Bill Would Eliminate Health Plans That Offer Skinny Policies

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Assembly member Roger Hernández (D –West Covina) introduced Assembly Bill 248, which require large employers to offer only comprehensive health insurance to their employees. AB 248 would prohibit health plans or insurers from offering large employers coverage unless it is 60% minimum value or higher. Under federal and state law this is already required of small employers, but not for large employers. This bill closes that loophole by ensuring that a limited benefit health plan can only be sold as supplemental comprehensive insurance coverage.

“Large employers with mostly low-wage workers have a financial incentive to offer limited health coverage that will leave workers vulnerable when they get sick. We need to end this loophole that rewards bad behavior. If our small business community is required to provide comprehensive health insurance to its employees, large employers have no excuse to not offer the same,” stated Hernández. AB 248 is sponsored by Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

Pomona Woman Charged with 18 Disability Fraud

Pomona resident Yolanda Gladney, 56, was arrested and charged with 18 felony counts for disability fraud including presenting fraudulent claims for the payment of an injury, grand theft, and falsifying records. An investigation by the California Department of Insurance alleges that Gladney filed multiple disability claims in 2013, totaling more than $5,000, by forging the signature of a former physician on various disability claim forms. She had not been seen by the provider since 2012. Gladney, who was an AFLAC Insurance policyholder, filed four disability claims in 2013. She received $3,080 in benefits from two of the claims before the claims specialist noticed several red flags on the physician’s form. Had all of the claims been processed, Gladney would have received over $5,000 in benefits. Gladney was booked into Century Sheriff’s Station on February 12 and is facing a lengthy prison sentence if convicted on all felony counts. Her bail is set at $300,000.

HEALTHCARE

HSAs and HRAs

In 2014, there was $22.1 billion in health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements(HRAs), spread across 10.6 million accounts, according to data from the
2014 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates. In 2008, there were only 4.2 million accounts with
$5.7 billion in assets. The average account balance was $2,077 in 2014, up from $1,356 in 2008.
An increasing number of people have held their account for three or more years. Twenty-seven percent had held their account for three to four years, up from 19% in 2008. Thirteen percent had held their account five or more years, up from 4% in 2008. Accounts with an employer contribution had an average balance of $2,403 while those without an employer contribution had an average balance of $2,056.

People who had held an HRA or HSA for five years or more had $3,092 in their account. Those who had held an account for less than a year had less than $1,500 in their account. In general, average account balances have grown over the longer term regardless of how long the account had been open. The report also found the following:

• Average rollover amounts increased from $1,165 in 2013 to $1,244 in 2014.
• $8.9 billion was rolled over in 2014, down from $9.4 billion in 2013.
• 11% of people had held an account for more than a year without a rollover in 2014.
• Rollover amounts increased with the length of time an individual had held an account. In 2014, those who had held an account one to two years rolled over an average of $982; those who had held an account three to four years rolled over an average of $1,421; and those who had held an account five or more years rolled over an average of $1,428.
• Accounts with an employer contribution had a higher amount rolled over than those without an employer contribution.
• Accounts with an employer contribution had an average rollover of $1,280 while those without an employer contribution had an average rollover of $1,069.

For more information, visit www.ebri.org

Consumers Don’t Understand Their Plan Benefits

While the healthcare industry focuses on consumer confusion about benefits, it’s the ability to understand and interpret personal health information that may be the larger issue. Although 78% of consumers say it’s relatively easy to access information about their plan benefits, 53% feel it’s not so easy to understand their personal health information or understand what they need to do to maintain or improve their health, according to a January 2015 HealthMine survey.
The survey reveals the following:
• 85% of people want to know if they have health risks for developing chronic conditions.
• 37% of people don’t know what cancer screenings they need to get and how often.
• 55% want help from their health care plan in setting personal health goals.
• 30% want to track their goals monthly; another 26% want daily or weekly tracking.
• 65% want their health plan to send them reminders about critical health actions such as prescription refills and annual health exams.

This is consistent with previously published findings that 71% of consumers want their employers to provide programs and guidelines for health management. Additionally, more than 75% say that an incentive level would motivate them to take action to improve their health.

Bryce Williams, president and CEO of HealthMine said, “Our ability to track and report more health data…isn’t necessarily helping consumers improve their health. We need to close the gap between data collection and meaningful interpretation. Consumers are calling for more support and direction in reaching health goals, and it’s important for employers, payers and other health plan sponsors to help.” For more information, visit www.healthmine.com.

ACA Spurs Demand for Physician Assistants

With the Affordable Care Act, the number of insured patients has soared, leaving a sizable gap in the number of capable medical professionals available to treat patients. Physician assistants are helping alleviate the physician shortage by providing more primary care services. The Center for Personalized Education for Physicians (CPEP) has created a program to help bring back physician assistants who have left clinical practice. A limited number of slots in PA schools is hindering the ability of schools to graduate enough PAs to keep up with demand.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. will face a shortage of 90,000 physicians within the next five years, growing to a shortfall of 130,000 by 2025. This could be reduced to 6,400 primary care physicians if physician assistants and nurse practitioners can effectively be added to the health care delivery system. For more information on the Return to Clinical Practice program, visit http://www.cpepdoc.org/programs-courses/reentry or call 303.577.3232.

Study Supports Shortening the Exchange Enrollment Period

People who shop for exchange plans tend to do so around key dates with shopping dropping off afterward, according to a HealthPocket study. The analysis supports shortening of the annual enrollment period and shifting it to the tax season. Moving Affordable Care Act enrollments to tax season would help consumers make the most informed health plan decisions since tax season is when consumers review critical issues relating to health insurance.

Consumer shopping interest was down more than 50% in the second half of the annual enrollment period for ACA exchange plans compared to the first half of the period. The government has proposed that the Obamacare annual enrollment period for 2016 be shortened to 76 days and start on October 1st. Since the Medicare enrollment period for Part D and Medicare Advantage plans is only 54 days and enrolls millions more people, HHS is expected to eventually reduce the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act to 54 days. Based on HealthPocket’s analysis of consumer shopping behavior, such a reduction would not cause significant inconvenience for consumers. Reducing the enrollment period to 54 days could also be combined with changing the start date to avoid the overlap of the enrollment periods for the Affordable Care Act and Medicare, which results in call center congestion at insurance companies. Bruce Telkamp, CEO at HealthPocket said, “These changes would not only benefit consumers, but also reduce advertising expenditures by exchanges and insurance companies.” For more information, visit www.HealthPocket.com.

WELLNESS


Most Millennials Have Financial Worries.

While the economy has rebounded, the financial environment is still cloudy to more than 50% of Generation Y (18 to 34), Generation X (35 to 54) and Boomers (55+) who have financial concerns, according to a recent financial wellness survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT).
Eighty-four percent of Generation Y, 83% of Generation X and 66% of Boomers have financial concerns. The top financial concern among each generation is not having enough money in emergency savings funds, (51% of Generation Y, 50% of Generation X and 34% of Boomers). A close second for Generation Y (42%) and Boomers (31%) is not being able to pay off monthly bills while almost half of Generation X (48%) fears not being able to retire when they want.

“Most people have a spending issue that drives their insecurity. Setting aside a small amount of money can quickly turn into a few hundred dollars that can be seed money for an emergency fund,” said MDRT’s First Vice President, Brian D. Heckert, CLU, ChFC.

Thirty-eight percent of Generation Y, 40% of Generation X and 29% of Boomers feel having no debt would make them most secure with their finances. Having more financial education ranked lowest among each generation, Generation Y (4%), Generation X (1%) and Boomers (1%).

MDRT’s second vice president, Mark J. Hanna, CLU, ChFC said, “People have 100% of the ability to tackle their debt with the help of a financial advisor. Developing a budget and avoiding the use of consumer credit cards to pay for daily expenses will keep most people out of financial stress.”

Among credit card, mortgage, student loan and car debt, all three generations rank credit card debt as the debt they would choose to pay off first (29% of Generation Y, 40% of Generation X and 46% of Boomers). Generation Y ranks paying off credit card debt slightly higher than paying off student loan debt (29% vs. 28%, respectively). Paying off mortgage debt is ranked second for Generation X (29%) and Boomers (30%).
According to Heckert, “Mortgage debt is the last debt typically recommended to pay off. A mortgage is secured by the house and usually has the least amount of interest of any loan. It’s important to first pay off high-interest debt such as credit cards.”

When asked how they would adjust their spending if they wanted to save more money, all three generations noted dining out less, Generation X (32%), Generation Y (32%) and Boomers (22%). Reducing entertainment and home expenses were the next two top saving areas. “Saving just 5% on a monthly budget across all of these expenses could save the average family making $60,000 a year about $3,000 per year or $250 per month. That sum saved over a 10-year period would amount to a very nice fund for college or an addition to a retirement program,” Heckert said.

When asked what the most important piece of financial advice is, Millennials said it’s to start saving/investing (29%) and make a financial plan (28%). Their older counterparts noted paying off high-interest debt as most important, Generation X (28%) and Boomers (28%).

Interestingly, 48% of Generation X said not being able to retire is one of their top financial concerns, yet only 9% said saving more for a comfortable retirement was the most important piece of financial advice to know.
According to the study, 50% of Generation Y, 35% of Generation X and 25% of Boomers have not done anything to prepare for retirement. Ten percent of Millennials have spoken to an advisor to prepare for retirement compared to only 7% of Generation X. For more information, visit mdrt.org.

Why Wellness Programs Fail

Only nine percent of employees take full advantage of their employers’ wellness program, according to a study by GuideSpark. Employees say they don’t take advantage of wellness benefits because they are too busy with their jobs, the programs do not fit their lifestyle, or they are not aware of all of the programs that their companies offer. Sixty-six percent of employees said that incentives are very important to motivate participation in wellness programs, and 63% said that they would participate more if the programs were better suited to their lifestyle.

The majority of participants rate a handful of programs as most important including stress management (86%), physical fitness (85%) and financial wellness (82%). The findings emphasize the need to educate employees on the wellness programs available to them and offer incentives that motivate them to participate. For more information, visit http://www.guidespark.com/wellness-infographic.

How Vision Problems Hurt Productivity

Nine out of 10 employees say that vision problems have compromised the quality of their work; half admit that this is a regular occurrence, according to a survey supported by Transitions Optical. The survey, which explores top visual complaints in the workplace, reveals that indoor and outdoor light are largely to blame – with six out of 10 employees saying they are bothered by light at work.

These findings build on results from Transitions Optical’s 2014 survey, which found that visual disturbances at work – ranging from tired or dry eyes, to light and vision-related headaches – affect nearly all employees, leading them to take multiple breaks throughout the day to rest their eyes. In line with the 2014 results, the most common vision problems mentioned by employees in the 2015 survey included tired eyes (40%); dry eyes (31%); headaches (27%); and blurry vision (21%). Light was the top complaint – with employees saying they are bothered by a wide range of disturbances including bright, glaring light and light reflected off of a computer screen, personal device or other surfaces. In total, 56% of employees said that light bothers them at work – with the majority of employees saying they are affected primarily by light outdoors, or a combination of light indoors and outdoors.

The survey also explored the demographics of those affected the most by visual disturbances while on the job. Parents between the ages of 18 to 44 and those who work outdoors or a combination of indoors and outdoors are more likely to say that the quality of their work frequently suffers as a result of vision problems. These groups are also significantly more likely to say that light affects the quality of their work – with Hispanic Americans significantly more likely than Non-Hispanic Whites to say this.

While vision problems affect nearly all employees, just 13% of employees say they have addressed these issues with their employers – and just half say they discussed workplace vision problems during their last eye exam. Less than one-third said that they specifically talked about light-related vision problems their eye care professional.

Jonathan Ormsby, strategic account manager, Transitions Optical, said “Our research demonstrates a tremendous opportunity for employers and eyecare professionals to proactively address vision issues with employees, and encourage them to ask for eye wear options to help them see better on the job and in their everyday lives.” Transitions Optical recently expanded its family of products to include more eye wear options to meet the everyday needs of indoor and outdoor workers. Transitions® XTRActive® lenses provide more activation for extra protection – helping to shield the eyes from harsh light indoors with a comfortable hint of tint – and are the darkest Transitions everyday lens outdoors. For more information, visit HealthySightWorkingforYou.org.

NEW PRODUCTS

Absence Management Compliance

Sun Life Financial and ComPsych have added ADA administrative services to their FMLA Solutions. The enhanced absence management administrative services will help employers comply with FMLA and ADA regulations. ADA Essential is comprised of administrative services, and ADA Complete is comprised of administration and coaching services. For more information, visit www.sunlife.com/us.www.compsych.com.

AIG Lowers Premium for Term Product

AIG is offering lower rates for its AG Select-a-Term product. AG Select-a-Term offers a mix of customization and reach: guaranteed level term coverage for 17 durations, including 10-year and 15- through 30-years. Issue ages and durations make coverage available until age 95 for older clients. The product remains convertible to the earlier of age 70 or the end of the level term period. For more information on the competitive pricing and superior flexibility of AG Select-a-Term, visit www.aig.com/termlife.

Social Referral Network

SocialTwist launched KnownCircle.com, a social referral network where consumers can discover and connect with professional service providers that are most trusted by their friends and family. KnownCircle is available to the insurance industry with more than 200,000 agency and broker profiles. Over the next few months the platform will expand to include additional professional service providers including tax preparers, real estate agents, attorneys and more. To see a demonstration of KnownCircle, visit: https://knowncircle.com/business

401(k)

Voya Financial’s Lifetime Income Strategy is available for 401(k) plan participants of large employers. The age-based, asset allocation program is designed to help participants convert their savings over time into a stream of guaranteed income that lasts throughout retirement. It offers a personalized asset allocation strategy that helps build critical retirement savings, followed by an income benefit for life, guaranteed by multiple insurers. The program leverages the expertise of AB’s multi-insurer platform while incorporating guaranteed and non-guaranteed components into one program. Investors benefit by having a single, integrated solution with several different insurance companies splitting the responsibility under the contracts. This diversifies risk and helps participants receive competitive payouts. For more information, visit http://www.voya.com.

EVENTS

Medicare Supplement Webcast

There will be a free webcast from the Seventh National Medicare Supplement Summit in Orlando from April 13 to 15. To register for the free online broadcast go to www.insuranceexpos.com. For more information on attending the Med Supp conference visit the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance’s website at www.medicaresupp.org.

Insuring High Net Worth Clients

The Council for Insuring Private Clients (CIPC) is holding its annual conference April 22 and 23 in Dallas. Over 250 wealth managers, estate planners, insurers, intermediaries, and specialty insurance agents will attend. The National Alliance will be administering the second Pilot CPRM™ course titled, “Understanding Coverage Differences: The Affluent and High Net Worth Client”, on April 20 to 22. For more conference information and to register, visit www.privateclientcouncil.com.

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