HealthNews April 2015

Tips for Controlling Allergies

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Spring is in the air and for many people, it also means allergy season. The following tips can help you enjoy spring without letting allergies control your daily activities and interfere with your workday.

Make your home your “allergen free fortress”:

  • Keep windows and doors closed when pollen and mold counts are high.
  • Use a dehumidifier and make sure all filters are changed or cleaned often.
  • Damp mopping and vacuuming with a HEPA filter is recommended over broom sweeping.
  • Keep drapes, upholstery and non-washable comforters to a minimum as they are dust mite magnets.
  • Control dust mites by covering your mattress and using allergy covers for your pillows as well.
  • Possibly consider removing wall to wall carpet and replacing it with hardwood or other flooring as it is easier to clean and does not hold onto allergens.Bathe and brush your pets on a regular basis.
  • Keep pets out of bedrooms and off of upholstered furniture if your allergies are serious.Keep at it! It is not easy to keep allergies under control but don’t give up.¬†These tips can be helpful if you stay consistent. If your allergy symptoms still persist, you may want to consider seeing a specialist for treatment.

 

64decc6b-1e31-435b-aed1-2bf95b20d069PPACA – Problems For Small Businesses

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) noted in a press release that, “Premiums have been found to be higher, and choices are fewer,” said Dan Danner, CEO and President of the NFIB. “The cost of insurance has been the top concern for small business owners for two decades, and the Affordable Care Act has failed to address that problem.” In an earlier report on PPACA, the NFIB predicted the problems they are citing now stating, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act creates numerous problems for small businesses – higher costs, greater administrative burdens, fewer healthcare choices, and competitive disadvantages.”

First – the individual mandate tax requires employees to purchase insurance or pay a penalty. Unless employers increase labor costs to offset this change, affected employees may experience a decrease in take-home pay.

Second – the employer mandate. Businesses with 50 or more full-time employees face employer mandate penalties. This mandate gives employers a motive to stay below 50 employees. If employers want to continue to grow their businesses, they must either outsource more work, or replace their own full-time employees with part-time employees. In addition, there is considerable paper work and time consuming monitoring since the employer mandate penalties depend on month-to-month changes in the number of full and part-time employees.

Third – the additional benefits required by PPACA, such as bans on annual and lifetime payout limits and an extensive list of free preventive services, have increased the cost of insurance. As such, insurance purchased by the individual and small group markets are becoming more expensive, because they must cover these additional benefits. According to NFIB, ” In 2016, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will have virtually unfettered power to add items and costs to the package.”

Fourth – PPACA imposes a health insurance tax on insurers and insurers tend to pass the tax along to businesses and consumers. Over the first decade of PPACA, from 2014 – 2023, (according to the NFIB,) this provision increases taxes by $102 billion, and as a result, the NFIB estimates that this will reduce private sector employment by 146,000 to 262,000 jobs with 59% of the losses coming from small businesses.

Fifth – a number of PPACA’s provisions, such as essential health benefits and the HIT (Health Insurance Tax) apply only to the fully insured market (where most small businesses reside), but not to the self-insured market (most big businesses, government, and unions). The NFIB also noted that, ” The Secretary of HHS has granted thousands of waivers to certain PPACA provisions without specifying the criteria for approval of disapproval. The result is to saddle some, but not all, employers with large expenses, and to do so in an unpredictable manner.”

Finally, research conducted by the NFIB over the last two years has found that 62 percent of small business owners claimed that their premiums had increased, and only 8 percent were fortunate to see their costs decrease. “One in ten small businesses had their policies cancelled under the law,” Danner said. “Almost no one is using the SHOP exchange, according to the government’s own enrollment data, and to the extent that there are subsidies available in the form of tax credits, they are complicated, temporary, and too small to offset the costs.”

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

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April is National Alcohol Awareness Month and the theme this year is “For the Health of It -Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction.” National awareness helps to focus on the damage and dangers of alcohol addiction and drinking irresponsibly. Below are shocking statistics due to excessive drinking:

  1. 88,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use (CDC)
  2. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. (CDC)
  3. Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications affecting every organ in your body, including your brain. It can also damage your emotional stability, finances, career, impact your family, friends, and the people you work with. (NCAAD)
  4. 100,000 persons die each year from alcohol related causes: drinking and driving crashes, other accidents, falls, fires, alcohol-related homicides and suicides (NCAAD)
  5. Approximately 17% of men and 8% of women will be dependent on alcohol in their lifetime (NIAAA)
    Because of the amount of alcohol related deaths every year, alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of death in the United States.
  6. 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. (NIAAA)
    5.3 million adults – 36% of those under correctional supervision at the time – were drinking at the time of their conviction offense. (NCADD)
  7. Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year – more than all illegal drugs combined. (MADD)
  8. In 2006 alone, excessive alcohol consumption including binge drinking, costs the United States $223.5 billion dollars from losses in productivity, healthcare and other expenses. (CDC)

By drinking less or not at all, you can lower your blood pressure, lower your risk of heart disease, stoke, and liver problems. If you are going to drink alcohol, be safe and drink responsibly. Children watch you as their example and bad habits can begin early. If you or someone you care about has a drinking problem, help is available by visiting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at: http://www.samhsa.gov/

Higher Deductibles May Not be Affordable for Many

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A new analysis was released recently from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that many, if not most families, do not have enough assets to cover mid to higher range deductibles in an individual health insurance plan.

The Kaiser analysis stated that less than 63% of non-elderly households with incomes above the federal poverty level have sufficient liquid financial assets to cover a mid range annual deductible of $1,200 individual or $2,400 for a family.

About 51% of households have enough liquid assets to cover a higher range annual deductible of $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family. In 2015, plans offered through Healthcare.gov the average combined medical and drug deductible for single coverage in a silver plan was $2,556.

Among low and moderate income households, even fewer are able to meet deductibles. For example, just a third of lower income families have sufficient liquid financial assets to cover a $1,200 deductible for an individual and $2,400 for a family. Kaiser researchers noted that their estimates are on the conservative side because they assume that people have 100 percent of their liquid assets available to pay for their health care costs. Since this is largely not the case, the above numbers are probably higher than what the analysis states.

Another study, completed by the American Health Policy Institute, found that more than 105 million Americans shopping for policies on the exchanges established under the ACA and another 13.4. million individuals and families choosing insurance through their employers, will find themselves purchasing “unaffordable care”.

The study by Tevi D. Troy and D. Mark Wilson states that the law classifies large employer-based insurance as officially “unaffordable” when the premium costs a full time employee more than 9.5% of his or her annual income. As a result, “over 13 million employees are now facing the prospect of unaffordable health care.” They also state that, “Even now, under the Affordable Care Act’s own definition, over 105 million Americans will find plans in the ACA’s public exchanges to be unaffordable when both premiums and deductibles are taken into account.”

The information from these reports is important because many employers are turning to higher deductible plans as a way to combat their ever increasing health insurance expenses while providing health coverage to their employees. This trend is likely to increase both in the workplace and on the individual exchanges as well. While premium growth has slowed, deductibles have risen almost 50% since 2009. The average deductible has increased 47% to $1,217 compared to $826 in 2009.

Mental Health Plans Could Use an Intervention

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A recent study released by Mental Health America, found that many of the insurance plans on state exchanges came up short in the Mental Health coverage it offered. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has issued a report based of a survey of 2,799 adults and an analysis of 84 state health insurance plans from 15 states. The report findings stated, “Despite a federal law requiring parity of mental and physical health benefits in employer sponsored plans, discrimination still exists toward mental health and substance use conditions…progress is being made, but there is still a long road ahead. NAMIs report identifies areas where insurance companies need to improve and greater scrutiny is needed.”

The key findings in the report are as follows:

  • In general, health insurance networks do not include enough mental health professionals.
    Nearly 1/3 of the survey participants claimed insurance company denials of authorization for mental health and substance abuse care
  • For PPACA plans, denials of authorization were nearly twice the rate as opposed to other medical care
  • More than half of the plans studied for the report covered less than half of anti-psychotic meds
  • High copays, deductibles, and co insurance create large barriers to treatment
  • High out of pocket costs for prescription drugs discourage people from both mental health and other medical treatment.
  • Plans do not offer enough information about mental health and substance use conditions to enable consumers to make informed choices and decisions when choosing their health plans.

The full report, A Long Road Ahead, can be found at:

http://www.nami.org/About-NAMI/Publications-Reports/Public-Policy-Reports/A-Long-Road-Ahead

 

With great respect,

Douglas-McCarty Insurance Services

We are dedicated to the highest standards of business ethics with a commitment to excellence in the health insurance industry – Douglas-McCarty Insurance Services