IN THIS ISSUE:
? Consumer Choice Community Up and Running
? MA Creates Constitutional Right to Health Care
? HSA Product Development at Fevered Pitch
? CIGNA Survey Finds Consumer Appeal in HSAs
? Communication Key to Consumer Driven Health
? Education Key to HSAs – Akron Beacon Journal
Consumer Choice Community Up and Running
Wow, it is great to be back from vacation and discover what has happened in just two weeks. The Galen staff (Liz Lamirand, Tara and Jena Persico, and of course, Grace-Marie Turner) has done a tremendous amount of work to get the Consumer Choice Community off and running. I can barely begin to tell you how important this effort will be in the coming months and years. This Community is the only national multidiscipline membership organization of health care activists in the country.
We are united by a statement of principles – a Declaration – that will guide all of our activities. Our focus will be not on legislation or politics, but on changing the way the broader community – employers, physicians, insurers, academics, the hospital industry, the media, and consumers themselves — thinks about solving America’s health care problems. The Galen staff can do only a small fraction of the work that needs to be done, so the Consumer Choice Community is designed to supercharge all of our efforts going on out there across the country.
SOURCE: For more information about the Consumer Choice Community, go to http://www.galen.org/cccintro.asp
Massachusetts Creates Constitutional Right to Health Care
Just in time for the Democratic Convention in Boston, the Massachusetts legislature has passed an amendment to the state constitution giving all Massachusetts residents a constitutional right to “comprehensive, affordable and equitably financed health insurance coverage for all medically necessary preventive, acute and chronic health care and mental health care services, prescription drugs and devices.” The amendment won’t be effective until it is approved again by the legislature in the 2005-2006 session and approved by the voters in November, 2006, but the legislative vote was 143 for and only 41 against, so re-passage shouldn’t be much of an obstacle. The “Boston Herald” commented, “There are times when the fiscal irresponsibility of the Massachusetts Legislature is enough to simply take your breath away … Welcome to utopia, where politicians can promise all things to all people and heaven help us when the bill comes due.” The editorial goes on to point out that Medicaid alone is busting the state budget (and half of Medicaid is paid by the Feds).
HSA Product Development at Fevered Pitch
Speaking of breathtaking, the product development effort around HSAs is like nothing I’ve ever seen in 25 years of professional involvement in health care. In just the past two weeks I’ve gotten reports on the following developments:
? American Community Mutual of Livonia, MI is offering individual HSAs that waive the deductible for treatment of an accident within 30 days of an injury. A similar small group product will be available later this summer.
? Mellon Financial has teamed up with North American Health Plans (NAHP) to offer seamless HSA programs to self-insured employers. Along with the employee support and claims administration services provided by NAHP, Mellon will provide checking and debit cards, an investment account, and tax reporting to the IRS.
? Wausau Benefits is offering an HSA-compatible high deductible health plan. It will also offer a select group of HSA administrators starting with Associate Bank of Green Bay, WI.
? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida has received approval from the insurance department to offer HSA-qualified high deductible plans in the individual market in Florida.
? Wellpoint, which includes Unicare and Blue plans in California, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Missouri, has teamed up with JP Morgan and ARCUS Financial to offer complete HSA packages to consumers in its service areas.
? CIGNA is also partnering with JP Morgan to offer financial services alongside its high deductible HSA health plan.
? Aetna and Keenan have developed a product specific to California called ConsumerAdvance, effective October 1, 2004. Keenan is the largest independent broker in California and specializes in serving school districts, community colleges, municipalities, and health care organizations.
? Highmark, the Blue Cross plan in Pittsburgh, has announced it will be offering HSAs to individuals and employers in Pennsylvania effective January 1, 2005, pending regulatory approval.
? Lumenos is forming two operating divisions, an Employer Products Division and a Carrier Products Division. The former is a continuation of Lumenos’ current business – setting up consumer-driven programs for self-funded employers. The carrier division will enable the company to work with insurers, especially now that HSAs are making consumer driven approaches available to smaller fully-insured employers. It has already contracted with WellChoice (Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in New York) to offer administrative and technology support services to the consumer driven products WellChoice will be marketing on January 1, 2005.
SOURCES: This is compiled from a variety of press releases and news articles.
CIGNA Survey Finds Consumer Appeal in HSAs
CIGNA conducted a survey of consumer interest in HSAs. It found that 48% of people surveyed would prefer to pay more in premiums to have a lower deductible, but 35% said the opposite. But when asked about specific HSA features, consumers were much more positive. More than 80% said the opportunity to save and invest money would be attractive. Eighty percent also said the ability to take the account with them when changing jobs is appealing. Seventy-nine percent liked the idea of using accumulated funds to help pay for post-retirement health care, and majorities liked the ideas of using debit cards or checks to pay for their share of health care expenses. Company spokesman Tom Croswell said, “We’re seeing consumerism taking hold and becoming a basic part of the way people make day-to-day decisions about their health care. But it’s clear that consumers want and need more information. As interest in consumer-driven health care models grows, the information provided by health plans plays an even greater role.”
Communication Key to Consumer Driven Health – Business Insurance
Gloria Gonzalez writes in “Business Insurance,” that “Consumerism Brings Savings, Member Satisfaction.” She begins with an example of a Boston-based travel agency with 1,250 employees that was facing a 35% rate hike on its PPO coverage in 2003. It switched to a Definity HRA and is now seeing a cost increase of only 8%. She goes on to report that “costs for 50 large Definity clients ? are expected to increase by just 3.6% on average.” Aetna clients are also seeing increases of only 3.7% this year. She adds that communication is the key to a successful consumer driven health plan, citing Lumenos’ Doug Kronenberg as saying a poor plan design and communications strategy will result in enrollment of 4% to 5%, but good design and effective communication can raise enrollment to 75% of employees. She gives Michigan-based Whirlpool as an example of a company that spent six months on an educational effort with both employees and local providers, which resulted in 40% of employees enrolling and an estimated 7% reduction in health care costs. The article quotes Galen’s Grace-Marie Turner as saying, “People really like the control, and they like the opportunity to save money.”
SOURCE: http://www.businessinsurance.com/cgi-bin/article.pl?articleId=14883&a=a&bt=Gonzalez (subscription required)
Education Key to HSAs – Akron Beacon Journal
Cheryl Powell writes in the “Akron Beacon Journal” that HSAs “could help employers cut premiums by as much as 50 percent.” Andy Anderson of Hewitt Associates is quoted as saying, “There’s no better way to get people focused on how they spend money than having them spend their own money for the initial expenses.” Powell cites two local companies, Medical Mutual in Cleveland and SummaCare of Akron as two providers of HSAs, and concludes, “To make the switch [to HSAs] successfully, education is key.” She quotes SummaCare’s Anne Armao as saying, “All of us as payers will have to come out with more [educational] tools, because consumers will demand it.”
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