Employees blame insurers for surprise medical bills

Posted by Emily Kubis on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 @ 08:09

How employers can help

A majority of Americans have received a surprise medical bill in the last year, and a new study provides some insight into how consumers feel about medical billing — and where they place the blame for unexpected costs.

According to the study, published by research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, the majority of respondents named insurance companies as very responsible for surprise billing, followed next by hospitals. Most of the surprise charges were for a physician’s service, followed by lab tests.

The study illustrates that despite years of conversations around price transparency and consumer-directed healthcare, the industry is still struggling to effectively educate employees about their benefits and care costs.

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Tags: group benefits, group plan, broker, self-funded, self-insurance, stop-loss coverage

Culture of health reduces turnover by a third

Posted by Emily Kubis on Wed, Aug 29, 2018 @ 06:08

What employers can do

A new study by Mercer found employers’ turnover rate dropped by a third when comparing companies doing the most to help employees thrive, versus those doing the least.

Employees stay longer when the culture of health is stronger, the study found. Further, employers engaging in more “wellbeing practices,” also bend the cost curve more substantially.

What are the well-being practices? The study broke them down into three categories, “basic,” “culture of health,” and “quality and value.” Here are a few of these solutions for cost containment and employee well-being.

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Tags: group benefits, group plan, offer health insurance, small group market

Congress considers dueling parental leave policies

Posted by Emily Kubis on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 @ 06:08

What employers should know

Congress is working on a solution for paid parental leave, with options currently under consideration on both sides of the aisle.

Most recently, Sen. Marco Rubio released the “Economic Security Act for New Parents,” which would allow parents to withdraw early Social Security benefits to use after the birth or adoption of a child. Parents who took advantage of this bill would then delay the collection of those benefits in retirement

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Tags: group benefits, group plan, offer health insurance, broker, parental leave, small group market

How new short-term health plan rules could affect employees

Posted by Emily Kubis on Fri, Aug 24, 2018 @ 06:08

New rules could create more options for employees

New rules from the Trump administration will expand the reach of short-term insurance plans, which could result in additional options for consumers, including employees.

The new rules extend the duration of short-term health plans from three months to 364 days, and would also allow the plans to be renewed. These regulations make short-term plans more like other types of insurance.

While these plans are generally cheaper than other types of coverage, they do not cover as many services as traditional health plans, such as preventive care or prescriptions.

Still, many anticipate that consumers looking for lower-cost alternatives may forgo comprehensive coverage and elect these plans, especially as the individual mandate penalty no longer applies next year.

Why does this matter to employers? In a few circumstances, employees could choose these new options instead of workplace options. Here are a few scenarios where this could apply.

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Tags: short-term health insurance, short-term health plan, short term plan, group benefits, group plan, offer health insurance, broker, small group market

How to handle employee absences outside of FMLA

Posted by Emily Kubis on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 @ 09:08

What to do when FMLA doesn't apply

When it comes to personal or medical employee absences, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides a standard set of requirements for employers with over 50 employees.

But there are cases where FMLA does not apply. If you have less than 50 employees, or the employee has not worked for the company the required amount of time for FMLA eligibility—1,250 work hours or 12 months of active employment—how do you handle employee leave?

The process will vary based on the specific circumstances at your organization, as there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach when FMLA doesn’t apply. But in general, here are two scenarios—one where the employee has Short-Term Disability coverage, and one without Short-Term Disability coverage.

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Tags: group benefits, group plan, broker, BernieHR, FMLA

The pros and cons of a PEO

Posted by Emily Kubis on Wed, Aug 08, 2018 @ 11:08

Five things to consider

Are you considering using a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) at your business? Businesses can partner with a PEO to outsource a variety of administrative tasks, including HR, payroll, health insurance and more.

When partnering with a PEO, the organization effectively becomes the employer of record of your employees. There are some pros and cons associated with this arrangement. Here are five things to consider about PEOs.

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Tags: group benefits, group plan, broker, Professional Employer Organization, PEO

Group health premiums going up? Consider self-funding

Posted by Emily Kubis on Fri, Aug 03, 2018 @ 10:08

Getting a big rate increase? 

If you are receiving a big rate increase on next year’s group health plan, it may be time to consider a different funding strategy. With healthcare costs continuing to rise, there are only so many solutions for reducing the financial pressure on employers and employees through a fully-insured insurance plan.

If you’ve raised deductibles, helped employees with HSAs, implemented wellness programs – and are still seeing double digit premium increases, you may want to pursue a self-funded health plan.

First, what is self-funding, or self-insuring?

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Tags: group benefits, group plan, broker, self-funded, self-insurance, stop-loss coverage

How a defined contribution health plan can help you save

Posted by Chase Ballard on Tue, Jul 31, 2018 @ 06:07

Combat rising health plan expenses with a defined contribution plan

You’ve heard it before; the cost of group health plans are on the rise. You’ve probably experienced the effects of these cost increases within your own company. Here’s how a defined contribution health plan could help you regain control over your healthcare spend.

For decades, most employers have been approaching rising costs in one of two ways:

  1. To change the plan design by introducing higher deductibles, copays, or out of pocket maximums.
  2. To increase employee payroll deductions.

This may be an appropriate way to address cost increases of two to three percent, but it could cause serious issues when your plan see’s a cost increase of fifteen-plus percent as many have in recent years.

Let’s say this years health plan costs $500 per employee per month. You, the employer, are telling your employees that you are picking up 80 percent of that expense, leaving $100 per month for your employees.

Now, let’s say the cost of your plan increases by twenty percent to $600 per employee per month (PEPM) next year. The cost to you, the employer, would rise by that same twenty percent meaning next years plan would cost you $480.

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Tags: group plan, employer digest, employee benefits

Are AHPs a good fit for my organization?

Posted by Emily Kubis on Fri, Jul 27, 2018 @ 09:07

New plans could save employers money, but might not be right for every group

New regulations released by the Trump administration means more employers can form Association Health Plans (AHPs) to offer health coverage to employees. By allowing employers to band together to offer health coverage, AHPs allow smaller employers to take advantage of economies of scale.

The new rules mean any employers in the same industry or region, as well as sole proprietors, can now form or join an association and offer an AHP. Because these plans don’t have to offer the same set of benefits as other health plans, this can represent cost-savings for many employers.

However, this strategy isn’t necessarily right for every small business. How do you know if an AHP is right for your organization? Here are a few questions to ask.

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Tags: group benefits, group plan, offer health insurance, broker, small group market, association health plans, AHPs

Five ways to save money on your group health plan

Posted by Chase Ballard on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 @ 06:07

Address rising costs with new strategies

The cost of group health plans are growing more and more expensive. Rates for fully-insured plans are expected to rise by upwards of 8 percent next year. Across the country, small to mid-sized businesses are starting to reconsider how they are financing their health plans.

Here are some things to consider when planning for next years health plan:

  1. Choose a high deductible health plan: Switching to a high deductible health plan may sound like a daunting task. But making the switch could help you and your employees save on next year’s plan. A high deductible plan will offer your business and your employees lower premiums because it makes the user responsible for a larger amount of health costs before insurance kicks in. This tends to make users more conscious of how they are spending their dollars on healthcare and will simultaneously make them eligible for an HSA (Health Savings Account).
  2. Utilizing HSAs (Health Savings Accounts): A health savings account is a great way for your employees to start saving for their health costs. With an HSA, employee’s can spend pre-tax dollars that they’ve saved on qualified out of pocket medical expenses. Spent HSA funds count towards the users yearly deductible and unused funds will be rolled over from year to year. A high deductible health plan is a prerequisite to qualify for an HSA. 
  3. Utilizing HRAs (Health reimbursement accounts): Now, where does the employer fit into all of this? Employers can utilize HRAs (Health Reimbursement Accounts) to help with their employees out of pocket medical expenses. An HRA is similar to an HSA, with the main difference being the contributor. An HRA allows employers to set aside money to reimburse employees for their qualified out of pocket medical expenses. Like an HSA, unused HRA funds can rolled over from one year to the next. 
  4. Start a wellness program: You will likely be able to avoid a lot of future claims by promoting health consciousness in the workplace. This could be as simple as providing healthy snacks for the office kitchen or paying for every employee to have a gym membership. It’s easy to forget about things like diet and exercise. So a wellness program could help employees reach their health goals and help employers avoid costly future claims. 
  5. Ask your broker if they have a nurse on staff: Having access to a nurse through your broker can be very advantageous for you and your employees. A nurse can help you price shop prescriptions to ensure that you’re not overspending. They can also help advise employees on the maintenance of their health, which can help you avoid future claims. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your broker a strategy change. A new strategy could help your company save big on next year’s plan.

Bernard Health has over a decade of experience with helping employers consider all of their health plan options. Click below if you would like to speak with one of our advisors.

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Tags: group plan, employer digest, employee benefits

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