Growth Accelerating for Private Insurance Exchanges, Report Says Comments Off on Growth Accelerating for Private Insurance Exchanges, Report Says
A new report by Accenture predicts that enrollment in private health insurance exchanges could grow dramatically over the next three years. A likely driver: the “Cadillac” tax on high-cost insurance that is set to go into effect in 2018.
By Chris Vest
APRIL 13, 2015
Enrollment in private health insurance exchanges has doubled in the last year, a trend that will likely continue over the next several years, according to a new report by global management firm Accenture.
Private exchanges are increasingly attractive to employers, as they serve as online marketplaces where employees may pick from a range of plan options. Faced with increased costs and a barrage of Affordable Care Act (ACA) administrative requirements in the coming years, employers are often choosing to outsource the task and have employees enter a private exchange.
Private exchanges enable employees to take a set amount of employer benefit and determine how generous a plan to purchase. Midsize employers with between 100 and 2,500 employees are responsible for the majority of the recent growth.
With 150 million workers receiving employer-sponsored health insurance, the market share held by private exchanges is still relatively small. Yet that may continue to change, as employers will face additional ACA taxes in the coming years. Accenture predicts that by 2018, up to 40 million workers will access employer-sponsored health insurance through a private marketplace, making them more popular than state- and federally funded exchanges.
One driving force behind increased adoption rate is likely to be the “Cadillac” tax on high-cost health insurance that goes into effect in 2018. According to the American Health Policy Institute, the tax is projected to affect 38 percent of large employers and 17 percent of all American businesses.
Private exchange participation rates may also increase after the ACA employer shared-responsibility provision went into effect on January 1 this year. Under this provision, employers with at least 50 full-time employees (or a combination of full- and part-time that is equivalent to 50 full-time employees) must pay a large fee if they do not provide health insurance that meets affordability levels and provides a minimum standard of coverage.
“As employers seek a compelling alternative, the private exchange model of reducing costs and administrative burden emerges as a clear favorite,” Rich Birhanzel, managing director for Accenture Health Administration Services, told Bloomberg BNA last week.
High-Deductible Plans Bring Lower Costs Now, But Will They Mean Pricey Consequences? Comments Off on High-Deductible Plans Bring Lower Costs Now, But Will They Mean Pricey Consequences?
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit national health policy news service.
March 26, 2015
Got a high-deductible health plan? The kind that doesn’t pay most medical bills until they exceed several thousand dollars? You’re a foot soldier who’s been drafted in the war against high health costs.
Companies that switch workers into high-deductible plans can reap enormous savings, consultants will tell you — and not just by making employees pay more. Total costs paid by everybody — employer, employee and insurance company — tend to fall in the first year or rise more slowly when consumers have more at stake at the health-care checkout counter whether or not they’re making medically wise choices.
Consumers with high deductibles sometimes skip procedures, think harder about getting treatment and shop for lower prices when they do seek care.
What nobody knows is whether such plans, also sold to individuals and families through the health law’s online exchanges, will backfire. If people choose not to have important preventive care and end up needing an expensive hospital stay years later as a result, everybody is worse off.
A new study delivers cautiously optimistic results for employers and policymakers, if not for consumers paying a higher share of their own health care costs.
Researchers led by Amelia Haviland at Carnegie Mellon University found that overall savings at companies introducing high-deductible plans lasted for up to three years afterwards. If there were any cost-related time bombs caused by forgone care, at least they didn’t blow up by then.
“Three years out there consistently seems to be a reduction in total health care spending” at employers offering high-deductible plans, Haviland said in an interview. Although the study says nothing about what might happen after that, “this was interesting to us that it persists for this amount of time.”
The savings were substantial: 5 percent on average for employers offering high-deductible plans compared with results at companies that didn’t offer them. And that was for the whole company, whether or not all workers took the high-deductible option.
The size of the study was impressive; it covered 13 million employees and dependents at 54 big companies. All savings were from reduced spending on pharmaceuticals and doctor visits and other outpatient care. There was no sign of what often happens when high-risk patients miss preventive care: spikes in emergency-room visits and hospital admissions.
The suits in human resources call this kind of coverage a “consumer-directed” health plan. It sounds less scary than the old name for coverage with huge deductibles: catastrophic health insurance.
But having consumers direct their own care also requires making sure they know enough to make smart choices like getting vaccines, but skipping dubious procedures like an expensive MRI scan at the first sign of back pain.
Not all employers are doing a terrific job. Most high-deductible plan members surveyed in a recent California study had no idea that preventive screenings, office visits and other important care required little or no out-of-pocket payment. One in five said they had avoided preventive care because of the cost.
“This evidence of persistent reductions in spending places even greater importance on developing evidence on how they are achieved,” Kate Bundorf, a Stanford health economist not involved in the study, said of consumer-directed plans. “Are consumers foregoing preventive care? Are they less adherent to [effective] medicine? Or are they reducing their use of low-value office visits and corresponding drugs or substituting to cheaper yet similarly effective prescribed drugs?”
Employers and consultants are trying to educate people about avoiding needless procedures and finding quality caregivers at better prices.
That might explain why the companies offering high-deductible plans saw such significant savings even though not all workers signed up, Haviland said. Even employees with traditional, lower-deductible plans may be using the shopping tools.
The study doesn’t close the book on consumer-directed plans.
“What happens five years or ten years down the line when people develop more consequences of reducing high-value, necessary care?” she asked. Nobody knows.
And the study doesn’t address a side effect of high-deductibles that doctors can’t treat: pocketbook trauma. Consumer-directed plans, often paired with tax-favored health savings accounts, can require families to pay $5,000 or more per year in out-of-pocket costs.
Three people out of five with low incomes and half of those with moderate incomes told the Commonwealth Fund last year their deductibles are hard to afford. Many households simply lack the resources to make out-of-pocket health costs, shows a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)
As in all battles, the front-line infantry often makes the biggest sacrifice.
The future of benefits enrollment technology Comments Off on The future of benefits enrollment technology
FEB 13, 2015 | BY RICHARD SHAFFER
Insurance carriers today realize that benefits enrollment can be significantly enhanced through the use of innovative approaches that incorporate new technologies. Particularly when it comes to enrolling in voluntary benefits, providers now understand that participation rates and consumer engagement can be greatly improved by applying key principles of consumer behavior and psychology to the enrollment process.
What’s driving the market?
Currently, economic and financial pressures in the U.S. are creating stress for employees across companies of all sizes. It’s clear that American workers have never been at greater risk. Consider that almost 70 percent of employees have no income protection, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and that 76 percent of consumers live paycheck to paycheck.
In addition, a 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey showed that half of all households could not raise $2,000 within a month if they needed to. And with the average medical deductible now more than $1,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey, employees need to be careful about how they will spend their benefits dollars to protect themselves and those they love.
Unfortunately, decisions about insurance and financial products are among the most difficult for consumers, according to a 2008 study by Yale University. With so many benefits choices available to them, many employees are simply overwhelmed. In addition, many lack the necessary information needed for informed decision-making and don’t know where to turn.
The good news is that the workplace is a powerful distribution channel that, when used effectively, can be the “go to” source for all employee insurance purchases. In fact, according to Gen Re, 90 percent of long-term disability coverage is currently purchased at the workplace, and according to LIMRA’s 2014 Insurance Barometer Study, 78 percent of life insurance is also purchased at the workplace. For almost all of us, the workplace is the only place to access benefits and benefits information.
Helping employees make the right decisions
With companies increasingly shifting coverage decisions and costs to employees, employers are tasked with providing benefits and enrollment methods that resonate with their workforce. Fortunately, insurance carriers are committed to helping employers present information so that enrollment options are clear and simple.
Working together, providers and employers can become “choice architects” who recognize that consumer decisions greatly depend on how information and benefit choices are presented. These choice architects use key principles of how consumers learn and decide to help employees make the benefits choices that are right for them and their families, often overcoming our very human tendency to underestimate our own risk.
For example, we understand that presenting too many options can overwhelm employees and lead to decision paralysis. When confronted with too many options, workers often don’t know what they really need or where to start. Studies on buying behaviors suggest that if employees are offered just four or five benefits at a time, they can make decisions without being overwhelmed.
Choice architects also realize that a workforce is not a homogeneous whole and that participation rates vary widely, even within a single population. An enrollment analysis can show graphically which employees enroll in particular benefits based on variables such as age, income, gender and work location. Such a “heat map” offers employers feedback about how effectively they are structuring and presenting benefits choices and where they can make improvements tailored to their workforce.
These heat maps often point out locations or line managers where employees may not be given the time to meet with benefits counselors or learn and enroll in available programs.
A common misperception is that employees don’t want help in choosing benefits and will disregard recommendations from their employers. However, surveys have shown that employees trust their employer to present voluntary benefits that would be meaningful for them, and depend on their employer for benefits information.
Auto enrollment, in which employees are defaulted into coverage — most commonly income protection — but can opt out, is becoming an accepted enrollment method. In fact, in a 2013 survey conducted by Unum and the CFA, 85 percent of those surveyed agreed that employers should automatically enroll new employees in disability insurance, allowing them to opt out of this coverage if they did not want it.
Another strategy that can positively affect enrollment rates is for employers to require an “active choice,” in which employees are required to learn about the insurance benefits being offered and then to either accept or decline each benefit. Active choice encourages employee engagement, and often more than doubles participation rates when used consistently. Employers should feel confident enough in the value of the benefits they offer to at least ask employees to pause and consider whether each benefit fits them or not.
Advancements in technology
Employers are increasingly adopting technology to reduce their administrative burden, increase accuracy, comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and offer employees the help they need online to streamline the enrollment process. From proprietary standalone enrollment systems to enrollment occurring in host systems, to the use of deep web services between carriers and an employer’s existing system, employers of all sizes have a range of options to make the process easier for their employees.
It’s often best to ensure employees can enroll within an existing technology platform so they can make all benefit decisions in context. Some providers can push their rates, underwriting rules and benefits options to an employer’s technology platform, while making the process seamless for employees.
And following enrollment, some carriers go beyond simply mailing a recap of the purchase to personally thank employees and reinforce that their decision was right and financially sound. Evolving technology is not only continuing to simplify enrollment, but is also enabling employers to interact more effectively with their employees at enrollment time through improved – and more personal – communication.
The personal touch matters
Despite advances in enrollment technology, employers should realize that just offering online self-service, good pre-communication and live consumer assistance probably won’t ensure optimal understanding or participation. Experience has shown that many employees are reluctant to simply go online and select benefits to buy, especially if they have questions or need additional information.
More importantly, many workers today often underestimate the likelihood of being unable to work due to serious illness or disability, so they still need to be reminded about how important financial protection is for employees at all levels of the organization. Education and an explanation of what the benefits cover and how much they cost can go a long way in helping employees determine what best fits their budget and can encourage them to purchase the coverage they need.
While technology is crucial for today’s enrollment scenarios, research shows that employees need and want advice and recommendations about the right benefits for their family, and prefer to ask questions of a live person. Consequently, the most effective enrollment combines high tech with high touch approaches. Employers should not underestimate the value of a face-to-face counseling session or a session delivered via call center, even in combination with online enrollment.
Making benefit counselors available in an online enrollment world might include access to a live chat, offering call center support, co-browsing with a counselor, or accessing a video conference call to interact with a trained benefits counselor. This dual approach to purchasing benefits at the worksite provides the best of what technology has to offer, along with the personal touch that employees want.
With today’s available technology options and knowledge about consumer purchasing decisions, employers have the tools they need to ensure optimal enrollment results and support employees at the workplace, for most of us the only place to access affordable financial protection benefits.
The growth of telemedicine Comments Off on The growth of telemedicine
FEB 11, 2015 | BY MARK ROBERTS
Telemedicine is becoming a hugely popular health care product, and a great way to connect doctors and medical facilities with patients. Although many people are still not familiar with its application or availability, the medical community is acutely aware of the cost savings and efficacy of providing direct access between the healer and the sick.
As a matter of fact, the American Medical Association has stated that 70 percent of physician visits and 40 percent of hospital ER visits can be handled by a phone call. Of course, emergencies and difficult diagnoses are most readily addressed by going to a health care provider.
Telemedicine (sometimes called telehealth) has several advantages. And, the vast majority of patients like using this type of service. A survey by medical systems reviewer Software Advice found that 6 percent of patients who have used telemedicine didn’t perceive any benefits over in-person visits. The remaining patients cited the following benefits of virtual appointments:
- 21 percent – quality of care
- 21 percent – don’t have to travel
- 20 percent – comfort of home
- 11 percent – quick access to care
- 10 percent – shorter wait time
- 9 percent – easy to use
- 8 percent – avoid waiting room
- 4 percent – cost effective
So, those 6 percent would likely have complained about anything. You can’t make everyone happy. But a 94 percent success ratio is better than most options when considering ways to deliver patient care. Primarily, people said it is so much more convenient. They save time from leaving work or school and save money. The convenience dominates over all other aspects.
And employers like it as it keeps the absenteeism rate low. Benefits to employers include not having to reimburse a doctor for the expense of an office visit and not having employees spend half of a work day waiting to talk to a physician to get a prescription for a relatively simple health issue, such as a sore throat or the other minor ailment.
Sometimes telemedicine is best understood in terms of the services provided and the mechanisms used to provide those services, according to the American Telemedicine Association. Here are some examples:
Primary care and specialist referral services may involve a primary care or allied health professional providing a consultation with a patient or a specialist assisting the primary care physician in rendering a diagnosis. This may involve the use of live interactive video or the use of store and forward transmission of diagnostic images, vital signs and/or video clips along with patient data for later review.
Remote patient monitoring, including home telehealth, uses devices to remotely collect and send data to a home health agency or a remote diagnostic testing facility for interpretation. Such applications might include a specific vital sign, such as blood glucose or heart ECG or a variety of indicators for homebound patients. Such services can be used to supplement the use of visiting nurses.
Consumer medical and health information includes the use of the Internet and wireless devices for consumers to obtain specialized health information and on-line discussion groups to provide peer-to-peer support.
Medical education provides continuing medical education credits for health professionals and special medical education seminars for targeted groups in remote locations.
As more individuals obtain health insurance due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the debate about how to provide greater access to care at a reasonable cost becomes ever more relevant. Now, telemedicine is emerging as a crucial building block in the delivery of care, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Telemedicine also allows individuals to take greater control of their ailments, which is a way for patients to “self-manage” their condition.
However, training for telemedicine isn’t offered in medical schools; ongoing training of staff members is necessary for the programs to work. Telemedicine can transform medicine as much as electronic health records have if the commitment to quality management and consistent technical support is made. Additionally, health care professionals and policymakers need to think strategically about building a telemedicine network that can serve a large pool of patients.
According to the ATA, telemedicine has been growing rapidly because it offers four fundamental benefits:
Improved access. For over 40 years, telemedicine has been used to bring healthcare services to patients in distant locations. Not only does telemedicine improve access to patients but it also allows physicians and health facilities to expand their reach, beyond their own offices. Given the provider shortages throughout the world — in both rural and urban areas — telemedicine has a unique capacity to increase service to millions of new patients.
Cost efficiencies. Reducing or containing the cost of health care is one of the most important reasons for funding and adopting telehealth technologies. Telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of health care and increase efficiency through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays.
Improved quality. Studies have consistently shown that the quality of health care services delivered via telemedicine are as good those given in traditional in-person consultations. In some specialties, particularly in mental health and ICU care, telemedicine delivers a superior product, with greater outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Patient demand. Consumers want telemedicine. The greatest impact of telemedicine is on the patient, their family and their community. Using telemedicine technologies reduces travel time and related stresses for the patient. Over the past 15 years study after study has documented patient satisfaction and support for telemedical services. Telemedicine offers patients the access to providers that might not be available otherwise, as well as medical services without the need to travel long distances.
Smart docs use smart phones to communicate telephonically with patients to provide value, savings, convenience, and quality of care. Not designed to replace the family physician, telemedicine is a powerful tool that can be used to augment treatment. When you need a prescription or a consultation in the middle of the night, or when you are on vacation, or on business travel, remember that your smart phone can be your best friend when you are sick.
4 non-traditional voluntary trends to watch Comments Off on 4 non-traditional voluntary trends to watch
With traditional voluntary benefits becoming almost a standard inclusion in the employee benefits package, non-traditional voluntary benefits are the new trend as the variety of offerings continue to evolve and rise in popularity.
Especially due to the impact of increased health care costs and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers are relying more on voluntary benefits to build the robust employee benefits programs that help them recruit and retain employees. Even though they have to pay for most or all of the premium, voluntary benefits are popular with employees because they can customize their benefits package.
Employees can select traditional voluntary benefits such as gap coverage, short-term disability, cancer, critical illness, dental insurance and hospital supplemental policies to help round out their health care coverage needs. But it’s the non-traditional voluntary benefits that will give employees perhaps the most leverage to truly customize their employee benefits preferences in the year ahead.
Here are four predictions for non-traditional voluntary benefits in 2015.
1. Non-traditional voluntary benefits will experience continued customization.
Non-traditional voluntary benefits in the marketplace today include a variety of options depending on employees’ diverse needs. For example, workers with pets may be interested in pet insurance through payroll deduction; and those with children under 18, might choose cyber security insurance.
But watch for continued customization as non-traditional voluntary benefits take on a more generational and life-stage focus. Today’s diverse workforce spans three generations (millennials, Generation X and baby boomers) who look at work, life, money and finances in totally different ways and thus have varying benefits needs and preferences. The ability to choose benefits that meet their life-stage needs is something employees want.
2. Count on more innovation in non-traditional voluntary benefits products.
Several non-traditional voluntary benefits have been available for many years such as group legal plans, pet insurance and employee purchase programs. This past year has seen some very specialized, out-of-the-box employee benefits appear — such as egg harvesting. Count on seeing more innovation in non-traditional voluntary benefits as well in 2015.
3. The most popular non-traditional voluntary benefits will likely be financial wellness-based.
While gains in the stock market and the economy have led some companies to believe their employees are also recovering financially, that’s not the case. According to most research, many employees are struggling financially and the stress associated with it is taking its toll, as well.
Employees are stressed out from financial concerns and they admit it distracts them at work. Non-traditional voluntary benefits that directly or indirectly improve employees’ financial wellness are the ones that more employers will offer and the ones in which more employees will participate.
4. Financial education is a new direction for non-traditional voluntary benefits and employers will take a more active role in improving financial literacy.
Because employers are now realizing the impact that financially stressed employees who are distracted at work have on their bottom line, they are taking a more active role in financial wellness education for their workers. But this isn’t your grandparents’ definition of financial education.
Typically, financial education has meant saving, retirement planning and employee benefits education. These are important, but a comprehensive financial education program has much more. In 2015, look for employers to take a more active role in improving financial literacy by offering non-traditional voluntary benefits that provide tools and programs that not only educate, but also help in the short-term and change behavior.
Broker licensing bill signed into law Comments Off on Broker licensing bill signed into law
Brokers’ lives are (hopefully) about to get a little easier.
President Obama late Monday signed into law a bill re-establishing the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers, which aims to ease the ability of brokers to sell insurance in states across the United States.
The legislation would set the stage for killing the current regulation that agent and client must live in the same state to do business together.
The legislation was attached to a bill renewing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. Both the House and the Senate quickly pushed the bill through last week.
The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America praised the move, calling it one of the “biggest legislative victories” for brokers and agents in a decade.
The independent group said the creation of NARAB will “achieve much needed reciprocity in producer licensing and help policyholders by permitting greater competition among agents and brokers.”
“While this may take some time, the Big ‘I’ looks forward to working on implementation of this important new law that will provide relief for agents and brokers as well as increased choice for consumers,” Charles Symington, Big “I” senior vice president of external and government affairs, said in a news release.
The NARAB has long been sought by the industry, but its creation suffered a series of roadblocks in the past on its way to fruition. Last summer, the House pushed a bill through in December, but the Senate dragged its feet on the anti-terrorism legislation through the end of the year, and hopes were again dashed.
Premiums, deductibles squeeze workers Comments Off on Premiums, deductibles squeeze workers
BY KATHRYN MAYER
January 8, 2015
New research sheds light on both good and bad news regarding health insurance premiums. The good: Premium increases are slowing down, potentially helped by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bad: Workers aren’t necessarily getting any relief — in fact, employee premium costs and deductibles grew faster than income in every state over last decade.
According to the Commonwealth Fund, stagnant wages, rising health insurance costs and eroding benefits are the reasons workers and their families have yet to see the benefits of any changes or slowdowns in the health care market.
Average annual premiums — including both the employer and employee contributions — by 2013 represented 20 percent or more of household income in 37 states, compared to just two states in 2003. Workers in southern states, where median incomes are lower than elsewhere in the United States, face the highest cost burdens.
At the same time, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, people who obtain medical coverage through their employer saw premiums and deductibles grow more slowly between 2010 and 2013 than in the past. Premiums rose about 4.1 percent annually, down from a national average of about 5.1 percent from 2003 to 2010.
“Growth in employer premiums and deductibles slowed in many states after passage of the Affordable Care Act,” said report coauthor Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at The Commonwealth Fund. “However, slow wage growth means working families in every state are being squeezed by health care costs.”
For example, Commonwealth said that out-of-pocket costs — including workers’ premium contributions and deductibles — accounted, on average, for 9.6 percent of median household income in 2013, up from 5.3 percent in 2003.
Study authors said the combination of higher premium shares and higher deductibles “contribute to widespread public concerns about rising health care costs.”
The average premium for a family in 2013 was $16,000. But, of course, premiums varied from state to state.
In 2013, family premiums, including both the employer and employee contributions, ranged from a low of $13,477 to $14,382 in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi and Hawaii to a high of $17,262 to $20,715 in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Alaska. In seven states — Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and West Virginia — average premiums were 25 percent to 28 percent of the state median income in 2013.
Our Culture Comments Off on Our Culture
The culture at SASid (or SAS as many call it internally) and its people are what set us apart from other companies. We pride ourselves on having a fun, friendly team and creating a workplace that makes working at SAS an enjoyable for everyone. Here are just a few of the perks of working at SASid:
One of the intangible perks of working at SAS is the dress code. While there are days that require a little ironing and black slacks, the norm at SAS is a more casual look. Team members are welcome to dress it up, or keep it simple with a zip up and jeans. The relaxed environment is one that sounds like a start-up, but really SAS has been around for 15 years and continues to grow every year. We just really enjoy a down-to-earth feel.
As a company of tools and systems largely focused on technology, we pride ourselves on being modern. We like an open concept and always have a kitchen available to employees. We can’t say too much just yet, but there are many new and exciting changes coming soon with SAS, including exploring new locations for our main office; we’ve outgrown our current location, which is an excellent problem to have.
SAS’s business values are built into the very name of our company. Smart and Simple insurance development. Our values are building insurance products that are smart to have and simple to understand, quote, and purchase. We do this by only offering quality products, and having a sincere, no-pressure product support team. All our employees are trained to help customers find a plan that meets their needs. If you don’t believe us here, check out our reviews. We love helping people make insurance simple to understand and smart to have, and that makes us feel pretty great about our jobs at the end of the day.
SASid prides itself on it’s people. We hire people who are determined, positive, and energetic and we strive for an atmosphere that encourages growth and opportunity for every single person. We are a tight-knit group of people in a fast-growing company with strong leadership, that even keeps a focus on family. Our employees make SAS the innovator that it is. Everyone who works at SASid is compensated, recognized and rewarded based on individual and company results. Those rewards include our last notable perk of SAS
Summer barbecues, cook-outs, cook-offs, the annual United Way kickball tournament, and annual golf outing, and all-company parties – even an annual holiday party, where employees can bring their families. We love to get together, not only to work, but also to have fun and enjoy everyone’s company. (Pssst! Check out pictures on our Facebook page!)
Interested in becoming a part of the SASid team? Check out our current job openings here.
Voluntary benefits increasingly important to employers Comments Off on Voluntary benefits increasingly important to employers
Voluntary benefits are becoming increasingly important in the effort to attract and retain top employees, and the Affordable Care Act hasn’t discouraged employers from that way of thinking. Seventy-one percent of employers said voluntary benefits improve employee morale and satisfaction — a 13% increase from 2010 — the last time LIMRA surveyed employers.
The newest study, released in late December, showed the ACA had “little-to-no impact on the majority, 60%, of employers’ appetite for offering voluntary benefits.” However, many employers are still confused by the health care law and how it will affect their benefits, LIMRA said. “The study found that just 10% of employers offer an insurance benefit through an exchange, and most are not likely to do so within the next two years.”
Advisers can help clients navigate the ACA as well as implement voluntary benefits — and employers are now giving more thought to the latter, says Jim O’Connor, national practice leader for employee benefits at CBIZ. A good voluntary benefits strategy complements the core programs being offered, he says.
Communication, education are key
An adviser has to be adept at product assessment and must select the right plan for the workforce in question, O’Connor said. “You need to know how the product lines up with the workforce,” he says.
Education and communication are also key parts of an adviser’s job. “That’s not just about sending a memo out and leaving it at that,” O’Connor says. Advisers who communicate well do so via thoughtful, thorough and various channels, he says. “You have to have a diverse approach to your communicating strategy,” O’Connor says. “The key is really all about communication.”
Employers satisfied with advisers, carriers
The majority of employers said advisers and carriers in the voluntary benefits industry follow through on their promises, according to the study, which surveyed 1,321 employee benefits decision makers at private companies with at least 10 employees.
Employers are more loyal to carriers than four years ago — 14% of companies switched carriers in the past two years, down from 17% in 2010 — the survey found. “Price continues to play the biggest role in takeover activity,” LIMRA said.
Telehealth monitoring device segment to explode Comments Off on Telehealth monitoring device segment to explode
BY DAN COOK
JAN 5, 2015
The demand for telehealth services continues to increase and, according to a survey just released, that demand is driving two segments within the medical device market: cardiac and chronic disease monitoring devices.
This news comes from iData Research, which follows trends within the medical device industry. If the patterns identified by iData hold during the next half decade, the U.S. patient monitoring market will be a $5 billion one by 2020. If that occurs, iData reports, “telehealth for disease conditions management is projected to represent more than half of the total telehealth market.”
There are three primary drivers behind this projected explosive growth:
- Demand for customized health care solutions;
- Increased chronic illness amongst the aging population;
- Strained health care budgets.
Other factors in the market growth include evolving reimbursement arrangements that will make equipment purchase more attractive to providers, and a general trend toward larger budgets for telehealth products and services.
The report cited two marketplace leader that could be expected to benefit from the growth surge:
Medtronic, the leading U.S. telehealth market, and Bosch Healthcare, which, iData said, entered the market in 2013.
Among the devices now competing for space in the telehealth marketplace: multi-parameter vital sign monitors, wireless ambulatory telemetry monitoring, telehealth monitoring, intracranial pressure devices, electromyography (EMG) devices, electroencephalography (EEG) monitors, cerebral oximetry devices, fetal and neonatal monitors, pulse oximetry devices, cardiac output monitoring devices and blood pressure monitors.