Thursday, April 28, 2011

PPACA (Health Reform) and How To Cut Medical Insurance Costs

Under Health Reform (PPACA) and currently in the Maryland Small Group Market (Under 50 Employees), medical plans are guaranteed issue.  This means that when a small group employer puts a medical plan in place there are no questions asked.  Plans are chosen, employees enrolled and thats it.  There are two main criteria used  to establish a rate:  Average age of the employees electing coverage and Location of the Company.  All things being equal, one employer located in the same county as another employer with the same average age will pay the exact same rate for the same medical plan through the same carrier.  The rates that the insurance carrier uses are filed with the State of Maryland and based on pooling.  What this means is that regardless of how much or how little you or your employees use the medical coverage you will pay the exact same rates as other companys with the same demographics because all claims are pooled together.  Now, if your company is sick, then this is a good thing because you are going to benefit from all the healthy people in the pool.  However, if your group is healthy, you are helping to pay for all those sick, unhealthy people.  This is where self-funding or partial self-funding comes in.  For small group plans, partial self-funding is a combination of traditional medical coverage, a claims fund, and stop-loss coverage.  Under a traditional plan you pay your premium whether you use the plan or not.  Under self-funded plans, if you don't use the plan, some of those premium dollars may come back to you.  For example, lets say a 40 employee group pays $200,000 in medical premium per year.  Under a partially self-funded plan $100,000 may go to a claim fund.  To protect your fund there are limits on claims.  One is a specific Stop-Loss Insurance, maybe $10,000 (for specific one-time claims) and Aggregate Stop-Loss Insurance (this amount is the total amount of claims that will be paid out before this coverage kicks in).  If all those dollars aren't used in the plan year, they are paid back to the employer.  If claims exceed this amount, under partially self-funded plans, employers costs are only limited to their premiums paid in.  These plans will become ever more attractive to healthy employer groups as Exchanges are set-up and younger healthy employees may be opting-out to go find cheaper coverage leaving the employer group with older, more costly, employees that will only drive up the costs of their coverage. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Funding for Free Choice Vouchers Gets Cut in 2011 Budget

Under Health Reform if an employer has over 50 employees and offers "Minimal Essential Coverage", and the the cost for coverage is between 8% and 9.8% of an employees annual income, they, in 2014, could take those employer dollars to the Health Care Exchanges and purchase coverage under the "Free Choice Voucher Program".  Except, that under the latest budget negotiations, funding for the "Free Choice Voucher" has been eliminated.   This means that employees will no longer be able to take those employer health care dollars to the exchanges. 

Also, in agreements made, there will be several studies performed on the impact of several health care reform law provisions including: Impact on Premiums, Comparative Effectiveness (coming in 2012-Non-Government Entity used to gather and disseminate findings to health care decision makers) and Limited Benefit Plans.