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A new survey shows employers don’t plan to delete health insurance plans. And Kentucky has a new plan to help them out.

By now, it’s fairly common knowledge that health insurance costs have risen dramatically over the years, and one would be forgiven for thinking that employers (who theoretically subsidize) their employees’ premiums would have given up. Surprisingly, though, that’s not the case.

Recently, Prudential Financial published the results of a survey conducted a few months ago. The study, of some 1200 randomly selected benefits decision-makers, indicates that there’s an increasing number of “progressive” employers who plan to adopt new strategies in an effort to address cost drivers. These initiatives include wellness programs, consumer-driven health plans and integrated health and disability management initiatives.

Currently representing a tad over 10% of those surveyed, the number of these “progressives” is expected to grow by 50% over the next few years. If so, it would represent a dramatic shift in how employers (and, one supposes, their employees) view the health insurance portion of their benefits packages.

Another interesting finding was that, as benefit choices become more complex, and employees are asked to take on a greater share of the cost, many employers plan to seek external guidance from benefits brokers, insurers and even employees themselves to help them build the best solutions for their companies. This seems to me to be a positive step: it implies that decision makers know that premiums themselves are as much indicators as expenses, and that more input (especially from employees) will generate more information, and ownership.

The study also found that larger (over 100 employees) employers tend to feel that offering competitive benefits is "important;" those with less than 100, not so much. And over 4 out of 5 employees are currently trying to achieve an overall healthy lifestyle, only about a third of the employers believe that their employees think that’s important. Quite a disconnect.

Meanwhile, some smaller employers in the Bluegrass State may shortly see the cavalry cresting the hill:

The new Kentucky Insurance Coverage Affordability and Relief to Small Employers [ICARE] pilot program will help eligible employers with 2 to 25 employees pay health insurance premiums.

ICARE will initially be available to employers willing to cough up half of their employee's premiums; the average salary of those employees can’t be more than 3 times the federal poverty level. This year, that means a maximum average salary of about $30,000. While no one in that group’s likely to be yacht-shopping, it’s not exactly starving to death, either.

The program seems aimed at employers who don’t currently offer a group health plan: it’ll pay $40 in subsidies (per employee, per month) if the employer has not offered health coverage for the past 12 months. I don’t sell in the Kentucky market, but that number implies to me a pretty generic plan, with a modest (perhaps $1,000) annual deductible and some office visit co-pays. It would also be about right for an HSA-type plan.

As the Prudential survey found, wellness programs seem to be a hot topic right now, and Kentucky hasn’t missed this: “After July 1, 2007, insurers participating in the program must offer a health lifestyle discount,” officials say.

Worth watching, no?

Be well.

Henry Stern, LUTCF is an independent insurance agent in Dayton, OH. A licensed Continuing Education instructor for Ohio and Kentucky, he has well over 20 years of experience in “the biz.”  He blogs every day (or so it seems) at InsureBlog.

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from InsureBlog on Sat, 10/21/2006 - 9:22pm

In this week's column, available at The Medical Blog Network, we discuss a new survey of which indicates that, even with health insurance premiums increasing, most employers don

Comments (2)

#1: Scam
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:47pm.

I hate to tell you this, but health insurance is the biggest scam of the century.

I have worked, as a surgeon, in California for 6 years. I have seen premiums rise for my employees, personally, and for other people by 1/3.

Zero has been returned to patient care. In fact, many insurers (required by law to return 80% of "profits" back into medical care) have ignored the law blatantly. The "market" (if you can use this term and not throw up) is nearly completely consolidated. The insurers rule the roost, control our legislators with cash bribes, and drive profits through the ceiling by denying care and payments to providers.

Witness the United-Pacific Care merger: immediately, we were told that all contracts connected with these entities would be reimbursed at MediCal (public assistance) rates! They then announced that their CEO would be walking away with $1.3 Billion in stock options, and a $4 million salary for life. Gee, it's amazing that "health care costs" are skyrocketing. Let's drop the euphamism, and call it "insurance profits" instead.

Currently, California is on the leading edge of the insurance industry scam. Physicians haven't seen a pay raise since 2001, yet employers are expected to see costs soar for providing insurance. Sure, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies try to gouge whatever they can out of the insurers, by "raising prices" but that is an illusion-- the insurer pays only what they feel like paying. Only rare circumstance (really sick patients, requiring more than average imaging/labs/lengths of stay) ever results in bigger collections, but that starts to cost the hospital serious money and cuts into their margins as well.

So let's not applaud the fact that employers have been duped again, and must pony up more money for our modern day Robber Barons.

Currently, I've personally live in a major metropolitan area (San Jose) that is going to have a serious decline in physician recruitment. No quality person is going to move here in the near future, and our medical staffs are >85% over the age of 55. Residency programs are now filled with 27.2% of foreign medical graduates (it must be bad when the United States can't fill its own programs) and the quality of all graduates has declined (insurers have driven patients away from Universities unwilling to contract favorably-- that means no cases for learning).

The sick thing is that it is currently impossible to NOT have insurance! Here's how that works: hospitals must create fake inflated charges, so that when some mom-and-pop self-insured or cash paying or uncontracted insured patient shows up, they have to pay the inflated charges. Major insurers ignore these cash prices, and force hospitals to accept some discounted rate for having "access" to their patients. Therefore, Blue Shield might pay $25,000 for a major surgical admission, but poor Mr. Self-pay/small insurer will see a bill of $150,000+ !!

The bottom line is this: insurers make money by NOT paying for medical services, and raking in premiums. They sell a product that is riddled with exclusions, doesn't have enough doctors/specialists on board, and has all kinds of deductibles/copays/non-coverages-- and nobody knows what they have or haven't "purchased" because it's all shrouded in secrecy. Their denegrating our once-proud medical system by paying MD's so poorly, that most of us won't do this job much longer, and those coming in to the system are bottom of the barrel.

When will these robber barrons be put on trial for wrecking our system? Never. They own our politicians, and have all the money. The public will never know what has been lost until the last honest hard-working MD has quit.

Stop selling or buying their scam, if you can.



Submitted by hgstern on Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:09pm.

Kind of odd to see a troll posing as a physician, but hey, why not?

On the remote chance that you really are a provider, I'll be happy to answer your claims, point by point, once you step out from behind the little curtain.

Otherwise, have a nice life.

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