Thursday, November 09, 2006
Many people have tried to explain the reasons for this cost trend. The reality is that there are many reasons for it. There is no one thing that can be done to lower the cost, it will take an effort from everyone from the doctors, to the pharmaceutical companies, but most importantly, it will have to start right here with the consumers.
The first step in controlling the cost of health insurance is understanding where the cost comes from. The prices of medical procedures are very well kept secrets. Great West Healthcare commissioned Harris Interactive (2005) to conduct a survey about consumers and their knowledge of health care costs. Some of the statistics that the study brought to light are startling. To offer a reference point respondents were also asked some non health care related questions. When asked about the price of a new Honda Accord, the respondents were over by 1%. When asked the price of a round trip ticket in coach from New York to Los Angeles, they were over by 8%. When asked about the cost of an average four day stay in a hospital, they were off by 56% believing that the cost would be around $6,400.00 instead of the actual cost of $14,500.00. Only 15% of respondents asked about the cost of a procedure before they were treated. They also assumed that a 24 hour hospital stay would only vary by 20% based on the location, instead of the actual difference of 60%. In reality, we have not had to take responsibility for this information in the past. With the escalating cost of health insurance, which closely relates to the cost of health care, it is more important now than ever before to take control of these costs.
Where do we go from here? For the immediate time, it is important to get information on how much our health care costs. The way to press ourselves into this is simply by taking advantage of high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). In a nutshell, this means that you take a lower cost health insurance plan, and put money into a special tax favored fund (HSA). The insurance will not cover doctor visits or medications or any other health care needs until you exhaust a high deductible (HDHP). The money for all those other expenses comes from your own account (the HSA). When the doctor prescribes a medication, you will find yourself asking for a lower priced alternative in order to preserve your account. You may even find yourself asking the doctor about prices. At no point does anyone believe that a person will choose a doctor, procedure or medication based on price alone. We will begin to determine our medical needs the same way we determine everything else in our lives, by the quality versus the price. Right now we have no reason to determine the prices, because we have the notion that the insurance companies will pay whatever the price is. We neglect to remember that we pay the insurance companies, so we are ultimately responsible for the costs anyway.
Another way we can lower our cost is by looking for the company and plan that best fits our needs. Many people are over insured, that is, they pay more out than they will ever get back. Finding an agent that will help you shop is the bottom line on getting the right health plan and company. Many businesses are finding that the insurance companies that they have used for many years no longer offer the best value. They also find out that other companies are much better than they realized. It is important to find an agent who is a thrifty shopper for your health insurance. It is always wise to use an independent agent, because they know all the different companies and the plans offered from each.
Obviously, if you can join a group that offers a true discount on health insurance through a reputable company, that is a great source of savings. The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce has a terrific new arrangement for health insurance through Humana. Qualifying members can save 4% off the street rates for the identical products.
To help with your future costs, you must first look at the culture your company fosters. A good place to start is your vending machines. Are they full of junk food? Consider starting slowly by adding raisins and pretzels and then every few weeks adding another healthy alternative. Look also at the drink selection. Make sure that you offer juices and non carbonated beverages. Increase the healthy choices over time. People will often eat what is most available. If they crave a candy bar, they will find a way to get it, but you don’t need to provide candy. Make it part of the culture of your business to promote good nutrition and make it more difficult to eat unhealthy foods.
Another good idea is to promote a healthy life style. Consider a company bowling team, or softball team. Participate in a walking group or running club as a company. Help pay for gym membership and try to attend aerobics classes as a team. Give out a company t shirt when employees have hit attainable milestones, such as walked for 30 minutes three days out of every week for six months. By making the goals attainable, but challenging, those who have been sedentary as well as those who have been active can achieve them. These ideas can cost anywhere from nothing for a walking club to a small fee for a team or membership. Many gyms will discount memberships for small companies. It is important to find an activity that your employees will enjoy. You must realize that this process may take some time.
Health Fairs are a great way to help your employees discover health issues. Many people have found they have high blood pressure through health fairs, and were able to get on medication before it became a serious health concern. If your business is small, perhaps you can work with other companies in your office complex to put a health fair together. You can even attend a community health fair as a company function. Make sure you add information on smoking cessation and nutrition.
By encouraging your employees to stop smoking, eat more healthy foods, to live a more active lifestyle, and to find medical issues before they escalate to more expensive problems, you can start the process for some future relief on health insurance costs.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Kaiser Permanente’s Broker Relations Lead, Susan Cook Receives “Kathy Cruce” Award from
The Georgia Association of Health Underwriters is proud to announce Susan Cook, Broker Relations Lead for Kaiser Permanente, received the Georgia Associations of Health Underwriters “Kathy Cruce” Award. An example of what a first class insurance professional should be, Kathy Cruce gave her time not only to her employer, The Benefit Company, but also to the
Susan is the past president of the South Atlanta Association of Health Underwriters and is currently serving as the media relations chair for the 2006 GAHU Board of Directors. She is also serving as the awards chair for the 2006 SAAHU Board of Directors. “I would not be here today without the continued support of my employer, Kaiser Permanente along with many mentors within this organization,” said Susan Cook upon receipt of the award.
Susan resides in
The Georgia Association of Health Underwriters, a chapter of the NAHU that represents more than 18,000 professional health insurance agents and brokers nationwide who provide insurance to millions of Americans. Over 650 members participate in the organization right here in
Friday, July 28, 2006
This will be in an interactive roundtable forum, featuring the following discussion groups:
Conducting Thorough Internal Investigations
Wrongful Discharge or Rightful Discharge: You Decide
Workers Comp Made Easy!
Recent Union Organizing Tactics
Understanding Unemployment Insurance Law
Recruiting Metrics for Improved Performance
Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues in the Workplace
Understanding the Funding of Healthcare - How to Stand Toe to Toe with your CFO
Not Your Same Old Fashioned Supplemental Insurance Benefits!
Each presenter is a subject-matter-expert in their respective field and will provide you with professional and practical guidelines you can use to assist you with on-going issues and concerns.
Earn up to 3.5 CEU re-certification credits!
Date: August 14, 2006
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Location: Clayton State University
Continuing Education Center, Morrow, Georgia
(See www.conted.clayton.edu for directions to event)
Registration fee: $25.00 for advance registration/$35.00 same-day registration for Greater Henry County SHRM members; Southern Crescent SHRM members; or SHRM-Atlanta members
$30.00 for advance registration/$40.00 for same-day registration for non-SHRM members advance registration and payment dead-line is August 9, 2006
Seating is limited - Early registration is recommended and encouraged!
* * * Registration, networking and a full breakfast buffet will begin at 7:00 a.m. * * *
If you are a Greater Henry County SHRM; Southern Crescent SHRM or SHRM-Atlanta member, you may register through your normal meeting registration process (each respective SHRM group leader will communicate registration procedures directly to its membership).
If you are not a SHRM member from one of these three groups, you may go on-line to the SHRM-Atlanta website (www.shrmatlanta.org) and establish a "guest account" that will enable you to register for this event
Thursday, July 13, 2006
South Atlanta Association of Health Underwriters (SAAHU) held their annual awards breakfast. This is always a very popular event. The out going board of directors was thanked for their efforts by out going President Susan Cook (Kaiser Permanente). Each one was presented with a nice parting gift. In coming President, Matt Holcomb (Kayda Insurance) welcomed his new board of directors, including President-Elect, Tim Taylor (Benefit Support Inc), Secretary, Donna Hill (DDH Associates), and Treasurer, Mark Phillips (AFLAC).
The featured speaker was Jim Astuto from Verizon Wireless, who spoke on the rising cost of insurance in the workplace. The meeting was held at The Crowne Plaza on
For more information on SAAHU, please call Matt Holcomb at 678 612 3072. The meetings are the third Thursday of most months at 11:45 at the
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The idea is to get a High Deductible Health Plan, which is lower priced than the regular health insurance plans. These are very specific insurance policies. With the exception of preventive care, they can not cover anything until you hit the high deductible. Once the deductible is met, they either cover a percent of the rest of the medical needs, or they cover all of the rest of the costs for the year. If they cover a per cent, it is usually until another dollar amount has been reached, at which point they cover all the additional costs for the year.
What happens to all the expenses that come up before the deductible has been met? Well, the idea is that you put some money aside into a special Health Savings Account (HSA). These accounts are available from specific institutions that specialize in them. The money goes into the accounts pre tax, and grows tax free. You take money out for your health needs, also tax free. The institutions that specialize in HSAs often offer debit-like cards so that getting your money out is really easy.
It is expected that the renewals for HDHP policies will be lower, because you really don't use much of the insurance part of the plan. With the usage down, the rates have less reason to rise.
This sounds a lot like the old FSA accounts, except it is better. Individuals can take out HSAs and whether you are a group or an individual, your money is always yours. It does not go away if you don't use it, and there are no deadlines for the usage. Also, if you still have money in your account, it rolls over year after year. When you are 65 you can take out the money at your then tax rate. Anytime you use your money for medical expenses it is tax free, and if you need to take it out for a non medical need, you pay the taxes and a ten per cent penalty.
If your account rolls over and you develope quite a lot of money in it, you may feel pretty comfortable raising your deductible even higher. This will result in even less renewal increases.
So, it sounds pretty good so far, right? Well, it gets better. As you are using the high deductible part of the policy, you still get in network negotiated rates. That means that your dollars will go farther than if you didn't have insurance. In order to get these rates, you must use an in network doctor and facility, of course.
The tax savings part of the account is great, but really think for a minute what that means to your wallet. If you go to the doctor, and his normal rate is $150.00, but the in network negotiated rate is $100.00; if you pay for it with tax free dollars and you are in the 25% tax bracket, it will be like you are paying only $75.00 for the visit. The other $25.00 is your tax savings. That is using relatively low numbers. Imagine the impact of a a higher priced medical need.
Lower amounts of money sent to the insurance company, tax favored medical costs and savings accounts, lower renewal rates... What's not to love????
No wonder three million of these have been sold!!!!
Thursday, April 13, 2006
SAAHU was founded in 2003 to serve the needs of health insurance professionals on the south side of Atlanta. It is an organization that provides opportunities for agents and vendors to network and to learn about new laws and products that are useful to their clients. It also gives health insurance professionals an opportunity to give back to their community.
SAAHU's first donation to the Samaratins was Thanksgiving 2003. This started a tradition of annual donating that has continued through Thanksgiving of 2005. When the budget was updated in March of 2006 as a result of the fundraiser, the board agreed to make a special donation. The recipients again, were The Fayette Samaritans and, the Cystic Fibrosis Reaching Out Foundation.
Each year the donations have increased as the association has grown in size through membership contributions and fund raising efforts. The South Atlanta Association of Health Underwriters believes that giving back to the community is an important part of their work.
Anyone involved in the field of health insurance is welcome to join the association and attend the meetings. Visit www.saahu.com for more information.