Employer-Sponsored Family Health Premiums Rise a Modest 4%

by Leila Morris – 9/3/14

CostSavings

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $16,351 in 2013, up 4% from in 2012, with workers paying an average of $4,565 toward the cost of their coverage, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust. The rise in premiums is moderate by historical standards. Since 2003, premiums have increased 80%, nearly three times as fast as wages and inflation.

“We are in a prolonged period of moderation in premiums, which should create some breathing room for the private sector to try to reduce costs without cutting back benefits for workers,” said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, Ph.D.

Firms with many lower-wage workers (at least 35% earning $23,000 or less annually) required workers to pay $1,363 more toward family premiums than did companies with fewer lower-wage workers ($5,818 versus $4,455 annually). The lower-wage firms offered less costly coverage too, creating a big disparity in the share of the premium that their workers pay (39% versus 29%).

In 2013, 78% of all covered workers had an annual deductible, up from 72% in 2012. Typically, workers pay this deductible before most services are covered by their health plan. The average deductible for worker-only coverage was $1,135 in 2013, similar to the $1,097 average deductible in 2012.

In 2013, 38% of all workers had a deductible of at least $1,000 or more compared to 58% of workers at small firms. In fact, 31% of workers at small firms had a deductible of at least $2,000 in 2013, up from 12% in 2008.

In 2013, 35% of employers said that wellness plans are very effective in controlling costs compared to 22% who cited disease management, 20% who cited consumer-driven health plans, and 17% who cited higher cost sharing.

Nearly all large employers (at least 200 workers) offered at least one wellness program. Thirty-six percent of large employers that offered wellness programs provided financial incentives for participation, such as lower premiums or deductibles, a larger contribution to a tax-preferred savings account, gift cards, cash, or other direct financial incentives. Fifty-five percent of large firms that offered health benefits also offered biometric screenings, and 11% rewarded or penalized workers financially based on whether they achieve biometric outcomes.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes provisions that allow broader use of financial incentives to encourage workers to improve their health status and outcomes. “This will be an important issue to watch next year, as employers will have more flexibility and could ask workers to pay more because of their lifestyles and health conditions,” said KFF vice president Gary Claxton.

Thirty-six percent of covered workers were in grandfathered plans, down from 48% in 2012. The slow growth in premiums also means that fewer employer plans will be subject to the ACA’s high-cost plan tax that takes effect in 2018. The Congressional Budget Office recently reduced its estimate of the number of plans that would trigger the tax, and a continued low growth rate could further reduce the effect of this provision.

In 2o13, 29% of employers with at least 5,000 workers were considering offering benefits through a private exchange. These jumbo firms employ almost 40% of all covered workers, so their interest could indicate a significant shift in the way many people get their health insurance.

Fifty-seven percent of firms offered health benefits in 2013, which is statistically unchanged from the 2012 and 2011. Nearly all firms with at least 200 workers offered health benefits to at least some of their workers.

Forty-three percent of the smallest firms (three to nine workers) offered health benefits in 2013 compared to 50% in 2012. Also, 23% of firms with a lot of low-wage workers offered health insurance compared to 60% of firms with few low-wage workers. For more information, visit http://kff.org/EHBS.

Sluggish Economy, Not Health Reform, Drove Spending Slowdown

The economic downturn can take the credit for about 70% of the recent decline in health care spending growth from 2009 to 2011, according to a study published in the August issue of Health Affairs. As the economy recovers, health spending is likely to increase at a faster pace. “The slowdown was mostly due to the sluggish economy, not to structural change in the health care sector. The Affordable Care Act may ultimately succeed at reducing costs, but it hasn’t done so yet,” said study co-author David Dranove of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

“There has been disagreement, over the years, as to whether health spending is recession proof. This study shows it’s not. The analysis, which focuses on privately insured people, highlights that the slowdown in health spending was not only caused by people who lost their jobs and employer-provided health insurance. Even people who retained insurance during the downturn reigned in their health spending. This demonstrates the broad effects of a recession on health spending,” said Co-author Craig Garthwaite, an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management.

Health spending growth slowed 2.6% from 2009 to 2011. The authors predict that health-spending growth would have been 1.8% higher if the economy had not faltered in 2008.  Insured people living in the hardest hit areas experienced the smallest increases in health spending. Thus, they concluded that 70% of the decline in health care spending growth was the result of the stagnant economy.  For more information, visit http://www.healthcostinstitute.org/ -and-future-research-projects@healthcostinst.

Higher Ed Employees Face More Cost Sharing

Colleges and universities are passing more healthcare costs to their employees, according to a report by the College and University Assn. for Human Resources. Forty one percent have increased the employee share of premiums since the ACA went into effect. Additionally, 26% have increased in-network deductibles; 27% have increased out-of-pocket limits; 20% have increased the employee share of prescription drug costs; and 24% have increased the employee share of dependent coverage costs. Thirty-six percent of colleges and universities have adopted or expanded a wellness program; and 21% have adopted or expanded financial incentives to encourage healthy behaviors. The survey also reveals the following about colleges and universities:

  • 50% of part-time staff and 80% of part-time faculty work less than 30 hours a week.
  • The average annual premium was $6,501 for employee-only coverage and $17,484 for the employee plus family coverage for all four plan types (PPOs, HMO, POS plans, and HDHPs).
  • 82% offer PPO plans; and 44% offer HDHPs — up from 17% in 2009.
  • 60% offer healthcare benefits to same sex domestic partners or spouses (up from 46% five years ago).
  • 42% offer healthcare benefits to part-time staff and 36% offer healthcare benefits faculty. Most of those also pay part of the premium.
  • Colleges and universities that don’t offer healthcare benefits for part-time employees are not providing financial support for enrollment in a public exchange, and only 2% are considering doing so next year.
  • Almost all colleges and universities provide basic life insurance, long-term disability, paid time-off, tuition assistance and retirement benefits. But only 64% offer short-term disability coverage.

For more information visit www.cupahr.org/surveys/benefits.aspx.

The Most Influential People in Health Care

Modern Healthcare magazine released its 12th annual ranking of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare. Quite a few are in the insurance industry. The award honors people who are the most influential in the health care industry according to their peers and an expert panel. They are listed as follows:

1. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of HHS,
2. Dr. John Kitzhaber, governor of Oregon
3. President Barack Obama
4. Stephen Hemsley, president and CEO of UnitedHealth Group
5. Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator
6. Mark Bertolini, chairman, president and CEO of Aetna
7. Richard Bracken, chairman and CEO of HCA in Nashville
8. Joseph Swedish, CEO of WellPoint
9. George Halvorson, outgoing chairman of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.
10. Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Assn.
11. Kent Thiry, co-chairman and CEO of DaVita HealthCare Partners, Denver
12. Glenn Hackbarth, chairman, Medicare Payment Advisory Commission
13. Judith Faulkner, CEO of Epic Systems Corp. in Wisconsin.
14. Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona
15. Dr. John Noseworthy, president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic
16. Dr. Delos Toby Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic
17. Wayne Smith, chairman, president and CEO of Community Health Systems in Tennessee
18. Trevor Fetter, president and CEO of Tenet Healthcare in Dallas
19. Joel Allison, president and CEO of Baylor Health Care System in Dallas
20. David Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna
21. Maureen Bisognano, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement
22. Paul Diaz, CEO of Kindred Healthcare in Kentucky
23. Patricia Hemingway Hall, president and CEO of Health Care Service Corp. in Chicago
24. John Hammergren, chairman, president and CEO of McKesson Corp. in San Francisco
25. Michael Dowling, president and CEO of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in N.Y.
26. Dr. Gary Gottlieb, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare in Boston
27. Dr. Farzad Mostashari, outgoing national coordinator for health information technology of the ONC
28. Bruce Broussard, president and CEO of Humana
29. Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Assn.
30. Kevin Lofton, president and CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives.
31. Dr. Gary Kaplan, chairman and CEO of the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle
32. Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation in Menlo Park, Calif.
33. Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals
34. Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Dignity Health in San Francisco
35. RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United.
36. Sen. Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee chairman (D-Mont.)
37. Ron Pollack, founding executive director of Families USA
38. Dan Wolterman, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston
39. A. Barry Rand, CEO of AARP
40. Bill Carpenter, chairman and CEO of LifePoint Hospitals in Tennessee.
41. Dr. Susan Turney, president and CEO of MGMA-ACMPE
42. Pat Fry, president and CEO of Sutter Health in Sacramento, Calif.
43. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
44. Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
45. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA
46. Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson
47. Susan DeVore, president and CEO of Premier in North Carolina
48. John Castellani, president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
49. Dr. Charles Sorenson, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City
50. Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine
51. Dr. Atul Gawande, professor of surgery and Harvard Medical School and professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health
52. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood
53. Alan Miller, chairman and CEO of Universal Health Services in Pennsylvania
54. Dr. Ardis Hoven, president of the American Medical Assn.
55. Margaret Peggy O’Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance
56. Dr. Glenn Steele Jr., president and CEO of Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania.
57. James Skogsbergh, president and CEO of Advocate Health Care in Illinois
58. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Assn.
59. Jay Grinney, president and CEO of HealthSouth in Alabama
60. Dr. Mark Chassin, president of the Joint Commission.
61. Anthony Tersigni, president and CEO of Ascension Health Alliance in St. Louis
62. Alan Aviles, president and CEO of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp.
63. Doug Hawthorne, CEO of Texas Health Resources
64. Richard Feinstein, former director of the Bureau of Competition for the Federal Trade Commission
65. John Bardis, chairman, president, and CEO of MedAssets in Georgia.
66. Mary Brainerd, president and CEO of HealthPartners in Minneapolis
67. Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group in Washington
68. Daniel Levinson, inspector general of HHS
69. Jeffrey Romoff, president and CEO of UPMC in Pittsburgh
70. Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana
71. Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform in San Francisco
72. Dr. Christine Cassel, incoming president and CEO of the National Quality Forum
73. Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH
74. Nancy Schlichting, CEO of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit
75. Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans
76. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
77. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)
78. Dr. Jeffrey Cain, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians
79. Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross
80. Dr. Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine
81. Dr. James Madara, executive vice president and CEO of the American Medical Assn.
82. Scott Armstrong, president and CEO of Group Health Cooperative in Seattle
83. Deborah Bowen, president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives
84. Scott Serota, president and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Assn. in Chicago
85. Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the Assn. of American Medical Colleges
86. Dr. Ralph de la Torre, chairman and CEO of the Steward Health Care System in Boston
87. Dr. Benjamin Chu, group president of Kaiser Permanente Southern California and Hawaii, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.; and board chairman of the American Hospital Assn.
88. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union
89. Kenneth Raske, president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Assn.
90. Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer for Scripps Health and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego
91. Eric Shinseki, secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department
92. Donald Fisher, president and CEO of the American Medical Group Assn.
93. Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund
94. Dr. James Weinstein, president and CEO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock in N.H.
95. Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Assn.
96. Val Halamandaris, president of the National Assn. for Home Care & Hospice
97. Dr. Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals
98. Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health
99. Dr. Brent James, chief quality officer and executive director of the Institute for Health Care Delivery Research for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City
100. James Hinton, president and CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque

Read the full article as published in the August 26 issue of Modern Healthcare at: http://bit.ly/1dir1Ys

Top Trends in Medicare Part D

Now in its ninth year of operation, the Medicare Part D program has had consistently high levels of plan participation, offering dozens of plan choices for beneficiaries in each region and broad access to generic and brand name drugs. But there are some sobering trends beneath the surface, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Cost and access trends could pose challenges for Part D enrollees. Although premiums have been flat for several years, average premiums have increased nearly 50% from 2006 to 2014. Median cost sharing for brand-name drugs has also increased. Finally, many low-income beneficiaries are paying steadily higher premiums for coverage when they could be enrolled in premium-free plans.

Sixty-two percent of Part D enrollees are in PDPs, but enrollment in MA-PD plans is growing faster, representing half of the net increase in enrollment from 2013 to 2014. About 6.5 million Medicare beneficiaries with drug coverage from their former employers now get that coverage through a Part D plan designed for that firm’s retirees. Enrollment in employer plans has quadrupled since 2006, partly due to changes in law that took effect in 2013.

In 2014, three Part D sponsors account for half of all Part D PDP and MA-PD enrollees. UnitedHealthCare, Humana, and CVS Caremark have enrolled half of all participants in Part D, which is relatively unchanged from 2006. UnitedHealthCare and Humana have held the highest shares of enrollment since the program began while enrollment in CVS Caremark has grown through the acquisition of other plan sponsors. UnitedHealthCare has maintained the top position for all nine years of the program, and provides coverage to more than one in five PDP and MA-PD enrollees in 2014.

Average monthly PDP premiums have been flat since 2010; premiums for some of the most popular plans increased for 2014; and premiums for other popular plans fell. On average, PDP enrollees pay premiums of $37.75 per month in 2014. However, PDP premiums vary widely even for plans with equivalent benefits. Premiums range from $12.80 to $111.40 a month for plans offering the basic Part D benefit. UnitedHealthCare’s AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus PDP, which was new in 2013, raised its premiums by 54% in 2014 (an average increase of about $8 per month). In contrast, WellCare’s Classic PDP lowered its premium by 38% (an average decrease of about $13 per month) in 2014.

Part D enrollees in MA-PD plans pay lower premiums on average ($14.70) than those in PDPs. Cost sharing for brand-name drugs has been relatively stable in recent years, but has risen substantially since the start of Part D.  MA-PD plan enrollees generally have somewhat higher cost sharing than do PDP enrollees. Cost sharing for brands increased by about 50% from 2006 to 2014 for beneficiaries in PDPs and about 70% for those in MA-PD plans.

Median cost sharing in a MA-PD is $45 for preferred brands and $95 for non-preferred brands plans. Median cost sharing in a PDP is $40 for preferred brands and $85 for non-preferred brands. Seventy-six percent of PDPs and 75% of MA-PDs use five cost-sharing tiers including preferred and non-preferred tiers for generic drugs, preferred and non-preferred tiers for brand drugs, and a tier for specialty drugs. Four-tier arrangements were most common until 2012 when plans began shifting toward the five-tier cost-sharing design.

Part D plans typically use specialty tiers for high-cost drugs and charge coinsurance of from 25% to 33% during the benefit’s initial coverage period, as in previous years. These initial high out-of-pocket costs may create a financial barrier to starting use of specialty drugs, which are expected to be a significant cost driver for Medicare. Users are likely to reach the benefit’s catastrophic threshold in a short period, and see their coinsurance reduced to 5%.

The number of Part D stand-alone drug plans with a preferred pharmacy network grew from 7% in 2011 to 72% in 2014. Enrollees have lower cost sharing with preferred pharmacies. However, in some plans, there is no preferred pharmacy within a reasonable travel distance, which could make it hard for enrollees to take advantage of the lower cost sharing.

Only 5% of PDP enrollees are in plans with the highest star ratings (four stars or more out of five). More than half are in plans with 3.5 stars. Nearly one-fourth of are in plans with fewer than three stars; plans at this level for three years in a row can be removed from the program. For more information, visit www.kff.org.

HIV Medical Organizations Challenge Insurer Restrictions

The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) and the HIV Medicine Assn. (HIVMA) are challenging new health plan policies that bar many HIV care providers from prescribing certain medications to treat hepatitis C (HCV). “Thanks to the treatments available today, most of our patients with HIV do not die from AIDS-related illness, but from other conditions including liver disease. Many people co-infected with HIV and HCV have been waiting a long time for more effective and tolerable HCV treatment. Now that a cure is available, it is unconscionable to deny them access to medical providers who are well qualified to administer and manage this treatment,” said Joel Gallant, MD, MPH, FIDSA, chair of HIVMA. A new drug approved for the treatment of HCV earlier this year offers a significantly improved cure rate over older treatments.

“Of the 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, approximately 30% are co-infected with HCV. Many of these patients are being successfully cared for by an HIV practitioner. Yet some insurers are now enforcing policies to limit or remove HIV care providers’ ability to prescribe new HCV medications. These restrictive insurance policies exclude HIV providers who are not trained as gastroenterologists, hepatologists, or infectious diseases specialists from prescribing some medicines to treat HCV, and create other barriers to providing the best available care to patients with HCV infection. There is no medical rationale for excluding some HIV providers from prescribing HCV medications,” said Donna Sweet, MD, AAHIVS, chair of the AAHIVM Board of Directors.She added, “HIV providers who have been treating HCV/HIV co-infected patients for years are uniquely qualified to manage potential drug toxicities and side effects stemming from combining treatment… These restrictive policies not only limit access to the new HCV treatment for many people with HIV, but could also lead to treatment disruptions and other serious adverse health consequences for patients.”

AAHIVM and HIVMA have sent letters to insurers urging them to reevaluate and discontinue these policies immediately. For more information, visit www.aahivm.org.

Medical Tourism Webcast

The Medical Tourism Assn. is hosting a webcast tomorrow at 7:00 AM. For more information, visit www.MedicalTourismAssn.com.

NEW PRODUCTS

Self-Service Enrollment

Navera is offering employers and brokers a suite of educational and decision support software for self-service enrollment in Humana’s workplace voluntary benefits. Humana Inc. and Navera will include education and decision support software for other Humana benefits, including medical, dental, and vision products. For more information, visit www.humana.com.

Health Exchange

Aon Hewitt is expanding coverage options under the Aon Active Health Exchange for 2015. Employers can offer a wide range of elective benefit plans during this fall’s annual enrollment season. The following elective benefits that can be offered on the Aon Active Health Exchange for coverage beginning January 1, 2015:
• Critical Illness
• Accident
• Hospital Indemnity
• Life
• Long-term Disability
• Identity Theft
• Legal
• Home/Auto
• Pet Insurance

For more information, visit http://exchangesolutions.aon.com/our-exchange-portfolio.

Education on Fiduciary Risks

The Guardian launched The Fiduciary Awareness Quiz to help plan sponsors understand their fiduciary obligations. For more information, visit http://exchangesolutions.aon.com/our-exchange-portfolio.

Global Health Budget Tool

The Kaiser Family Foundation has launched an interactive tool that provides the latest data on the U.S. government’s global health budget in an easy-to-access form. The U.S. Global Health Budget Tracker lets users follow the budget from the President’s budget request through the appropriations process in Congress, and see trends over time. The Foundation will host an interactive web briefing on the new tool on Thursday, September 11 at 10:00. To view the tool, visit http://kff.org/interactive/budget-tracker/landing. To register for the briefing, visit https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=udvgjeuo8nhi.

CALIFORNIA

Court Clarifies Definition of Independent Contractors

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 2,300 people working for FedEx Ground were misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees. As a result, FedEx may owe its workforce of drivers hundreds of millions of dollars for illegally shifting to them the costs of such things as the FedEx branded trucks, FedEx branded uniforms, and FedEx scanners, and missed meal and rest period pay, overtime compensation, and penalties. The case, known as “Alexander v. FedEx Ground,” covers employees in California from 2000 to 2007. The ruling can be found on the Leonard Carder website at leonardcarder.com.

The court’s findings could influence the outcome in over two dozen cases nationwide in which FedEx Ground drivers are challenging the legality of their independent contractor classification.  FedEx requires its so-called contractors in California to hire a secondary workforce of FedEx drivers, who do the same work as the plaintiffs under the same contract. The Alexander decision calls into question FedEx’s strategy of making plaintiffs the middlemen between the secondary workforce of drivers and FedEx.
Background on the everyday experience for FedEx Ground drivers includes the following:
• FedEx Ground drivers were required to pay out of out of pocket for everything from the FedEx Ground branded trucks they drove (painted with the FedEx Ground logo) to fuel, various forms of insurance, tires, oil changes, maintenance, etc. and their uniforms, scanners and even workers compensation coverage.
• In some cases, workers were required to pay the wages of employees who FedEx Ground required them to hire to cover for them if they were sick or needed a vacation, to help out during the Christmas rush, and in some cases to drive other FedEx Ground trucks.
• After paying these expenses, a typical FedEx driver makes less than employee drivers at FedEx Ground’s competitors like UPS, and gets none of the employee benefits, like health care, workers compensation, paid sick leave and vacation, and retirement.
• In addition, their employment was subject to the whims of FedEx management and FedEx Ground’s decisions on staffing and routes left the employee drivers stuck with expensive long-term truck leases on FedEx branded trucks.

The drivers’ attorney Beth Ross added, nationally, thousands of FedEx Ground drivers must pay for the privilege of working for FedEx 55 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. These workers were granted rights and benefits entitled to employees under California law. To be clear, the Ninth Circuit exposed FedEx Ground’s independent contractor model as unlawful. For more information, visit http://www.leonardcarder.com/

 

California and Virginia join international information exchange agreement

Insurance supervisors of California and Virginia have joined an international supervisory cooperation and information exchange agreement. There are now 42 jurisdictions admitted as signatories to the IAIS Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MMoU), representing nearly 60% of worldwide premium volume. MMoU, supervisors exchange relevant information and provide assistance to other signatories in order to promote  financial stability and sound supervision of cross-border insurance operations. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said, “The MMoU is an essential regulatory tool, not only in crisis situations, but also on a day-to-day basis for supervisors to foster safer and more stable insurance markets.” For more information, visit www.iaisweb.org.

LONG TERM CARE

Motivating Clients to Plan for Long Term Care

ACSIA Partners has introduced the concept of “empowered living,” which it hopes will catch on to help solve a big national problem: the lack of planning for long-term care. Denise Gott, CEO of ACSIA said, “It used to be that long-term care was a rather passive and dreary thing. People ended up in a nursing home or relative’s spare bedroom…But the care scene has changed, and will change even more in the years ahead…With good financial planning, you can look forward to years of rewarding, self-empowered living in spite of needing care.”

A variety of senior and assisted-living communities have sprung up. They’re a far cry from yesterday’s nursing homes, and they’re transforming the quality of our later years. Some are plush and many offer amenities such as libraries, recreational facilities, support for business and professional pursuits, and cultural events such as lectures and concerts. Some operate with universities, providing rich cultural opportunities. One’s own home can be made care-friendly, she said. Retrofitting homes for people needing care is now a big business.

Gott explained that Middle-aged Americans tend to associate needing care with becoming passive, losing control, declining, being  dependent, and being a burden on others. They sometimes even feel shame, fear, or repulsion just thinking about it. So they put it out of mind. Today’s 40-somethings and 50-somethings most need to think about LTC insurance because they’re usually fit enough to qualify for it and can get the best rates, she added. “They just need to look at it positively, from the upbeat perspective of empowered living, and then make a plan. Our belief is that many more will do that if we paint the right picture. One’s care years can be an upbeat stage of life — a period under their complete control, full of fresh, rewarding activity, interaction, and effectiveness.” For more information, visit .http://www.acsiapartners.com.

FINANCIAL PLANNING

Making Financial Plans for Pet Care

Forty-four percent of pet owners surveyed by Securian Financial have made plans for their pets’ future care. For one-fifth of those owners, those plans are financial. Michelle Hall, manager of Market Research for Securian Financial Group said, “Pets may provide opportunities for financial advisors whose clients consider their pets members of the family and spend large sums on their care.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urges owners to plan for their pets’ care. Forty-six states have passed pet trust laws. Pet protection agreements, wills, powers of attorney, and letters of instruction are also available. The pet industry has more than tripled from $17 billion in 1994 to $59 billion in 2014, according to the American Pet Products Assn. Sixteen percent of pet owners say they would spend $10,000 or more to save a pet’s life while 29% would spend $2,000 to $5,000. Nearly 60% now spend up to $1,000 a year on food, grooming, toys, etc.; three-fourths spend up to $1,000 a year on veterinary bills; and 18% say their largest single pet-related expense was $2,000 or more. These costs add up to many thousands of dollars over the years, especially for long-lived pets. If the owner  dies suddenly or becomes disabled, the person who inherits the pet may not be financially prepared for ongoing care or life-saving procedures. Thirty-eight percent added the pet’s future caregiver as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy; 35% added more coverage to their life policies; and 13% purchased annuities naming the pet’s caregiver as the beneficiary.
Margaret.jensen@securian.com

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