Trump Officials Roll out New Rule for Small Business Health Insurance Plans

From CNN:

Tamy Luhby reports that the Trump administration took the final step Tuesday in its plan aimed at making health insurance policies cheaper for some small businesses.

“The administration released its final rule governing association health plans, which allow small businesses and the self-employed to band together based on their industry or location and buy health insurance. The rule stems from an executive order that Trump signed in October aimed at providing alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, which it is bent on dismantling.”

The CNN report says that the rule allows association health plans to be regulated in the same way as large employer policies. That would free them from having to adhere to some of Obamacare’s rules, particularly the one requiring insurers to offer comprehensive coverage. Plans can start being offered as soon as September 1.

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Technology Puts Insurance at Crossroads

Winston Thomas writes in CDO Trends that, “The insurance industry is facing an identity crisis. Known for its ability to pool risks, it is now experiencing a fresh onslaught of challenges that demands insurers to take risks on new IT paradigms.

“Companies like Amazon and Facebook have made it easier to connect, shaping customer expectations. The problem is many insurers are still behind when it comes to customer convenience and engagement.”

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More Employers are Self-Funding Health Benefits

Nathan Solheim writes in Employee Benefits Advisor that  “today, more than 90 million em­ployees get health benefits through self-funded plans. Their employers have been spurred to self-insure by benefit advisers seeking ways to reduce and give their clients greater control over their healthcare spend.”

“A look at some recent numbers shows how self-insurance is gaining traction among smaller employers. A February study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that the percentage of smaller employers who self-insure rose between 2015 and 2016, while it declined somewhat from 60% to 57.8% among employers overall.”

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Fidelity Finds Little Knowledge about HSAs

Lee Barney writes in PlanSponsor that Fidelity says that 25% of employees with access to an HSA are using one. When employers offer only an HSA-eligible health plan, 46% of workers add this savings benefit.

Fidelity notes that the contribution limits for 2018 are $3,450 for individuals, $6,900 for a family, and $1,000 in catch-up contributions for those over age 55. However, last year, individuals contributed an average of $1,800 and family account owners, $3,800

Nearly 40% of people are unaware that the money in an HSA can carry forward. Instead, they think if they don’t use it, they will lose it at the end of the year. Additionally, 46% of HSA account holders are unaware they can invest their contribution, and a mere 7.7% actually do invest the money.

Health Advocates May be What is Needed to Help Drive Health Care Consumerism.

From BenefitsPro

Bridget Lipezker writes in BenefitsPro that health advocates have been cited by Forbes magazine as an “up-and-coming” industry, and they are becoming more and more in demand as our population ages (making more use of health services) and the health care industry becomes increasingly complex.

Health care advocates are dedicated to working on behalf of patients to ensure that they’re represented fairly and won’t be taken advantage of as they navigate the complicated health care journey.

Bridget Lipezker is SVP and General Manager of Advocacy and Transparency at DirectPath.

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Health Insurers Mount Major Defense of ‘Coverage at Work’

Allison Bell  writes in ThinkAdvisor that America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) says it will be running ads over the next year to “bring employer-provided coverage to the forefront, highlighting the critical role this type of coverage plays in improving Americans’ health and financial security.”

The Washington-based group has posted a collection of Coverage@Work resources, including a version of its first Coverage@Work ad, a background document, and results from a survey, here.

AHIP hopes the campaign will lead to a permanent repeal of the Affordable Care Act health insurance tax and “Cadillac plan tax.”

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Large Employers Getting More Deeply Involved in Managing their Workers’ Health

From CNBC:

An article appearing on reports “a handful of large American employers are getting more deeply involved in managing their workers’ health instead of looking to insurers to do it.”

The example cited is network gear maker Cisco Systems who is reportedly going to unusual lengths to take control of the relentless increase in its U.S. health-care costs by offering its employees a plan it negotiated directly with nearby Stanford Health medical system.

Under the plan, physicians are supposed to keep costs down by closely tracking about a dozen health indicators to prevent expensive emergencies, and keep Cisco workers happy with their care. If they meet these goals, Stanford gets a bonus. If they fail, Stanford pays Cisco a penalty.

Read more.

Some Employers are Turning to “Progressive” Health Benefits

 writes in AXIOS that some employers are turning to “progressive”, or wage-related health benefits, He says that progressive benefits are “where their lower wage employees pay a smaller share of insurance premiums, deductibles or health account contributions than higher-wage employees do.”

More large non-profits seem interested in progressive benefits than corporations do. – Drew Altman

Aultman explains why this matters by writing, “unlike consumers in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, lower wage workers in the far larger group market don’t get any help with premiums or cost-sharing. With premiums and deductibles rising and wage growth stubbornly flat, progressive benefits are one way for employers to help their low wage employees with their health care costs.”

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Employers are Accelerating Adoption of Benefits Technology to Meet the Needs of Tomorrow’s Workplace

Since 2012, investors have steered more than $14 billion into human capital management (HCM) software and platforms. A new study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian) confirms that human resources technology is top of mind for many employers seeking greater efficiencies and workforce engagement.  The study reveals most employers have increased their spending on benefits-related technology in the past five years, with approximately 50 percent expecting further increases in the next three years. The latest set of findings come from The Fifth Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits StudySM, Game-Changer: The Digitalization of Employee Benefits Delivery.

“Our lives increasingly revolve around new technologies and digitalization, and this study confirms that benefits technology is reshaping how employers think about their benefits strategy,” said Marc Costantini, executive vice president, Commercial and Government Markets, at Guardian. “A multi-generational workforce along with mounting pressures on employers to contain costs, simplify their benefits, and stay compliant are prompting employers to make this a priority.”

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Student Loan Benefits Poised to Take Off

Amanda Eisenberg published an article this week on EBN describing how millennials and Gen Zs are entering the workforce saddled with $30,000 of debt and lower wages than their parents earned at their age.

Eisenberg notes, “The changing workforce demographics have created a new protocol for HR departments to follow, which includes updating the benefits package to resonate with younger employees.”

While such companies as Aetna and Estée Lauder Companies are now offering about $10,000 in lifetime contributions to employees’ student loans, these benefits are not tax-preferred which Eisenberg notes makes it a difficult offering for the majority of companies to squeeze into their ever-growing benefits package.

Click here to read more and to find out what Congress may be doing about this problem.


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