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03/27/15

  08:29:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 99 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News

MedBen Tops Columbus Business First Survey

MedBen was recently recognized by Columbus Business First as the region's #1 third party administrator, based on the number of its employees that live in Central Ohio.

According to its annual survey results, MedBen, with 165 of its personnel residing in Licking, Franklin, Perry and surrounding counties, employs over 100 more area workers than the closest competitor.

MedBen is pleased to call Central Ohio (specifically Newark, where its home office is located) home and draw upon the enormous talents of the men and women who live in this area!

The full list is available for viewing at the Columbus Business Journal website.

03/25/15

  09:56:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 276 words,  
Categories: News, Consumer-driven Health Plans, Cost savings

The True Value Of High-deductible Health Plans

weigh in

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) frequently get a bad rap as a way that employers can shift more health care costs over to employees, or as a deterrent for employees to get needed care. But when used effectively, HDHPs can benefit employer and employee alike.

We'll state right up front than an HDHP should not be seen as a simple fix to give employers short-term relief to rising health care costs. Better that employers focus on long-term savings solutions like those that MedBen provides its clients, including a proprietary claims surveillance system, a 100% return on pharmacy rebates, and actionable reporting tools that help you make intelligent benefit decisions.

According to Modern Healthcare, a study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research examined claims data from 54 large U.S. employers and compared those that offered high-deductible options with those that do not. In the three years of data reviewed, researchers determined that 1) annual health care spending was, on average, 4.8% less for companies with HDHPs than those without them, and 2) there were “no differences in either emergency department or inpatient spending” by the end of the third year.

Bottom line, the key to an effective HDHP strategy is smart integration with your total benefits package. Toward this goal, MedBen features a turn-key health savings account (HSA) service that works in combination with your HDHP, balancing employee needs with employer cost considerations. We ensure that your financial interests are addressed while still encouraging plan members to make proper use of their coverage, be it for basic care or major surgery.

For additional information about the advantages of HDHPs, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

03/23/15

  09:23:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 507 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Taxes

Obamacare Celebrates the Big 0-5

White House

Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday when President Obama and members of Congress were squabbling about the best way to ensure that all Americans had access to comprehensive and affordable health care coverage. And now here we are, five years to the day since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and... well, there's still a whole lot of squabbling going on about it. But whatever the future of “Obamacare,” there's no question the law has permanently altered the health care landscape.

For those with individual health insurance, the results have been something of a mixed bag. The ACA has enabled millions of Americans who couldn't afford coverage to buy plans from the federal- and state-run health insurance marketplaces. The Obama administration recently estimated that 16.4 million adults have gained insurance under the law, while the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index puts the figure at closer to 10 million – though even that may be high when one factors in individuals who dropped coverage or whose plans were cancelled by their insurer.

Still, not every insured individual is happy about health reform's effects. The expansion of mandatory benefits under ACA rules means that many people who were satisfied with their basic coverage prior to the law's passage have been forced to buy more benefit-rich plans at higher premiums. Also, it remains to be seen how rigidly the IRS will enforce penalties on individuals who choose not to purchase coverage... which could adversely affect premiums for covered individuals in coming years.

Employers have unquestionably taken the biggest financial hit from the law. While most businesses with 50 or more employees already had group health coverage in place prior to 2010, the ACA placed on them new taxes and fees to help cover the costs of marketplace premium subsidies and coverage for high-risk individuals. Additionally, the law has excised caps on lifetime maximums, resulting in an increase of provider claims in excess of one million dollars.

However, the situation is markedly better for businesses that self-fund their group health coverage. While the taxes and fees remain an unpleasant reality, self-funded employers have much greater flexibility in regard to their plan design and range of benefit offerings. Equally important, health benefit managers like MedBen provide additional cost containment tools that can not only offset the new expenses, but can actually help businesses save money.

Moreover, MedBen offers self-funded groups a critical ally – namely, an expert compliance department that keeps a close eye on the latest ACA happenings. We ensure that our clients remain ahead of the latest reform rules, so they're not caught off guard by a new mandate that, if gone unnoticed, could result in costly penalties later.

Learn more about the MedBen Advantage in relation to health care reform by contacting Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com. Current MedBen clients who have questions about the ACA are always welcome to ask Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at cfraker@medben.com.

The Associated Press, USA Today and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch all feature articles today observing Obamacare's fifth anniversary.

03/20/15

  09:49:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 312 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Incentives

Best Wellness Incentives Are Those Backed By Employer Support

walker

More employers are tying wellness program incentives to measurable improvements on the part of plan members, a recent survey found... but such an aggressive approach is not without risk.

According to the poll of 165 U.S. employers by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 60% offer some type of health-contingent wellness incentive to their employees. And of those wellness programs that are incentive-based, about half offer financial rewards to employees who complete weight-loss programs, fitness challenges and other health-related activities.

Furthermore. over half of employers offering health-contingent financial incentives tie them to verifiable changes for the better, such as achieving or maintaining a healthy weight, reducing their cholesterol or quitting smoking, the survey revealed. The majority of employer who use this outcomes-based approach report a "somewhat" or "very positive" reaction from employees.

MedBen agrees that incentives can indeed help to motivate employees toward the long-term success of a wellness program. But with our MedBen WellLiving program, we typically advise clients to offer financial rewards for completing annual wellness exams or exercising regularly (to cite two examples), rather than for measures that some employees may consider objectionable.

While taking a more aggressive approach to incentives can give employees an extra "push" to meet wellness objectives, it also can potentially leave employers open to charges of discrimination. To protect themselves from legal liability, businesses must provide alternative goals for members who have physical disabilities.

Our experience has shown that if a company's executive team leads through example and demonstrates continued support for a program's success, employees are more likely to be invested as well. Incentives work best if they're simply one part of a greater overall commitment to better health in the workplace.

To learn more about MedBen WellLiving incentive solutions, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

Read more about the 2015 Workplace Wellness Trends Survey at the Business First website.

03/18/15

  10:17:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 234 words,  
Categories: Announcements

Specialty Drugs A Major Factor In U.S. Drug Spending Increase

pills

The rise in spending for specialty drugs has contributed to a 13.% increase in prescription drug spending in 2014, Business Insurance recently reported.

According to the Express Scripts 2014 Drug Trend Report, the overall increase in national drug spending last year was the highest rate in more than a decade. The study included group health claims and Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions.

Utilization of high-cost specialty medications increased 5.8% from 2013, while their costs increased a startling 25.2%. Moreover, these drugs accounted for 31.8% of overall drug spending in 2014, up from 27.7% the year prior. (Express Scripts said in a statement that over half of the rise in overall spending can be attributed to Hepatitis C therapies and compounded medications.)

As we noted last week on our MedBen University post, the overprescribing of specialty drugs can have a detrimental effect on an employer's pharmacy plan costs. MedBen has advised its clients to consider "discretionary drug exclusions" in cases where generic alternatives are available for high-cost brand medications.

While this may seem a drastic measure, excluding a specialty drug from coverage altogether -- instead of, say, requiring the plan member to first meet a deductible (that would like be quickly reached anyhow, leaving the plan to pick up the bulk of the cost) -- makes smart economic sense. In addition to the generic availability factor, many specialty medications have copayment discount cards that members can obtain to reduce the cost of the claim charge if necessary.

03/16/15

  10:06:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 228 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform, Taxes

PCORI Meeting Its Goals, Government Accountability Office Reports

Remember the “PCORI fee," the annual charge all self-funded group health plans must pay to cover the cost of research to improve the delivery of medical care? According to the Government Accountability Office, your tax dollars have so far been properly used... though the administrative costs have run a bit high in the early going.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute was established under the Affordable Care Act to promote research into how conditions and diseases can be most effectively diagnosed and treated. As of October 2014, the not-for-profit organization has awarded 360 contracts totaling $670.8 million, and expects to award $2.6 billion in grants by the end of 2019. In its report, GAO concludes that PCORI is operating in accordance with the requirements of the law.

The report also notes that PCORI, which is governed by a 21-member board and employs about 150 staff members, incurred a total of $235 million in administrative costs through fiscal 2014. Administrative expenses accounted for at least 20% of the organization's total budget in 2012 and 2013, though such costs are expected to drop to under 10% this fiscal year.

The (tax-deductible) PCORI fee for the current plan year (ending on or after Oct. 1, 2014 and before Oct. 1, 2015) is $2.08 per covered life. Employers subject to the fee must submit it by July 31 of the year immediately following the last day of the plan/policy year.

You can read more about the GAO report at Modern Healthcare.

03/12/15

  08:32:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 748 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Taxes, Reporting, Cost savings

MedBen University Roundtables Offer Industry Insights, Timely Advice

At MedBen, we are dedicated to giving our clients the information they need to make smart benefits management decision, in part through a variety of education session through MedBen University (MBU). In addition to presentations on such topics as self-funded solutions and wellness strategies, MBU also offers an annual series of roundtables. This week, MBU conducted two of these industry-specific events.

On Tuesday, MedBen and the Sherrill Morgan agency co-sponsored a municipality roundtable in Florence, KY. And this morning, MedBen hosted a hospital roundtable at the company's conference center in Newark, OH. In both instances, attendees learned about the health care cost trends in their respective industries, and saw first-hand how their own group plan costs compared to those of other, similar businesses administered by MedBen.

Brian Fargus

Both municipal and hospital employers have their own distinctive challenges and opportunities in regard to benefit planning. MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus, who presented industry benchmark information at both roundtables, discussed how to use these opportunities to their best advantage.

Because government businesses often provide richer coverage with benefits negotiated through unions, Fargus said those employers need to place a special emphasis on pushing in-network care and including plan language that minimizes the employer's financial risk. Hospital employers, on the other hand, can keep medical and pharmaceutical costs down by taking advantage of their unique circumstances, by steering plan participants to their own facility for care and prescription fulfillment.

Fargus noted in both his presentations that the respective industries have also kept cost increases in check through such strategies as waiving coverage for spouses who have insurance and emphasizing wellness.

At the hospital roundtable, Fargus also observed that the elimination of lifetime maximums under the Affordable Care Act has led to a huge upswing in provider claims exceeding $1 million. "It underscores the importance of having a good stop-loss carrier," Fargus said, as well as finding other avenues for controlling costs.

Full story »

03/11/15

  11:10:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 288 words,  
Categories: News, Consumer-driven Health Plans

FSA Grace Period Ending Soon For Some Plans

pharmacist

An important deadline is fast approaching for flexible spending account (FSA) participants whose plans offer a grace period deadline: if your plan year ended on December 31, 2014, March 15 is the final day to spend any remaining funds from 2014.

The grace period is just one of several options employers now have to encourage FSA participants to utilize their excess funds. In 2013, the IRS added an alternative carryover feature in which participants can roll over up to $500 of unused funds to the next year. Plans can offer grace periods or carryovers, but not both -- or plans can choose to offer neither option.

Most plans also offer a 90-day run-out period for FSA participants to submit any outstanding requests for reimbursement.

On the Employee Benefit Advisor website, Jeremy Miller of FSAstore.com offers several useful tips to employers whose plan offers a grace period to encourage participants to spend their leftover FSA dollars by March 15, including:

  • Keep track of the balance. If you're a MedBen client, FSA participants can do this by visiting MedBen.com, selecting "MedBen Access" and, once logged in, clicking on “FSA/HRA Online Inquiry” under the “My Plan” section.
  • Explore eligible expenses. MedBen provides a handy list of IRS-qualified expenditures.
  • Pay for medical services. Employees can use an FSA for co-pays and deductibles when visiting physicians, dentists, ophthalmologists, and for alternative medical services such as chiropractic care and acupuncture.
  • Shop for products. Health care products like breast pumps, first-aid kits, hot and cold therapy packs, and contact lenses are among thousands of other items covered by an FSA.
  • Encourage employees to submit for reimbursement of qualified expenses before it's too late. If your FSA plan year ended December 31, your FSA may allow employees to incur new expenses using 2014 funds through March 15.

03/06/15

  10:19:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 315 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Want to Get Fit? Hit the Sack!

yawning

When people talk about the positive changes they need to make to get in better shape, diet and exercise invariably top the list. But there’s an equally important lifestyle modification that gets comparatively scant attention: improving your sleep habits.

Few things undermine an individual’s get-fit goals quite like a lack of sleep. The resultant fatigue typically leads to poor eating choices and putting off workouts “until I’m better rested.” Worse still, chronic sleep deprivation can be linked to dizziness, headaches and depression – and can even put you at higher risk for developing diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and other serious illnesses.

Exactly how much sleep one needs varies from person to person. Eight hours a night is the generally accepted rule of thumb, but depending on such factors as your age, gender and overall health, 6 or 7 hours may be sufficient – or conversely, you may need 9 or 10 hours to perform at your full capacity.

The important thing is to pay attention to the signs your body is sending. If you truly can’t function without a jolt of caffeine or find it hard to focus on what you’re doing, lack of sleep could very well be the cause. However, if you believe you’re getting enough shut-eye but still feel exhausted, it’s a good idea to talk to your family doctor.

Full story »

03/04/15

  11:16:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 283 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

Supreme Court Hears Obamacare Subsidy Arguments

Supreme Court

"Established by the State" -- four seemingly innocuous words that could determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier today, the Supreme Court met to hear arguments regarding whether or not, under the letter of the health care reform law, the federal government can legally provide subsidies to individuals who bought health insurance from marketplaces not run by the states. And based on what we've heard so far, it's very much a question mark as to the final outcome.

The Washington Post reports that in the matter of King v. Burwell, the justices appear to be widely split among ideological lines.

The court's more liberal members interpret the words “established by the state” in the larger context of the law, which outlines a process for the federal government to establish marketplaces if the states opted not to. Conservative justices countered that the issue comes down to what Congress wrote, adding that it was not up to the court to twist the words to fit the government's view.

Should a majority of the justices agree with the challengers, subsidies would be denied for residents of the 34 states that did not set up their insurance marketplaces. That would greatly diminish the impact of the law's individual and employer mandates, as millions of people would be exempt from the rule based on their income.

But while the matter will not be settled until the court rules in June, the Post did note that the Obama administration has at least some reason for optimism. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a potential swing vote, questioned whether a strict reading of the law would cause “serious constitutional problems” of coercion. He also stated that the government had a "powerful" argument.

03/03/15

  04:51:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 437 words,  
Categories: Announcements

It's No Myth -- Wellness Works

wellness exam

Recently on the Employee Benefit News website, Ron Goetzel, Ph.D., of the health care consulting firm Truven Health Analytics, debunked some of the common myths about worksite wellness programs. While the entire article merits reading, we'd like to focus here on the first myth addressed: "Workplace wellness programs don’t work."

Based on his review of research on worksite wellness effectiveness, Goetzel determined that such programs do indeed work, provided that they are "well-designed, properly implemented, and credibly evaluated." He adds that the most effective wellness programs:

  • Have strong leadership support;
  • Establish a “healthy company” culture founded on humanistic values;
  • Make sure employees are involved in building and fine-tuning the design;
  • Offer a variety of opportunities for health improvement with multiple entry points;
  • Promote scientifically sound biometric screenings (those recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) with follow-up counseling and coaching;
  • Alter company policies to enable positive health behaviors (such as making available healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines);
  • Use “smart” incentives that encourage positive behavior change and don’t penalize individuals with poor health;
  • Execute effective and consistent communication campaigns;
  • Employ evidence-based behavior change interventions; and
  • Conduct credible evaluations with built-in feedback loops.

The first bullet point, "Have strong leadership support," sets the foundation for everything that follows. A wellness program that has the full backing of the employer has a much greater chance of success than those that lack encouragement or direction. Failure to properly promote the program or reward those who meet preset goals -- be it through financial rewards or some other type of recognition -- will severely hinder its progress.

MedBen WellLiving is designed for maximum effectiveness, to promote the better health of the entire employee population while realizing long-term financial savings for the employer. We work closely with the client to build a program that addresses the specific wellness needs of the employee population, as well as offering incentive support through customized materials.

As noted above, another key to the success of a wellness program is the promotion of "scientifically sound biometric screenings." While MedBen WellLiving agrees with this principle, we also believe that screenings performed through the participant's family doctor as part of an comprehensive wellness exam further increases the likelihood that the participant will meet the program's goals.

WellLiving also offers "evidence-based behavior change interventions" through individualized disease monitoring and nurse coaching. Health plan members at high risk for diabetes, asthma, hypertension and other chronic conditions are automatically enrolled in this program and offered customized education and counseling.

It's no myth -- wellness works. To learn more about MedBen WellLiving, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

02/27/15

  05:06:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 442 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Taxes, Stop-loss, Cost savings

First MedBen University Of 2015 Draws Big Crowd

MedBen kicked off its 2015 MedBen University (MBU) season in fine fashion, as an attentive audience filled the C. Arthur Morrow Conference Center in Newark, Ohio on February 26 to receive timely information about health benefits management. This year's first session, "Self-funding and the Affordable Care Act," highlighted the latest developments in health care reform and their affect on group health plans, and offered background on the various self-funded options available to employers today.

MedBen President & COO Kurt Harden welcomed guests to the event, adding a reminder that the company will be offering a number of MBU sessions in 2015, both at its Newark home base as well as throughout the Midwest. He then introduced MedBen Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker, who spoke on the topic "2015 and Beyond: Cadillac Tax & Employer Reporting."

Fraker opened her presentation by reviewing the status of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2015, including:

  • New rules, such as the "pay or play" mandate that requires employers with 100 or more full-time workers to provide minimum essential coverage or pay a fine;
  • Fees and filings, including the new Minimum Value Determination in which a group health plan must pay at least 60% of in-network eligible expenses for those with employee-only coverage; and
  • Employer responsibilities, including updated COBRA notices and revised summaries of benefits and coverage (SBCs).

(You can read more about 2015 ACA provisions by downloading this document created by the MedBen Compliance team.)

Much of Fraker's presentation examined the so-called "Cadillac Tax," which she said was "one of the most significant revenue provisions of the ACA." Under the rule, which will take effect in 2018, group health plans that exceed a specified annual threshold will be subject to a 40% non-deductible excise tax. It will apply to most group health plans regardless of whether or not they still have grandfathered status.

Following Fraker was MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus, who spoke on "The Mechanics of Self-funding." In his presentation, Fargus contrasted the differences between fully-insured and self-funded coverages, explained the different types of stop-loss protection and offered pointers for evaluating third party administration.

Fargus also detailed the numerous options available to self-funded employers that wish to reduce their financial risk, including split-funded coverage and captive reinsurance. As the number of businesses making the switch to self-funding has increased, he noted, so have the methods by which they can protect themselves against higher-than-expected claims activity.

As noted earlier, this session was just the first of many MBUs that MedBen will offer in 2015. You can read more about upcoming events elsewhere on the MedBen Blog, and contact MedBen Sales Analyst Sally Wood at (800) 423-3151, Ext. 502 or swood@medben.com if you're interested in attending.

02/24/15

  06:17:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 333 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Health Care Spending Increased Last Year, But Self-funding Smooths The Bumps

Annual health care spending may have experienced its first sizable bump after multiple years of slow growth, according to a new study. But fortunately, large and smaller employers alike can keep such increases in check by self-funding their group coverage.

Bloomberg Business reports that the analysis from the Altarum Institute research group shows that, based on preliminary government data, health spending increased by 5% last year, compared to 3.6% in 2013. If the numbers hold, health care spending during 2014 would mark the biggest jump since before the recession began in 2008.

A couple of factors contribute to the larger rise. As the chart above shows, the 2013 increase of 3.6% was less that the four previous years, so last year's jump was more modest in the context of the greater overall trend (if still significant) -- and remained well under the spending hikes of the pre-recession years. More importantly, the introduction of health insurance marketplaces in late 2013, plus an improving economy, resulted in a spike in the use of medical services as millions of new insureds took advantage of their coverage.

It's also interesting to note on the chart that even before the recession, health spending increases declined every year -- and it's probably no coincidence that the same period also saw more employers making the switch to self-funded coverage.

Among the many advantages of self-funding is the ability to make plan design changes that can save the employer money, regardless of current health care spending trends. Moreover, MedBen third party administration complements your self-funded plan with cost control tools that can save you even more money.

Whatever your group's health care needs may be, MedBen can help you put together a self-funded benefits package. And not just large businesses -- even employers with as few as 25 covered lives can realize significant savings with our self-funding solutions.

Regardless of national spending trends, self-funding through MedBen gives employers the opportunity to save real money on their health care costs. Learn more by contacting Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

02/20/15

  10:45:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 269 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform, Taxes, Consumer-driven Health Plans

IRS Delays Small Business Penalties For Stand-alone HRAs

IRS Building

Another day, another Obamacare delay...

The Internal Revenue Service announced earlier this week that it will delay penalties on small businesses that provide health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to their employees to purchase individual health insurance.

In 2013, the Obama administration stated that "stand-alone" HRAs used specifically for the purchase of individual coverage imposed lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of essential health benefits, and therefore violated Affordable Care Act rules. Employers that continued to offer stand-alone HRA would be subject to fines (in the form of excise taxes) of up to $100 per employee per day.

Assessment of penalties for employers with less than 50 workers was originally scheduled to begin in January 2015, but the delay will push enforcement back six months to July. (Fine assessment for larger businesses began in 2014.)

The IRS notice announcing the delay reads, “The Departments understand that some employers that had been offering health coverage through an employer payment plan may need additional time to obtain group health coverage or adopt a suitable alternative.” It also notes that the insurance exchange for small businesses "is still transitioning and the transition by eligible employers to SHOP Marketplace coverage or other alternatives will take time.”

According to Modern Healthcare, small businesses would prefer the delay be made permanent. “HRAs have been used by employers for decades as an alternative vehicle that allows employers to provide real benefits to workers,” said Joel White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage.

Proposals to repeal the penalties have been introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

You can also more about the delay at The Washington Post.

02/19/15

  05:17:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 407 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News

Millard, Crain Named MedBen IS Directors

MedBen is pleased to announce the promotion of longtime Information Systems (IS) team members Wayne Millard and Wendell Crain. Millard was named Director of Data Processing and Technical Compliance, while Crain was named Director of Security, Infrastructure and Web.

The promotions were made in recognition of their leadership abilities and the invaluable contributions the two have made to MedBen’s technological growth, said Doug Freeman, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the health benefits management company. “In the past decade, MedBen has made huge advances in the delivery and security of electronic data, and Wendell and Wayne have been essential to that development,” Freeman said.

Wayne Millard

Joining MedBen in 1999 as an EDI (electronic data interchange) Coordinator, Millard has since served as Supervisor of Special Projects and Manager of Technical Compliance. In his new position, he will manage the operational staff and the technical compliance of the company’s IBM POWER7 system.

“Ensuring that our system complies with Affordable Care Act laws, the new ICD-10 codes and other regulations is practically a job in itself,” said MedBen Vice President of Information Systems Rose Gribble-McEntire. “But Wayne has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to perform multiple roles, so he will also support the daily IS operations of our claims payment, data exchange and data integrity applications.”

Millard is currently working toward earning an MBA from DeVry University, an institution from which he has already earned a Master of Information Systems Management and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems. He has also earned 15 health care certifications from America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and other industry organizations.

Wendell Carin

Crain joined MedBen in 2003 as a Technical Specialist and was subsequently promoted to Technical Services Lead. Prior to his new position, he served as Manager of Technical Services and Web Development.

As a director, Crain will oversee MedBen’s comprehensive security measures, including electronic data privacy, disaster recovery and business resumption planning, and loss and fraud prevention. Such efforts extend beyond the standard customer safeguards, Gribble-McEntire noted.

“Wendell will lead MedBen’s ongoing initiative to ensure not only the security of client information, but also the physical security of our home office and the safety of our employees,” she said.

Crain’s other chief responsibilities include developing the company’s websites and maintaining the performance of hardware and software assets, as well as ensuring availability of computer resources. He holds a Bachelor in Business Administration from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and an Associate in Data Processing from Zane State.

02/17/15

  10:58:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 260 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

GOP Obamacare Alternative Hampered By "Take It Or Leave It" Approach

Capitol Building

Political consultant Robert Laszewski recently offered a detailed analysis of a proposed Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. In addition to repealing the current law -- though retaining such popular provisions as no lifetime limits, coverage for children to age 26 on their parent’s plan, and guaranteed renewability of coverage -- the proposal includes:

  • A return to pre-existing condition limits;
  • High risk pools for the uninsured;
  • Tax credits to buy coverage, available for those making up to 300% of the federal poverty level;
  • No limits on the kind of insurance policies that could Be offered;
  • Capping the tax exclusion on employer-provided health insurance; and
  • Moving toward defined contribution health insurance.

While Laszewski believes the proposal to have some good ideas, he doubts that that a "take it or leave it" alternative will gain much traction. Compromise, he says, is the better approach:

"My sense is that voters will end up liking parts of both Republican and Democratic ideas. They might ask a reasonable question: Why can’t we take the best from both sides?

"If Democrats would just admit Obamacare needs some pretty big fixes, and Republicans would be willing to work on making those fixes by putting some of these good ideas on the table, the American people would be a lot better off.

"In fact, I am hopeful that this is eventually what will happen once Obamacare’s failings become even more clear (particularly the real premium costs) and both sides come to understand that neither will have a unilateral political upper hand."

Read more of Laszewski's analysis at The Health Care Blog.

02/13/15

  11:32:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 422 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Wellness Visits Stengthen Doctor-Patient Relationship, Encourage Accountability

wellness visit

A few weeks ago on this blog, we examined the argument that annual physicals aren't worth the time or money because they seldom detect major illnesses. We countered that the preventive care aspect of the exam is really secondary to maintaining a doctor-patient relationship.

Julie Lindsey, MD, a primary care doctor at Duke, clearly agrees with our line of thinking. As she recently wrote on the Duke Medicine Blog:


The annual physical has evolved into an annual wellness visit. We have pared down the testing to what is recommended by evidence-based guidelines for each age group. Rather than doing every test on every person every year, we determine who is at high risk and low risk, and adjust our testing toward that risk level.

In many ways, doing less is more complex and takes more time. It’s a lot easier to order a PSA test to screen for prostate cancer than to explain why it’s not helpful for some men to have this test. Each test merits a discussion of the risks and benefits. The annual physical has become more about the conversation than the exam.

Dr. Lindsey gets to the heart of the matter here. While we may refer to your annual doctor visit as a "physical" or a "checkup," it's primary purpose is a personal wellness review that focuses on your specific health needs. And tests are just one part of the process -- really, it is the ongoing dialogue that enables the doctor to get a true picture of the patient's condition.

Also important, Lindsey notes, is accountability. If you've gotten into some unhealthy habits, the wellness visit is the perfect opportunity to redirect your efforts. You can get useful lifestyle tips from your doctor that will have long term benefits. As Lindsey puts it, "It's more like an annual check in with your financial advisor than a car tune up."

MedBen WellLiving's emphasis on doctor office testing sets it apart from other wellness programs. Rather than advocating on-site health screenings that lack accountability, we support annual wellness visits that give the patient a true incentive to make positive changes.

The "physician-first" philosophy is just one important aspect of WellLiving. Our program also takes a disease-based approach that provides customized counseling for plan members who suffer from chronic conditions. And we use your company's claim history to detect health patterns that would benefit from specialized nurse coaching.

Learn more about the MedBen Wellness Advantage by visiting our website or contacting Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

02/11/15

  09:47:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 456 words,  
Categories: News, Security, Privacy

At MedBen, Your Data Security Is A Top Priority

cybersecurity

Last week’s disclosure that a major health insurer was hit by a massive cybersecurity breach has led to renewed media attention about the measures that benefits management companies are taking to protect their customers' personal information – specifically, the medical data that could be used by identity thieves to perpetuate costly fraud.

MedBen has always been proactive in its efforts to ensure the safety of client data. We’ve had an in-house information systems team since the introduction of our internal mainframe network in the late 80’s, and a considerable portion of their collective responsibility, then and now, has been in finding ways to maximize data security and guarantee client privacy.

Today, MedBen approaches cybersecurity from three perspectives – external, internal and physical.

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02/09/15

  11:43:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 393 words,  
Categories: News, Cost savings

When It Comes To Hospital Costs, Geography Plays A Big Role

operating room

A recent study demonstrates how medical costs differ greatly across the U.S. -- and begs the question of how much of that cost variation is justified.

According to Forbes, the analysis from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association showed that the average cost for a total knee replacement procedure, including hospitalization, surgery and rehabilitation, ranges from as little as $11,317 in Montgomery, Alabama to as high as $69,654 in New York. Hip replacement procedure costs show similarly wide regional variances.

To some degree, the disparity in health care prices is a reflection of the cost of living in a particular region, though not always. Health insurance coverage will, in turn, reflect those geographic cost differences to the degree that they are considered reasonable and customary.

Within a specific region, however, one would expect to see a smaller degree of price variances. But that's not always the case -- particularly when one compares costs between metropolitan hospitals to those in nearby smaller towns.

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02/05/15

  10:34:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 321 words,  
Categories: Wellness

To Lower Hypertension Risk, Stay “Well Read”

walking

Nearly 1 in 3 adults suffers from hypertension, and less than half of those with the condition aren’t taking the proper steps to get it under control. In fact, many don’t even know they have it.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries stays elevated for a prolonged period. The longer blood pressure remains high, the greater the risk of heart damage, as well as heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

There are no obvious symptoms for hypertension – the only way to detect it is through a blood pressure reading. A gauge measures your systolic pressure (artery pressure when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (the pressure between beats). A systolic/diastolic reading of 120/80 is considered normal blood pressure in a healthy adult.

A blood pressure reading is a common element of just about every doctor’s office visit, whether you’re there for a checkup, an earache or a bruised knee. Frequent readings allow your doctor to keep a record of your blood pressure, making it easier to spot negative trends.

MedBen WellLiving program members have an additional ally in their corner. If you are at risk for hypertension, an RN Health Consultant will contact you to offer customized education and regular counseling.

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