In the race to bring health-related information to your digital world, Amazon is certainly not falling behind. Beginning in early March, Amazon enabled “Alexa” users to obtain answers to medical questions. According to a press release, with help from WebMD, Alexa devices will respond to medical questions with physician-reviewed, medically appropriate answers in plain, understandable language. Answers to questions such as how to treat a sore throat or the side effects of certain substances can also be sent in text form to those using the Alexa app.
Whether it comes as a shock or not, it’s a simple truth that the majority of employees don’t fully understand their health benefits. And, even if the benefit managers fully understand, sometimes they don’t have the tools to administer the kind of change needed to actually reduce healthcare costs.
Alithias is a platform that allows EBSO to give providers, employers and patients everything they need to take control of and better understand healthcare benefits. Sure, there are plenty of “transparency tools” out there that promise to make healthcare easier to understand and more affordable while also helping to engage employees. But, the people behind Alithias know that transparency tools have a utilization rate of less than 5%. That’s why Alithias is different – it offers features that truly help people “get it” and get the benefits assistance they need.
Compare Actual Prices
Something the average patient does not realize is that more than 30% of healthcare costs are “shoppable”. Alithias’ technology lets patients begin a search by first choosing a common medical procedure within a certain radius of their zip code. The search results then list options of available physicians or groups along with their location, average price for that chosen procedure and quality ratings. And, as if that weren’t simple enough, the patient will also see a detailed description of the procedure and the option to start a live chat with someone who’s ready to give them online support if they need it.
We believe that offering a personal relationship or live help might just be the only approach to ensure plan members seek appropriate care. Because, let’s face it, when people don’t understand their healthcare sometimes their only solution is to avoid it all together, especially when the fear of the unknown cost kicks in. Alithias uses assigned individuals, called Care Navigators, that are there to answer questions that patients don’t know the answers to and teach them what they need to know about healthcare, while also helping them find the best costs or the best doctors. With this kind of help, employees become more educated and involved in their own healthcare, ultimately making smarter decisions and saving on costs. In fact, the average savings for plan members using a Care Navigator is greater than $1,000 per procedure!
These are just two of the beneficial features Alithias can offer. If you’re struggling to give your employer groups and employees the benefits help they need, it’s time you talked to EBSO about Alithias.
The article below is from benefitsPro.com, written by Michael Levin on April 18, 2017.
Now that the American Health Care Act has failed to advance, small businesses, and the brokers who serve them, are looking for ways to manage health care costs within the status quo of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
As it did with individuals, the ACA community rating methodology benefited some while burdening others. The community rating methodology spreads the costs associated with the differing risk of group (or individual) profiles over the entire risk pool. In the case of small groups, older and/or sicker groups benefited from lower rates while younger and/or healthier groups pay more. Those small groups for which this “peanut-buttered” risk solution has resulted in increases to their health insurance may want to look at level-funded plans, an alternative to fully-insured plans.
But what if the group has a really bad year? In a bad year, the stop-loss kicks in to protect the employer. Again, the entire concept of the level-funded plan is that the employer never has to pay more than the level monthly amount. But as an underwritten plan, it is reasonable to expect an increase — perhaps even an untenable increase — in the level-funded plan. Here is where it really gets interesting. Today, in such a situation, the group can simply revert back to a community-rated ACA plan. Here, small groups have an advantage that large groups do not: they can revert back to a non-underwritten plan; one that is likely to be to their financial benefit.
So, for small groups, the question is why not explore a level-funded plan? With savings of up to 30 percent, protection against extraordinary costs, and the ability to fall back on an ACA plan, there is very little reason not to do so.
The article below is from Benefitnews.com, written by Betsey Banker
In the continuing conversation about employee health, there’s a workplace component that isn’t getting the attention it should— and it’s something that workers do the majority of every workday.
Sitting has become the most common posture in today’s workplace, and computer workers spend more than 12 hours doing it each day. Science tells us that the consequences are great, but our shared cultural bias toward sitting has stifled change. Many employees and company leaders struggle to balance well-being and doing their work. And it’s time for employers to do something about it.
Rather than accept the consequences that come as a result of the sedentary jobs employees (hopefully) love, it’s time to elevate the office experience to one that embraces movement as a natural part of the culture. Such a program will address multiple priorities at once: satisfaction, engagement, health and productivity. Organizations of every size and structure should embrace a “Movement Mindset” and say goodbye to stale, sedentary work environments.
There are many benefits to incorporating the Movement Mindset:
· Encourages face time. As millennials and Generation Z take over the office, attracting and retaining top talent is a key initiative for companies. Especially in light of the Society for Human Resource Management findings that 45% of employees are likely to look for jobs outside their current organization within the next year. Research has shown that Gen Z and millennials crave in-person collaboration, and users of movement-friendly workstations (particularly those ages 20 to 30) report being more likely to engage in face time with coworkers than those using traditional sit-only workstations.
Standing meetings tend to stay on task and move more quickly. Their informal nature means they can also be impromptu. Face time has the added benefit of building culture and social relationships, increasing brainstorming and collaboration, and creating a more inclusive work environment.
· Keeps you focused. For those who sit behind a desk day in and day out — which, according to our research, about 68% of workers do — it can be a feat to remain focused and productive. More than half of those employees admit to taking two to five breaks a day, and another 25% take more than six breaks per day to relieve the discomfort and restlessness caused by prolonged sitting. It may not seem like much, but considering that studies have shown it can take a worker up to 20 minutes to re-focus once interrupted, this could significantly impact the productivity of today’s office workers.
It’s time to connect the dots between extended sitting, the ability to remain focused and the corresponding effect these things have on the overall health of an organization. Standing up increases blood flow and heart rate, burns more calories and improves insulin effectiveness. Individuals who use sit-stand workstations report improved mood states and reduced stress. Offering options for employees to alternate between sitting and standing during the day could be the key to effectively addressing restlessness while improving focus and productivity.
· Addresses sitting disease. The average worker spends more than 12 hours in a given day sitting down. In the last few years, the health implications surrounding a sedentary lifestyle are starting to come to light (like the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and early mortality). It’s a vicious cycle where work is negatively affecting health, and poor health is negatively impacting engagement and productivity. Not to mention, the benefits span long and short term, with impacts on employee absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as health and healthcare costs. Offering sit-stand options to incorporate movement back into a worker’s daily regimen is a great way to offset those implications, while showing employees that their health, comfort and satisfaction are important to the company. Plus, a recent study found that if a person stood for just an extra three hours a day, they could burn up to 30,000 calories over the course of a year — that’s the same as running 10 marathons or burning off eight pounds of fat.
Our sit-biased lifestyles are beginning to be seen as an epidemic; it’s the new smoking, and office workers who spend their days behind a desk are at great risk. Providing a sit-stand workstation is more than just a wellness initiative. It offers significant opportunities for companies to retain and attract talent, improve a company’s bottom line, and offer employees a workspace that gives them the ability to move in a way that can actually improve productivity.
Embracing the Movement Mindset can turn the tables on the trends, going beyond satisfaction to create a cycle where work can positively impact health and good health can improve engagement and productivity.
While President Donald Trump has talked about several remedies for healthcare, one he mentions often is expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) – consumer directed accounts that are typically paired with high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Like flexible spending accounts (FSAs), they offer a convenient way to pay for out-of-pocket costs like doctor visit co-pays and other qualified medical expenses.
No Use It or Lose It Rule
One big advantage HSAs offer is that account balances are not subject to the Use It or Lose It rule that applies to FSAs – surplus funds can roll over from year to year. The IRS maximum annual contribution in 2017 is $3,400 for individuals and $6,750 for those with family coverage under a HDHP. Individuals age 55 and older can contribute an extra $1,000. HSAs can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses, while surplus funds can grow and be used in the future. Employer contributions, where available, can go a long way in meeting future qualified medical expenses. According to the 2016 Devenir HSA Market Survey, nearly a third of all funds contributed to HSAs in 2015 came from employers, with the average employer contribution being approximately $850.
A Triple Tax Advantage
A HDHP with an HSA can make it easy to set aside pre-tax dollars through payroll deductions. Individuals can also fund an HSA with after-tax dollars, which can be taken as a tax deduction on their personal tax return. Finally, all contributions accumulate tax free and can be withdrawn tax free to pay for future qualified medical expenses, including in retirement. No federal tax is due on funds contributed to a Health Savings Account, and many states follow the federal tax law.
Looking ahead, we know that healthcare costs will continue to rise and the need to engage employees will grow. Regardless of actions taken by the new administration, we believe HSAs are a great way to help employees save for future medical expenses and better understand the importance of cost and quality in the process.
Several proposals have recently circulated regarding alternatives to the ACA. But, last week the House of Republicans proposed legislation intended to repeal and replace certain elements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare or the ACA. Their proposal has been named the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
The Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA) released an in-depth update late last week that details the changes the AHCA would impose as well as the aspects of the ACA that would remain unchanged. This overview was provided by the law firm of Quarrels & Brady LLP.
The American Health Care Act:
What It Means for Employers and Health Insurers
Employee Benefits Law Update | 03/09/17 | John L. Barlament, William J. Toman, Cristina M. Choi
After months – or maybe years – of speculation, on March 6 the House Republicans released proposed legislation intended to repeal and replace certain aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known affectionately as Obamacare or the ACA. The proposal, somewhat generically named the American Health Care Act (AHCA), is trimmed down to fit into the Congressional reconciliation process to avoid a Senate filibuster. As the President tweeted the next day, there is more to come “in phase 2 & 3 of healthcare rollout.”
The AHCA proposes some major changes for the individual market and Medicaid, substantial changes in the employer market, and some minor changes to Medicare. Most prominently, the AHCA does away with the most controversial aspects of Obamacare, the individual and employer mandate. It also repeals the cost sharing and income-based premium subsidies available on the Obamacare exchanges, and replaces them with age-based tax credits designed to help individuals pay for coverage.
Almost more notable is what the AHCA does not repeal, presumably due at least in part to use of the reconciliation process. The AHCA does not repeal many of the more popular patient protections, such as the prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions. It also doesn’t repeal many of the market reforms: the guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewal requirements, community rating rules (although there is a loosening of the age rating limitation), essential health benefit rules (other than for Medicaid), or the health insurance exchanges….
Click the image below to read the full article, which explains how this proposed legislation would impact employers, plan sponsors and health insurers.