IN THIS ISSUE:
? Consumer Choice a Briefing Big Success
? Add Your Own Data to the Record
? Help Us Update Our Vendor Chart
? WellPoint Subsidiaries Offer HSAs
? American Medical Security Offers HSAs
? People Interested in, but Not Knowledgeable About, HSAs
? HSAs in the Business Journals
? “Return to Homeostasis” in Health Care?
Wednesday’s Hill briefing on “Consumer Choice Health Care – Reports from the Field” was enormously successful. Grace-Marie Turner already summed up the content in Friday’s “Health Policy Matters” and in a news release so I won’t repeat it here, but I do want to thank Robin Downey (Aetna), Michael Showalter (Definity), Mike Parkinson (Lumenos), Scott Krienke (Assurant Health, formerly Fortis), Stuart Slutzky (Destiny), and Lee Newcomer (Vivius) for taking time out of their schedules to come to Washington and share their companies’ experience with consumer driven health care. The presentations are available at Galen’s web site (http://www.galen.org), and I encourage readers to review the material and distribute it as widely as possible. All the micro-simulations, economic modeling, and spin doctoring in the world are no substitute for real experience with real consumers working for real companies choosing real health care services. Nancy Taylor (Aetna) was kind enough to take some photos of the event, and these will be posted on the web site as well. And I particularly want to thank Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and the staff of the Senate Special Committee on Aging for making the briefing possible. I know it frustrates them that the elderly are not yet able to access these consumer-empowering programs. Let’s hope they won’t be deprived much longer.
Add Your Own Data to the Record
While the six companies represented are among the industry leaders, they are certainly not the only players. I encourage other companies to submit their own reports, studies, and information as well. Please send documentation about your own experience with consumer driven health to me, and we will add it to the web site. I only request that, for this purpose, it be focused on actual experience in the market. That may include enrollment and retention information, utilization experience, consumer satisfaction results, cost effects, savings and rollover experience, and certainly anything you’ve captured that speaks to selection issues. Please e-mail such information directly to me at GMScan@aol.com
Help Us Update Vendor Chart
Also, we haven’t updated our “Vendor Chart” since the summer when Joe Moser went to work on Capitol Hill. We are long overdue and have some serious catching up to do. Please look at the current version and send me whatever updates are needed. Please confine it to the categories we have identified. That is, we need the name, phone number and e-mail address of a contact person in the company, a website address for the company as a whole, a description of the type of company (insurer, TPA, broker, financial services, etc.) and identification of the product area (FSA, HRA, MSA/HSA, etc.) I know this is crude and arbitrary, but we are trying to keep it simple for visitors to the web site, who can then go directly to your own site to get all the bells and whistles you wish to provide.
SOURCE: The current Vendor Directory is at http://www.galen.org/vendor_chart.asp
Send updates directly to me at GMScan@aol.com
WellPoint Subsidiaries Offer HSAs
The roll-out of HSAs continues, with WellPoint and at least some of its subsidiaries announcing new insurance products that are HSA-compatible. Blue Cross of California (which is a completely different company than Blue Shield of California) is emphasizing the portability and tax-favored qualities of HSAs, and company president David Helwig says, “Health savings accounts are yet another important building block in this evolution and we are pleased to begin offering them as an option.” Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, another WellPoint subsidiary, issued an almost identical news release announcing that its product should be available in the next 45 – 60 days. These companies will not provide HSA administration, just the high deductible health plan. Consumers will be free to open their HSA with any qualified trustee.
SOURCE: In California, contact Michael Chee at 805-557-6791 or firstname.lastname@example.org In Georgia contact Charlie Herman at 404-842-8980 or go to the company web site at http://www.bcbsga.com
American Medical Security Offers HSAs
American Medical Security of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is now marketing HSA-compatible insurance plans to individuals and will extend them to small groups by the end of the first quarter. CEO Samuel Miller says, “[T]hese new accounts are the essence of consumer-driven health care. They provide tax advantages while creating inherent economic incentives for individuals to become more discriminating consumers of health care.” Like WellPoint, AMS will only provide the HDHP coverage, not the HSA account itself.
SOURCE: For the company — http://www.eams.com/
For the press release — http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040107/cgw053_1.html
People Interested in, but Not Knowledgeable About, HSAs
Destiny Health reports on a survey it conducted of 1,000 consumers that found a very high level of interest in consumer driven health but a low level of knowledge. According to a company press release, “66 percent of respondents were interested in having their own tax-free health savings account (but) barely half that number were at all familiar with the legislation itself.” The new CEO of Destiny, Scott Spiker, emphasized the need for patient education, “Consumers cannot be expected to save money if they don’t have the information they need. The point is, it isn’t the HSA or the high-deductible health insurance plan that saves the money, it is the change in consumer behavior and smarter shopping habits that comes from the combination of education and incentives.” The release also reported that new Destiny enrollees “fill 70% of their prescriptions with high-price formulary drugs (but) by the end of their second year in the plan, they are opting for generic drugs 50% of the time.”
SOURCE: Contact Kiera Kelly at 773-531-3600 or email@example.com
HSAs in the Business Journals
I’m not sure that people need to know about the legislation in order to buy a product, but information is rolling out into the mainstream. Kent Hoover writes in a number of local business journals that Congress “established a new way for small businesses to obtain affordable health insurance” by enacting HSAs. He cites the National Small Business Association as saying high deductible premiums could be 40% cheaper, and “employers could use the savings on premiums to contribute to their employees’ HSAs and still end up paying less for health care coverage than they do now.” Of course he quotes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as arguing HSAs are only for the healthy and wealthy (yawn), but he also quotes me as saying, “The market is ready for this.”
“Return to Homeostasis” in Health Care?
Finally, in an article in “HealthLeaders” magazine, Brian Klepper of the Center for Practical Health Reform offers one approach to health care reform. He rightfully points out that in today’s environment any of the “key constituencies” are able to veto any proposal that seems to threaten their interests. But “the imminent threat of market instability will cultivate a grudging new collaboration among historical adversaries … .” He argues that such a collaboration must embrace three characteristics: “They must be robust enough to actually return the healthcare marketplace to homeostasis … They must not favor any one group over another … They will likely not be embraced by key constituencies in normal times.” He says his organization, “representing virtually all healthcare practitioner perspectives,” has developed three principles that fit the criteria: 1. Universal coverage of basic care. 2. The use of “standardized management capabilities.” 3. “Rebalancing the healthcare liability system so patients are protected but the health system remains intact.” He says that “the Center has developed a simple resolution calling on Congress to immediately undertake national policy adjustment that would give expression to the principles outlined above.” Personally, I get a little nervous when the health care establishment “collaborates” to divvy up the $1.7 trillion pie, and “returning the healthcare marketplace to homeostasis” is about the very last thing we need to do.
Please send all comments/questions directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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