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09/25/14

  11:54:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 298 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Healthy Habits Greatly Reduce Heart Attack Risk, Study Finds

stethoscope and EKG

It's interesting how a few basic changes can make a big difference in one's health. Case in point: A new study suggests that some common-sense lifestyle modifications can prevent 80% of heart attacks in men.

According to HealthDay, researchers found that middle-aged and older men that drank moderately, didn't smoke and made smart diet, exercise and weight decisions were much less likely to have heart attacks over an average of 11 years. And those who strictly adhered at all five recommended health behaviors were 86% less to have heart attacks than those who ate poorly, were overweight, exercised too little, smoked and drank too much alcohol.

But reduced heart risk is only the half of it, said study lead author Agneta Akesson of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden. "There is a lot to gain and money to be saved if people had a healthier lifestyle," he noted.

As for women, Akesson is the co-author of a previous study suggesting healthy living has a similar effect on females.

Men and women at increased risk of a heart attack can also improve through lifestyle coaching -- and there, MedBen WellLiving can help. Our wellness program uses a company's claim histories to identify plan members that would benefit from specialized care. Members identified as candidates are contacted by an RN Health Consultant and offered customized counseling on a scheduled basis.

Additionally, plan members receive information through a comprehensive set of resources, including printed materials and websites for education and self-help activities. Those who do not wish to participate may simply inform the nurse when he or she calls.

To learn more about how MedBen WellLiving can contribute to the long-term health of your employees and save you money, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

09/22/14

  06:05:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 331 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Reporting

Public Exchanges Take Cost Control From Employer’s Hands

dollar and chart

A recent report by the National Business Group on Health concludes that when it comes to private exchanges, self-insured employers are taking a cautious approach – and rightfully so. Because despite their prominence of late, there's no evidence that a private exchange is the money-saving magic elixir that some make them out to be.

According to Employee Benefits News, the survey of 136 employers found that 35% say they are considering moving their active employees to a private exchange in 2016 or beyond. But only 11% think it would control costs better than the employer could themselves.

A private exchange is similar in concept to the state insurance marketplaces offered to people who lack access to group coverage – only in this case, the employee receives an allowance to select an insurance plan from among multiple vendors. And like the public model, it offers the individual a choice of benefit packages and deductible options.

What a private exchange lacks, however, is the flexibility to manage costs – a distinction that lies at the heart of self-funding. An exchange essentially shifts costs from the plan to the employee, and takes from the employer the ability to make real changes when warranted. This stands in stark contrast to self-funding, which offers an unmatched level of plan design control.

By having the ability to make plan changes based on detailed analyses and professional guidance – services available only through a benefits management specialist like MedBen – self-funded employers can make informed decisions that will not only control their costs, but the costs of plan members as well. Moreover, strategic changes can even help to steer employees toward healthier lifestyles, by encouraging preventive care.

For all the talk of private exchanges becoming the next big thing in group health care, MedBen has yet to see exactly how they will control health plan costs over time. And for employers, that's hardly a minor consideration.

To learn more about the savings advantages self-funding offers, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

09/18/14

  10:32:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 197 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Obesity Has Slowed, But Bellies Keep Getting Bigger: Report

large stomach

Slowly but surely, the U.S. is becoming a big-bellied nation. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the average adult waist size has expanded over an inch in the past decade.

According to HealthDay, 54% of Americans age 20 and older were abdominally obese in 2012, up from 46% in 1999. In that span (pardon the pun), the average waist circumference swelled from 37.6 inches to 38.8 inches.

The prevalence of obesity has slowed in recent years, so it's a little surprising to learn that waistlines have continued to grow. The researchers speculated that sleep deprivation, certain medications and everyday chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors may possibly play a role. A lack of physical activity is also a likely factor.

Another unexpected finding: Women outgained men nearly twice as much in the period studied – only 0.8 inches for males compared to 1.5 inches for females. The reason for this isn't clear, said study researcher Dr. Earl Ford, a medical officer at the CDC.

Waistlines larger than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men are considered abdominal obesity, a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Ford said the best way to reduce waist size is through weight loss.

09/17/14

  09:30:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 267 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News, Prescription, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Painkiller Statistics Underscore Need For Alternate Care Solutions

pill bottle

Two major news organizations have approached a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from differing perspectives. "Prescription painkiller deaths slowing down," says USA Today, while ABC News warns "Prescription drug deaths keep rising."

Actually, both headlines are accurate. The health agency notes that deaths from opioid overdoses rose only 3% annually from 2007 through 2011 still high, but a far cry from the yearly 18% increases between 1999 and 2006. But the actual number of deaths – nearly 17,000 in 2011 compared to 4,263 in 1999 – offers stark evidence to the extent of the problem.

Whether you embrace the "glass half full" or "glass half empty" philosophy, the fact remains that ongoing pain management through prescribed drugs continues to be a critical issue – both in terms of the potential harm to the patient as well as the financial realities that must be taken into account.

Modifications to diet, regular exercise and physical therapy can frequently alleviate pain without the need for drugs. “Opioids are a last resort and should be used when nothing else works,” said Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction medicine consultant not involved with the research.

While cost considerations are secondary to the well-being of the individual, they can't be ignored in instances of prolonged treatment. MedBen reviews pain management claims and makes recommendations to the client on a case-by-case basis for savings opportunities. At the client's request, we can also require the plan member or provider to request an approved prior authorization before services are rendered.

To learn how MedBen works with clients to control costs while still respecting the doctor-patient relationship, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

09/15/14

  04:56:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 256 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Diabetes Problem Continues To Grow; MedBen WellLiving Can Help Control Condition

Some sobering federal health statistics: Nearly half of adults have either pre-diabetes or diabetes, raising their risk of heart attacks, blindness, amputations and cancer.

According to USA Today, 12.3% of Americans 20 and older have diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Another 37% have pre-diabetes, a condition marked by higher-than-normal blood sugar. That’s up from 27% a decade ago.

“It’s bad everywhere,” says Philip Kern, director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center at the University of Kentucky. “You almost have the perfect storm of an aging population and a population growing more obese, plus fewer reasons to move and be active, and fast food becoming more prevalent.”

Moreover, diabetes has a financial cost in addition to a health one. The American Diabetes Association estimates the disease cost the U.S. $245 billion in 2013.

Fortunately, most people with pre-diabetes can control the condition – or prevent it altogether – through diet and exercise. And bonus: A recent study by the Action for Health in Diabetes found that overweight adults with diabetes who lost weight and kept it off lowered their average annual health care costs by more than $500.

MedBen WellLiving helps plan members diagnosed with type 2 diabetes take the proper steps toward better health. With our Specialty Care program, an RN Health Consultant will contacts patients to offer customized counseling. Members who choose to use the service will get individualized, confidential disease monitoring on a scheduled basis.

To learn more about how MedBen WellLiving can improve employee wellness while reducing health care costs, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

09/12/14

  11:11:00 am, by MedBen5   , 345 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Stop-loss

MedBen Savings Solutions Defy Health Care Cost Trends

Another day, another survey…

Hot on the heels of this week’s Kaiser report showing modest health plan premium growth comes a survey from Mercer L.L.C. which suggests that the average rate of increase in health benefit costs has begun to trend back upward.

According to Business Insurance, early findings from Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Benefits indicate that average employer health benefit costs are likely to increase by between 3.9% and 5.9% in 2015, depending on the measures employers take steps to control cost growth. Only through strategic plan changes will benefit costs equal, or come in under, projected growth trends.

But that’s not all. Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a report projecting higher health spending increases in the next decade (6.0% per year for 2015 through 2023), though still well under the double-digit jumps in the early 2000’s.

Clearly, there’s a lot of data out there about where health care costs have been, where they’re going and why they’re going there. But at the end of the day, what matters most to employers is what their own costs are, now and in the future.

At MedBen, our mission is to get clients the lowest costs, period – regardless of how high or low current trend may be. To do this, we take claims processing to the next level with advanced surveillance techniques that emphasize savings potential. When we flag a questionable claim, medical specialists and clinicians work directly with the provider to ensure an outcome that’s both cost-effective and patient-sensitive.

MedBen also helps clients to ensure that cost controls are properly in place with their provider network contracts. Doing so reduces the risk of the employer having to cover excess costs in the event of billing issues that cannot be addressed to the satisfaction of the plan’s stop-loss carrier.

There’s much more we could tell you, and we’d welcome the opportunity to discuss the ways we can save your business money on health care costs. Simply contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus to learn how MedBen defies spending trends with common-sense savings solutions.

09/10/14

  12:03:58 pm, by MedBen5   , 226 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Consumer-driven Health Plans

Health Benefits Survey Reveals Only Moderate Premium Growth In 2014

Premiums for employer-sponsored health care plans saw only moderate growth for the third consecutive year, Kaiser Health News reports.

Based on the annual Kaiser Family Foundation survey of over 2,000 employers nationwide, family premiums rose 3% in 2014, while premiums for single coverage rose just 2% over 2013 amounts. Annual average premium costs in 2014 are $16,834 and $6,025 for family and single coverage, respectively.

Since the mid-2000s, annual premium increases slowed to less than 10% each year. This year’s 3% family coverage growth tied with 2010 for the smallest increase.

The survey also revealed that, despite concerns that employers would drop their coverage with the introduction of insurance exchanges, the percentage of firms offering benefits this year (55%) is statistically unchanged from 2013. However, this could change in 2015, when employers with 100 or more employees face financial penalties under the employer mandate (aka “pay or play") provision of the Affordable Care Act.

As employers have asked their employees to take on a greater portion of health care costs, deductibles have risen accordingly. In 2014, the average deductible for single employees was $1,217, a 47% increase since 2009 – though in many cases, additional member costs were offset with employer-funded health savings accounts. Moreover, an ACA cap requirement resulted in only 7% of covered workers potentially liable for more than $6,350 in out-of-pocket costs under their plans this year, compared with 14% in 2013.

A summary of the survey findings is available at Kaiser Family Foundation website.

09/08/14

  04:25:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 324 words,  
Categories: Wellness

The Highs & Lows of Controlling Cholesterol

Picking Produce

You likely know that there’s “good” and “bad” cholesterol, but what’s the difference between them? And how do you get more of the “good” stuff?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body produces to help it make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Those foods, in turn, may also contain cholesterol, stored either in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

HDL cholesterol is considered “good” because it helps rid the body of excess cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, can build up in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease – ergo, “bad.”

One of the difficulties of controlling LDL cholesterol is that there are no outward signs that you’ve got too much. Proper diet and exercise help to reduce the risk of high cholesterol, but age and genetics can sometimes frustrate your efforts to keep “bad” cholesterol in check.

Your best defense against high cholesterol is a good offense. MedBen WellLiving recommends that people age 20 and over get a cholesterol screening from their family doctor at least every five years, though your health care plan may encourage more frequent checks. You can monitor your screening compliance on the MedBen Access website – just log in via medben.com and click on “WellLiving Information.”

Full story »

09/04/14

  04:38:15 pm, by MedBen5   , 135 words,  
Categories: News, Consumer-driven Health Plans

FSA Contribution Maximum May Get A Bump In 2015

For the first time since its ACA-regulated introduction, the maximum contribution employees can make to their flexible spending accounts will likely go up, if just by a little bit. Beginning in 2015, the contribution limit will increase to $2,550, predicts Buck Consultants at Xerox calculations. That’s a $50 bump from the $2,500 maximum imposed in 2013.

According to Business Insurance, increases to the contribution limit are based on the rise in the consumer price index of a 12-month period ending on August 31. Because the amount is rounded down to the nearest $50, the limit held at $2,500 in 2014. But with the index amount hovering around $2,580 at the end of July, rounding down is expected to raise the limit to $2,550 – a welcome bump, but still well below the FSA contribution maximums many employers allowed before the days of the Affordable Care Act.

  12:22:56 pm, by MedBen5   , 272 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Cancer

Double Mastectomies Less Effective Than More Conservative Surgery, Study Suggests

When Angelina Jolie revealed her decision last year to have a double mastectomy in order to reduce her risk of breast cancer, it generated a good deal of conversation as to whether the measure was too extreme. Now, a new study suggests that the while the procedure provides a higher survival advantage compared to a single mastectomy, a more conservative treatment may be more effective.

NPR reports that researchers looked at the records of the nearly 190,000 women in California who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer from 1998 to 2011. They found that those who had a double mastectomy had an 81.2% survival rate at 10 years, compared to 79.9% for those who had a single mastectomy. But those who chose the breast-conserving surgery known as a lumpectomy fared better, with a 83.2% survival rate.

A HealthDay article about the study states that the number of women opting for double mastectomy jumped from 2% in 1998 to 12.3% in 2011. For women younger than 40, one-third decided on a double mastectomy in 2011, compared to less than 4% at the study’s start.

In Jolie’s case, she has a family history of breast cancer and tested positive for the genetic mutation BRCA1, increasing the likelihood that she may develop the disease. But most women who opted for double mastectomies hadn’t been diagnosed with BRCA1.

Study researcher Scarlett Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California attributes the rise of double mastectomies in part to a fear of cancer recurrence, even though the fear usually exceeds the estimated risk.

“Any advantage that comes from lowering your risk of cancer in the [healthy] breast could be offset by the fact that you’re having major surgery,” Gomez told NPR.

09/02/14

  12:52:54 pm, by MedBen5   , 392 words,  
Categories: Announcements, Prescription

Comparing Pharmacy Costs Isn't Just About Dollars And Cents

A common misconception about buying prescription drugs is that all pharmacies charge the same price for their products, so it doesn’t matter which one you use. The reality is very different, however.

Optometrist Ali Khoshnevis, MD writes on the Costs of Care blog:

“In their May issue, Consumer Reports published a study [that] focuses on five of the most prescribed medications in the U.S. and reviews more than 200 pharmacies for price comparisons. The findings show the details of each pharmacy and drug researched as well as the overall discrepancy between the lowest cost pharmacy and the highest cost pharmacy. For the same prescriptions, the difference was a whopping $749 per month or 447% between the highest and lowest cost options.”

Overpaying for medications isn’t the only consideration, however. Khoshnevis notes that skipping medications to save money takes a physical toll as well:

“A recent Mayo Clinic study revealed 70% of Americans take at least one prescribed medication monthly and last year 50 million Americans decided not to take their medications due to the high cost.

“Currently, medication non-adherence is cited by The IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics as the largest contributor to healthcare costs in their June, 2013 study, ‘Avoidable Costs in U.S. Healthcare.’ The study shows that a patient’s inability to stay on a prescribed medication is estimated to cause over $100 Billion in avoidable healthcare costs due to the resulting health complications, hospital visits, and additional advanced treatment.”

If you’re interested in doing pharmacy cost comparisons without travelling around town or burning up the phone line, there are websites that can help (GoodRx is probably the best known). This is especially true in cases of brand name drugs in which no generic equivalent is available. Be forewarned, however, that such sites may steer you toward partner pharmacies or offer coupons that may or may not really save you money.

MedBen pharmacy plan clients have a better means to ensure lower drug costs. By using MedBen Access to research generic alternatives and discussing these options with your doctor, you can get a flat low cost regardless of which network pharmacy you prefer. You can also use the site to check the retail costs of brand name drugs, to ensure you’re getting a fair shake from your pharmacy of choice.

To use the drug database, log into MedBen Access and select “My Rx Claims.”

08/29/14

  11:42:38 am, by MedBen5   , 203 words,  
Categories: Announcements, Health Plan Management, Consumer-driven Health Plans, Online Services

We're Closed Labor Day, But Online Services Stay Open

Happy Labor Day from MedBen…we hope everyone enjoys the three-day weekend and sends out the summer on a high note!

We’ll be closed on Monday, September 1 to celebrate the holiday and will reopen at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 2. Hopefully, health care benefits won’t be a priority on Labor Day… but should you have a burning question, we invite you to take advantage of the variety of online customer services available at our MedBen Access website.

If your group offers an FSA or HRA option, we’d like to point you to a particularly useful feature of the site. By clicking on “FSA/HRA Online Inquiry,” you can look at your most recent claim submissions, review payments issued, see your total deposits posted to date and get answers to a whole host of questions.

Hard though it may be to believe, 2014 is two-thirds of the way over… so if you’ve got an FSA, you may want to consider making plans for spending the remaining funds in your account before your plan’s established deadline (usually December 31). Check MedBen Access to see what you’ve got left, then head over to the IRS-Eligible Expenses page on MedBen.com to research ways of using those unallocated dollars!

08/28/14

  05:08:24 pm, by MedBen5   , 298 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

More Benefits Info Digital, But Group, 1-on-1 Communication Still Popular

As our society increasingly equates “social” with “computer accessible", the methods we use to convey information has adapted accordingly. No surprise there. But how does that apply to communicating employee benefits?

Employee Benefits News reports that while group and one-on-one meetings are still the preferred means for employers to communicate information, a new Prudential analysis of employee benefits finds employees becoming more comfortable with digital communication as well:

  • Work email – Favored by 47% of the employees surveyed.
  • Personal email – 28% of respondents said they prefer this method of communication.
  • Online avatar – 19% of employees said they like to get online benefits education through avatars, video units or quick sound bites.
  • Group meetings and individual one-one-one meetings – Group meetings (18%) and one-on-ones (19%) are still popular with employees, while 74% of employers said meetings are the most successful communication method.
  • Smartphones or tablets – While not listed as a top preferred communication option, 24% of employees said they like downloading or sharing benefits information via their smartphone.

MedBen agrees with the majority of employers that believe face-to-face communication still works best – which is why our dedicated group service representatives meet with employees during initial enrollments as well as any time a client wishes to inform or educate plan members. That said, our team is highly flexible and will use other ways of communicating when appropriate, be it through webinars or mass emails. And for our popular Partners Community Health Plan, we also created a “how to” video that explains the plan to members in a simple, straightforward manner.

Of course, plan members can always get answers to their benefit questions via a real live person by calling MedBen Customer Service. It may not be the “modern” way of spreading the word, but we find that people still seem to like it!

08/26/14

  03:12:17 pm, by MedBen5   , 147 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

MedBen "Takes The Plunge" To Fight ALS

Apparently, there’s been some sort of “Ice Bucket Challenge” making the rounds these days. We’ve been pretty busy around the office, so we hadn’t taken much notice of it… but when our friends at Park National Bank threw down the gauntlet, our Executive Committee had no choice but to pick it up!

In all seriousness, ALS is a disease that hits home for MedBen. Lisa Miller, a beloved member of our family, was diagnosed with ALS in 2003 and succumbed to the disease in 2010. We dedicate this challenge and our contribution to beating ALS in Lisa’s memory.

And because we hate to be cold and sopping wet alone, on Twitter we’ve called out The Energy Cooperative, Mayor Jeff Hall and the City of Newark, and Pat and Andrew Guanciale to also take the plunge!

To learn more about what you can do to fight ALS, visit alsa.org.

  12:21:47 pm, by MedBen5   , 269 words,  
Categories: News, Consumer-driven Health Plans

MedBen CDHP Solutions Offer Added Savings Potential

With an eye on controlling anticipated health care cost increases, an increasing number of employers are considering the addition of consumer-driven health plans to their group benefits package. And MedBen can help those employers control costs further still.

In multiple employer surveys recently released, employers predict that health care costs could rise anywhere from 5.2% to 6.5% in 2015 if their current plan designs remain the same. But by making strategic changes – key among them, an emphasis on CDHPs – they believe this increase would drop down to as little as 4%.

More than half (57%) of large employers are implementing or expanding CDHPs, according to a National Business Group on Health survey. Moreover, a separate Towers Watson survey finds that by 2017, more than half of respondents expect to make a CDHP their sole plan option.

MedBen offers a variety of consumer-driven products, and works with employers to find a CDHP solution that best controls costs. Whether adding a CDHP on a stand-alone basis or as part of an overall benefits package, we address the employer’s need for savings while offering greater freedom of choice and convenience to employees.

More importantly, the savings MedBen offers extend beyond the standard tax incentives and higher deductibles associated with CDHPs. Our claim review service thoroughly scans every claim for savings opportunities, and is supported by a panel of over 60 specialists. And we can help you tie employer-funded account contributions to various wellness incentives, through our MedBen WellLiving program.

If you would like to learn how MedBen CDHP services can benefit your health plan, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

08/22/14

  04:32:22 pm, by MedBen5   , 231 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Care Reform

Obama Administration Attempts To Address Contraceptive Objections

In its latest effort to settle the ongoing controversy over contraceptive coverage, the Obama administration today proposed new measures to ensure that female employees of religious nonprofits and some “closed held” companies have free access to birth control regardless of employer objections.

The Associated Press reports that the revised policy would allow faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals to notify the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than their insurer or third-party administrator, that they object to birth control on religious grounds. Likewise, for-profits with strongly-held religious beliefs could directly request an exception in a similar manner.

Ultimately, the “fix” just adds a bureaucracy buffer to the process, as the HHS in turn notifies the group’s insurer or TPA of its need to provide contraceptive coverage on behalf of the employer. In other words, the government serves as a neutral go-between in hopes of quelling moral disapproval (though employers still have the option of notifying a third party directly).

Over 50 religious nonprofit organizations have filed cases challenging the requirement that they opt out of coverage by filling out a form to their insurer or TPA stating their objection. Such an action, they say, would still go against their beliefs by making them “complicit” in providing something they consider sinful. So while these proposals do attempt to address the legal challenges, the crux of their objections still remains – if slightly redirected.

08/21/14

  04:38:09 pm, by MedBen5   , 378 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Benefit vs. Risk At Heart Of PSA Debate

Opinion as to whether or not men should get tested for prostate cancer has seen a sizable shift of late. The general thinking that men age 50 and over should have an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening has given way to a more cautious approach, due in large part to research findings that suggest testing may offer more risks than rewards.

A recent European study determined that midlife PSA screenings do reduce a man’s risk of dying of the disease by 21% – which sounds significant until you take into account that a middle-aged man’s risk of dying of prostate cancer without screening is only about 3%. And getting regular screenings only lower the risk to 2.4%.

Such numbers led the study authors to advise against widespread screening, and instead focus on high-risk patients. Additionally, scientists should work to identify nonaggressive cancers so men will not be unnecessarily treated for the disease.

In The New York Times, Doctor of Internal Medicine Barak Gaster, MD explains why the decision to have a PSA test is a tricky one:

“Unlike cancer of the breast or the lung or the colon, which tends to kill people within five or 10 years, prostate cancer is usually slow growing. Men tend to die with it rather than of it. In fact, many live with it for 30 years or more and never even know they have it.

“That said, 3% of men do die of prostate cancer. So if we had an easy, safe treatment for prostate cancer, it would make sense to screen everyone and treat all the cancers we found. But the main treatments for prostate cancer carry a high risk of causing urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

“As a result, when a man decides to be screened for prostate cancer, there’s a high risk he will sustain permanent harms from treating a cancer that he never would have known he had. And that risk is probably much higher than the chance that he will live longer because he was screened.”

MedBen follows current American Cancer Society guidelines which recommend that not every man be tested for prostate cancer, even those who are 50 and older. Rather, men should learn more about the disease and speak to their family doctor about the risk and possible benefits of testing.

08/19/14

  04:34:12 pm, by MedBen5   , 270 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform, Taxes

Employer Funding Of Individual Policies A Slippery (And Costly) Slope

Employers that offer tax-free individual major medical coverage through cafeteria plans may leave themselves open to significant adverse tax consequences, cautions a bulletin from the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation, a health care industry association.

Last year, the Departments of Treasury and Labor issued guidance that affects employers’ ability to pay for individual market (IM) policies, such as major medical coverage that is subject to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), through a cafeteria plan. IRS Notice 2013-54 stresses that pre-tax funding of IMs in this manner, whether through employer payment or reimbursement, would violate the law, resulting in the imposition of an excise tax against the employer of $100 per employee per day.

Despite this guidance, some benefits managers have told their clients that because the cafeteria plan is not a group health plan subject to the ACA, employers can make pre-tax payments of IM coverage premiums without risking a penalty. But this line of thinking runs counter to the IRS Notice, which states that any arrangement that pays or reimburses an employee’s IM policy premiums on a pre-tax basis would be an “employer payment plan,” which the agency clearly indicates is a “group health plan” subject to the ACA. And that means the employer would face a steep penalty for violating the law.

While the ACA is hardly lacking in regulations requiring clarification, MedBen reads this particular language as unambiguous – which is why we’re strongly advising our clients against funding IM policies through cafeteria plans. Clients that have any questions regarding this guidance are welcome to contact Director of Administrative Services Sharon A. Mills at smills@medben.com.

08/15/14

  04:16:23 pm, by MedBen5   , 296 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness, Health Plan Management

MedBen Committed To Besting Health Care Price Trends

Health care prices nationwide have recently risen faster than general inflation, following an extended period of historically slow growth. But at MedBen, we’re committed to saving our clients money regardless of price trends.

According to a new Price Brief from the Altarum Institute, the health care price index in June 2014 rose 1.7% above June 2013. The 12-month moving average of 1.3% is near the all-time low for the institute’s data (1.2%), but it has now risen for four straight months, the first increasing trend since January 2012.

On its face, these increases are pretty small… but the fact that the health care prices are again growing faster than the gross domestic product suggests that bigger jumps are possible in the coming months. And with millions of newly insured Americans accessing health care, there’s a good chance the price of health care goods and services will reflect the added demand.

Health care prices are driven largely by market forces and government regulation. But that’s not to say that employers can’t take measures to control how such price fluctuations affect their own bottom line… and one of the best ways to do that is by partnering with a benefits management specialist that puts its clients’ best interests first.

Whatever the current economic client may be, MedBen works with employer groups to develop benefit solutions that save them money. Our unique claims process delivers the highest level of benefits at the best cost. Our pharmacy program brings more savings, and our WellLiving disease management and worksite wellness program promotes cost efficiency through a healthier workforce.

MedBen’s priority is to find clients quality health care backed up with verifiable savings. To learn more about how we can help your business save money, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

08/14/14

  04:25:45 pm, by MedBen5   , 286 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

With Worksite Wellness, Employers Can Help Control Diabetes Epidemic

Diabetes is an ongoing epidemic in this country, and the future forecast doesn’t look much brighter. But a heightened focus on worksite wellness can help to improve the numbers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately two out of every five Americans will develop type 2 diabetes at some point during their adult lives. WebMD reports that from 1985 to 2011, the lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes for the average 20-year-old American man jumped from nearly 21% to 40%, and from 27% to almost 40% for women.

“We weren’t necessarily surprised that it increased, but we didn’t expect it to increase this much,” said lead study author Edward Gregg, chief of the epidemiology and statistics branch in the division of diabetes translation at the CDC. “Forty percent is a humbling number.”

Part of the increase can be attributed to genetics and longer lifespans. But the growing obesity rate in this country is also a contributing factor.

Most diabetics have type 2 diabetes, which is among the most controllable chronic conditions. Even after an individual develops the condition, practicing proper wellness can actually reverse it to the point where medication is no longer required.

At MedBen, we help employers help employees reduce their type 2 diabetes risk through our recently upgraded WellLiving program. By encouraging timely preventive care and lifestyle changes, WellLiving plan members significantly lower their odds of developing a chronic condition. And with our one-on-one RN counseling, members already at risk can take the right steps to combat obesity and diabetes.

As Gregg observes, “If prevention efforts take hold, then the equation for lifetime risk will change pretty quickly.”

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

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