Two MedBen University industry-specific roundtables are just days away... so if you've been thinking of attending, now is the time to register!
On Thursday, March 23, MedBen will host the 15th Annual Hospital Roundtable, sponsored by ISU Stop-Loss. Then on Thursday, March 30, we'll focus on government groups at our 11th Annual Municipality Roundtable, sponsored by HCC Stop-Loss. Both events will spotlight cost and utilization trends for medical and pharmacy health plans, and allow attendees to benchmark their health plans against other plans in their respective industries.
In addition, our team of benefits management professionals will discuss current topics of interest to self-funded employers, including what the future may hold for health care reform.
These free roundtables will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST at the Morrow Conference Center, 1821 W. Main Street, Newark, Ohio (next door to the MedBen home office). Registration begins at 8:00 a.m., and continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Register today by calling MedBen Sales Analyst Sally Wood at (800) 423-3151, ext. 502 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you!
A few reminders for MedBen clients who offer flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and/or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to their plan members:
For most FSA and HRA plans that have a January effective date, March 31, 2017 is the final day of the run-out period in which plan members can turn in reimbursement requests for qualified 2016 purchases. Alternately, your FSA plan may allow a "grace period" for members to spend remaining 2016 funds by March 15, but still adhere to the March 31 deadline for reimbursement requests.
Some FSA and HRA plans may have a different run-out period. If you need clarification about your plan's deadline, just call MedBen Customer Service at 800-297-1829.
MedBen clients with additional questions regarding their FSAs or HRAs may call MedBen Customer Service at 800-297-1829.
One of the major surprises of the Republican replacement plan to the Affordable Care Act ‒ tentatively called the "American Health Care Act (AHCA)" ‒ is not what's in it, but what House members left out: A provision eliminating or capping the tax deductibility of employer-sponsored group health coverage.
The provision was noteworthy in its absence because several GOP replacement bills had offered taxing employer-sponsored plans as a possible funding mechanism ‒ and indeed, an earlier leaked draft of the AHCA included such a provision. Why the provision was ultimately omitted is anyone's guess, but it's probable that many House Republicans feared a backlash from employers, many of whom would simply discontinue offering health coverage rather than paying prohibitively expensive taxes on it.
So what does the AHCA propose as a possible way to finance the law? None other than the oft-maligned "Cadillac" tax, once all but dead and buried, now miraculously resurrected. But rather than deal with the inevitable blowback by rolling out the tax immediately (or in 2020, when it's currently scheduled for implementation), the bill pushes the start date all the way back to 2025. The greater likelihood, however, is that the tax will never see the light of day ‒ its real purpose may be to have some funding mechanism in place when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores the bill for potential costs.
Of course, the final version of the AHCA could be very different than the present one ‒ in fact, the brickbats currently being thrown by fellow GOP members at the bill all but ensures that significant revisions are forthcoming. So while employer tax breaks are unaffected at the moment, don't be shocked if talk of elimination or caps arises again.
Finally, while health plan taxes are particularly germane to MedBen clients, they're hardly the only aspect of the AHCA that may affect employers. As the bill evolves, we'll continue to keep you informed on the latest developments and what they mean for your business. In the meantime, clients with questions about the AHCA are welcome to contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at 800-851-0907 or email@example.com.
CMS recently announced that, beginning this month, they will switch from quarterly data feeds to monthly data feeds for Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR). For MedBen Analytics clients, this means the reporting in our portal will be even more current, allowing them to follow a patient's care path within about one month of the provided service.
Once the switch to monthly data has been implemented, it will be immediately integrated into your MedBen Analytics reports, with no additional action needed on your end. Naturally, the thoroughness of information available will be based upon the timely filing of claims by the provider... if the filing process is delayed, the reports may not reflect all claims activity for the period selected.
Additionally, CMS and Mathematica are in the process of revising the methodology to impute standardized payments. This calculation correction, and the related specification document, is scheduled to be delivered in the March 2017 data feed.
As MedBen Analytics is designed to help providers make decisions based on the most complete and up-to-date information available, we're pleased that CMS has made this change. If you have any questions about the switch to monthly production or our reporting portal, please call MedBen President & COO Kurt Harden at 888-633-2364 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this month, House Republican leaders released an outline of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The outline doesn't indicate how the plan would be paid for, but one frequently cited GOP funding suggestion ‒ capping the tax deductibility of employer-sponsored group health coverage ‒ could have serious ramifications for employer-funded health plans, says MedBen Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker.
Employers provide non-taxable health care coverage through insurance and self-funded plans to the nearly 60% of non-retired Americans who receive coverage through their workplace. Because the benefits provided by employer-sponsored group health coverage is not considered income to employees – and neither employees nor employers pay payroll tax on those benefits – some Republicans see it as an unfair advantage over those who have to purchase health coverage on an individual basis, which is bought with after-tax dollars. "GOP members of Congress think a cap has to be put in place to balance the playing field for those getting health coverage outside of the employment arena," Fraker said.
The logic behind the cap is similar to the ACA's much-reviled (and never implemented) Cadillac tax ‒ to collect funds for other health care reform initiatives. Fraker believes a better solution would be to focus on making corrections to the individual insurance market, such as applying universal health care tax credits to people who purchase their own coverage. "If the GOP believes there's inequity, it's smarter to balance it on the non-employer, individual market side," she said.
Fraker added that that the cap goes beyond simple tax implications to the issue of job retention: "If you take away the tools employers use to attract and retain good employees, all you ultimately do is undermine the economy."
MedBen clients who have questions about the proposed cap or health care reform in general are welcome to contact Fraker at 800-851-0907 or email@example.com.
A leading physician group advises that people with back pain postpone a doctor's visit until they've tried non-medicinal remedies, Forbes reports.
The new guidelines by the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommend avoiding pills and using other therapies such as massage, heat, acupuncture, exercise, yoga or physical therapy as the primary approach to patients with low back pain lasting less than 12 weeks’ duration. If medication for temporary pain relief must be used, the group suggested over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin.
These guidelines represent something of a shift in thinking, as doctors have for many decades prescribed opiates for immediate relief of pain. But with opioid addiction becoming a national epidemic, physicians increasingly advocate alternative forms of treatment.
The ACP emphasized that in most instances, low back pain will improve on its own, particularly if the individual engages in proper exercise or stays active. However, if the pain radiates down one or both legs, or is associated with weakness, tingling or any associated fever, that person should consult their family doctor immediately.
An executive order by the Trump administration has briefly delayed the rollout of the bundled payment model for hip and femur fractures, but will not alter cardiac and orthopedic model launches later this year. Regardless, MedBen Analytics is fully prepared to provide hospitals with actionable data reporting for all new models.
The 60-day freeze on federal rulemaking pushed back the effective date of the Surgical Hip and Femur Fracture Treatment (SHFFT) model from February 18 to March 31. However, the July 1 implementation of the Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) and Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) models fall outside the executive order and will not be affected, an HHS spokesman has confirmed.
But whatever the circumstances, MedBen Analytics is ready to move forward. We've taken the advanced reporting portal we created for our Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) clients and expanded it so users of all these bundled payment models can benefit from our useful insights.
If you'd like to see a demonstration of our system or want additional information about MedBen Analytics, please call MedBen President & COO Kurt Harden at 888-633-2364 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heart disease continues to amass physical and financial costs nationwide... a difficult situation that could be greatly alleviated through a collective focus on wellness.
A new American Heart Association report estimates that heart disease-related costs are expected to double from $555 billion in 2016 to $1.1 trillion in 2035. By then, nearly half the U.S. population will have at least one health problem related to heart disease, the report projects.
The difficulty with getting a handle on heart disease is that it's so closely linked to many of our worst habits, such as smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Concerted efforts to address these lifestyle issues could go a long toward reversing the upward trend ‒ and workplace wellness is an obvious place to start.
MedBen WellLiving takes a multi-level approach to heart disease and other chronic conditions. First, our program promotes to your health plan members the importance of preventive care, and building and maintaining a doctor-patient relationship. Second, those members identified at high risk are offered ongoing, individualized counseling from a registered nurse.
The WellLiving approach aids in earlier detection of heart disease that allows for less costly treatment and decreased risk of medical conditions that contribute to the disease. For employers, it translates to lower medical costs and reduced absenteeism.
Get additional information about the benefits of MedBen WellLiving by contacting Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at email@example.com.
Responsible for pumping more than 2,000 gallons of blood a day throughout the 60,000 miles of blood vessels within your body, the heart requires itself to be in tip-top shape. However, some may not realize the negative impact that every day activities have on our heart... or that they could even lead to heart disease.
Do you watch hours of TV every evening? Snore when you sleep? Skip flossing? Eat a lot of red meats or season food with extra salt? Most of us will answer “yes” to more than one of these.
Watching TV frequently, even if you exercise regularly, can still impair your heart. Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which, just like eating salty foods, causes a spike in blood pressure. Skipping the floss and eating a lot of red meat have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.
Though this list may be a short summary of things that can affect the heart, perhaps the most dangerous thing we do is assume that we are not at risk. One in three U.S. adults are diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease that can be considered among the “silent killers.” Seeking guidance from your family physician is one of the only ways to detect early onset and to effectively manage heart conditions.
Even with issues like national security and immigration grabbing the headlines these days, health care costs still rank high on the list of American concerns, a new survey suggests. Likewise, finding ways to control client health care costs continually informs the way the MedBen does business.
The Monmouth University Poll of families nationwide found that about 25% of respondents said the cost of health care was their biggest concern ‒ a 10% jump from a similar poll in 2015. National security and other topical matters ranked comparatively low in the survey.
But the fact that health care costs affect consumers comes as no surprise to MedBen, because we know from first-hand experience how important saving money is to employers who self-fund their health care coverage. Toward that goal, MedBen offers a variety of cost management solutions, including:
Through these and other containment strategies, MedBen works ceaselessly to ensure that clients' coverage costs are kept as low as possible, without sacrificing necessary care. To get a better idea of all the ways we can benefit your business, contact our Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) shows encouraging trends on cancer survival ‒ a decline in death rates that coincides with a greater emphasis on preventive care through programs like MedBen WellLiving.
Since the early 1990's, the U.S. death rate from cancer has dropped 25%. This trend can be attributed primarily to large declines in the four major causes of cancer death ‒ lung, colorectal, breast and prostate ‒ which account for almost half of such deaths, noted ACS Director Rebecca Siegel.
"This progress is driven by declines in smoking prevalence beginning in the 1960s, and improvements in the early detection of cancer and cancer treatment," Siegel said.
Still, while mortality rates have fallen overall, some U.S. regions still show much higher numbers ‒ a problem researchers blame, in part, on people not getting regular cancer screenings.
"People show up with a cancer that should have been addressed a long time ago," said Dr. Ethan Basch, Director of the Cancer Outcomes Research Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "If they had a good primary care doctor or good health education they would have noticed it."
MedBen WellLiving stresses the importance of plan members getting regular cancer screenings under the direction of their family doctor. Not only does detecting cancer in its earliest stages greatly improve chances for survival, it significantly reduces the cost of treatment ‒ in some cases, by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
By encouraging preventive care, employers can go a long way toward improving the health of their workforce. Learn how you can make a real difference by contacting MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at email@example.com.
An important notice for flexible spending account (FSA) members who use MedBen's "Benny" debit card: The e-mail "From" address for Change to Funding Request notifications has changed.
Effective January 30, 2017, daily and weekly funding request e-mail notifications now have the e-mail "from" address "firstname.lastname@example.org." Prior to this change, the "from" address on these notifications was "email@example.com."
Recipients should make sure this new "from" e-mail address is not blocked or marked as spam. For those recipients who have already "white listed" the evolution1.com domain, this change will not impact you.
MedBen FSA debit card users who have any questions about this change are welcome to contact Director of Administrative Services Sharon A. Mills at (800) 423-3151, Ext. 438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MedBen President and COO Kurt Harden was one of several local business representatives recently interviewed by Licking County (OH) Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer McDonald for the Chamber's 2017 Economic Forecast video. During the discussion, he shared his thoughts on the future of Obamacare under President Trump as well as doing business in Licking County.
Below are several excerpts from Harden's interview. You can hear his complete comments on YouTube (the MedBen portion begins around the 5:00 mark).
On the survival of Obamacare: "We don't know if everything's going to be repealed or if [Congress] will just repeal the insurance portions of Obamacare and leave other portions in place [...] They will probably repeal large portions of Obamacare and some of the taxes with it, and replace those."
On improving insurance access under Obamacare: "The way I would improve access is, if the goal was to improve access to those most needy, then simply move up the coverage under Medicaid to a higher percentage of the poverty level [...] That way, what you don't do is you don't disrupt an insurance and a health benefits market that was largely working for the vast majority of people who were covered under it."
On the appeal of doing business in Licking County: "First of all, a great quality workforce. We have a great supply of high work ethic employees. Secondly, we like that Licking County is just far enough away from Columbus that we have our own identity [...] but close enough that we can go to Columbus and hire employees there as well. The final thing is really the governments, at both the county, city, village level. They're all very responsive, very pro-business, so when we need something, they're generally there to help out."
Half of health care systems now accept value-based reimbursements, and that number may go even higher in the next few years, a new survey suggests. MedBen has seen firsthand the potential of alternative payments to benefit self-funded employers and providers alike, and is helping clients realize that potential.
According to Modern Healthcare, 36% of respondents to the KPMG survey said they receive some reimbursement from value-based contracts, while 14% said they get most of their payments that way. Another 26% said they are planning to enter value-based payment arrangements in the next one to three years.
These findings indicate that health care systems are responding to the growing popularity of alternative payment methods in the private and public sectors. Last year, an analysis by the National Business Group on Health revealed that nearly half of self-funded employers have incorporated some type of value-based design in their health care plan. Likewise, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expect that by 2018, half of all provider payments from Medicare will be via “alternative models.”
Through our MedBen Analytics service, which helps hospitals convert raw Medicare data into actionable insights, we've seen how value-based payments enable providers to make informed choices necessary to improve services. This arrangement will also benefit self-funded plans, who will realize lower costs than fee-for-service payments without compromising quality of care.
We are rolling out commercial bundled payment services to clients. As health care systems become more comfortable with the value-based model, MedBen expects it to become the norm for employer claim payments.
With new President Donald Trump and Congress already taking steps to possibly repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the future of health care reform is very much a question mark... and employers are understandably concerned about what will happen next. Several business organization representatives recently shared their thoughts:
Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions: "If anything, we might see ACA repealed with some sort of forward-looking timeframe so they have time to replace it with something. Trump has made a point that he won’t leave people in the lurch in the meantime; frankly, having a time-limited chance to put something in place is an opportunity to take a thoughtful relook at how we do it."
Brian Marcotte, president and CEO at National Business Group on Health: "By selecting [Health & Human Services Secretary Tom] Price, Trump is signaling that he’s really serious about dismantling the ACA and replacing it with a plan that relies more on increased competition among insurers than on government health insurance exchanges [...] We would hope that HHS would continue to transform Medicare away from fee-for-service, which drives unnecessary care and spending toward paying for value, and we’d like to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to transforming the delivery system and not lose momentum there."
Meanwhile, Michael P. Aitken, vice president of government affairs for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), has asked Congress to maintain the employer health care system’s effectiveness while it attempts to repeal. In a letter to the body, Aitken suggested lawmakers “eliminate coverage requirements on employer-sponsored plans to ensure employers have the flexibility to design benefit plans that meet the unique needs of varying workforces” and “allow employers to adopt innovative strategies to improve health benefit offerings to lower overall U.S. health care costs.”
MedBen recently shared its own thoughts on the ACA's future, which you can read elsewhere on this blog.
As we've seen in the headlines repeatedly these days, even high-level government agencies are vulnerable to cyberattacks. For MedBen, it serves as a continual reminder that there is no comfort level when it comes to security ‒ rather, an effective defense requires continual reassessment and revision.
Security experts predict that cyberattacks will increase this year, and the primary target will be health care organizations. “ will take the cybersecurity industry into new territory after 2016’s threat landscape opened doors for cybercriminals to explore a wider range of attacks and attack surfaces,” said Raimund Genes, chief technology officer for Trend Micro, in a recent statement.
For many years ‒ certainly, long before "cybersecurity" became common language ‒ MedBen has taken a variety of measures to protect our clients' personal information. This attention to detail doesn't apply simply to external threats ‒ we also have multiple procedures in place to ensure that only those MedBen employees who need specific information to do their jobs have access to it. Additionally, we use security cameras and numerous physical safeguards to provide an extra layer of protection.
Equally important to our cybersecurity strategy is that we test these protective measures through periodic, unscheduled penetration attempts by IBM and other outside firms. Not only do these tests confirm the reliability of our safeguards, they provide valuable feedback that helps us further strengthen our defenses.
Clients who would like to know more about our security measures are welcome to contact Vice President of Information Systems and Chief Security Officer Rose McEntire at email@example.com.
For most, a new year brings new resolutions. Year after year, weight-related goals are among the top resolutions. Unfortunately, only 8% of all resolutions are achieved. But what if you veer from the traditional route and don’t focus on diet and exercise to improve yourself, but rather simply be optimistic?
Oftentimes, we think of these as two separate subjects: your physical health and your mental attitude. However, studies have shown that poor mental attitude can decrease physical health and vice-versa. Why is that?
One such study found a link between increased levels of optimism and decreased risks of death from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and infections. Another proved that being optimistic lowers stress levels and increases the immune system, thus decreasing the chance of developing negative physical health conditions in the first place. And, you may find it noteworthy that for every 10 positivity points a person had in optimism, their risk of early death decreased by 19%.
While being optimistic is great, MedBen WellLiving suggests that in addition, you seek guidance from your family physician during an annual wellness exam to help ensure your health is on the right track this year.
So as you enter 2017, think about what resolutions you want to set. No matter what you choose (i.e., weight, financial, travel), remember that looking at the glass half-full may help you achieve that goal.
Now going into our 16th year, MedBen University (MBU) continues to offer free educational seminars across the Midwest. Our team of benefits management professionals covers a variety of subjects, from cost-saving strategies to regulatory updates.
This year's MBU season will commence with a pair of roundtables that focus on the distinctive needs of specific industries. In addition to learning about current spending trends, attendees can see first-hand how their plans compare with those of other businesses. Both will be held at the C. Arthur Morrow Conference Center, 1821 W. Main Street, Newark, Ohio (located next to the MedBen home office; times to be determined).
15th Annual Hospital Roundtable
Thursday, March 23
Because of a hospital's position as a care provider, benefit planning poses particular challenges and opportunities for plan administrators. Attendees will learn ways to use this industry advantage to their best benefit, and what performance indicators to watch in order to best manage costs.
11th Annual Municipality Roundtable
Thursday, March 30
City and country governments, school systems and other public sector employers also face unique health care cost control issues. Attendees will learn money-saving strategies that municipalities can apply to their coverage, and ways that they can make more informed planning decisions.
These roundtables are open to their respective industry members, so if you represent a hospital or municipality, whether you are a current client or not, we invite you to join us! Simply contact MedBen Sales Analyst Sally Wood at (800) 423-3151, ext. 502 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Keep an eye out for additional information about these seminars and others in both your mailbox and emails!
Because high blood pressure, or hypertension, is closely linked to other chronic conditions, researchers regularly use it as a barometer of health. Likewise, population health programs like MedBen WellLiving stress the role that reducing hypertension plays in improving personal health.
A new University of Washington study determined that worldwide, the rate of systolic blood pressure (or SBP, the pressure while the heart is beating) rose substantially between 1990 and 2015. Preventable deaths from conditions linked to elevated SBP, such as heart disease and stroke, also increased during that period... and perhaps not surprisingly, the U.S. made up a disproportionate number of people whose lives could have been improved or extended by correctly managing their blood pressure.
Considering its significance, it stands to reason that a blood pressure reading is a mainstay of the physician office visit, including the annual wellness exam. Regular readings provide your family doctor with a useful means to track your general health... and multiple bad readings serve notice for the doctor to review lifestyle choices that may be contributing to hypertension.
The good news is that there are multiple ways to control your blood pressure. MedBen WellLiving helps employers to spur plan members into action, by promoting the value of preventive care and the doctor-patient relationship. And those at higher risk for hypertension can complement physician care with individualized nurse coaching.
Learn more about the benefits of MedBen WellLiving offers by contacting Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at email@example.com.
Hard though it may be to believe, here we are in January 2017... and if you're a self-funded employer plan sponsor, it's time to get serious about preparing your IRS Form 1095s.
As you know, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its supporting regulations require that all employers offering health benefits to their employees report certain health coverage information to those employees as well as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And just like last year, employers sponsoring health plans must collect, aggregate and distribute this information via Form 1095. These are due to employees no later than March 2, 2017.
Additionally, employers must transmit copies of their employee 1095s to the IRS (via Form 1094) no later than February 28, 2017 (for paper filers) and March 31, 2017 (for electronic filers). Applicable Large Employers (those with 50 or more employees) must report using the IRS’ C-series forms, while small employers offering coverage (those with fewer than 50 employees) must report using the IRS’ B-series forms.
This year, the IRS has put out a good Q&A on how to complete the forms, including answers to coding questions. You can find the Q&A at the IRS website.