Coronavirus Drives Health Insurers Back to Obamacare

Health insurers fled the Affordable Care Act in the early years of the law, fearing that losses from covering too many sick people would eat away at their profits.

Now the insurers increasingly view Obamacare as a boon while job-based health coverage faces its biggest threat yet in a crashing economy. Read More: Politico

IRS Expands Election and Reimbursement Periods for Health Benefits, FSAs

The IRS released guidance to allow temporary changes to Section 125 cafeteria plans, extending the claims period for health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and dependent care assistance programs and allowing employees to make mid-year changes.

The IRS explains that the guidance addresses unanticipated changes in expenses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More. PlanSponsor

Could we now see be a new push to expand health coverage?

The elephant in this proverbial room is America’s embarrassingly high uninsured rate — above 10 percent before the crisis started and significantly higher now that millions are unemployed and losing their health insurance.

This is the fundamental immorality of US health care that the coronavirus has exposed again: How can anybody in the richest country in the world lack financial protection in a medical emergency?

But any significant expansion of health coverage probably depends on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Read More:  Vox

More ACOs Turn to Telehealth to Combat COVID-19 Financial Crisis

A recent survey of 20 accountable care organizations showed many are turning to telehealth and remote patient monitoring solutions for care coordination and to combat financial losses caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. All said they were implementing some sort of telehealth solution, while some are also turning to artificial intelligence to identify patients at high risk and guide outreach. Read More: FierceHealthcare

Expect More Medical Debt in the Wake of COVID-19

In the aftermath of the pandemic, consumers who had thought they would be shielded from the costs for testing and treatment might find themselves with unexpected bills for related services. Others will know the bills are coming but simply have no way to pay for them, as furloughs and job cuts take their toll on household budgets.

“High-deductible health plans’ popularity, while undeniable, has an impact on medical debt Collections,” the report’s authors note. “This factor may well be compounded if the Affordable Care Act coverages offered to the public are rolled back, or if Medicaid expansions are not adopted across more states, giving patients some form of a financial cushion against medical bills that may cause hardship.”

“At a macro level, health plans must consider and plan for some form of a public health plan or Medicare for All option to combat medical-bill-related problems,” the report suggests. “While this is not a certainty, COVID-19, an ensuing recession, and presidential elections on the horizon are a call to action for health plans to review their business models, go to market, and make any major pivot decisions at a 30,000-foot view.”

Read More. BenefitsPro

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Humana to Waive Member Costs for all Primary Care and Behavioral Health Office Visits for Medicare Advantage Members, Delivers Safety Kits to Members

Today, Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) announced additional actions to help protect, inform and care for its nearly 4.5 million Medicare Advantage members.

Humana announced that it will waive all cost sharing—including copays, coinsurance, and deductibles—for in-network primary care, behavioral health and telehealth visits for the remainder of the calendar year. The company is also proactively delivering safety kits to members’ homes, allowing them to access essential healthcare services safely and affordably. Raed More. Humana

First Dollar Raises $5 Million for a Consumer-friendly Healthcare Savings Account

Jason Bornhorst and Colin Anawaty have teamed up to launch First Dollar, a healthcare savings platform with a focus on HSAs (health savings accounts) that targets millennials and Gen Z.

First Dollar is launching on the thesis that it can help consumers get better use out of their healthcare savings accounts, or HSAs. HSAs are non-taxable savings accounts that can be used on medical expenses, doctor visit co-pays or medical prescriptions. Read More. TechCrunch

How Healthcare Payors Are Leveraging Voice Apps And Chat Bots

Innovative healthcare payors are exploring new opportunities for using conversational experiences to enhance member engagement and improve care management. 

Readers of this blog may be interested in finding out about a webinar being conducted by Orbita that will share lessons learned in developing a conversational virtual health assistant.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, August 29th from 1PM-2PM Eastern and will feature Jessie Gatto, Senior Innovation Strategist & Information Designer at Humana Healthcare Trend and Innovation.

Humana’s innovation team recently completed a pilot that yielded highly valuable insights for developing the capabilities and know-how needed to roll out a successful voice initiative.

Find out more here.

Is Walmart the Future of Wellness? Health Care & Retail Are Set to Collide

From Observer, By Arick Wierson

Despite encroaching competition from CVS, Amazon and even Alibaba, Walmart still holds the title as the world’s largest retailer, and with that distinction comes several mind-boggling statistics. One that caught my attention recently is astounding: approximately 140 million Americans visit a Walmart Store each week.

That’s a lot of people. 

Stated another way, more than one out every three Americans step inside one of Walmart’s 4,000-odd stores on a weekly basis.

With market share like that, and a staggeringly extensive physical presence, it may seem unsurprising that the company has been gearing up to carve off an increasingly thicker slice of the $3.3 trillion that the U.S. spends on health care each year. 

It was only a few years ago that Walmart announced its plans to be the “Number One Health Care Provider in the Industry.” At the time, the statement seemed a bit audacious, and even perplexing, to the average outsider, but both leaders in the health and retail industries now view the eventual fusion between their sectors as an all but foregone conclusion. The big question is not if such a convergence will take place, but how exactly it will all unfold.

Read More

Trump Administration Loosens Restrictions On Short-Term Health Plans

From Kaiser Health News:

Insurers will again be able to sell short-term health insurance good for up to 12 months under final rules released Wednesday by the Trump administration.

This action overturns an Obama administration directive that limited such plans to 90 days. It also adds a new twist: If they wish, insurers can make the short-term plans renewable for up to three years.

Short-term plans are less expensive because, unlike their ACA counterparts, which cannot bar people with preexisting health conditions, insurers selling these policies can be choosy — rejecting people with illnesses or limiting their coverage.

Short-term plans can also set annual and lifetime caps on benefits, and cover few prescription drugs.

Most exclude benefits for maternity care, preventive care, mental health services or substance abuse treatment.

Read more.