Make the Most of Tech During OE

We don’t know about you, but we’re celebrating open enrollment! woot woot. Right? Now for the serious part… Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of population health, UnitedHealthcare, wants to remind you that tech offerings will play a big part in choices this year. Dr. O’Shea shared the following tips for employee benefit folks:

Make Virtual Care a Priority. To help employees access care remotely, it is important to offer health plans that include coverage for virtual care, including options for telehealth visits with their own doctors and 24/7 access to national care providers.

Add Digital Fitness Apps. To make well-being programs even more useful, consider offering health plans that include access to digital fitness apps at no additional cost. This may be especially important now as people are still hesitant to visit indoor gyms.

Adopt Remote-Patient Monitoring Programs. Remote-patient monitoring programs and so-called digital therapeutics are becoming increasingly sophisticated, helping decisions become more data-driven. While these approaches can vary, some integrate virtual care, wearable devices, and artificial intelligence to remove barriers to care, customize treatments and allow for decisions to be based on real-time data.

Make Sense of Big Data. Employers may now have important access to online resources that can enable managers to analyze and make sense of health data, accounting for aggregate medical, prescription and specialty claims, demographics, and clinical and well-being information. This can provide an analytics-driven roadmap to help employers implement tailored clinical management and employee-engagement programs, which may help improve health outcomes, offer industry-specific health programs, mitigate expenses, and help employees take charge of their health. Likewise, predictive analytics is being used to help address social determinants of health, such as access to nutritious food and affordable housing.

Bundle Benefits. A focus on medical coverage during open enrollment, shouldn’t be at the exclusion specialty benefits such as vision, dental, hearing and accident protection. In fact, a recent UnitedHealthcare survey found that 81% of respondents said having access to specialty benefits is “important.” Plus, companies that combine medical coverage with specialty benefits through a single health care company may be able to leverage data to help improve health outcomes, flag gaps in care, drive productivity, and reduce costs. Some “bundle and save” programs enable employers to save up to 4% on medical premiums.

Happy open enrollment everyone!


MA Rules But Will That Change?

AARP magazine has an excellent story up about the growing popularity of Medicare Advantage plans:

In 2005, 13 percent of enrollees chose the MA option, and the growth has been steady ever since; enrollment in Advantage plans rose 10 percent between 2020 and 2021 alone.

While MA plans are popular, insiders say it’s largely due to marketing and the fact that insurance providers offer so many perks that original Medicare isn’t allowed to offer. Regarding those perks:

AARP is lobbying Congress to allow original Medicare to offer similar benefits to its enrollees, as is the Center for Medicare Advocacy, which stated in a March report that “there is a growing imbalance between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare … relating to the scope of coverage.”

This is something to keep your eyes on. Medicare enrollment will certainly change if original Medicare is allowed to offer more!


Covered California for Small Business Announces Moderate Change for ’22

Covered California for Small Business unveiled the health plan choices and rates for small-business employers and their employees for the upcoming 2022 plan year. The statewide weighted average rate change is 4%, which Covered Cal says is the second-lowest annual increase in the program’s seven-year history.  More info:

Approximately 70,250 individuals have insurance through Covered California for Small Business, representing a growth of approximately 8,250 individuals, or a 13.3% gain in membership over this time last year.

Covered California for Small Business has now experienced double-digit percentage growth in membership for seven consecutive years, making it one of the largest small-business health options programs in the nation.

This year’s rate increase of 4% is lower than the recent projection of 5.8% in the large employer market in 2022.


SIIA Offers Crowdsource Forum

The Self-Insurance Institute of America, Inc. brought together nearly 1,100 self-insurance/captive insurance industry professionals recently in Austin as part of its National Conference Expo. Now the association is offering another opportunity for its members to get together in-person for the end of the year with its inaugural Crowdsource Forum. Scheduled for December 6-8 in Charleston, SC, with a livestream connection option, this new event will feature a series of moderated open discussion sessions in which attendees will be encouraged to openly provide their ideas, commentary and potential solutions for some of the most important topics in the self-insurance industry. Discussions to include:

– Price Transparency

– Specialty Drugs

– Cell & Gene Therapies

– Technology Strategies

– Workforce Development

There will also be an exhibit area and multiple networking functions. For exhibit/sponsorship information, contact Justin Miller at For complete event details and to register, click here.


Fly Me to the Moon — Or Somewhere Out There
Everyone seems to be fantasizing about space travel due to the recent launches of VirginGalactic, SpaceX, and Blue Origins (as well as the upcoming NASA rocket launch on Oct. 16). We thought you might find some enjoyment in the findings of  a recent space tourism survey by ValuePenguin:
  • 49% of Americans want to travel to space. Men are more interested in space travel than women (56% versus 44%), while interest in space tourism decreases with age (63% of Gen Zers versus 38% for baby boomers).

  • 28% of both men and Gen Zers would choose a free trip to space over being debt-free. Among all consumers, 23% opted for a trip to space rather than the ability to wipe out their debt.

  • Reality check: Of those consumers who want to travel to space, just 19% would shell out $100,000 or more to make it happen — and even that might not be enough. Seats on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo are estimated to start at a whopping $250,000 per person.

  • 60% of Americans agree that space travel should be accessible for everyone, not just those who can afford the exorbitant costs. On a similar note, 41% don’t think billionaires should be spending so much money on space travel.

  • About 1 in 4 (24%) don’t think space tourism is ethical. For example, some scientists fear that frequent space travel could give way to climate change, harming the environment through a high rate of emissions-per-passenger, as well as soot released by the rockets.

All we have to add: there have gotta be insurance opportunities if space tourism takes off! 🙂


Anxiety & Depression Declined in 2021

A CDC report says that national rates of anxiety and depression declined in the first half of 2021 but remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels. The report is based on the ongoing Household Pulse Survey, a national online survey developed by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Based on responses, CDC found average anxiety severity scores increased 13% between August and December 2020 before declining 26.8% between December 2020 and June 2021. The researchers reported a similar trend for depression rates.


  • LAAHU carrier panel and lunch..Looking Ahead to 2022, Oct 21, 11am-2pm, Skirball Center Los Angeles, Register here.
  • IMRA 2021 Annual Conference, Virtual, Oct 26-28, Info and registration here.
  • SIIA Crowdsource Forum, In-Person, December 6 – 8, Charleston, SC, Info here.


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