Employer Issues

Warren Buffett on the Amazon/Berkshire/Chase health venture — “Don’t Expect Any Miracles Out Of Us”

A month and change has now passed since the great splash of January’s big Amazon/Berkshire/Chase health venture announcement. It certainly was successful in disrupting the news cycle. The initially sky-high healthcare “Richter Scale” readings are returning to normal. And, it’s pretty safe to say that any substantive changes, major disruption, and any new normal that may be triggered by this venture on big healthcare (20% of the economy), other employers – big, small and in between, and everybody else are not on the immediate horizon.

Like the CVS/Aetna venture announced last December, real change is likely to be More Tortoise Than Hare.

A sampling of Warren Buffett’s comments in some of his recent interviews with Bloomberg, CNBC, and KHN may provide you with a little more insight and a glimpse of some of his expectations.

Here are a few sound bytes from recent Buffett interviews:

He said that the goal of the business is “better care, lower costs,”and, that it will take time.”

This is not easy. If it was easy, it would have been done.”

It would be very easy I think to go in and shave off 3 or 4 percent just by negotiating power. We’re looking for something much bigger than that.”

He spoke of health-care spending taking up an increasing proportion of the U.S. economy, and a indicated that the goal of the venture is to “at least” halt that ascendant trend.

Buffett also stated that he hopes “we could find a way where perhaps better care could be delivered even at somewhat lesser cost.”

To read more go to Bloomberg: Buffett-Dimon Health Venture To Go Beyond Just Squeezing The Middlemen 

Health Coverage By the Numbers (vol 2): The Cost of Coverage and Employer Contributions

Job-based health insurance is still far and away the largest single source of health care coverage in the U.S. As we continue to work on behalf of clients to drive new and better ways to stem the tide of health care costs, here are some key stats from 2017 to ponder:

1.)  Average annual premium nationally for single coverage — .$6,690 (or $557 per month)

2.)  Average annual premium nationally for family coverage — .$18,764 (or $1,564 per month)

3.)  Generally speaking, most employers cover at least 50% of the employee’s cost of premium. Nationally, employers cover on average 81% of the cost of single (employee only) premium.

4.)  Not all employers contribute to family coverage. Employers that do contribute to family coverage, cover on average 69% of the cost to cover dependents.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Health Coverage By the Numbers

Job-based health insurance is the largest single source of health care coverage in the U.S.

1.) Employer-sponsored insurance covers more than 157  million workers and their dependents.

2.) The next largest source of coverage, Medicaid, insures less than half as many, 63 million.

3.) Medicare enrolls 45 million;

4.) Individual market (on/off Marketplace) provides coverage for about 21 million.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF.org)

 

In Acquiring Aetna, CVS Health is Aspiring to Become “the Trusted Front Door to Health Care”. What’s the Impact on Current Aetna Customers?

In a letter to the broker community Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini provided a glimpse of where the combined CVS/Aetna entity hopes to head once everything is completed. If approved, the blockbuster transaction is expected to close late in 2018.

Here’s what Bertolini had to say:

“CVS Health and Aetna are joining to become the trusted front door to health care. Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives within three miles of a CVS Health retail store and nearly five million Americans visit CVS Health every day. We will use CVS Health’s 9,700 retail locations to establish entirely new community health hubs dedicated to improving consumer wellbeing and answering questions about health, prescription drugs and health care benefits.

Our company will deliver care by utilizing CVS Health’s network of 1,100 in-store clinics, which are significantly less expensive than traditional health care delivery settings. Further integration of our pharmacy operations will help offset some of the projected increases in prescription drug prices, resulting in cost savings for employers and consumers.”

How Does This Week’s Announcement Impact Our Employer Clients Currently on Aetna Plans? And, Should You Be Concerned?

If you have an Aetna plan in place now or are considering switching to an Aetna plan in 2018 there’s no cause for any immediate concern.

According to Bertolini the pending transaction would have no immediate effect on the Aetna products already in place or any Aetna products offered in the market in 2018.

Or, as the title of a recent Wall Street Journal article analyzing the effects of the acquisition proclaimed CVS-Aetna Is More Tortoise Than Hare.

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