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11/24/14

  08:51:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 248 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News, Wellness

Granville Turkey Trot Reminder

Just a reminder that there's still time to register for the 2014 Granville Turkey Trot!

Granville Turkey Trot

MedBen once again serves as the premier sponsor for this 5K fun run/walk, which will be held on Thanksgiving morning, November 27 in Granville, Ohio starting at 9:30am. Young and old alike can participate.

The event benefits the Food Pantry Network of Licking County, whose mission is to acquire, store, and distribute nutritious food to the financially deprived and otherwise needy in Licking County. In 2013 alone, through the generosity of volunteers and donors like you, the FPN supplied food for more than 3,600 meals every day.

Online registration for the GTT has closed, but don’t worry! You can still register on Tuesday, November 25 from 9-1 and Wednesday, November 26 from 9-6 at the St. Luke’s Parish House (at the rear of Opera House Park). Or drop off a registration form at one of the following locations:

  • St. Luke’s Parish House, 118 South Main Street, Granville (M-W, 9-noon)
  • The Reader’s Garden Bookstore, 143 East Broadway, Granville, OH (M-W,10-5:30)
  • The Granville Village Offices, 141 East Broadway, Granville, OH (M-W, 8-4:30)

Registration costs are $30 for adults ($35 on race day) and $10 for ages 6-13 ($15 on race day). The race is capped at 2,500 participants.

If you prefer to be a "virtual runner," you can register for the race for $30. You’ll receive a full race packet, including a Turkey Trot T-shirt and bib number. Alternately, you are welcome to make a donation via the St. Luke’s e-Giving window (zip code is 43023).

Hope to see you bright and early this Thursday!

11/21/14

  09:49:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 287 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

House Sues President For Exceeding Authority On Obamacare

Capitol Building

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives, making good on an earlier promise, today sued the Obama administration for overstepping its authority on the Affordable Care Act.

According to the lawsuit, the president unilaterally exceeded his powers when he twice delayed the employer mandate provision of the ACA without approval from Congress. The mandate requires larger employers to provide health care insurance to employees.

The House also claimed that the transfer of about $175 billion to insurance companies, appropriated from a separate Treasury Department account authorized for other purposes, was illegal.

“Time after time, the president has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and rewrite federal law on his own,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. “If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well.”

The lawsuit, which named the secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury as defendants, followed a July vote in the House to sue over the ACA. All but five Republicans voted in favor of pursuing the suit, and all Democrats voted against it.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at the George Washington University Law School, will represent the U.S. House before the courts. While a supporter of the ACA, Turley said he believes the president's actions violated the Constitution.

In response to the GOP's actions, White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in an e-mail, “Instead of passing legislation to help expand the middle class and grow the economy, Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars pursuing a lawsuit that is without any sound legal basis.”

Read more about the lawsuit at Employee Benefits News and USA Today.

11/20/14

  09:05:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 112 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Cost savings

Study: Absenteeism Linked To Obesity Costs U.S. Employers Billions



Absenteeism among obese workers in the United States costs employers about $8.65 billion each year, according to a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Costs associated with obesity-related work absences vary from state to state, reflecting variations in average daily earnings, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine said Thursday in a statement.

Obesity accounts for about 9.3% of all absenteeism costs nationwide, ranging from 6.5% in Washington, D.C., to 12.6% in Arkansas, according to the statement. And the study found that obese workers miss an extra 1.1 to 1.7 days of work each year compared with overweight or normal-weight workers.

Read more at Business Insurance (free registration required).

11/19/14

  10:24:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 412 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Incentives

Wellness Incentives Must Acknowledge Employee Limitations

weigh in

A recent legal ruling has placed put a spotlight on worksite wellness incentives and the need to provide a level playing field for every employee. And it demonstrates the importance of working with a wellness program like MedBen WellLiving that understands the proper balance such incentives require.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery denied a bid by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to stop Honeywell International from imposing penalties on workers who refuse to undergo biometric testing as part of its wellness program. Montgomery said she wasn’t ready to make even a preliminary determination on the matter.

According to Employee Benefit News, the EEOC argued that Honeywell has an "illegal wellness program" -- "illegal" in that (so they claim) tying examinations to worker premium costs and other incentives violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. In Honeywell’s program, those employees who do not participate in a questionnaire and biometric screening are assessed a $500 surcharge on their medical plan costs and can lose $1,500 in company contributions to health savings accounts.

While the final word on this issue is still to come, it's interesting to note that the Affordable Care Act strongly advocates such incentives. Under the law, employers may offer financial rewards and penalties for workers up to 50% of the premium as an incentive to practice healthier lifestyles. Of course, such incentives must be achievable by every employee.

MedBen WellLiving believes in the importance of incentives... indeed, we endorse it as a key to promoting wellness to your employees. But we also understand it's equally important that such incentives are fair to every employee. Toward that goal, we work with clients to develop wellness objectives that can be realistically attained, and that do not discriminate against those with health or mobility issues.

Further, the employee's right to privacy must be respected. WellLiving differs from other worksite wellness programs in that it encourages plan members to see their family doctor for yearly checkups, rather than bringing in outsiders to conduct biometric screenings. But in both instances, the individual results of these exams are kept confidential from the employer -- report information is de-identified or aggregate in nature.

The MedBen Compliance Team sees to it that your WellLiving program adheres to ACA and HIPAA rules. And we use our wellness planning expertise in helping your group offer incentives that promote better health and are realistic for all. For more information, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

11/18/14

  10:58:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 232 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

CMS Extends Deadline To Submit Transitional Reinsurance Fee Info

If you self-fund your health care plan. you've hopefully already taken care of submitting your annual (2014) enrollment count to determine your transitional reinsurance 2014 fee. But if not, you're in luck: The original deadline, which passed this weekend, has been extended for a few more weeks.

According to Business Insurance, regulators from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had “received requests for an extension.” In response to these appeals, annual enrollment counts must now be submitted to CMS through the Pay.gov website by 11:59 p.m. on December 5, 2014, instead of the original deadline of November 15.

The deadline for payment of fees still remains the same: No later than January 15, 2015 if paid in one installment, and no later than January 15, 2015 and November 15, 2015 if paid in two installments.

The contribution amount for the 2014 benefit years is $63.00 per covered life (if remitting the single installment) or $52.50 and $10.50 per covered life, respectively (if remitting separate installments). Fees collected from this Affordable Care Act mandate will be used to partially reimburse commercial insurers writing policies for individuals with high health care costs.

MedBen clients who have questions regarding this extension are welcome to contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at cfraker@medben.com. We also offer clients a variety of services to help clients properly calculate and file their transitional reinsurance fee, from providing general covered lives data to full service reporting. Again, please contact Caroline for more information.

11/14/14

  11:34:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 325 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Surge In Knee Replacement Surgeries A Troubling Trend

knee x-ray

In a culture that increasingly looks for quick fixes and instant remedies, it's hardly surprising that the number of people who get surgery to relieve pain has skyrocketed. Care in point: More than 600,000 knee replacements were performed in 2012, compared with about 250,000 just 15 years earlier.

More troubling, a growing number of those procedures were performed on individuals between the ages of 46 and 64 -- too early in life to get any real benefit from such surgeries. As The New York Times reports:



[R]esearchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond conducted a surgical-validity assessment. Using criteria developed in Europe, they concluded that knee replacements could be judged appropriate for only those whose arthritis in the knee was medically proven to be advanced. This means not just severe pain but also impaired physical function, like an inability to climb stairs, get out of a chair or walk without aid. Based on others’ work done in Spain, the researchers also determined that surgical replacements were better suited for patients older than 65. Their reasoning? The implanted materials wear out after a couple of decades, meaning a 45-year-old patient might need an additional knee replacement during his lifetime.

Researchers then analyzed the data from a large study of almost 200 men and women with aching, arthritic knees who went on to have replacement surgery within five years of entering the study. It turned out that approximately a third of the subjects would not have been regarded as appropriate candidates by the researchers. Many in this group had only slight arthritis, according to scans of their knees or the levels of their reported pain and physical impairment.

Frequently, chronic knee pain can be reduced or nearly eliminated through medication or physical therapy. While not necessarily a solution for all patients, therapy can strengthen the leg muscles, reducing pressure on the knee. Bottom line, it's critical to explore all possible options with your doctor before opting for replacement surgery.

Read more at the Times Health Blog
.

11/13/14

  10:18:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 311 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform, Taxes, Reporting

What To Expect From Health Care Reform In 2015

White House

Believe it or not, there are less than eight weeks left in 2014. And as we speed into the new year, MedBen wants to make sure clients have the information necessary to make the transition to 2015 a smooth one – particularly in regards to health care reform.

In 2015, the Affordable Care Act will make various demands on self-funded groups, ranging from plan changes to new reporting responsibilities. Failure to comply with these requirements could mean financial penalties and a lot of added paperwork... so needless to say, staying on top of the latest ACA rules is to your advantage. And MedBen is here to help.

The MedBen Compliance team has assembled a list of health care reform "need to knows" for the coming year. Entitled "ACA – Additional Thoughts for 2015," this document provides an overview of the ACA issues and changes self-funded plan sponsors will need to address. We've broken down these items into three categories, all detailed in the document:

  1. Employer Shared Responsibility Penalties: What employers with 100 or more employees must do to avoid costly penalties; how employers with 50 to 99 employees can qualify for transitional relief; dependent coverage responsibilities and transition relief eligibility; calculating minimum value; defining "affordable coverage."
  2. Benefit and Plan Changes for the 2015 Plan Year: In-network out-of-pocket maximum increases for medical and prescription plans; HDHP deductibles; dialysis cost containment options; non-contracted surgical center (Ohio groups); updated subrogation language; new preventive care recommendations; smoking cessation coverage recommendations.
  3. Employer Reporting Responsibilities: Various reporting requirements for 2014, 2015 and 2016, including (but not limited to) W-2 reporting, minimum essential coverage reporting, PCORI fees and transitional reinsurance fees.

MedBen clients who have any questions about the items covered may contact MedBen Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at cfraker@medben.com. Naturally, our Compliance team is also ready to assist with all matters pertaining to the ACA, be they old or new – so please don't hesitate to ask for help!

11/12/14

  10:03:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 307 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News, Health Plan Management

MedBen VP Fraker Joins SPBA Board

Caroline Fraker

MedBen Vice President of Compliance & Chief Privacy Officer Caroline Fraker has accepted an invitation to join the board of the Society of Professional Benefit Administrators, the company announced today. Fraker will serve a three-year term on the board beginning in January 2015 and running through December 2017.

Doug Freeman, MedBen’s Chairman & CEO, commended the SPBA on their selection of Fraker. “Caroline’s knowledge of the legal issues that affect benefit administrators is second to none. She’s successfully guided MedBen and its clients through the vagaries of the Affordable Care Act and countless other health laws, and I’m certain her insights will be appreciated by the SPBA board and its members,” Freeman said.

Fraker is a long-time member of the SPBA, going back to when she joined MedBen in 1992. She said she was pleased to accept the invitation and looks forward to working with the board.

“The SPBA plays an important role in both the private and public sectors,” Fraker noted. “They provide education and support to third party administrators, and also educate lawmakers on the finer points of health benefits – not in any sort of lobbying capacity, but strictly to ensure they have the information they need to make informed legislative decisions.”

Formed in 1975, SPBA strives to advance the goals of benefits administrators as well as to provide advice that helps members better serve their clients and plans. SPBA board members meet monthly via conference call to discuss issues of importance to the society’s members and their customers. Board members also host twice-yearly conferences open to all SPBA members, which are preceded by board-only meetings.

A 30-year veteran of employee benefits, Fraker assists MedBen clients with regulatory compliance, contractual and risk management issues. She also serves as Chair of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce and is completing her term as Chair of the Ohio Health Reinsurance Pool.

11/11/14

  10:13:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 270 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

Marketplace Premium Reimbursement FAQ Released

White House

On October 6, the Tri-Agencies (Department of Labor, Health & Human Services and the Treasury) released yet another Affordable Care Act FAQ interpreting the law's regulations. "FAQ XXII" states unequivocally that employers sponsoring group health care plans or policies are prohibited from also offering an arrangement that provides cash reimbursements for the purchase of an individual Marketplace policy by employees, regardless of whether the employer treats the money as pre-tax or post-tax.

In addition, the FAQ makes it clear that no employer that offers a group health plan to its employees is permitted to provide employees with a choice between enrollment in the group health plan or cash, particularly to those employees with high cost claims. Any such approach to do so will constitute discrimination under numerous federal laws and is a violation of the ACA regardless of whether 1) the cash payment is treated by the employer as pre-tax or post-tax to the employee, 2) the employer is involved in the selection or purchase of any individual Marketplace product, or 3) the employee obtains any individual health insurance.

Any employer that violates these rules will be subject to penalties and excise taxes under Section 4980D of the Internal Revenue Code.

The FAQ also prohibits certain “Code Section 105 reimbursement plans” that help employees purchase individual policies in the Marketplace and access premium tax credits. These types of arrangements are not permissible and subject to the market reform provisions of the ACA.

A copy of this FAQ can be found at the Department of Labor website. MedBen clients with questions regarding these rules are welcome to contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at cfraker@medben.com.

11/10/14

  08:59:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 306 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News, Wellness

MedBen Again The Premier Sponsor Of Granville Turkey Trot

Once again, MedBen is pleased to be the premier sponsor of Licking County, Ohio’s biggest single-day fundraising event: The 2014 Granville Turkey Trot (GTT), a 5K fun run/walk that benefits the Food Pantry Network of Licking County. The event will be held on Thursday, November 27 (aka Thanksgiving) at 9:30 a.m.

Granville Turley Trot 2014

Open to runners and walkers young and old, GTT is a great way to kick off "Turkey Day" and the holiday season in general. Participants get in a good workout before sitting down at the dinner table -- plus they help a good cause.

The GTT benefits the Food Pantry Network, which is dedicated to acquiring, storing, and distributing nutritious food to the financially deprived and otherwise needy members of Licking County. Last year, GTT raised $78,000 for the pantry... and this year, the event organizers hope to bump that number up to $90,000. But to do that, we'll need your help!

The race is capped at 2,500 athletes, so if you'd like to participate, sign up today! You can register online at Premier Races (a small processing fee is required), or via regular mail at:

Turkey Trot
c/o St. Luke’s Church
PO Box 82
Granville, OH 43023

You can find a registration form at the event website. Please note that all registrations (online or regular mail) must be received no later than Friday, November 21.

Adults are $30 and children (6 - 13) are $10 if you pre-register – a $5 discount off race-day registration. Alternately, if you can't make it in person, you can register as a "virtual runner" for the same amount. Either way, pre-registration guarantees that you will receive the popular Turkey Trot t-shirt!

If you prefer to help out in some other way, GTT is also in need of volunteers. To learn more, visit the event's Volunteer page. Or if you just want make a financial contribution, visit the Donate page.

Additional information is available at GranvilleTurkeyTrot.com.

11/07/14

  11:07:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 349 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Giving Yourself the Gift of Wellness

presents

It’s no great mystery why “lose weight” and “get in shape” are among the most popular New Year’s resolutions. The period from Thanksgiving to January 1st provides numerous opportunities to toss healthy habits to the curb. But with a little planning and a measure of self-control, you can make it through the holidays with no regrets.

With all the cookies and candies available at office parties and family get-togethers, willpower can get tested. But you don’t have to deprive yourself of the occasional treat, so long as you practice moderation and portion control. One good idea is to eat a high-protein snack on your way to an event, so you’ll feel fuller when temptation beckons.

Also critical is to balance those extra goodies with exercise. Get into the habit of going for a walk or jog after a big holiday meal (invite your family and friends for an added incentive). Or if the party runs into the wee hours, make a promise to yourself to get in a workout first thing tomorrow morning – and keep it.

One more thing: If you haven’t taken care of your annual wellness exam, schedule an appointment with your family doctor today! You’ll get guidance on lifestyle changes that you can make to ensure a healthier new year – or better still, you may get an affirmation to keep on doing what you’re doing!

Full story »

11/06/14

  11:41:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 320 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform

ACA Hasn't Lowered Group Health Care Costs, Says MedBen President

Kurt Harden

The Affordable Care Act hasn't helped employers reduce their group health care costs, said MedBen President, COO & Treasurer Kurt Harden in a recent interview. But it has resulted in more fully-insured groups exploring the benefits of self-funding their coverage.

In a recent Newark Advocate article, Harden was one of three Licking County executives asked about the ACA and its effect on the cost of health care for businesses. He said that the law, passed in 2010, hasn't saved employers money.

“Costs have gone up a little bit because of health care reform,” Harden said. “Nothing has lowered costs of insurance for groups. Not one of those [ACA] elements lowered costs of health insurance plans offered to employers in this community.”

Harden also noted that the ACA has led to a change in MedBen's business focus. "The company used to be an insurance company that had some self-funded business,” Harden said. “Now, self-funded is much larger. It led to growth in self-funded business, because employers have more flexibility in insurance.

“In 2014, we picked up quite a few groups [switching from fully insured to self insured]. That’s a result of the effect of health care on fully insured premiums.”

Harden added that community-based rating, in which everyone in a given region must pay the same for insurance coverage regardless of their health status, has been particularly costly for certain groups. The ACA rule has been a driving force for small businesses to consider self-funded plans, which are much less restrictive.

Because traditional insurers can't rate based on health conditions, “groups with a population of employees under age 45 generally saw bigger increases and groups over 45 saw decreases or less of an increase,” Harden said

You can read the complete article at the Newark Advocate. If you're interested in learning more about the advantages of self-funding your group health plan, visit MedBen.com or contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com

11/05/14

  10:24:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 380 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News, Consumer-driven Health Plans

IRS Raises Health FSA Employee Contribution Maximum

Capitol Building

Last week, the IRS released its annual inflation adjustments for 2015 – and for the first time since a salary reduction limit was imposed under the Affordable Care Act in 2012, the agency has increased the maximum contribution employees can make to their health flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

For plan years beginning January 1, 2015 or later, the annual salary reduction limit for health FSAs has increased from $2,500 per calendar year to $2,550 – a $50 per calendar year bump. However, employers can choose to keep their current limit in place if they prefer.

For MedBen clients that would like to change their annual employee contribution maximum for January 2015, it's not too late to do so. Simply contact Director of Administrative Services Sharon A. Mills at smills@medben.com no later than Friday, December 5, 2014 to ensure the change is in place in your Plans for January 1, 2015. You are also welcome to contact Sharon with any questions you have regarding FSA limits.

While we're on the topic, we'd like to remind our clients of several additional deadlines. Per IRS regulations, enrollment in the 2015 FSA Plan must be completed prior to the beginning of the plan year (January 1, 2015). New elections will not be effective until the first day of the month that begins after the enrollment form is completed and returned to the Administrator.

  • Clients that Offer FSA Debit Cards: In order to ensure the new elections are loaded onto the Participant’s existing FSA debit card by January 1, 2015, all FSA election forms must be received by MedBen no later than Wednesday, December 10, 2014. Please remind your Participants to keep their existing FSA debit cards, as they will be reloaded with their new election amount. Visa will charge the Participant five dollars for replacement cards.
  • Clients that Do Not Utilize FSA Debit Cards: In order to ensure the Participant’s elections are loaded in our system by January 1, 2015, all FSA elections must be received by MedBen no later than Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

Again, clients may contact Sharon at smills@medben.com if they have any questions regarding these deadlines.

You can read the annual inflation adjustment news release at the IRS website. Also available is the Notice of IRS Annual Various Tax Benefits Increase Due to Inflation Adjustments (Revenue Procedure 2014-61), which provides further detail to the content in the release. The FSA information can be found on page 14.

11/03/14

  10:42:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 220 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

CMS Delays HPID Application and Use Requirement

CMS website

Late on October 31, 2014 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is delaying the enforcement of the Health Plan Identifier (HPID) regulations outlining both enumeration and use of the HPID. This is welcome relief for health plans, health providers and clearinghouses who are considered large under the regulations and, therefore, were originally required to obtain a HPID no later than November 5, 2014.

To document the enforcement delay, CMS issued a Statement of Enforcement Discretion, stating that the action provides HHS time to review the recommendations from the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS) who sent a letter to HHS on September 23, 2014 citing confusion surrounding obtaining an identifier and a lack of clear business need for the number. You can read CMS’ statement at their website.

All health plan sponsors should note that while enforcement has been delayed until further notice, the requirement has not been repealed or revoked. HHS has indicated that the delay will allow them time to consider any appropriate next steps in response to the NCVHS’ recent recommendations.

The MedBen Compliance Department will continue to follow communications from CMS and keep you informed of the latest HPID application and use developments. In the meantime, MedBen clients who have any questions regarding this announcement may contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at cfraker@medben.com.

10/31/14

  09:39:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 394 words,  
Categories: Announcements

MedBen Honors Benchmark Anniversaries At Employee Ceremony

MedBen Employee Recognition Ceremony

At an employee appreciation luncheon on Friday, October 24, MedBen honored employees who have reached anniversary benchmarks in 2014. The recognition presentation was co-hosted by MedBen Chairman & CEO Doug Freeman and President & COO Kurt Harden.

During his comments, Freeman observed that 70% of MedBen employees have been with the company for at least five years. "I think it says something about the quality of people we attract, and I would hope also reflects well on the working environment we provide here," Freeman said.

Receiving special congratulations were three employees who are celebrating their 25th year with MedBen in 2014: Cindy Dittoe, Information Coordinator; Rick Snoor, Manager of Office Services; and Lori Kane, Vice President of Administrative Operations.

Cindy Dittoe has served in a variety of roles since 1989, from a Premium Administrator to the Supervisor of the Group Service Department, before settling into her current position as Information Coordinator in 2003. Asked after the luncheon what she enjoyed most about working at MedBen, Dittoe answered that she respects the company's loyalty to the community and to its employees. "MedBen provides a lot of extras for their employees, and I really appreciate everything they do," she said.

Rick Snoor's MedBen journey has taken him from the Administration Department's Customer Service Representative to Underwriting, and finally to his current position as Office Services Manager. He likes working at MedBen because "it is a relaxed environment and everyone is like your extended family instead of co-workers."

Lori Kane has actually been with MedBen for 26 years, starting in 1988 as a temp helping various departments. But when MedBen established a third party administration subsidiary a year later, she was one of its first two employees. Her various responsibilities in the ensuing years included submitting stop-loss claims, running quotes and writing plan documents. She also carries the distinction of being MedBen's first -- and at that time, only -- Group Service Representative.

Kane said that she appreciates MedBen's approach to its employees. "The company always thinks of everyone here when making decisions. And hard work gets noticed and rewarded," she noted.

Other MedBen employees honored at the luncheon include:

  • 20 Years of Service: Annette McNair
  • 15 Years of Service: Susan Allen, Diana June, Holly Lewis and Wayne Millard
  • 10 Years of Service: Cari Coventry, Edith Grassette, Pam Johnson, Rose McEntire, Jimsy Myers and Dana Young
  • 5 Years of Service: Dreama Cline, Rachel Cox, Megan Miller, Andy Schmelzer and Stacy Spring

10/29/14

  09:53:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 280 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Spotlights Progress, Importance Of Mammograms

pink ribbon

As October quickly draws to a close, we would be remiss if we didn't mention that this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. About 40,000 women will die from the disease in 2014 -- a number that, as Secretary of Health & Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell notes on Huffington Post, should and could be much, much lower:



Among women, breast cancer remains the most common cancer and the second most deadly. It strikes women of all races, ethnicities, income levels and family backgrounds. In fact, about 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of disease.

But while these facts can be frightening, there are reasons for optimism as well. When breast cancer is diagnosed early and treated, survival rates can be near 100 percent. That is why regular screenings and quality treatment are critical to the millions of women who will be diagnosed in their lifetimes.

MedBen strongly urges women age 40 and over to get a screening mammogram at least every two years, but your health plan may request that you have the procedure performed more frequently. (The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms.) Death rates from breast cancer have dropped significantly in the past 25 years -- a decrease that's likely due in large part to earlier detection and increased awareness.

We also want to remind our female worksite wellness program members that they can monitor their compliance with mammograms and other critical wellness examinations by visiting the MedBen Access website and clicking on the MedBen WellLiving link under “My Plan.”

Finally, if you'd like to learn more about breast cancer and mammograms, MedBen recommends these websites:

10/28/14

  09:42:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 285 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Cost savings

Ability To Compare Health Care Costs Saves Patients Money, Study Finds

dollar sign

When it comes to health care cost savings -- in particular, the money that comes out of the patient's pocket -- every little bit helps. And a new study suggests that when patients can compare costs, they're able to keep a bigger share of their hard-earned money.

According to Reuters Health, researchers reviewed the cost difference between people who compared the prices of several common health care services prior to their visits and those who didn't. They found that savings ranged from just $1 for office visits to upwards of $125 for imaging tests.

Plan changes required under the Affordable Care Act have necessitated that patients take on a greater portion of their health care costs, noted the study’s authors in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “As patients have an increasing responsibility to pay for their care, they will likely demand access to prices charged for their care,” they wrote.

Overall, people who searched for the health care services they received spent about 14% less on laboratory services, 13% less on imaging tests and about 1% less on office visits, compared to those who didn't. And while those differences may seem relatively small, the savings could add up, observed senior author Neeraj Sood of the University of Southern California's Schaeffer Center in Los Angeles.

The U.S. spends about $30 billion every year on laboratory and imaging tests, Sood said. “If you reduce that by 10%, that’s a lot of money.”

It should be noted that the subjects studied had access to a software service that allowed for easier cost comparisons. But hopefully as federal and state governments continue to push for greater price tranparencies from health care providers, every patient will be able to perform such cost comparisons in the coming years.

10/24/14

  05:28:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 360 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Taxes

Maintaining Grandfathered Plan Status Now May Cost Employer Later

Capitol and Caduceus

More than four years since the signing of the Affordable Care Act, over one-third of businesses still offer a grandfathered plan. But the proportion of these plan structures has dropped dramatically since 2010... and in all likelihood will disappear for good in the next decade, Employee Benefits News reports.

The "grandfather" regulation allows businesses to keep their current plans without having to add such ACA requirements as expanded no-cost preventive care and out-of-pocket limits for in-network care. However, grandfathered plans must still provide certain benefits, including no lifetime coverage maximums and parent coverage of adult dependents until age 26.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, in 2011 – one year after the health care reform law was passed – 72% of organizations offered at least one grandfathered plan. Today, the number has fallen to 37% – and will continue to decrease, says Beatrice Newbury, senior program manager in the benefits department of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

“My view is eventually everyone will lose grandfathered status,” Newbury told attendees at a recent Employee Benefits Conference. “You can only maintain those cost increase limits for so long. Health care will change and plans need to be able to change with it.”

We've noted in multiple blog posts that making plan changes is essential to keeping health care costs in check, regardless of the regulatory environment. The ability to modify deductibles, covered services and employee contributions has a huge effect on an employer's bottom line.

"An employer will spend more time trying to stay grandfathered than just adding the preventive services required under the ACA," says MedBen Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker. "And between the wasted man hours and the lost potential to make money-saving plan changes, the math doesn't justify holding on to grandfathered status."

In renewal meetings and employer seminars, MedBen has explained to clients the financial realities of maintaining grandfathered status, and recommended changes that will end the status but prove more cost-effective in the long run. Currently, only a handful of our clients still offer a grandfathered plan.

Looking forward, grandfathered plans that offer benefit-rich coverage will have another reason to consider losing their grandfathered status – a 40% "Cadillac" tax on employers takes effect in 2018.

10/22/14

  09:19:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 99 words,  
Categories: Announcements, Health Plan Management

MedBen Closing Early On October 24

On Friday, October 24, MedBen will be closing at 12:00 p.m. EST for a companywide employee recognition event. We will reopen at 8:00 a.m. EST on Monday, October 27.

Remember that even when live service representatives aren't available, many of your questions (including those pertaining to prescription plans, FSAs and HRAs) can be answered anytime, anywhere through our MedBen Access website.

Also keep in mind that MedBen.com offers resources frequently requested by customers, such as a list of FSA-eligible expenses and instructions for reading EOBs. Just select the "Plan Sponsors" or "Plan Members" button on the home page, depending on your specific needs.

10/21/14

  10:50:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 232 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription

Drug Company Payment Website Adds Simple Search Tool

Open Payments

As promised, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has made a big improvement to its recently introduced Open Payments website. instead of wading through massive spreadsheets to research drug and medical-device maker payments to doctors, users can now utilize an straightforward search tool.

The Pharmalot blog reports that the tool, currently in beta testing, lets users search by a physician’s name, location or specialty, as well as by the names of teaching hospital and companies. The type of payment is broadly categorized as ownership in companies, research payments and general payments, with the latter further defined through the nature of payment, such as food and beverage, education and consulting.

“CMS is providing a simple-to-use search tool and asking for your feedback on ways to improve it,” CMS says in a brief statement. “Upon performing a search, the returned results will include all three payment types… on one screen.”

Pharmalot notes that the search tool doesn't allow for aggregate payment amounts for each doctor, hospital or company, and the results still contain errors. CMS says that corrections and further improvements (such as displays of summary data, charts and graphs) to the site should be in place before year's end.

The Wall Street Journal has created its own interactive tool based on the data provided through Open Payments. Called "Medical Money," it breaks down aggregate payment amounts by pharmaceutical and medical technology companies.

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