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05/01/11

  09:22:18 pm, by MedBen5   , 274 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Tired Of Insomnia? Try These Natural Fixes

Given how many Americans get less than eight hours of sleep every night, the last thing we can afford is to lose what little rest we do allow ourselves. So should you suffer from insomnia, it helps to have a game plan to dose off again fast. And if you can do it without relying on prescription sleeping pills, so much the better.

WebMD offers several natural remedies to try if you’re among the 30-40% of adults who say they suffer from occasional insomnia. We’ll summarize their ideas here:

Foods, Herbs and Supplements:

  • Warm milk is a time-tested insomnia defense – the calcium content helps the brain produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle.
  • Foods containing a combination of protein and carbohydrates, such as a banana with peanut butter, may induce slumber.
  • Magnesium can be found in supplement form as well as leafy vegetables and almonds.
  • For herbal fixes, try valerian root or l-theanine, or take a hot bath with lavender oil.

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Minimize light by turning off your bedroom TV (or, better yet, moving it out altogether) and turning your clock radio and other appliances away from your bed.
  • People who exercise earlier in the day are shown to have less trouble sleeping, so try working out in the mornings.
  • Make your bedroom as tranquil as possible. Keep your room cool, buy a good mattress, use a pillow that supports your head and neck, and if necessary, invest in a white noise machine.

And if you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes? Get up and leave your bedroom or read. Don’t get back into bed until you feel tired again.

04/28/11

  04:36:33 pm, by MedBen5   , 319 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Cost Trends, Wellness and Health Reform Among Government Roundtable Topics

Sue Wadley, Licking County Government HR Director

Representatives from Ohio and Indiana municipalities were in attendance at MedBen’s 5th Annual Employer Roundtable for Government Health Plans on April 28. Held at the MedBen home office, this year’s free program explored a wide range of topics, from innovations in medical intelligence reporting to an update on health care reform and how new laws will affect government employers.

MedBen Senior Vice President Kurt Harden opened the roundtable with a discussion of key performance measures in MedBen’s government business block. Incorporating such factors as claims dollar and volume and claims distribution, Kurt analyzed cost and utilization trends and offered strategies to minimize future cost increases. Russ Jehs, Vice President of Transplant Product Management of Medical Excess, followed Kurt with a description of his company’s fully-insured, first-dollar organ and tissue transplant carve-out for self-funded groups.

“Wellness in the Workplace” was the theme of the next two presenters. Blair Pickerill of MedBen and Sue Wadley of Licking County Government led a discussion of how MedBen Worksite Wellness, with its emphasis on preventive care and individual coaching, is helping to improve employee health while reducing critical care spending. Following Blair and Sue was Brian Fargus, Vice President of Sales and Marketing of MedBen, who gave an overview of Sightlines Medical Intelligence, a predictive modeling and data analytics platform recently introduced to MedBen clients. Sightlines will enable organizations to understand and manage health care risk, while also developing early interventions for the purpose of mitigating that risk.

Caroline Fraker, MedBen Vice President of Compliance, concluded the Goverment Roundtable with a update on the Affordable Care Act. She recapped the first year of government health care reform and highlighted upcoming employer responsibilities as well as court challenges and repeal efforts.

Additional seminars will be offered by MedBen in the coming months – check this blog regularly for updates. If you’re interested in hosting a MedBen University, please contact Sales Analyst Sally Wood at (800) 423-3151, ext. 502.

  11:48:33 am, by MedBen5   , 193 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription

Pharmacists Also Available To Help With OTC Decisions

Pharmacists offer a ready source of information to patients trying to sort their way through the maze of over-the-counter (OTC) offerings as well as those bearing prescriptions – and based on the findings of a new study, most are more than willing to take a few moments to assist you in your OTC search.

Medical News Today summarizes the results of the 2010 Pharmacy Today Over-the-Counter Product Survey, conducted by the American Pharmacists Association. Among the findings: pharmacists believe that 81% of consumers select OTC products based on the recommendation of their pharmacist; 92% of pharmacists will accompany patients through the OTC aisles to offer advice with their selection; and the average patient consultation takes only three minutes to complete.

The survey also notes the most pharmacist-recommended allergy, sinus and general decongestant products. Among them:

  • Adult Topical Decongestants - Afrin (66% of 669 pharmacist recommendations)
  • Adult Decongestants - Sudafed (65% of 2,070 pharmacist recommendations)
  • Nasal Decongestants, Saline - Ocean (54% of 1,250 pharmacist recommendations)
  • Allergy Ophthalmic Drops - Zaditor (36% of 1,619 pharmacist recommendations)
  • Adult Multi-symptom Allergy and Hay Fever Products - Claritin-D (35% of 2,406 pharmacist recommendations)
  • Adult Antihistamines - Claritin (32% of 2,717 pharmacist recommendations)

The complete results of the Pharmacy Today Survey are available here.

04/27/11

  02:53:19 pm, by MedBen5   , 235 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

US Sets Healthy Goals For 2020, Emphasizes Prevention

Late last year, this blog briefly touched on Healthy People 2020 – a Department of Health and Human Services effort to encourage Americans to practice better lifestyle habits. The program sets various benchmarks that will hopefully be acheived in the coming decade, such as reducing the percentage of US smokers from 21% to 12%, and lowering the obesity rate from 34% of the population to 31%, among other goals.

HealthDay News (via Yahoo! Health) goes into greater detail about Healthy People 2020. HHS says that the key to reaching the benchmarks can be summed up in one word: prevention. In conjunction with the American Heart Association, the federal government will promote specific preventive activities, such as increasing the number of people who get blood pressure and cholesterol tests, and raising awareness of the early warning signs of stroke and heart attack.

With the AHA on board, heart-oriented objectives play a major role in the program. The organization has developed its own 2020 Impact Goal – improve US cardiovascular health by 20% while reducing heart-related deaths by 20% – and will push Americans to get active, eat better and lose weight.

MedBen also promotes prevention and healthy lifestyles through its Worksite Wellness program. Members with cardiovascular condition receive individualized coaching, and everyone in the program is encouraged to receive regular wellness exams at no cost. To learn more about this valuable service, please call Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  11:23:22 am, by MedBen5   , 164 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Healthy Lifestyle Greatly Reduces Cancer, Heart Disease Risk: Study

If you live a healthy lifestyle – that is, if you don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation, and observe proper diet and exercise regimens – you hopefully get the payoff of being fit and feeling well. But the scientific community wants to offer you a “thumbs up” for a good job, too.

HealthDay News (via MedcineNet.com) reports that a new study finds that nonsmokers who also who practice healthy habits decrease their risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other causes by 42%. Also noteworthy: Former smokers showed similarly lower risk levels compared those who never took a puff.

The study’s authors reviewed diet and lifestyle questionnaires filled out in 1992 and 1993by non-smoking men and women, who were then monitored over a 14-year period, They found that for those with higher adherence to American Cancer Society prevention guidelines, the risk of heart-related death was 58% lower for women and 48% lower for men. For cancer deaths, highly-compliant women deceased their risk by 24%, and men by 30%.

04/26/11

  05:37:51 pm, by MedBen5   , 161 words,  
Categories: Health Plan Management

MedBen Plans Cover A Wide Range Of Medical Services

The New York Times has put together an interesting graph showing the percentage of specific health benefits covered under employer-sponsored plans. Using 2008-09 data gathered for a Labor Department report (a requirement under the Affordable Care Act), we can see the range of coverage levels, from benefits common to most group health plans (hospital room and board, inpatient mental health care) to those available in only about one-quarter of the plans (kidney dialysis, sterilization).

Percentage of Private Industry Plans that Cover a Given Service

After reviewing the graph and comparing the data to MedBen’s own coverages, we confirmed that all but one (infertility treatment) of the benefits listed are covered under our standard fully-insured plans, including our recently introduced Partners Community Health Plans. Moreover, most of our self-funded employer groups cover the majority of these services as well.

For additional information about Partners as well as MedBen’s other medical coverages and benefits management services, we invite you to contact our Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  02:46:05 pm, by MedBen5   , 204 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription

FDA Planning One-Page Prescription Drug Summaries

A few months back on this blog, we noted an effort by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, the group that sets drug standards, to make directions on drug labels easier to understand. Now, the federal government is also looking to simplify the instruction sheets that accompany prescriptions.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “[t]he Food and Drug Administration is planning to test single-page consumer information sheets that would replace the multi-page package inserts and medication guides widely used in retail pharmacies.” Currently, patients can receive written usage instructions from multiple sources, including package inserts from the drug manufacturer and consumer medical information from third-party companies. However, the FDA has found that the information offered is not consistently understandable, and may even be contradictory or inaccurate.

Even though the one-page guides may not be implemented for five or six years, there is initial concern that a single-sided summary cannot provide sufficient information. To that end, the nonprofit safety group Institute for Safe Medication Practices is already working on sample two-page, single-paper brochures for medications with the potential to cause the greatest harm.

The National Community Pharmacists Association says that as many as three-quarters of Americans claim that they don’t take prescription drugs as directed.

  12:40:22 pm, by MedBen5   , 234 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Dietary Supplements May Lead To Poor Health Decisions

It’s probably just a coincidence, but research is coming out fast and furious in the wake of a recent announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that over half of Americans use dietary supplements. Last week, we were told that calcium supplements may put women at higher risk for heart problems. And now, a study finds that people who take dietary supplements tend to make poorer health choices than those who don’t.

Medical News Today reports that Taiwanese researchers conducted experiments to observe whether the use of dietary supplements affected subjects’ subsequent health-related decisions. Prior to the tests, all participants were given a placebo, but half were told they were actually taking a multivitamin. In one experiment, participants were given a choice between a buffet and an organic meal – and those who thought they had taken a supplement were more likely to opt for the less-healthy option. Likewise, a second test, which monitored exercise habits, again found that those in the perceived supplement group walked less than the control group.

The study suggests that users of dietary supplements can easily fool themself into the misconception that simply taking them makes them less vulnerable to health hazards – and by doing so, they put themselves at risk of engaging in self-defeating behaviors. Bottom line: multivitamins are no substitute for proper diet and exercise – after all, that’s why they call them “supplements"!

04/25/11

  12:53:09 pm, by MedBen5   , 178 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Brokers Say Health Reform Negatively Impacting Their Clients

The Affordable Care Act is apparently having an unintended impact on employers, MedCity News reports. In a National Association of Health Underwriters survey of almost 2,400 insurance agents and brokers, more than half of the respondents state that some of their clients have dropped coverage altogether due to rising costs attributable to new health reform laws, while 70% have seen clients decrease the amount of coverage they provide.

And brokers say the bad news doesn’t stop there. Many claim that health reform has caused their clients to eliminate jobs or cut back on hiring. Additionally, a handful of the brokers report laying off employees and reducing product offerings from their own agencies.

Granted, asking brokers and agents about their clients’ motives likely skews the negative responses to a degree. But as most are in regular contact with a variety of businesses, this survey at least offers an early hint as to employers’ attitudes about health care reform. And as the ACA recently marked its one-year anniversary, it’s likely that we’ll soon see some survey results directly from the employers themselves.

  11:33:17 am, by MedBen5   , 281 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

With Food Packaging, Look Beyond The Buzzwords

Several recent research projects drive home the point that food package labeling should not just be taken at face value – and it applies to adults as well as kids. By the simple use of a word or image, marketers can influence our attitudes about a food’s nutritional value and taste.

  • Medical News Today reports on a Journal of Consumer Research article which says that dieters are particularly vulnerable to healthy-sounding food names, and may end up eating unhealthy foods under the mistaken belief that they’re good for them.

    People were randomly asked in one test to judge whether a menu item containing pasta and lettuce was healthy or not. When described as a “salad dish", it received healthier ratings than when it was called a “pasta dish", even though the dish contained 900 calories and 60 grams of fat in either case.

    In a second test, dieters ate more of a candy called “fruit chews” than when the identical product was called “candy chews". Non-dieters were much less influenced by the product’s name.

  • A University of Pennsylvania study suggests that when it comes to cereal labeling, even younger children understand the positive connotation of the word “healthy".

    According to the website Pizaazz, scientists gave a group 4-6 year old kids cereal boxes labeled “Sugar Bits". Half of the boxes featured cartoon penguins, while the other half did not. The “penguin” boxes were judged better-tasting than the “non-penguin” boxes – no surprise there. But given penguin and non-penguin boxes labeled “Healthy Bits", kids rated the tasty equally high regardless of whether the penguins were present or not – and what’s more, they rated the taste higher on average than those labeled “Sugar Bits".

04/22/11

  05:29:24 pm, by MedBen5   , 247 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription

Over 3/4 Of 2010 Prescriptions Were Generics, Report Says

Generics are, as the marketing gurus say, on the “grow". According to the Medical Xpress website, a new IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report shows that of the nearly four billion prescriptions written in the U.S. in 2010, over 78% were for generic drugs – a 15% increase from just four years prior (The complete report is available at the IMS site.)

Hydrocodone, a generic version of the painkiller Vicodin, tops the 2010 list with 131.2 million prescriptions written – an increase of three million from 2009. (As we noted here earlier this week, the FDA has announced a program to warn consumers of the dangers of painkillers.) Various generics for reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as anitobiotics and diabetes drugs, make up the bulk of the Top 10.

As for non-generics, the cholesterol medication Lipitor – which, by the way, will go generic a few months from now – ranked the highest on the most prescribed list, at #12. It was also the best-selling drug, with $7.2 billion in sales. Overall, Americans spent $307 billion on prescription drugs last year. (Complete Top 10 lists can be found at WebMD).

With thousands of drugs out there, it’s good to have an up-to-date resource handy whenever you require a prescription. Many MedBen pharmacy plan members have 24/7 access to such a resource – RxEOB. This online service allows patients to review their medication history and learn about possible lower cost generic and therapeutic alternatives. Simply log in to the MedBen Access site and click on “My Rx”.

  12:32:49 pm, by MedBen5   , 171 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

CDC: U.S. Will Have Nationwide Smoking Bans By 2020

For those old enough to remember when the armrests at movie theatres had built-in ashtrays, the concept of a nationwide smoking ban in many public places sounds rather incredible. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that by 2020, it could very well become a reality,

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports that in the past decade alone, the number of states with indoor smoking bans in all workplaces, bars and restaurants went from zero to 25, plus Washington DC. Ten other states have laws banning smoking in one or two of those venues, but not all three, while eight enforce separate smoking areas. Only seven states have no indoor smoking restrictions – most in the South, where smoking rates are higher.

As the Health Blog notes, only about 21% of U.S. adults now smoke, but that the proportion of smokers is holding steady following a long drop-off period. Additional state bans may bring the numbers down more, but higher cigarette prices and tobacco-control programs will likely also be necessary.

  11:59:02 am, by MedBen5   , 307 words,  
Categories: Health Plan Management

How One Man Reversed A Hospital's Fortunes

Sometimes, it may seem that the health care system is beyond repair when it comes to controlling costs – but luckily, some people refuse to buy into that mindset. Kaiser Health News and Fast Company share the story of one man’s successful effort to turn a failing hospital into a model of what can be accomplished with determination, trust and common sense.

When Wright L. Lassiter III accepted the position of CEO at Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, California, he inherited some formidable challenges – unsafe and unsanitary conditions, disrespectful nurses, and a hospital system losing $1 million a month. And as Wright was the 11th CEO in as many years, no one would have been shocked if he also had a brief stay there.

Accompanied by his new COO Bill Manns, Wright trusted in ACMC management and staff to help turn things around:

“At Manns’s suggestion, they immediately commenced a grassroots money hunt, which Lassiter now calls ‘the foundation of our success.’ The pair gathered the top 85 managers, formed them into a dozen teams, and gave them 16 weeks to find $21 million in cost cuts and new revenue. Lassiter says he told them: ‘It’s up to you. We barely know where the restrooms are, so we’re not going to solve this problem. You’re going to solve it.’”

Turns out there were plenty of ways to cut costs and raise revenue without sacrificing service. A $96.50 kit used to test newborns’ umbilical-cord blood was replaced by a simpler tool that did the job for 29¢. The teams identified ACMC’s strengths, such as rehabilitation and diabetes care, and devised more efficient ways of treating patients. Some layoffs occured, but only after every savings opportunity had been realized – in total, some $23 million in cuts and revenue increases.

The Kaiser/Fast Company article is lengthy, but well worth a read.

  11:08:25 am, by MedBen5   , 205 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Can Protein Powders Benefit Your Workout?

If you’re a casual gym rat, you’ve probably seen the die-hard exercisers downing protein drinks during or after their workouts – and perhaps you’ve thought to yourself, “Should I be doing that,too?” According to WebMD… well, maybe.

The majority of people get their daily requirement of protein from consuming chicken, fish, eggs and other meat and dairy products – so unless you’re a serious muscle-builder, you get sufficient protein simply through proper diet. Moreover, too much protein can actually do damage to your kidneys and liver – and protein powders, which may contain 80 grams of protein per serving, often offer far more than the average person needs.

That said, there are some instances where the extra protein that powders provide can come in handy, such as when you’re starting a workout program or stepping up your workout regimen – say, for a marathon. Growing teenagers may need additional protein to aid their workouts, as may athletes recovering from injuries. And vegans often don’t get enough protein from other sources, so they may need to supplement their diets.

One final note: Protein powders can vary widely in price, but most people can get away with the more inexpensive varieties found in grocery and discount stores.

04/21/11

  05:29:14 pm, by MedBen5   , 266 words,  
Categories: Wellness, Health Plan Management

Relax... It's Just The Dentist!

If you’ve been around long enough, then you know that dental care nowadays is a more pleasant prospect than it was way back when. But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t plenty of people who still panic at the thought of “the chair".

Medical News Today reports that British Dental Health Foundation research found that more people fear a visit to the dentist than snakes, spiders or flying – only heights rank higher on the personal trepidation scale. And an Adult Dental Health Survey study last month revealed that half of adults report having moderate to extreme dental anxiety.

If you count yourself among the nervous, the American Dental Association offers these suggestions:

  • Explain to your dentist and the rest of the staff in the office that you’re anxious about going to the dentist, and express your specific concerns.
  • Schedule your dentist appointment for a time when you won’t feel pressured or rushed, such as a Saturday morning.
  • Bring along a personal radio, MP3 player or CD player to drown out the sound of the drill.
  • While you’re in the chair, try to relax by visualizing yourself in a happy, relaxing and comfortable place, such as the beach.

One more important thing to keep in mind: Having regular dental checkups – which, believe us, are pretty harmless – reduce the risk of encountering drills and anaesthetic in the future. The MedBen Dental plan encourages prevention through scheduled exams, and offers members the freedom to use the dentist of their choice. To learn more, call MedBen Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  04:22:44 pm, by MedBen5   , 273 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

FTC Takes Weight-loss "News" Sites To Court

Let’s be honest: When you feel like you’ve tried just about everything to shed pounds and still haven’t succeeded, those online ads touting easy weight loss products can, at the very least, peak your interest. And when the ads are framed as genuine news articles, even a saavy Internet surfer may think they’re legit.

Not so, says the Federal Trade Commission. French news agency AFP (via Yahoo! Health) reports that regulators have petitioned federal courts to crack down 10 different organizations accused of using phony news websites to promote acai berry weight-loss products. Often, these groups use the logos of real news organizations to give their deception an air of legitimacy, boasting their products are “as seen on” CNN, USA Today and Consumer Reports.

The FTC provided a sample piece of chicanery as “Exhibit A", which you can see here. If you skim to the bottom, you can scan the multiple paragraphs of small print, including language about a “discount price” and “membership fee” totalling in excess of $200.

“Almost everything about these sites is fake,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The weight loss results, the so-called investigations, the reporters, the consumer testimonials, and the attempt to portray an objective, journalistic endeavor.”

Most people have learned to see past these gimmicks, but it bears repeating – if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of weight loss, proper diet and exercise is the only sensible way to get in shape and stay healthy. And if you need help in achieving your weight goals, schedule an appointment with your family doctor.

04/20/11

  04:32:43 pm, by MedBen5   , 249 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Healthy Behaviors At The Heart Of Medical Cost Savings

A recent USA Today article examines the idea of promoting healthy behavior as a means to control health care costs. One-quarter of Americans can trace their health problems to smoking, overeating, not getting enough exercise and other personal habits. And many people with chronic conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, neglect to manage their health properly, which can result in high hospital bills down the road.

In the wake of a House vote last week to repeal a public health fund provision from the Affordable Care Act, health care industry experts are emphasizing that health care costs will continue to grow without a concerted nationwide effort to improve personal behaviors.

“This is not cheap stuff, doing this kind of intervention,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. “But we all know just how ineffective this is without support.” He added that in the long run such preventive programs will save money, especially when compared to the substantial treatment costs for uncontrolled conditions.

Likewise, personal behavior is the key cost savings component to the MedBen Worksite Wellness program. Our disease- and prevention-based approach encourages healthier lifestyles for every plan member and increases their awareness of personal health. We also provide individualized disease monitoring and nurse coaching for those suffering from chronic conditions.

MedBen Worksite Wellness strives to improve individual health while reducing long-term medical care costs. To get additional information, we invite you to call MedBen Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  11:24:41 am, by MedBen5   , 174 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription

FDA Announces Program To Stem Prescription Drug Abuse

The White House is stepping up its efforts to prevent accidental overdoses of painkiller drugs, Reuters reports. The Food and Drug Administration has sent letters to drugmakers that manufacture opiods – synthetic versions of opium, used to treat moderate and severe pain – requesting that they create educational materials doctors and prescribers can use to counsel patients about proper usage and potential risks.

Drugs required to follow the new guidelines include include Duragesic, Avinza, Embeda, Kadian and Opana ER, as well as various genric opiods. The drugmakers have 120 days to propose a doctor training and patient couseling program to the FDA, which in turn must provide feedback within 120 days. The program is expected to go into effect by early 2012.

Prescription drug abuse is second only to motor vehicle mishaps in causes of accidental deaths, based on 2007 findings. Painkiller misuse by Americans 12 and up rose from 29 million in 2002 to 33 million in 2007, the FDA estimates. And Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says opioid overdoses kill far more people than cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs.

  10:36:13 am, by MedBen5   , 244 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Calcium Supplements May Jeopardize Heart Health, Study Finds

It figures. Just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that more than half of Americans use dietary supplements, one of the most popular is under fire.

HealthDay (via Yahoo! Health) reports that a new study that women who take calcium supplements put themselves at greater risk for heart disease. “Our own recommendation is to critically review the use of calcium supplements, since the data in this paper suggests that they do more harm than good,” said study senior author Dr. Ian Reid of the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

The CDC found that 61% of women over 60 used calcium supplements from 2003 to 2006 to reduce the odds of developing osteoporosis.

An earlier Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) project, funded by the U.S. government, found no negative link between calcium and heart health. The current researchers noted, however, that more than half of the women in that study were already taking their own calcium supplements in addition to those prescribed for the trial, potentially distorting their findings. When the researchers looked only at the women who had not taken personal calcium supplements, they found a13-22% increased risk of cardiovascular problems compared to women in the WHI study who only took a placebo.

“The cautious way forward seems to be to encourage people to obtain their calcium from the diet, rather than from supplements, since food calcium has not been shown to carry this increased risk of heart disease,” Reid added.

04/19/11

  03:27:06 pm, by MedBen5   , 262 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Study: HDHP Usage Not Affected By Low Income, Chronic Conditions

People with low incomes or chronic conditions insured under high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) seek medical care at a similar rate as other people enrolled in such plans, according to a new RAND Corporation study. The nonprofit research organization examined the first-year experiences of more than 360,000 families nationwide enrolled in an employer-sponsored HDHP from 2003 to 2007.

The largest research done to date on the effects of HDHPs, the RAND study contradicts some earlier small studies that found medically vulnerable individuals utlized their health plans less than those with higher incomes or fewer health problems.

“One important issue is whether high-deductible health plans will leave low-income and chronically ill patients with inadequate access to health care,” said Amelia Haviland, lead author of the study and a statistician at RAND. “We did not find greater cut backs for medically vulnerable families. The evidence suggests that non-vulnerable families, low-income families and high-risk families are equally affected under high-deductible plans.”

The study also found that HDHPs paired with a health savings account (HSA) provide greater savings than HDHPs with no accounts or plans with smaller deductibles.

MedBen administers HDHPs for self-funded employers and has available fully insured and split-funded HDHP options for employers located in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Michigan. With the self-funded approach, we work with you and your benefits consultant to determine the best plan design for your HDHP. Better yet, we can integrate your HDHP with any health accounts for seamless coordination.

To learn more about the advantages of HDHPs, please contact MedBen Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

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