Employee Health Benefits
Report may help employees choose the best health benefits plan
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 16:00Strategies to lower cost of employee health benefits have been of interest lately to consumers and employers alike as rates continue to rise. While individuals are looking for inexpensive insurance, they also don’t want to give up the quality of care they receive.
As a result, the nonprofit group Virginia Health Information (VHI) announced the release of its Compare HMOs report, which provides users with details to determine which healthcare plan may be best suited for them.
"We believe the HMO cost and quality information VHI publishes serves as a valuable tool to help consumers choose health insurance coverage," said Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans.
The report also indicates that average premiums on HMOs have risen from $320 per month in 2010 to $355 monthly in 2011. The number of people enrolled in this type of plan also rose 10 percent over the past year.
One effective way to lower the costs of employee health benefits is to provide workers with preventative tools and screening. Since stress has been associated with a number of illnesses, employee wellness programs aimed at reducing anxiety may make a big difference in improving staff health.
Organizations thinking about ACOs as healthcare costs rise
Monday, 26 September 2011 16:00In a survey, researchers at consulting firm Aon Hewitt found that many employers are thinking about implementing accountable care organization (ACO) models of insurance, in an effort to implement a values-based system of health benefits.
The study included 674 companies in the U.S., and about 28 percent of employers reported a strong interest in ACOs, while another 37 percent said they were somewhat likely to adopt the model. Conversely, a total of 11 percent expressed disinterest, and 24 percent were unsure.
If ACO providers can prove that their system provides a better quality of care for individuals, their popularity may spike, since 82 percent of employers said this was the most important aspect when evaluating a benefits model.
Aon Hewitt officials said that ACOs have a multi-faceted approach to healthcare, coordinating physicians and facilities to provide tailored care.
"ACOs reduce cost by providing plan participants the right care at the right time. By improving access to primary care, plan participants can avoid emergency room visits, which results in a financial reward for the ACO and shared savings with the sponsoring organization or organizations," said Michael Cryer, M.D., and national medical director with Aon Hewitt.
Employers may have a hand in preventing childhood obesity
Thursday, 22 September 2011 16:00In addition to the fact that overweight or obese children can increase the cost of employee health benefits when a worker has family coverage, the public health issue can also have an impact on the future workforce.
The nonprofit organization National Business Group on Health reports that employers can do something now to help encourage families to become healthier by influencing parents to lead a lifestyle of eating right, exercising and lowering their stress levels.
"Parents have an enormous impact on the childhood obesity epidemic. A child under the age of 5 is at least three times more likely to become obese if one parent is obese. The chances skyrocket if both parents are obese," said Helen Darling, the nonprofit's president and CEO.
Previous studies have shown that parental stress can have a negative impact on a child's mental well-being, which may lead to behavioral issues or the development of unhealthy habits.
Employee wellness programs that provides take-home tools and resources to reduce stress may help encourage the use of healthy anxiety management techniques for the whole family.
Study reveals lack of adequate mental health insurance benefits for medical students
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 16:00Students in medical school are often under a lot of pressure due to heavy workloads, loan debt and concerns regarding getting a residency or job after graduation. As a result, they may have a significant need for mental health or substance abuse services.
However, researchers at the Cambridge Health Alliance conducted a study which reveals that healthcare benefits offered by schools are often inadequate or require students to pay high out-of-pocket costs for care.
"Given that medical students are often leery about seeking treatment in the first place, requiring students to pay huge co-payments or coinsurance for mental health or substance abuse treatment might foreclose obtaining needed psychiatric care," said senior author J. Wesley Boyd. "This is bad for the students and bad for patients."
The study revealed that fewer than 22 percent of the 115 schools examined provide complete coverage for students. Moreover, they found that co-payments were often as high as $20 to $25 per office visit, and coinsurance rates averaged about 20 percent.
Results of this study suggest that students in medical school may be in need of tools and resources for stress management and healthy living, in addition to improved health insurance benefits.
Top companies make adjustments for workers during tough times
Monday, 22 August 2011 16:00In a climate of rising healthcare costs and heavy responsibilities being put on workers due to the slow economy, small adjustments can help organizations strengthen employee performance while keeping employee health benefit costs low.
Principal Financial Group examined the aspects that make organizations successful during difficult times.
Top companies "understand the direct connection between well-rounded benefits, a healthier, happier workforce and a better bottom line. That's what sets them apart from other companies in both the best and worst economic times," said Luke Vandermillen, VP of Principal.
One shift that well-performing companies have been making is to help workers tailor their insurance packages to suit individual needs, as well as share in the cost of benefits. Additionally, engaging and educating staff members on how to best use their benefits may be a key factor in keeping costs relatively low.
Additionally, the company announced that successful organizations have been using employee wellness programs to get to the root of benefit costs: staff health. Improving workers' mental and physical well-being has been shown to be an effective way to reduce insurance expenditures.
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