hate because they fear that they will not be able to afford health insurance. Working in a job they hate every day takes a toll on their health.

Here in the U.S., we spend more for health care for outcomes that are not that great compared to other first-world countries. We don’t live as long, and we are not as healthy. We just pay more.

According to the National Association of Realtors, as many as 25 percent of real estate agents lack health insurance. I think that estimate is conservative.

Uninsured Realtors have died after not seeking medical treatment because they had no insurance. Others have found themselves facing medical bills that will take them years to pay off. It’s an issue everyone who’s self-employed must face, especially those of us who are single.

NAR has set up a health insurance marketplace for members, and the rates and insurance plans are the best and most affordable I’ve seen so far.

Like real estate, health insurance is local. NAR members who need to get insurance through a healthcare exchange should take a look. It’s called the “Realtors Health Insurance Marketplace.”

Health insurance was never really optional, at least not for those of us who have families and assets to protect. Those of us with health insurance are still just one major medical problem away from financial oblivion, after co-payments and deductibles. But those without health insurance are only a hangnail away from bankruptcy.

The Minnesota health insurance exchange website has posted some new sample rates, for each of nine regions in the state, broken down by age group. Rates for 25-, 40- and 60-year-olds, and families of four, are provided.

The Minnesota rates, which vary according to the level of coverage desired, look to be a little more reasonable than the previously published sample rates. But we still have to wait until Oct. 1 to see what the real rates will be. I plan to compare those rates with the rates and plans offered through the NAR marketplace.

Being self-employed is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It is sad that some folks are too afraid to try it because they are afraid of losing their health insurance.

I honestly think the world would be a better place if more people could follow their dreams and were not held hostage by health insurance. Sometimes I think employer group health insurance is an elaborate scheme to keep people working in jobs they don’t like.

At this point, I really don’t know if my health insurance costs will go up or down, or if I will get more health care or less, when Obamacare takes effect.

I do know that businesses hate the new laws regarding health insurance, and some folks seem to think the world as we know it will come to an end after the new laws kick in.

Personally, I am on the fence. Some consider Obamacare to be a train wreck. But no one is denying that our current system is broken.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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