4 Ways Employers can Prepare for Healthcare Changes

With all the proposed changes coming to healthcare. Take a look at this article by Mark Johnson from Employee Benefit News and see what you can do to prepare yourself and your employees for that call the changes coming to healthcare.

The new healthcare bill, revealed by U.S. Senate Republicans Thursday, could bring significant changes to organizations and their employees. Granted, there’s a long way to go before any Obamacare replacement legislation is signed. But health insurance is a complex component of running any business, and it’s important that employers start preparing for what might come.

Here are four actions items employers should be addressing now.

1. Create a roadmap. A compliance calendar is a helpful tool in identifying major deadlines. Employers are legally obligated to share health insurance and benefits updates with their employees by certain dates. Employees must be given reasonable notice — typically 30 days prior — of a major change in policy. There will likely be a set date for compliance and specific instructions around notice requirements that accompany the new legislation.

One step to compliance is adhering to benefit notice requirements. Benefit notices (i.e., HIPAA, COBRA, Summary Plan Descriptions, Special Health Care Notices, Health Care Reform, Form 5500 and others) vary by the size of the organization. Other steps can be more involved, such as required changes to plan design (e.g., copays, deductibles and coinsurance), types of services covered and annual and lifetime maximums, among others. Create a compliance calendar that reflects old and new healthcare benefit requirements so you can stay on track.

2. Rally the troops. Managing healthcare compliance spans several departments. Assemble key external and internal stakeholders by department, including HR, finance, payroll and IT.

Update the team on potential changes as healthcare legislation makes its way through Congress so they can prepare and be ready to execute should a new bill be signed. HR is responsible for communicating changes to employees and providing them with information on their plan and benefits. Finance needs to evaluate how changes in the plan will affect the company’s bottom line. Payroll must be aware of how much of an employee’s check to allocate to health insurance each month. In addition, payroll and Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) are used to track and monitor changes in employee population, which helps employers determine benefit notice and compliance requirements. All departments need to be informed of the modified health insurance plan as soon as possible and on the same page.

3. Get connected. It’s essential to verify information as it’s released, via newsletters, seminars, healthcare carriers, payroll vendors and consultants. These resources can help employers navigate the evolving healthcare landscape. Knowledge of changes will empower an organization to handle them effectively.

4. Evaluate partnerships. There’s no better time for employers to examine their current partners, from an insurance consultant or broker to the accounting firm and legal counsel. An employer’s insurance consultant should be a trusted adviser in working on budgeting and benchmarking the company plan, administering benefits, evaluating plan performance and reporting outcomes. Finding an insurance solution that meets a company’s business goals, as well as its employee’s needs, can be accomplished with a knowledgeable, experienced insurance partner.

Staying ahead of healthcare changes is essential for organizations to have a smooth transition to an updated healthcare plan. Strategic planning, communication among departments and establishing the right partnerships are key. Employers must be proactive in addressing healthcare changes so they are ready when the time comes.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Johnson M. (2017 June 23). 4 ways employers can prepare for healthcare changes [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/5-ways-employers-can-prepare-for-healthcare-changes


Employees Aren't so Sure About Their Benefits Options

Are your employees having a hard time understanding all the benefits that are offered to them? Take a look at this article by Katie Kuehner-Hebert from Benefits Pro and find out the major questions that most employees seem to have about their employee benefits.

Employers have a conundrum: One-fifth of workers regret the health care benefit choices they make, but the same percentage of workers also concede they ignore any written educational materials about benefits their employers provided.

To make matters worse, according to Jellyvision’s 2017 ALEX Benefits Communication Survey, two-thirds don’t like in-person consultations -- not even if it’s within a group or one-on-one with a benefits expert.

So what’s an employer to do?

“The challenge is most people don’t want  ‘education’ on these topics,” says Jellyvision chief executive Amanda Lannert. “No one wakes up with a burning desire to learn about HDHPs. In our experience, people respond best to plain-English communication that feels like they’re talking about benefits with a friend -- if benefits were a thing friends ever talked about.”

The good news is 82 percent of the 2,043 U.S. adults surveyed by Harris Poll say they’re satisfied with their employer’s benefits communication, and 86 percent feel their company has provided them with enough information to make informed decisions. A majority (69 percent) say they personally have spent either “a great deal” or “a lot” of time learning about their company’s benefits offerings.

However, while 89 percent say they generally understand their benefit options, more than a few aren’t too sure about all of the details.

For example, only 59 percent are correct in identifying the full cost of their health care plan, including their contribution and their employer’s contribution, and half (50 percent) say they are not knowledgeable about high-deductible health plans. More than half (54 percent) are unsure whether they can make changes to their insurance during qualified life events, and 43 percent are unclear on where to direct their health insurance questions.

“We think the number one biggest take-away of this entire survey is… employees want your help when choosing their health plans,” the authors write.

Indeed, more than half (55 percent) of all employees whose company offers health insurance say they would like help from their employer when choosing a health plan. Roughly half (49 percent) say the decision-making process is very stressful, and 36 percent feel the open enrollment process at their company is extremely confusing.

Jellyvision’s survey asked respondents to react to a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, particularly as it relates to employer-provided health insurance plans, and found a majority (61 percent) don’t think a repeal would affect them personally.

When asked about keeping certain provisions of the ACA, 80 percent say it’s “absolutely essential” or “very important” to keep coverage of preexisting conditions, 78 percent say that about free preventative care, and 67 percent say that about coverage of adult children up to age 26.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kuehner-Hebert K. (2017 June 22). Employees aren't so sure about their benefits options [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/22/employees-arent-so-sure-about-their-benefits-optio


2018 Amounts for HSAs; Retroactive Medicare Coverage Effect on Contributions

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla.

IRS Releases 2018 Amounts for HSAs

The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2017-37 that sets the dollar limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2018.

For calendar year 2018, the annual contribution limit for an individual with self-only coverage under an HDHP is $3,450, and the annual contribution limit for an individual with family coverage under an HDHP is $6,900. How much should an employer contribute to an HSA? Read our latest news release for information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans.

For calendar year 2018, a "high deductible health plan" is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage.

Retroactive Medicare Coverage Effect on HSA Contributions

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released a letter regarding retroactive Medicare coverage and health savings account (HSA) contributions.

As background, Medicare Part A coverage begins the month an individual turns age 65, provided the individual files an application for Medicare Part A (or for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits) within six months of the month in which the individual turns age 65. If the individual files an application more than six months after turning age 65, Medicare Part A coverage will be retroactive for six months.

Individuals who delayed applying for Medicare and were later covered by Medicare retroactively to the month they turned 65 (or six months, if later) cannot make contributions to the HSA for the period of retroactive coverage. There are no exceptions to this rule.

However, if they contributed to an HSA during the months that were retroactively covered by Medicare and, as a result, had contributions in excess of the annual limitation, they may withdraw the excess contributions (and any net income attributable to the excess contribution) from the HSA.

They can make the withdrawal without penalty if they do so by the due date for the return (with extensions). Further, an individual generally may withdraw amounts from an HSA after reaching Medicare eligibility age without penalty. (However, the individual must include both types of withdrawals in income for federal tax purposes to the extent the amounts were previously excluded from taxable income.)

If an excess contribution is not withdrawn by the due date of the federal tax return for the taxable year, it is subject to an excise tax under the Internal Revenue Code. This tax is intended to recapture the benefits of any tax-free earning on the excess contribution.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 June 8). 2018 amounts for HSAs; retroactive medicare coverage effect on contributions  [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/2018-amounts-for-hsas-retroactive-medicare-coverage-effect-on-contributions


Rising Healthcare Costs Hurting Retirement Contributions

The rising costs of healthcare are starting to have a negative impact on employees. Find out how employees are having trouble saving for their retirement thanks to the rise of healthcare costs in the interesting article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit News.

Rising healthcare costs have had a dramatic impact on the ability of workers to save for retirement and other financial goals.

The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report finds that of the workers who have experienced rising healthcare costs, more than half say they are contributing less to their financial goals as a result, including more than six in 10 who say they are saving less for retirement.

What’s more, financial stress also is playing a big role in employee physical health with nearly six in 10 employees saying it has had a negative impact on their physical well-being. This stress weighs most heavily on millennials at 68%, compared with baby boomers at 51%, according to the research.

Because of these dire statistics, more and more employees are looking to their employer to help them through financial challenges.

“We spend a lot of our waking time working and a lot of our finances are made up of the compensation and benefits our employer provides,” says Sylvie Feast, director of financial guidance services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “[Employer’s] healthcare and 401(k) plans are really valued by employees. I don’t think it’s surprising that they are looking to their employer that provides essential benefits to help provide access to ways to better manage their finances.”

And because employers offer healthcare and retirement benefits, it isn’t a stretch for workers to expect their employers to offer financial wellness as a benefit as well, Feast says.

“There’s no silver bullet, but a continuing evolution of trying new things to see what works and has an impact with the workforce,” Feast says. “Culture has something to do with it.”

Online tools, educational content, professional seminars in the workplace and personal consultations can be especially effective offerings, Feast says, adding that those options can help employees get more comfortable talking about their finances at work and at home with their family.

“People are pretty private about their finances,” Feast says. “I think there’s this access the employer needs to provide, but there also needs to be an arms-length distance so it is not the employer delivering it.”

Retirement savings is the area most workers want help with, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s survey. More than half of baby boomers (54% ), 53% of Generation X and 43% of millennials say they need help saving for retirement, with 50% of all respondents ranking it as their No. 1 financial issue.

For millennials, good general savings habits and paying down debt were their next most important financial priorities. For Generation X, paying down debt, good general savings habits and budgeting all tied for second, and for baby boomers, planning for healthcare costs and paying down debt were their next biggest financial priorities.

Eighty-six percent of employees surveyed say they would participate in a financial education program provided by their employer, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Financial education is a slow, but worthy process, Feast says.

“People don’t just automatically start to show an immediate impact to their behavior,” she says. But, “if [employees] take steps, [they] will start to gain control and get more confidence.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 June 7). Rising healthcare costs hurting retirement contributions [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/rising-healthcare-costs-hurting-retirement-contributions


Millennials Lead Generational Split on Health Benefits

Did you know that millennial employees are more likely to focus on the benefits and costs associated with their healthcare plans compared to older employees? Take a look at this article by Amanda Eisenberg from Employee Benefit Adviser on why millennials are so much more involved with their healthcare plans.

Millennials are more likely to partake in cost-saving healthcare decisions than their older counterparts, according to new analysis from EBRI.

Employees born in 1977 or later, the millennial age range in this analysis, are well informed about their health plan and report higher levels of satisfaction with the health plan choices and financial aspects of their health plans than baby boomers and Gen Xers, according to the 2017 “Consumer Engagement in Health Care and Choice of Health Plan” report.

Millennials also are more likely to ask for a generic instead of a brand name drug (47%), develop a budget to manage healthcare expenses (35%) and check whether the health plan would cover care or medication (57%) compared to Generation X or baby boomers, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan research institute based in Washington, D.C.

Paul Fronstin, co-author of the study, attributed the generational attitude differences to the frequency employees interact with the health system and familiarity with technology.

“Older people are not used to using tools like online calculators to figure out health costs,” says EBRI’s director of health research and education program.

On the other hand, older generations have more experience buying and using healthcare than millennials, who are unlikely to contact cancer, heart disease and other illnesses that generally plague middle-aged and older employees, says Fronstin.

“It may be less stressful to pick the wrong plan and it may be coming out in [millennials’] attitudes,” he says. “Millennial attitudes could easily change as they get older and use more healthcare.”

The data comes from a 2015 poll of polled 3,590 adults between the ages of 21 and 64 who had health insurance provided through an employer (82%), purchased directly from a carrier or purchased through a government exchange.

The data, while two years old, doesn’t change the underlying attitudes toward healthcare options and costs, says Fronstin.

Yet determining those attitudes and a corresponding benefits plan is a major struggle for employers, he says.

Baby boomers and millennials “are both big segments of the population that most employers rely on,” Fronstin says. “You’ve got different groups here. If you want to be as effective as possible and get the most productivity, you need to understand where they’re coming from.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Eisenberg A. (2017 May 29). Millennials lead generational split on health benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/millennials-lead-generational-split-on-health-benefits?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


How the Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) Could Affect Coverage and Premiums for Older Adults

The Senate is on the verge of voting for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) a new replacement to the ACA. Find out how the passing of the BCRA will impact older Americans and their healthcare in this informative article by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), adults in their 50s and early 60s were arguably most at risk in the private health insurance market. They were more likely than younger adults to be diagnosed with certain conditions, like cancer and diabetes, for which insurers denied coverage. They were also more likely to face unaffordable premiums because insurers had broad latitude (in nearly all states) to set high premiums for older and sicker enrollees.

The ACA included several provisions that aimed to address problems older adults faced in finding more affordable health insurance coverage, including guaranteed access to insurance, limits on age rating, and a prohibition on premium surcharges for people with pre-existing conditions. Following passage of a bill to repeal and replace the ACA in the House of Representatives on May 4, 2017, the Senate has released a discussion draft of its proposal, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) on June 26, 2017, that follows a somewhat different approach.

The Senate BCRA discussion draft would make a number of changes to current law that would result in an increase of four million 50-64-year-olds without health insurance in 2026, according to CBO’s analysis.

The Senate proposal would disproportionately affect low-income older adults with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL): three of the four million 50-64-year-olds projected to lose health insurance in 2026 would be low-income. CBO projects the uninsured rate for low-income older adults would rise from 11% under current law to 26% under the BCRA by 2026.

The increase in the number and share of uninsured older adults would be due to several changes made by the BCRA to private health insurance market rules and subsidies, as well as changes to the Medicaid program.

CHANGES AFFECTING PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE

Age Bands. Under current law, insurers are prohibited from charging older adults more than 3-times the premium amount for younger adults. The Senate bill would allow insurers to charge older adults five-times more than younger adults, beginning in 2019. States would have flexibility to establish different age bands (broader or narrower). CBO estimates that age rating would increase premiums significantly for plans at all metal levels for older adults. The impact of age rating would be such that, for a 64-year-old, the national average premium for an unsubsidized bronze plan in 2026 would increase from $12,900 (current law) to $16,000 (BCRA). The wider age bands permitted under the BCRA would result in higher premiums for an unsubsidized bronze plan than the premium for an unsubsidized silver plan under the current law age-rating standard.

Tax Credits. The Senate’s BCRA makes three key changes affecting premium tax credits for people in the non-group insurance market. First, it changes the income eligibility for tax credits, extending eligibility to people with income below the FPL but capping eligibility at income of 350% FPL. Under current law, income eligibility for tax credits is 100%-400% FPL. This change has the effect of reducing premiums for people with incomes below poverty in the marketplace who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid (discussed further below) while increasing premiums for people with incomes between 350%-400% FPL.

Second, BCRA changes the level of subsidy for people based on age. Under both current law and the BCRA, individuals must pay a required contribution amount, based on income, toward the cost of a benchmark plan; the premium tax credit equals the difference between the cost of the benchmark plan and the required individual contribution. Under current law, the required contribution rate is the same for all people at the same income level regardless of age. However, under the BCRA, the required contribution amount would increase with age for people with an income above 150% FPL. For example, under current law, at 350% FPL, individuals are required to contribute the same percentage of income toward the benchmark plan, regardless of age (9.69% in 2017). Under the BCRA, starting in 2020, a 24-year-old would contribute about 6.4% of income, while a 60-year-old would have to contribute 16.2% of income.1

Third, the Senate proposal reduces the value of the benchmark plan used to determine premium tax credits from a more generous silver-level plan (under current law) to the equivalent of a bronze plan (under BCRA). Deductibles under bronze plans are much higher than under silver plans (in 2017, on average, $6,105 for bronze plans vs. $3,609 for silver plans). Under current law, silver plan deductibles are further reduced by cost-sharing subsidies for eligible individuals with incomes below 250% FPL (on average to $255, $809, or $2,904, depending on income). The BCRA eliminates cost-sharing subsidies starting in 2020. As a result, people using tax credits to buy a “benchmark” bronze plan would face significantly higher deductibles under the Senate proposal than under current law.

For older adults with income above the poverty level, the combined impact of these changes would be to increase the out-of-pocket cost for premiums at all income levels. For example, a 64-year old with an income of $26,500 would see premiums increase by $4,800 on average for a silver plan in 2026; a 64-year old with an income of $56,800 could see premiums increase of $13,700 in 2026, according to CBO.

Premium tax credits under the BCRA would continue to be based on the cost of a local benchmark policy, so results would vary geographically. Older adults living in higher cost areas could see greater dollar increases, while people living in lower cost areas could see lower increases.

For a bronze plan, the national average premium expense for a 64-year old could increase by $2,000 for an individual with an income of $26,500 in 2026 and by as much as $11,600 for an older adult with $56,800 in income.

Under current law, people with income below 100% FPL generally are not eligible for premium tax credits. The ACA extended Medicaid eligibility to adults below 138% FPL, but the Supreme Court subsequently ruled the expansion is a state option. To date 19 states have not elected the Medicaid expansion, leaving 2.6 millionuninsured low-income adults in this coverage gap.

For older adults with income below 100% FPL who are not eligible for Medicaid, CBO estimates the extension of premium tax credit eligibility will significantly reduce the net premium expense for a 64-year-old in 2026 relative to current law (e.g., by more than $12,000 for an individual at 75% FPL).

However, CBO estimates that few low-income people would purchase any plan. Even with relatively low premiums, older adults with very low incomes may choose to go without coverage due to relatively high, unaffordable deductibles. For example, an individual with an income of $11,400 (75% FPL) who is not eligible for Medicaid, would pay $300 in premiums in 2026 under BCRA but face a deductible in excess of $6,000 – which amounts to more than half of his or her income that year.

On average, 55-64 year-olds would pay 115% higher premiums for a silver plan in 2020 under the BCRA after taking tax credits into account. Low-income 55-64-year-olds would pay 294% higher premiums relative to current law.

CHANGES TO MEDICAID

Changes to Medicaid proposed in the Senate bill also contribute to the increase in the projected increase in the number of uninsured older adults nationwide. The BCRA would limit federal funds for states that have elected to expand coverage under Medicaid for low-income adults, phasing down the higher federal match for these expansion states over three years (2021-2023). This provision, coupled with a new cap on the growth in federal Medicaid funding over time on a per capita basis, would result in an estimated 15 million people losing Medicaid coverage by 2026 according to CBO, some of whom are counted among the four million older adults projected to lose health insurance under the BCRA, shown in Figure 1. In 2013, about 6.5 million 50-64-year-olds relied on Medicaid for their health insurance coverage, a number that has likely increased due to the Medicaid expansion.2 Since 2013, Medicaid enrollment overall has grown by nearly 30%.

IMPACT ON OLDER ADULTS ON MEDICARE

The loss of coverage for adults in their 50s and early 60s could have ripple effects for Medicare, a possibility that has received little attention. If the BCRA results in a loss of health insurance for a meaningful number of people in their late 50s and early 60s, as CBO projects, there is good reason to believe that people who lose insurance will delay care, if they can, until they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, and then use more services once on Medicare. This could cause Medicare spending to increase, which would lead to increases in Medicare premiums and cost-sharing requirements.3

The proposed BCRA changes to Medicaid are also expected to affect benefits and coverage for older, low-income adults on Medicare. Today, 11 million low-income people on Medicare have supplemental coverage under Medicaid that helps cover the cost of Medicare’s premiums and cost-sharing requirements, and the cost of services not covered by Medicare, such as nursing home and home- and community-based long-term services and supports. The BCRA reduces the trajectory of Medicaid spending, with new caps on the growth of benefit spending per person; these constraints are expected to put new fiscal pressure on states to control costs that could ultimately affect coverage and benefits available to low-income people on Medicare. Under the BCRA, the growth in Medicaid per capita spending for elderly and disabled beneficiaries is dialed down to a slower growth rate, from CPI-M+1 to CPI-U beginning in 2025, below currently projected growth rates, just as the first of the Boomer generation reaches their 80s and is more likely to need Medicaid-funded long-term services and supports.

DISCUSSION

The Senate bill to repeal and replace the ACA, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), if enacted, would be expected to result in an increase of four million uninsured 50-64-year olds in 2026, relative to current law. The increase is due to a number of factors, including higher premiums at virtually all income levels for older adults, potentially unaffordable deductibles for older adults with very low incomes, , and reductions in coverage under Medicaid. Reductions in coverage could have unanticipated spillover effects for Medicare in the form of higher premiums and cost sharing, if pre-65 adults need more services when they age on to Medicare as a result of being uninsured beforehand. The BCRA would also impose new, permanent caps on Medicaid spending which could affect coverage and costs for low-income people on Medicare.

Other changes in BCRA will affect Medicare directly. The BCRA would repeal the Medicare payroll tax imposed on high earners included in the ACA. This provision, according to CMS, will accelerate the insolvency of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and put the financing of future Medicare benefits at greater risk for current and future generations of older adults – another factor to consider as this debate moves forward.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Nueman T., Pollitz K., Levitt L. (2017 June 29). How the senate better care reconciliation act (BCRA) could affect coverage and premiums for older adults [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/how-the-senate-better-care-reconciliation-act-bcra-could-affect-coverage-and-premiums-for-older-adults/


Coverage Losses by State for the Senate Health Care Repeal Bill

The Congressional Budget Office has just released its score on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).  Find out how each state will be impacted by the implementation of BCRA  in this great article by Emily Gee from the Center for American Progress.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its score of the Senate’s health care repeal plan, showing that the bill would eliminate coverage for 15 million Americans next year and for 22 million by 2026. The CBO projects that the Senate bill would slash Medicaid funding by $772 billion over the next decade; increase individual market premiums by 20 percent next year; and make comprehensive coverage “extremely expensive” in some markets.

The score, released by Congress’ nonpartisan budget agency, comes amid an otherwise secretive process of drafting and dealmaking by Senate Republicans. Unlike the Senate’s consideration of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which involved dozens of public hearings and roundtables plus weeks of debate, Senate Republican leadership released the first public draft of its Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) just days before it hopes to hold a vote.

The Center for American Progress has estimated how many Americans would lose coverage by state and congressional district based on the CBO’s projections. By 2026, on average, about 50,500 fewer people will have coverage in each congressional district. Table 1 provides estimates by state, and a spreadsheet of estimates by state and district can be downloaded at the end of this column.

The coverage losses under the BCRA would be concentrated in the Medicaid program, but the level of private coverage would also drop compared to the current law. The CBO projects that, by 2026, there will be 15 million fewer people with Medicaid coverage and 7 million fewer with individual market coverage. Our Medicaid numbers reflect that states that have expanded their programs under the ACA would see federal funding drop starting in 2021 and that the bill would discourage expansion among states that would otherwise have done so in the future.

Like the House’s repeal bill, the Senate’s version contains a provision allowing states to waive the requirement that plans cover essential health benefits (EHB). The CBO predicts that half of the population would live in waiver states under the Senate bill. The CBO did not specify which states it believes are most likely to secure waivers; therefore, we did not impose any assumptions about which individual states would receive waivers in our estimates. Even though the demographic composition of coverage losses would differ among waiver and nonwaiver states, for this analysis we assume that all states’ individual markets would shrink.

CBO expects that state waivers could put coverage for maternity care, mental health care, and high-cost prescription drugs “at risk.” CBO projects that “all insurance in the nongroup market would become very expensive for at least a short period of time for a small fraction of the population residing in areas in which states’ implementation of waivers with major changes caused market disruption.” Note that health insurance experts have noted that in addition to directly lowering standards for individual market coverage, waivers would also indirectly subject people in employer coverage to annual and lifetime limits on benefits.

The CBO’s score lists multiple reasons why out-of-pocket costs for individual market enrollees would rise under the bill. One reason is that bill’s changes to premium subsidies means that most people would end up buying coverage resembling bronze-level plans, which today typically have annual deductibles of $6,000. In addition, EHB waivers would force enrollees who could not afford supplemental coverage for non-covered benefits out of pocket while also allowing issuers to set limits on coverage.

In summary, the CBO projects that the effects of the Senate bill would be largely similar to those of the house bill: tens of millions of people would no longer have coverage, and those who remained insured see the quality of their coverage erode substantially. In just a few days, the Senate will vote to turn these dire projections into reality.

Methodology

Our estimates of coverage reductions follow the same methodology we used previously for the House’s  health care repeal bill. We combine the CBO’s projected national net effects of the House-passed bill on coverage with state and local data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census, and administrative data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia redrew their district boundaries prior to the 2016 elections. While the rest of our data uses census estimates corresponding to congressional districts for the 114th Congress, we instead used county-level data from the 2015 five-year American Community Survey to determine the geographic distribution of the population by insurance type in these three states. We matched county data to congressional districts for the 115th Congress using a geographic crosswalk file provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Our estimates of reductions in Medicaid by district required a number of assumptions. CBO projected that a total 15 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage by 2026 under the Senate bill: 5 million fewer would be covered by additional Medicaid expansion in new states, and 10 million fewer would have Medicaid coverage in current expansion states and among pre-ACA eligibility groups in all states. The CBO projected that, under the ACA, additional Medicaid expansion would increase the proportion of the newly eligible population residing in expansion states from 50 percent to 80 percent by 2026. It projected that just 30 percent of the newly eligible population would be in expansion states. Extrapolating from the CBO’s numbers, we estimate the Senate bill results in a Medicaid coverage reduction of 3.3 million enrollees in current expansion states by 2026.

We then assume the remaining 6.7 million people who would lose Medicaid coverage are from the program’s pre-ACA eligibility categories: low-income adults, low-income children, the aged, and disabled individuals. We used enrollment tables published by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission (MACPAC) to determine total state enrollment and each eligibility category’s share of the total, and we assumed that only some of the disabled were nonelderly. We then divided state totals among districts according to each’s Medicaid enrollment in the American Community Survey. Because each of the major nonexpansion categories is subject to per capita caps under the bill, we reduced enrollment in all by the same percentage.

Because we do not know which individual states would participate in Medicaid expansion in 2026 in either scenario, our estimates give nonexpansion states the average effect of forgone expansion and all expansion states the average effect of rolling back eligibility. We divided the 5 million enrollment reduction due to forgone expansion among nonexpansion states’ districts proportionally by the number of low-income uninsured. We made each expansion state’s share of that 3.3 million proportional to its Medicaid expansion enrollment in its most recent CMS report and then allocated state totals to districts proportional to the increase in nonelderly adult enrollment between 2013 and 2015. For Louisiana, which recently expanded Medicaid, we took our statewide total from state data and allocated to districts by the number of low-income uninsured adults.

Medicaid covers seniors who qualify as aged or disabled. Although the CBO did not specify the Medicaid coverage reduction that would occur among seniors under per capita caps, applying to elderly enrollees the same percentage reduction we calculated for nonexpansion Medicaid enrollees implies that 900,000 could lose Medicaid.

Lastly, our estimates of the reduction in exchange, the Basic Health Plan, and other nongroup coverage are proportional to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s estimates of exchange enrollment by congressional district. The House bill reduces enrollment in nongroup coverage, including the exchanges, by 7 million relative to the ACA. To apportion this coverage loss among congressional districts, we assumed that the coverage losses would be largest in areas with higher ACA exchange enrollment and in states where we estimated the average cost per enrollee would increase most under an earlier version of the AHCA.

The CBO projects that the net reduction in coverage for the two categories of employer-sponsored insurance and “other coverage” would be between zero and 500,000 people in 2026. We did not include these categories in our estimates.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gee E. (2017 June 27). Coverage losses by state for the senate health care repeal bill [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/news/2017/06/27/435112/coverage-losses-state-senate-health-care-repeal-bill/


Well-Being Strategies for a Diverse Workforce, Building Value at an Individual Level

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Lindsay Simpson.

Your organization has 312 employees, which means you have 312 different needs for well-being support. Well-being strategies should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Developing a set of flexible and responsive well-being strategies that meet changing individual needs throughout an employee’s tenure is a critical way to both attract and retain talent. A few case studies to illustrate:

Jordan is serving in an entry-level position. This single, gender fluid, 20-something is eager to learn and grow. In conversations with HR, Jordan has also indicated a high level of overall stress due to a burdensome education loan and is barely able to make loan payments on top of rent and other monthly expenses. Jordan’s outlook on saving for retirement is grim. At the same time, they are an active member of the local young professional network and keeps fit while playing in a competitive Ultimate league.

Anvi has been in an executive leadership role with the organization for seven years. She is a gifted and valued trailblazer who keeps the organization nimble in a climate of constant change. Despite spending long hours at work, her colleagues know little about Anvi’s family and personal life, as she is rather private. From time to time though, Anvi demonstrates affection for her team by sharing artfully created meals that illustrate her diverse cooking skills and interests.

Mark has been a dedicated, career-long, mid-level employee in accounting. Although lately he shows declining interest in his once-beloved work. Colleagues have noticed in Mark a new tendency to decline offers to share lunch or coffee breaks. Last year, Mark led the company volunteerism committee, but has recused himself from this duty, citing a conflict of interest with his role as a finance officer for a local non-profit organization.

Each of these individuals show up to the workplace with a unique set of values, talents, beliefs, interests, and resources. At the same time, all employees benefit from a workplace culture that attends to each person’s sense of purpose, plus physical, social, financial and community well-being. It can be a daunting challenge to meet such diverse needs and interests, which is why we must build programs and policies with employees, listening to what they want and seeking out ways to efficiently design a system of supports. The first step to any thoughtful program is to conduct a needs assessment. Turn up the volume on your curiosity and lead with the question: What do employees want? Consider gathering responses by survey, current HR data sources, and focus groups. Be sure to gather demographic information that will help segment the findings. The results may confirm your beliefs about employee wishes or reveal interesting surprises, as noted in this example.

In a 2015 survey of 1,647 folks across 11 diverse organizations, the American Institute of Preventative Medicine found the following:

  • Incentive strategies: Almost unanimously, employees favored reduced health insurance premium (34 percent) and cash (25 percent) as incentives to get healthier. However, 53 percent of those age 70 and older noted they do not need an incentive to be healthier.
  • Well-being topics of interest: Nutrition (78 percent) and physical activity (77 percent) topics were of highest interest by those age 18 to 69. These same age groups also favored stress management topics more than colleagues age 70 and older. Moderate interest in depression was common among all age groups, and all age groups showed the least interest in tobacco cessation. Compared with colleagues of older age groups, the youngest cohort (18 to 24) indicated high interest in sleep enhancement.
  • Program offerings: All age groups favored health risk assessments (26 percent) and health challenges (25 percent) over other well-being program offerings. Furthermore, older groups (50 to 69 and 70 and older) prefer in-person educational seminars, and younger employees (18 to 24) were more likely to engage in weight loss programs.
  • Fitness devices: The oldest individuals were more likely than all younger individuals to report owning a personal fitness tracking device such as a Fitbit or pedometer, 40 percent age 70 and older, 37 percent age 50 to 69, 31 percent age 33 to 49, 29 percent age 25 to 32, and 17 percent age 18 to 24.

A small-scale needs and interest study like this can challenge our biases about certain groups within our employee population and reveal key details about the value employees hold for well-being programs. Results should inform design of a well-being strategy that accurately and cost-effectively meets a range of needs in the workplace. After all, “research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with purpose,” said Zora Neale Hurston. The pursuit of growing a cost-effective culture of well-being and individual value for programmatic supports will be more beneficial to organizational health than a hard measure of return on investment.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Simpson L. (2017 May 30). Well-being strategies for a diverse workforce, building value at an individual level [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/well-being-strategies-for-a-diverse-workforce-building-value-at-an-individual-level


Would States Eliminate Key Benefits if AHCA Waivers are Enacted?

If lower premiums were a possibility, would states actually enact waivers to exclude certain essential health benefits? Check out this article from the Kaiser Family Foundation to learn more about the possible result of giving states the power to use waivers when it comes to healthcare coverage.

As the debate over amending health insurance market rules continues, proponents of changing the law have proposed reducing the health benefits provided by non-group plans as a potential way to lower premiums in the market.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prescribes 10 categories of essential health benefits that non-group and small-group policies must cover, and provides in most cases that the scope of these benefits should be similar to those in employer group health plans, which cover most non-elderly Americans.  The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed the House of Representatives on May 5, would permit states to seek waivers to amend the required benefits if doing so would achieve one of several purposes, including lowering premiums.1  We look below at the benefits covered by non-group plans before the ACA as a possible indication of how states could respond to the waiver authority under the AHCA.

Background

The lack of coverage for benefits such as maternity and mental health care in many nongroup plans, which was a frequent point of criticism when the ACA was debated, was one (but not the only) reason why non-group coverage was less expensive before the ACA was enacted.  In the pre-ACA market, certain benefits were excluded to make coverage more affordable and to guard against potential adverse selection by applicants with more predictable, chronic health care needs.  Even with the ability to medically screen applicants for non-group policies, some insurers excluded coverage for conditions such as mental health and substance abuse care unless states required that they be covered.

States determined coverage requirements for health insurance policies prior to the ACA.  A few states defined a standard benefit package to be offered by insurers in the nongroup market.  Most states adopted some mandates to cover or offer specific benefits or benefit categories – such as requirements for policies to cover maternity benefits or mental health treatments. In addition to deciding which categories of benefits must be included or offered, states might also specify a minimum level or scope of coverage; for example, a few states required that mental health benefits have similar cost sharing and limits as other outpatient services (sometimes called parity).

Pre-ACA non-group plans varied considerably in scope and comprehensiveness of coverage, with some plans limiting benefit categories or putting caps on benefits, while others offered more comprehensive options.  For example, some plans did not cover prescriptions, others covered only generic medications or covered a broader range of medications subject to an annual cap, while still others covered a more complete range of medications.  This diversity was possible because insurers generally were able to decline applicants with pre-existing conditions, and could require their existing customers to pass screening if they wanted to upgrade to more comprehensive benefits.  This prevented applicants from selecting the level of coverage they wanted based on their known health conditions, but also prevented many people from being able to obtain non-group coverage at all.

To look more closely at the benefits provided in pre-ACA non-group plans, we analyzed data submitted by insurers for display on HealthCare.gov for the last quarter of 2013.  Beginning in 2010, insurers submitted information about their non-group plans to be displayed on HealthCare.gov; the data includes information on benefits, coverage levels for each benefit, benefit limits, premiums and cost sharing parameters, and enrollment.  We focus here on the benefits and benefit limits.  We use data from 2013 because it is the most current year prior to when the ACA’s major insurance market changes went into effect, provides more benefit categories than some earlier years, and has more information about benefit limits for each category.  We note, however, that the ACA prohibition on annual dollar limits took effect shortly after enactment and was phased in between 2010 and 2013, so these types of limits would likely not be reflected often in data we received. This means that our analysis likely misses some of the limits (for example, dollar limits on prescriptions) that existed in nongroup policies before the ACA was enacted.  We limit the analysis to plans where insurers report enrollment in the product upon which the plan is based.  Our methods are described in more detail in the appendix.

Results

The data include 8,343 unique plans across 50 states and the District of Columbia.  We looked at the percentage of plans that included coverage for major benefit categories.  Not surprisingly, all of the plans covered basic benefits such as inpatient hospital services, inpatient physician and surgical services, emergency room services, and imaging services, while virtually all (99%) covered outpatient physician/surgical services,  primary care visits, home health care services, and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services.

Certain other benefits, however, were covered much less often (Figure 1).  Large shares of plans did not provide coverage for inpatient or outpatient mental/behavioral health care services (38% each), inpatient or outpatient substance abuse disorder services (45% each), and delivery and inpatient care for maternity care (75%).2 In addition, 6% of plans did not provide coverage for generic drugs, 11% did not provide coverage for preferred brand drugs, 17% did not provide coverage for non-preferred brand drugs, and 13% did not provide coverage for specialty drugs.

Even when coverage was provided, some policies had meaningful limits or restrictions for certain benefits.  Mental/behavioral health care is a case in point.  Among plans with coverage for outpatient mental/behavioral health services, 23% limited benefits for some or all mental/behavioral services to fewer than 30 visits or sessions over a defined period (often a year) and 12% limited it to 12 or fewer.  A small share (about 5%) of plans providing coverage for outpatient mental/behavioral health services provided benefits only for conditions defined as severe mental disorders or biologically-based illnesses or applied limits (such as visit limits) if the illness was not defined as severe or biologically based.  The definitions of these terms varied by state.3

Similarly, for plans covering outpatient substance abuse disorder services, 22% limited the benefit to fewer than 30 visits or sessions; 12% limited it to 12 or fewer. In many of these plans, visits for either mental health or substance abuse care were combined to apply toward the same limit.

Among the relatively few plans that provided coverage for delivery and inpatient maternity care, a small share (3%) applied separate deductibles of at least $5,000 for maternity services and some plans (6%) applied a separate waiting period of at least year before benefits were available.  A few plans restricted benefits to enrollees enrolled in family coverage or required that the enrollee’s spouse also be enrolled.

Discussion

The ACA raised the range of benefits provided by non-group policies such that the benefits now offered by non-group plans are comparable to those offered in employer group plans.  The desire to lower non-group premiums, however, has led policymakers to consider allowing states to roll back the essential health benefits prescribed by the ACA.

Among the pre-ACA policies we reviewed, virtually all included benefits for certain services: hospital, physician, surgical, emergencies, imaging, and rehabilitation.  Other services were covered less often, including prescription drugs, mental/behavioral health care, substance abuse disorder care, and coverage for pregnancy and delivery.  This latter group of services all have some element of predictability or persistency that make them more subject to adverse selection. For example, many people use drug therapies over long periods and would be much more likely to select policies covering prescriptions than people who do not regularly use prescription drugs. If states were to drop any of these services from the list of essential health benefits for non-group plans, access to them could be significantly reduced.

The difficulty is that insurers would be very reluctant to offer some of these services unless they were required in all policies because people who need these benefits would disproportionately select policies covering them. In the pre-ACA market, insurers were able to offer products with different levels of benefits because they generally were able to control who could purchase them by medically screening new applicants.  Even existing customers faced medical screening if they wanted to change to a more comprehensive policy at renewal.  Through these practices, insurers were able to avoid the situation where people could choose cheaper policies when they were healthy and upgrade to better benefits when their health worsened. The proposed AHCA market rules, however, would not guard against this type of adverse selection, because people with pre-existing health conditions would be able to select any policy offered at a standard premium rate, and change their selection annually without incurring a penalty, as long as they maintained continuous coverage. This means that the range of benefits provided by insurers in states with essential health benefit waivers would likely be more limited than what insurers offered in the pre-ACA non-group market.  Benefit choice might be particularly limited in states that specify only a few benefits as essential.

It is hard to imagine that insurers would cover certain benefits if they were not required.  For example, some insurers before the ACA did not offer mental health benefits unless required by a state, even when they could medically screen all of the applicants.  And given the current problems with substance abuse in many communities, insurers would be reluctant to include coverage to treat them unless required. Offering these benefits as an option (for example, including them in some policies but not in others), would result in very high premiums for optional benefits because people who know they need them would be much more likely to choose them.

The AHCA presents state policymakers with a dilemma: they can reduce the essential health benefits to allow less expensive insurance options for their residents, but doing so may eliminate access to certain benefits for people who want and need them.

See original article Here.

Source:

Claxton, G., Pollitz, K., Semanskee, A., Levitt, L. (14 June 2017) Would States Eliminate Key Benefits if AHCA Waivers are Enacted? [Web Blog Post] Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/would-states-eliminate-key-benefits-if-ahca-waivers-are-enacted/


GOP’s Health Bill Could Undercut Some Coverage In Job-Based Insurance

Thanks to the legislation passed by the House, healthcare is on the verge of changing as we know it. Check out this interesting article by Michelle Andrews from Kaiser Health News on how these changes will affect Americans who get their healthcare through an employer.

This week, I answer questions about how the Republican proposal to overhaul the health law could affect job-based insurance and what the penalties for not having continuous coverage mean. Perhaps anticipating a spell of uninsurance, another reader wondered if people can rely on the emergency department for routine care.

Q: Will employer-based health care be affected by the new Republican plan?

The American Health Care Act that recently passed the House would fundamentally change the individual insurance market, and it could significantly alter coverage for people who get coverage through their employers too.

The bill would allow states to opt out of some of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, including no longer requiring plans sold on the individual market to cover 10 “essential health benefits,” such as hospitalization, drugs and maternity care.

Small businesses (generally companies with 50 or fewer employees) in those states would also be affected by the change.

Plans offered by large employers have never been required to cover the essential health benefits, so the bill wouldn’t change their obligations. Many of them, however, provide comprehensive coverage that includes many of these benefits.

But here’s where it gets tricky. The ACA placed caps on how much consumers can be required to pay out-of-pocket in deductibles, copays and coinsurance every year, and they apply to most plans, including large employer plans. In 2017, the spending limit is $7,150 for an individual plan and $14,300 for family coverage. Yet there’s a catch: The spending limits apply only to services covered by the essential health benefits. Insurers could charge people any amount for services deemed nonessential by the states.

Similarly, the law prohibits insurers from imposing lifetime or annual dollar limits on services — but only if those services are related to the essential health benefits.

In addition, if any single state weakened its essential health benefits requirements, it could affect large employer plans in every state, analysts say. That’s because these employers, who often operate in multiple states, are allowed to pick which state’s definition of essential health benefits they want to use in determining what counts toward consumer spending caps and annual and lifetime coverage limits.

“If you eliminate [the federal essential health benefits] requirement you could see a lot of state variation, and there could be an incentive for companies that are looking to save money to pick a state” with skimpier requirements, said Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Q: I keep hearing that nobody in the United States is ever refused medical care — that whether they can afford it or not a hospital can’t refuse them treatment. If this is the case, why couldn’t an uninsured person simply go to the front desk at the hospital and ask for treatment, which by law can’t be denied, such as, “I’m here for my annual physical, or for a screening colonoscopy”?

If you are having chest pains or you just sliced your hand open while carving a chicken, you can go to nearly any hospital with an emergency department, and — under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) — the staff is obligated to conduct a medical exam to see if you need emergency care. If so, they must try to stabilize your condition, whether or not you have insurance.

The key word here is “emergency.” If you’re due for a colonoscopy to screen for cancer, unless you have symptoms such as severe pain or rectal bleeding, emergency department personnel wouldn’t likely order the exam, said Dr. Jesse Pines, a professor of emergency medicine and health policy at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not the standard of care to do screening tests in the emergency department,” Pines said, noting in that situation the appropriate next step would be to refer you to a local gastroenterologist who could perform the exam.

Even though the law requires hospitals to evaluate anyone who comes in the door, being uninsured doesn’t let people off the hook financially. You’ll still likely get bills from the hospital and physicians for any care you receive, Pines said.

Q: The Republican proposal says people who don’t maintain “continuous coverage” would have to pay extra for their insurance. What does that mean? 

Under the bill passed by the House, people who have a break in their health insurance coverage of more than 63 days in a year would be hit with a 30 percent premium surcharge for a year after buying a new plan on the individual market.

In contrast, under the ACA’s “individual mandate,” people are required to have health insurance or pay a fine equal to the greater of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per adult. They’re allowed a break of no more than two continuous months every year before the penalty kicks in for the months they were without coverage.

The continuous coverage requirement is the Republicans’ preferred strategy to encourage people to get health insurance. But some analysts have questioned how effective it would be. They point out that, whereas the ACA penalizes people for not having insurance on an ongoing basis, the AHCA penalty kicks in only when people try to buy coverage after a break. It could actually discourage healthy people from getting back into the market unless they’re sick.

In addition, the AHCA penalty, which is based on a plan’s premium, would likely have a greater impact on older people, whose premiums are relatively higher, and those with lower incomes, said Sara Collins, a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, who authored an analysis of the impact of the penalties.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Andrews M. (2017 May 23). GOP's health bill could undercut some coverage in job-based insurance[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/gops-health-bill-could-undercut-some-coverage-in-job-based-insurance/