How Much Does The Procedure Cost?

The answer to that question will be a click away come January 1. Under a rule finalized by the Trump administration last week, hospitals will be required to post online a list of their standard charges. While hospitals are already required to make this information public on request, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the new requirement will “encourage price transparency” and bolster “public accessibility.” Hospitals will be mandated to update the information yearly.

HEALTHCARE

Best Unthrilled Health Insurers Expanding Investments
Health insurance companies are getting a bit risky with their investments and that’s not a great thing, according to a new report by A.M. Best. The Best’s Special Report “Health Insurance Companies Expanding Investment Options,” notes that the challenging low interest rate environment has compelled health carriers to consider non-traditional asset classes as a means to incrementally bolster overall investment returns. In fact, health carriers have been tweaking their bond portfolios in ways not done before as a means of increasing yield, according to Best. The share of bond portfolio allocations to NAIC-2 rated bonds has more than doubled since 2008, to 15.7 percent at year-end 2017. While the companies with the largest bond portfolios have seen the most dramatic movement, the transition has been across the segment. More than 60 percent of all companies within the segment have increased their NAIC-2 bond allocations since 2013, at least partially driven by an increase in bank security holdings. Health carriers also have increasingly been looking to invest new money in private placement bonds. The industry has nearly doubled its allocation private placement bonds since 2013, with a 10.1 percent increase in investments in 2017. Schedule BA assets, which are viewed as high risk, nearly doubled to 5.1 percent of overall allocations in 2017 from 2.7 percent in 2009. Best has a negative view on the rising share of higher risk assets for health insurance companies. Growing exposure to multiple riskier asset classes—joint ventures, lower-rated fixed income, private placements—create increased potential for losses and pressure on the capital. For the majority of carriers, this concern is mitigated through more than sufficient levels of risk-adjusted capitalization and liquidity. However, the last several years have showed that health insurance carriers should be ready to face a higher degree of uncertainty and the potential for legislative and regulatory events with short notice and a possible negative impact on financial results. You can access the full report here, but you have to pay for it.

Young Docs May Be Indicative of Generational Shift in Healthcare Attitudes
The medical student caucus of the American Medical Association has made its views known: they aren’t opposed to single-payer healthcare. This, of course, is a sharp departure from physicians of any other generation. The AMA held its annual conference in June and the medical student caucus was able to successfully advance a resolution calling on the organization to drop its long opposition to single-payer health care. AMA hasn’t dropped opposition just yet, but the meeting marks the first time the idea even got a full hearing. By meeting’s end, AMA’s older members agreed to study the possibility of changing the organization’s stance. Young docs are said to be more keenly concerned with medical access as a social justice issue. Some commentators also say that they represent a societal shift in attitudes toward healthcare as a right.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

The Investigation of Prescription Drug Maker Purdue
Politico has an excellent, if heartbreaking, report on the bungled investigation into the marketing practices of Purdue Pharmaceutical, the makers of OxyContin. Here’s a bit from the article:

“…federal prosecutors had originally recommended felony charges that could have sent top Purdue execs to prison if they were convicted. In that report, the prosecutors said the company had knowingly concealed OxyContin abuse shortly after the drug’s 1996 release. We also know that top Justice Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not follow the Virginia prosecutors’ recommendations—and refused to indict the executives on felony charges, instead pursuing lesser misdemeanor charges for them and no jail time.

Ten years on, we know, too, that the key figures on Purdue’s side—ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was consulting for the company and leveraging the height of his post-9/11 popularity on its behalf, and Mary Jo White, the chief counsel for Purdue’s top lawyer, Howard Udell—went on to even more high-profile careers.

What we don’t know so much about is the improbable cast of grieving parents and western Virginia characters who worked to bring the case to court, and how their struggle to be heard over Purdue Pharma and Giuliani foretold the coming opioid epidemic.”

The whole story is worth a read. At the same time, HHS secretary Alex Azar posted these comments saying we also can’t forget that pain management is necessary for many Americans.

FINANCIAL PLANNING

MassMutual Study Sheds Light On Women in Retirement
Want to better help your female clients plan for retirement? Check out MassMutual’s new white paper: “Closing the Retirement Gender Gap: What Your Clients Need to Know About Women and Investing.”  The white paper reports MassMutual’s research findings on women and retirement planning and suggests specific ways advisors can help women better prepare. 

LIFE

NAIC Annuity Suitability Group Not Embracing Life For Now
Members of the NAIC Annuity Suitability Working Group have decided to keep the group’s focus on annuities for now. That decision came at the recent National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ summer meeting in Boston. The working group continues to work on an update of the NAIC’s current sales standards model, which applies only to the sale of annuities. Some states had wanted the same standards to apply to life insurance products as well. According to the working group’s summary, it “decided that considering expanding Model Number 275 [the Suitability in Annuity Transactions Model Regulation] to include life insurance products was beyond the scope of its current charge.”

LTC

LTC Need To Know
Here’s something you might want to share with your clients: NIAC’s InsureU “What You Need to Know About Long-Term Care Insurance.”  The info guide is designed to educate consumers on LTC basics.

EVENTS

CAHU Health Care Summit
August 7-9, San Diego Hilton, Bayfront
This year’s theme is “New Hope for the Modern Agent.” This year CAHU will be offering multiple continuing education tracks on Medicare, IFP and group benefits, business Development and more. There will be two NAHU certification courses offered on August 7. Register for the Summit and a certification course and receive a $50 discount upon completing both registrations. Keynote speaker is Suzanne Delbanco, PhD, Executive Director of Catalyst for Payment Reform. Details here.

Golden Gate Association of Health Underwriters
4th Annual NORCAL Medicare Summit
August 16-17, DoubleTree Hotel, Pleasanton, More info at ggahu.org.

LAAHU- Growing Your Business in a Dynamic Marketplace/Large Group Trends
August 16, 8-10a.m., Monterey at Encino Glen, 16821 Burbank Blvd., Encino

Join Anil Kochhar, chief actuary ASA MAAA of Dickerson Insurance Services, an Alera Group Company, as he discusses Large Group Trends that impact and shape 2019’s Open Enrollment. Kochhar will address these four major drivers in the large group marketplace:

  • ACA: compliance, removal of underwriting restrictions, private exchanges
  • Networks: ACOs and Telemedicine
  • Pharmacy:  Specialty Rx – the cure versus the cost
  • The aging population

Register Here

CAHU Foundation Gala
September 14, Fairmont Grand Del Mar, San Diego
Please join CAHU for a Masquerade Gala to revitalize the CAHU Foundation. Festivities begin at 5:30pm at the famous Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Formal attire is requested.  Gala tickets and hotel reservations can be purchased here. Or call (800) 322-5934.  More info at the CAHU Foundation website. 

DCAHU 2nd annual Medicare Summit
Thursday, September 20, 8:30am – 2:30pm

Villa Portofino Clubhouse, 4001 Via Portofino, Palm Desert

Hear Ryan Dorigan from Applied General Agency at 11:30am speak on working with providers and medical groups and Margaret Stedt at 1pm discuss helping your senior clients maximize their drug plan and options. 2 CEs available.

Advance tickets $30 or $60 at the door. More info and registration here.

LAAHU and VCAHU Medicare Summit
September 20-21, Pickwick Gardens Conference Center, Burbank
September 20- certifications and product training (including SCAN)
September 21- C.E. Courses and breakout sessions! Theme is “Get Ready to Rock and Roll with Medicare.” Click here to register.

IICF Week of Giving 2018: October 13-20
The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation announced the 2018 Week of Giving will be October 13-20. Registration for nonprofits and volunteers is now open. Check out IICF Week of Giving for more info. 

NAILBA 37
November 1-3, Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, Orlando, Florida
Detailed information about NAILBA 37 will be available soon. Exhibit hall and sponsorship opportunities available here.  Or contact etoups@nailba.org for more info.