Every year, all employers negotiate with health insurers over what they’ll pay in insurance premiums for the coming year. And many employers also negotiate with hospitals, health systems and physician groups over what they’ll pay in direct-contracting arrangements that bypass traditional insurance contracts.
In both negotiations, the employers will be seeking better care and lower costs, as they do each year. Continue reading
Brian Kalish posed this question in an article in Employee Benefit News on Sept. 24. Kalish was quoting Rodger Bayne, president of Benefit Indemnity Corp., of Towson, Md., who was a speaker at the Benefits Forum and Expo, a conference in New Orleans.
“In the not-so-distant future small employers may stop offering employer-sponsored health coverage because employees will demand it,” Kalish reported. Low-income employees who get employer-sponsored coverage might be eligible for subsidies on the exchanges, making the exchange coverage more attractive than their employer-sponsored benefits, he wrote.
Not only are the exchanges advantageous for employees of small businesses, but they are attractive for similar reasons to large employers with part timers, particularly low-wage workers eligible for subsidies.
Grocery retailer Trader Joe’s said it will move part timers working fewer than 30 hours a week to private exchanges on Jan. 1 and give them $500 a year instead of the fairly generous benefit plan they have now, as Dave Jamieson reported in The Huffington Post. Sarah Kliff at The Washington Post’s WonkBlog explained that Trader Joe’s part timers might be better off in the exchanges if they qualify for subsidies under Obamacare. As Kliff has reported, employers do not get penalized if they do not provide health insurance coverage to employees working fewer than 30 hours a week. Continue reading
Kathleen Koster of Employee Benefit News reports on a newly released study which, Koster writes, found that “Even with antidepressant treatment, employee depression severity levels positively correlate with the length and cost of short term disability leave.”
The 34,000 patients whose data were studied were all “diagnosed with depression and treated with antidepressants.” Keep in mind that, in this context, STD refers to “short term disability” leave.
When compared to other chronic diseases’ effect on annual STD cost of patients, those associated with depressed individuals ($1,038 for patients with depression and $1,685 for the severely depressed) exceeded the STD costs for hypertension ($66), diabetes ($118), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ($197), and rheumatoid arthritis ($851), based on estimates by a study by Carls et al. using the same data source standardized to the same year.
In terms of days lost, 18% of patients with depression used short-term disability leave, while only 7.2% of the matched control group took advantage of the leave. Depressed patients also took more than 30 absentee days, approximately four days more on average than among matched controls. Associated costs to these days off were also disparate, with $3,925 associated with depressed employees and $3,360 with the control group.
And, from the study’s abstract:
Among antidepressant users, medical costs were not statistically different for compliant versus noncompliant patients; drug costs were higher for compliant patients, primarily because of antidepressants’ costs.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the results of a study which found that, on average, Americans pay more than $3,700 per year for employer health coverage.
Sebelius set her agency’s reform-supporting agenda straight from the start, titling the report: “Hidden Costs of Health Care: Why Americans are Paying More but Getting Less.”
A few highlights:
- Out-of-pocket expenses for employer-based coverage rose 30 percent from 2001 to 2006.
- At $12,680 a year, premiums for such coverage have doubled from 2000 to 2008.
- “In 2004, only one in five people with health insurance through an employer had a co-payment of more than $25, but by 2008 the number jumped to one in three.”