‘Tis the season to get new health insurance rates! Rates are dramatically on the rise, with some companies seeing increases in premiums from 20 to 40 percent. Due to COVID’s impact, hospitals need to pay their workers more than ever before, just to retain employees and ensure that they stay staffed. And, supply chain issues mean price increases across the board, even in the healthcare industry.
Here is what employers need to know:
“Inflation is higher now than it has been in years,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and group health insurance expert. “Wages are going up, benefits are going up, taxes are going up. Businesses are already stretched to their utter limit. And health insurance companies are hedging their bets for all the upcoming claims coming up in 2022.”
Rob, Scott, and Jason discuss the 2020 Kaiser Health Survey, including: renewal rate increases, employer and employee premium contribution rates, the most common plan designs (PPO, HDHP, HMO, POS) and their enrollments, higher deductibles and employee cost sharing, the uncertainties that insurers and employers have to deal with right now, and more.
Group employment expert explains new study and how it costs employers big-time
A recent study found that 25 percent of employees do not understand the basics of their healthcare plan, while 32 percent are further confused by their plan’s additional benefits. And, 67 percent say that they are given little to no advanced preparation when it comes to choosing new plans.
“These findings line up with what I have heard from many of my prospects, especially in recent months,” says Rob Wilson, group health employment expert and President of Employco USA. “With President Trump’s new alterations to the Affordable Care Act, many people are confused about their coverage and their requirements for coverage. For example, some people think that President Trump removed the penalty for Americans who do not have insurance, however, this relief actually does not come into effect until 2019, so people can still face financial punishment if they are not covered.”
Wilson says that employees are not the only ones who suffer when they are in the dark about healthcare coverage. “Employers will suffer as well if their employees make uninformed healthcare decisions,” says Wilson. “This includes employees who choose the wrong healthcare plan, employees who neglect to appropriately use their benefits, employees who erroneously have adult children on their healthcare plan, etc.”
For the group employment expert, education is one of the most important steps when it comes to making sure that a company’s healthcare costs are as trimmed and streamlined as possible.
“It’s important to have representatives from your chosen health insurance provider come to your office on a regular basis in order to talk to new employees as well as refresh the minds of older employees, especially as so many changes are afoot in this industry,” says Wilson. “I would also advise employers to regularly send out emails with information about their plans, but more importantly, also snail mail. An informative packet in the mail which an employee can hold in their hands and share with their family to help discuss options and compare benefits will be invaluable.”
Group employment expert explains what employers and employees need to know about the future pricing of the group health plan
Blue Cross Blue Shield is proposing premium cuts in many states across America for 2019, with some states seeing as much as a 5% decrease or more. However, there could be more to this story than meets the eye.
“Blue Cross is cutting prices now because they over-estimated how much they needed to hike their premiums last year,” explains Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and group employment expert. “They set the rates too high, which is understandable as there was so much uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act and how President Trump would alter Obamacare. But, now that we have a clearer picture of the fate of the Affordable Care Act, Blue Cross can go back to rectify their initial over-estimation.”
Wilson says that, regardless of the cause, a decrease in premiums is nearly unheard of, and a hopeful sign of things to come.
“Blue Cross has not reduced the cost of their premiums in years,” says Wilson. “For example, in Illinois, my home state, premiums have been going up every year, in some cases even jumping up by 17 percent such as in 2015. So, for people of Illinois to finally see price decreases is simply unprecedented.”
Wilson says even the states in which Blue Cross Blue Shield is proposing premium increases don’t have to fear. “Not every state is going to see a decrease in Blue Cross Blue Shield premiums in 2019, and some may even see an increase, but this increase will be very slight.”
Group healthcare expert reveals how employers can save big on healthcare plans in 2019
According to the most recent data, premium healthcare plans for individuals in 2019 will increase by 15 percent in many states across America. As the Affordable Care Act continues to be in flux, employers are very concerned about how they can help keep healthcare costs down.
With insurance renewals approaching later this year, Rob Wilson, human resources expert and President of Employco USA, offers some tips that can help employers save on healthcare costs while also keeping employees happy and healthy:
Move to consumer-directed health plans. “Instead of traditional PPOs, high deductible health plans might be a smarter choice for you. With these plans, employees pay for preventive care visits, which in turn teaches them to watch prices and become better spenders. It empowers employees and gives them more ownership over their own health choices and costs.”
Consider surcharges for smokers. “Now, with HIPAA and the ADA, there are some concerns regarding employers regulating an employees’ decision to smoke or not to smoke. However, what you can do is encourage smokers to attend smoking cessation classes. If smokers attend these groups, you can offer them the premium discount even if they are not able to stop smoking.”
Implement spousal surcharges. “Many companies are now charging their employees a spousal surcharge. With this cost-saving measure, employees will have to indicate if their spouse has access to healthcare at their job. If they do have access to healthcare elsewhere, but your employee still wants them to be on your plan, they might have to pay a small amount of more than employees who aren’t making this same choice.”
Shift the claim cost to employees. “Some employers are reducing costs by shifting the claim for cost to employees,” says Wilson. “For example, instead of offering a PPO with a $30 dollar co-pay, you might shift that to $40 or $45 employees.”
Encourage virtual office visits. “e-Medicine is becoming a growing trend, and for good reason. It can help keep costs down while helping to decrease the amount of time doctor’s visits can take. It’s a win-win for employers: Your employees are able to see their doctor and get back to work in less time and with less cost.”
Shift part of the premium cost to employees. “For example, instead of playing 75 percent of the premium, in 2019, you might ask your employees to pay 73 percent. It is a small but meaningful reduction, and one that will not to be too costly for your workers,” says Wilson.
Encourage health initiatives. “Workplace wellness programs aren’t just going to reduce your overall health costs, they are going to ensure that your employees are healthy, happy and productive. So, whether you want to have an on-site fitness center, or hand out Fit bits or incentivize healthy eating and fitness programs, anything you can do to get your employees moving and eating more mindfully will have massive paybacks for you.”
Make sure employees know their benefits. “It is common for many employers and insurance providers to send out information about the employees’ health plans via email, but people’s inboxes are so packed with junk that they might not open these messages,” says Wilson. “It might be a smart idea to rely on snail-mail when it comes to keeping employees informed and on top of their health care spending. To this end, on a quarterly or bi-annual basis, you might want to send out packet with tips and package benefits to employees’ home address, or leave it on their desk.”
Group health insurance expert explains why so many Americans are going without health insurance
The Affordable Care Act was supposed to bring healthcare to millions of Americans who could not afford it, but critics say that the healthcare law was a failure. In fact, many Americans are still choosing not to purchase healthcare, including those who are considered middle-class.
“Surprisingly as it might sound, it isn’t people with low-wage jobs who can’t afford to buy healthcare in our current market,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and group health insurance expert. “Due to President Obama’s changes to healthcare law, healthy people and middle-class people suddenly found themselves looking at a steep uptick in prices, and not every family can stand to foot that bill.”
While it is true that the Affordable Care Act helped to lower health insurance costs for people in the lower-income brackets, the result is that other people, such as those in middle-class income brackets, have had to pick up the slack.
“We are looking at big premium increases right now,” says Wilson. “And all it takes is a difference of $10 an hour to find yourself no longer eligible for the federal subsidy to cover healthcare costs.”
Wilson says that the reality is that buying your own individual health plans as a middle class individual or family is becoming too exorbitant, and this won’t change until ACA has been rolled back even further.
“Right now, the health insurance companies have all the power, and we need to put that power back in the hands of the consumer,” says Wilson.
Group insurance expert predicts how Pres. Trump’s decision will impact average American
Many people are concerned that their employers are going to opt against paying for birth control now that President Trump has taken steps to reverse the federal mandate requiring companies to do so.
“Headlines across the country have frightened people into thinking that their companies are no longer going to pay for their contraception,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and group insurance expert. “Thankfully, this is going to be unlikely across the board. Even before President Obama used the Affordable Care Act to require employers to pay for birth control for employees, 9 out of 10 companies already did so.”
Essentially, the ruling just allows for people to opt against covering contraceptive costs if it challenges their religious beliefs, however, the number of employers who fall in this category will be small, says Wilson. And, he says changes are even less likely when it comes to big firms.
“From a business standpoint, it’s wise to provide affordable contraception options to your workers,” says Wilson. “After all, birth control is much less expensive than the cost of pregnancy and delivering a baby, not to mention family leave. So, the reality is that despite the scary headlines, most employees should expect little to no changes in their contraception costs.”
Nor does he think employers would be wise to use this as a loophole to get out of paying for birth control. “One way or another, all employers pay a price for their workers’ reproductive decisions,” Wilson says. “Financially speaking, contraception is the least expensive option, provided it does not go against your religious beliefs.”
Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and group insurance expert, says, “Employees say that an employer’s health insurance plan is more important to them than their actual salary, but as these numbers show, offering group insurance can be a losing game for employers. For the last five years, employer costs to insure each employee have risen, but now we are looking at a significant bump: 5 percent or more.”
Wilson points to the fact that Republicans have not yet been able to eradicate the Affordable Care Act, as well as the fact that specialty prescription drug costs are skyrocketing.
“Employers may consider enrolling in high-deductible CDHPs as these plans can help to protect your bottom line. Other cost-saving measures like instituting a surcharge for spouses or employees who smoke can slow cost. Outcome based incentives and wellness programs have also been shown to be useful, as have on-site clinics and prescription purchasing coalitions. Some companies are instilling a policy that requires mandatory generic brand medication, which can help to reduce costs in a meaningful way.”