Avik Roy warns Ohioans covered under individual health plans to prepare for some serious sticker shock next year:
“Democrats continue to try to dismiss the evidence that Obamacare will dramatically increase the cost of insurance for people who buy it on their own. But on [June 6], the Ohio Department of Insurance announced that, based on the rates submitted by insurers to date, the average individual-market health insurance premium in 2014 will come in around $420, ‘representing an increase of 88 percent” relative to 2013. ‘We have warned of these increases,’ said Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in a statement. ‘Consumers will have fewer choices and pay much higher premiums for their health insurance starting in 2014.’
“It’s called ‘rate shock,’ but it’s not shocking to people who understand the economics of health insurance. In August 2011, Milliman, one of the nation’s leading actuarial firms, predicted that Obamacare would increase individual-market premiums in Ohio by 55 to 85 percent. This past March, the Society of Actuaries projected that the law would increase premiums in that market by 81 percent. Like good players on ‘The Price is Right,’ they both came in just under the Dept. of Insurance’s figure.”
A recent study by Duke University School of Medicine supports findings that women who use oral contraceptives are less likely to develop ovarian cancer later in life, Reuters reports. Dr. Laura Havrilesky, who led the study, said, “It reinforces that there is a positive relationship between the use of oral contraceptives and ovarian cancer prevention in the general public.”
Havrilesky and her colleagues researched data from 24 previous studies that compared thousands of women who took the pill, varying at different lengths of time, as well as those women who did not take the pill. They concluded that women who took the pill had a 27% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. A longer use of the contraceptive was linked to more protection.
The study cannot prove that oral contraceptives alone can prevent ovarian cancer because there could have been other unmeasured factors in the study group, such as genetics. Although there is no known cure for ovarian cancer, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a normal weight may help the risk.
“What we’ve got right now may be the best evidence that we ever are able to have. I don’t necessarily think that it is enough to tell a physician to have their patients use oral contraceptives solely for the purpose of preventing ovarian cancer. But I think it’s enough to say this is a possible advantage in women who are considering use of oral contraceptives for birth control or other medical reasons,” Havrilesky told Reuters.
Taken together, the leading causes of medical fraud cost employers $4.93 per member per year in unnecessary payments, according to a new study by Truven Health Analytics. Employee Benefit News listed the six most common factors that drive fraud in American health care:
At MedBen, we combat these and other practices through our Anti-fraud Unit, which reviews questionable claims and other related information. This team works in tandem with an advanced surveillance system that thoroughly reviews every claim for fraud potential.
If you’d like to learn more about the measure we take to protect our clients, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new Swedish study suggests overweight and obese women are more likely to give birth prematurely, Reuters reports.
The study, conducted by Dr. Sven Cnattingius of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, analyzed 1.6 million pregnant women and their babies between 1992 and 2010. The data collected a woman’s weight and body mass index (BMI) at her first prenatal visit and followed the progression throughout her pregnancy.
Research determined that a higher body BMI was linked to babies being born between 22 and 27 weeks. Overweight women are also more likely to develop high blood pressure, the study noted.
Only 17% of women with an average weight delivered an extremely premature baby. Overweight women (with a BMI of 40 or greater) had the greatest risk for delivering a premature baby – 52%.
The researchers concluded that women should maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight before and after pregnancy. This will not only help the mother, but raises the odds for a safe delivery.
In anticipation of the national changeover from current ICD-9 medical diagnosis and inpatient procedure codes to ICD-10 in 2014, MedBen has released this Readiness Statement:
“MedBen will be fully compliant with the upcoming ICD-10 mandate by the deadline of October 1, 2014. We are diligently working to ensure that all of our system components are able to accept and process ICD-10 codes without interruption to our day-to-day processes.
“Our current implementation timeline will allow us to begin internal system testing of the ICD-10 modifications early in 2014. This will enable us to begin testing with vendor partners several months prior to the October 2014 deadline.”
MedBen clients with questions regarding ICD-10 readiness may contact Vice President of Information Systems Rose McEntire at email@example.com.
Two dental cleanings a year may be overkill for some people – though most patients do benefit from semi-annual checkups, a new University of Michigan study suggests.
According to HealthDay News (via WebMD), study author William Giannobile and colleagues reviewed data from more than 5,100 adults who visited the dentist regularly for 16 straight years to examine the link between the frequency of teeth cleanings and long-term tooth loss in the participants. They also reviewed three key risk factors for gum disease: smoking, diabetes and genetics.
The research team found that two dental cleanings a year provided significant benefits to people with one or more of the three risk factors, while people with two or three of the risk factors may require more than two cleanings a year. One cleaning per year appears sufficient for people with none of the risk factors, according to the study… but Giannobile noted in university news release that “over half the population” have at least one risk factor.
MedBen Dental encourages multiple checkups every year as well as good oral hygiene. Our plan incorporates affordable coverage, sound dental principles and responsiveness to the needs of your employees. To learn more, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Justice Department recently stated it would stop fighting the order requiring it to remove age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of the “morning after” pill, the Associated Press reports. The Food and Drug Administration has instructed Teva, the maker of Plan B One-Step, to submit a new drug application with appropriate labeling to allow the sale without a prescription and without age limits.
Women’s health groups cheered the decision. “It’s about time that the administration stopped opposing women having access to safe and effective birth control”, said Annie Tummino, coordinator of the National Women’s Liberation.
Opponents of the pill, who consider it a form of abortion, criticized the government for backing down from earlier age restrictions. “We’re very concerned and disappointed at the same time because what we see here is the government caving to political pressure instead of putting first the health and safety of girls (and) parental rights,” said Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council.
Plan B has a higher dose of the female hormone progestin than in regular birth control. The intent of the pill is to be taken within 72 hours of rape or missed contraceptive use to cut the chance of pregnancy by 89%. However, best results occur within 24 hours.
As we noted on Friday, State Representative Jay Hottinger, on behalf of the Ohio House of Representatives, presented MedBen with an official proclamation commemorating the company’s 75th birthday. The proclamation reads:
OHIO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES UNDER THE SPONSORSHIP OF REPRESENTATIVE JAY HOTTINGER
HOUSE DISTRICT 71
On behalf of the members of the House of Representatives of the 130th General Assembly of Ohio, we are pleased to congratulate
on its Seventy-fifth Anniversary.
Incorporated as the Hospital Service Association of Licking County in 1938, MedBen is a health care benefits management company, and over the years, its management and staff have consistently demonstrated exemplary professionalism and expertise, as well as an unwavering commitment to maintaining the highest industry standards. Due to the tremendous effort and initiative they have displayed, this noteworthy enterprise has grown significantly during the last three-quarters of a century, and it is certainly deserving of high praise.
Ohio’s economic well-being depends on business entrepreneurs to provide goods and services to the citizens of our state. We are proud to note that it is through the diligent work of individuals such as all those associated with MedBen. including its chairman and chief executive officer, Doug Freeman, and its president and chief operating officer, Kurt Harden, who are willing to invest in the future of their community, that the State of Ohio remains a pleasant place in which to live and work.
Thus, it is with great pleasure that we commend MedBen on the occasion of its Seventy-fifth Anniversary and salute it as one of Ohio’s finest businesses.
Representative Jay Hottinger
House District 71
William G. Batchelder
Speaker, Ohio House of Representatives
Clients, brokers and other invited VIPs joined MedBen employees at the Midland Theatre in Newark, Ohio on Monday, June 3 to celebrate the company’s 75th birthday. The event featured a private reception outside the theatre followed by a special concert by singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor.
Leading off the evening, Chairman and CEO Doug Freeman offered a brief overview of MedBen’s history, from its beginnings as a hospital service association with only two workers to its current status as a multi-service health benefits manager with a team of over 160 employees. An accompanying collection of archival materials included an employee application from 1938 (the monthly cost for a private hospital room – 80 cents), a newspaper article from the same year featuring the first patient to file a claim, and a photo from the 1984 groundbreaking of our current home office.
Freeman also highlighted the company’s charitable efforts – in particular, its work in the creation of the Licking County Community Health Clinic, which opened in 1992. A brainchild of Dr. Patrick Scarpitti, the clinic provides primary medical care to the less advantaged members of the community. MedBen served, as Freeman put it, “as a partner and a ‘deep pocket’” during the clinic’s early years – a relationship that continues to this day.
Freeman concluded his presentation by giving thanks to the MedBen team. Emphasizing comments he made during a recent interview – “The stability we’ve demonstrated for all these years begins and ends with the talented group of people“ – he requested that the various members of the MedBen staff stand up and be honored by the attending guests.
A majority on a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted yesterday to ease safety restrictions on the former blockbuster diabetes pill Avandia, the Associated Press reports. The decision came after a new analysis suggested that the drug may not increase the risk of heart attack as much as previously thought.
At one time the best-selling diabetes pill in the world, Avandia sales suffered in 2007 following concerns raised by researchers linking the drug to heart attacks – and a 2009 study seemed to confirm those fears. In 2010 the FDA limited access to the drug, while European regulators banned the pill altogether.
The new analysis calls into question the findings the earlier study, pointing out design flaws and inconsistent reporting of heart attacks. Based on the findings, 20 of the 26 panel members voted to modify safety restrictions on Avandia or remove them entirely.
Even if the FDA eases limits on Avandia, however, it’s unlikely the drug will reclaim its former popularity. “It’s very difficult to rehabilitate a drug, any drug, after it’s been through a process like this,” said Rebecca Killion, the panel’s patient representative.
One of the leading causes of death today in the United States is a stroke, which is linked to approximately 129,500 deaths per year. But Americans can do a better job at preventing a stroke, which occurs when blood vessels burst or is blocked in the brain, by eliminating just a few bad habits, a new study reveals.
According to NPR, scientists researched seven known factors to affect stroke risk: cigarette smoking, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and everyone’s all-time favorites, exercise and diet.
Tracking 30,239 people from ages 45 and older for four years, the study revealed that it really only takes one bad habit change to make a significant difference.
According to the American Heart Association, “The neat thing of this finding is that anything makes a difference. If you make a small change, you make a big improvement.”
Where should we begin? Blood pressure, because that shows the greatest risk reduction. “Every 20 millimeters of systolic that you lower from wherever you are, you lower your risk of stroke by 50 percent,” said AHA spokesman Daniel Lackland.
With just months to go before some major provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect, most public opinion of President Obama’s signature legislature continues to fall in the “against” camp.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 49% of Americans say they believe the health care reform law is a bad idea – the highest negative number in the four years the poll has been conducted. Only 37% think the plan is a good idea.
Many respondents also said that they (and their families) will be worse off under the ACA – 38% compared to 19% would said they’ll be better off, and 39% who said it won’t make a difference. Again, the disapproval number was the highest since the law’s passage in 2010.
Broken down by party, Decomcrats say they’ll be better off under the law by a 35-to-11% margin, while 67% of Republicans say they’ll be worse off compared to 4% who feel the opposite.
The aspirin in your medicine cabinet may just as good and effective as expensive blood-thinning medication for preventing blood clots after major surgery, a new study suggests.
According to WebMD, researchers in Nova Scotia followed 778 patients who had undergone hip replacement surgery between 2007 and 2010. Each patient received 10 days of the blood-thinner heparin following surgery. The group was then broken in half and for the next four weeks, half received heparin injections, while the other half received 81 milligrams of aspirin therapy.
The study concluded that the two medications were similar in effectiveness and safety. The difference was cost. “Given the low cost of aspirin and its convenience, it’s a reasonable alternative to low-molecular-weight heparin when used in the manner designed in the trial,” said Dr. David Anderson, a professor and head of the department of medicine at Dalhousie University.
Five people on dalteparin and one on aspirin developed a blood clot. Anderson noted that while the difference in bleeding events wasn’t statically significant, there was a trend toward aspirin being the safer alternative.
Several large employers, “will begin offering smaller employers… the option of so-called self-insurance in some markets later this year,” The Wall Street Journal recently reported:
“For small businesses, being self-insured would let them avoid new requirements under the law that call for traditional small group plans to include richer benefits, such as mental-health and maternity care. Self-insured companies can also avoid changes to pricing rules that could increase costs for groups of healthy workers.”
For MedBen, small group self-funding is old news. For over 20 years, our Split Solution product has offered saving potential while still protecting smaller employers from high claims activity.
If you work hard to contain your health care costs, “making the Split” is ideal for your group. You can share in the savings that come from a healthy workforce – and you maintain plan flexibility to boot.
To learn more about Split Solution options available through MedBen, please contact Brian Fargus, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, at email@example.com.
Newer doesn’t always mean better, as the saying goes. (Actually, we’re not really sure if there is such a saying – but if not, there should be.) And pharmaceutical research on published yesterday drives the point home.
According to Reuters, the study of prescription drugs found that the effectiveness of new products, as measured by comparing the response of patients on those treatments to those taking a placebo, has taken a nosedive in the past 40+ years.
Examining 315 clinical trials from 1966 to 2010 in which drugs used to treat a variety of conditions were compared to placebos, researchers discovered a slow but study decline in efficacy over the decades. In the earliest trials, drugs were, on average, 4.5 times more effective than placebos in accomplishing their intended goals. That number fell to four times better in the 1980’s, twice as good in the 90’s and only 35% better by the 2000’s.
The pharmaceutical industry questioned the findings. “We believe that a lot continues to be accomplished in terms of yielding very, very positive results for patients, so there seems to be a disconnect between that and this paper,” said Randy Burkholder, deputy vice president of policy at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) trade group.
The Reuters article noted that in spite of the downward trend, breakthrough drugs continue to emerge, such as Gleevec for extending life expectancy of leukemia patients, and Incivek for the treatment of hepatitis C.
A new study reveals that smokers cost employers $6,000 a year more than non-smokers, NBC News reports.
In making this determination, lead researcher Micah Berman of Ohio State University and colleagues looked not only at costs of medical treatment for smokers, but lost productivity for workers who take smoke breaks – and even factored in any savings that may result from an employered smoker dying younger, such as from reduced pension costs.
Bermain noted that his team took a conservative approach whenever possible. “Employers try to correct for the idea that smokers cost more by paying them somewhat less. Even when we adjusted for that – smokers still cost more,” he said.
Employees taking smoke breaks cost employers from about $1,600 to $3,100 per employee per year, depending on the number taken each day. As for added health care costs for such conditions as lung cancer and heart disease, the cost to employers averaged $2,100 annually per smoker.
Even when more obvious factor were removed from consideration, Berman’s team was surprised by the reduction in smokers’ work output. “Though all employees are occasionally unproductive in one way or another, research suggests that smoking status negatively impacts productivity separately and apart from lost work time due to smoking breaks and absenteeism,” they wrote.
The New York Times reports that the rule will allow employers to offer financial rewards and penalties for workers up to 50% of the premium as an incentive to exercise, quit smoking, lose weight, eat more healthful food and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Presently, the maximum permissible reward is 20% of the cost of coverage.
Incentives can be used a part of a group health plan’s “outcome-based wellness program”, rewarding employees who, for example, do not use tobacco or reach a specific cholesterol level. But an employer must also provide “a reasonable alternative standard” so that employees can qualify for rewards if they fail to meet the initial standard.
The rule applies to group health insurance coverage for plan years starting on or after Jan. 1, 2014. The Labor Department reports that more than 90% of employers with 200 or more workers have a worksite wellness program in place.
MedBen Worksite Wellness will work with you to develop an incentive program appropriate to the needs of your group… and rewards need not be financial to be effective. For more information, please contact Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Midwest states Ohio and Michigan rank, appropriately enough, among the middle of the pack in a study of senior health nationwide, USA Today reports.
The newly-released America’s Health Rankings Senior Report found that while Americans are living longer, such conditions as obesity, heart disease and diabetes have escalated – and as more baby boomers turn 65, the combination portends a health care crisis.
Among signs of impending challenges the report cites:
Minnesota, also a Midwest state, topped the senior health rankings (see chart above). Among other Midwest states, Iowa also fared well at 5th, followed by North Dakota and Nebraska (11th and 14th, respectively). Michigan and Ohio fall roughly in the center of the rankings (26th and 28th), while further down on the list are Indiana (32) and Illinois (37).
“The 2010 Affordable Care Act’s so-called Cadillac tax on high-premium health plans was initially projected to bring in $137 billion over the next decade. That estimate has now been trimmed to about $80 billion, a $57 billion decrease, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report [earlier this month].
“The [ACA] includes a 40 percent tax on employee benefits exceeding $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families, on the theory that overly generous plans boost medical costs. Companies have responded by pressing hospitals for better rates, adding wellness programs and raising deductibles on workers, said Steve Wojcik, a vice president at the National Business Group on Health[…]
“Largely because of a drop-off in projected tax revenues, the estimated cost of implementing the law through 2023 rose by $40 billion to $1.36 trillion, the budget office said.
“The law imposes the ‘cadillac’ tax starting in 2018. Sixty-one percent of employers with 500 workers or more said in a 2011 survey that they expected to trigger the tax unless they took steps, according to Mercer Inc., a Washington-based benefits consultant.”
Read more at Bloomberg.com. And a reminder to MedBen clients: Should you at any time have questions about the tax implications of your health care plan, please contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at email@example.com.
The odds of surviving heart failure is improving, according to an analysis by researchers at UCLA – but the death rate remains high.
NPR reports that improved treatments for advanced heart failure, such as new medications and devices, have greatly lowered the mortality risk. Still, about 30% of people die within three years of diagnosis.
About 6 million people in the United States have heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is the primary cause of 55,000 deaths a year. The condition, typically caused by heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and viral infections, prevents the heart from moving blood effectively.
The study of 2,500 patients who had been treated at UCLA from 1993 to 2010 found that three drugs – ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and aldosterone antagonists – were widely adopted for treatment of heart failure during that period. At the same time, the number of people with implanted automatic heart defibrillators, which correct abnormal heart rhythms, jumped from 11% to 68% percent.
Overall mortality rates from heart disease dropped 42% from 2005 to 2010, largely due to a drop in sudden cardiac deaths. But deaths from progressive heart failure remained high, with 31% of patients dying in the latter part of the study, compared to 36% in the 1990s.