When the Kroger Express toll plaza opened in August 2011, it wasn’t the first of its kind in Illinois.
It was just the first in the state, and it was the first that didn’t charge a one-time surcharge on tolls.
The $2.50 fee was supposed to cover the tolls for one-way vehicles, but when drivers began using the kiosks to pay for goods like gas, the surcharge wasn’t necessary.
“It wasn’t a cost that we felt was necessary,” says Jennifer Eichner, the executive director of the Illinois Toll Plaza Association, which represents the state’s six toll companies.
“We felt that it would provide more revenue to the state.”
Eichners group, which has about 20 representatives representing companies like the Krogers, has been pushing to remove the surcharges since the beginning of the year.
The Kroger’s decision, along with a growing trend of companies offering discounts on health care expenses, led to a surge in businesses offering discounts for health care purposes, too.
And the push for more affordable health care has spurred a slew of companies to offer discounted rates.
“People want to pay their health care bill and be able to buy things with their money,” says Jason Lippman, vice president of corporate communications for the National Federation of Independent Business.
Lippmans group is one of several representing the state toll companies, which also include companies like Bank of America and American Express.
“They are getting very, very aggressive on lowering the rates, because they think it’s a good business model,” says Eichnser.
“So we are starting to see more businesses that are offering discounts and getting the health care discount.”
While companies like Kroger and American have been doing well with the health-care discounts, some of the state companies have struggled with their health-recovery strategies.
The Illinois Toll plaza has seen a surge of new health care providers, but the group is concerned about what that could mean for consumers.
“The health care industry is in a transitional period right now,” says Lippmann.
“I would say it’s really important that they continue to be aggressive and aggressive on the consumer side.
And it’s certainly not something that the state should be doing.”
And the trend is spreading.
The number of new firms offering health care discounts for consumers has jumped from 10 in 2016 to 30 so far in 2018, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
And those businesses have been taking advantage of a state law that allows them to lower their prices by up to 20% for all kinds of goods and services.
“These companies are really targeting consumers with a discount, and they are charging them a discount for a service they can’t get at a retail store,” says Laura M. Kopp, an analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“That’s the problem that they are running into.
The state is not doing enough to make sure that they have those resources to be able make that transition.”
Consumers who need help paying their health bills have a few options: Find a discount at a health insurance company, or negotiate one yourself.
While consumers can use their existing health insurance to pay, they also can negotiate a lower monthly premium or take advantage of discounted rates at other insurance companies.
For example, a company that offers a 20% discount on a policy that covers a portion of a patient’s health care costs could get more money from the government or from taxpayers by offering a lower premium, according for example to the American Medical Association.
Or, the same company could lower its monthly premium to cover a portion and then use a federal tax credit to get another $5 off its monthly bill.
But many people are finding that negotiating with a health insurer can be difficult, and there are several ways to do it.
If you don’t have health insurance, you can get an “affordable care card” from a company like Kaiser.
The card, which costs about $30, can be used at many health care sites, including Kaiser Permanente, Planned Parenthood and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.
For an extra $5, you could buy the card with money you already have on hand, or buy a discount card that can be activated with a credit card or other payment method.
Or you can sign up for a prepaid health plan from a major health insurer.
A prepaid health card is an insurance plan that has a pre-set rate, so you don.t have to pay out-of-pocket when you visit your doctor, nurse or other doctor.
In 2018, more than one million people used this option, and the number of people signing up for the plan grew from 1.3 million in 2017 to 2.4 million in 2018.
But while consumers can negotiate with insurance companies, many don’t.
That’s because insurance companies can charge more when they make out- of-pocket payments, says Kopp.
Some health insurers, like Blue