Tag: Al Jazeera

Health Business TV: Medical inflation, health kiosks, Home Care Delivered, hospital clowns

June 27th, 2014 by

In this third edition of Health Business TV, I discuss Home Care Delivered (whose board I’ve just joined), medical inflation and my appearance on Al Jazeera, health kiosks, Hearts & Noses Hospital Clown Troupe and an upcoming webinar about the small group health insurance market.

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If you’re interested in the AIS webinar on July 9, called Insurer Strategies for the Turbulent Small Group Market you can click here to register. You can use the code I mention during the show to get a $75 discount.

There will be no episode next week, since it’s the Fourth of July.

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

Is medical inflation coming back to bite us?

June 25th, 2014 by

PWC made a pretty big splash yesterday with its projection that medical costs will rise at a faster rate next year than they have in the recent past. The story was picked up by major media and I was on TV last night to discuss it on Al Jazeera’s Real Money with Ali Velshi.

In truth, the story is not so dramatic. The PWC report focuses only on larger employers. Costs are expected to rise around 6.8 percent (versus 6.5 percent in 2014) and most employers are responding similarly to how they have for the past several years: shifting more costs to employees, implementing high deductible health plans, and spending money on wellness programs. These approaches are surprisingly unimaginative and not likely to be terribly effective.

High deductible plans cause patients to be conscious about the first couple or few thousand dollars of costs. After that, they don’t really care since they’ve reached their out-of-pocket max. And high deductible plans are harsh on lower income employees who have a hard time paying the first dollars out of pocket. Upper income employees barely notice the difference.

And wellness programs? PWC didn’t go so far as to endorse this strategy, which is a smart move to preserve their credibility. Some of these programs are nice benefits but it’s awfully hard to find one that is going to reduce medical costs.

What would work better? How about offering employees plans that reward them financially for choosing lower cost, high quality providers?

Even if employers are paying more, things are not necessarily so dire for those buying insurance in the individual market. Average premiums are likely to rise for 2015, and the plans with the biggest market share are raising premiums the most. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act consumers are now dealing with a competitive market in insurance. As long as they are willing to switch plans, in many cases they’ll actually be able to reduce premiums. We’ll see in a few months just how savvy exchange shoppers are.

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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

Target cuts health benefits; I discuss on Al Jazeera

January 22nd, 2014 by
Good jobs with good benefits?
Good jobs with good benefits?

Tune in to Real Money with Ali Velshi at 7 pm EST on Al Jazeera if you’d like to watch me talk about Target’s decision to stop offering health benefits to part-time employees.

Of course the mainstream news angle is that Target’s benefit policy decision shows yet another flaw in the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). People are losing coverage, all because of the new rules. I really don’t agree with that.

Here’s my take: Target’s move is upsetting for those who are directly affected, but it’s not evidence of any failure of ObamaCare. Benefits plans for part-timers usually do not provide generous coverage, payroll deductions are too costly for workers living paycheck to paycheck, out-of-pocket expenses deter patients from seeking care, and many employees lose their insurance when they get sick because they stop being able to go to work. As a result, not many people enroll in the plans even when they have access, and those with coverage can’t always make use of the benefits.

The Affordable Care Act is a great boon for part-time employees, especially low wage ones. Here’s why:

  • Many part-timers working at retail will qualify for Medicaid. A cashier making $8 per hour for 20 hours per week will make about $8000 per year and fall well under the income limit to qualify. With Medicaid they will have comprehensive coverage and pay almost nothing. And what if their state decided not to except the Medicaid expansion? Well, that’s not the fault of ObamaCare
  • Those with somewhat higher incomes will be able to buy insurance on a public exchange where they will qualify for premium subsidies and –in many cases– help with out-of-pocket expenses as well
  • Workers will be able to cover their families, not just themselves
  • If they change jobs or stop working they won’t lose their insurance

As others have pointed out, employers might have an incentive to keep part-timers below the full-time threshold of 30 hours per week in order to avoid the employer mandate. But Target has said they are not doing this, and you don’t build a great company by treating your employees badly. But the good news is that part-time workers now have good alternatives to employer-sponsored coverage, which was lacking before.

photo credit: Patrick Hoesly via photopin cc
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By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.