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Final Rule Implements Ban on Surprise Billing Medical Billing

Final Rule Implements Ban on Surprise Medical Billing

August 26, 2022

On Aug. 19, 2022, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury (Departments) jointly released a final rule implementing the ban on surprise medical billing under the No Surprises Act (NSA), which was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA). This rule finalizes two interim final rules released in July 2021 and September 2021, with certain changes related to the independent dispute resolution (IDR) process that has been the subject of ongoing litigation.

 

The Departments also released FAQs on NSA implementation in conjunction with the final rule that provide more detail on the surprise medical billing ban.

Surprise Medical Bills


Surprise medical bills occur when patients unexpectedly receive care from out-of-network providers (for example, treatment at an in-network hospital involving an out-of-network doctor). Patients often cannot determine the network status of providers during treatment to avoid additional charges and, in many cases, are not involved in the choice of provider at all.

Overview of the Final Rules


The final rule is generally intended to make certain medical claims payment processes more transparent and clarify the process for providers and health insurers to resolve their disputes. It:

  • Implements certain disclosure requirements related to information that group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual health coverage must share about the qualifying payment amount (QPA) (generally, the health plan’s median contract rate for the item or service in the geographic area);
  • Finalizes certain changes related to the federal independent dispute review (IDR) process in light of ongoing litigation; and
  • Requires plans and issuers to disclose additional information in situations where they change a healthcare provider’s billing code to one of lesser value (lowering the payment to the healthcare provider).

Important Dates


July 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021

Interim final rules to implement provisions of the No Surprise Act (NSA) related to surprise billing were released.

 

Aug. 19, 2022

Rules implementing the ban on surprise billing are finalized.

 

 Jan. 1, 2022

The No Surprise Act (NSA) generally applies to plan or policy yers beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2022.


The final rules generally require healthcare providers to agree with health plans and issuers on a payment amount instead of billing patients for unpaid balances.


For a copy of this overview, click below:

Final Rule Implements Ban on Surprise Medical Billing

 

If you have any questions on this or other benefits-related legislation, please contact us at 714.716.4060 or mike@my-EBP.com, or provide info here .

Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act

Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act

August 19, 2022

On Aug. 16, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. While this law is primarily aimed at fighting inflation and reducing carbon emissions, it also contains a number of reforms that will impact health coverage. The health reforms included in the law have staggered effective dates and will be implemented over the next several years. Good news for employers and insurers is that this Act has very little immediate impact on employers. Here are the main things to be aware of:

ACA Subsidies


The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) expanded Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies through 2022. The IRA extends these subsidies for three more years, through the end of 2025.

As a result of these higher subsidies, employers who fail to offer affordable health care plans may see an increase in ACA utilization by their employees, thus potentially leading to a higher frequency of receiving penalty notices form the Internal Revenue Service.

It is expected these subsidies could be made permanent at a later date. This could lead to an increasing number of Americans choosing to sign up for health care coverage under the ACA, which in turn may have an impact on health care plan costs in the future. It may also lead to new types of allowable health care plans and reimbursement strategies.

Prescription Costs


The IRA will reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare Part D by allowing the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to work with pharmaceutical providers on pricing. It will also place a cap on insulin costs under Medicare Part B.

There is speculation that the costs for these medications could be passed along indirectly to employer groups via cross-subsidization strategies. The Transparency in Coverage (TiC) regulations may prevent or mitigate some portion of this increase. However, the portions of TiC related to prescription drugs have been challenged by the pharmaceutical industry in court. No final determination has been made on any of those challenges as yet.

Internal Revenue Service


The IRA allocates $80 billion to the Internal Revenue Service for hiring additional staffing, with $45.6 billion specifically allocated to enforcement activities. While this increase will clearly lead to more auditing activities (private individuals and families, as well as corporations), over half of the IRS’ current workforce is expected to reach retirement age in the next ten years.

The hiring that will be done as a result of the IRA allocation will temporarily swell the IRS workforce. As the projected IRS workforce retirements come into place, this hiring bubble will gradually subside. Until then, however, during the bubble period, it is reasonable to expect that auditing will increase.

For more understanding


Both corporations and individuals should become familiar with the health reforms that are included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to determine how health care coverage, costs, and current strategies may be affected.

For a copy of the IRA overview, click here:

Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act

If you have any questions on the contents of the IRA or other benefits-related legislation, please contact us at 714.716.4060 or mike@my-EBP.com, or provide info here .

PCORI Fees Due Aug. 1, 2022

PCORI Fees Due August 1, 2022

July 15, 2022

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance issuers and self-insured plan sponsors to pay Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute fees (PCORI fees). The fees are reported and paid annually using IRS Form 720 (Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return). Issuers and plan sponsors are generally required to pay the PCORI fees annually by July 31 of each year. However, the PCORI fee payment for plan years ending in 2021 is due Aug. 1, 2022, since July 31, 2022, is a Sunday.

Overview of the PCORI Fees

The PCORI fees were scheduled to expire for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2019. However, a federal spending bill enacted at the end of 2019 extended the PCORI fees for an additional 10 years. As a result, these fees will continue to apply for the 2020-2029 fiscal years.

Calculating the PCORI Fee Payment

In general, the PCORI fees are assessed, collected and enforced like taxes. The PCORI fee applies separately to “specified health insurance policies” and “applicable self-insured health plans,” and is based on the average number of lives covered under the plan or policy.

 

Using Part II, Number 133 of Form 720, issuers and plan sponsors are required to report the average number of lives covered under the plan separately for specified health insurance policies and applicable self-insured health plans. That number is then multiplied by the applicable rate for that tax year ($2.66 for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2020, and before Oct. 1, 2021, or $2.79 for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2021, and before Oct. 1, 2022). The fees for specified health insurance policies and applicable self-insured health plans are then combined to equal the total tax owed.

For more understanding

For a copy of this PCORI fees overview, click here:

PCORI Fees Due Aug. 1, 2022.

 

For clarity & assistance with dealing with PCORI fees and other benefits’ compliance issues that will affect you, your business, and your employees, reach out to Mike Young at MY-Employee Benefits Plus at mike@my-EBP.com or 714.716.4060.

Level-Funded Health Plans help contain costs for employers

4 ways level-funded health plans help contain costs for employers

 

May 20, 2022

 

 

Level-funded plans are designed to offer employers predictability with the potential of upfront savings and a surplus refund

 

Level-funded plans continue to become a more viable option for employers to contain costs in the health insurance marketplace. Forty-two percent of small firms in 2021 reported that they have a level-funded plan, compared to just 7% two years ago, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey (1).

What’s driven an increased adoption of these plans? As health costs have continued to rise, health insurers have designed level-funded plans to offer the potential savings of self-funded plans, but with reduced risk. They also offer the predictability of fully insured plans, but at a potentially lower cost due to an opportunity for lower premiums upfront and a surplus refund if medical claims are lower than expected.

Employers with a level-funded model are often paying less than they would have paid for a fully insured plan. Also, the prices of level-funded plans are based on risk profiles so that healthier groups do not pay as much as less healthier groups.

 

“Level-funded plans offer the consistency, flexibility and transparency that many fully insured, small group plans can’t provide. They’re designed to compete with fully insured plans.”

 

 

Understanding level-funded plans

While there’s been increased adoption, understanding the value of level-funded plans still requires some education in the healthcare marketplace. At their core, level-funded plans are generally self-funded plans that offer three distinct elements, with certain plan components varying among carriers:

  • stop-loss insurance to mitigate risk
  • opportunity for a surplus refund (2)
  • a third-party claims administration agreement

 

 

Level-funded plans also typically include monthly reports with data that employers can use to track health care usage and wellness programs that may increase member engagement and reduce costs. These monthly accessible reports provide valuable claims data and current participant plan engagement that allows level-funded plans to more agile and able to react quicker to changes and the needs of the healthcare marketplace. In addition, as a type of self-funded health plan, our plans are built to provide the pricing stability employers want and need, and provide them an opportunity to capture premium surplus at the end of the contract year.

 

 

To take a closer look at how level-funded health plans help contain costs here’s how they compare to self-funded and fully insured plans

 

1. Level-funded plans offer predictability and mitigate the risks of self-funded plans

Similar to a self-funded plan, level-funded allows employers to assume some of the financial risk of providing health services to employees by directly paying for employee medical claims.

How do these plans mitigate this risk? Employers with level-funded plans pay a fixed monthly fee, which covers the maximum claims liability, administrative fees and stop-loss insurance which protects against large claims and high member utilization.

In a self-funded model, the employer pays more if claims are higher than anticipated and gets money back if claims are lower at the end of th plan year. Level-funded plans, however, cover the cost of individual or aggregate claims that exceed the plan’s maximum, while offering the health plan and its sponsoring employer an opportunity to receive money back if lower-than-expected claims produce a surplus.

Level-funded plans are designed to mitigate risk associated with the self-funded plan model by providing no risk of additional liability outside of the level premiums established at the beginning of the plan year and paid monthly.

 

2. The health plan may receive a surplus refund with level-funded plans

For a fully insured  plan, the insurance company assumes the financial risk for providing health services to the employer group. For a fixed monthly premium paid by the employer, the insurer pays health care claims and covers administrative costs, sales commissions and taxes. At the end of the plan year, if the actual health care claims are higher than expected, the insurer pays them and if they’re lower, the insurer keeps the difference.

In contrast, an employer with a level-funded plan is insured against higher-than-expected claims while potentially receiving a surplus refund resulting from lower-than-expected claims.

For employers, there’s an incentive to help keep their employee populations healthier to drive for a greater surplus refund. With wellness programs and virtual care included with many level-funded plans, employees are encouraged to develop healthier habits to make this happen.

 

3. Level-funded plans offer greater insights to help contain costs

Unlike with most fully insured plans, employers with level-funded can receive detailed monthly data reports to help them better understand employee utilization of health services and manage their benefits.

The amount of reporting is determined by the employer, whether it’s receiving only high-level reports or taking more detailed looks at segments of the employee population. Employers don’t have to wait until the next renewal period at the end of the plan year before they can understand how member behavior may be potentially driving up healthcare costs.

These insights may enable employers to alert their employees that:

  • Low-cost generic drugs can often be substituted for brand name drugs and result in lower out-of-pocket costs for the member while providing the same level of healthcare needed-it’s important to note that a licensed healthcare provider should be consulted before changing any medications.
  • Going to urgent care may be more appropriate, less time-consuming and less costly than going to the emergency room.
  • Seeing their primary care provider or general family doctor virtually rather than in-person can again save both time and money.

 

The detailed data reports provided by level-funded plans provide a huge advantage, especially for small employers, by giving them insights into their virtual care usage, ER use, pharmacy utilization and network strategy. Being enabled to make informed decisions about healthcare as needed by tracking these things over time helps drive an improved and better quality member experience.

 

4. Member experience is key within the level-funded model

Many carriers level-funded models include wellness programs and 24/7 virtual care options, which help employees and their families play a more active role in their health care and save on out-of-pocket costs.

Employees are often offered the chance to participate in fitness tracking and health programs designed to reward the members with credits for dollars for completing certain daily fitness goals and/or complete milestone health check-ups.  In some programs, these credits/dollars can be used directly to pay out-of-pocket expenses or health savings account (HSA) dollars. Activities that qualify usually include walking, swimming, cycling elliptical. To offer employees more convenience,24/7 virtual care is often available for a variety of conditions, including general medical care, back and neck care, and behavioral health counseling.

The member experience including virtual, health engagement and plan design options is what distinguishes most level-funded plans. They help to increase employee satisfaction and engagement and for employers, its the opportunity for lower costs and the chance to achieve sharing in the potential surplus refund.

 

For more clarity and assistance in exploring the advantages of moving your healthcare plan to a level-funded model, contact Mike Young at 714.716.4060, mike@my-EBP.com or provide info here .

 

(1) 2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2021.
(2) Please consult a licensed tax and/or legal advisor to determine if by receiving this surplus refund, there are any restrictions or obligations. Surplus refund available only where allowed by state law.

Revised No Surprises Act Dispute Resolution Guidance Issued

Revised No Surprises Act Dispute Resolution Guidance Issued

 

April 22, 2022  

 

In April 2022, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury (Departments) issued revised Federal Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) Process Guidance for Certified IDR Entities to provide details on the IDR process under the No Surprises Act (NSA), enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA). The original process guidance was issued in December 2021, but was withdrawn due to a federal court ruling striking down part of the regulation on the IDR process. The Departments also reissued FAQs for providers on the IDR process. Additionally, the federal IDR Portal for payment disputes between providers and health plans is also now live.  

 

Background

The NSA prohibits “surprise billing,” or instances in which an individual receives an unexpected bill after obtaining items and services from an out-of-network provider or facility when the individual did not have the opportunity to select a facility or provider covered by their network, such as in a medical emergency. The NSA provides for an IDR process to resolve payment disputes after unsuccessful negotiations, where certified IDR entities will review case details and determine final payment amounts.

 

The Federal IDR Process Guidance

The revised guidance provides information for certified IDR entities on various aspects of the IDR process, including how the parties to a payment dispute may initiate the IDR process and key process requirements. It also contains information on other aspects of the IDR process that certified IDR entities must follow, including confidentiality standards, recordkeeping requirements, the process for revocation of IDR certification and ways parties may request extensions of certain deadlines for extenuating circumstances. The FAQs for providers address additional issues related to the IDR process, including provider and facility requirements, as well as fees.    

 

Summary

For a summary copy of this revised guidance issued, click here: Revised No Surprise Act Dispute Resolution Guidance Issued .

For clarity & assistance with finding out how these changes will affect you and your employees, reach out to Mike Young at MY-Employee Benefits Plus at mike@my-EBP.com or 714.716.4060.

 

IRS Issues Proposed Rules to Fix the Affordability “Family Glitch”

IRS Issues Proposed Rules to Fix the Affordability “Family Glitch”

 

April 15, 2022  

 

The IRS has issued proposed rules that would change the way employer-sponsored coverage would be treated when determining if a family is eligible for premium tax credits (PTC) when purchasing individual health insurance through a public Marketplace. The proposed rules would fix the so-called “family glitch” that currently requires employer plan affordability to be based on the employee-only cost for coverage, while not taking into consideration the cost for the employee’s family to participate. The change would allow more spouses and dependents to qualify for premium tax credits toward the cost of individual health insurance coverage purchased through a public exchange.  

 

Background

An individual is eligible for a premium tax credit (or tax subsidy) to help pay the monthly premiums for individual coverage purchased on a public exchange if all of the following are true:

  • Individual is not eligible  for Medicaid, CHIP or Medicare;
  • Individual is not enrolled in other minimum essential coverage; and
  • Individual is not eligible for employer-sponsored group health plan coverage that provides minimum value and is affordable.

 

Individuals who are offered (or eligible for) minimum value, affordable coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan are not eligible for a tax subsidy when purchasing individual health insurance through a public exchange. In general, a plan provides “minimum value” if the actuarial value of the benefits is at least 60%. Coverage is “affordable” if the employee contribution for employee-only (single) coverage does not exceed a set percentage, 9.61% in 2022, of the employee’s household income. If the employee-only coverage is deemed “affordable” by this standard, the coverage is considered affordable for spouses and dependents as well, regardless of how much additional the required employee contribution amount is for family coverage.  

 

In January 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order directing the Secretary of the Treasury to review all existing regulations to determine whether any are inconsistent with the policy to protect and strengthen the ACA (Affordable Care Act). The Secretary of the Treasury was also directed to examine policies and practices that may reduce the affordability of coverage or financial assistance for coverage, including for dependents. While performing this review, it was tentatively determined that the rules around affordability for family coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan are inconsistent  with the overall purpose of the ACA to expand access to affordable healthcare coverage. Therefore, the IRS has proposed making changes to what coverage is considered to provide minimum value and what coverage is affordable for purposes of determining eligibility for premium tax credits for coverage purchased through a public exchange.  

 

Affordability – Proposed Changes

The proposed rules would allow for the affordability of coverage provided under an employer-sponsored plan to be determined for the employees’ spouses and dependents by the employees’ required contribution for family coverage, not employee-only coverage cost. The coverage for these related individuals would be affordable only if the employees’ costs for enrolling the employee and family members does not exceed 9.61%, in 2022, of an employee’s household income. An individual with offers of coverage from multiple employers, either as an employee or a related individual, has an offer of affordable coverage if at least one of the offers is affordable. The proposed regulations include several examples to illustrate how the change would impact affordability.   NOTE: It is possible that a spouse or dependent of an employee may have an offer of employer coverage that is unaffordable even though the employee has an affordable offer of employee-only or self-only coverage.  

 

Minimum Value – Proposed Changes

In addition to providing 60% or better actuarial value, previous guidance indicated that plan benefits must also include substantial coverage of inpatient hospital and physician services. This was previously set forth in proposed rules by the IRS, but not finalized. The IRS is proposing the same requirements here and hoping to formalize them once these rules are finalized.  

 

Section 4980H Employer Shared Responsibility Rules and Employer Penalties

Employers are not required to offer affordable coverage to spouses and dependents. The proposed changes will not affect current rules that determine if an employer is offering affordable coverage to their employees for purposes of employer penalties under Section 4980H employer shared responsibility rules (commonly referred to as the “employer mandate”). Employers will continue to use the employee’s cost for single coverage to determine “affordable” employer contribution rates and for use with the IRS employer affordability safe harbors.  

 

Summary

The proposed changes would significantly increase the number of people eligible for subsidized individual coverage. It would principally impact spouse and dependents of employees who are eligible for affordable employer sponsored single coverage, but where the family contribution is deemed unaffordable under the new rules. The changes are not effective until finalized and published in the federal register. Until that time, affordability will continue to be determined based on the employee’s cost of self-only coverage, but it appears the rules would go into effect in time for the 2023 tax year.  

 

For a summary copy of this upcoming IRS proposed change, click here: IRS Proposes Change to Family Coverage Affordability Rules .

For clarity & assistance with finding out how these changes will affect you and your employees, reach out to Mike Young at MY-Employee Benefits Plus at mike@my-EBP.com or 714.716.4060.

2022 Employee Benefits Market Outlook Executive Summary

2022 Employee Benefits Market Outlook Executive Summary

March 11, 2022

The challenges of the past few years have been unprecedented, and they have changed the way that employees think about the workplace, benefits, and their careers. Employers are still facing an uncertain future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rising healthcare costs, and the “Great Resignation”, with no end in sight.

Understanding these challenges is essential for keeping your business prepared and profitable. Read on to learn more about what factors influenced the employee benefits market in 2021, and what you can expect in 2022.

Please note: This is a high-level executive summary. A full copy of the report is available by clicking here: 2022 Employee Benefits Market Outlook .

The Challenges of 2021 Remain

It’s impossible to look forward to the future without understanding the past. In many ways, the unique, but interconnected, trends of 2021 will help you as a business owner make sense of the current state of affairs as each of these influences will have a major impact on the trends expected throughout 2022.

The COVID-19 Pandemic:

As we saw in 2020, the pandemic remained the most significant market disruption in 2021. The pandemic never considerably improved in 2021, and while vaccination rates are increasing and return to work is beginning in some areas but with a changed focus, COVID-19 cases continued to trend upwards, and the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic continues.

Labor Shortage:

In early 2021, economists predicted returning to the workforce in droves – but that never happened. Instead, at the end of 2021 there were still over 6 million unemployed Americans, and countless job opening that hadn’t been filled. It was all due to a fundamental change in how workers viewed their labor and the value of employee benefits, especially in the service sector. Employees are holding out for better jobs and more meaningful benefits – and that’s what you as an employer need to grapple with in 2022.

Rising Health Care Costs:

For over a decade, employers have experienced steadily increasing health care costs. While some choose to defer nonemergency health care during the pandemic, 2021 saw individuals return to their normal health care routines, increasing the utilization of care and a resulting cost increase. Once again, you, as an employer, faced with major cost increases, were forced to reconcile limited budgets with employees demanding more value than ever from their benefit offerings.

Looking Forward to 2022

COVID-19 Isn’t Going Anywhere:

The COVID-19 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down in 2022. The ripple effects of the pandemic will continue to be a catalyst for many of the workplace trends we expect to see in 2022.

Give Employees the Flexibility They Want & Need:

Thanks to the shift in workplace norms employers experienced during the pandemic, the one-size-fits-all model that many employers have used for employees just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Employees want more from their jobs – and they’re willing to change jobs to find it. According to a SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) survey, 36% of employees are willing to change jobs for better benefits.

If employers want to attract, hire, and retain the employees that are invested in helping their company grow, they need to meet their employees in the middle. And that means offering a workplace and benefits package that is holistic, flexible, and can meet the needs of each individual employee. Employees want jobs and benefits that will have a meaningful impact on their quality of life, and means employers need to think beyond the basic benefit offerings that they have provided in the past. In addition to basic benefits, employees are looking for expanded PTO, flexible leave options, remote & hybrid work options, expanded mental health services, student loan relief and virtual open enrollment and easily accessible & simplified benefit education to name a few.

Protect the Bottom Line:

While keeping employees happy is going to be key in 2022, employers still have to consider how they can protect their bottom line while health care costs continue to rise.

One option to consider is switching to an alternative health plan model, such as individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements, reference-based pricing or level-funding. All these options have been available for some time but they have been successfully scaled so that they are available now to a greater number of employers, especially those with under 250 employees.

At the same time, keeping employees educated on how to make the smartest health care decisions can also have a large impact. By ensuring that employees understand how their health plans and prescription coverages work, employees will make smarter usage decisions, which will lead to lower costs for both you, the employer, and your employees. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest to work together.

Ready to learn more?

2022 will be a year full of challenges, thanks in large part to the pandemic and its wide-reaching consequences. It will also be a year of opportunity. After nearly two years of a pandemic, it may be tempting for employers to sit on their hands and wait for a return to normalcy. But successful organizations will be those that prepare for and embrace the new normal.

In 2022, employers will need to think creatively about how they can accommodate employee desires while also controlling costs and ensuring worker safety from COVID-19. While this may seem daunting, organizations that rise to the occasion will be well positioned for future growth and stability.

Reach out to Mike Young at MY-Employee Benefits to discuss these trends in more detail and request additional resources on these and other important workplace topics that will position you as an employer of choice in this new environment. He can be reached at 714.716.4060 or mike@my-EBP.com .

 

4 Strategies for Reducing Health Benefit Costs in 2022

4 Strategies for Reducing Health Benefit Costs in 2022

January 20, 2022

Health care costs continue to rise each year, and 2022 will likely be no exception. In the new year, experts predict a 6.5% increase in medical expenses alone, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. In terms of health plan premiums, employers anticipate they may rise more than 5% in 2022, a Willis Towers Watson survey reports.


With these increases in mind, employers will want to strategize methods to rein in benefits spending. This article offers four ways to help.


1. Alternative Plan Modeling

One common method for reducing benefits costs is to increase employees’ share of expenses. This could be done directly through premium increases, but that might generate more problems for an employer; after all, many employees are still struggling financially and are ready to leave their jobs for better benefits options thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Considering this, a more careful approach to lowering expenses may be through alternative plan modeling. Instead of a traditional health plan, employers can think about other plan designs that can still benefit employees without excessive costs. Plan modeling alternatives include:


Consumer driven health plan models—High deductible health plans with savings options attached.
Self-funding models—Health plans funded and managed by an employer rather than a carrier.
Reference-based pricing models—Self-funded health plans with set spending limits on shoppable services.
Level-funding models—Self-funded health plans where an employer pays a set amount to a carrier for claims, the remainder of which is refunded at the end of the year if there is any leftover.


Each of these plan modeling alternatives has advantages and disadvantages, depending on an organization’s unique circumstances. Employers should reach out to Mike Young at MY-Employee Benefits Plus to learn more about the potential of these and other plan models.


2. Health Care Literacy

Improving health care literacy for employees has seen a significant push in recent years. The idea is that if employees better understand their health care options, they can save money and improve their overall well-being.


Even limited health literacy can go a long way toward keeping health costs down in 2022. Arming employees with questions such as “How much will this cost?” and “Can I be treated in an equally effective but less costly way?” can help them take better control over their health choices and make wiser decisions. Further, employees should also be taught basic concepts such as when to visit an emergency room versus an urgent care, the difference between coinsurance and deductibles, and how to price shop for services.


Ultimately, the more educated employees are about health care topics, the more money they can potentially save. In other words, the education employers invest in now will pay for itself later through healthier employees and reduced health expenses.


3. Telemedicine Solutions

Telemedicine allows consumers to visit their doctor over the internet. Unsurprisingly, that made it extremely popular during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.


And that popularity isn’t likely to go away in 2022. Rather, more businesses are likely to shift toward offering more telemedicine options. According to McKinsey and Company, only 11% of U.S. consumers utilized telemedicine in 2019, pre-pandemic. As of mid-2021, 46% of consumers were using telemedicine to replace the in-person health visits they had originally planned. Additionally, 76% of consumers said they were interested in using telemedicine going forward, according to a separate McKinsey and Company survey.


Employers who want to test out telemedicine capabilities can think about offering it in a limited capacity. For instance, an employee might see a doctor in person for an annual checkup, then follow up later with a virtual visit. If employees find this useful, employers can consider expanding their telemedicine offerings.


4. Prescription Drug Policy Revisions

Prescription drug offerings are great additions to health plans, but they can sometimes increase costs if not used properly. Specifically, employees will need to be educated about their drug plan, or they might spend money needlessly.


For instance, without adequate knowledge, an employee might opt for name-brand prescriptions each time they need one. The employee might not even know to ask their doctor about generic alternatives, which are equally effective and significantly more affordable. This can raise prices for everyone—individuals and their employers.


Beyond education, employers can help control needless drug spending by revising their policies. This may include requiring employees to request generic medications first before covering more costly alternatives.


Summary

There are many approaches for controlling benefits spending, but not all will work for each organization. That’s why it’s important for employers to closely analyze their health plan data and assess where they spend the most. This will help inform strategy and allow employers to maximize their efforts.

And for a copy of this news brief, click here: 4 Strategies for Reducing Health Benefits Costs in 2022


Reach out to Mike Young at MY-Employee Benefits Plus to discuss cost-saving strategies that will fit your unique workforce.
Contact Mike at 714.716.4060 or mike@my-EBP.com .