“Everybody is for wellness, including corporate America. As the chart above shows, wellness programs–as varied as gym memberships, lifestyle coaching, flu shots and vaccinations, nutrition counseling and biometric screening, and other weight-loss efforts–are corporate America’s favorite strategy for health cost containment. That’s right, cost containment–despite the fact that evidence of wellness programs’ effectiveness is mixed when it comes to holding down costs and actually improving health.
The appeal of wellness programs has much to do with the popularity of wellness benefits among employees (and a belief that they can reduce absenteeism and improve productivity). The roughly $6 billion wellness industry aggressively sells products–and wellness programs are a far easier cost-containment strategy to sell to employees than higher cost sharing or narrower provider networks.”
“A federal appeals court threw out a lawsuit over the delay of ObamaCare’s employer mandate, a sign that a similar challenge in the works by House Republicans might not fare well.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue, and only parties “seeking to advance the interests” of the mandate could mount a “plausible” case against its delay.”
“The launch of the Affordable Care Act has focused attention on the idea of a health insurance exchange, or marketplace. Separate from the ACA, private exchanges have also started to emerge as an option for employers providing coverage to their workers. This report identifies the different types of private exchanges as well as projects the potential size of the private exchange market, which has the potential to reshape the employer-sponsored health insurance landscape, in the coming years.
Through interviews with representatives of more than fifteen private health insurance enrollment platforms as well as several employers and health plans moving in this direction, this report examines important implications in this quickly-growing landscape, including the potential for cost stability to employers and more choice among health plans for consumers.”
“Several unions want the Labor Department to broadly authorize employer-sponsored “wraparound” coverage for workers to supplement their exchange plan benefits and subsidies, according to comments on a rule that is currently being reviewed by the White House.
Under a little-noticed proposed rule the Labor Department issued on Dec. 24, the Obama administration proposed to treat as “excepted benefits” certain limited coverage provided by employers that would wrap around an individual market policy. If the wraparound coverage meets a number of requirements, it’s considered an excepted benefit and would not disqualify the employee from getting subsidized coverage on the exchanges. While unions generally supported the concept, many complained that the parameters the administration proposed would prevent lower wage employees from having access to the coverage and they are the ones that would benefit most.”
“Employer groups are ramping up their efforts to revise the ACA’s 30-hour full-time employee definition in hopes of getting it changed before the employer mandate kicks in for some large employers next year. The initiative, titled “More Time for Full-Time,” was announced Friday (Sept. 19) and is the latest tactic by employers to change the standard so that it defines a full-time employee as one who works 40 hours per week.
Groups involved in the initiative include the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Grocers Association and the International Franchise Association.
“As all Americans have known for decades, 40 hours represents the widely-accepted definition of a full-time work week. Unless there is a statutory change to the definition of a full-time employee in the ACA, there will be fewer full-time jobs, more part-time workers and fewer overall hours available for Americans to work,” International Franchise Association President and CEO Steve Caldeira said in a statement.”
“A wave of hospital mergers and acquisitions spreading across the U.S. has the health insurance industry attempting to stand in the way with legalese, Congressional lobbying and in the court of public opinion.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the powerful lobby and trade group representing the biggest names in commercial insurance appears to be leading the charge battling deals in New York, Chicago and beyond.
“Consolidation promises greater efficiency, but all that ever materializes is greater costs,” Brendan Buck, former press secretary to Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner, who was tapped this spring to be vice president of communications at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) told the Chicago Sun-Times following news two of the wealthiest hospital operators in the city would merge.”
“The Obama administration has found their line when it comes to setting expectations for the second roll-out of the federal exchange website: “Improvement but not perfection.”
It’s the semi-optimistic catch-phrase officials have used in congressional testimonies over the past few weeks to describe how well Healthcare.gov will work come November. Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at CMS said it during his testimony with the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator used the line during her testimony Thursday morning for the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
Voters also seem to be preparing for problems and not perfection as they head back to the site. Open enrollment begins November 15.
Morning Consult polling shows more than half of registered voters — 54 percent — are very concerned or somewhat concerned about security breaches on HealthCare.gov and the state exchange sites. Thirty-nine percent of registered voters were not too concerned at all.”
“We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%.
But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms.”
“If you are looking for information on how Americans are engaging with the Affordable Care Act, the Census Bureau’s recently released latest annual estimates of health insurance coverage is probably not the place to look—at least for now.
The Census Bureau, which derives its information on healthcare from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement—the same survey where it asks how many toilets, computers, microwaves, etc., people have in their homes—does provide some useful insights.
It catalogues the demographic characteristics of the population based on participation in different types of health insurance coverage—government health care programs, private employer and individual plans, and the uninsured. It tells us young adults make up a disproportionate share of the uninsured and provides useful information on the relative availability of employer-sponsored coverage by industry and firm size.
But its hard numbers on enrollment and enrollment trends are not reliable for drawing “big picture” conclusions, especially regarding the ACA. Indeed, that unreliability is why this year the Census Bureau started using a new set of health coverage questions in the ASEC.”
“Obamacare—or at least the version of it that the president and his advisers currently think they can get away with putting into place—has been upending arrangements and reshuffling the deck in the health system since the beginning of the year. That’s when the new insurance rules, subsidies, and optional state Medicaid expansions went into effect. The law’s defenders say the changes that have been set in motion are irreversible, in large part because several million people are now covered by insurance plans sold through the exchanges, and a few million more are enrolled in Medicaid as a result of Obamacare. President Obama has stated repeatedly that these developments should effectively shut the door on further debate over the matter.
Of course, the president does not get to decide when public debates begin or end, and the public seems to be in no mood to declare the Obamacare case closed. Polling has consistently shown that more Americans oppose the law than support it, and that the opposition is far more intense than the support. The law is built on a foundation of dramatically expanded government power over the nation’s health system, which strikes many voters as a dangerous step toward more bureaucracy, less choice, higher costs, and lower quality care. The beginning of the law’s implementation does not appear to have eased these fears, and in some cases has exacerbated them.”