Employer Confidence in Future of Health Benefits Declines

Employers are less confident about offering healthcare benefits today compared to the previous year. Still, according to a recent poll by Watson Wyatt the majority of employers will continue to offer healthcare benefits in the years to come. Read the following excerpt to learn more.

Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA)


Despite rising healthcare costs and other economic worries, a majority of large U.S. employers remain confident they will continue to offer healthcare benefits to workers 10 years from now. However, the level of confidence has slipped from last year because of economic concerns and uncertainty over the implications of potential health care reform, according to a new survey by Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Health.

According to the survey, 62 percent of employers are very confident they will continue to offer healthcare benefits 10 years from now, down from 73 percent last year. The survey also found that roughly four in 10 employers (41 percent) are sticking with their current healthcare strategy, while the remaining respondents have either revamped their strategy or expect to do so this year.

The survey of 489 large U.S. employers, conducted in January 2009, also identified a group of “consistent employers” that have maintained a long track record of lower healthcare cost increases over the past four years. These employers have outperformed other employers in five key areas: appropriate financial incentives, effective information delivery, quality care, metrics and evidence, and maximizing health and productivity.

To read the survey in full go to www.Watsonwyatt.com/research

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Bargaining Down the Medical Bills

Below is a recent New York Times article suggesting that consumers take responsibility for lowering the cost of their health care bills.  Most consumers find it difficult to negotiate with health care providers because they don’t have the experience or don’t feel comfortable discussing finances with their physician.  We recommend using experts like Medical Cost Advocate, which leverage health care market data and use experienced negotiators to reduce consumers medical bills.




When money is tight, everything is negotiable — including your health care bills.


As the economy sheds jobs and more people lose their health insurance or are forced to switch to less generous plans, doctors and hospitals are becoming accustomed to patients who are struggling financially. According to the American Hospital Association, half of their members reported an increase in the number of patients needing help with their bills. And that was in November, before the national unemployment rate hit 8.1 percent.


“It’s rough out there,” said Dr. Jacques Moritz, the director of gynecology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, who also has a private practice in Manhattan. (Full disclosure: He delivered my son five years ago, but my insurance at the time covered me in full.)


Lately, Dr. Moritz said, “The first thing I say to my long-term patients is, ‘Do you still have a job?’ ” If patients say no, or otherwise indicate that paying will not be easy, Dr. Moritz says he assures them that bills are negotiable.


And keep in mind that doctors, hospitals and medical labs are accustomed to negotiating. After all, they do it all the time with insurers. A hospital may have a dozen or more rates for one procedure, depending on whether Medicare, Medicaid or a private insurer is paying the bill, said Ruth Levin, corporate senior vice president for managed care of Continuum Health Partners, a nonprofit hospital system in New York. Your request for a special arrangement will hardly confound their accounting department.


And it is usually in everyone’s interest to avoid dealing with a bill collector.


If you recently lost your insurance or have a plan with minimal benefits, here is what you need to know if you want to seek a price break from the doctor, hospital or lab.


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For Uninsured Young Adults, Do-It-Yourself Health Care

This is an excellent article in the New York Times about young people who avoid purchasing health insurance because their age makes them feel invulnerable or because health insurance policies are too expensive.  While there are clinics set up to handle routine care for the uninsured, if an uninsured individual needs treatment for a major illness it will likely cost them a large amount of money.  Medical Cost Advocate can achieve significant savings for uninsured families by professionally negotiating their bills.

The New York Times, By Cara Buckley

They borrow leftover prescription drugs from friends, attempt to self-diagnose ailments online, stretch their diabetes and asthma medicines for as long as possible and set their own broken bones. When emergencies strike, they rarely can afford the bills that follow.

“My first reaction was to start laughing — I just kept saying, ‘No way, no way,’ ” Alanna Boyd, a 28-year-old receptionist, recalled of the $17,398 — including $13 for the use of a television — that she was charged after spending 46 hours in October at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan with diverticulitis, a digestive illness. “I could have gone to a major university for a year. Instead, I went to the hospital for two days.”

In the parlance of the health care industry, Ms. Boyd, whose case remains unresolved, is among the “young invincibles” — people in their 20s who shun insurance either because their age makes them feel invulnerable or because expensive policies are out of reach. Young adults are the nation’s largest group of uninsured — there were 13.2 million of them nationally in 2007, or 29 percent, according to the latest figures from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group in New York.

Gov. David A. Paterson of New York has proposed allowing parents to claim these young adults as dependents for insurance purposes up to age 29, as more than two dozen other states have done in the past decade. Community Catalyst, a Boston-based health care consumer advocacy group, released a report this month urging states to ease eligibility requirements to allow adult children access to their parents’ coverage.

“There’s a big sense of urgency,” said Susan Sherry, the deputy director of Community Catalyst. She described uninsured young adults as especially vulnerable. “People are losing their jobs, and a lot of jobs don’t carry health insurance. They’re new to the work force, they’ve been covered under their parents or school plans, and then they drop off the cliff.”

If Governor Paterson’s proposal is approved, an estimated 80,000 of the 775,000 uninsured young adults across New York Statewould be covered under their parents’ insurance plans. That would leave hundreds of thousands to continue relying on a scattershot network of improvised and often haphazard health care remedies.

In dozens of interviews around the city, these so-called young invincibles described the challenge of living in a high-priced city on low-paying jobs, where staying healthy is one part scavenger hunt and one part balancing act, with high stakes and no safety net.

“For a lot of people, it’s a choice between being able to survive in New York and getting health insurance,” said Hogan Gorman, an actress who was hit by a car five years ago and chronicled her misadventures in “Hot Cripple,” a one-woman show that was a hit at last summer’s Fringe Festival. “There was no way that I could pay my rent, buy insurance and eat.”



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