Compromising on Contraceptives and Religion. Say what?

Recently the Obama Administration compromised to allow waivers for religious organizations to restrict paying for contraceptives on their health plans.

What does that mean for most religious groups that offer health benefits? Unless a group is self funded and writes their own plan, it will be difficult to change things. As we have discussed in earlier blogs posts, 98% of all employers purchase fully insured plans from insurance companies. Insurance companies file their plans and, for the most part, are abiding by the original requirements in ACA on what to cover. Therefore, if a group is fully insured, they cannot just change their plan.

WSJ-Apr222014-AdminOffersContraceptionCompromise

It is possible that the insurance carriers may roll out plans that give these types of groups a chance to change their plan. However, at this point that is not possible and we usually see insurance companies move slowly on these events.

The administration rolled this out to allow for waivers. The carriers will probably wait and see if there are a lot of requests and then decide if they will react.

To read more on this topic, please read Administration Offers Contraception Compromise for Religious Employers, an article that appeared on WSJ Online.

 

Bigger isn’t always better. This study about primary care physician practices proves it.

In primary care, like many other things, bigger isn’t always better. And in the case of primary care physician practices, this study backs it up.

It’s no secret among those who know me well that I have a strong affinity for small businesses and have long held that small and mid-size businesses are the backbone of our country’s economy. In an age of instant gratification where many flip businesses like houses, I find more often than not that it’s the small businesses and their leaders that champion the vision of building and sustaining meaningful companies committed to serving their clients while consistently providing jobs for themselves, their families and others in their communities. And, it’s the small businesses and their leaders that consistently prove to be the innovators.

CommonwealthFund-SmallPrimaryPractices-Aug122014

The study is titled “Small Primary Care Physician Practices Have Low Rates of Preventable Hospital Admissions” and was recently published by The Commonwealth Fund.

This study supports my notion and could also be instructive to you, your family and even your employees when it comes to selecting a Primary Care Physician geared to the combination of the best care AND the best cost…

 “[T]he common assumption that bigger is better should not be accepted without question, at least in practices of 19 or fewer physicians,” the authors conclude. The authors also question the practice of insurers typically paying lower rates to physicians in smaller practices, which typically have no negotiating leverage. Such an approach may well be shortsighted, they say, since the lower preventable admission rates achieved by small practices compared with large groups can mean lower overall costs for patient care…”

Compliance in the Wild West

I wonder how much time and money employers have spent planning on the various dimensions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that died on the vine, have been changed, pushed back or remain so cloudy that no one really knows the correct answers. Do you think it’s enough to buy Las Vegas?

Compliance in the Wild West

I have seen so many changes that the only thing I really know is that the guy who tells you how it is all going to look and has the blueprint on EXACTLY what you should do right now is the guy I will bet against –  in Las Vegas or elsewhere.

So what should you do now about how to plan for the future and ensure you are compliant? That’s a very difficult question to answer. Here is what I think you should do:

  1. Don’t cave to fear mongers who say that prisons will be built all over the country to house ACA non-compliers. Compliance is important but so is having the courage to do the right thing for your employees.
  2. Remain aggressive on finding the best ways to take care of your people in the most cost-effective ways. If something is too edgy or pushes the edge of compliance, dump it. The ACA is a really big law and there is some wiggle room to think creatively.
  3. Any part of the law that is 12 months out may change. Avoid spending time on it now. If a brokerage house is hosting a seminar on a five-year plan, attend only if they are serving a fantastic free lunch.
  4. Keep asking good questions. The ACA rests on the understanding that American employers take good care of their people. Employers are going to be the ones to drive the innovation and provide the clear thinking on this law. If employers cave on providing health insurance solutions (even it is just guidance for their people) then the ACA is doomed. You should demand that everyone work hard thinking through the ACA and finding the best options possible.
  5. We have been deeply immersed in work with insurance advisory boards (of which BBG is a member), TPA experts at ODI and the federal regulators. It is believed among some that there will be an uptick in DOL audits. To that end, we at BBG are compiling all of the items an employer will need to provide. It is not a short list but we know what they will ask for and can step in to help. Our goal is to let you run your business and let us help with the things that you don’t do everyday (like provide cert to the DOL). Who knows if the DOL and other agencies will audit more groups, but if they do we will be ready to help.
Bonus (6).  Don’t worry about this stuff in August. Washington is on vacation, so I don’t think they are!

Domino Effect: Challenge to Subsidies Make Mandates and Penalties Endangered Species?

If the healthcare picture wasn’t already muddy enough, now we have more bumps in the road ahead. Most of the press coverage and discussion over this past week has been focused on the subsidy ruling and where that’s headed. And, rightly so.

However, the domino effect may be equally impactful, maybe even more so. Expect the subsidy discussion to broaden and include the legitimacy and relevance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposed coverage mandates and penalties – both for individuals and for employers.

domino effect, dominoes falling

If the subsidies are struck down, even temporarily, it stands to reason that mandates and penalties – both individual and employer – will also be called into question and perhaps disappear.

If in the majority of states subsidies are not available for eligible individuals, then the vast majority of individuals in those states would have no mandate to purchase coverage. It follows then that employer penalties in those states would effectively disappear.

By many accounts, the challenge to the subsidies is headed to the Supreme Court.  Whether or not that really happens is up in the air and still anyone’s guess. If it does, then short of some sort of political resolution (possible but highly unlikely) we will have to wait at least a year or more for resolution. And, all bets would be off on the outcome.

Until then the subsidies remain available and mandates and penalties remain in play.

What does this mean for employers?

A sure signal of plenty more bumps in the in the healthcare road until things settle down with the ACA. Expect plenty of foggy conditions and winding roads under construction before any “new normal” sets in.

Make sure you pick the right driver when it comes to driving your health coverage bus.

Work with people that:

  • Are keenly tuned in to what’s going on;
  • Are savvy in understanding and interpreting your interests;
  • Are not afraid to innovate, and
  • Are nimble enough to help you make the right adjustments as conditions change.

You’ll need them to help you avoid any obstacles in the road, keep your employees protected and make sure the bus keeps traveling in the right direction.

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