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06/04/14

  07:38:31 am, by medben9   , 244 words,  
Categories: Announcements

Million Hearts Initiative Falling Short Of Goal, But Some Signs Promising

A government program to reduce heart attack and strokes has so far not lived up to expectations, HealthDay reports… but even so, there is some room for optimism.

The Million Hearts initiative was launched in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the goal of preventing a million heart attacks by 2016. The program’s call to action was “ABCS”, representing the four major risk factors for heart attack and stroke – (not taking) aspirin, blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking.

But despite the Million Hearts’ efforts, over 1.5 million people within the United States are still affected by a stroke or heart attack annually. Still, the program did report improvement in terms of blood pressure and cholesterol control through medications.

MedBen also believes that reducing heart attacks and strokes is of vital importance to our collective health, which is why we responded with a call to action of our own. The Specialty Care Program offered through MedBen Worksite Wellness identifies plan members at high risk for heart attacks, strokes and other diseases, and provides them with individualized monitoring and nurse coaching.

MedBen Worksite Wellness can help your business stay ahead of the game when it comes to employee health and employer costs. Your team reduces its risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as those huge medical bills.

To learn more about the benefits of our wellness programs, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com

06/02/14

  07:46:42 am, by medben9   , 550 words,  
Categories: Announcements

MedBen Recommended for ISO Recertification

ISO Certified

MedBen has successfully completed a re-assessment audit of its ISO 9001:2008 procedures and has been recommended for recertification, according to the company’s Chairman and CEO Doug Freeman.

Independent auditors from ISO consulting firm SAI Global reviewed MedBen’s compliance of its management system and confirmed that, in the auditors’ words, “the stated quality objectives are being met.” The auditors also recognized the staff’s effectiveness in completing internal audits and in achieving continual improvement and system objectives to meet customer requirements.

“This past three years of the current registration shows an overall well run, continually evolving system that meets the requirements of ISO 9001:2008,” the SAI Global Audit Report reads. “The recommendation from this audit is that your certification continues.”

MedBen first achieved ISO Certification in 2005, and has been recertified every three years since then. Freeman said that while maintaining high quality standards requires a lot of work on every employee’s part, the results are well worth it.

“As our company has grown over the years, putting these procedures in place was essential to ensuring that everyone was on the same page when it came to serving our clients,” Freeman said. “And nine years later, the positive customer feedback we’ve received proves the value of adhering to ISO standards.”

Full story »

05/30/14

  03:27:05 pm, by medben9   , 283 words,  
Categories: Announcements

“Affordable” Drug Coverage? Not Exactly

Drug

The Affordable Care Act is demonstrating once again that the “affordable” designation is subject to interpretation. Some patients are paying twice as much out of pocket for prescription drugs compared to employer-sponsored plans, as the government struggles to keep member costs in check.

According to Employee Benefit News, individuals insured under “silver” plans – the second lowest coverage tier offered through the exchanges – are experiencing upwards of 130% higher costs on prescription drugs in relation to group health plans. Those plan members are also seeing an average pharmacy deductible of $2,000.

As writer Melissa Winn notes, higher out-of-pocket costs increases the risk that persons on the silver plans do not purchase and take their prescription medications to manage their chronic conditions. This in turn can results in more hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

At MedBen, we understand that it is important to help employers keep drug costs manageable for their plan members. In order to do so, there is a need for experience and relationships with partners that share our belief in cost transparency – and MedBen offers both.

We’ve established proven cost controls to help keep employer spending down. By delivering 100% of paid pharmacy rebates back to the client and providing superior discount rates, we benefit the employer’s bottom line. Additionally, our formularies steer plan members toward generic and lower-cost brand name drugs that offer the same effectiveness as more expensive alternatives, while still providing a wide range of prescribed drug therapies.

MedBen works with groups to ensure affordable pharmacy coverage, by striking the proper balance between employer and employee spending. To put our experience to work for you, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

05/29/14

  03:07:58 pm, by medben9   , 264 words,  
Categories: Announcements

Avoid the Wellness Screening “Double Dip”

If you were to go to the gas station and pay for gas at the pump, you wouldn’t go inside and pay for the same gas again. So why would you pay for your employees’ doctor visits twice by implementing on-site screenings?

When an employer offers on-site screenings through a wellness service, it gets an isolated snapshot of the employees’ health. It also accomplishes two things: 1) Employees receive information about their health that they may or may not act upon later, and 2) the employer wastes resources, time and money.

Just because the employee receives information about their health does not mean that they are actually going to take the proper steps to improve their health… and if they do seek a physician’s care based on the results, the doctor will probably conduct the same tests that the on-site screening did. See the money pit yet?

MedBen Worksite Wellness understands that businesses work hard for their money, which is why our Primary Prevention program promotes a “physician first” philosophy. By encouraging plan members to visit their own family doctor for wellness tests, employers skip the redundancy and logistical headaches of on-site screenings.

Additionally, allowing the family doctor to conduct screenings helps to develop the doctor-patient relationship. This improves the chances that a significant health risk will be caught early, when care costs are lower and the chances of a full recovery are higher.

By putting the physician first, MedBen Worksite Wellness helps to improve your employees’ health… and save you money. For more information, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus.

05/27/14

  04:25:43 pm, by MedBen5   , 208 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

IRS Ruling Punishes Employers That Drop Employees Into Exchanges

Employers that are entertaining the idea of dropping their group health coverage in favor of the health insurance exchanges may have to rethink their plans, or be prepared to pay a substantial fine. The New York Times reports that the IRS has imposed a $100-a-day tax on employers that give money to employees so they can buy insurance through the individual marketplaces.

According to an IRS question-and-answer document, an employer that reimburses part or all of the premiums its workers pay for health insurance with tax-free contributions – an arrangement defined as an “employer payment plan” – violates market reforms under the rules of the Affordable Care Act. An employer breaching the law may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day —- or $36,500 a year —- for each employee covered under the arrangement, even if coverage is purchased outside an exchange.

The Obama administration pushed for the ruling in order to encourage employers to offer health coverage to workers and their families. The ACA requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide such coverage or pay a penalty.

MedBen clients who have questions regarding this IRS ruling or related ACA provisions are welcome to contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at cfraker@medben.com.

05/22/14

  01:28:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 270 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

MedBen Helps Employers Help Employees Keep Health Care Spending Low

Health care spending for families with employer-based health plans is continuing its slow growth, new research finds. According to the Associated Press, the actuarial firm Milliman projects that a typical American family of four will spend 5.4% more on health care in 2014 than last year – not insignificant, but a far cry from the double-digit spending jumps experienced earlier in this past decade.

Some of the smaller health care spending increases in recent years can undoubtedly be attributed to a slower economy in general. But whatever the national spending climate may be, MedBen remains proactive in finding ways to keep client costs as low as possible. That’s why we offer a variety of containment tools, so employers can help plan members to keep their spending under even the slowest trends.

Advanced technology allows MedBen clients to see more clearly than ever where their health care spending going and why. We feature an interactive data analytics platform that enables users to view their group’s claims activity, in order to spot spending trends and potential chronic conditions.

Our containment strategy also uses an innovative claims surveillance system to determine savings opportunities, loss potential and fraud risk. Flagged claims are analyzed by medical professionals to determine appropriateness of charges and whether treatment met established clinical guidelines.

These tools, accompanied by MedBen’s other cost control services, help employers to make informed plan decisions –- which can reduce spending and, in turn, improve the chances for future savings.

To learn more about the ways MedBen works with clients to keep their employees’ health care spending in check, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com

05/19/14

  04:30:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 249 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Columbus Tops List Of Cities With High Blood Pressure

Columbus, Ohio has the dubious distinction of ranking first in hypertension patients, based on a study of the most populated cities in the U.S.

According to MedCity News, research by iHealth revealed that 58% of Columbus patients suffer from elevated blood pressure, the highest of the 17 cities examined. That compares to a 36.3% average for all of the U.S.

Obesity is a chief contributing factor to hypertension, so it comes as little surprise that Columbus also ranks among the most obese major communities in the U.S. Almost 29% of its population has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, according to a recent Gallup survey. (Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH is the most obese U.S. community overall, at 39.5%.)

Numbers like these speak volumes as to why a collective focus on wellness is of primary importance. Left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to stroke, heart and kidney disease.

MedBen Worksite Wellness can help you promote a healthier lifestyle to your employees. If a plan member is identified at high risk or other chronic conditions, they are automatically entered into our Specialty Care program for individualized monitoring and nurse coaching. An RN Health Consultant will provide customized education and counseling with the member’s consent.

For the workforce as a whole, wellness serves as an incentive to get regular checkups and screenings – and potentially spot the symptoms of hypertension before the condition progresses. To learn more about how what MedBen Worksite Wellness can do for your group, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

05/16/14

  10:58:39 am, by MedBen5   , 242 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform

For Spousal Coverage Limits, MedBen's Ahead Of The Curve

Long the subject of debate, the use of spousal coverage limits to control group health care costs has gained traction in recent months. But at MedBen, we’ve encouraged employers to adopt this money-saving option for some time now.

According to Employee Benefit News, more employers have introduced coverage limitations since United Parcel Service decided last year to stop paying for the benefits of employees’ spouses. These restrictions can take several forms, the article notes:

“Employees are required to pay a higher cost-share or surcharge. Or the employer institutes a waiver credit, which provides a payment to an employee in exchange for waiving coverage for a wife or husband. Sometimes, an employer will outright exclude spouses from coverage under their plan if similar coverage is available from the spouse’s employer.”

MedBen has promoted the use of spousal waivers for over eight years, well before health care reform became an topic of everyday conversation. And we’ve found that employers that have taken our advice have experienced significant cost savings.

Spousal limitations enable employers to offer their workers a comprehensive health package while still respecting their bottom line. When outside coverage is readily available to many spouses, this strategy just makes good financial sense.

Changes to spousal coverage is just one way that MedBen can help your group control your health care costs. To learn about our other money-saving solutions, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

05/14/14

  04:48:44 pm, by MedBen5   , 299 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Substantial Savings Potential For Popular Drugs With Therapeutic Equivalents

Some of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. have therapeutic alternatives available at a fraction of the cost of the brand name equivalents… and MedBen can help you steer your plan members toward these less expensive options.

drugs

The research firm IMS Health recently released a list of the Top 100 most prescribed, top selling drugs nationwide from April 2013 through March 2014. The total consumer cost of the drugs exceeded 160 billion dollars.

The Top 10 prescribed brand name drugs and their sales during the period researched:

  1. Abilify – $6,885,243,368
  2. Nexium – $6,271,376,299
  3. Humira – $5,936,288,498
  4. Crestor – $5,502,148,010
  5. Advair Diskus – $5,112,576,549
  6. Enbrel – $4,896,267,318
  7. Remicade – $4,235,535,358
  8. Cymbalta – $4,095,537,942
  9. Copaxone – $3,679,837,035
  10. Neulasta – $3,634,919,067

While most of these drugs currently are available only in their brand-name version, three in the Top 10 – Nexium, Crestor and Cymbatta – do have generic therapeutic alternatives available, as do a number of others in the Top 100. Often, these alternatives cost just one-fourth or one-fifth (or less) of the brand name, but still provide similar curative results.

If you offer pharmacy plan coverage, it’s clearly in your best interest to promote therapeutic alternatives to your plan member. But what’s the best way to go about it?

MedBen can help your group to encourage the use of less expensive medications when available, be it through incentives (i.e., lower or no member cost for therapeutic alternatives) or disincentives (i.e., higher member copays for brand names with equivalents). And for plan members, our online Rx comparison service lets them compare drug prices and see the potential plan savings for themselves… savings that are generally reflected in future premium rates.

MedBen offers clients a variety of ways to save money on prescription plan costs. To learn more about how we do it, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

05/12/14

  12:54:39 pm, by MedBen5   , 224 words,  
Categories: News, Health Care Reform

New Paper Argues For Elimination Of Employer Mandate

Why Not Just Eliminate the Employer Mandate?” asks a new research paper by the Urban Institute.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Institute – a think tank whose research often carries weight with supporters of the Affordable Care Act – argues that the twice-delayed mandate will have little effect on the number of individuals with insurance, as those employers that already provide coverage will likely continue to do so, and those that don’t will just pay the penalty anyway.

Institute researchers Linda Blumberg, John Holahan and Matthew Buettgens write: “Current legislation before Congress proposes to move the employer requirement from employers of 50 or more workers to employers of 100 or more. While this approach would help those firms between 50 and 99 employees and decrease the exposure to adverse incentives within that group, it shifts the threshold where labor market effects could take place to a different point and does not address the concerns of large, low-wage firms.”

Moreover, the paper’s authors say, getting rid of the employer mandate would also lessen opposition to the law from employers.

The authors estimate that the cost of eliminating the mandate could be $46 billion over 10 years, and alternative revenue sources would need to be found to replace the lost funds.

Read more about the paper at WSJ.com and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Click here to enlarge graphic

05/08/14

  09:32:34 am, by MedBen5   , 286 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Wellness Focus Can Help Reduce Premature Deaths

Encouraging the sort of health improvements offered through MedBen Worksite Wellness could help to prevent up to 39% of the leading premature deaths, suggests recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Medscape reports that the CDC analyzed data from 2008 to 2010 of premature deaths of US residents, for the prevalent causes of mortality. They calculated that the average number of potentially preventable deaths amounted to:

  • 91,757 for heart disease, or 34% of all heart disease deaths;
  • 84,443 for cancer, or 21% of all cancer deaths;
  • 28,831 for chronic lower respiratory diseases, or 39% of all of these deaths; and
  • 16,973 for stroke, or 33% of all stroke deaths.

CDC officials say that modifiable risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use and poor diet, typically attribute to many of the leading causes of death. Increased physical activity all by itself can make a significant difference, noted CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH at a news conference.

“Even if you don’t lose any weight, being physically active is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” Frieden said. “It reduces blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, reduces your risk of arthritis.”

Employers are in a unique position to promote improved lifestyles, resulting in a healthier workforce and increased productivity. And MedBen Worksite Wellness can assist in this goal.

Through the use of financial incentives (i.e., lower premiums or HRA contributions) to employees who show a wellness commitment, employers can drive participation and by doing so, help to lower disease prevalence. MedBen will work with you to develop an incentive program appropriate to the specific needs of your group.

For additional information about how worksite wellness can benefit your business, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

05/05/14

  03:38:32 pm, by MedBen5   , 329 words,  
Categories: Prescription, Wellness

Don’t Let Allergies Spoil Your Spring

Flower Tray

This time of year, most of us look forward to spending time outside, or opening the windows to enjoy spring breezes. But for individuals who suffer from allergies, communing with nature often comes at a cost.

When the human immune system overreacts to a foreign protein substance – be it through breathing, eating, or touching – the body may display such symptoms as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. Severe allergic reactions can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, asthma attacks, and even death.

Allergies come in a variety of types, including indoor and outdoor, skin, latex, and food and drug. A family history of allergies increases the odds that you’ll have them as well, and it’s not uncommon to suffer from several types. If you’re exhibiting allergy symptoms, consult your family doctor about running tests to pinpoint the cause and treatment.

Many prescription and over-the-counter medicines are available to counter allergy symptoms – and frequently at little cost to the patient. Most MedBen Worksite Wellness plan members can compare allergy drug prices through the MedBen Access website. Simply visit MedBen.com and select the “MedBen Access” link. Once you’ve logged in, click on “My Rx Claims” to enter the medication portal.

Full story »

05/01/14

  02:25:20 pm, by MedBen5   , 280 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform

Self-funding An Effective Hedge Against ACA Taxes

dollar bill symbol

When employers consider making the switch from traditional health insurance to self-funded coverage, MedBen emphasizes the regulatory freedom self-funding offers. And we’re not just talking about less red tape here… there’s a inherent financial savings as well, for employer and plan member alike.

On the American Action Forum, health economist Robert Book recently number-crunched seven new taxes imposed under the Affordable Act, and estimated how they will affect policyholders. While the taxes in question are levied directly on businesses, the additional costs incurred by the “taxee” – be it insurer, pharmaceutical company, or employer – will ultimately trickle down to the covered individual.

Based on his analysis, Book predicts that in 2014:

  • Premiums for exchange plan coverage will be $354 higher per covered individual;
  • Fully insured group health plan premiums will be $196 higher, and
  • Self-funded group health plan premiums will be $94 higher.

The added premiums will increase in 2015… except for self-funded plans, which will only be $74 higher. And in 2016, the extra premiums for self-funded plans drop further still, to $59.

So why is that? Because two of the biggest taxes – the Health Insurance Annual Fee and the Health Exchange User Fee – don’t apply to self-funded plans.

Nor do self-funding’s advantages end with reduced tax responsibility. Other provisions of the ACA, such as a modified community rating and a greater number of required benefits, don’t apply to employers that self-fund their health care plan. And with MedBen as your benefits manager, we can use these regulatory advantages to help your business create a self-funded solution that saves you money.

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

04/30/14

  11:34:35 am, by MedBen5   , 228 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Stop-loss

Stop-loss Report Shows Employer Deductible Preferences

The Self-Insurance Educational Foundation recently released a new report containing some interesting information about employer medical stop-loss (ESL) coverage in 2013.The report, prepared by actuarial and consulting firm Milliman, used data from eight of the country’s largest stop-loss carriers, representing approximately 50% of the market.

The report’s findings included the following:

  • Employers with 100 or fewer covered employees represent approximately one-quarter of the ESL market if the market is measured by count of employers. If measured by covered employees, however, that same segment represents only 2% of the ESL market.
  • A majority of ESL purchasers obtain both specific and aggregate stop-loss. However, most employers with over 1,000 employees purchase specific stop-loss without aggregate. The number of employers purchasing aggregate coverage without specific stop-loss is very small.
  • The data included employers that purchased specific deductibles ranging from $5,000 to $2,500,000. However, 80% of employers purchased deductibles of $50,000 or greater.
  • The median specific deductible found in the calendar year (CY) 2013 data across all plans was $85,000. For groups with 50 or fewer covered employees, the median deductible in CY 2013 was $30,000. For groups of 51-100 employees, the CY 2013 median was $45,000.
  • Approximately 0.3% of specific stop-loss policies with effective dates in CY 2013 had a specific deductible of less than $20,000.
  • The data included employers that purchased aggregate corridors ranging from 85% to 200% of expected claims. By far, the most common corridor (found on nearly 90% of policies with aggregate coverage) was 125% of expected claims.

04/28/14

  03:56:50 pm, by MedBen5   , 135 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management, Consumer-driven Health Plans

IRS Announces 2015 HSA Inflation Adjustments

Last week, the IRS announced its annual cost-of-living adjustments affecting health savings accounts (HSAs) for calendar year 2015. The HSA contribution limits and high-deductible health plan (HDHP) out-of-pocket maximums will both increase, as will the HDHP minimum required deductibles (which had remained unchanged in 2014).

  • HSA Contribution Limits – The 2015 annual HSA contribution limit for individuals with self-only HDHP coverage is $3,350, and the limit for individuals with family HDHP coverage is $6,650.
  • HDHP Minimum Required Deductibles – The 2015 minimum annual deductible for self-only HDHP coverage increases to $1,300; for family HDHP coverage, $2,600.
  • HDHP Out-of-Pocket Maximum – The 2015 maximum limit on out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles, for self-only HDHP coverage is $6,450, and the limit for family HDHP coverage is $12,900.

MedBen clients with questions regarding these adjustments are welcome to contact Director of Administrative Services Sharon A. Mills at (800) 423-3151, Ext. 438 or smills@medben.com.

04/25/14

  04:07:24 pm, by MedBen5   , 251 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News, Health Care Reform

MedBen Offers Clients ACA Transition Relief Summary

Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced a delay in the enforcement of the employer mandate. Originally scheduled to take effect January 2014, the Affordable Care Act rule that employers with 50 or more full-time workers provide health insurance or pay a penalty was pushed back to 2016 – but only for employers with no more than 99 employees. Companies with 100 or more workers must “pay or play” beginning with their 2015 plan year, though they need only cover 70% of full-time workers in 2015 (95% in 2016 and thereafter).

The announcement actually marked the mandate’s second postponement – the first, which pushed shared responsibility penalties for all “50+” employers to 2015, occurred last July. Not surprisingly, the multiple delays, compounded with different requirements based on group size, have caused no small measure of confusion among employers.

In response to several client inquiries on the topic, MedBen has created a summary of the rules pertaining to employers who have less than 100 full-time and full-time equivalent employees and want to take advantage of delaying the shared responsibility penalties until their 2016 plan year. An employer is eligible for transition relief if it satisfies the conditions outlined in the summary.

MedBen self-funded clients who wish to receive a copy of the summary are welcome to request one from their Group Service Representative. If you have additional questions that arise upon reading the summary, or need clarification on any aspect of the employer mandate or the ACA in general, MedBen is here to help you. Clients may contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at cfraker@medben.com.

04/24/14

  09:08:45 am, by MedBen5   , 244 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Health Care Reform

Public Approval Of Birth Control Mandate Only Part Of The Story

A University of Michigan study has made headlines for its finding that most Americans support mandated coverage for birth control under the Affordable Care Act. Less publicized – though no less noteworthy – is the fact that respondents favored other types of required insurance benefits as well, and at higher numbers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in the study of over 2,100 adults surveyed in November 2013, 69% agreed that “health plans in the United States should be required to include coverage” for “birth control medications.” That compares to 19% who did not agree, 10% who were uncertain, and 2% who refused to answer. The greatest level of support came from women, African Americans, Latinos and parents with children under the age of 18 at home.

But while 69% seems like a pretty solid endorsement, the Times notes that birth control actually had the lowest support level of services asked about in the study:

  • 85% of those surveyed supported mandatory coverage for mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • 84% supported mandatory coverage for recommended vaccines.
  • 82% were in favor of mandatory coverage for diabetes and cholesterol screening tests.
  • 77% backed the provision on mandatory coverage for mental health care.
  • 75% supported mandatory coverage of dental care, including routine cleanings.

Conversely, 7.8% of respondents said that they supported all the mandates listed except contraceptive coverage. These respondents mainly included men, adults over 60, and parents with no children at home.

The Supreme Court is currently considering challenges on religious grounds to the birth control provision, with a ruling expected sometime this spring.

04/22/14

  04:44:06 pm, by MedBen5   , 311 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Health Plan Management

Drug Study Results Highlights Need To Be Proactive About Generics

Drugs

A new study of free drug samples makes a good case for why patients with prescriptions should always inquire about lower-cost alternatives… and take advantage of MedBen’s online Rx cost comparison service.

From The New York Times
:

“Researchers compared prescriptions written in 2010 for adult acne drugs at an academic medical center that prohibits distribution of free samples with those in a database of prescriptions by office-based dermatologists nationwide.

“At the academic center, 17 percent of prescriptions for adult acne medicine were for brand-name drugs. That was far lower than the 79 percent prescribed in private offices, where drug companies typically distribute free samples.

“[E]ven when identical generic drugs were available, doctors preferentially prescribed the brand name if they were given samples.”

The researchers calculated that the average cost for acne drugs in office-based practices was $465, compared to $200 at the medical center.

This study demonstrates why employers should encourage their plan members to always ask their doctors about generic alternatives. One proven method to do that is to cover the cost of popular generics in full, or have members pay just a small flat rate for them.

Another strategy that MedBen recommends to clients is to exclude certain discretionary drugs from plan coverage altogether, due to their high cost – further exacerbated by the removal of coverage maximums under the Affordable Care Act – and the availability of alternatives at significantly lower prices. Should the patient or doctor still prefer to use an excluded drug, copayment discount cards to reduce the cost of the claim charge are often available.

You can view a sample list of excluded discretionary drugs by clicking here. (Incidentally, you’ll note that the list includes several expensive acne drugs.)

Plan members administered by MedBen can also research thousands of retail drug prices and check for generic availability at MedBen Access – just log in and click on “My Rx".

04/18/14

  05:08:04 pm, by MedBen5   , 303 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Risk Of Complications From Diabetes Down, But Number Of Diabetics Up

First, the good news: A new study found that the risk of complications developing from diabetes, such as heart attacks and strokes, has greatly declined over the past two decades.

The bad news: During that same period, the number of Americans with diabetes has more than tripled.

According to The New York Times, research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that from 1990 to 2010, the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar fell by more than 60%. But based on the study results, almost 26 million people now have diabetes – primarily Type 2, which often stems from obesity or a sedentary lifestyle – and an additional 79 million are at high risk of developing the disease.

The finding that efforts to improve the health of patients with Type 2 diabetes are succeeding is indeed a positive development. But the dramatic increase in diabetics means that the overall number of those at risk remains comparatively high. And so is the cost: the study estimates that diabetes and its complications account for about $176 billion in medical costs every year.

MedBen Worksite Wellness puts an emphasis on helping plan members reduce their odds of developing Type 2 diabetes in the first place. Members who are found to be at risk for the disease based on their claims history are entered into the Specialty Care Program for customized counseling from a RN Health Consultant.

Through one-on-one coaching, complemented by educational materials and other resources, plan members can reduce their chances of developing diabetes and the complications that accompany it. And because MedBen Worksite Wellness is an “opt-out” service, members are automatically enrolled in the care program unless they choose not to use the service.

For more information about specialized care through MedBen Worksite Wellness, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

04/17/14

  12:50:56 pm, by MedBen5   , 250 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Health Plan Management

MedBen Goes Against U.S. Health Care Spending Trend

After several years of notably slow growth, U.S. health care spending took a bigger bump upward in 2013. Many MedBen clients, on the other hand, saw their costs going down last year.

According to Reuters, a new report by IMS Health Holdings found that nationwide health care spending went up 3.2%, to $329.2 billion – the first significant increase in three years. The health care information company attributes the growth to greater consumer use of health services, including doctor office visits and hospitalizations.

Health care spending at MedBen didn’t follow national trends, however. Through a combination of innovative cost controls, actionable reporting tools and worksite wellness incentives, in 2013 our self-funded clients saw a 5% average decrease in medical and pharmacy claims costs PEPM compared to 2012*.

The IMS report notes that while overall use of prescription drugs increased in 2013, a greater use of generic alternatives helped keep cost increases in check. MedBen also emphasizes the use of generics… but to provide even greater savings, we deliver 100% of paid pharmacy rebates back to the client. Additionally, we offer superior Rx discount rates on generics that further encourage their use over costlier brand-name drugs.

At MedBen, staying in step with national trends isn’t good enough. We prefer to navigate our own path… one that ensures that clients get the most value for their money. To learn more about our many savings solutions, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

* Based on a comparison of Jan-Sept 2012 MedBen claims data with Jan-Sept 2013.

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